Watching the documentary on Fresno State’s 1997-’98 team, got me thinking about the best basketball documentaries. My top five:
1. Hoop Dreams: An easy layup of a choice, this film and David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game” are essential works of basketball non-fiction. Like Halberstam’s book, “Hoop Dreams” tackles the big themes of the sport: Race, exploitation, grievous injury, and the tension between individual and team success.
2. The Heart of the Game: Director Ward Serrill captured lightning in a bottle when he chose to document the Roosevelt Roughriders girls basketball team: An eccentric head coach and a troubled star player who come together for an us-versus-them fight.
3. Soul In the Hole: The dark side of the city game. Playground legend Ed “Booger” Smith flashes otherworldly talent, but can’t resist the pull of the streets.
4. Winning Time: Basketball is supposed to be fun, after all. The film doesn’t examine weighty issues, but it doesn’t get much more enjoyable than pairing Reggie Miller’s heroics with an operatic soundtrack, grainy Cheryl Miller highlights and also hearing John Starks say “Man, did this dude just did this?”
5. Between The Madness: The ultimate hoops reality show. Fresno State’s 1997-’98 team was a train wreck of arrests, suspensions and occasionally brilliant players.
Honorable mention: “Black Magic” (highlighting a too-often forgotten period of hoops history), “The Street Stops Here” (Bob Hurley Sr.’s profane genius), “Through The Fire” (the sheer hard work of modern players, although the film has been dimmed by Sebastien Telfair’s lack of pro success).