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 (1979) 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