“Trainwreck” is a major motion picture featuring Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James. That’s how I first heard about it. I’ve since learned that the movie—which is currently being filmed—is directed by Judd Apatow and stars Amy Shumer, Bill Hader and a long list of other Hollywood talent.
While the comedy’s plot has been kept under wraps, there is one scene where James plays Hader’s character in a game of one-on-one. But even though we’ll see Hader trading buckets with King James when the film is released during the summer of 2015, it’s actually Cleveland-native Brian Kortovich who is acting out the basketball action opposite LeBron.
Kortovich starred at Holy Name and Brunswick before going on to play professionally overseas and getting drafted into the NBA D-League. I caught up with him recently to talk about what it’s like as a basketball body-double who goes one-on-one with LeBron James in a major Hollywood film.
“They bring in a guy who is pretty good at basketball, just to get the movements proper,” Kortovich explained, of his role as a basketball body-double for Bill Hader in Trainwreck.
“I have a brief cameo in the movie, but in the scene with LeBron, it’s Bill Hader you’ll obviously see and hear. I just had to do some of the basketball moves, and then take a beating from LeBron on the court.”
Kortovich has actually been a basketball body-double in other Hollywood movies before. He worked on set of “What’s Your Number,” staring Anna Faris and Chris Evans, as well as “Just Right” featuring Common and Queen Latifah.
But this was the first time he was required to defend the best player on the planet.
“The producers told me, at one point, to do everything I could to hold him,” he said, of his one-on-one matchup with James filmed recently at a high school gym in New York City. “So I’m sliding the whole way down the key trying to hold LeBron with an arm-bar. Then, at the last second, I had to take a charge. It was the first time I took a charge since high school [laughs]. After that, he drop-stepped and dunked on me.”
The last time Kortovich was on a court with Lebron was in pickup games in Akron, during his early years with the Cavaliers. This time, however, he was wearing a custom-fitted wig while being asked to defend the four-time NBA MVP.
“You just go with whatever they need you to do,” he said with a laugh. “Just show up on set and be very professional about everything. When the lights are on, you gotta shoot, remember your lines, and they obviously want you to knock down as many shots as possible. There’s definitely some nerves when you’re filming, but once you get into a flow, it’s just like playing basketball anywhere else—except for the makeup and wig that took an hour-and-a-half to put on.”
Despite the uncomfortable hairpiece, the opportunity to use the game he loves to open doors and create experiences like this are not lost on the kid from Ohio.
“I’ve played in the Garden before, but anytime you walk into the world’s most famous arena for a movie, it’s one of those things that just don’t happen everyday,” he said, of scenes he worked on filmed at MSG for the movie. “So it’s a humbling experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and the fact that a couple guys from Northeast Ohio are in this movie—even though I’ll barely make the credits—just makes it even better.”
Rucker Park in NYC
Brian Kortovich has been a fixture at Rucker Park in New York City over the last several years. He was the scoring champion at the Rucker in 2012, one year after Kevin Durant earned that same title during the lockout summer of 2011.
Despite suffering an injury before Vegas Summer League last year, that sidelined him from game action for the better part of a year, Kortovich has remained close to the summer hoops scene in NYC.
“I’ve been honored to run and organize team HillsongNYC in basketball leagues throughout NYC and especially at the Rucker,” Kortovich said. “HillsongNYC is a non-denominational church filled with a great community of people. I’ve been blessed with relationships that I cherish and that will last a lifetime. We were fortunate enough to get into the Rucker Pro-Am last summer.
With my good friend Carl Lentz, who pastors HillsongNYC, we were able to bring Kevin Durant along with an NBA starting lineup. It was the first time in EBC Rucker history that a team came equipped with an all NBA starting five. That was a special night and one that I’ll never forget.”
Besides Durant, the group Hillsong brought to the Rucker that night also included Landry Fields, David Lee, Kent Bazemore and former Chicago Bull Jay Williams.
After going through extensive rehab himself, Kortovich has since been cleared to play this past May. He’s been competing against some of best ever since in hopes of getting a shot in the NBA D-League this year.
“I haven’t played outdoors this year yet,” he said. “But I have been playing at the Melo Gym a lot—Nike put an exclusive Brand Jordan gym in middle of NYC, they call it the Melo Gym. So that’s been pretty cool. Carmelo Anthony has been playing there, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, Lance Stephenson, Landry Fields, David Lee and several talented overseas professionals. It’s been a blessing to be back on the court again, playing the game I love, rubbing elbows with some of the best players in the game.”
Kortovich also launched a non-profit company called Aces In Action in 2013. The brand features a clothing line called ACES that is used to generate money to help fund cancer research and community initiatives throughout NYC.
“When I got injured last summer, I decided to use basketball to help give back,” he said. “It’s always been in my heart to give back, so I started a clothing line called ACES Clothing Line. That’s also tied to a charity called Aces In Action, and the proceeds benefit cancer research.
So every hat, every shirt, every product, a portion of the proceeds go through my partnership with the Jimmy V Foundation to support cancer research. It’s been great to link with the V Foundation because it’s basketball-related, passionate, and together we’ve developed a good product that people have really been buying and supporting throughout the city.”
Aces In Action also uses basketball to help under-privileged youth throughout the community. They host a series of basketball camps to teach the game while helping inspire kids to dream along the way.
“In addition to the clothing line, we also do basketball camps and clinics for kids in underprivileged areas. In Harlem and Brooklyn, kids that can’t afford any training but are pretty good at basketball, they come to our camps and clinics to learn ways to get better. I’ll bring in a professional player to each camp. They’ll speak about their journey, to never give up, to learn how to dream big. It helps give these kids hope. You tell your story of what you had to overcome and it’s relatable to them. It’s about teaching, working hard and dreaming big.”
For more on Aces In Action and how you can get involved, contact Kortovich on Twitter or Instagram.
KD and BK at Rucker – Ben Draper Photographer
Carmelo and BK – Jon Lopez