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Welcome to Player Affinity’s Sports Movie Madness! March is the month of tournaments, and PA isn’t going to miss out on the fun. So we’ve started our first annual polling tournament to find out the best sports movies of all time! Over the course of the next couple weeks, you will have the chance to vote for your favorite sports movies out of a field of 64. Now, we present our list of the best basketball movies.
In the Sports Movie Madness tournament, there are seven sports and one mega-category of miscellaneous sports, so eight regions total. This is the Basketball Region. Below are the eight basketball films we deemed most worthy of our tournament. There are four matchups based on these seedings and your job is to pick which movie you deem worthy of winning each matchup. Simply enter a comment by Saturday at 11:59 pm with the four movies you are picking to move on (once again, not any four movies, but one of the two movie going up against each other, so no voting for Hoosiers and Air Bud, only one or the other) and your votes count! Each region will have three rounds and then the winner of each sport region will face off against the other sports until we have a winner!
In the sports world, this time of year belongs to basketball. And looking at this crop of basketball films, it’s not inconceivable to see one of them cutting down the nets at the end of the Player Affinity tournament. Basketball films typically follow the underdog formula to a T. The coaches are brutal motivators, but their methods usually work, and the players are better men when all is said and done. But not every film on our list fits the usual mold. We’ve got one of the all-time greatest documentaries, as well as some pieces of beloved nostalgia. Below are the first-round matchups. Read them through, choose your favorites, and leave us a comment with your picks to win each matchup.
2 Hoop Dreams
3 Coach Carter
4 Glory Road
5 He Got Game
6 Space Jam
7 Love & Basketball
8 Air Bud
1 Hoosiers vs. 8 Air Bud
For many, basketball films begin and end with Hoosiers. Featuring one of Gene Hackman’s best performances, the film nails the human-interest factor that elevates the best sports movies. That makes the film relatable, even to those who don’t care about the on-the-court drama. It’s about second chances and overcoming all sorts of odds, and Hoosiers hooks us into that point perhaps better than any other basketball, or sports, film ever.
Everyone loves dogs, right? So how can you go wrong with a dog playing basketball? You can’t, plain and simple. Issues of credibility aside, Air Bud is a sweet story about a boy who loves his pet, and a pet that can drain threes like the best of them.
2 Hoop Dreams vs. 7 Love and Basketball
There are few documentaries in history—about any subject—that are as admired as Hoop Dreams. It’s a very personal story about the way sports can drive and define us. It’s not an easy film to watch; we feel connected to the film’s two stars, and when they suffer setback and tragedy, we hurt for them. But ultimately, Hoop Dreams is a very rewarding watch, and a brilliant basketball movie.
Love and Basketball is a curious sports film because it’s much more a story about two individuals than it is a story about a sport. Of course, basketball is the driving force behind much of what these characters do, but we’re more invested in them as people and as a couple than as basketball players, thanks to a surprisingly strong chemistry between Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.
3 Coach Carter vs. 6 Space Jam
Coach Carter features Samuel L. Jackson the way we like him most—funny and loveable. He elevates this material, which some have written off as a too conventional. Admirers of the film, however, would likely point to the strong message and big heart as reasons why it succeeds.
Michael Jordan and Loony Tunes—doesn’t get much better than that. Or does it? Throw in Bill Murray and a host of other NBA stars, like Larry Bird and Charles Barkley, and you’ve got a heck of a film on your hands—or something like that. Space Jam is a silly film by most standards, but we challenge you to watch it and not have fun.
4 Glory Road vs. 5 He Got Game
Basketball films love the “based on a true story” label, and one of the all-time best true stories in the pantheon of basketball history is that of the 1966 Texas Western team. Featuring the first all African-American starting lineup, the team shocked the world by winning the National Championship. Forty years later, that story became Glory Road. The film follows the basketball formula pretty rigidly, but the story is so strong, you can’t deny the power of the film.
He Got Game is a slightly different breed of sports film, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering the film’s director is the always controversial Spike Lee. Here, he offers a stylized love letter to his favorite game, while focusing primiarly on a father/son story and a commentary on the increasing trend of backroom deals in college sports.
There you have it. To vote, simply leave a comment with your choices for each match. Remember, you can’t just vote for your favorite four films. You must choose the better among the two choices in each matchup. The results will be announced after the weekend, and the winners will move on to the next round.