The Basketball Diaries
The first time he begins to dribble, it’s clear that Leonardo DiCaprio can’t really play basketball. But this determination doesn’t truly matter in The Basketball Diaries, based on poet Jim Carroll’s memoir by the same name.
The star status playing on the “hottest Catholic High School basketball team in NYC” burns fast and brightly for Carroll, who is sexually abused by his coach and goes into drug addiction. It’s a bleak depiction of athletic ability wasted. Instead of offering a way out, basketball provides a glimpse of what could have been.
Another bullet point in the “white savior” movie pantheon, Sunset Park tells the tale of an inept inner-city gym teacher (Rhea Perlman) who coaches her high school’s basketball team to earn some extra money.
Over the course of this task, she turns a talented but dysfunctional team into a polished product, bonding with and bailing out the team’s lovesick point guard (Fredro Starr) and straightening out a drug addict Terrance Howard. The basketball scenes are badly edited, messing up the flow of an otherwise winning, cliché-ridden season. Try to enjoy the small things, like Perlman learning and teaching a 3-2 zone.
If you only learned about basketball by watching films, then you’d think that New York City is the only hotbed of good talent that college coaches have neglected to recruit. Fast Break doubles down on this premise, in which a delicatessen owner (Gabe Kaplan) accomplishes his dream of coaching basketball by accepting a job at a little Nevada college.
Before he leaves his wife and goes west, he gathers a group of inner-city kids he wants to give a second chance. Throughout sorting his team’s requisite issues, he burns through the competition to get to the big game against vaunted Nevada State.