Top 5 Basketball Movies of All Time
Basketball fans up and down the country are checking the March Madness odds, gleefully naming brackets, and making their March Madness betting picks as the First Round matches kick off for 2022.
To get into the NCAA tournament spirit, the Bodog sportsbook has compiled a shortlist of the best basketball movies to get you in the zone and get focused on the March Madness craze.
Slip on a jersey and butter up that popcorn: these are the top five basketball movies to watch – or re-watch – alongside the March Madness madness.
Who could forget that epic moment when Michael Jordan leaps into the air towards the hoop just before the game ends, all while the Monstars are gripping his waist and trying to hold him back, only to make a slam dunk and win the whole game by one point?
1996’s Space Jam is one of the most iconic basketball movies of all time, and for a good many reasons. Firstly, it saw the cartoon legends from the Looney Tunes feature alongside real NBA stars, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Muggys Bogues. If that wasn’t enough, this star-studded lineup was joined by Bill Murray… because why not?
The distinctly 90s soundtrack also adds to Space Jam’s charm, and in particular, Quad City DJ’s theme song.
For NBA fans, the film also adds a humorous explanation for Jordan’s two-year absence from the sport. Instead of kicking back and enjoying the spoils of a successful career, he is, instead, kidnapped by Bugs Bunny and enlisted in an intergalactic basketball game to save the Looney Tunes.
Starring the legendary Samuel L. Jackson, Coach Carter follows the format we’ve all come to expect from a sports movie. You’ve got an underdog team, crushing adversity, and an uplifting ending that’ll leave you inspired and ready to take on the world.
Released in 2005, it is based on the true story of Ken Carter, a former teen basketballer who returns to his former high school to transform its dismally lacklustre team. The task is complicated by the fact that the player’s grades are also sub-par, and Coach Carter, like any well-formed inspirational character, knows the future value of good grades. Against strong resistance, he proceeds to suspend the team from playing until their grades improve.
Because the film is a sports film, there is plenty of action on the court, but teamwork is the underlying theme. With Coach Carter eventually getting the players onside, the team is revived, and the audience is rewarded with a truly goosebump-inducing conclusion.
He Got Game
Next up is Spike Lee’s 1998 film, He Got Game. And as you’d expect from a serious and consequential filmmaker, it is far more sobering in tone than the previous two stories, Starring Denzel Washington and Ray Allen, we are taken in the complex, troubled relationship between father and son. Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen) is the top high school baller in the country, with nearly every college talent scout vying to recruit him.
Such are the efforts to sign him up that Jesus’s father, Jake (an always solid Washington), who is serving a life sentence for manslaughter, is himself recruited to persuade Jesus to sign with his alma mater. The compensation? Temporary release from prison, endorsed by the Governor himself. Yep, Jesus is that good.
And so we have a damaged teenager attempting to deal with his anger and pain, and an absent father trying valiantly to repair that damage and reestablish a role in his son’s life.
He Got Game was warmly received by critics, but basketball fans will appreciate a whole other layer as the story rests on the realities of fledgling pro basketballers.
Based on the true story of a small-town Indiana basketball team vying for the 1954 state title, Hoosiers is one of those classic tale of redemption, and few tell it better than director David Anspaugh did in 1986.
The film’s premise, which is heavy on sentiment, begins with Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), who has arrived in Hickory, Indiana, ready to embrace his new role as coach of the small town’s basketball team. Gale isn’t the coach that everyone expected, though, and owing to a rocky past, his quick temper doesn’t earn him many fans,.
With morale low and sinking, Coach Dale has an impossible task on his hands; the players are undisciplined, and the “star” player, is being dragged off the team altogether by one of his teachers in order to pay more attention to his studies (could it be Coach Carter?).
The town doesn’t have much faith in Gale, especially given that his choice of assistant coach was the town drunk who used to be a basketball star himself. Despite it all, Gale manages to get his team to the championships, and the whole town gets to witness a feat they never believed could happen.
White Men Can’t Jump
In another throwback, this time to 1992, White Men Can’t Jump falls into that rare movie sub-genre: the sports comedy. Woody Harrelson, in one of his most enduring roles, plays Billy, a hustler who makes his living by convincing streetballers to put their money where their ball skills are and take him on. Unbeknownst to them, Billy was a bigshot college basketballer (presumably with his own fictional role in March Madness history), and his practised, naive hack routine falls away as he earns the wager.
After twice beating skilled streetballer Sidney (a perfectly cast Wesley Snipes), the pair see merit in joining forces to scale up the hustle; but, just as hustlers gonna hustle, sports comedies are gonna make the rivalry personal. The two, of course, must end up on the wrong end of each other’s exploits.
The now-30 year old film has barely aged, and remains as genuinely funny from start to finish as it did upon its release. Witty ripostes are effortlessly bounced around, one-liners land in the hoop without so much as touching the net, and plenty of physical comedy makes this gem one of the sports movie greats, let alone just basketball. Its overall charm, appealing to basketball enthusiasts and the sports-averse alike made White Men Can’t Jump the massive hit it was.
The place to be is in front of the screen when a sports movie classic is on, as much as we love viewing March Madness play out in real time on that same TV. If this selection of basketball movies has got you in the mood for March Madness, then you’re certainly not alone, and you’re definitely in luck. The tournament is kicking off now, so be sure to start making your March Madness betting picks at the best sports betting site in Canada, Bodog, then sit back and enjoy the show.