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Basketball Movies and Shows That Score Big

Make the most of NBA playoffs month with these docs and dramas

spinner image Jacki Weaver, Ed O’Neill and Cleopatra Coleman sitting courtside at a basketball game in the FX series Clipped
(Left to right) Jacki Weaver, Ed O’Neill and Cleopatra Coleman in "Clipped."
Kelsey McNeal/FX

June is a winning month for basketball fans, with the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks facing off in the NBA playoffs (June 6–23 on ABC, Hulu, Fubo and DirecTV Stream) and the fascinating new miniseries Clipped (FX/Hulu), about the high-stakes, real-life drama of the LA Clippers.

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Clipped (FX/Hulu)

Ed O’Neill, 78, plays LA Clippers former owner Donald Sterling in a six-part miniseries about his spectacular downfall, with Laurence Fishburne, 62, as the Clippers’ coach, Cleopatra Coleman as the mistress who brought him down, and Jacki Weaver, 77, as the wife who triumphed over the mistress.

Watch it: Clipped, on FX/Hulu

Don’t miss this: 6 Ways Magic Johnson Changed Basketball — and So Much More

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

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.”

Watch it: Hoop Dreams, on Apple TV and Prime Video

Hoosiers (1986)

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.”

Watch it: Hoosiers, on Apple TV, Google Play

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The Last Dance (2020)

It’s a docuseries, but think of it as a 10-part movie about the Chicago Bulls, their wildly dramatic 1997–98 season, and their towering, powerful, highly sensitive star player, Michael Jordan. Boasting unprecedented access, thrilling footage and a wealth of psychological insights, this is one of the greatest documentaries about any sport, ever.

Watch it: The Last Dance, on Netflix

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals (2010)

They first met at the 1979 NCAA Championships. Larry Bird was the “hick from French Lick” playing for Indiana State; Michigan State’s Earvin Johnson seemed to possess an effortless grace on the court. The next year they would enter the NBA, redefine the sport and spark an East-West rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Narrated by Liev Schreiber and featuring interviews with both legends, this is a giddy, glorious snapshot of the moment when the NBA came of age.

Watch it: Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, on Max, Prime Video

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Coach Carter (2005)

If your coach shouted at you like Samuel L. Jackson, you’d probably listen, right? Jackson is impeccably cast as real-life hoops coach Ken Carter, who made waves at a Northern California high school in 1999 when he benched his entire team, which was undefeated at the time, due to academic and disciplinary issues.

Watch it: Coach Carter, on Paramount+, Prime Video

Note: Paramount+ provides a discount to AARP members and pays AARP a royalty for the use of its intellectual property.

He Got Game (1998)

Hoops fan Spike Lee wrote and directed this unblinking, cynical take on the seedy underside of big-time college basketball. The movie centers on a stunning performance by Denzel Washington as an ex-con sprung early from prison on the condition that he convince his son Jesus Shuttleworth (real-life NBA star Ray Allen), the top-ranked high school hoops player in the country, to play for Big State University. Denzel can actually play, and the cool soundtrack features Aaron Copland and Public Enemy.

Watch it: He Got Game, on Prime Video

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

A buddy comedy set in the L.A. street ball scene, it’s the rare movie whose title became a cultural catchphrase. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson have great comic chemistry as an on-court odd couple who hustle their way around the best pickup games in the city. Whether they can jump (or shoot or pass) is incidental — their best weapon is the trash talk they spout toward opponents, a hilarious symphony of insults, good-natured and otherwise.

Watch it: White Men Can’t Jump, on Max

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