Monday, June 28, 2010

Greatest Basketball Movies

Another basketball season has come and gone. What should you do about getting your basketball fix? If you’re lucky, like me, you live in an area where there’s some good summer hoops to take in. Here in the Triangle (in North Carolina) we have an excellent annual pro-am event starting up next week. So last year I got an advanced viewing of John Wall against pro and major college talent. Some of you may have seen the youtube vid of him dunking on Jerry Stackhouse; same league. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there that night, but he did some impressive stuff when I was there.

If you’re not so lucky maybe you can catch some NBA summer league games on cable. Honestly, I usually don’t bother with that. How about mixing in some drama with your b-ball? If you go that route, these are my greatest basketball movies of all time...

10. The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Moses Gunn, played by the awesome Julius "Dr. J" Erving, is on a fictional pro team in Pittsburgh. He's great but the team sucks. One of Gunn's fans, who's like 15 years old, gets hired & he in turn brings in a psychic who decides the only way this team will succeed is if they bring in all new players that were born under the sign of Pisces cuz Moses Gunn is a pisces. I'm not even making this up. Movie critics the world over will tell how much it sucks but I love it.

9. Above the Rim
Tupac is the local gangsta that runs the street-ball world. The rest of the cast, including star Duane Martin, is capable but at the end of the day it's Pac's charisma that carries the movie. Throw in solid work by the always underrated Leon & we have the makings of a 'hood classic.

8. The Heart of the Game
We follow the Roosevelt Rough Riders, a Seattle high school girls’ basketball team. Their eccentric coach Bill Resler is infectious. He keeps things as loose as possible. However, the real heart of this documentary is star player Darnellia Russell and the trials and tribulations she goes through.

7. Love & BasketballOkay, so an all-out chick-flick makes the cut. Sanaa Lathan & Omar Epps grow up as extremely talented ball-playing next door neighbors who happen to have a thing for each other. Admittedly, even with plenty of basketball being played throughout (the movies even physically broken into four "quarters" like a game is) it boils down to being a romance. For this movie, and one other on this list, I can let that slide.

6. Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault
Based on the true rise, fall & rise of NY playground legend Earl "The Goat" Manigault. One of my faves, Don Cheadle, is in the lead-role. Growing up & playing a lot of ball in the city, I heard plenty of stories about "The Goat" so maybe nostalgia gets it this high up on the list but it really is a very good movie. The only one on the list that was made-for-tv. HBO did the honors & they generally make much better movies than other networks.

5. White Men Can't Jump
Woody Harrelson & Wesley Snipes take advantage of the stereotype that white guys aren't as good at basketball as black guys & hustle on various courts in L.A. Lots of basketball and hilarity ensues. Of course, it's the love story that plays out between Harrelson & one of the women of my dreams, Rosie Perez that provides the movie with balance. Well, it really makes it a bit of a chick-flick but for Rosie I'll make an exception.

4. Soul in the Hole
This documentary contains exhilarating, New York City streetball and gut-wrenching drama as we follow two basic storylines. First, we watch the “Kenny Kings” try to go undefeated through the summer. Second, and this is the tough part, we watch the relationship between the team’s coach Kenny Jones and his star player Ed “Booger” Smith, whom Kenny has taken in and cared for as if he were his own son. No one who has seen this movie will ever forget “Booger.”

3. He Got GameThe story of Jesus, Shuttlesworth, that is. Director Spike Lee takes on the college recruiting game & scores big. Real NBA baller Ray Allen plays the lead but helping to elevate a suspect cast are Rosario Dawson as the opportunistic (read: gold digging) girlfriend & the already legendary Denzel Washington as the dad trying to persuade his son. It’s edgy, funny & not given nearly enough credit for predicting the hype surrounding the high school career of LeBron James. Yup, that's what I said.

2. Hoosiers
For many, this is the quintessential sports movie not just basketball movie. It’s Rocky on the hardwood. Gene Hackman is pure genius as the new head coach who has to deal with all the local riff-raff telling him how to do his job. If the story of an underdog high school basketball team in Indiana doesn’t warm your heart, you don’t have one.

1. Hoop Dreams
The intertwining, yet independent tales of William Gates and Arthur Agee make for arguably, the greatest sports documentary of all time. We meet the boys just as they are about to enter high school and leave about a year after they graduate. What happens in between is touching, sad, triumphant, wonderful, bittersweet and just perfect filmmaking.

Just Rimmed Out (honorable mention):

The Air Up There
Blue Chips
Coach Carter
Glory Road
The Great Santini
Gunnin' For That #1 Spot
More Than a Game
Pistol: The Birth of a Legend
Space Jam
Sunset Park
Teen Wolf

Bricks (terrible):

The 6th Man
Celtic Pride
Juwanna Mann

DNP - Coach's Decision (haven't seen):

Finding Forrester
Forget Paris
A Season on the Brink
That Championship Season

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