This week on the Forgotten Cinema Podcast, we talked about the 1992 comedy, White Men Can't Jump starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez. Directed by Ron Shelton. What better way to celebrate our latest podcast release than with some thoughts about other movies where basketball plays a role in the film. This isn't a list of the greatest of all time, just some movies I wanted to bring up and talk about. Let's go!
This 1994 film directed by William Friedkin (you read that right) and written by Ron Shelton (I guess he writes all the sports movies) was one I had been looking forward to for the longest time when I heard it was coming out. Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway were the basketball headliners, plus all the real-life coaches playing themselves drew my interest. But this was about Coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) and his decision to break the rules in order to get the best players on his team.
I always equate this film with the college football movie, The Program, where James Caan plays Coach Winters and his Eastern State University Timberwolves as they vie for a bowl game by any means necessary. This movie also has a scene when players are laying down in the middle of a highway, on the yellow lines, as some kind of test of being able to handle pressure and it had to be removed from the movie while in theaters because some teenagers died trying to mimic the stunt. I actually saw the movie and this scene in a theater in Poughkeepsie, NY (where I briefly attending college) before they removed it from the film.
But we're talking about Blue Chips and one scene from that movie that I will always...always remember the scene where Ricky Roe asks for a duffel bag full of a cash in order to attend Western University. Now enjoy this scene with basketball legend Bob Cousy not missing a free-throw during the entire scene.
I talked about this movie a bit on the podcast episode and I admit I went into that theater, at least I think I watched it in the theater, because of the basketball aspect of the story. Honestly, whatever gets you to watch, right? But what you get is a story about two people maturing from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and the lessons they learn about themselves, the world around them and each other.
Written and Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, this movie does a great job of highlighting the highs and lows of being a college athlete and I felt Quincy's pain when he tears his ACL in the movie. As I have also torn my ACL while playing hoop.
Check out this scene from the end of the film where basketball, once again, takes on a different meaning in the lives of Quincy and Monica.
Run that picket fence! I was 11 years old when this movie hit theaters and this was also a time when I was playing youth basketball. So you know I had to see this movie! (I don't care if Gene Hackman didn't think the movie would be good.)
For those in the southern Connecticut region, I watched this movie at the Showcase Cinemas Orange, when it was a 7-screen theater. It was the auditorium to the right of the box office, passed the concession stand. Forgive me, for not remembering the auditorium numbers, as I did not work at this building. Some may know it more as Showcase Cinemas Orange 123. But for people who worked for National Amusements in the area know this building as Old Orange. I worked at New Orange. You see, the theater was rebuilt on the other side of the road....it was a thing.
Anyway, Coach Norman Dale's redemption story was impactful to me entirely for the basketball and the team's journey to win a state championship. (I'm already humming the score right now as I type this.) The fact that it was based on a true story made it even better. As I get older, I still enjoy the movie, but I'm able to more appreciate the story of Shooter, played by Dennis Hopper and I always love the practices with the team in the beginning when Dale is kicking kids off the team for being jerks. (Well that one guy was being disrespectful)
I know there are plenty other movies such as Coach Carter, which is also based on a true story, but the Samuel L Jackson movie recycles some stuff from the Tv show The White Shadow (also a basketball story) But I still enjoyed it. I mean, it's tough for me NOT to like a movie with a basketball motif. I even liked the recent The Way Back with Ben Affleck and that movie has very little basketball in its storytelling. There's also the Josh Lucas starrer, Glory Road, which tells the story of Don Haskins, Texas Western and the first all-black starting lineup for an NCAA team as they march into the tournament and kick some Kentucky Wildcat butt.
The point is, I could go on and on about these films. And I know, there are some big ones I didn't list here like Space Jam, but again, this group of movies were influential with me at a certain periods in my life. for various reasons. This isn't a Top 3 list, which I stated before, but I feel like needs to be repeated for those in the back row.
Find your favorite basketball film here.
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