Basketball is unequivocally a wonderful sport.
Players are both creative and spontaneous — relying heavily upon skill, athleticism, and competitiveness. One can decompress by shooting hoops individually, or by playing a game with a group of friends.
The appeal of basketball has been stretched all across the globe. Aside from soccer, basketball is quickly becoming the most popularized sport worldwide.
Combining the entertainment of the sport with the silver screen seems like a perfect fit.
Below is a list of the top 10 all-time basketball movies. These films marry together the joy of the game in an artistic way.
Honorable Mentions: Like Mike, The Sixth Man, The Basketball Diaries, O, Glory Road
10. Celtic Pride
Bostonians — and frankly any person from the state of Massachusetts — are widely regarded as some of the best sports fans you’ll see anywhere in the world.
Celtic Pride is a satirical (and hilarious) take on the unabated and extreme love Boston fans have for their Celtics. Two die-hard fans (portrayed by Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern) will do anything they can to ensure that the Celtics win the NBA Championship.
And by anything, that means kidnapping the Utah Jazz’s best player, Louis Scott (played by Damon Wayans), until after the NBA Finals are over.
*Fun Fact: The story was written by Judd Apatow.
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9. Love & Basketball
Love & Basketball is essentially a love story between two individuals encapsulated by basketball.
Next door neighbors Quincy “Q” McCall and Monica Wright (portrayed by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, respectively) developed a romantic relationship right before starting their collegiate playing careers at USC.
While the two ultimately drifted apart (and reconnected in the end), the story does a wonderful job of portraying the plight of a college athlete — and how relationships often take a backseat to the game they love.
The characters within the film are equipped with complexities not often seen in sport depictions. Director/writer Gina Prince-Blythewood expresses raw human emotion in a very poetic manner.
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8. Blue Chips
Blue Chips delves into the ugly underbelly of collegiate sports.
Head coach Pete Bell (played by Nick Nolte) is an old-school, tough coach. He believes in doing things the right way…without cheating and illegal booster interactions.
As his programs falls further and further into mediocrity, he compromises his own personal convictions by allowing for a prominent booster to “buy” three high-profile recruits — which included Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal.
Bell essentially became the man he never intended to be — which manifested itself in a very explosive ending to the film.
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7. Coach Carter
Be honest…there’s been a time on the basketball court where you’ve passionately yelled “Delilah, Deliah” — even though it held no significance whatsoever in terms of calling an actual play.
Coach Carter is a true story. The hard-nosed head coach took a group of impoverished misfits and turned them into one of the best teams in Northern California.
It’s a film possessing terrific heart and character. The meaning behind the film is truly wonderful, and it’s enhanced even further by the fact it was based on true events.
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6. Above The Rim
Above The Rim takes place in New York — a location many feel is the true mecca of the sport.
Former player Duane Martin portrays character Kyle Watson– a star high school player attempting to secure a college scholarship to Georgetown. Before being able to take that step, he’s embroiled in a situation featuring a notorious drug dealer in the neighborhood (played by Tupac Shakur) and a mysterious school security guard named Shep (played by Leon).
Watson is forced to play with one of the two in a playground basketball tournament. The backdrop of Harlem gives the film a very gritty and authentic feel. The performances by all three of the main characters were wonderfully executed.
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The state of Indiana often thinks of itself as the homeland for basketball in this country. Countless natives have spent hours upon hours shooting baskets on a hoop pinned to the front of their home.
Hoosiers — hailing from the basketball-crazy state — is a film representing the “team” aspect of the sports. The basketball team from tiny Hickory High School is one rooted in unity and character. Utilizing the vast support from its town, the team embarks on a journey for a state title.
It’s quite uplifting, inspirational and a must-see for any sports fan to watch — regardless of whether you’re a basketball fan or not.
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4. Space Jam
For any individual born in the late ’80s-early ’90’s, Space Jam was a huge staple within one’s film collection.
Combining the G.O.A.T (Michael Jordan) with the Looney Tunes was a surefire no-brainer. The film had rather witty humor, and featured cameos from tons of NBA personnel (including Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Patrick Ewing).
In short, this movie is a true gem, and a timeless classic for anyone longing back for the days of 1990’s basketball and cartoons.
Plus…the soundtrack was dope.
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3. White Men Can’t Jump
In terms of the funniest basketball film, White Men Can’t Jump would top the list.
The duo of Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes traverse through the Greater Los Angeles area — hustling unsuspecting victims with their ability to play the game of basketball.
There’s a deeper layer to the film — which speaks to racial stereotypes and the financial struggles people often have. With that said, the light-hearted manner in which its presented totally works.
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2. Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams isn’t a fictional film — but rather a documentary focusing on two high school players from inner-city Chicago. Both William Gates and Arthur Agee have hopes to one day play in the NBA.
The film follows them for upwards of four years — as poverty, drugs, pregnancy, and injury are some of the obstacles both have to overcome.
It’s heart-wrenching to watch at times, but gives a clear glimpse into a situation many in this country face. It speaks aptly to the pressing issue of socioeconomic disparity between classes.
It also illustrates the urban plight of many youths attempting to rise out of incredibly tough circumstances — with basketball utilized as the vessel to do so.
Image Source: The Criterion Collection
1. He Got Game
He Got Game tops the list as the best basketball film ever made.
Director Spike Lee utilizes Brooklyn and Coney Island for a vast majority of the filming. The backdrop/cinematography essentially functioned as its own captivating character.
The film is centered around basketball, but focuses on the strained father-son dynamic between Jake and Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Denzel Washington and former NBA player Ray Allen, respectively).
The one-on-one scene at the end of the film between the two is a gripping and powerful example of cinema.
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