TV

Ballers Is Still Dwayne Johnson’s Best Role


As the HBO series Ballers finds a new audience on Netflix, here’s why it signals a lost era for Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson in Ballers
Photo: HBO

As Warner Bros. Discovery rethinks its streaming and licensing strategy, the studio has begun to license out several of its HBO and Max properties to outside streaming services. Among these shows is Ballers, the sports comedy drama starring and executive produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which ran for five seasons from 2015 to 2019. Now available to stream on Netflix, Ballers has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to the change in platforms, opening up the show to new, bigger audiences. Ballers has the distinction of being led by Johnson in his most nuanced and well-rounded role to date, providing a surprising amount of vulnerability for the global superstar.

Created by Stephen Levinson, Ballers follows Spencer Strasmore (Johnson), a former NFL player who parlays his life experiences to become a financial manager to current NFL athletes. As Spencer expands his business into a growing empire within the professional sports industry, he has to contend with both figures from his complicated past and fiery athletes at the top of their game. Among these is Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), a gifted but volatile wide receiver whose personality gets him in trouble on and off the field.

For all his swagger and expensive suits, Spencer is a complete personal disaster when we first meet him. On a date in the show’s opening scene, Spencer tries to make a cash withdrawal for a night out on the town only to learn from the ATM that his account has been overdrafted. Though coming from a celebrated athletic career, Spencer contends with physical ailments from injuries incurred in the NFL that continue to painfully manifest themselves years after his retirement. To woo and maintain clients, Spencer has to engage in some questionable activitis, including bribery and deception all in the name of good business.

Simply put, Spencer Strasmore is a much more complex character than Johnson is normally associated with, still the ever-smiling and confident good guy, but with a tremendous amount of turmoil raging below the surface. Spencer ultimately comes out on top, but the road to every victory is hard-fought as he hustles and plays whatever favors he has to succeed. 

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