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Pop Off: The best of basketball films

By Brendon Field
On April 7, 2014

I would first like to acknowledge the passing of the amazing Mickey Rooney, who died Sunday at the age of 93. He began acting as a child in the silent era, and continued to act until his death, appearing in recent films such as "The Muppets" and "Night at the Museum." He was one of the last living connections to the Hollywood studio age and the movie industry's fledgling years. If anyone is looking to celebrate his legacy, I recommend "The Black Stallion," "National Velvet" and "The Bold and the Brave."
With both the UConn Men's and Women's basketball teams competing for the national title, it's near impossible to think about anything other than basketball. So for this week whether our school is wallowing in insurmountable glory or drowning in the agony of defeat, a good basketball movie suits the mood. Here are some solid basketball flicks.
"He Got Game"- The film is less of a basketball story, as it is heavy father-son tale. Denzel Washington plays a temporarily paroled convict trying to convince his son, a blue chip basketball prospect, to select the governor's alma matter as his school, which would result in a reduced sentence for him. What makes "He Got Game" perfect for this week is that the young prospect is played by none other than UConn alum Ray Allen, who it turns out is a pretty decent actor. I'm quite surprised how little he has acted since. He's certainly a lot better than Shaq.
"Coach Carter"- The true story of a high school basketball coach, who just so happened to give a lecture at UConn last year and how he turned a subpar high school team into the best in the state. But Carter, played exquisitely by Samuel L. Jackson, not only infused citizenship into his players, but refused to let his team play unless they kept up with their academics. The basketball scenes are excellently choreographed and Jackson's mere presence raises the film by several notches. It also has an apt message for the current debate surrounding college athletics.
"Hoosiers"- One of the truly classic sports movies, and in many ways the quintessential basketball film. Gene Hackman plays a coach in small Indiana town that has more fervor for its local basketball team than anything else. But his team only consists of five players and his fundamental coaching style faces increasing criticism from locals. It's a great underdog story with a great cast, including the legendary enigma Dennis Hopper, and it completely sweeps the viewer up in its own excitement.
"Hoop Dreams"- I've always believed that one of the major reasons a lot of sports movies fall short of expectations is that the task of capturing the emotional magic that we can get from watching or participating in sports in our actual lives is very difficult to capture. "Hoop Dreams" is an acclaimed documentary that follows two boys, William Gates and Arthur Agee, for five years of their lives. They both live in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, but are recruited to private high school for their basketball skills. Their struggles with peers in their neighborhood and as racial outsiders in their school are gripping, it thrusts us into the middle of a grueling but rewarding personal journey, the likes of which many of us would never comprehend before seeing it.

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