Basketball Movies to Watch During the NBA Hiatus
The sporting world has come to a halt due to COVID-19 and the NBA was the first to suspend the season. In the days following the NBA’s suspension of the season, the other major sporting leagues soon followed suit. Thousands of NBA fans feel lost without any games to watch. The die-hard fan can go back in time and watch some of the greatest moments of the NBA on YouTube. Until the hiatus comes to an end, the fans can also fill the void by watching basketball movies.
Basketball Movies to Watch During the NBA Hiatus
The movies we’ve chosen for this article are a healthy combination of comedies and family moves. The list also contains dramatic movies that touch on social issues and various relationships revolving around basketball.
Celtic Pride, a comedy released in 1996, is the story of two overzealous Boston Celtics fans, played by Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern, kidnap the star player of the Utah Jazz, played by Damon Wayans. The story follows the antics of the two full-time sports fans and their adventures to ensure the Celtics won the last game in the Boston Gardens before it was destroyed.
Like Mike and Like Mike 2
The family Disney movie, Like Mike and its sequel Like Mike 2: Streetball pays homage to the great Michael Jordan. In both movies, a teenager finds tennis shoes that were supposedly Michael Jordan’s and they are able to replicate his amazing skills while wearing the shoes.
Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too
Teen Wolf is an iconic movie from the 80’s era starring Michael J. Fox in the lead. In this fun family movie, Fox’s character, Scott Howard, is a mediocre basketball player on his high school’s basketball team until his secret comes out during a game, he is a half-wolf, half-human. When the wolf comes out Scott plays phenomenal basketball and leads his team the state championship, and in the end, he picks the girl who is loyal to him instead of the popular girl he had his eyes set on.
Teen Wolf Too was a poor attempt at a sequel to the first move and starred Jason Bateman as Todd Howard, cousin of Scott Howard from the first film.
White Men Can’t Jump
White Men Can’t Jump is the story of two basketball hustlers in Los Angeles who team up to take advantage of other streetballers. Premiering in 1992, White Man Can’t Jump provided an accurate portrayal of the lower class neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the racial divide following the Rodney King riots.
Woody Harrelson plays Billy Hoyle, a former college basketball player who hustles his money by letting black streetballers assume he can’t play because he is white, then he shows them up and takes their money.
Wesley Snipes is cast as Sidney Deane, another talented baller, and hustler. Sidney has lost to Billy both of the times they played against each other. Then it was Sidney who suggested they work together and play against the people they hustle. The two win the games leading up to a tournament and the tournament itself.
The movie follows the two along their journeys to provide for their loved ones with their gambling revenue and highlights the relationship between Bily and his girlfriend, Gloria, played by Rosie Perez.
In Space Jam, the animated classic, the Looney Tunes have to depend on a basketball game and the great Michael Jordan for their future freedom. The villain Swackhammer and his team of aliens want to capture the Looney Tunes and use them at his new amusement park against their will, but Bugs Bunny negotiates a basketball game between the Looney Tunes characters and the aliens, who became The Monsters. The Monsters acquire their talent by stealing the talent of NBA pros such as Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. The only hope the Looney Tunes have is to bring Michael Jordan out of retirement and join forces with the Looney Tunes to win the game. This will always be a basketball classic partly because of the success of integrating animation and humans, basketball stars at that, in this entertaining basketball movie that is fun for the entire family.
Fast Break is a classic basketball comedy from 1979 and stars Gabe Kaplan, Harold Sylvester, and Michael Warren. The movie centers around David Greene who is a basketball enthusiast from New York who has the desire to coach basketball and excitingly accepts a job at a college in Nevada.
David takes two a few questionable characters, but good basketball players with him to Nevada. First, there is Swish, who is a girl, but the rest of the team isn’t aware of her gender, then there is Preacher who is being chased by “bad guys”, and D.C. is a fugitive. The troublesome trio and the students at the college were able to become contenders to play with the better teams and it is David’s goal to get the number one team to play his team so they can get the exposure and attention he feels his team deserves.
There is some corny 70’s humor in this movie that needs to be taken into consideration when judging if this is a good movie or not. Movies from this time era generally have not aged well.
Air Bud, another family favorite and creation of Disney was the first of a four-movie series. In this movie, a lonely young boy named Josh and a stray golden retriever make an unusual basketball duo and become the stars of the boys’ school basketball team. Unfortunately, with all of the attention shined on Buddy, the dog, his former owner resurfaced and wanted to take him back so he could profit off of Buddy’s unknown talent. It appears the boy and dog will be separated, but of course, with a Disney movie, we get a feel-good ending.
Glory Road is a biographical drama about Don Haskins who in 1966 made NCAA history during a racially tense time in our nation’s history. Haskins led the first all-black starting line-up team to the NCAA national championship title in 1966. 40 years later, John Lucas was cast as Haskins in the movie about his coaching career at Texas Western.
When Haskins arrived at Texas Western he was faced with a financially strapped program in which he couldn’t recruit any white players who played basketball well. Haskins set out to recruit a winning team and brought seven black players from the North who had been rejected at other programs. The players had to adjust to Haskins’ coaching methods, but after the adjustment, it was apparent Haskins didn’t see color. He saw who was playing the best ball and the best players were chosen to start the games regardless of color.
Coach Carter is another movie based on a real-life coach, Ken Carter. In this basketball movie, Coach Carter is played by Samuel L. Jackson who was a perfect fit for this role.
Coach Carter returned to his former high school in an impoverished area in Richmond, Ca and was saddened by the state of his alma mater and the nonchalant attitudes of the players and teachers. Determined to teach his players the importance of character and education, Coach Carter developed contracts in which he required all members of the team to sign and adhere to. The contract included a dress code policy and a requirement for a minimum grade point average.
Coach Carter has unconventional methods in his coaching and as a result, the team soon was soon undefeated. That wasn’t good enough for Coach Carter, however, and when he realized most of his team were failing their classes he put a stop to basketball. He put a lock and chain on the doors to the gym and canceled many practices and games until all of the team brought their grades up, much to the dismay of everyone in the community. His players end up doing the right thing and the moral of this story is character is everything and doing the right thing is more important than doing the easier thing.
Above the Rim
This basketball movie will always be a classic because of the cast, Tupac Shakur’s performance for one. The late rap star was cast in one of the leading roles before he was killed two years later. It is arguably one of the best basketball/hip hop movies. Marlon Wayans, Leo, Duane Martin, Henry Simmons, and Bernie Mac were also part of this impressive cast.
Above the Rim is the story of a high school basketball player who has a future in the sport and his relationship with a pair of brothers. One of which is a drug dealer and the other used to play basketball at the same school but is now a security guard. The main character loses his way during his senior year of high school, but his friend who used to be NBA material helps him find his way and get through the bumps in the road.
The movie takes place in New York City and similarly to White Man Can’t Jump, the neighborhood is an accurate portrayal of what it was like in this culture in the ’90s.
It has been 34 years since this iconic basketball movie was released and it is still one of the all-time classics in this genre. Based on a true story, Hoosiers follows the journey of Coach Norman Dale and he and his basketball team’s journey to the state championship in 1954.
Gene Hackman gives an exceptional portrayal of Coach Dale and Dennis Hopper was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role as Shooter, the town drunk who’s obsessed with basketball. Together Dale and Shooter teach the Milan Indians how to play to win and they lead the boys to the state championship game. The movie is as much about these character’s personal evolutions as it is the basketball story.
Throughout the years Hoosiers will undoubtedly remain near the top of the list of the best basketball movies of all time.
The Basketball Diaries
The Basketball Diaries is based on the autobiography by Jim Carroll. In the movie, Caroll, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, relives the journey from high school basketball star to drug-addicted criminal. It is a raw and complex story filled with both heartbreak and hope.
Carroll’s life revolved around basketball and his dreams of becoming a professional basketball star while in high school but heroin addiction dashed his dreams. Jim first tried cocaine when he and a friend visited a house of prostitution, and after Jim’s best friend succumbs to leukemia, he turns to heroin to numb his pain.
Not only did Jim have to cope with the grief of losing his best friend, but he also had to cope with being sexually assaulted by his basketball coach in the restrooms. This was a pivotal moment in Jim’s demise as he quit the basketball game the next day and dropped out of high school.
Jim then turned to a life of crime to support his habit. He and his friends stole a car and robbed a candy store and eventually Jim turned to prostitution to get money for his dope. While spending six months in jail for assault, robbery, resisting arrest, and possession of narcotics, Jim was able to kick the habit and get clean.
Love and Basketball
Love and Basketball is a story of childhood friendship that turns into love over the common bond of basketball. Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan star as the adult Monica and Quincy and this story chronicles the relationship from childhood until the present day.
The movie begins with the blossoming friendship when Quincy discovered Monica was a girl who knew basketball and could play as well. The movie then jumps to the pair in high school and leading their respective basketball teams. Quincy is projected to be one of the top college recruiting prospects in his game while Monica struggles to keep her emotions in check, hurting her recruitment opportunities. Monica fought the odds and lead her team to a state championship in which they were defeated and she was devastated. Both Quincy and Monica were accepted into the basketball program at the University of Southern California, but they broke up over the game while they were still in college.
Both players continued their basketball careers after college, but Quincy’s career was unexpectedly cut short by an injury. Despite a slight derailment, Monica ended up playing professional ball for the WNBA. The movie ended with Quincy in the audience with his and Monica’s daughter cheering her on.
He Got Game
He Got Game is another basketball movie produced by Spike Lee and stars Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, and Milla Jovich. Despite the star-studded cast, the movie was a box office flop. Ray Allen stars as the son of a prison inmate, Jake, who is in prison for killing his wife. Ray is the nation’s number one college prospect and the governor abuses his power and bribes, Jake, in an attempt to convince Ray to go to his alma mater.
“Big State”, which is the governor’s alma mater, is one of the schools Ray is considering attending and this piques the governor’s interest. The governor devises a plan to release Jake for one week in order for him to convince Ray to choose the right school. If Jake is successful the governor promises to reduce Jake’s prison sentence.
Jake is unable to persuade his son to sign a letter of intent, even after divulging the governor’s plan in hopes of garnering sympathy from his son. Jake’s fate comes down to a basketball game between father and son and the younger Allen wins the game, sending his father back to prison. Ray ends up choosing “Big State’, but because he didn’t sign the letter of intent, the governor is not honoring the agreement with Jake. The movie ends with a symbolic toss of a basketball from father to son.
Finding Forrester is a moving story of the relationship between an inner-city youth, Jamal and a reclusive author, (William) Forrester, played by the legendary Sean Connery. The relationship between Jamal and Forrester is a lesson in self-growth and self-healing and the bond that led both of them to the healing and growth.
Forrester lives in an apartment building with a view of the neighborhood basketball court and watches the neighborhood boys play basketball from above. On a dare, Jamal went into Forrester’s apartment and left his bookbag behind as evidence he was there. Forrester returned the bookbag to the basketball court with written notes inside of Jamal’s writing journal. Seeing this, Jamal returned to Forrester’s apartment to ask him for his help writing.
Jamal scored exceptionally high on standardized testing and the combination of his basketball talent. His test scores led Jamal to an invitation to attend a prestigious private school. Forrester wants to see Jamal succeed and agrees to help with his writing as long as he agrees to the conditions set forth. In the course of the movie, Jamal broke Forrester’s condition and nearly got kicked out of school and off of the basketball team. This heartwarming story also displayed the importance of forgiveness and the unbreakable bond of a special friendship.
The nation faces great uncertainty with the outbreak and rapid spread of the coronavirus, and it is an unsettling time in our history. The basketball movies we’ve outlined in this article will provide a welcome distraction from reality and give us some type of basketball during the NBA’s hiatus.
Is there a basketball movie not listed that you think should be on the list? Join the conversation and let us know.
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