Samuel Gishohe had never heard of Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics or the even the NBA.
But the 12-year-old Kenyan boy had no problem stepping in for Bird when it came time to make the video to help raise money to buy a playing field near the Grace Care Orphanage in West Nairobi, where he and about 200 other children live.
Gishohe is one of the 40 or so kids featured in Daniel Freiman’s latest sports re-enactment video "1987 Playoffs ... In Kenya" featuring Bird’s infamous steal from Isiah Thomas and Dennis Johnson’s basket that clinched Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Detroit Pistons.
The video offers a somewhat detailed re-enactment of Bird’s steal and the in-bounds pass that led up to it, in addition to crowd shots, player introductions and even a passing tribute to Bill Simmons (@billsimmons) -- with one of the orphans (Cyrus Kubesa) holding up a sign reading “Future Sports Guy” standing next to where the old player tunnel would have been at the old Boston Garden.
Freiman, a Toronto native and MBA student at Toronto's Ryerson University, shot this video -- along with “1986 World Series Game 6 … in Kenya,” which re-enacted Mookie Wilson’s game-ending grounder past Bill Buckner -- while volunteering as a gym teacher at the orphanage for six weeks in May and June.
“The kids didn’t know what baseball was and I don’t think they even knew there was three strikes,” Freiman told Playbook. “As for basketball, they have a sliver of a court and rarely played. I was a little surprised they had the net, but no one knew how to play, they didn’t know what the NBA was.”
Thus far, the video has more than 140,000 views on YouTube since it was posted Nov. 20 and has raised more than $10,600 of the $56,000 needed to purchase the field and cover construction costs. Freiman has partnered with Lift The Children (@LiftTheChildren) to coordinate the “If You Build It, We Will Play” project, which will take two or three months to complete once enough money is raised.
“These kids don’t have any parents to teach them the important lessons in life or to show them what’s right and what’s wrong. For many of them, it’s going to have to come through sports," Freiman said. "Otherwise, they’re not going to build any character. They age out of the orphanage [usually at 14] and need life skills to survive on the outside. The purpose of this whole fundraising idea is to save their lives down the road.”
Freiman’s 1986 World Series re-enactment video has received more than 234,000 YouTube views since June.
Although both plays were pivotal in the history of Boston sports, Freiman said they were chosen because they contained basic moves -- running, shooting, swinging the bat -- that could be taught to the children, and involved multiple actors and not because of any geographic importance. The orphans were not aware of the historic impact of either play before they began participating in the videos.
The children chose the Buckner play over the Bills-Titans “Music City Miracle” from 2000 when deciding to make the Mets video after Freiman showed them the plays on his computer. And while the first video was done “just for fun,” the Bird-steal video was created to raise money and awareness of the children’s plight. Freiman also wanted to use a play that would allow him to have all of the kids rush the court, and was left with a choice between Celtics-Pistons Game 5 and Christian Laettner’s 1992 NCAA tournament buzzer-beater before he realized none of the kids would be able to duplicate Laettner’s fadeaway or Grant Hill’s full-court pass.
“We chose a famous well-known play with a great audio call. It was really just a steal and pass, the kids can’t dunk," Freiman said. "The Bird steal and Buckner play are both pretty simple enough to recreate.” The actual introduction from then TNT-announcer Dick Stockton used in the Celtics-Pistons clip was from an earlier game in the series, Freiman said.
The process to shoot the basketball video took place over two days, but the actual shooting time took about 45 minutes. Freiman had a tryout with the kids the day before shooting. They practiced each play -- the initial out-of-bounds off Celtic Jerry Sichting (Benson Gichuki) and then Bird’s steal of Thomas’ (Moses Karicho) pass and the layup by Johnson (Peter Nyagah) -- for about 30 minutes apiece.
“It’s tough to hit a layup off that backboard since it sits at a 75-degree angle,” Freiman said. The next day, Freiman brought out the crowd actors and told them what to do, teaching them to “cheer, jump up and down, boo and go nuts.” Some very young 7-year-old “Celtics fans” can be seen jeering the Pistons during introductions starting at the 15-second mark of the clip.
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