“The best sports films, like the best of any kind of art, lift us ‘sad-assed human beings’ up to a ‘goddamned glorious’ place by showing us what we are capable of,” wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an article for Esquire. “The best sports films also use sports as a metaphor for some larger theme. The reason sports is such a rich source is that it mirrors our attempts to impose order, morality, and fair play on an otherwise chaotic and selfish world. We use sports as a training ground to teach our young moral lessons: try hard, be disciplined, play fair.”
Kareem explains how he chose his best sports movies – and why some well-regarded titles were left off the list. “We see sports films constantly preaching that winning isn’t the achievement, that perseverance, being a team player, and fair play, are the achievement. But where sports films go wrong is in usually finding a way to contradict themselves by telling us that once you’ve learned those lessons, you will go on to win. In that way, even many of the best sports films cheat. They aren’t so much sports films as feel-good-about-how-far-we’ve-come sociological fantasies that are built around sports. Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, Glory Road, and others ‘based on a true story’ are mostly about racial issues and less about the sport. Some highly praised sports films – Raging Bull, The Natural, The Color of Money – are bloated and self-conscious. Some fan favorites – Rudy, Field of Dreams – overly sentimentalize sports. These films are all good; they just aren’t among the best sports films.”
In no particular order.
Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: James Earl Jones, Jane Alexander, Lou Gilbert
“On one level, this fictionalized account of early-20th-century boxing champion Jack Johnson explores racism of the time. On another level, it reveals what a sports icon is to people – what they want, what they will accept, and what they won’t.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a centre, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals MVP. In 1996, he was honoured as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving have called him the greatest basketball player of all time.
Abdul-Jabbar has also been an actor, a basketball coach, and a best-selling author. In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador. In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. (Wikipedia.)
Last checked on: 8 July 2017