Sep 18

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By Kassandra
During this down time of late summer/early fall, basketball is beginning to come to the forefront of our minds. We're wondering about the NBA's collective bargaining negotiations, looking forward to college basketball, and keeping track of the overseas leagues and tournaments the best we can.

But for those of us who need a little extra basketball fix during these times, we can always turn to the area of cinema. There's been no shortage of basketball-related movies. There are classics, such as Hoosiers, White Men Can't Jump and Space Jam. There are also other, perhaps lesser-known or forgotten films worth a couple hours of your entertainment day if you get a chance.

There are some hidden gems out there which, if you can find them at your video store (or some downloadable website) are quite entertaining. Here's just a few:

Believe In Me (2006)
Starring: Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis and Bruce Dern.
A docudrama based on the life and coaching career of Oklahoma high school basketball coach Jim Keith. For movie purposes, the character of Keith is named Clay Driscoll. The coach (Donovan) is hired as the varsity boys coach at a small-town Oklahoma high school, only to find out that the school board has decided to make him the girls coach. He reluctantly takes the job. At the same time, Driscoll and his wife (Mathis) are trying to adopt a son. Through the course of the season, he becomes coach, mentor and teacher to a rather talented group of girls who comprise his team. While he's always wanted to coach boys, he attains an affection for his position. Excellent acting drives this movie and fans of Burn Notice may be pleasantly surprised by the range Donovan shows here. It's a movie which demonstrates that while you may want one thing, you may find out you appreciate something else even more. The subject of the movie, Jim Keith, coached girls basketball and taught social studies in Oklahoma for 35 years before retiring. Be sure to catch a special tribute to Keith from his original players -- now grandmothers -- during the closing credits of the film.

The Red Sneakers (2002)
Starring: Dempsey Pappion, Vincent D'Onofrio and Gregory Hines (who also directed).

Reggie Reynolds (Pappion) is a high schooler who gets great grades, but what he really longs for is to be a basketball star. He stumbles upon a pair of red sneakers through a junk dealer (Hines). These no ordinary pair of shoes, however; they once belonged to an all-star player in the Negro Basketball Leagues in the 1930s. Once he puts on the red sneakers, Reggie's basketball dreams begin to come true. A major shoe brand executive sees his success and seeks to convince Reggie to discard his red sneakers in favor of the executive's brand. Reggie knows better. This movie has a nice premise and watching Reggie struggle with the dilemmas he faces is easy to follow.

Alex English and Joshua Zuehlke in Amazing Grace and Chuck

Amazing Grace and Chuck
 (1987) Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Joshua Zuehlke, Alex English and Gregory Peck. Set toward the end of the Cold War, Chuck Murdock (Zuehlke) is the top pitcher for his Little League baseball team. After touring a missile silo, he's deeply disturbed by what he sees and learns; so much so that he announces that he is quitting baseball until all nuclear weapons are disarmed. The story grows into a phenomenon and reaches Boston Celtics player Amazing Grace Smith (NBA star English). Amazing Grace takes Chuck's mission and follows suit. Soon after, other professional athletes join them. Grace goes as far to move to Chuck's small Montana town. People of the town turn to despise Chuck, but he sticks to his purpose. This movie is about determination, hope, and optimism. The question is simply this: Can the message of one boy change the world?

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh 
 Starring: Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, Julius Erving, Meadowlark Lemon and Stockard Channing.
This classic, featuring numerous NBA players (including a young Blazers forward Mychal Thompson) is about the lowly Pittsburgh Pythons which enlist an astrologist in an effort to change its fortunes. A young boy convinces the team's owner to cut all the players sans Moses Guthrie (Erving), and replace them with players who share the pisces astrological sign. Shortly thereafter, the team actually changes the team name to "Pisces." This movie is very campy, goofy and fun. It's dated; you'll see evidence of that when you see the hairstyles and uniforms. Aside from picking out the numberous NBA players from the late 1970s, pay special attention to "Set Shot Buford," who sports a crew cut, unwillingness to jump when he shoots and has an uncanny knack for making his shot (especially from the free throw line).

Home of the Giants (2007)
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Ryan Merriman and Danielle Panabaker.

Robert "Gar" Gartland (Osment) is a journalist covering his high school basketball team. His friend, Matt Dunbar (Merriman), Matt's brother convinces him to go with him in a robbery attempt from a drug dealer, and Gar tags along. The attempt goes bad, and the drug dealer tries to get Matt to throw the big game. Gar is put in the middle of the situation and Matt has to make a huge decision. This movie isn't for real young kids, but it's an interesting tale of friendship and responsibility with a surprising ending.

Air Up There (1994)
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Charles Gitonga Maina and Yolanda Vazquez.
Jimmy Dolan (Bacon) is a college basketball coach who wants to take the next step. He's just lost his latest recruit and his job so, in order to get back into the game, he travels deep into Kenya in the hopes of signing a phenom (Maina) whom he's only seen from a home movie. Dolan encounters difficulties though, when it turns out the player, Saleh, is the son of his tribe's chief. Compounding matters is a mining company who is threatening the tribe's land (and the mining company just so happens to sport a pretty good basketball team to boot). The setup is kind of goofy, but there are a lot of good laughs and some very entertaining basketball action.


In Kassandra's Words features regular blogs throughout the off-season. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end, but our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @Kassandra227


  1. Thank you Kassandra: I will check them out if I can find them. I have watched Amazing Grace with Alex English many times.

    Well school for you, bowling and work for me, I hope to get in touch on Mike's Blog shortly, righg after the first game, which will be on time.

    Later Miss Kassandra


    by Hg on 9/18/2011 12:09 PM
  2. I need to see the red sneakers one. Don't forget about Be Like Mike and Juwanna Man.

    by BlockParty aka Teamship on 9/19/2011 6:28 AM
  3. I'd like to add "Eddie" to the list. Lol. Awesome post Kass!

    by sarahhecht on 9/19/2011 9:30 AM
  4. Miss Sarah "Eddie" is a cute movie.

    by Hg on 9/19/2011 12:32 PM
  5. You left out "Hoosiers"

    by mbmurr1 on 9/19/2011 5:48 PM
  6. thanks guys. i knew there would be some added suggestions. Sarah, Hg: i can't say i've seen Eddie. I tried to keep this to films i had actually seen, though there are undoubtedly more out there.

    BlockParty: same thing as with Eddie, i've not seen either of those films, so it didn't feel right commenting on them.

    mbmurr1: i didn't forget Hossiers at all. if you read the second paragraph again, you'll see that i didn't summarize that film because i don't consider it "lesser-known" or "forgotten." those are the types of films i wanted to summarize here. it's generally considered the best basketball film of all time, so i didn't think it belonged on this list.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 9/20/2011 5:25 AM
  7. Kassandra: I more remember "Eddie" because Whoppi Goldburg starred in it, and I am a big fan of Whoopi's. I will have to watch the movie again to remember all the BB in it. Of course, I remember with Whoopi there was some hilarious spots as well.

    by Hg on 9/20/2011 6:48 AM
  8. You should check out Eddie, its no cinematic gem, but its worth a few good hours and the hoops are decent. Its on Netflix instant view right now too!

    by sarahhecht on 9/20/2011 9:12 AM
  9. Kasey, we should check out Eddie sometime. I see it's getting rave reviews!

    by milwaukiejessi on 10/10/2011 8:32 AM
  10. Hey miawaukiejessi:

    Glad you could join Kasey's blogs her and I went through hell and back with our joking, but her brain power won out and now she is the famous Miss Kassandra.

    Do you have her wit and brains? If so you may be as famous as her.

    Good luck at Berkeley.

    by Hg on 10/10/2011 9:02 AM
  11. Hi Hg. My sister is already famous to me! I don't quite have her brains, but I'm told I have a lot of wit. I was nicknamed early in life by my family as "The one who never shuts up!" I'm looking forward to college and enjoying my senior year. I'm a musician and plan to study music and play in Cal's concert band (piano).

    by milwaukiejessi on 10/10/2011 9:27 AM
  12. @miawaukiejessi:

    Kassandra is pretty famous and important to me also. I don't know the Blazers like she does, and I don't think I have ever won a debate with her; maybe you have the right idea, never shut-up and she can't win. Kassandra had mentioned many times about your music. So I kind of remember, it's KIND Of WHEN KASSANDRA SPEAKS WE ALL LISTEN LOL. Nevertheless, I think it is great to be able to pursue your music career.

    by Hg on 10/10/2011 2:10 PM
  13. @Hg: i see you've met my sister. Jessica rocks! she would probably admit that she's a little more obnoxious than me, though she possesses a huge heart and undying compassion.

    @Jessica: i've always loved your nickname! maybe we should rent Eddie when i'm home for thanksgiving. glad you're aboard here. i can always use a little help razzing people like Hg!

    by Kassandra on 10/11/2011 10:47 AM
  14. Hg - It's like that at home too. When she speaks, we all listen. It seems you've noticed what we have. When she speaks, something very intelligent comes out. I don't need to win over Kassandra. Strangely for the two oldest girls in our family, we've never been competitive with each other.

    by milwaukiejessi on 10/11/2011 1:36 PM
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