73 Sports Movies In 73 Days: ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

Declaring any one movie the greatest basketball movie of all-time would be an exercise in futility, as there are simply way too many good hoops movies that have been made over the years. Hoosiers, Blue Chips, He Got Game, Space Jam, Above the Rim, Hoop Dreams, The Basketball Diaries and my girlfriend says Love and Basketball, but no. Regardless, the point is that basketball could arguably be the best sport to base any story around, because it brings out the best in characters.

But my favorite basketball movie, possibly the best-written basketball movie, that I’ve ever seen is White Men Can’t Jump, the subject of today’s installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days and a 1992 comedy about a black guy and a white guy from different walks of life who team up to hustle money from random people and each other, while possibly learning a lesson about life along the way.

White Men Can Write One Hell Of A Movie

Let’s talk about White Men Can’t Jump’s writer and director Roy Shelton for a second. Shelton not only wrote this movie, but he also penned Bull Durham, Blue Chips, Cobb, The Great White Hype, Tin Cup and Play it to the Bone, and he directed all of them except for Blue Chips and The Great White Hype. This is a guy who not only knows how to write a sports movie, but write them well.

And while Bull Durham and Tin Cup are two of my all-time favorite movies, they (nor any of Shelton’s other movies) couldn’t hold a candle to White Men Can’t Jump’s screenplay, which managed to cover both the black and white perspectives so well. That man’s mother was indeed an astronaut.

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This Plot Screws

Billy Hoyle is a goofy white boy chump with a Puerto Rican girlfriend named Gloria, who is obsessed with getting on Jeopardy! and becoming a champion. Billy has been hustling at hoops for quite some time, holding out hope that he’d make the summer pro league, but he finally crossed the wrong guys when he screwed over his partners, the Stucci brothers, who are trying to chase him down and make him pay literally and figuratively.

He randomly meets Sidney Deane, another Venice Beach basketball hustler, and Billy gets the best of Sidney their first time around, which sets Sidney off on the ultimate scheme to get him back. After a few successful hustles around Southern California, Sidney finally gets back at Billy when he scams him with his other partner in a big money game.

I’ll stop there, because I do have some questions about the twists and turns this film takes.

Who Just Takes A Nap On The Court?

Act like you’ve been there before, Billy.

Why Is Sidney So Mean To Billy Hoyle In The Beginning?

Sidney goes after Billy just because he’s a goofy looking white dude watching some people play basketball. That wasn’t very nice. Sidney’s a businessman in his regular job, so he should know that this kind of behavior could affect his public image negatively. I’m just saying, if he asked me if I was deaf and started making random hand signs at me, I’d probably be reluctant to buy his tile.

But everyone calls Billy a chump and that’s strange, because chump doesn’t sound very mean.

Did Any Other Film Inspire A Generation Of Mom Jokes?

“I saw your mom kicking a can down the street, I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘Moving.’”

“Your mama’s so old, I told her to act her age and the bitch dropped dead.”

“Your mama’s teeth so yellow, she can butter a whole loaf of bread.”

“If you could count, you’d be an astronaut.” “Man, your mother’s an astronaut.”

I’m still not sure why that last one was an insult. I wish my mom had been an astronaut. I would have been able to throw the coolest parties in high school, and I would have told the girls, “It’s cool, my mom’s on the moon.”

The Trash Talking In General Was Exquisite

It wasn’t just the mom jokes, it was everything. Is White Men Can’t Jump responsible for the brash behavior of NBA players and athletes in general over the last 21 years? *puts on First Take hat* Yes.

But for a kid who grew up in a suburban white neighborhood, this movie was a goldmine. They say that he who quoted White Men Can’t Jump during an AAU game in Coral Springs was a king among boys.

The One Line That I Still Quote Any Time I Do Something Even Remotely Competitive

This is true – whenever I’m playing a game or participating in something competitive (almost always darts at a bar, mind you) I chant, “We goin’ Sizzler…” after I win. Twenty-one years later. That’s the mark of a well-written and generally great movie. In fact, 1992 was a pretty good year for lasting movie quotes. A Few Good Men, Scent of a Woman, Army of Darkness, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wayne’s World – that was a damn fine year.

Okay, The Other Line I Still Quote When Playing Anything

“Is this shit regulation?” No matter what I’m doing. Throwing darts? Playing corn hole? Moving a couch? “Is this shit regulation?” It kills every time. People may not laugh, but it kills.

Hey, Look At This Guy’s Outfit!

That outfit makes me laugh. 1992 sports fashion was funny.

But I Loved This Shirt

No kidding, I thought this shirt was the coolest, edgiest shirt in the world. I wanted to own it and wear it to school so I could be like, “Watch out, classmates and teachers, I might curse at you.” Someone needs to invent time travel so I can go back to kick the crap out of myself before the other kids did.

Fun Fact: I Was Actually Afraid To Listen To Jimi Hendrix

This movie actually made 13-year old me think that it wasn’t okay for me to listen to Jimi Hendrix. Granted, 13-year old me had awful taste in music and wouldn’t have listened to him anyway, but I truly believed that I couldn’t “hear Jimi.”

The ‘Basketball For Brotherhood’ Tournament Was Hilarious

If only because these guys saying, “Bullllllshit” while watching the really nervous white guys was awesome.

Rosie Perez Was Interesting

A lot of my friends had huge crushes on Rosie Perez and I never really understood it. Her voice was like a million cats clawing on my eardrums, so I never saw the appeal of Perez in the big picture. Wait, hold on.

Okay, yeah, I get it now.

Is There Anything More Embarrassing Than Gloria Marching Into Sidney’s Home?


What Is Mount Suvius?

This is quite the timely quote, as we all know the story of the young boy who was denied on Jeopardy! Kids Week last week, when he misspelled emancipation. Is it possible that he was the victim of the generosity previously shown to contestants like Gloria, who couldn’t even pronounce certain words but were shown leniency regardless? I say yes. Gloria was a terrible person who took advantage of the system.

The One Thing I Learned From This Movie

I probably would have never heard of the Sudan and Ghana until at least high school, so I’d like to thank this movie for putting my African geography two years ahead of schedule. I still can’t point them out on a map, but at least I know what their flags look like.

The Legend Of Duck And The King

My favorite insignificant part of this film is towards the end when Billy and Sidney take on the legendary streetball hustlers Duck Johnson and Eddie “The King” Faroo, and you know that it’s a big time game because the guys betting on it are dressed fancier than the regular losers at the park.

Also, I always thought a better ending would have been if Michael Jordan showed up like Sidney had been BSing about. That would have set them up to make Space Jam the sequel.

Oh, And Don’t F*ck With Gamblers And Loan Sharks

Seriously, I had a friend back in college in who was huge into gambling and every now and then he’d go into hiding because he’d lose a big bet and owe his bookie a ton and this guy would come around looking for him, and that’s one of the reasons I never gambled. Fortunately, the other reason was because I was always broke and poor, so I valued a trip to the meal plan more than risk.

I Actually Thought Billy Was Dead

I remember when I saw this as a teenager and thinking, “Wow, what a shitty ending.” Haha, joke was on me. I guess my mother really was an astronaut.

Final Grade: A++++++++++++++ times infinity with Billy Hoyle finally dunking on top.