Per Sports Illustrated, Coach John Calipari was recently spotted on the set of the Uncle Drew film in Atlanta (you know the one...Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics plays an old man and everyone assumes the "old dude can't play" before he schools the young bucks at the local playground.
Cal confirmed over the weekend that he will make a cameo in the film, proving again that "Swaggy Cal" is the King of Cool for those 17 year olds still weighing scholarship offers. Cal is also the King of Twitter - is there any better way to recruit kids than social media?
With Cal's love for the camera (see his ESPN 30 for 30), it was just a matter of time before he would hit the big screen. But it had to be the right fit. For every great basketball movie (see Hoosiers, Blue Chips and He Got Game), we've also had to endure some bombs (don't see One on One with Robby Benson, Eddie with Whoopi Goldberg and BASEketball).
But even a bad basketball movie can have its moments. The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh had a crazy story line (a team composed entirely of players with the astrological sign of Pisces) but it did have Dr. J as the main character. Here's hoping Uncle Drew is a hit, or at the very least a cult classic on the playgrounds.
Now we sit and wait for the Uncle Drew release, scheduled for the end of June. To pass the time, let's take a look at how some of Hollywood's leading men have played the role of "basketball coach" on the big screen?
Here's my top five:
1. Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman). Hoosiers, 1986.
Favorite Scene: Coach Dale intentionally get ejected so assistant coach “Shooter” Flatch can gain some confidence and ultimately draws up the game-winner in the closing seconds. I wonder how many coaches have tried to run The Picket Fence? Just don't let the paint dry (translation: get out of the lane!).
2. Coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte). Blue Chips, 1994.
Favorite Scene: Coach Bell talks with his Athletic Director (played by the legendary Bob Cousy) about recruiting and the difference between "horses and thoroughbreds." Cousy listens to his frustrated head coach as he shoots free throws, making 10 in a row, finishing with a left-handed shot just for good measure.
3. Coach Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson). Coach Carter, 2005.
Favorite Scene: To inspire his team to hit the books and improve academic performance, Coach Carter keeps it real by citing statistics (not the basketball kind) to make his point about the importance of going to college. The library falls silent as each player contemplates their uncertain future.
4. Coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas). Glory Road, 2006.
Yes, this one stings a bit. But while UK is portrayed as the villain here, the Don Haskins character is very likable and it’s just a great story that forever changed college basketball. It’s also a pretty good movie despite the outcome.
Favorite Scene: During a timeout, Coach Haskins tries to convince his team that they can beat the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. In the UK huddle, Coach Adolph Rupp (played by the legendary Jon Voight) gathers everyone around and commands, “You're going to win this game so go out there and make me a prophet." You could feel the pride and tradition of Kentucky basketball in that moment. Good stuff.
5. Coach David Greene (Gabe Kaplan). Fast Break, 1979.
Favorite Scene: Another great Bob Cousy reference as Coach Greene talks about how to play “smart basketball” over lunch with his new team. He then tells the story of Cousy, in his mind, “the best backcourt man to ever play on a basketball court.” (See Blue Chips clip above to watch Cousy in action).
Coach Ken Reeves (Ken Howard). The White Shadow (1978-81). Yes, it's a TV show, not a feature film. But it's just too good to pass up. Coach Reeves is a former member of the Chicago Bulls and has a career-ending knee injury that brings him to Carver High School as the new basketball coach. The starting five of CJ, Thorpe, Hollywood, Coolidge and Salami was pretty tough to beat. WARNING: The (instrumental) theme song is addicting.