The line stretches almost around the block. There’s a girl, black hair pulled back in a pony tail, with a Spalding basketball nestled between her arm and torso. A man with an afro squints forward, his eyes panning through the line ahead of him before reaching down with a finger to clean a sliver of dirt off his Jordans and adjusting a device on his ankle. Towards the back, a man dressed in rags is telling anyone that’ll listen that he could once grab a quarter off the top of the backboard.
“Oh yeah?” two short guys, one black and one white, approach him. “Wanna put money on that?”
Not all of them will make it. Not all of them will be chosen.
“Alright everyone listen up!” someone at the very front calls out through two cuffed hands. “A few rules to go over. First, we plan on making this a fair tournament so no one playing themselves can be in it.” The man at the front shoots a look at a group of guys leaning against the fence just a few yards away, all of them letting out sighs of disgust, throwing their hands in the air. One man – bald and wearing black, patent leather sneakers – stares for a moment before shuffling away, a mob of fans behind him.
“Second, you have to be huma…”
Before he can even finishing saying human, a golden dog, panting from the heat, turns and walks away. Others follow. By this point, the line has dwindled significantly.
“And finally, you need to have starred in a movie,” the man calls. “Not cameos. Not stand-ins. Not as a background performer. It needs to be a legit role.” With that, the line shrinks some more until finally, there are only about 20 people left.
Once 16 are selected, the man at the front puts down the clipboard. “Great…for those of you still here, welcome to the first ever Dime Magazine Ultimate Movie Baller: a one-on-one tournament of basketball film characters.
Every ballplayer knows the summertime is where you prove yourself. No one becomes a champ in the winter. It’s the summer where you earn the stripes you need. It’s the summer where you take on all challenges and prove yourself, as Dirk Nowitzki did in our first ever NBA 1-on-1 tournament earlier this summer. But the NBA isn’t the only place you’ll find competition to become the top dog. It plays out on the movie screen as well with guys like Billy Hoyle, Scott McKnight and Butch McRae.
Who is the greatest basketball movie character ever? Who would win in a one-on-one tournament of all the best cats to ever grace the big screen? That’s what we want to find out.
So Dime took all of the memorable characters from basketball movies and put together a list. To start dwindling the number, we set forth a few rules:
1) The character couldn’t be from real life, like Michael Jordan in Space Jam or Earl Manigault in The Earl Manigault Story. The player can be real-life as long as the character isn’t (like Jesus Shuttlesworth)
2) The character had to be at least somewhat human (Teen Wolf gets a pass, Air Bud & Bugs Bunny does not)
3) The character had to have a pretty large role in the movie
4) We tried to stick to motion picture films/movies. Not TV shows, documentaries or cartoons, etc.
Obviously, we can’t make everyone happy, and the lines between who we should’ve put in and who we couldn’t put in are blurred at times. This also wasn’t about who looked like the best players in the movies. The rankings are based on realism (for the most part). But that’s the fun in it. (Some who narrowly missed the cut: Sidney Deane from White Men Can’t Jump, Jamal Wallace from Finding Forrester, Monix from Semi-Pro, Juwanna Man from Juwanna Mann, Bobby Joe Hill from Glory Road and Hustler from Fast Break.). It’s all about finding the most memorable great players.
We tried to get some of the more popular characters in there, so a few exceptions had to be made. Billy Hoyle makes the cut, but if this was for real, would he really be able to take Derek Luke’s character from Glory Road? Probably not. We did the best we could to come up with a list of 16.
The rules? You know them, same as before. Two matchups a day. You vote on the winner for the next 24 hours, one vote per person: the man who would win in a one-on-one game to 15, loser’s outs.
Who’s ready to crown a king?
What do you think?
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.