NEW YORK—Adding to its lineup an alternate-history drama that has been hotly anticipated by viewers and critics alike, the Showtime network will premiere an original series Sunday night that examines how the course of world events would have been altered if the Nazis had won the 1991 NBA Finals.
According to press materials, the new show, called One Thousand Rings, explores what might have happened had a Third Reich team led by Adolf Hitler defeated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to take home the NBA title. The series reportedly depicts Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense failing to withstand the strategic onslaught of Coach Heinrich Himmler’s Final Solution, which leads to the emergence of the Nazis as a basketball powerhouse in the early ’90s.
“The show delves into Jordan’s near-maniacal pursuit of victory at all costs and imagines how he might have reacted when confronted with Hitler’s equally obsessive drive,” said showrunner Ryan Brady, describing a scene in which the Nazis, losing badly at halftime in game seven, are inspired to rally by a powerful speech in which the führer predicts a millennium of championships, which he calls the “thousand-ring reich.” “This isn’t about romanticizing the Third Reich or diminishing the achievements of the Bulls. It’s about, for example, imagining the smack talk between Scottie Pippen and power forward Josef Goebbels, who after a powerful dunk goes right up to the Bulls’ bench and tells them they are of inferior breeding.”
“The first episode ends with series MVP Hitler hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at mid-court,” Brady added. “While a disgraced Jordan, sitting alone in the Bulls’ locker room, takes his own life.”
The producers of One Thousand Rings told reporters the pilot imagines what it might have been like for the legendary Chicago team to sweep Detroit in the East Conference Finals and then go on to the championship round to face the high-scoring Nazis and their infamous blitzkrieg offense. In the first games, they said, it appears the Bulls will easily handle the Third Reich’s renowned pure shooters, as well as its Übermenschen in the backcourt, Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Hess. But as the Finals progress, no one seems to have an answer for Hermann Göring in the paint, and once Hitler starts to get into a rhythm from beyond the arc, the tide turns—an unstoppable tide that forever changes NBA history as we know it.
Showtime executives confirmed later episodes will tackle issues that would have arisen in the wake of a successful Nazi basketball franchise, including whether, with the Bulls out of the picture, Dennis Rodman would have joined the Third Reich after leaving the San Antonio Spurs in 1995.
“We get to pose all these interesting questions, like whether the Nazis would have gone on to pull off a pair of three-peats, the way the Bulls did,” said Miguel Sapochnik, who directed several of the show’s episodes and spent months in preparation studying the stylistic choices of Leni Riefenstahl and NBC Sports. “Perhaps a disciplined Nazi squad would have done even better, consolidating power within the physical, pre-hand-check-rule NBA and preventing Olajuwon and the Rockets from snagging rings in ’94 and ’95. Would their run of titles have continued into the next decade in a series of rematches against Third Reich nemesis Phil Jackson? It’s fascinating to think about.”
“Who’s to say whether Hitler, after becoming the NBA’s most talented star, would have even remained a Nazi?” Sapochnik continued. “He might have joined the Suns and helped Charles Barkley win a ring.”
Though Showtime has yet to renew One Thousand Rings for a second season, showrunner Brady told reporters he has already begun outlining how the series could go beyond the scope of the NBA to examine what the broader culture might have looked like during the reign of a Nazi basketball dynasty. He remarked that he would like to portray a world in which the bombastic Hitler, instead of Jordan, becomes basketball’s global ambassador, appearing in commercials for McDonald’s, Hanes, Chevrolet, and Rayovac batteries.
“We might have had Air Führer sneakers, of course,” he said, “but more intriguing is the prospect of an alternate version of Space Jam in which Hitler helps the aliens to enslave and eventually exterminate Bugs Bunny and his friends.”