5 best basketball movies on Netflix

Jaylyn Cook
Netflix Scary Movies
Netflix Scary Movies

Before we even start, 'Space Jam' is not on the list. Try to dial back your frustration.

The NBA Finals got off to a rip-roaring start earlier this week, as the Golden State Warriors outpaced and outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers 104 to 89. Sunday evening marks Game 2 of the best-of-7 set and if we're lucky, it'll only get better from this point on.

We're in the midst of an exciting time for pro hoops, as this year's Finals series is buoyed by several compelling narratives – most prominently being the continued stratospheric rise of human 2K MyPlayer Stephen Curry, LeBron James' quest to fulfill his championship covenant to the city of Cleveland, and the fact that Shaun Livingston is just out here milking every moment of his deserved second coming.

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It's as if the Association hired that dude who wrote Hoosiers (and just about every other sports movie ever) and asked him to write a script for the Finals. In other words, you just can't make any of this up – which is why it'll be bittersweet when a champion is eventually crowned. We'll have to wait months before we see any kind of action on the hardwood again, and I don't know how you feel, but that's about as lonely as spending winter alone in the Siberian tundra.

Thankfully, we have several methods to help alleviate any withdrawal : You can watch old And-1 mixtape clips on YouTube, listen to the Space Jam soundtrack, or check out the wide variety of basketball-themed flicks on Netflix.

Figuring out how to partake in those first two options is fairly simple, but if you've got a Netflix subscription and don't know where to start, here are five great movies (both scripted and documentary) that'll easily cure your impending basketball jones.


Before Steph Curry changed the game with his revolutionary play, there was Steve Nash – a skinny, soccer playing, white dude from Canada whom history will remember as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of kicks.

Directed by filmmaker Michael Hamilton, NASH features a plethora of dazzling footage from Nash's hall-of-fame career, including a variety of precision shots, dizzying spin moves, and out-of-this-world passes. However, the true beauty of the film lies within the footage of the two-time MVP that can't be found on YouTube.

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Off-the-court, Nash is a humanitarian, an accomplished filmmaker, and a dedicated father. Hamilton's documentary brings all of those aspects to light with intimate care and high attention to detail. It also features interviews from several of Nash's contemporaries and fans, including Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming, David Beckham, and President Barack Obama.

In fact, Obama himself put the entire focus of the documentary in focus during his sit-down with the director.

"I think you're measured not just by your skill, or your fame, or your wealth, but by your character," he said. "I think by that standard, [Nash] is going to do very well."

Indeed, Mr. President, indeed.

4. 1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story

In 2009, Gettysburg College point guard Cory Weissman suffered a stroke while he was lifting weights during his freshman year. He was left partially paralyzed and spent the next three-and-a-half years recovering and reteaching himself how to walk – which ultimately led to his return to the Bullets' lineup as a senior.

This direct-to-video flick – starring former Disney Channel star David Henrie and Beau Bridges – is an inspirational tale that showcases how far determination can bring anyone when the odds are stacked.

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Remember, since it is a made-for-DVD feature, there are a few moments in1000 to 1that could be much better, but not THAT much. There's not an abundance of hokey dialogue or any acting that's about as overdone as a well-cooked steak, so you should be able to watch the entire movie without turning it off in disgust.

However, if it turns out that it's not really your thing, you can always just read up on Weissman's story online. It's not as visual of an experience as watching a movie is, but regardless, learning more about what he went through can motivate even the most uninspired of people to keep on pushing with their dreams.

3. Benji

Benji tells the story of Ben Wilson, a Chicago high school basketball phenom whose life was tragically cut short after he was shot and killed in 1984.

The documentary follows Wilson's life from birth, to adolescence, to his prolific career at Simeon Career Academy – the former high school home of Derrick Rose, Deon Thomas, and Jabari Parker. There, Wilson was regarded as the top high school basketball player in the entire United States of America.

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As a part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, Benji does an emotionally gut-wrenching job of highlighting how quickly Wilson's life and potential were snatched away from him, and also how his death affected everyone who knew and loved him dearly. It's not really a "feel good" kind of sports movie, but it's one that will make you think about the fragility of our entire existence on Earth.

It's also an interesting probe into several other themes, like forgiveness and the idea of a legacy. To paraphrase the musical Hamilton, we have no control over who tells our stories when we're gone. However, the filmmakers and interviewees in Benji tell his story, and because of them, his legacy will live on forever.

2. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks

During the 90's and early 2000's, Reggie Miller was arguably one of the most frustrating players to ever step on an NBA court. His brash, trash-talking style got into the heads of virtually every player who had to guard him – including a normally unfazed Michael Jordan, who got close to choking dude out at the Fieldhouse once.

That being said, he was also one of the most deceptively lethal players in professional basketball history. During Winning Time, which is another 30 for 30 special, he's described as looking like "Mr. Potato Head on a stick," which is accurate. You know what else was accurate? His three-point shot, which he used as his primary weapon during his noted playoff battles with Patrick Ewing's New York Knicks squads.

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Winning Time uses interviews from legendary NBA figures like Ewing, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, and Knicks fan emeritus Spike Lee to recreate every play, every emotion, and every flop during those games in humorously blunt fashion.

Plus, watching Miller smugly deny the variety of accusations made against him – from pushing off to over-acting for a foul call – is the ultimate testament to what a master manipulator he was as an athlete, and how that only managed to amplify his greatness.

1. Hoop Dreams

Despite the title, facing reality is the true focus behind Hoop Dreams. We follow William and Arthur, the two Chicago teens who drive the narrative, through all four of their years as high school basketball stars.

While we know that they could play, and that they were both crucial parts to their separate teams, we also came to learn about every facet of their personal lives. We learned about their experiences growing up in Chicago housing projects, we learned about how they struggled with school and injuries, we learned about their families and their never-ending fights to survive and keep the lights on at night.

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Essentially, we learned so much about these two, it's as if we, the audience, were members of their households as well. When William injures his knee, we feel his pain too. When Arthur's dad leaves the family, it also manages to affect the audience on a personal level – as opposed to us just observing the action through a fourth wall.

Most importantly, Hoop Dreams does a solid job of showing how neither William nor Arthur give up on their dreams, despite the real world's constant attempts to shut them down. It's an inspiring tale of two real life people who wanted to improve the lives of their loved ones by doing what they knew best: playing basketball.

It's also a sobering experience, reminding everyone watching that when life becomes hard, giving up is never an option.

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