ShareThis Page
Home

Get in the mood for the big hoops games

| Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011

OK, so the Super Bowl loss still burns, and the Penguins' season seems imperiled by Stalingrad-level casualties on the ice. But have heart, Pittsburgh — March is just around the corner. Basketball tournament season.

This year, a deep and seasoned Pitt Panthers squad could finally make a run to the Final Four, and Duquesne and West Virginia still have time to make some noise.

If last year's NCAA Tournament was a movie, it'd be blasted by critics as "overwrought," "unbelievable" and "one ludicrous twist after another." Remember the scare Robert Morris put into perennial power Villanova?

When it comes to basketball movies, there are way more airballs than alley-oops — and nothing comes close to doing for basketball what "Slap Shot" does for hockey.

There are many more sportsploitation atrocities like "Above the Rim" out there — which features special (obviously 9-foot) hoops so Tupac and friends could dunk.

This makes it easy, though. You can program a short basketball film festival to get hyped for tournament season, and be done in time for tip-off. Here are the essentials:

• "Hoosiers" (1986) Employs every corny trick in the book to get you to root for the underdog (like you weren't going to!). It works anyway. Gene Hackman diagrams the plays for every sports movie made since. Bring back those corny short-shorts and crew-cuts already!

"White Men Can't Jump" (1992) Regardless of how you feel about the film's titular premise (dead-on in my case), this is a fast break-paced movie starring two guys who really can play basketball, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. These two streetball hustlers with very different styles find that they can make fast money together, if they can resist the temptation to swindle each other. Yet, the true hustler, played by Rosie Perez, is a scene-stealing, shrieky game-show genius whose dreams are bigger than her small-time b-baller boyfriend's.

• "Hoop Dreams" (1994) It's hope vs. hype in this insightful documentary about the price you have to pay to get out of the ghetto on a coveted (but all-too-rare) b-ball scholarship. Where were you when we needed you, Coach Carter?

"He Got Game" (1998) Spike Lee's underrated masterpiece about the most highly recruited high-school recruit in the nation (played by NBA star Ray Allen), and his incarcerated father (Denzel Washington), who can get a shorter sentence if he convinces his estranged son to go to a certain college. Awesome soundtrack by Public Enemy, typical Denzel star wattage, real-deal basketball action and a surprisingly great performance by Allen, who had no acting experience but probably knows a bit about the insane pressure of big-time college recruiting.

• "Drive, He Said" (1971) Two college guys, one war (Vietnam), two sides of the same All-American coin. Both represent the era's major mental states -- one disappears into his own paranoid delusions, seeing the malevolent designs of "The Man" everywhere. The other is a hyper-competitive b-ball player, compelled to dominate or die. Plus, no one does crazy like Jack Nicholson, who directed this forgotten mini-masterpiece with twitchy, nervous intensity.

"Glory Road" (2006) By-the-numbers redemption-through-basketball flick about the 1966 Texas Western Miners — the first all-black team to make it all the way to the NCAA Championship. Josh Lucas gives a spirited performance as color-blind coach Don Haskins, who changed basketball forever by recruiting the best players wherever he could find them. Top-notch on-court action, and enough drama to keep pace, despite the otherwise inevitable outcome.

"The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh" (1976) OK, so it's about as dramatically satisfying as Mean Joe Greene's famous Coke commercial. But it does have vintage Dr. J clowning his opponents, backed by a throbbing disco soundtrack — and the best use of "Pittsburgh" in a title, ever. This is essential viewing for Pittsburgh basketball fans only.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me