Look, it’s easy for everyone to say that their favorite basketball movie is “Hoosiers”. It’s one of the top 5 sports movies of all time. But what about other basketball movies? Here are my 5 favorites -- and for NCAA Tournament week, all 5 of these movies relate to college hoops in some way.
Based on the true story of the 1966 Texas Western men’s basketball team that won the national championship starting 5 black players against Kentucky’s 5 white players. Sure, the movie does play a little loose with the facts (Coach Don Haskins wasn’t in his first year at the school, nor were most of his players), but that doesn’t take away from the meaning of the story. Plus, I really like the cinematography in the championship game, using the freeze frames and the flash bulbs.
Look, this isn’t really a great movie, but it does involve college hoops (at the Ivy League!) and, more importantly, involves Sarah Michelle Gellar. Plus, most basketball movies are about a team winning a championship, usually against long odds. This one most definitely is not. And did I mention Sarah Michelle Gellar is in it?
This movie probably features more actually basketball players than any non-documentary ever, and the basketball scenes (particularly the Western vs Indiana games) are incredibly well done. Shaquille O’Neal made his only competent movie appearance in this one, plus Nick Nolte is incredibly believable as the coach. Also, Penny Hardaway, whose NBA career was unfortunately derailed due to injury, had a standout performance. Surprisingly good for a pro basketball player.
I was torn on whether to put this on the list, both because its a documentary and its tie to college hoops is slim, but I couldn’t leave it off. It’s a great movie, following the basketball development of William Gates and Arthur Agee, both of whom have dreams of making it all the way, but for various reasons don’t quite get there. Both of them did end up playing college ball on scholarship. Gates was at Marquette in the early to mid ‘90s, playing on the ’93 team that reached the NCAA Tournament and the ’95 team that lost the NIT Final.
1.“He Got Game”
I know this movie has flaws and I really don’t care. To this day I can still watch it and be enthralled. When Ray Allen and Denzel Washington play one-on-one in the climactic scene of the movie, it gives me chills. Ray Allen (or simply Ray) probably does the best job of any basketball player as an actor. And who can knock Denzel? I saw this movie in theaters 8 times the year it came out. I still have the movie poster for it hanging in my bedroom, signed by both Ray and director Spike Lee. I just need to get Denzel for it to be complete. Also, worth noting, the next time you watch this movie, listen to what some of the characters say about Jesus Shuttlesworth (the name of Ray’s character) and replace the name “Jesus” with the name “LeBron”. For example: “LeBron is the best thing to happen to the game since the tennis shoe was invented.” This movie is the LeBron James story 5 years before LeBron was finishing high school. It’s eerie (well, other than the part where Jesus goes to college -- LeBron, not so much).