The White Shadow is an American drama television series that ran on the CBS network from November 27 1978, to March 16 1981.
Thematically similar to Welcome Back, Kotter, but more dramatic than comedic, The White Shadow starred Ken Howard as Ken Reeves, a white professional basketball player who retires from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA after a severe knee injury. Upon his retirement, Reeves takes a job as a basketball coach at Carver High School, a mostly black and Hispanic urban high school in South Central Los Angeles. Carver's principal is former college classmate Jim Willis (Jason Bernard in the pilot, and Ed Bernard for seasons 1 and 2). Sybil Buchanan, played by Joan Pringle, is the vice principal who was against Reeves' hiring and clashed with Reeves in the areas of discipline and education on more than a few occasions. In season 3, Willis is promoted to a position with the Oakland Board of Education and Buchanan becomes principal of Carver.
According to the storyline, Reeves and Willis were roommates at Boston College. Reeves played college basketball and went on to be drafted into the NBA and played mostly with the Chicago Bulls.
The show was produced by Bruce Paltrow for MTM Enterprises. On November 8, 2005, the series' first season was released on DVD, with the second season following on March 7, 2006.
The White Shadow was the first ensemble drama on prime-time television with a predominantly African-American cast. With 54 episodes, it is the third-longest running drama with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American prime-time television. Only Soul Food and The Wire have had more episodes.
The show's title is derived from a comment by Thorpe in response to a statement by Reeves in the final scene of the pilot episode. Reeves told the members of the team that he would support them and be right behind them, every step of the way, to which Thorpe replied, "Yeah. Like a white shadow."
In October 2011, ESPN Classic began reairing all 54 episodes of The White Shadow. Reruns aired on Nick at Nite and TV Land in the 1990s with other MTM Enterprises series.