March Madness Basketball Movie Binge: Round 1

Scene from 'Killer Bees'
Scene from 'Killer Bees' documentary, Photo: Courtesy HIFF

March Madness 2020 was set to begin in earnest today (you might get an argument from those who embrace “The First Four,” but we’ve always been Field of 64 traditionalists around here), but the tournament’s cancellation doesn’t mean you can’t get some great hoops on the small screen there at home. We offer the first bracket of binge-worthy basketball movies, with the Hamptons and the Bridgehampton School the top seed, of course.

First Round: Documentaries and Real Life Inspirations

Killer Bees
Filmmakers Ben and Orson Cummings take us inside the Bridgehampton School’s boys basketball team and its pursuit of the New York State title through the 2015–2016 season. Coproduced by Glenn Fuhrman, Larry Gagosian and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, this 2017 Hamptons International Film Festival selection is a must-see exploration of local sports, sociological issues and the spirit that drives athletes to excel.

The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend
Not a single behind-the-back, through-the-legs, no-look, how-did-he-do-that showstopper on any court would have been doing what they’re doing without the groundbreaking, ankle-breaking game of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Fifty years since his last college game, Maravich is still NCAA men’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer—and he cowrote this 1991 film, too.

Coach Carter
It’s hard to believe there are coaches out there who put discipline and doing the right thing ahead of winning. You’ll see it play out in this 2005 movie based on the real-life story of Coach Ken Carter, who had an undefeated team at Richmond High School in California but suspended them based on poor academic results, leading to national praise, local scrutiny and Samuel L. Jackson in the starring role.

Glory Road
Forget that this 2006 film starring Josh Lucas plays a bit with history’s timeline in the interest of storytelling. Instead, ponder the unsung social significance inside the incredible story of the challenges and triumph of the 1966 NCAA champs Texas Western College, and the discrimination and racism they overcame en route to beating the powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats with the first all-black starting lineup in NCAA history.

The Basketball Diaries
Jim Carroll’s autobiographical tale of drugs and the downward spiral of a young writer and hoops player isn’t entirely about basketball, but that can be overlooked since the lead in this 1995 film is played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio in his first true leading role, and it costars Hamptonite Lorraine Bracco.

Hoop Dreams
The standard by which all sports documentaries are judged. This powerful 1994 documentary took home an Oscar, and all these years later will still stun you with its unflinching and ultimately sobering saga of two inner-city basketball prodigies and the all-too-real roads down which life leads them.

A Season on the Brink
John Feinstein’s best-seller about Indiana University’s controversial coach Bobby Knight and the team’s 1985–86 season comes to life in this 2002 ESPN movie—the sports empire’s first—starring Brian Dennehy. (Watch very closely and you might catch a glimpse of Dan’s Hamptons Media President and Editorial Director Eric Feil as a Notre Dame assistant coach.)

Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault
NBA legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have said the greatest player they ever went up against was a guy who never played in the pros at all, but only on the streets—New York City playground legend Earl Manigault, who legend has it could jump and pick quarters off the top of the backboard, played in this 1996 HBO flick by Don Cheadle.

Next: Round 2—“Starring Real Hoops Stars”

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