In spirit of mixing two of my favorite things, basketball and cinema, I present the 10 best basketball movies of all-time.
#10: Coach Carter
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Rick Gonzalez and Robert Ri’chard.
Based on the true story of strict, but effective, Richmond High School basketball coach, Ken Carter. After accepting a gig to coach a struggling inner city high school basketball team, coach Ken Carter (Jackson) quickly imposes his rules on thick-skinned high school athletes with a “my way of the highway” approach of teaching the game of basketball. This movie could have easily been a top 5 flick, but the script truly could have been much better.
I’m not saying that it’s not a good movie, but the idea of the story was ultimately more powerful than the script. Coach Carter takes a lot of heat from the parents, school board and the surrounding city after he benches the team and locks out the practice gym until his team does things his way. Samuel L. Jackson is inspiring as the tough coach who teaches these kids the game of basketball, and the game of life. This movie is packed with bball action, mixed with “Dangerous Minds” type of lessons.
#9: Love and Basketball
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps and Glenndon Chatman
The story of neighboring teens who fall in love with each other and the game of basketball throughout the spans of their young lives. Epps plays the talented Quincy McCall, a high school phenom who follows in his father’s B-Ball footsteps. His next-door-neighbor and love interest, Monica Wright, is a female baller with skill and a bad attitude. Both eventually attend USC for hoops and fall in love somewhere along the way. It’s a pretty solid basketball flick with a good love story wrapped up in the script. Definitely a good way to get away with watching a sports movie with the woman in your life.
#8: Glory Road
Starring: Josh Lucas, Derek Luke and Austin Nichols.
This film follows the legendary 1965-66 Texas Western Minors. Yet another great hardwood movie based on a true story. Don Haskins (Lucas) blazes a trail to put together the most talented team in college hoops, regardless of color. He assembles the first college team consisting of five black starters to ever make it to a national championship game. The Minors make it and must face Kentucky. The Minors are a highly controversal squad who catches gruff for their show-boating and flashy style. Another epic sports movie that breaks racial lines and touches on what the United States of America really was like during this period of time.
#7: Space Jam
This wacky comedy, that features the always entertaining Loony Toons fighting for their freedom against pint-sized aliens who plan to enslave the Loony bunch to serve as the main attraction at their plant’s theme park. The always clever Bugs Bunny challenges these small aliens to a game of hoops to decide whether or not they’ll become slaves. But these small aliens will not go down quietly.
They steal the powers of NBA stars, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Muggsy Bogues, and Larry Johnson. This turns the half-pints into gigantic versions of themselves, dubbed the “Monstars”. Knowing they stand little chance, Bugs and crew enlist the retired Michael Jordan to lead them to victory over the super-charged “Monstars”. Plenty of goofy basketball, and cameos by NBA stars. A truly masterful piece of film. Fun for the whole family.
This movie is a bit silly and for the most part is lacking a great script or cast, but seemingly has a pretty large following. Former Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb has said that this was his favorite movie growing up. This flick features a terrible NBA team from Pittsburgh, whose entire team with the exception of Moses Guthrie (Erving), quit. This team needs saving, and their savor comes in the form of an astrologer. The term fish refers to the astrological Pisces, and much of this film is based on astrology. People tend to either hate or love this movie. Either way, it seems to have enough fans to place it on my list. A movie that I personally enjoy.
#5: Blue Chips
A well written drama about the struggles of an honest coach, Pete Bell (Nolte), who is faced with the harsh reality of cheating in college basketball. Pete Bell finds his back against the wall and decides to push back in the form of letting boosters pay top recruits to commit to his fictional Western University Dolphins. Nolte does an excellent job of playing the good guy who is forced to do something unethical to get by in a sporting world that is ruled by the all mighty dollar.
This movie features a sensational cast of real-life athletes including Shaq, “Penny” Hardaway, Larry Bird, and a plethora of college level coaches. Shaquille O’Neal impresses in his role as uneducated phenom, Neon. Hardaway shows off his skills as a silky-smooth, Chicago-bred, Butch McRae. Simply one of the best basketball movies out there. A true gem of a basketball film, with plenty of drama and comedy.
#4: He Got Game:
An intelligent movie featuring Denzel Washington as imprisoned, Jake Shuttlesworth, father of the country’s number one high school basketball prospect, Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen). Jake is given a pass for a few days, sent on a mission to sway his son’s collegiate choice. His mission will hardly be easy, considering he’s locked away for the accidental death of his wife, and Jesus’s mother during a domestic dispute.
Washington is brilliant as the street smart Jake Shuttlesworth and Ray Allen shows off some surprising acting chops in his feature film début. This film focuses mostly on the game, but also leads us through the life of a highly coveted teenage athlete. Spike Lee films generally deliver, and He Got Game is no different. One of my all time favorites, and easily one of the best hoops flicks out there.
#3: Above The Rim
Starring: Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur and Marlon Wayans.
The gripping tale of a star high school basketball player’s life. Kyle Lee-Watson (Martin) has a promising future, but he struggles in his personal life and his relationships with Leon, a former hoops stud and current security guard, and Leon’s brother, Birdie (Shakur), a street thug and drug dealer. This compelling drama touches on the hardships young athletes from the tough inner city face when the prospect of a better life, and the callings of their past collide. A dramatic film that will leave you mesmerized by the end.
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez.
A comedic drama about the lives of two very different, but oddly similar pick-up basketball players. Sydney Deane (Snipes) and Billy Hoyle (Harrelson) are a couple of small-time hustlers who join forces to increase their cash-flow. Sydney is a married man who is trying to move up in life, while Billy is a drifter who needs cash to payback the many people he seems to owe money to.
It’s the classic Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, mixed with 2-on-2 street ball and a hilarious twist of comedic drama. Snipes plays the super-athletic Dean who slashes and dashes his opponents to death, while Billy is your more conventional shoot, pass and defend type of fundamental player. Their relationship is overshadowed by the fact that they don’t really ever seem to actually become friends through it all. Great pick!
Another flick based on an epic true story. In 1954 an Indiana head coach with a sketchy past teams up with the town’s biggest fan, and drunk, to lead an unlikely team to it’s first state finals ever. Coach Norman Dale (Hackman) and assistant coach, “Shooter” (Hopper) team up to coach a high school team from a small-town to greatness.Dale is a down-on-his-luck, ex college coach and “Shooter” is a recovering alcoholic who both seek redemption in the form of leading an underdog team to the promise land. Such a compelling and vital movie. The best basketball flick that I have ever had the pleasure of watching.