5 Sports Biopics That Need to Be Made

Josh GrellerContributor IIINovember 30, 2011

5 Sports Biopics That Need to Be Made

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    I sat down with the intention of compiling a short list of sports stars, all of whom should have their life stories translated to the big screen.

    I figured the list would come naturally and yield obvious results, but the process has proven to do just the opposite.

    The list is based on not just achievements in sports, but also the peoples’ lives off the playing field.

    It takes more than a game play montage to make a good sports film, and the personalities of this slideshow had just that—personality.

    These are the five sports figures Hollywood should consider when the ever-present biopic talks come up.

George Steinbrenner

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    Late ex-New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner certainly deserves a spot.

    Well-known for his tenacity in the front office and facial hair ban among players, Steinbrenner was a fixture for the Bronx Bombers after buying the team in 1973.

    "The Boss" was a polarizing figure in baseball, but undoubtedly helped shape the culture of inflated contracts. He was a loose cannon and gained a reputation for firing people without a second thought.

    Controversy naturally followed Steinbrenner.

    He illegally donated money to Richard Nixon’s presidential reelection campaign and later received a three-year ban from management duties due to a multifaceted feud with Dave Winfield.

    The 1990s brought Steinbrenner a new cult following, as his namesake was used as a character on the beloved sitcom Seinfeld. Though his face was never seen nor voice ever heard on the show, his place as a cultural icon was solidified.

     

    My Choice for Lead Actor

    Ed O’Neill

Jim Valvano

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    It is Jimmy V Week on ESPN, and this choice immediately came to mind.

    In one of the more unfair twists of fate, the incredibly lovable Jim Valvano was diagnosed with cancer in 1992. By then, his coaching career had finished, and he had moved on to broadcasting.

    Valvano’s coaching career began when he was in his early 20s at Johns Hopkins, but he gained more notoriety in the 1980s with North Carolina State.

    In the 1983 NCAA Tournament, his Wolfpack squad came in as a No. 6 seed and left as national champions. The feat was capped by a buzzer-beating win over top-seeded Houston, which at the time boasted Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

    But, as far as his coaching career carried him, Valvano may best be remembered for his ESPY Awards speech in 1993, made less than two months before his cancer caught up to him.

    It is all at once inspiring, hilarious and devastatingly sad.

    A made-for-television movie about Valvano was released in 1996, but revisiting his life and message in a bigger production would be a better sendoff.

     

    My Choice for Lead Actor

    Billy Crudup

Dale Earnhardt

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    While I am not a NASCAR fan, I do recognize the impact Dale Earnhardt made on the entire racing world. As part of a racing family dating back to his father, Ralph, Earnhardt began his illustrious career in 1975.

    Over the course of multiple Winston Cup Series titles, IROC victories and 76 individual wins, Earnhardt made a name for himself with a risky and aggressive driving style.

    That style cost Earnhardt his life in shocking fashion at the 2001 Daytona 500.

    His death sent shock waves throughout the country and brought about additional safety measures in NASCAR.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. carries the torch for the family name these days, but Dale Sr.’s life and legacy would make a great biopic.

    As with Valvano, a television movie about Earnhardt was produced in 2004. It was panned for its historical inaccuracies, so the opportunity is there to do it again and do it right for the big screen.

     

    My Choice for Lead Actor

    Jeff Bridges

Owen Hart

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    Professional wrestling has a long history of untimely deaths, and Owen Hart’s is perhaps the most astonishing of these.

    His whole life was a whirlwind of events connected by both his family and profession.

    Hart was the youngest of 12 siblings in a wrestling family. His father, Stu, ran Stampede Wrestling in Calgary and also trained a plethora of future WWE superstars.

    Owen’s more famous brother, Bret, won multiple titles in WWE throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His brothers in-law, Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith, were also in WWE during these years.

    Some of the most successful story lines in WWE during the mid-1990s revolved around the Hart family. Though he experienced considerably less main event time as Bret, Owen made a strong name for himself.

    From a ring work perspective, he made all his opponents look good.

    Documentaries seem to be the hot thing in wrestling. Every wrestler seems to have a DVD of matches on the shelves. Even the Hart family has a few documentaries out.

    But, a well-produced and acted film about Owen Hart just seems like a great idea to me.

     

    My Choice for Lead Actor

    Scott Caan

Wilt Chamberlain

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    After snooping around, I found out about a film being made, which is tentatively titled Wilt.

    Upon further snooping, I realized the executive producer, writer and director, Ian Ng Cheng Hin, had acquired the rights to Wilt Chamberlain’s story and started Hundred Point Films.

    Looking at the site, I can tell this clown is going to get it all wrong. How can a guy who has only made a handful of small budget films possibly accomplish the scope of this project properly?

    I support independent films and love their rawness, but this is Wilt Chamberlain we’re talking about here.

    The man who scored 100 points in a game. The man who revolutionized the center position with Bill Russell and forced the NBA to adhere to his style.

    I’m talking about a 7' black man that supported Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War and claimed to have slept with 20,000 women.

    He had an ego about his athletic ability, but was regarded as great to be around off the court.

    Correctly done and with the right amount of attention to detail paid, his life could make for one of the best sports movies of all time.

    And we’re supposed to believe Mr. Hin will get it done?

    Well, here’s hoping. His site lists Reo Logan as the person in the title role. Exactly.

     

    My Choice for Lead Actor

    My original thought was Will Smith. Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia and died in Bel Air.

    “In west Philadelphia, born and raised…” You feel me?

    But Smith has already played Muhammad Ali, so it’d be hard to plug him into a brand new iconic role.

    I’m going out on a limb with Victor Williams. He’s not the most household name, but you may know him as Deacon from King of Queens.

    He could actually pull off the size of someone as large as Chamberlain and is an actor first.

    I just think it’d be nice to have an actor playing an athlete. I like Ray Allen in a basketball jersey, but his performance in He Got Game made me cringe.

     

    Josh Greller has been an editorial intern for Bleacher Report since September. He is a Bay Area resident and has written for various sports sites and startup companies.