Ballers Season 1 Review

The Ballers Season 1 artwork Dwayne Johnson

Ballers is an American sports comedy-drama series following a retired NFL player who pursues a career as a financial manager of other NFL players. The series stars Dwayne Johnson, Rob Corddry, John David Washington, Omar Miller and Troy Garity.

You will struggle to find a television series with such an invigorating introduction that can match that of Ballers! Straight from the off, you are thrown into the fierce, passionate and alluring world of Ballers, thanks to the help of the opening theme, “Right Above It” by Lil Wayne and Drake. It’s rare that the opening theme can fully embody the premise of a series, but the gruelling workouts, stunning panoramic shots of Miami and uplifting theme song do a great job at setting the tone.

Whilst American Football is at the heart of Ballers, you don’t need to be a hardcore NFL fan to follow the story. The majority of season 1 takes place off the pitch, prior to the NFL season starting, so there is no need to research ‘first downs’ and ‘the line of scrimmage’ before watching! Instead, the series focuses on relationships off the field, which mainly consist of main character Spencer fighting fires caused by his clients and his irresponsible financial partner, Joe.

Dwayne Johnson plays the lead character Spencer Strasmore and is undoubtedly a perfect fit for his character. Spencer is a retired NFL player turned financial manager who still has huge respect within the world of American Football and uses this to his advantage, helping to build relationships with players. Spencer feels very authentic and Dwayne Johnson being a retired NFL player, still popular amongst current players, feels very believable! Dwayne Johnson’s role in the series really cannot be understated, without his character and personal likeability, the series would lack any real driving force. 

Season 1 also looks at Spencer’s ongoing mental battles, most prominently his nightmares and flashbacks which haunt him from his playing days as a footballer. I commend the show for exploring the characters’ mental battles, particularly in the depth which they do, as not enough is done to safeguard players in all forms of sport for the long-term trauma which can come as a result of playing professional sport.

There is an extensive supporting cast in season 1 of Ballers, with Rob Corddry, John David Washington, Omar Miller, Donavan W. Carter, London Brown and Troy Garity featuring regularly. Rob Corddry plays Joe, Spencer’s financial partner and is stark contrast to that of Spencer. Whilst Spencer mostly takes a level-headed, measured approach to most situations, Joe is the complete opposite, opting for an eccentric, outlandish way of going about business. The contrasting personalities of Spencer and Joe, as well as their good-humoured bromance provide for some of the funniest moments in the series.

John David Washington and Donovan W. Carter play Ricky Jerret and Vernon Littlefield respectively, both of whom are active NFL players and clients of Spencer and Joe’s. Ricky is the more interesting of the two characters and his larger than life personality makes him one of my favourite characters, despite his numerous impetuous decisions. Acting without thinking is a consistent occurrence throughout the first season of Ballers and more often than not, Spencer is left cleaning things up. This theme does become a little predictable, but the brazen approach taken for every development make them so entertaining. 

There’s a good balance of both humour and drama in the series, with the series never really taking itself too seriously, but still retaining an admirable level of realism. There was never a moment in the series where I thought anything was too unrealistic and it’s this sense of plausibility that make each episode so fascinating to think it could happen in real life. Plus, the series moves forward at an appreciated decent pace, so the audience are never left dwelling for too long.

The Verdict

Season 1 of Ballers is an entertaining insight into the lifestyle and world of American football players, driven by an authentic performance from Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

7.5/10

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