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The 5 Greatest Hoop Films Ever

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by Alarcon, for outsideleft.com
originally published: January, 2005
This article is dedicated to the Pacers' Ron Artest who made it all possible.

With the resurgence of the Afro and all the attention the NBA's getting (what with the player/spectator riots on and off the court, someone probably going to be sending a memo to movie studio heads demanding more basketball movies - it's inevitable. The basketball film is a serious subject though, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Look what happened to Whoopie Goldberg's 'Eddie' and 'Aid Bud' (we're not even going to get into Michael Jordan's catastrophe in 'Space Jam'). So to all the studio heads tugging at their ponytails in agony over b-ball ideas: We urge you to consult our picks of the 5 greatest hoops movies ever for inspiration. We'll take a simple executive producer credit.

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979)
In 25 words or less:
A ragtag team of unsuccessful pro b-ballers hire a gypsy astrologer to change their luck. Her first plan of action: making sure they're all Pisces.
Cast: Debbie Allen, Marv Albert, Stockard Channing, Harry Shearer, Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, James Bond III
Pro Hoopsters: Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Kareem Abdual-Jabbar, Meadowlark Lemon, Norm Nixon
Average 'fro height: A cool 9 inches - Dr. J bumped the curve up by three inches.
Average sock height: All the way up to the knees - with tri-colored stripes!
Funky soundtrack factor: Maybe the funkiest of the 70's - this Motown revue easily outshines 'Shaft' and 'Car Wash.'
On-court trash talking: Unfortunately, if you've bought or rented this movie on video after Warner Bros. acquired the rights to it, you're going to get the clean version of this trash-talking classic. Some idiot over at the WB actually had the nutsack to edit Dr. J's under-the-boards "yo-momma" jokes.
Could the main team take the Clippers?: Even though Stormin' Norman Nixon eventually ended his once stellar career with them, the Fish could easily destroy the Clippers - even without the astrological help from Stockard.
Fun facts: This movie actually had an "Afro Technician," Robert L. Stevenson, on the set at all times.

Hoop Dreams (1994)
In 25 words or less:
The true-life documentary of two talented ghetto kids from Chicago as they chase their dreams of playing pro hoop from grade school to college.
Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agree, Emma and Curtis Gates, Sheila and Arthur Agee
Pro Hoopsters: Isaiah Thomas, Bobby Knight
Average 'fro height: A paltry inch, and that's only because Spike Lee made a cameo.
Average sock height: An average of 3 inches above the high top.
Funky soundtrack factor: There is no official soundtrack, but we recommend you play any Public Enemy LP as you watch this documentary - somehow Chuck D's anti-whitey anger works here.
On-court trash talking: There's a little bit of trash-talking in the paint, but these two kids are pure finesse players - you've never heard Jordan talking trash have you - he left that to his grunts like Rodman.
Could the main teams take the Clippers?: I think it's pretty fair to say that both boy's high school teams could've taken the Clippers - and that even with 5 Danny Mannings on the court for the Clips.
Fun facts: Neither boys ever made it to the NBA, and guess what? One of them has already done time in the joint.

The Basketball Diaries (1994)
In 25 words or less:
A hotshot teen ball player's life spirals into crap after he gets involved in heroin, rough trade and thievery.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marky Mark Wahlberg, Patrick McGaw, Bruno Kirby, Ernie Hudson, Juliette Lewis
Pro Hoopsters: No pro ballers, but rock and roller (and the film's writer) Jim Carroll makes a cameo appearance.
Average 'fro height: Nice 'fro action here with a respectable average of 3 inches.
Average sock height: Mid-calf mostly - about 9 inches from the top of the Chuck Taylors.
Funky soundtrack factor: Not a bad soundtrack, but not too funky either. It's more of an indie rocker with P.J. Harvey, Flea, Johnette Napolitano, The Cult, The Doors, and Soundgarden.
On-court trash talking: A lot of trash getting thrown here, very authentic. A good number of elbows in mouths as well. Marky Mark is one bad-ass point guard.
Could the main team take the Clippers?: If Marky Mark can control his outside perimeter jumper and if Leo can start dishing off to the key when he gets in trouble, I can see St. Mary's taking the Clippers by 8 and a half points.
Fun facts: DiCaprio made it pretty clear in a Rolling Stone interview that he and Mary Mark shot more than their fair share of "horse" during the making of this movie to get in character - and we don't mean the game either.

Fast Break (1979)
In 25 words or less:
A mustachioed New York deli clerk, who's also a hardcore b-ball fan, talks his way into a coaching a team of misfit college kids.
Cast: Gabe Kaplan, Harold Sylvester, Michael Warren, Reb Brown, Mavis Washington, Laurence Fishburne
Pro Hoopsters: Scrappy, old school New York Knickerbocker point guard Bernard King.
Average 'fro height: Thanks to Kaplan, the curve bumped up from a 4-inch average to a healthy 5 inches.
Average sock height: Taking it to the knees, baby!
Funky soundtrack factor: There's not much of a funky soundtrack going on here at all, just a bunch of clumsy white boy generic background music.
On-court trash talking: Nope, just a lot of Billy Crystal-esque one liners.
Could the main team take the Clippers?: Unfortunately, even the bricklayers on the Clippers could take Gabe's team to school.
Fun Facts: John Travolta was actually turned down for one of the main roles as one of Kaplan's misfit ball player's at the request of Columbia Pictures' head honchos, but rumors exist that Mr. Kotter didn't want to be upstaged by Barbarino in his silver screen debut.

One on One (1977)
In 25 words or less:
Underdog story with Rocky-esque proportions about a star high school ball player from the country who accepts a scholarship to a big city university.
Cast: Robby Benson, Annette O'Toole, Melanie Griffith, G.D. Spradlin, Gail Stricklin
Pro Hoopsters: A few ABA wash-ups like Bobby Anderson, Hal Taft, and Edd Perkins - yeah, we've never heard of 'em either.
Average 'fro height: If it weren't for Benson, the Afro average would have been 5 inches. Benson's shag dropped it to two and a half.
Average sock height: Plain tube socks barely covering a bunch of hairy, milky white calves.
Funky soundtrack factor: Pure white bread. Lot's of modern hillbilly tunes you'd associate with bands like Kansas, Boston, and REO Speedwagon.
On-court trash talking: Are you kidding? Robbie Benson is about as offensive as tapioca pudding. He spends more of this classic whining to the refs than shooting his mouth off.
Could the main team take the Clippers?: It depends, Robbie has a mean hook shot at the top of the key. We give it to Robbie's team if he's hitting in the pre-game shoot-around.
Fun facts: Benson claims he hit all his shots on first takes, although we'd like to see the film stock on the cutting room floor.

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Alarcon

Alarcon co-founded outsideleft with lamontpaul in 2004. His work for o/l has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers, oh and probably the fbi too.

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