Ten movies about basketball
As the Tall Blacks prepare to compete at the world champs in Spain, James Croot looks at 10 of the best cinematic depictions of basketball.
Nick Nolte teamed up with a young Shaquille O'Neal for this excellent 1994 college basketball drama. Instead of the usual triumph over adversity tale, writer Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup) focuses on the length some coaches and schools will go to achieve glory.
Many of the high points of Billy Crystal's 1995 romantic comedy occur on court. Crystal plays NBA referee Mickey Gordon, whose personal life spills over into his professional one as he deals with his father's death and his on-off relationship with an airline employee.
The Heart Of The Game
No-one paid much attention to the University of Washington's tax-law professor, Bill Resler, when he took on the job of coaching Seattle's Roosevelt High School Roughriders girls' basketball team in 1998. Ward Serrill's warts-and-all 2004 documentary condenses seven years of magical moments and meltdowns, including politics and pregnancies, into a taut, terrific and tense watch. His carte-blanche access takes us not only courtside but into locker rooms, on tour buses and even to the players' homes to capture this team's "lightning in a bottle".
He Got Game
Denzel Washington heads an excellent cast (Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, John Turturro) in Spike Lee's cracking 1998 drama. Washington plays a man convicted for murdering his wife who is released from jail for a week in order to persuade his hotshot son to play for the governor's alma mater. "A volatile combination of ambitious mythmaking and nasty reality, " wrote New York Magazine's David Denby.
Ridiculously overlooked for Best Documentary at the 1994 Academy Awards, Steve James' near three-hour film (culled from eight years of work and 250 hours of raw footage) is the fascinating and engrossing tale of two Chicago-based African-American high school students and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. "The best type of documentary, giving an intensely personal story you can't help but become involved in, and also raises fundamental issues about America in the nineties, " wrote Empire magazine's Kim Newman.
Seen as the gold standard of basketball (and indeed sports) dramas. Set in the early 1950s, David Anspaugh's 1986 film has Gene Hackman playing Norman Dale, a small town Indiana high school's new coach.His attempts at discipline don't find favour with everyone in the basketball-obsessed town but his results begin to win them over.Dennis Hopper won an Oscar nomination for his performance as the hoop-loving town drunkard.
Although not exactly a basketball movie, the game plays a vital role in Tim Blake Nelson's 2001 first-class update of Shakespeare's Othello. Mekhi Phifer plays Odin James, team-mate of the jealous Hugo (Josh Hartnett) and boyfriend of Desi (Julia Stiles). "Artful and emotionally compelling, " wrote USA Today's Claudia Puig.
Michael Jordan joins Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny for this 1996 live-action/animated hybrid. Although no Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the film provides plenty of family friendly fun, toe- tapping soundtrack and Bill Murray playing himself. Confirms "that Jordan is every bit as mythological a creature as Daffy Duck or Yosemite Sam", wrote Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Despite the implausibility of the story (no, not lycanthropy but Michael J Fox's shortness on the basketball court), there's plenty of slam dunking and three-point shooting to enjoy in this 1985 fantasy comedy. You'll be cheering for Scott and the Beavers by the time the championship game comes around.
White Men Can't Jump
Hard to believe now that a film starring later-disgraced serial toker Woody Harrelson and tax dodger Wesley Snipes was once top of the box office, but in 1992 this hustle film was da bomb.Harrelson and Snipes' chemistry is top notch while Riff's song of the same name could be heard on ghetto blasters around most courts in the world that northern summer.