Ranking the Top 10 Basketball Movies
The revered movie "Hoosiers"
The game of basketball is a truly wonderful sport. The essence of the game resonates with every single person that has ever dribbled a basketball.
Actual contests themselves are often exhilarating and extremely fascinating for the casual fan, but the appeal of the sport doesn't start and stop with just a game. Basketball's appeal stretches into the arena of film and has existed prominently on the silver screen.
Have you ever been a child shooting hoops, pretending to be your favorite player and launching up a game winning shot as time expires? That same type of magic and joy is displayed in the best basketball movies.
Here are the top 10 basketball movies...
*Honorable Mention: The 6th Man
10. Celtic Pride
Mike O'Hara and Jimmy Flaherty in Celtic Pride
Any middle-aged Bostonian that has green and white coursing through their veins can appreciate this film.
This underrated comedic gem effectively does parody the unabated, extreme love that the city of Boston has for their Celtics. There's nothing that the fans won't do for their flagship team.
And that notion is portrayed by two die-hard fans Mike O'Hara and Jimmy Flaherty (played by Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd, respectively).
The Utah Jazz are playing their beloved Celtics in the Finals, and Utah is led by their best player Louis Scott (acted by Damon Wayans).
Scott is absolutely killing the Celtics with his play and as a result the two die-hard fans become desperate.
The scintillating performance by Scott precipitates a kidnapping of the star player by both O'Hara and Flaherty, with the idea that they'll "hold onto him" until after the Finals are over.
A little known fact is that it's written by the famed director/writer Judd Apatow.
9. Blue Chips
Coach Pete Bell and Neon Boudeaux in Blue Chips
Blue Chips does a masterful job at depicting the evils and ugliness of college basketball.
The story describes Coach Pete Bell (portrayed by Nick Nolte), an old-school teacher of the game that hates the illegal "booster activities" that go on behind-the-scenes. As a result, he ran an incredibly clean program and warded all boosters away from his players.
As his once illustrious program fell on tough times, an internal struggle of his personal integrity versus the allure of winning at all costs ate away at him.
Ultimately his personal convictions became compromised and Bell gave into the crooked "friends of the program." In essence he became the one thing he hated most, an unfaithful and cheating coach giving into temptations and straying from his own morality.
This is a very underrated film in my opinion and accurately illustrates the elicit influences that can impact a college athletics program.
8. Love and Basketball
Quincy McCall and Monica Wright from Love and Basketball
Love and Basketball shows the deep connection two people have to each other and to the game that they love.
Both Quincy "Q" McCall (Omar Epps) and Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan) got scholarships to USC to play basketball, but both are in dissimilar situations.
"Q" is the son of a former NBA player and is a much ballyhooed recruit. Monica was a late addition to the USC recruiting class and was an underrated player that had to scratch and claw her way to the college level.
Both took separate paths after college ended, but in the end they ended up reconnecting and it culminated in a happy ending for both.
The film does a really nice job at portraying the pressures a college basketball player may face, regardless if they are the "top dog" or if they're the player on the bench looking for an opportunity to make a mark.
7. White Men Can't Jump
Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane in White Men Can't Jump
White Men Can't Jump is a funny film that combines an unlikely pair of ballers that "hustle" unsuspecting victims.
Both Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) form a tandem and effectively win lots of cash in pick-up games all over Los Angeles.
The on-going joke is that all the competitors facing Hoyle in basketball assume he's terrible because of the color of his skin.
What they don't know is that he was a former college basketball player. Deane understands his basketball skill and their formed partnership becomes very successful out on the streets of L.A..
This comedy more than anything centers around friendship brought on by basketball between two people from dissimilar backgrounds trying to make a living.
The humor in this movie is really great and it's accompanied by some good basketball displayed by both Harrelson and Snipes.
6. Coach Carter
Coach Carter and his squad
Tell the truth, when you've played pick up basketball in the past with a group of your friends, how many times have you yourself tapped the top of your head and yelled "Delilah, Delilah" when setting up a play?
Coach Carter is a captivating film that represents the mantra of an underdog rising up against all odds amidst hardship on a personal level, and hardship existing in the community.
Samuel L. Jackson portrays a coach that doesn't just focus solely on basketball, but sets out to relay life lessons and emphasizes academics, discipline, and morality.
His team from the city of Richmond bands together and blocks out all of the difficult hindrances plaguing each member of the team and becomes a success as a result.
Coach Carter really does tug on the strings of your heart and it definitely ranks up there as one of the best movies involving high school sports.
5. Space Jam
Daffy Duck being scolded by MJ
Three words to describe this cinematic gem? A timeless classic.
Seriously, I'm 22-years-old and I still love this movie. I have it on DVD and watched it less than a week ago.
Combining the best basketball player the world has ever seen with the Looney Tunes? It's an absolute slam dunk (no pun intended).
In all seriousness, this movie is an absolute joy for any child to watch. I had the privilege of being a kid when Space Jam came out and I loved everything about it.
The unique combination of cartoons and multiple NBA players (Michael Jordan, Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson among others) worked really well.
Also, the soundtrack is absolutely awesome!
How do you hear this song and not think about this movie...
4. Above the Rim
Shep and Kyle-Lee from Above the Rim
Above the Rim is a film focusing around Kyle-Lee, a promising basketball player growing up in the heart of inner-city New York.
As a young player who has a scholarship to Georgetown on the line, he deals with an immense amount of pressure from both positive and negative influences all around him.
Duane Martin, a former NBA player, plays the lead and does a great job. His character combines heart and determination with the constant struggle of a clouded psyche.
Shot exclusively in the streets of Harlem, it's the perfect backdrop for this story. The story itself has great depth and includes wonderful performances by Martin, Leon, and Tupac Shakur.
The overall raw energy of the film is quite captivating and the soundtrack only helps to authenticate the tale.
3. Hoop Dreams
William Gates in Hoop Dreams
This marvelous documentary chronicles lives of two inner city teenagers from the south side of Chicago. Both Arthur Agee and William Gates have the dream of making it professionally in basketball, no matter what.
A dichotomy exists which includes one of the players going to a wealthy private school (Gates). The other player (Agee) was unable to financially stay in the same private school, so out of necessity he enrolls in his local public high school.
Each player dealt with big time obstacles along the way (poor grades, drug-addict parents, family deaths, serious injuries) in their journeys to becoming big time successes playing basketball.
This film beautifully personifies the harsh underbelly of society and depicts the urban class and the importance of basketball in these inner-city communities.
My opinion is somewhat biased, but this to me is one of the best documentaries that I've ever seen.
It truly captures the gritty rawness of an inner-city coupled with the desire and the heart of these two players wanting to get out of their difficult situations via the game of basketball.
Coach Norman Dale and his squad
When someone thinks about the cradle of civilization when it comes to basketball, the Midwest usually comes to mind. Specifically the state of Indiana.
The pride that the state of Indiana exhibits for basketball is quite vast. Fundamentally sound basketball, predicated upon outside shooting and set-plays is the name of the game for many high schools in the basketball-rich state.
Hoosiers, one of the best sport films ever made, signifies all of the above.
This story truly epitomizes an underdog basketball team that utilizes unity, hard work and the support of a small rural town to will themselves to victory in the state championship game against a team that was much more highly regarded. It's high school basketball's version of David versus Goliath.
It's quite uplifting, inspirational and a must for any sports fan to have in their own movie collection.
1. He Got Game
Jesus Shuttlesworth and his dad Jake from He Got Game
He Got Game is perhaps the most organic basketball film ever made. At times, I felt like I was watching a documentary and it really does lend to the superb depth and the naturalness imitated on screen.
The story focuses on Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a highly regarded high school basketball prospect and his father Jake (Washington), an incarcerated man who's given one week to convince his estranged son to attend the alma mater of the state governor in exchange for a shortened prison sentence.
Jesus' love of basketball was also due in large part to Jake, who was a former player.
Layers of emotion ran rampant in this film and for Allen to have no prior acting experience before this performance is quite astonishing. He was incredibly good in the film as was Washington.
Ultimately, they play a game of one-on-one to decide the fate of both the father and son's futures. Interestingly enough, the footage shot was actually of the two playing in a serious game. It was not doctored at all (meaning, Denzel can ball a bit).
The cinematography in this film was fantastic and the scenery (exclusively filmed in Brooklyn and Coney Island) gave the film an added element of beauty.