Let’s Discuss The Greatest Basketball Movies Of All-Time, From ‘Space Jam’ To ‘Hoosiers’

Well, here we are. The football season is over and the baseball season hasn’t started and basketball is in its midseason doldrums where each game feels like it doesn’t matter even though it probably does. It is not a fun time for sports. And it’s February. February is bad, too. We need something to get us through the next six weeks or so until Opening Day and the NBA Playoffs return to save us. Something we can do inside, preferably while lounging on a soft surface, covered in a blanket, and eating some sort of hearty winter food. Like stew. We need a stew-appropriate activity.

One solution: Basketball movies.

There are so many good basketball movies, and watching them feels relevant because basketball is still in season. (Kind of. See above.) Let’s talk basketball movies. Let’s do a basketball movie draft. LET’S DRAFT BASKETBALL MOVIES.

Martin, first selection goes to you. Choose wisely, buddy. I have been preparing my whole life for this without even realizing it. — DG

Martin – Round 1, Pick 1

Oh gosh, I don’t know if I’m fully prepared for a decision of this magnitude. I like having the second pick way more than the first. The pressure gets to me. If I have to take one basketball movie number one, I’ll go with:

Space Jam

I know there are Space Jam haters out there. And I understand it. I get it. You don’t think it’s a good movie. You have a problem with the actual basketball. You think the script is bad. Whatever. It’s a basketball movie with Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes, and Bill Murray is in it. This is the number one pick. Deal with it.


DG – Round 1, Pick 2

As I’ve said before, Space Jam is a movie about Michael Jordan saving cartoon characters from enslavement at an evil theme park in the cosmos run by an alien who sounds like Danny DeVito. Solid number one pick. My choice:

Blue Chips

Blue Chips is the best. Penny Hardaway and Shaq as high school students. Nick Nolte basically doing a Bobby Knight impression. A fictional college basketball team called the Western Dolphins. And a plot about boosters funneling cash to recruits because of “amateurism,” which is somehow still relevant 20 years later. Nice work, NCAA.

Also, it is just dawning on me that both of our top picks feature cameos by Larry Bird. Lesson: Larry Bird should be in more movies. Like Fast 8. Larry Bird should be in Fast 8.

Martin – Round 2, Pick 1

Ah, hamburgers. You took my next pick. Fine. I’m going to draft:

He Got Game

Boom. I got Jesus Shuttlesworth and Denzel Washington and a hip-hop sample of Buffalo Springfield and a wonderfully terrific Rick Fox character all in the same draft pick. Upon repeated viewings, He Got Game sure is ridiculous, but it’s a basketball movie and a Spike Lee movie, and Ray Allen does a great job in it overall for a dude who you never would’ve probably given a two-plus hour long movie to in the first place. Plus the fact that they outright call the college “Big State” as if anyone would believe there’d be a school with that name is a bonus.

DG – Round 2, Pick 2

We are three picks in and notably light on films that feature dogs playing basketball, so…

Air Bud

Air Bud is a great movie for a number of reasons — 1) It is a movie about a dog that is awesome at basketball, 2) Other reasons — but my favorite thing about it is this mental image, which I will now blockquote from something I wrote years ago that has been mostly ruined by the great website redesign monster:

FATHER: How did tryouts go today?

SON: [mumbles] I didn’t make the team.

FATHER: What? Speak up.

SON: I didn’t make the team.

FATHER: Did the dog make the team?

WIFE: Honey, it’s not importa-

FATHER: No. I wanna know. And he’s gonna tell me. Look at me. Did. The. Dog. Make. The. Team?

SON: [mumbles] Yes.

FATHER: [slams fork down] GODDAMMIT.

Air Bud. Good movie.

Martin – Round 3, Pick 1

I’m so happy you took Air Bud because that means you left me the movie I wanted, and the one I consider the steal of the draft. That’s right. I’m taking Teen Wolf. A movie about a guy who turns into a wolf and plays basketball. Everyone watches Michael J. Fox play basketball as a wolf in stunned silence for a bit, and then the coach gives his dramatic “Let’s play a little ball here” and everyone is just cool with it. Teen Wolf is about tolerance. Teen Wolf can teach us things even today.

Top that, Mr. Guerrero.

DG – Round 3, Pick 2

I was and still am heartbroken over missing out on Space Jam, but it is almost worth it to know that I’ve been able to pick up both Blue Chips and now…

Above the Rim.

Does this movie feature a main character who is basically Allen Iverson, right down to the troubled youth, pre-braids haircut, and scholarship to Georgetown? Yup. Does it feature Leon as a former hoops legend who now plays 1-on-0 in the middle of the night — with no ball! — because his best friend Nutso crashed through a window and fell to his death during a game that took place on a court that was apparently on like the fifth story of a building? Yup. Does it feature Tupac as the villain and have friggin “Regulate” on its soundtrack? Yup and yuuuup.

Excellent value in Round 3.

Martin – Round 4, Pick 1

Now that’s a good pick. I’m mad at myself for not snagging that before you did. I guess to try and make up for it, I’ll go ahead and snag…

White Men Can’t Jump

You can’t stop the power of “Foods That Begin With The Letter Q.” You just can’t. Plus, getting Woody Harrelson in the mix is important to me, even at the expense of the feds looking into this whole endeavor thanks to Wesley Snipes’ inconvenient tax issues.

DG – Round 4, Pick 2

It is just now dawning on me that there hasn’t been a good basketball movie since, what, 1999? We need more basketball movies. Fewer vampire and wizard movies. For the children. Anyway…


I go hard for any movie that features a fan being invited to coach an NBA team. It’s basically my dream. (This is a lie. My dream is to become the child owner of a sports franchise, like in Little Big League, but barring advances in time travel technology, that ship has sailed.) And it stars Whoopi Goldberg, which allows me to share my favorite tweets with you…

… so it’s a win-win.

Martin – Round 5, Pick 1

It’s my last pick. I should take Hoop Dreams. I need to take Hoop Dreams. The right pick is Hoop Dreams.

I’m taking Celtic Pride.

It’s a disaster of a movie with Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd and a Wayans Brother and a Judd Apatow script and it’s just a nightmare, but I have to do it. Any time you can get a fifth-round “two fans kidnap a star player to keep him from playing in Game 7 against their favorite team” movie, you have to do it. It’s just good sense.

I’m sorry, Hoop Dreams.

DG – Round 5, Pick 2

With my last pick, I select Hoosiers, because I believe if we do a five-round basketball movie draft without one of us selecting it, we will both be arrested by the Internet police. I’ll never survive Internet jail. Hoosiers it is.


1 – Space Jam
2 – He Got Game
3 – Teen Wolf
4 – White Men Can’t Jump
5 – Celtic Pride


1 – Blue Chips
2 – Air Bud
3 – Above the Rim
4 – Eddie
5 – Hoosiers