March Madness begins this week. If I were to follow a sport, basketball would be it. I never really enjoyed playing it, but I sure like watching it. I've been fortunate to have been at two schools with really good women's teams (USF and Holy Names), which has helped me enjoy basketball as an equal opportunity sport.
My best friend's family has an NCAA pool for the tournament each year. Two years ago I was in eleventh place, but last year I climbed to a tie for fifth, being beaten by, among others, the family dog and cat. This year, I hope to regain my title from some glorious year in the past decade, now lost in the annals of history.
Here are my ten favorite basketball movies. And just to disappoint you ahead of time, most of these movies aren't actually about basketball, they just have basketball in them (movies like Hoosiers never made an impression on me). Because the truth is, a game of basketball is almost always more exciting than a movie about it. Why? Showing only moments from a game dissipates the tension. Even the slo-mo shot of the ball bouncing around the rim means less if we haven't waited an entire game to see it happen. Watching basketball in a movie is the same as watching a recap on the news; we might see some awesome shots, but it doesn't beat having been there.
10. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Disgustingly violent movie. But just remember this: you might think you're tough by making the other player bleed, but when that player has acid for blood, well, who's the tough guy now? I'm not sure if there is even a rule against acid for blood.
9. Big Momma's House (2000)
"Grandma think she got game?" "Grandma knows she got game." Assuming we believe that Martin Lawrence's character could actually dunk, it's great watching him while dressed up as an elderly, overweight woman, and the reactions of his duped, fellow players.
8. Pleasantville (1998)
The perfect team, with players making every shot, every time, is disrupted when they learn to live a little. Paul Walker is great as Skip Martin, the clueless team captain lost in the clouds when he meets Reese Witherspoon.
7. Out of Sight (1998)
George Clooney playing basketball in the hot sun? I'm there.
6. Blue Chips (1994)
There are many movies centering on signing the next big thing. I usually find these frustrating, because I'd rather watch a player play than watch people trying to get him to play. But Blue Chips keeps it interesting by showing the back-room chicanery involved in attracting star players, including making illegal bribes to the players' families. Nick Nolte is a coach expected to get the best players, no questions asked. Shaquille O'Neal is one of the young stars he's trying to bring onto the team.
5. Semi-Pro (2008)
A fairly terrible movie that nevertheless makes for good basketball moments, especially with the introduction of the alley-oop.
4. Pistol: The Birth of a Legend (1991)
I most remember this movie for when Pistol Pete's dad, in an inspiration talk, shows Pete that two basketballs can fit through a hoop side-by-side.
3. Coach Carter (2005)
This is one of the only titles on this list that's actually about what basketball is about: discipline. The games the public see are only a fraction of a basketball player's experience with the sport. I've certainly had coaches who wanted to win, but when coaches like Samuel L. Jackson's Coach Carter teach their players to be disciplined, they teach them to be successful in life. That skill survives long after the lights go out.
2. The AbsentMinded Professor (1961)
The puny team at Medfield High get a boost when Fred MacMurray attaches his wondrous concoction flubber to their shoes. Soon teens are soaring through the sky and bounding over the rafters. To sink the winning shot, a player follows his ball through the net.
1. Teen Wolf (1985)
What's better than watching a werewolf dunk the sh*t out of the opposition? Watching someone who could become a werewolf beat the other team, but as his scrawny self, without wolfing out. My favorite basketball shot in film is the sweat dripping from Michael J. Fox's face as he shoots a free throw, both at the beginning, and at the end.