The fast pace and furious action of basketball makes it an ideal vehicle for film. The game was created by a Massachusetts PE instructor in the late 19th century who was looking for something to keep students active on rainy days.
Basketball is also the stuff of dreams — especially for inner-city youth looking for a way out of the "hood" and a vehicle for success.
Here’s Newsmax’s list of the top 10 movies dedicated to the game, listed in alphabetical order.
"Above The Rim" (1994): This depicts the gritty, rough and tumble world of basketball as it’s played on the city streets rather than the court, and "in a world where every point counts, the hardest part of winning is choosing sides."
It’s also a world where the players dream of a collegiate scholarship as a stepping-stone to their ultimate goal of an NBA slot, and critic Roger Ebert gave it his “thumbs up.”
"The movie lives easily on the streets where it is shot, and the performances - especially by [Duane] Martin, [Tupac] Shakur and [Tonya] Pinkins — are convincing," he wrote. "We get a sense of the daily rhythm of the character's lives, and for a drama, the movie finds room for a surprising amount of humor, especially in the dialogue."
"Blue Chips" (1994): This one depicts an honest and normally winning college basketball coach facing his first losing season. He’s caught up in the vicious circle of college athletics: If you continue losing, you get fired. To win you have to recruit good talent. To get the talent you may have to offer illegal incentives. But if you get caught, you get fired.
A lot of critics panned this one, but moviegoers reign supreme and they loved it, citing two reasons: Nick Nolte as the coach on the horns of a dilemma, and the legendary Shaquille O’Neal, playing an object of one of Nolte’s recruiting efforts.
"Coach Carter" (2005): Just as Nolte and O’Neal made "Blue Chips" riveting, the dynamic Samuel L. Jackson brought electricity to his portrayal of the title character, the real-life Richmond, California high school coach Ken Carter.
He returns to his old high school to get its basketball team back in shape, with the goal that his players succeed both on the court and in the classroom.
His players' winning streak comes to an abrupt halt, however, when Carter locks them out of the gym because of faltering grades, thus eliminating any chance of a championship season.
When he’s criticized by the players and their parents, he sticks to his guns, determined that they excel in academics as well as athletics.
Although Nell Minow, who reviewed the film for Common Sense Media, called "Coach Carter" an "Engaging film with a terrific message," most critics panned it. But like "Blue Chips" moviegoers loved it.
"Glory Road" (2006): This tells the story of rookie coach Don Haskins, who took the University of Texas-El Paso Miners men's basketball team to the NCAA national championship in 1966. He did it by building his team strictly on the basis of talent regardless of race. This involved recruiting talented players — often black — from northern colleges.
Brian Lowry wrote of the film in Variety, "Rebounding from 'Stealth.' [Josh] Lucas is perfectly cast as the driven coach, with Luke and Mehcad Brooks ('Desperate Housewives’) leading a solid cadre of youthful players who manage to both look convincing on the court and convey the mix of anger and enthusiasm that the youths felt."
"He Got Game" (1998): This is a Spike Lee film depicting a prison inmate (Denzel Washington) who’s given an unusual offer by the warden. He'll be granted a week of parole to convince his son, a star basketball prospect, to attend and platy for the governor's alma mater. And if successful, he’s promised a reduced sentence.
"Basketball is a subject very near to Lee’s heart, and he choreographs the net navigation with a reverent grace." wrote Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter. "Particularly arresting is a final, unspoken, long-distance father-son reconciliation that is as movingly poetic as anything Lee’s ever put on film."
"Hoop Dreams" (1994): This is documentary that follows two promising young Chicago inner-city high schoolers, who travel each day to attend the predominately white St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, because of its superior basketball program. Their goal is to get college athletic scholarship. Unlike many other films of this genre, "Hoop Dreams" received rave reviews from critics and moviegoers alike.
"A film like 'Hoop Dreams' is what the movies are for, Wrote film critic and Chicago native Roger Ebert. "It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself." He adds that the film "is not only a documentary. It is also poetry and prose, muckraking and expose, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime."
"Hoosiers" (1986): This modern classic depicts a failed college coach (Gene Hackman) who gets a second chance when he’s hired to develop a small-town Indiana high school basketball program. Despite coaching a tiny team of six that’s missing its star player, plus his choice of an alcoholic assistant coach (Dennis Hopper), he places the team on a winning streak that just won’t stop.
"'Hoosiers’ works a magic … in getting us to really care about the fate of the team and the people depending on it,” wrote Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars. "In the way it combines sports with human nature, it reminded me of another wonderful Indiana sports movie, 'Breaking Away.' It's a movie that is all heart."
"Love & Basketball" (2000): This is a sports-themed romantic comedy that tells the story of two friends from childhood, Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps). They each aspire to become pro basketball players, like Quincy’s father, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. They’re each driven and talented and the two eventually become romantically attracted to one another, while their separate paths to basketball greatness threatens to pull them apart.
"It's in the small touches that this movie comes alive, and it's rare that directors can pull off this kind of thing," wrote Elvis Mitchell for The New York Times. "'Love and Basketball' is the first step, however unsteady, of an intriguing new talent" in director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
"Semi-Pro" (2008) This is a straight-up comedy that stars Will Farrell as a player/coach/owner of the worst team in the short-lived American Basketball Association. The team is located in Flint, Michigan — it’s called the Tropics.
The year is 1976, when the ABA merged with the NBA, but in order to make the cut they have to step it up and get their game on. As a testament to its popularity, merchants continue to sell Flint Tropics jerseys and sharp-eyed viewers can occasionally spot them in the stands at NBA games.
"White Men Can’t Jump" (1992): This is another comedy, this time starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, who depict two grifters that form a partnership to con the unwary at Southern California pickup basketball games.
"The terrifically confident Mr. Snipes gives a funny, knowing performance with a lot of physical verve,” wrote Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times. "And Mr. Harrelson (of ‘Cheers’) further perfects the art of appearing utterly without guile. Their comic timing together shapes the film's raucous wit, and their basketball playing looks creditable, too."
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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