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Features

Nothin’ but net-flicks: Basketball movies you need to watch

September 17, 2021, 4:15 PM ● NBA.com Philippines Staff

A selection of hoop films that the NBA.com Philippines crew recommends while waiting for the upcoming season to start.

It's still the NBA offseason and what better way to pass the time than to sit back, relax, and enjoy some basketball movies. Space Jam, Blue Chips, White Men Can’t Jump, and Hoosiers are fan favorites, but below is a selection of hoop films that the NBA.com Philippines staff recommends for your viewing pleasure. There are a few classics, a couple of staples, and even some hidden gems that you'll surely enjoy. 

The 6th Man (1997)

We're not talking about Jordan Clarkson. We're not talking about Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford either. We're talking about A and K all the Way!

The 6th Man is a 1997 film about the powerful relationship between brothers Kenny Tyler (Marlon Wayans) and Antoine (Kadeem Hardison) and their quest for college basketball supremacy.

The main plot revolves around Antoine tragically dying at the start of the movie, only to reappear as a ghost to help his brother and their team win games. The movie is fun, entertaining, and packed with a whole lot of laughs. Kenny is the only person that can "see" Antoine as a ghost so a ton of jokes are thrown into that dynamic. A scene that comes to mind is when Kenny is hugging his brother after a good game but his teammates only see one guy hugging himself. So in signature Marlon Wayans comedy (you've all seen White Chicks right?), he explains that we all need a moment to give ourselves a big hug.  

Aside from the laughs, the movie also has a lot of heart. The brothers' relationship will make you think about love, friendship, and dealing with loss. The scene when the coaches inform that Antoine dies and Kenny was in a total state of disbelief and still wanted to go be with his brother is some heavy stuff. 

Whether you've seen this movie before and are urging for a rewatch or somebody who'll watch this for the first time, you won’t be disappointed. Yoyo Sarmenta

He Got Game (1998)

The first three minutes of He Got Game, a Spike Lee joint, is the best part of this visual storytelling masterpiece disguised as a basketball movie.

It’s a short montage of basketball being played in all corners of America, set to grand orchestration, in slow motion. It’s not the shiny, bubblegum-type sequence of hoops that manipulates you to pick up a ball and shoot a jumper, no. The stunning cinematography in carefully curated courts, the botched layups, the crossovers in sunsets and on concrete, the rusty rims, the overall realness—this intro is Spike’s first sentence in his love letter to basketball. 

If you only watched up to this part of the movie, it’s more than enough. But then you’d miss the truly best part of this visual storytelling masterpiece disguised as a basketball movie: meeting Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen). Jesus is the hero in this hoops dystopia littered with violence, prison sentences, money-grabbing relatives, and cutthroat college recruitment. Plus, he’s Ray Allen.

But, really, the best part of this movie is Denzel Washington, who plays Jesus’ estranged dad Jake. All his scenes are slam dunks, whether he’s mundanely trying on a pair of Air Jordan 13s or going hard at Jesus in a high-stakes game of one-on-one.

Actually, that jarring one-one-one scene is the best part of the movie, which we won’t spoil in case you haven’t watched it. 

No, wait, the best part of the movie is this quote from Jesus: “Basketball is like poetry in motion, cross the guy to the left, take him back to the right, he's falling back, then just J right in his face. Then you look at him and say ‘What?’”

Or is it this quote from Jake: “I pray you understand why I pushed you so hard! It was only to get you to that next level.”

Or is it the title? Yes, the title is the best part of this movie.

No, scratch that. Everything about this movie is the best. Jon Carlos Rodriguez

Love and Basketball (2000)


 

“Play me one-on-one.”

“For what?”

“For your heart.”

Basketball as a genre of sports movies is pretty barren compared to its counterparts in baseball and American football. It does have a few overlooked gems like this perfect date night flick in Love and Basketball.

It's one of the best black love stories out there with some of the best black actors like Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, and Harry Lenix. It has a lot of solid themes like gender roles, parenthood, childhood, and how being a strong and independent hooper can be very exhausting. 

The main draw has to be Sanaa Lathan's Monica Wright being ahead of her time with her messaging and portrayal of a black female athlete. Basketball is mostly just a backdrop for these themes, but it is still an important backdrop for a movie very proud of its blackness. 

If you're having a hard time selling this basketball movie to your girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner, just tell them it's just a cool ‘90s drama movie like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, or Jerry Maguire. Quintessential ‘90s star Tyra Banks even has a small role in it.

Basketball is a beautiful game and no movie has injected more sexual tension into a game of hoops than Love and Basketball. And if you’re wondering what the easiest way to a woman's heart is, it's to remember how many rebounds she got in a game. — Migs Flores

Coach Carter (2005)


 

Coach Ken Carter valued education more than basketball. When he became the head coach of Richmond High School’s varsity squad, he knew his focus was not just about improving his players’ basketball skills. He emphasized the importance of being a student first before an athlete and his goal was to make sure his players made it to college, not only based on their athletic ability but also their academic performance. But that approach conflicted with his players’ interests.

In Coach Carter, there was a clear emphasis on fighting against systems that worked against minority groups. Most of the high schoolers depicted in the film were either in poverty, people of color, or children with incarcerated parents. One particular scene, where Carter told his players that they’re more likely to end up in prison than a high school podium, made me sick to my stomach. 

The movie came out 16 years ago but the issues still hold today. Coach Carter does a great job of showing a large injustice in a very relatable way. The coaches, parents, and players all represent familiar faces in the community which makes this film even more real. — Renee Ticzon

Semi-Pro (2008)

In Semi-Pro, Will Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a one-hit-wonder singer who became the owner, coach, and starting power forward of a fictional ABA team called the Flint Tropics. 

The premise of the movie is that the ABA (a league that competed against the NBA from the late '60s to the mid-'70s in real life) is merging with the NBA but only four of its teams will be absorbed. The story plays out with Jackie Moon and his losing Flint Tropics doing everything they can to make the cut. 

There's a lot of absurdity in the film (as you'd expect from Will Ferrell) and the other characters are entertaining as well. Woody Harrelson (who doesn't love Woody Harrelson??) plays a washed-up star who gets traded to the Tropics for a washing machine. Andre 3000, Rob Corddry, and Matt Walsh are also in the movie. Will Arnett and Andrew Daly add color as the Flint Tropics' play-by-play commentators. 

Semi-Pro has tons of hilarious moments and ear-catching one-liners. It's a parody of—and homage to—the ABA, as well as the 1970s that is known for its boldness and extravagance (read: afros and trendy outfits).

Many people found the movie disappointing but I loved it because it had two of my favorite things: basketball and Will Ferrell. Sure, it's a mess but it's also likable. So if you enjoy nonsensical comedies, then Semi-Pro is right up your alley. JC Ansis

Uncut Gems (2019)

 

There are many reasons to love Uncut Gems.

First of all, funnyman Adam Sandler turns in the performance of a lifetime as jeweler Howard Ratner, who takes what should be a simple transaction to an extremely over-the-top series of unfortunate events leading to an explosive finish. Ratner’s personality and I-can’t-believe-he-did-that decisions will leave you absolutely hypnotized. Sandler’s portrayal was excellent and he should have been nominated for an Oscar.

But the real reason to watch this movie is Kevin Garnett, who plays himself. With all due respect to Jesus Shuttlesworth, KG puts in arguably the best performance of all time by an athlete in a movie. He comes into Ratner’s jewelry shop looking to buy some diamonds but comes away wanting more—specifically a rare gem encrusted in a rock that was collected from Africa. Without spoiling anything, Garnett shows his acting chops in key scenes in the movie and can hold his own in the scenes he and Sandler are in together.

In interviews to promote the film, Garnett said that he was comfortable doing the film because he didn’t have to portray anyone—he could just be himself. The funny thing was that Sandler disagreed with him and said that portraying yourself in a film is one of the most difficult things to do. This just goes to show that there are levels to Garnett’s talent here, and I can’t wait to see him do another film.

Uncut Gems is not for everyone. It’s crass, violent, and stressful to the highest degree. But if you can stomach the nasty side, I can assure you that there’s a freaking awesome story underneath it all. — Chuck Araneta