Sports movies are usually a fan favorite; it has the right amount of drama and heartwarming moments that keep us all on the edge of our seat.
In some movies, we root for the underdogs, while in others, we can’t wait to see if our team makes that final score to bring the game home. Some of the best movies are about the NBA basketball league.
For those who might not know this, basketball is a team sport; each team consists of five team members. In today’s article, we take a look at 31 movies inspired by NBA athletes’ trajectory.
1. Michael Jordan: An American Hero
When someone talks about basketball, one name that automatically pops out is that of Michael Jordan. The 6-foot-6-inch basketball player is indeed one guy who has inspired many youths to undertake basketball, either as a hobby or a career.
Michael Jordan: An American Hero is a movie about the life of the basketball legend that aired on Fox Family Channel on April 18, 1999. The movie followed his career path until the moment that he became a successful basketball player. The film begins with Jordan preparing for a game with his Chicago Bulls team and ends in an empty arena after a game.
Maurie is a 1973 inspirational saga that highlights the unique relationship between two basketball legends, Jack Twyman and his teammate Maurice Stokes. The movie showcases the heroism, tragedy, and friendship of Maurice Stokes, the African-American basketball star who is destined to die. His white friend and teammate, Jack Twyman, assist him during his rehabilitation.
Stokes was incapacitated and hospitalized after a head injury after the last game of the 1957-58 NBA season. Stokes suffered a seizure and fell into a coma only to awaken three weeks later in a Cincinnati hospital but never fully recovered.
Afterward, the film highlights how Jack Twyman selflessly spent ten years raising thousands of dollars for Stokes’s medical expenses.
3. Amazing Grace and Chuck
Starring former basketball player Alex English, Amazing Grace, and Chuck is one inspiring movie. The movie was released amid the deterioration of United States-Soviet Union relations and deepening public concern about the nuclear threat in the 1980s.
Chuck Murdock, played by Joshua Zuehlke, is a 12-year-old boy from Montana. Chuck begins to protest against nuclear weapons’ existence by refusing to take part in a baseball game. Following the announcement, many other pro athletes were inspired to join the protest against nuclear weapons.
At the climax, the president finally meets Chuck and explains the difficulties of disarmament while admiring his protest idea.
4. Celtic Pride
Celtic Pride is by no means a critically acclaimed movie, but yet for any basketball fans, especially Celtics and Jazz fans, this film is an absolute must-watch. Stern and Akyroyd play the role of die-hard Boston Celtics fans, while Damon Wayans portrays Utah Jazz’s all-star shooting guard, Lewis Scott.
In the movie, Utah Jazz is playing against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Celtics are playing good but their die-hard fans, aka Mike and Jimmy, are insecure about the final win as the Jazz are being led by their best player Lewis Scott.
5. Coach Carter
High School basketball teams are packed with great stories that make for a great basketball-themed movie. So is Coach Carter, a captivating movie representing the mantra of an underdog rising against all odds amidst hardships on a personal level and existing in the society.
Oscar-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson portrays the role of a high school basketball coach who takes over an unmotivated team and changes its entire culture with some strict yet well-intentioned rules. The movie is based on Ken Carter, Richmond High School’s basketball coach, who locked out his entire 1999 team from playing until their grades were improved.
6. Hurricane Season
Based on an unlikely group of high school basketball champions’ exciting true story, Hurricane season is one must-watch basketball movie. The movie is based on John Ehret High School’s 2005-06 State Champions team’s true story in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Followed by the hurricane’s devastation, the basketball Coach AI Collins, played by Forest Whitaker, assembles displaced students and rebuilds the Patriots’ school team. Despite their lack of experience of playing together and the psychic burden of seeing their hometown destroyed, they would band together to win an improbable state championship.
No basketball movie list will be complete without mentioning Hoosiers because it is regarded as a classic basketball movie. The movie truly epitomizes an underdog basketball team that utilizes unity, hard work, and the support of a small rural town to will themselves to victory against a team that is much more highly regarded.
Among its many contributions, the movie set blueprint for the classic motivational speech – if you play hard, you are the winner.
8.Year of the Yao
This documentary, starring Yao Ming, captures his first year with the NBA in the US. Narrated by his friend and former interpreter, Colin Pine, it shows how Yao from China was the top pick in the 2002 draft and signed with the Houston Rocket.
However glorious it may sound, it was nothing but hardship. From adapting to a different style of playing to heavy cultural clashes, the journey was one hell of a ride, but in the end, Ming went on to become one of the biggest NBA superstars ever.
9. Michael Jordan to the Max
Narrated by Laurence Fishburne and starring Jordan himself, this documentary describes Michael Jordan’s life, one of the biggest NBA greats. It contains sneak-peeks into the details of his early life in North Carolina, his initial struggles, and his rise to fame.
The movie highlights some of the Chicago Bulls’ superstar’s most phenomenal achievements on the court, mainly the 1988 NBA playoffs. This documentary was a star-studded one, starring Phil Jackson, Doug Collins, Bill Murray, Spike Lee, and many other celebrities.
10. Double Teamed
The 21st century demands more women in sports, and that is what the movie, Double Teamed, is all about. A Disney Channel Original Movie details the life of identical twins and successful basketball players Heidi and Heather Burge.
The story describes how the twins started playing basketball owing to their overbearing father (albeit with much reluctance); how, after much drama and realization, they go on to shine at the WNBA. Starring Poppi Monroe (Heather) and Annie McElwain (Heidi), this movie received mixed reviews and did fairly well at the box office.
11. Bad As I Wanna Be: The Dennis Rodman Story
This is a vintage sports biography on the Chicago Bulls’ icon, Dennis Rodman’s life, with all its drama and action. Directed by Jean de Segonzac, this movie is based on Rodman’s book with the same title.
The movie reveals Rodman’s unhappy childhood, his transformation into ‘The Worm’, his numerous on and off-court controversies (including his affair with Madonna), and his iconic time in the NBA. Apart from Dwayne Adway (as Rodman), the movie stars John Terry, Dee Wallace, Heidi Mark, and other celebrities.
12. Son of the Congo
This documentary on the life of NBA champion Serge Jonas Ibaka Ngobila, a.k.a. Serge Ibaka, stirs up emotions. It gives fans an insight into how the beloved Ibaka’s life actually looked like.
The film documents his journey from his homeland, the Republic of Congo, to the US, his mother’s death, his father’s arrest, separation from his children, and so on, to become one of the biggest NBA superstars, currently with the Los Angeles Clippers. Directed by Adam Hootnick, the film reveals how he returned to Congo to help his community ravaged by violence.
13. Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot
Next up is a documentary on another foreigner who ruled the NBA. German, 7-foot, 41, Dallas Mavericks – if you’re a true NBA fan, you’ll know we’re talking about Dirk Nowitzki. Sebastian Bernhardt directed it; it was originally released in German and has thus received rave reviews in German and English alike.
The film chronicles Nowitzki’s inspiring journey from the second German Basketball League to the NBA. It is centered on his profound relationship with his coach and mentor, Holger Geschwinder, and his role in making Dirk what he is.
14. The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend
This much-applauded film is about Pete Maravich, a.k.a Pistol Pete, beginning with his early life in Clemson, SC, and the obstacles he overcame. The biggest highlight of this documentary is the role played by Press Maravich, Pete’s father ( a basketball coach), in his journey.
From recognizing his insane abilities to intense motivation when Pete felt left out and constantly believing in him, he did it all. Directed by Frank C. Schroder, if the words ‘basketball inspiration’ were a movie, it would be this.
15. Skywalker: The David Thompson Story
The player who serves as an inspiration for some of the biggest NBA champions (including Michael Jordan) would be David ‘Skywalker’ Thompson, and this documentary is about his life. The film captures how he revolutionized ‘Above the Rim’ basketball and the phenomenal 44-inch leaps that made him one of the best dunkers in NBA history.
Through interviews and footage starring Michael Jordan, Bill Walton, Dennis Johnson, and more, it highlights his major successes and failures – including a brief tryst with drugs. Directed by Rick Clemens, it does justice to Thompson’s dynamic career.
16. White Men Can’t Jump
A perfect mix of basketball, drama, and comedy shows Sidney Deane, a black basketball hustler who suffers financially, and Billy Hoyle, a typical white boy who cons black players into believing that he cannot play well and makes money off their bets. Sidney, once Billy’s victim, partners up with him.
Along with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson (as Sidney and Billy), the movie stars several actual NBA stars like Nigel Miguel, Marques Johnson, etc. Directed by Ron Shelton, the movie was the highest-grossing film of 1992.
17. The Basketball Diaries
When one player makes it big, thousands remain unknown. Based on the autobiographical work of Jim Carroll by the same name, this movie has everything about basketball that couldn’t be.
Starring the incredible Leonardo Di Caprio, this movie chronicles Jim Carroll’s life, once a once-promising high-school basketball player who gets addicted to heroin, which ultimately destroys him. Directed by Scott Kalvert, it explores stark themes like teenage drug abuse and its role in ruining many dreams.
18. Uncle Drew
Starring super-successful NBA player Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew, a role that he’s hence popular for, this sports comedy is an absolute hit. It is about Uncle Drew, a basketball legend, who, along with his team, mysteriously faded away.
Meanwhile, Dax Winslow spent his life savings trying to enter the Rucker Classic Streetball Tournament. Dax meets Drew, and together, they prove that they still have it in them despite their age.
19. Soul in the Hole
Any sport, apart from on-field, is about what happens beyond the field, and this theme has been perfectly portrayed in this movie. It is a documentary about how a part-time basketball coach, Kenny Jones, affects his players’ lives.
He assumes almost paternal roles in their relationships and guides them in their careers. The highlight of the movie is Jones’ relationship with Ed Smith, a troubled teen with stunning basketball abilities, and how he guides, coaches, and stands by Smith, on and off-court.
20. Love and Basketball
A movie that brilliantly combines sports with romance, ‘Love and Basketball’ features young Quincy McCall and Monica Wright, two New Yorkers who follow their passion by pursuing a career in basketball.
The two characters hone their individual gifts, with Quincy being a natural and Monica having to rely on her hard work to achieve the desired level of skill. They eventually fall in love with each other.
21. Blue Chips
‘Blue Chips’ offers an inside look into the politics and underhanded practices involved in the world of college basketball in the 1990s.
The story follows a basketball coach, Pete Bell, who’s desperate to have his college team rank higher in college tournaments and bring glory back to his name. In his bid to do this, he starts recruiting a team of exceptional young players.
The cast of the movie is special because real basketball players were a part of it. International sports stars like Shaqueil o’ Neil and Anfernee Hardaway played the young sportsmen that Bell recruits.
22. Like Mike 2: Streetball
A classic underdog wins story, the second installment of ‘Like Mike’ brings back the magic of basketball to the screen. A streetball enthusiast, Jerome, retrieves a pair of shoes hanging by a street light. The pair gets hit by lightning. Shortly after, Jerome realizes that the shoes are special and give their wearer the ability to play like Michael Jordan.
The incident sends Jerome to perform exceptionally well on the Game On talent game, a challenge that will decide his future as a streetball player. Released about fifteen years ago, the film features a cameo by former NBA player Clyde Drexler.
23. Space Jam
Space Jam follows Michael Jordan’s adventures as himself and his animated friend, the famous Buggs Bunny from Looney Tunes. Set in an entirely alien world (literally), Space Jam is a light-hearted movie that features one of the funniest basketball face-offs in cinematic history.
During a golfing session, the legendary Basketball player Michael Jordan is pushed down a hole and lands into the Looney Tunes world. Michael now finds out that he is supposed to play on behalf of the Looney Tunes to save them from a terrible fate.
24. He Got Game
‘He Got Game’ is a 1998 America sports drama film directed by Spike Lee. The movie is based in an emotionally dense setting. The story follows Jake Shuttleworth, the father of one of the highest-ranking prospects of basketball in America. At the beginning of the movie, Jake is in prison for killing his wife.
The plot of the film kicks off when Jake is let out on parole for one week by the state government so that Jake can persuade his son to play for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a shorter sentence.
25. Glory Road
‘Glory Road’ is a film that was released in the year 2006. Directed by James Gartner, the film follows the true stories behind the events that lead to the 1966 NCAA University Division Basketball Championship. Don Haskins is a high school coach that gets a new job at an American college.
Focusing on results rather than races, Haskins recruits an all-black line-up of student-athletes for the first time in that college’s history. Regardless of their financial background, the team players get a chance to compete for a national championship for the first time in their life. The movie explores themes of racism, discrimination, alienation, and more.
26. Full-Court Miracle
‘Full-Court Miracle’ was released in 2003 by Disney as a Hanukkah movie. It features a struggling school team of young basketball players who want to find their dream coach. One day, a young Alex Schlotsky finds in a park someone who he believes can be the answer to all his team’s problems.
The said coach is Lamont Carr, a former basketball prodigy who had to leave his NBA dream because of a knee injury. The movie explores the theme of broken dreams, friendship, hope, and hard work.
27. Hoop Dreams
Directed by Steve James, Hoop Dreams follows the lives of two great Afro-American basketball players from Chicago- William Gates and Arthur Agee. The inner-city boys travel 3 hours every day to and fro the St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, which is extremely famous for its basketball program.
While basketball is at the core of the story, the movie explores several elements of modern society outside the court. It’s extremely popular among basketball fans because it’s based on a true story and still packs two interesting plot twists that keep you hooked.
28. The Way Back
It’s a satisfying story with a dose of drama combined with sports. We’ve got an old basketball phenom who walked away from the sport years ago and a promising young team. When the former accepts the job of coaching the basketball team of his Alma Mater, it’s a perfect recipe for a gripping plot.
Facing his inner demons and personal crisis, the movie follows the predictable and yet exciting trope of the road to redemption. Ben Affleck plays the role of former basketball star turned coach who gets his way back as he saves his basketball team from a fall.
29. Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault
Rebound is an HBO TV documentary film made on Earl Manigault’s life, who’s considered the greatest player ever to make the NBA. Earl was a legendary street basketball player famous in New York for his slam dunks.
The movie takes us through his unofficial career and struggles through personal issues that kept him from the fame he deserved. Although this exactly isn’t about an NBA athlete, it’s an important movie that depicts all NBA athletes’ struggles to finally make it.
30. The Heart of the Game
A documentary filmed over 7 years shows that the film is about the Roosevelt Roughriders, a girls’ high-school basketball team in Seattle.
As the new coach Bill Resler helps the team find their place in the world of Basketball, the story also throws light on the struggles of their star player Darnellia Russell. She is one of the team’s few black players who struggles to prove her worth in the face of major obstacles.
31. Home of the Giants
It’s a coming-of-age American sports drama that came out in 2007. The story follows Robert Gartland, a high school journalist, and his friend Matt Morrison, the star player for the school’s basketball team.
The drama unfolds when a drug dealer asks Matt to throw an important game for his team, the Riverton Giants.
The Bottom Line
Basketball and all the drama that comes with the sport can be considered the perfect storyline for any movie. The court dramas are embedded with various political, social, and personal issues that make up for a great cinematic experience.
In this article, we looked at 31 movies inspired by the trajectory of NBA athletes and NBA events that are must-watch for any sports lover.