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Few things are better than a good sports movie - well, except for actual sports.
However, with nearly all of our favorite sports canceled or on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that really isn’t an option for the foreseeable future.
Recent reports suggest that the NBA is still holding out hope if finishing its season in the summer, with the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando reportedly one of the proposed staging areas for teams to play out the end of the regular season and then the playoffs.
While the loss of March Madness still stings, a resumption of the NBA season would be an enormous boost to basketball fan morale, even if it doesn’t come until late June or July.
Until then, we’ll have to settle for the next best thing to actual basketball: fake basketball, on film.
So without further ado, here are the top five basketball movies you should be watching while you wait for live sports to return to your life.
1. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
An iconic basketball movie with jokes that still hold up 28 years later, even if the basketball doesn’t necessarily.
Woody Harrelson plays Billy Hoyle - or "Billy Ho," as he is commonly referred in the movie - a white former small college player who takes advantage of his goofy appearance and white basketball player stereotypes to hustle unsuspecting players out of money in street games.
Wesley Snipes plays Sidney Dean, the king of the local court who first becomes one of Billy’s victims, then his partner, then his adversary, and then his partner again.
The movie is extremely funny and the basketball scenes are always entertaining, if you can get past the slow motion and camera tricks director Ron Shelton uses to obscure the fact that Wesley Snipes wasn’t actually any good at basketball (it’s true, look it up).
Best quote: "We goin’ Sizzler, we goin’ Sizzler."
WHERE TO WATCH: Rent for $3.99 on Prime Video, Apple TV, or VUDU.
2. Hoop Dreams (1994)
The only documentary on the list and it’s inarguably one of the greatest documentaries ever made - sports or otherwise.
Hoop Dreams follows two African-American kids, William Gates and Arthur Agee, over a five-year period as they navigate their way through injuries and economic hardships in their local Chicago neighborhoods while chasing their dreams of becoming professional basketball players.
The movie is about much more than just basketball, hitting on issues of race and class and the role that sports can play in inner city neighborhoods, and it is at various points both heart-wrenching and deeply uplifting.
It’s not a easy watch with a nearly three-hour run time, but it is well worth the investment.
Best quote: "That's why when somebody say, ’when you get to the NBA, don't forget about me’, and that stuff. Well, I should've said to them, ’if I don't make it, don't you forget about me.’"
WHERE TO WATCH: HBO Now or HBO Go with subscription, rent for $2.99 on Prime Video or $3.99 on Apple TV.
3. Hoosiers (1986)
A classic underdog story about a fictional high school basketball team from Hickory, Indiana, based on the real-life Milan team that won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.
The story centers on coach Norman Dale, who comes to the small town after being banished from college basketball after hitting a player, and is initially met with resistance from the players and the community with his unconventional style.
The team eventually buys in and goes on a magical run through the state playoffs before running into the mighty South Bend Central Bears, based on the real-life Indiana powerhouse Muncie Central, who Milan beat 32-30 in the 1954 title game.
Gene Hackman is at his best playing Norman Dale and the movie captures small town sports culture about as well as any ever has. It’s also legitimately inspiring no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Best quote: "I’ll make it."
WHERE TO WATCH: STARZ with a subscription, rent for $2.99 on Sling, or $3.99 on VUDU and Prime Video.
4. Semi-Pro (2008)
This movie is not inspiring nor does it provide any deep social insights. It is, however, exceedingly stupid. And funny. Very funny.
The film stars Will Ferrell as Jackie Moon, a singer with one hit (called "Love Me Sexy") that he parlays into ownership of the ABA’s Flint Tropics in 1976.
It also features Woody Harrelson as aging former NBA guard Ed Monix, who the Tropics acquire in a trade in exchange for the team’s washing machine, and Andre Benjamin as Clarence Withers, the team’s most talented player with dreams of playing in the NBA.
In case you’re wondering just how gloriously stupid this movie is, it features Will Ferrell wrestling a live bear, and the turning point in the climactic game is one team figuring out how to execute the world’s first alley-oop dunk. You’re welcome.
Best quote: "When they look back in the annals of history, people are gonna be talking about three things: the discovery of fire, invention of the submarine, and the Flint, Michigan Mega Bowl."
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on TBS or TNT, rent for $3.99 on VUDU or Apple TV.
5. Blue Chips (1994)
Calling Blue Chips a "good movie" may be stretching it, but it is unquestionably entertaining and rewatchable and honestly I’m not sure Hollywood has produced five good basketball movies anyway.
The film features fictional college basketball program Western University led by coach Pete Bell, played by Nick Nolte doing a shameless Bob Knight impersonation.
It also features real professional basketball players Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway and former college player Matt Nover. Those three play the roles of coveted high school recruits Neon Boudeaux, Butch McRae, and Ricky Roe, who are landed by Bell through various nefarious means as the coach wilts to pressure from booster Happy Kuykendahl to start taking some shortcuts to get the best high school players.
The basketball scenes are better than almost any other movie, which isn’t surprising considering the number of actual basketball players that were used.
The movie requires a high level of suspension of disbelief at times, while Penny Hardaway delivers perhaps the worst acting performance ever captured on film, but if you’re looking for a breezy and entertaining sports movie watch it’s hard to do much better.
Best quote: "You took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it, for what? For what?"
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on Prime Video and Crackle, Showtime with a subscription, rent for $2.99 on VUDU or $3.99 on Apple TV.