Basketball movies’ slam dunks

Joe Cramer

The last few days have felt like a movie for Villanova students, as they saw their team and their school projected into the national spotlight with a thrilling wins against Duke and Pittsburg and placement into the Final Four for the first time since 1985.

In the heart of the college basketball season, with just four teams left vying for immortality on the world’s biggest stage, we have compiled the top basketball movies as well as those left behind in the brackets.

Let’s first start with the movie equivalent of the single most worthless game in the tournament, the play-in game. The only comparable movie to this illusion of relevance is “Crossover.”

This wretched and unfortunate cinematic mistake claimed to have authority on the game, yet twisted the concept of basketball into an unintentionally hilarious misjudgment of what sports is all about.

At its heart a realistic portrayal of the struggles of a rising basketball star, it somehow manages to ruin its promising start by introducing love quadrangles, melodrama, an absurd road trip and Wayne Brady. It’s as bad a movie as NJIT is a basketball team and equally entertaining to watch.

Like basketball teams in the NCAA, there are far too many basketball movies to move on, and just as in life, there are losers. Despite this, it does not make their attempts any less honorable.

The first contestant in the runners-up of cinematic Elite Eight films is “High School Musical.” Though you may scoff at its juvenile mentality and pre-teen obsession with Zac Efron, it does have its merits as an inspirational basketball movie, illustrating that relationships, science competitions and high-stepping dance routines cannot stand in the way of a true champion.

From sentiment to absurdity, “Semi-Pro” manages to tell a great basketball story amidst typically hilarious Will Ferrell antics and crassness. This movie dips into history, bringing back the once famous ABA as well as creatively twisting the origins of the alley-oop. A caged bear fight is just one example of comic relief in an otherwise inspirational tale of a team looking to fulfill hoops dreams.

“Air Bud” captures all the magic of basketball in the story of a Golden Retriever, who having escaped his former owner helps 12-year-old Josh Framm become the basketball team’s star. Unfortunately, you end up rooting for the bad guy in the end and the film’s premise may dissuade some from considering this a legitimate basketball inspiration.

“White Men Can’t Jump” depicts street ball better than any other film. Firmly grounded in reality, it follows two hustlers trying to use basketball for their own personal gain. Even though the unlikeable nature of the main characters, played by Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, may offend some basketball purists, it is a refreshing take on a sometimes clichéd genre.

Like Villanova, these last four movies are truly worthy of the accolades they have earned as basketball classics.

“A Season on the Brink” brings to life the ’85-’86 Indiana Hoosiers trying to find their groove amidst a tumultuous season and under one of the most demanding coaches of all time, Bobby Knight (played by Brian Dennehy). One of the few movies that accurately depicts the challenges of collegiate athleticism, it is especially relevant as Villanova approaches the most glorified weekend in college basketball.

An undeniable classic, “Space Jam,” which follows Michael Jordan as he is kidnapped by the Looney Tunes in attempt to win an intergalactic showdown, projects the philosophy of basketball in its satirical interplay of fantasy and reality. It combines real life heroes such as Jordan and Bill Murray with the cheerful animation of cartoon icons such as the Looney Tunes.

When you think of basketball movies, you think of “Space Jam.” You get to see Charles Barkley, Mugsy Bogues and other stars turn into Monstars as well as watch Wayne Knight (Newman from “Seinfeld”) get turned into a human pancake. What more can you ask for?

The basketball movie equivalent of “Remember the Titans,” the inspirational “Glory Road,” follows the first team with an all-black starting lineup as they make their way to the 1965-66 NCAA tournament championship.

The players conquer seemingly insurmountable racial struggles and play with passion amidst the tough coaching style of Don Haskins (played by Josh Lucas). Between the rousing musical score and its epic, pulse-pounding climax, this is a must for anyone wishing to get pumped up for Saturday’s game.

The winner of the cinematic Final Four, “Hoosiers,” brilliantly reaches into the past and brings back the most surprisingly touching and profoundly human sports story of all time. A small-town high school basketball team in Indiana, despite personal shortcomings and dysfunction in a highly competitive and pressurized basketball state, rises to face a juggernaut team for the state championship.

What is unique about this film is how it manages to tell a perfectly believable story without sacrificing the grandeur of sports movies.

Hopeful without being overly dramatic, “Hoosiers” plays its characters at its center. The two most memorable are Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), the unconventional leader seeking both personal and professional redemption, and Jimmy Chitwood, soulful and graceful in each word and act, who puts the fate of Indiana into his small-town hands and propels players known to only a few into legends we still talk about today.

These movies will add to the spirit of the NCAA tournament as you follow the Wildcats through this weekend and hopefully once again into basketball history.