With March Madness upon us (and the Ben Affleck–Matt Damon Nike movie Air coming on April 5), it’s high time to binge on features and documentaries about basketball. Here are some recent hits and slam-dunk classics to watch.
The Redeem Team (2022)
With a wealth of exciting on-court and behind-the-scenes footage, this superb documentary tells the inspiring story of how American Olympic team stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and company set out to win at the 2008 Olympics after Team USA’s humiliating defeat at the 2004 games. It’s a tale of individual talents who triumph through teamwork.
Watch it: The Redeem Team, on Netflix
Don’t miss this: Watch Kobe Bryant make history in the documentary The Legend of the 81-Point Game, free on AARP Members Only Access through May 16.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Documentarian Steve James originally set out to make a 30-minute TV program about high school basketball recruiting. Instead, after five years of filming and 250-plus hours of footage, he made one of the most acclaimed film documentaries ever. He followed two heralded Chicago high school players, Arthur Agee and William Gates, from grade school through college recruitment. There is hope, heartbreak and an unforgettable snapshot of an American city in decay. Roger Ebert named it the best movie of the 1990s and hailed it as “one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen.”
The story of a small-town team that storms its way to the 1952 Indiana high school basketball state championship is full of wonderful moments and performances by Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, who earned an Oscar nomination as Shooter, the sad, besotted former local star turned assistant coach. Hackman, as comeback coach Norman Dale, inspired would-be March Cinderellas forever by measuring the distance to the foul line and the height of the rim before the title game at cavernous Hinkle Fieldhouse: “Ten feet,” the coach says to his wide-eyed team of underdogs. “I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.”