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NBA Movies: Where Amazing Rarely Happens

NBA Movies: Where Amazing Rarely Happens (photo)

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The New Jersey Nets finished the 2009-2010 NBA season with a record of 12 wins and 70 losses, good enough — well, bad enough — to rank them amongst the worst teams in league history. The New Jersey Nets of the new film “Just Wright,” on the other hand, are playoff contenders, thanks to the play of their star point guard Scott McKnight (Common). In other words, “Just Wright” is a ludicrous fiction, which puts it squarely in the dubious tradition of films set in and around the National Basketball Association. Movies about the NBA are, at best, wildly unfaithful to the realities of the pro game and, at worst, strange concoctions of mediocre hoops and outlandish and sometimes downright bizarre storylines. While we patiently wait for someone to make the “Slap Shot” of pro basketball — or at least release the long-unavailable “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” on DVD — let’s take a look at five other movies featuring the “real” NBA. (NOTE: Spoilers ahead.)

05142010_LikeMikeNBA.jpg“Like Mike” (2002)
Directed by John Schultz

Made “in association” with NBA Entertainment, this innocuous kids film is the basketball version of “Rookie of the Year,” where an adorable scamp gains magical athletic abilities and becomes a pre-pubescent pro athlete. In “Like Mike,” that scamp is Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow), an orphan who finds a pair of magical sneakers that may or may not have belonged to Michael Jordan. When given the opportunity to lace up for a halftime stunt game of one-on-one with NBA star Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut), he not only takes Reynolds to the hole, but subsequently winds up with a contract to play as his teammate for the lowly Los Angeles Knights. I can’t decide what element of this story is more ludicrous: the idea that a bolt of lightning could give sneakers superpowers or that the NBA, which doesn’t even allow high school graduates to enter the draft without at least one year of college, would permit the Knights to suit up a 14-year-old. Stranger still, real NBA stars appear as themselves, allowed the filmmakers to show them getting schooled by a little kid. In a sport where players are notoriously afraid of getting ‘posterized,’ what in the world convinced guys like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter to let themselves be dunked on by a 5’2″ teen? Oh, right. Money.

05142010_CelticPrideNBA.jpg“Celtic Pride” (1996)
Directed by Tom DeCerchio

“Celtic Pride” is the story of Mike and Jimmy (Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd), two Boston Celtics fans who try to help their team win the NBA Finals by kidnapping their opponent’s star player (Damon Wayans) before the all-important series’ Game 7. Their plan is extreme, but then their obsession is extreme. The Celtics have won more World Championships than any other team, and at the time “Celtic Pride” was made, they were only 10 years removed from their last championship. In other words, these fans were hardly starved for success. (The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, who are the Cetlics’s opponents in the film, have been in the NBA for over 35 years and they’ve won exactly zero titles). That’s part of what makes the film interesting. “Celtic Pride” co-writer Judd Apatow’s dark script was the most blatantly uncommercial of his career until last summer’s “Funny People” (another film about fans and stars, and the conflicts that arise when that class divide is breached). We don’t root for Mike and Jimmy, we sort of hate them and their greed, which is probably why the movie doesn’t really work as a comedy. That’s because the rules of comedy demand that the end of the movie absolve and even celebrate Mike and Jimmy’s actions, rather than chastise them for what is, let’s face it, cruel, illegal behavior. Still, I do admire the scene where Mike’s estranged wife, watching the Celtics-Jazz game on television, oh-so-casually drops the NBA’s mid-90s advertising slogan “I love this game!” We sure do.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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