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BJ Shea’s Favorite Basketball Movies



With Uncle Drew finally in theaters, starring our very own Kyrie Irving, and surely taking the world by storm, I thought would I touch on some of my very favorite movies about basketball. Other than Batman and all the Marvel movies I’ve probably seen these movies that I’m going to talk about the most. These are some classics and some of them are definitely in my personal Top 10 of all time. Let’s not waste any time and get to it.

Space Jam
Now I know that this movie gets a lot slack but come on what were people expecting from this? The next Godfather? It’s Micheal Jordan teaming up with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Toons to battle the Monstars for the fate of the universe. But to me this movie is a classic. It takes me back to my childhood where I owned the soundtrack and played it over and over. It brings us the very underrated Larry Bird and Bill Murray comedy duo that deserved its own spinoff ten years ago. Looking back on it now, it gives us the unintentional comedy of compulsive gambler Micheal Jordan betting with Swackhammer to save his Looney Toons pals. And it also gave Wayne Knight something to be remembered for more than just being Newmaln from Seinfeld.


Celtic Pride
Anyone that knows me has to know that this movie is on my list. Starring Daniel Stern, Dan Aykroyd, and Damon Wayans this movie featured the only way you could see the Celtics play in the NBA Finals in the 90s. The old Boston Garden makes an appearance and, of course, Larry Bird makes a cameo where he absolutely steals the whole movie and it’s a travesty he didn’t win an Oscar for at least get an nomination. Stern and Aykroyd play two insane, overzealous, incredibly superstitious Celtics fans that may or may not remind me of me. The thought of kidnapping LeBron has crossed my mind in the past.

Blue Chips
The third movie on the list also features Larry Bird. The Legend makes another quick cameo as he’s shooting hoops in French Lick as he helps Nick Nolte’s Bob Knight ripoff character try to recruit a local player. The movie showed how recruiting was being done at the time (and still is) as it had boosters paying players to attend their schools and Nolte selling his soul to get back on top of the college game. The movie also starred Shaq and Penny Hardaway and Shaq was so impressed with Penny that he strongly encouraged the Orlando Magic to find a way to get Penny on the team, which they did when they traded Chris Webber for Penny on draft night of 1993. Larry Bird isn’t the only Celtic legend to be in this movie as Bob Cousy has the iconic role of the athletic director “Vic Roker”. The Cooz has a memorable scene when he’s shooting free throws with Nolte as Nolte contemplates weather he should cheat or not. As that is going on, Cooz proceeds to bury every single free throw he takes. It prompts Nolte to go off script and say “Don’t you ever miss?”. The Houdini of the Hardwood caps the scene off by sticking one in left handed. Now that, my friends, is acting.

Hoop Dreams
This 1994 documentary follows two African-American high school students living in Chicago and their dreams of playing in the NBA. This movie is obviously different than Space Jam and Celtic Pride, with it being a true story, but it still holds up today. Hoop Dreams is still considered one of the best documentary films of all time and rightfully so. The story is powerful and shines a light on issues such as race, social class, economics, and education in the United States and shows how basketball can be a way out for some kids. The two main kids never made it to the NBA but it’s a movie that everyone should see even if you’re not a basketball fan.

He Got Game
This Spike Lee joint stars Denzel Washington as Jake Shuttlesworth, a convict who is mtasked with getting his basketball star son, Jesus, played by Ray Allen, to attend the governor’s alma mater so he can get a shorter sentence. It’s a movie that’s carried by Denzel and rightfully so, the guy is one of the best actors of all time and gives the movie a sense of legitimacy. Jesus hates his father because Jake accidentally killed his mother in a domestic dispute. The movie builds to a climatic one on one between Jake and Jesus as Jake challenges his son and if he wins Jesus goes to the governor’s college. Ray gives us a brief foreshadowing of his breakdown of Sasha Vujacic in Game 4 of the 2008 Finals as he destroys Papa Shuttlesworth. Jesus ends up going to the governor’s alma mater and cuts his dad a break for once. Shout out to Ray for actually semi holding his own with Denzel in their scenes together. No word on if Jesus transferred schools and left Big State like he did to the Celtics. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

White Men Can’t Jump
This is a movie in my personal Top 10. This is a classic. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes just going around and hustling people for money in pick up basketball makes this movie incredible. You can tell that Woody might be legit good at basketball while Wesley might be one of the worst basketball players of time. At one point, it looks like he dunks on a 5 foot rim. Avengers: Infinity War is more realistic than Wesley Snipes dunking a basketball. Credit movie magic I guess. This movie is funny, quotable (Your mothers an astronaut.), it’s got peak Rosie Perez, some classic pickup trash talk, and some pretty solid basketball scenes. What more could you ask for?

Hoosiers
Probably my favorite movie on the list. Probably my favorite non comic book movie. As a child of Bird and all things Indiana basketball, this movie is the holy grail. Just Indiana kids shooting around on their farm on the hoop out back. Just a kid, a ball, and a love for the game. Jimmy Chitwood is the best movie basketball player of all time. I’ll debate that with anyone. It’s either Jimmy or Jesus Shuttlesworth but my moneys on Jimmy. In the whole movie I think he missed one shot. Every shot he took was pure. His game winner in the state title game barely hit the net, that’s how pure it was. Jimmy carried the team and he specifically carried Coach Norman Dale. I love Coach Dale but Dale made Ty Lue look like a cross between Brad Stevens and Bill Belichick. Jimmy saved his job at the town hall meeting in the “I play, Coach stays” scene and in the State Championship game with it all the line, Coach decides to use Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy"???? Gotta go with what go you there. Luckily Dale listens to Jimmy and Jimmy buries the game winner in Hinkle Fieldhouse, the same gym that gave birth to Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward. A pretty much perfect basketball movie. 

So there it is. BJ Shea’s list of favorite basketball movies. Three of them have Larry Bird in it but all of the them have the same theme - get buckets by any means necessary. We should all have the same confidence level as Jimmy Chitwood when he said he’d make the game winning shot in the state championship game. That’s the key lesson. Will Uncle Drew make this list one day? Who knows but what we do know is this- in order to make a good basketball movie, you have to have a Celtic in it. 

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