October 13, 2017
With the NBA regular season about to start and the NCAA tipoff less than a month behind it, I thought I would follow up my football movies post from August with one that takes on a basketball theme. Just like the previous post, this is in no way an exhaustive list and it only includes narrative films. Plus, there are some that come highly recommended that I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t seen yet. So, please don’t get mad that it’s missing some of YOUR favorites like “He Got Game,” “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” “Like Mike,” “Thunderstruck,” “Space Jam,” “Juwanna Mann,” “Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault,” “Cornbread, Earl and Me,” “Above the Rim,” “O,” “Air Bud,” “The Sixth Man,” “Sunset Park,” “The Basketball Diaries,” “Celtic Pride,” “Semi-Pro,” “Heaven is a Playground,” “The Air Up There,” “Eddie,” “Hurricane Season,” “Fast Break,” or the documentaries “On the Shoulders of Giants,” “More than a Game,” and “Hoop Dreams.” I didn’t forget, I had to be choosey and for one reason or another, a lot of movies didn’t make the cut.
Also, like I did in the football post, I decided to eliminate films that were mostly behind-the-scenes. So, a funny movie like “Forget Paris” isn’t on there because the main character is a referee rather than a basketball player. I’ll probably do a list, at some point, about those types of films. So, I’ll hold on to that one and others like it until them.
The football post included 11 films for 11 players on each side of the ball. This time, I’m including all players on the court which brings our total to 10. So, here it is, a list of SOME OF MY favorite basketball movies in no particular order.
- Coach Carter (2005 — Rated PG-13 and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Rick Gonzalez, Rob Brown, Robert Ri’chard, Channing Tatum, Ashanti, and Octavia Spencer)
Centered around the 1999 Richmond High School basketball team, Coach Carter tells the story of a man who holds his players accountable and the controversy he creates when he benches all of them for breaking the academic contract he required them to sign to join the team. Ken Carter provides a real-life example of how the strong leadership of a good coach can, not only produce a solid basketball team but, more importantly, teach their young players discipline and, in the process, mold them into better men. It’s a great story and holds an even more special place in my heart now than it did when I first saw it because I have since learned that Ken Carter, a decade and a half before I did, graduated from George Fox University.
- The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend (1991 — Rated G and starring Millie Perkins, Nick Benedict, Adam Guier, Murrell Garland, and Tom Lester)
I haven’t seen this movie in a long time but, I found it very inspirational as a kid and the story stuck with me. As a child, surprisingly, I didn’t focus in on Pete Maravich’s militant father. What stood out to me is how hard Pete worked and how that work-ethic helped him overcome the odds of his short stature and turned him into an outstanding basketball player.
- Love & Basketball (2000 – Rated PG-13 and starring Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, and Boris Kodjoe)
This film follows two neighboring Los Angelenos (“Q” and Monica,) from the childhood playgrounds, through their time at USC, and on to the professional hardwoods, as they both pursue their life-long dreams of becoming NBA stars. But, that’s not all they have in common. It’s not called Love & Basketball for nothin’!
- Blue Chips (1994 – Rated PG-13 and starring Nick Nolte, Mary McDonnell, J.T. Walsh, Ed O’Neill, Alfre Woodard, Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway)
A near gut-wrenching dose of fictional truth-telling, this movie is about a college basketball coach who has always played by the rules but finds himself in a position where he feels like the landscape of the world he loves has changed. When his team stops winning, boosters pressure him to break the rules for the first time and pay for some good players. He hasn’t been having the success recruiting that other schools have been and he feels it might be because he’s the only one still playing by those old rules. But, if he pays for players and gets caught, it will ruin his career.
- Finding Forrester (2000 – Rated PG-13 and starring Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, Michael Pitt, April Grace and Matt Damon)
Finding Forrester depicts the unlikely relationship between a young black man named Jamal Wallace, who has been given the opportunity to attend one of New York’s top preparatory schools on a full-ride basketball scholarship, and an old, white, reclusive curmudgeon named William Forrester who is also a famous author. As William discovers that Jamal is a brilliant writer, the relationship evolves into that of mentor and prodigy. Basketball isn’t necessarily the focus of the story but, it does play a part and, it’s a wonderful story.
- White Men Can’t Jump (1992 – Rated R and starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell and Kadeem Hardison)
This is another one I haven’t seen in a long time but remember thinking was hilarious when I was in high school. I’ve seen it again more recently than that but, it’s still been a while. Snipes and Harrelson play a couple of Los Angeles street hustlers trying to get by playing basketball and playing off people’s prejudices toward a white guy in goofy clothes whom they assume couldn’t possibly be a good basketball player. Spoiler alert: the guy can play. Be aware of the profanity. I’m sure that will turn some people off.
- One on One (1977 – Rated PG and starring Robby Benson, Annette O’Toole, G.D. Spradlin, Gail Strickland and Melanie Griffith)
One on One centers on the star of a small Colorado town’s high school basketball team who gets a scholarship to play at a big university in Los Angeles. He is quickly overwhelmed by the fact that he never fully learned to read, bullying from players on his new team and a mean-spirited coach. However, a pretty young co-ed assigned to tutor him may just help him turn things around . . .
- Hoosiers (1986 – Rated PG and starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, Sheb Wooley, Fern Persons, Chelcie Ross, Robert Swan and Michael Sassone)
You’ve had over thirty years to see this film so, if you haven’t yet, shame on you. Hoosiers is considered by many to be among the greatest sports movies of all time. Since most have seen it, I’ll spare you the plot details. But, if you’re one of the few who haven’t, get a copy and watch it immediately!
- Teen Wolf (1985 – Rated PG and starring Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, Susan Ursitti, Jerry Levine, Matt Adler, Mark Arnold and Jay Tarses)
Michael J. Fox plays an ordinary high school student who suddenly begins to transform into a werewolf. He soon learns that this is part of his heritage. Of course, that freaks him out at first but, he quickly discovers that it also improves his life in many ways – including his skills on the basketball court. This is another one I’ve loved to laugh at since I was a kid.
- Glory Road (2006 – Rated PG and starring Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Austin Nichols, Jon Voight, Evan Jones, Alphonso McAuley, Mechad Brooks, Emily Deschanel, Same Jones III, Red West, Damaine Radcliff, Al Shearer and Kip Weeks)
Like Coach Carter, which came only a year before it, Glory Road is an inspirational true story. This one, however, takes place over thirty years earlier in 1966 and centers on the events leading up to what is now called the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Don Haskins, head coach of Texas Western College, set his line-up according to skill-level rather than skin-color and wound up coaching the first all-black starting line-up in tournament history.