The Forgotten Basketball Movie

Kurt —  March 1, 2007

While watching Jesus Shuttlesworth play the Clippers last night, and thinking about his movie career, it dawned on me that one hoops movie I always enjoyed I haven’t seen in a very long time:

Blue Chips.

For those yet to catch this melodrama (it’s a preachy film) the plot is pretty simple: Nick Nolte is a college hoops coach who is loosing too many games so he starts to do what “all the other schools are doing” and paying players under the table. Those players are Shaquille O’Neal and “Penny” Hardaway, back when they were young and athletic. The list of cameos in the film is impressive: Bobby Knight, Jerry Tarkanian, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Marcus Johnson, Dick Vitale, Bobby Hurley, Jim Boeheim, Louis Gossett, Jr. and a bunch of others.

It got indifferent shrugs from critics but it worked on a few levels for me — not the least of those being unintentional comedy. In one scene it is Tarkanian most concerned with a recruit’s grades and ability to do well in college. Then there’s the athletes turned actors. We’ve seen Shaq “act” and Penny may actually be worse. In fact, all the athletes were just painful-in-a-funny-way to watch on screen, hitting their marks and saying their lines with all the grace of a porn actor waiting to get to the action.

But Nolte was pretty good, and I remember being surprised that Cousy (as the schools AD) was good, plus he can act and sink free throws at the same time. The basketball scenes were really good (as I recall), with Shaq coming off as the unstoppable force (this is back in 1994, when he was an unstoppable force). There just weren’t many of them.

I remember Blue Chips as a classic case of a film that was over-hyped and never lived up to expectations. I’d forgotten (until I looked at the IMDB page today) that the writer was Ron Shelton (Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump) and the director was William Friedkin (he Exorcist and The French Connection). There were great basketball players all over the court. It could/should have been an “A” but instead it was a “B,” and because of that felt like a “C.”

All that said this movie wasn’t bad. Nolte throws some classic frustrated-coach tantrums in the locker room. The message about money in college sports is accurate, even if this film wields it like a sledgehammer.

And for all the cheesiness I kind of miss it. I guess it goes on the NetFlix list.

13 responses to The Forgotten Basketball Movie

  1. Blue Chips was pretty good… compared to the rest of Shaq’s movies. But I still liked He Got Game a little bit better. Ray Allen didn’t do that bad of a job playing Jesus Shuttlesworth and I loved how Rick Fox was trying to lure him to the “white school”. I thought that was classic.

  2. Here’s ESPN’s list of upcoming free agents.
    I would like to see us go after the Bucks’ Mo Williams to fill our PG position. Possibly even Steve Blake

  3. He Got Game is a much better movie, I was just feeling nostalgic for this movie for some reason.

    I like the Mo Williams idea too, but fear we can’t afford him. Depends on what the market offers, but the Lakers top priority will be resigning Walton, and to do that an not start paying the luxury tax may lead to a trade rather than a free agent move.

  4. Hmm..doubt there are many wistful posts about “Blue Chips”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I should check it out, if only for, as you say, the unintentional comedy elements 🙂

  5. Radmanovic has been fined $500,000, according to the LA Times. That’s about 10% of what he’s making this year.

  6. Kurt, I just heard a Lakers injury update on the radio…
    -Mo Evans still has swelling in his left knee (had fluid drained from it yesterday) and he has not been practicing but he is still expected to play tomorrow night.
    -Kobe had an MRI on the left elbow and it came back negative so he will continue to wear the “Iverson” sleeve and play through it
    -Kwame is going to play tomorrow against the Kings. He will come off the bench. Apparently the lack of Bynum this week in practice has urged him to play sooner than expected (or maybe he was reading the comments on this site the last couple of days….MEOW!)
    -Unfortunately I didn’t hear anything about Luke. I think I turned on the radio too late.
    Did anybody else hear this injury update too and know what Luke’s status is?

  7. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Blue Chips for a while. I just re-watched Of Love and Basketball, Basketball Diaries, and Above the Rim.

    Now I just need to find He Got Game, Blue Chips, and maybe Hoosiers or something :p

  8. Derek Banducci March 1, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    6. Luke Walton is still listed as doubtful.

    Also, an encouraging quotation from Kwame:
    “If you thought I couldn’t catch before, wait until tomorrow.”

  9. that’s cold, Derek…

  10. propose some basketball movies as blue chips he got game or coach carter

    want to have some basketball-movie time

    i hope all those injuries are over soon
    or atleast before the end of this month when im comming to LA for 3 games at the Stapples

  11. That was an actual, direct quote, Jones. Kwame was joking around with the reporters talking about how rusty he’s going to be.

  12. Oh, I thought Derek was trying to rag on Kwame a bit. Good to see Kwame is starting to loosen up a bit. He would have NEVER joked like that a few year ago.

  13. Odom is pretty much out for the year, with the same shoulder injury he had in 2005. They get one guy back and another one goes down.