It’s that time of year when the game takes over – when all things revolve around seeing those great match-ups. You love every thrilling moment, every upset, every passion-filled play and basketball rules your life. And, that’s the way you like it. There’s only one drawback and that’s the torturous time when there are no games being played.
Once you’ve exhausted all the hoop news, hoop analysis and hoop debate, what’s
a fan to do? Well, allow me to offer you an assist and clue you in on movies about
the sport that can help fill the time until the next tip-off.
Seek these flicks out on cable or DVD, otherwise you’ll be stuck doing things
that have nothing to do with all the hoopla like, you know, eating, bathing or,
uh, working. Or even talking to people about things completely unrelated to March
Madness … and nobody wants that.
There’s no tougher coach than one played by Gene Hackman – just try
staring into those tough eyes without feeling like you were just punched in the
gut. This is the true story of underdogs who become champions, basically the plot
of almost every basketball movie.
High school coach Norman Dale (Hackman) has a chance to take his Indiana team
all the way to the state championship. With the help of an assistant coach played
by wild-eyed Dennis Hopper, Hackman inspires his players to overcome the odds
and find it in themselves to win (also a cliché of almost every basketball
THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH
This 1979 trash classic is so bad that sometimes it’s actually good. Stockard
Channing plays an astrologer named Mona who helps a team of NBA rejects win.
The "fish" in the title is a reference to the astrological sign "Pisces,"
but nothing will explain the cameos by real champs like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and
Julius Erving. Enjoy it for its kitsch value and remember to turn off your brain.
LOVE AND BASKETBALL
A young black couple played by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan share a love of basketball
that connects their lives. This romantic comedy about the power of love and the
game deserves to be rediscovered by fans. And the best part – women love
this movie as it best explains why men are so passionate about sports.
WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP
Woody Harrelson is a small-time hustler on the amateur court who takes advantage
of Wesley Snipes in this unlikely buddy comedy. The humor disappears as the film
turns into a solid drama. Rosie Perez is off the hook as Harrelson’s loudmouthed
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES
Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance as Jim who plays for the best Catholic
high school basketball team in New York. Based on a memoir of the same name, the
story descends into crime and drugs as Jim and his pals get into more trouble
than recent NBA pros.
MICHAEL JORDAN TO THE MAX
This short documentary film originally played on Imax screens when it hit the
really big screen and documents portions of Michael Jordan’s last game as
a Chicago Bull. Thankfully most of the action takes place on the court as we see
the pure beauty and majesty of the way Mike played the game. It really makes you
miss those old days when this class act dominated the sport.
REBOUND: THE LEGEND OF EARL ‘THE GOAT’ MANIGAULT
Another forgotten classic, this searing drama follows a basketball player recovering
from drug addiction while teaching kids in Harlem to appreciate the game.
HE GOT GAME
Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington in this powerful basketball drama. Washington
plays Jake, a man who has spent the last six years in prison who is offered a
choice – an early parole if he can convince his son to into signing a basketball
scholarship with the governor’s alma mater. The best drama portrayed on screen
about the pressures students face when selecting a college to play ball.
Gabe Kaplan rode his 1970s fame from the "Welcome Back Kotter" sitcom
onto the big screen in this cheesy b-ball flick. Kaplan plays a coach of a collegiate
basketball team where talent is sadly lacking. In retrospect, this film is very
dated, but it still holds up as mindless entertainment.
THE AIR UP THERE
Kevin Bacon stars in this comedy as a former basketball player who goes to Africa
to find a new recruit. Hilarity ensues.
ABOVE THE RIM
This sports melodrama features the standard clichés, but what really makes
it worth seeing is the performance by the late Tupac Shakur as a gangster.
"South Park’s" Matt Stone and Trey Parker star in a sports movie
that combines basketball and baseball and the result is a load of gross humor.
This forgotten comedy classic is not really about basketball, it’s more about
the age-old playground game of horse taken to extremes.
The cast is rounded out by Jenny McCarthy as a gold-digging widow, Ernest Borgnine
as a crazy team owner and there’s even embarrassing cameos by sports announcers
like Al Michaels and Bob Costas that you’re not likely to find on their current
This outstanding documentary about young teens who pursue their dreams to play
basketball professionally has been called one of the best of the decade.
Racism, poverty and politics influence every turn in the daily lives of those
few talented enough to even have the hope of making it. But there are no guarantees
and fate steps in as some rise to the top while others crash and burn.
THE 6TH MAN
A sports comedy of the low-brow kind, The 6th Man stars Kadeem Hardison and Marlon
Wayans as basketball-playing brothers. When Hardison’s character dies suddenly
of heart failure, his ghost lives on to help his brother on the court. Ghostly
jokes abound in this comedic romp.
Gus Van Sant directs Sean Connery in this drama focusing on a novelist who forms
an unlikely bond with a boy named Jamal, a teen basketball star with a desire
to pursue the career of a writer.
Rhea Perlman coaches an inner city basketball team in this by the numbers b-ball
movie. So why is this on the list? Well, I needed a total of 16. Unfortunately
some teams competing in March Madness will suffer similar fates – making
it into rounds when they really shouldn’t. But isn’t that what makes
watching the game so exciting?
Film: Special Features
The Sweet 16: Best Basketball Movies
By Chris Gore
Article posted on 3/13/2006
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