Determining the best movie basketball players of all time is no easy task. The genre is vast and filled with talented stars. So when tasked with building a starting five (and bench), we had to lay out two ground rules:
1. Only fictional players. Sorry, Jordan. The list is supposed to be the best movie ballers of all time so there's no room for NBA players portraying themselves.
2. Level of competition matters. If someone is playing against NBA competition, they will get the edge over someone facing college or high school players. (This came into play when deciding between Jimmy Chitwood and Lewis Scott, but the unflappable Chitwood came through on the strength of his otherworldly skill.)
From Schuttlesworth to Shep, here are the best film ballers:
Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow)
It's a familiar basketball movie conceit: amateur inherits superstar-level skills through a supernatural phenomenon. But few have done it better than Calvin Cambridge, who becomes a cross between Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan after finding a pair of white-and-powder blue shoes that supposedly belonged to the former Bulls' star. Cambridge lacks the size of others on this list ("He looks like a little Chihuahua," Chris Webber says), but still manages to elevate the once-struggling L.A. Knights.
Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis)
Two players into the list and we're already breaking the "only fictional players" rule. Well, 1.) While "Hoosiers" is based on a true story, the film takes a lot of creative liberties; and 2.) You can't have an All-Movie team without Jimmy Chitwood. The star of the improbable champs from Hickory High, Chitwood sits out the first part of the team's season and then unleashes a firestorm, missing (by Bill Simmons's estimation) just four shots in the entire movie.
Jesus Schuttlesworth (Ray Allen)
He Got Game
If you're going to write a movie about a high school basketball phenom, it helps to cast one of the smoothest jump-shooters of all time. Spike Lee did just that in tabbing Ray Allen to play Jesus Shuttlesworth, a prospect so coveted that people will do anything to secure his rights, including releasing convicts from prison.
Pound (Darnell Suttles)
"You ever heard of the Dream Team? Well, we're the Mean Team, wussy man." Big, bossy and motivated to win, the Monstars redefined dirty basketball in their tilt with the Michael Jordan-led Tune Squad. The biggest and baddest of them all? Pound, the orange Monstar who stole Charles Barkley's talent.
Neon Boudeaux (Shaq)
Unable to field a winning basketball team, Western University coach Pete Bell turns to the dark side in recruiting, using cash and perks to attract the "blue-chip" prospects. Chief among them: Boudeaux, a seven-foot stalwart who looks to dunk everything.
Butch McRae (Penny Hardaway)
Coach Bell's other prized recruit: smooth-handling guard Butch McRae. The knock on Butch? Mental fortitude. Weeks into his freshman season at Western U, McRae tells coach he misses home and is considering leaving school. While he ultimately stays, you have to wonder how McRae will hold up when the game is on the line.
Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox)
Many talk about the transformation they undergo when they hit the hardwood for a big game. Few, however, can rival Scott Howard, who morphs from a skinny past-first point guard to a hairy, wolf-like superstar. The rub on the Teen Wolf? It's regular old Howard, not the wolf, who leads the Beavers to the state title.
Brian (Taylor Gray)
How does Thunderstruck differ from Like Mike? It doesn't really. A neophyte baller acquires insane skills from a superstar (Kevin Durant) and blows away his teammates. So why is Brian on the bench behind Calvin Cambridge? Jordan > Durant.
Lewis Scott (Damon Wayans)
You know you've made it when rival fans attempt to kidnap you to ensure a title for their team. Such is the plight of Lewis Scott, who is seized by overzealous Celtics fans prior to Game 7 of the Finals. Scott eventually escapes and despite spending the previous 24 hours in captivity manages to find his game and lead the Jazz to an NBA title.
Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes)
White Men Can’t Jump
How can you pick just one player from White Men Can't Jump? You can't, which is why Deane and Hoyle are both riding the pine. That's not to say these two aren't talented, far from it. On the court, they are the perfect pair. Billy has all the textbook skills while Sidney possesses the improvisational flair that Billy lacks. "You'd rather look good and lose," Billy tells Sidney, "than look bad and win." Maybe so, but together, they are practically unbeatable.
Bill Hoyle (Woody Harrelson)
White Men Can’t Jump
Tom Sheppard (Leon Robinson)
Above the Rim
While Above the Rim centers around the decision facing rising star, Kyle Watson, the heart of the movie is Shep, a former high school star who turned away from the game after the death of a friend. Shep is so tortured by this tragedy that he spends hours practicing without a ball in the middle of the night. When he finally returns to the game, the results are amazing: a perfect performance in a pivotal game, all while wearing the Eddie Bauer casual clothing line.
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