Toksook Bay basketball player to star in ESPN’s “I am Yup’ik”

A short film starring Toksook Bay high school student Byron Nicholai will air on ESPN’s SportsCenter next month. The film,‘I am Yup’ik’ was filmed in Bethel and Toksook Bay.

A screenshot of the movie title on the GoodFight Media website. (Screenshot by Charles Enoch.)
A screenshot of the movie title on the GoodFight Media website. (Screenshot by Charles Enoch.)

Co-Directors Daniele Anastasion and Nathan Golon came to Bethel to film a movie about basketball and the Yup’ik culture in January and August of 2015. Anastasion said luckily they met Byron Nicholai who happened to be on the Toksook Bay Islanders basketball team.

“We found this kid who was extraordinarily connected to his Yup’ik identity and his heritage, whose mission is really to put his Yup’ik identity out there and teach people to reconnect with their culture,” Anastasion said.

Anastasion said they first got the idea to do a film revolving around the district 1A small school basketball tournament in Bethel from a friend and producer. She and Golon, her husband, came to the area in January last year to begin filming and after meeting Byron they decided to do much of the filming in Toksook and Bethel.

Golon and Anastasion say they don’t want to reveal too much before the movie airs but both say this is the best movie they’ve ever done.

A summary on the ESPN Media Zone website says the movie revolves around Nicholai’s character making his way to an all Yup’ik basketball tournament while connecting to his culture and bringing pride to his community.

‘I Am Yup’ik,’ will air on March 4 during the 6pm hour of SportsCenter on ESPN. For more information visit

Charles Enoch is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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