movie night basketball

In Technician’s next installment of “Movie Night,” we will be taking a look at some of the best basketball movies of all time. This list excludes documentaries and focuses on some of the deeper messages found in some of these films.

5. “Semi-Pro” (2008)

This movie is a comedic masterpiece with Will Ferrell as main character Jackie Moon. Moon bought the fictional ABA basketball team, the Flint Tropics, after making money from his one-hit wonder “Love Me Sexy.” He then became the team owner, pregame announcer and starting forward. The main conflict arises when the ABA announces they will be merging with the NBA and will only take the four teams with the best records. Though the Tropics do not make it to the NBA, Moon along with others on the team are appointed to positions throughout the NBA.

Although it didn’t have as much of a message as the other movies on this list, it did satirize how much the ABA truly struggled before the NBA merged with them. The Tropics couldn’t even afford to give money to a fan who hit a lucky shot for thousands of dollars. They also sold a basic product for an entire player, which made fun of how little money was in the league. The irony in the team name Flint Tropics completes the whole bit. This is one of those movies that can be watched several times and still make you howl laughing every time.

“Semi-Pro” is available for streaming on YouTube, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.

4. “Hoosiers” (1986)

“Hoosiers” is a pure basketball movie, taking place in a rural town in Indiana at a small high school with only 64 boys. It is loosely based on the story of Milan High School, which won the state championship in 1954. The story is about a former college coach named Norman Dale that took a head coaching job at a small school in Indiana, looking for a second chance after being fired from his head coaching position at basketball powerhouse Ithaca College for assaulting a player.

Prior to taking the coaching job in Indiana, coach Dale served in the military for several years after being fired from his coaching job, which is what inspired his drill sergeant mentality for his team. Through intense conditioning, drills and mastering the fundamentals, Dale forged the group into a physically and mentally strong team, despite lacking size. Beating the odds, the team goes on to have a phenomenal season and win the state championship. Coach Dale’s attitude that some things are more important than basketball is another admirable trait showcased in the movie.

Although the movie has a cliche ending and is very loosely based on true events, it is a classic feel-good Cinderella story that every basketball fan needs to watch.

“Hoosiers” is available to stream on YouTube, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.

3. “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

“White Men Can’t Jump” has a phenomenal co-star duo of Woody Harrelson, who plays Billy Hoyle, and Wesley Snipes, who plays Sidney Deane, and the film takes place on the streetball courts of Los Angeles. Billy was a former college basketball player and would use the stereotype of him being white to hustle streetballers for money who would mistake him for being unskilled, which leads to the meeting of Billy and Sidney.

After winning a few games together, Sidney throws a game and intentionally loses Billy’s money to Sidney’s friends to get him back for hustling him earlier. After agreeing to split the money Sidney won after hustling him, they enter a two-on-two tournament and win because of Billy’s incredible trash talking and concentration. The highlight of the film though was when Billy won the game with an alley-oop dunk.

The movie is symbolic of the message that anybody can play the game of basketball. The alley-oop dunk to win the final game of the film is a metaphor for the duo defeating the stereotype that white people are not meant to play basketball.The movie also touches on the downfalls that come with greed and thirst for money, which can be seen in the conflicts between Billy and Sidney, which result in the split between Billy and his girlfriend Gloria. The plot of this movie is very well structured and helps to convey that money is the source of all of Billy’s problems in the first place. 

“White Men Can’t Jump” is available on YouTube, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.

2. “Coach Carter”(2005)

“Coach Carter” is one of the greatest basketball movies of all time because it highlights real issues on and off the court and is based on a true story. It showcases realistic and suspenseful scenes on the court with actors that seem to be adept at the game in real life. 

Taking place at a struggling and underfunded public school in Richmond, California, Ken Carter takes over for the school’s basketball team after a dismal four-win season. Like coach Dale from “Hoosiers,” coach Carter instills his team with discipline through a strict, military-like plan of tough conditioning and tight rules. However, he also puts a strong emphasis on academics and sportsmanship in his players, even though the school has a 50% graduation rate. 

“Coach Carter” is unique from many other basketball movies in that it highlights the real life problems of the players and places a priority on the players’ futures. Although the movie is centered around a basketball team, it touches on the issues of gang violence and teen pregnancy while also bringing awareness to the corrupt aspects of the public education system.

The film also shined a light on how society treats student-athletes. Throughout the movie, the town is angry at coach Carter for closing the gym and cancelling games until the team brought up their grades, which ruined Richmond’s undefeated record. Parents and teachers continue to claim the only thing these student-athletes had was basketball, which coach Carter believed to be completely false. 

Carter is adamant in giving his players opportunities to go to college throughout the film, which he succeeds in. Despite the team losing in the playoffs and not having that storybook ending, there was a happier ending in the bigger picture for the players. Several of the players received collegiate athletic scholarships, while several others attended college. 

The movie shows that though life is bigger than basketball, basketball is also more than just a game. It is a game that can teach valuable life lessons and instill good values in players while opening up opportunities off the court. 

“Coach Carter” is available for streaming on Tubi, Showtime and Sling TV.

1. “He Got Game” (1998)

“He Got Game” takes place in Coney Island, New York, with NBA star Ray Allen playing Jesus Shuttlesworth, who is the No. 1 high school basketball prospect in the nation, and Denzel Washington playing Jake Shuttlesworth, Jesus’s father and an inmate. It is somewhat based on the story of NBA player Stephon Marbury while he was a top-ranked prospect in high school. The story starts off with the governor making a deal with Jake that if he can get his son Jesus to attend his alma mater, “Big State University,” then he will be released from prison, which sets up plenty of drama for Jesus' life.

The film explores the troubles that come with sudden fame and fortune for talented athletes. With all this attention Jesus had to stay away from drugs, alcohol, sleeping around and other harmful things that could taint his future in the pros. However, the main message of the movie is in the title: Everyone can play basketball as long as “you got game.”

“He Got Game” shows the purity of basketball and how the game does not discriminate, which can be seen by how rough of a past Jesus had and how much relentless work he put in. There are also more hidden messages throughout the movie, including the greed that comes with capitalism, the difficulty with finding true loyalty and the society’s view of athletes simply as athletes and not people.

“He Got Game” is available for streaming on YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

Honorable Mentions:

With so many great basketball films, it was hard to choose just five. These incredible movies just missed the cut: “Space Jam” (1996), “Love and Basketball” (2000), “Like Mike” (2002) and “Blue Chips” (1994).

Staff Writer

I’m Marty Madar, a sports staff writer for Technician. I am in the class of 2023, majoring in sports management with a minor in journalism. I first joined Technician as a correspondent in August 2019.