March Madness is upon the masses, and brackets run amok. Maybe your favorite team didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Possibly you’re slipping into the basketball mood. Whatever your motivations, here are eight balling basketball flicks to foster the Madness of March.
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“Blue Chips” (1994)
“Blue Chips” (1994): Nick Nolte and Shaq team up for this drama which sought to portray college basketball as a business, not academic partnership. Considering recent conference rearrangements, NCAA scandals, and the reality which is college athletics, “Blue Chips” is actually pretty relevant. Unfortunately, this is no sleeper hit, though the cast which includes appearances from the likes of Jim Boeheim, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird, Rick Pitino and Bob Knight make this a winning prospect. Action Bronson’s mixtapes of the same name may in fact be better than the film.
“Coach Carter” (2005)
“Coach Carter” (2005): It was only a matter of time before Sam Jack was cast as a basketball coach. The dude likes to yell, so hey, why not. “Coach Carter” is based on a true story, and portrays Ken Carter (Jackson) who values discipline over winning. As may be assumed, Carter employs some unconventional coaching methods, including banning his team from the gym. Despite occasional predictability, “Coach Carter” racks up points for Samuel L. Jackson’s delightful portrayal and a previously unknown story.
“Hoosiers” (1986): It’s impossible to talk basketball movies without mentioning “Hoosiers.” Heck, you can’t even breach the topic of sports flicks without bringing up this 1986 classic. The Indiana small town setting feels genuine, and appropriately so as it’s inspired by a 1954 Indiana high school championship. Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) arrives in town with a sordid past, and this complexity isn’t unique to him; many of the characters share troubled backgrounds. Ultimately “Hoosiers” transcends basketball, as the grand-daddy of the root-for-the-underdog flick. If you love “Hoosiers,” check out “Breaking Away.” It’s essentially “Hoosiers” on bikes.
“Glory Road” (2006)
“Glory Road” (2006): “Glory Road” depicts the 1966 NCAA men’s basketball championship run by then Texas Western College (now University of Texas at El Paso). Under the direction of coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), Texas Western integrates their basketball program. The outcome may be evident (it’s based on historical events), but this isn’t about the finale: “Glory Road” is about the journey. As can be assumed, the film deals heavily with race relations. Disney and frequent collaborator Jerry Bruckheimer combine for an insightful tale which will undoubtedly leave you researching the history behind the film.
“Above the Rim” (1994)
“Above the Rim” (1994): 1994’s urban basketball drama “Above the Rim” is a frustrating movie. Despite a star-studded roster, the would-be slam dunk slips on trite plot points and dialogue. Acclaimed rapper Tupac Shakur’s performance compensates for the dreary narrative. A mid-major flick, “Above the Rim” relies mainly on the starting player (Shakur). Hip hop heads should particularly enjoy the film.
“He Got Game” (1998)
“He Got Game” (1998): Renowned director Spike Lee teams up with Denzel Washington and actual NBA star Ray Allen for this powerful drama. Allen portrays rising star Jesus Shuttleworth, an oft-remembered nickname. Moreover, Allen pulls off a feat few athletes can: act. “He Got Game” deals with much more than basketball, which is why this Spike Lee joint rattles the rim. Everything from the acting expertise to the plot and the Public Enemy soundtrack make this a final four contender.
“White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)
“White Men Can’t Jump” (1992): The Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson tag team dominates in “White Men Can’t Jump.” A hilarious on-court romp, Snipes and Harrelson play quirky streetballers who form an initially shaky friendship. The highly enjoyable film features original dialogue, fantastic acting, and off-court action as compelling as the on-court antics.
“Space Jam” (1996)
“Space Jam” (1996): The undeniable pinnacle of basketball flicks, and sports movies in general, is this wacky 90s creation. Michael Jordan? Check. Looney Tunes? Check. Bill Murray? You betcha. Adding to masterpiece are numerous cameos from NBA stars such as Muggsy Bouges, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley. Aside from the truly delightful cast and characters, “Space Jam” is absolutely overflowing with Easter eggs, including a Hamlet reference by none other than Bugs Bunny. Recent talks indicated a possible sequel, though the rumors have apparently been quelled. After watching the original we can all agree that no follow-up could possibly do “Space Jam” justice.