The game of basketball is a truly wonderful sport. The essence of the game resonates with every single person that has ever dribbled a basketball.
Basketball films have been popular for decades, but they really took off in the '90s. Sports and the movies often go hand in hand. As Jesus Shuttlesworth said, “Basketball is like poetry in motion,” so we’re going to rank the greatest basketball films that capture that poetry in motion the best.
This list features basketball movies that many would consider the greatest ever made. If you’re a hardcore fan of the sport, then you’ll probably have seen everything on this list at least once. If you don’t recognize a flick or two, then consider this an opportunity to plan a movie night that’ll bring you up to speed!
6. Love& Basketball
Love and Basketball show the deep connection two people have to each other and to the game that they love.It’s a love story and a basketball movie at the same time. This is definitely not an easy combination to pull off, but somehow Love & Basketball does just that. The film focuses on two lifelong friends and their often repressed feelings for each other as well as their mutual desires to become basketball stars. The movie makes you cheer for them both on and off the court, especially when duo climatically plays a game of basketball to decide their future with each other.
5. Blue Chips
This movie was the reason Orlando drafted Penny Hardaway. While filming, he and Shaq became close, O'Neal then went to the Magic front office and requested that they draft Hardaway. Penny and Shaq make their acting debuts and the film features a bunch of colleges and NBA players, coaches, and media personalities to add authenticity to the action on the court.
This film isn’t quite the heart warmer, but more so the hard-hitting truthful tale. It couples Nick Nolte as a college basketball coach with Shaq and Penny Hardaway as star players. The story chronicles Nolte’s struggles as a coach of a failing team with the imminent booster pressure to pay for players.
And as any college coach of a successful program will tell you, when the team isn’t winning, the pressure begins to build. As Nolte finds out, all it takes is a few looks in the wrong direction, and the next thing you know, some of the nation’s top recruits wind up in your program.
4. Coach Carter
Coach Carter is a captivating film that represents the mantra of an underdog rising up against all odds amidst hardship on a personal level, and hardship existing in the community.
Samuel L. Jackson plays a tough, fair coach who doesn’t take anything but success from his players. The team had its ups and downs—some of which Jackson enabled as he locked his team out of the gym until their grades were up to par at one point—but just as any heart-warming story entails, they rallied together, found an identity, and played terrific basketball by the season’s end. Oh yeah, it also was based on a true story: the 1998-1999 Richmond Oilers.
3. Space Jam
Whether or not there’s a Space Jam 2, as previously referenced, Space Jam will always go down as one of the best. There are too many reasons to love this film - First off, the cast of this 1996 movie—the non-animated members at least—were some of the best basketball players in the world. You had Michael Jordan, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Bird, and Patrick Ewing among others who all had their basketball ability stolen by a group of tiny aliens led by none other than Danny Devito.
And furthermore, it appeals to kids and adults. Watching a young Michael Jordan soar through the air for his first drunk could inspire any kid out there to want to play the game. At the end of the day, Space Jam was and always will be a hit because it combined two opposite universes: cartoons and the NBA.
2. White Man Can't Jump
Billy Hoyle and Sidney Dean let America get a glimpse of real street basketball. Set in Southern California, White Men Can't Jump tells the tale of two street hustlers just trying to get by playing the game they love.
This film differs from pretty much every other movie on this list as it doesn’t involve high school, college, or professional basketball. White Men Can’t Jump focuses on Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as a pair of street basketball playing hustlers. The film is noted for dealing with — and smashing — stereotypes about race and basketball. It’s somewhat of a cult classic, which may be why a remake is reportedly in the works.
1. He Got Game
Not one of the more heralded films on this list, He Got Game has become a cult classic. Coming out in 1998, it stars a young Ray Allen with the talented Denzel Washington. You know it’s iconic when you can currently buy a Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey online—the character Allen played, who as a high school senior in the movie was one of the nation’s top recruits.
Layers of emotion ran rampant in this film and for Allen to have no prior acting experience before this performance is quite astonishing. He was incredibly good in the film as was Washington.
Ultimately, they play a game of one-on-one to decide the fate of both the father and son's futures. Interestingly enough, the footage shot was actually of the two playing in a serious game. It was not doctored at all (meaning, Denzel can ball a bit).