The Year of the Yao airs on IFC at 12:45 p.m. ET today. It documents the signing of the first Chinese player to the NBA — the 7′ 6″ Yao Ming to the Houston Rockets. Produced in part by the NBA, the movie follows Yao from his shaky beginning to his unstoppable rise to a basketball powerhouse.
The airing of The Year of the Yao got us thinking about sports films, specifically, basketball movies. Obviously there are a great deal of excellent basketball documents, such as the must-see Hoop Dreams and More Than A Game featuring a young LeBron James. We are more interested in fictional or fictionalized portrayals of basketball: the underdog, the inspiring coach, the tough players, the competition, the swoosh. All the stuff that teenage dreams are made.
Our Top Five Best Basketball Films
5. Teen Wolf. While perhaps not technically a movie about basketball, the basketball game is the only part of the movie that most people remember, so it counts.
4. The Basketball Diaries. Who knew heroin and basketball could work together to make an memorable story of teen angst. That’s what we call teamwork. Leonardo Dicaprio stars in Jim Carroll’s biographical
3. He Got Game. Spike Lee’s 1998 drama shows how the love of the game can have wide-reaching impact. Denzel Washington stars as a convicted killer released from prison by the Governor of New York, so he can convince his basketball star son to play for the governor’s alma mater. That’s some school pride.
2. Coach Carter. Based on a true story, Samuel L. Jackson stars as a tough love coach determined to whip a team of misfits into state champions. If you’re a fan of the excellent television show, Friday Night Lights, you’ll see similarities between Coach Taylor and Coach Carter.
1. Hoosiers. Is there another movie that so perfectly captures the rise of the underdog, the tough love of a good coach, and the power of teamwork? No, there is not. Starring Gene Hackman as Norman Dale, the determined coach with a quick temper and a spotty past, the movie follows the unlikely rise of the Hickory, Indiana high school basketball team. Dennis Hopper garnered an Oscar nod for his role as the basketball-loving town drunk.
The Year of the Yao airs on IFC at 12:45 p.m. ET