Review: FBI investigation targets wrong guy, Saginaw's Christian Dawkins, in HBO's 'The Scheme'

Saginaw's Christian Dawkins is at the center of engrossing HBO documentary

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

Corrupt government officials wasting taxpayer dollars. Rich and powerful people who lie for their own benefit. More government officials touting their own awesomeness while accomplishing little.

Amazingly "The Scheme" has nothing to do with a virus. It has to do with the crooked college basketball system and was obviously supposed to capitalize on that following March Madness.

Christian Dawkins in "The Scheme."

As it turns out, though, the essential concerns of "The Scheme" actually fit into our current situation.

That it does so in an entertaining manner — there are a number of laugh aloud moments here — is partly thanks to director Pat Kondelis, but the real reason this documentary works is because of a charismatic basketball wizard from Saginaw named Christian Dawkins.

The son of a legendary high school coach, Dawkins realized early he didn’t have the talent to play. Instead he took to the business of the sport. As a teenager he published a scouting newsletter highlighting hot middle and high school players. By 20 he’d guided two players to the first round of the NBA draft.

But when Dawkins wanted to start his own agency he needed capital. He turned to a hustler, not knowing the guy was trying to get out of a jail term by setting up some one for the FBI. Dawkins was young and ambitious and well-connected. He was also doing the same thing as everybody else in college basketball: Arranging payments to supposedly amateur players.

He became a fall guy even though he was just playing the game as it’s played. But after spending tens of thousands of dollars on the scam all the FBI could manage were a few piddly convictions. The guys at the top, of course, were left unscathed, still earning millions.

But Dawkins remains irrepressible, unbeaten. By the time you finish the movie you wish he was running for president. America needs his hustle.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'The Scheme'


9 p.m. Tuesday