Tuesday, October 14, 2008


There has always been a special connection between basketball and the movies. There are the classics that everyone has seen like "Hoosiers." There are also those that fell under the radar like the vastly underrated "Above the Rim." Each of the movies usually contains one player on the team that stands out from the rest. But what would a team look like if you combined the best hoopers from all the basketball flicks? With the beginning of the NBA regular season mere weeks away, let's take a look at that historic roster.

(Note: To make this team different than most other people's 'Movie Basketball Squads,' no actual NBA players will be making the cut. Apologies to Shaq and Penny in "Blue Chips," Ray Allen from "He Got Game," and last but most definitely not least, Greg Ostertag from "Eddie.")


Center- SA
LEH (The Air Up There)

You cannot go wrong with the big fella, Saleh, at the center spot. Talk about an intimidating presence in the middle. Saleh was such an intriguing prospect that Coach Jimmy Dolan (played flawlessly by Kevin Bacon) flew to Africa to check him out after seeing about 3 highlights of him playing against a couple teenage girls. Presumably about 8 feet tall, Saleh is the complete package at the center position.

People can talk all they want about the old Lakers-Celtics battles. You can have your Duke-North Carolina wars. My boy Saleh competed in possibly the most emotional basketball game of all-time, the battle between Saleh's Winabi tribe and the rival Mingori crew. In that game, he blocked approximately 27 shots and his time management and subsequent bucket on the last possession is something to behold. With Winabi needing a score and the clock ticking under 3 seconds, Saleh was still calmly explaining the "Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake" to his defender. Proving all the doubters wrong, Saleh miraculously managed to drive for the winning quadruple-pump slam dunk just before the clock expired, defying the very rules of gravity, physics, and time along the way.

Power Forward- CHUBBY (Teen Wolf)

Listen to me closely. There is no way...NO WAY in the world that the Michael J. Fox led Beacontown High Beavers make the monumental comeback in that final game if not for the unmeasurable contributions from our boy Chubby.

Big fella's estimated stats in that historic championship performance.

9 Points
26 Rebounds

38 backbreaking, bone-crunching screens

A prototypical power forward listed at 5'7 and 330 pounds, he redefined the way the position is played. He also dealt a most serious blow to the "short shorts" movement with his Daisy Dukes from which it could never recover. While earlier in the season Chubs could be seen eating a big ole sandwich WHILE on the court, he came to play for the finale.

I remember thinking when I first saw "Teen Wolf," ho
w in the world can the Beavers possibly come back when they lost by 59 points to the same squad earlier in the year and our boy Scott Howard has decided not to "wolf out" for the final game? The answer was found in a very simple play call. Ran on 96% of their possessions in the 2nd half, Scott would start dribbling to the right while picking up an Earth-Shattering pick from Chubby, resulting in an uncontested layup every single time. How the other team never brought weak-side help to try and make him dish to a shooter is something I will never understand. Michael J. Fox also set a record in that game by becoming the first player to score over 40 points without ever once dribbling the ball with his left hand.

So as to remain objective, I must point out that the Big Fella was also the worst defender on the court at all times. He got beat down the court routinely while also falling prey anytime his man decided to shoot a fadeaway since he was not capable of leaving the floor himself to challenge the shot. And in one of the more shocking career moves in history, Chubby went on to play
the role of John Wayne Gacy, the serial-killing clown from the 1970's, in the 2003 biopic.

While Chubby had his shortcomings on the defensive end and could have possibly used a better agent later in his career, his unforgettable performance in that final game left all moviegoers thinking the same thing when they left the theater. "I'm gonna tell my grandkids about this game someday."

Small Forward- BILLY HOYLE (White Men Can't Jump)

Simply put, the starting small forward for our group is one of the coolest and most frustrating movie characters of all-time. In Billy's best moments, he was hustling Venice Beach's best with lights-out shooting displays with the trash talk to back it up. At his worst, he was making ridiculous bets based solely on his non-existent vertical leap knowing full well Rosie Perez was gonna have his arse when he got home.

Billy has the kind of all-around game and unselfishness that makes him the kind of guy you love to play with. Despite his shortcomings athletically, Billy's got a nice mid-range jumper and the ability to get easy buckets through savvy backdoor cuts. And the word "clutch" almost doesn't do Billy justice. How about that hook shot from three-quarters court to the "Sudan" basket to win Gloria a spot on Jeopardy? That's right up there with Jerry West's buzzer-beating 60-footer against the Knicks in the 1970 Finals. All this is what made Billy losing his tournament money on that slam-dunk bet so hard to watch. Anyon
e watching the movie knew that Billy carried Sidney on his back for that tournament and now he had nothing to show for it.

And I'd be remiss to talk about the great Billy Hoyle without mentioning his A+ material when it comes to trash talking. ("What are you, the black zorro?" and "
Why don't we take all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to stay.")

I just can't picture anyone else playing that part other than Woody Harrelson. Imagine D.B. Sweeney or Christian Slater trying to pull it off...yeah, exactly. The perfect actor in his most perfect role, and the perfect selection as the Small Forward on our Dream Team.

Shooting Guard- TOM "SHEP" SHEPHERD (Above the Rim)

What is the definition of overcoming adversity? I would say it goes something like this.

1. See your best friend plunge to his death after somehow deciding it was a good idea to have a backboard-slapping contest on the roof of a building.
2. Come back to town, where your brother is now the resident "town bad guy and drug dealer."
3. Enter the biggest game of your life having practiced minimally in the years preceding, and doing so making shadow-moves without the use of an actual basketball.
4. Then try and lead your squad to a comeback victory at the age of 40 while arriving to the court in the middle of the game, wearing long pants AND long sleeves, all with your thug brother coaching the other team repeatedly screaming to his players, "F#*K HIM UP!"

Doesn't seem humanly possible, does it? Our boy Shep defies the odds and even manages step in front of a bullet intended for his protege Kyle Watson before it's all said and done.
Shep had what might have been the best single game performance from this whole list. He made 100% of his field goal attempts (though the game was played with the most forgiving rims outside those in my old Forest Elementary gym), took some of the worst cheap shots this side of Karl Malone, managed to free himself for a million wide open looks down the stretch despite being the only guy scoring for his team, and stealing the ball with his team down 1 with just seconds left to feed Kyle for the game winning alley-oop. Then to cap it off, following the game, Birdie (great performance by Tupac) has one of his boys try and shoot Kyle for earlier abandoning his team, only to see Shep heroically step in front of the bullet and save Kyle's life.
Shep is a wonderful 2-guard for our team coming from this very underrated basketball movie. You never really hear a lot about it, but it really is a terrific sports flick with solid performances by a number of actors.

(Other thoughts from the movie. Has there ever been a more out-of-place character in a movie than the big, white, blond-haired center on Shep and Kyle's team? How many shot attempts do you think he got a game? Who in the world was he hanging out with to grab a bite after practice? And what were the odds that he had a life-size poster of Cherokee Parks up in his trailer when they were shooting the movie for "inspiration"?)

Point Guard- KENNY TYLER (The 6th Man)

A lot of people are mistaken in thinking that the 1997 NCAA Basketball champions were the Arizona Wildcats. They might remember Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and those boys getting Lute Olson his first championship. INCORRECT. The REAL national title winners that year were the Washington Huskies, led by the living and dead brother combination of Kenny and Antoine Tyler.

Kenny, with an Oscar-worthy turn by Marlon Wayans, runs the point for the Huskies and is aided on the court by the ghost of his playmaking older bro. What are you trying to say...this movie is not unrealistic at all. Marlon Wayans looks pretty respectable as a hooper in the movie. And so as to follow the predisposed formula set forth by all sports movies, Kenny led his team in their final run without the unfair advantage of having a ghost help their team. This is a common move in sports movies. If a team has been receiving some kind of unfair or supernatural advantage during the film, usually they must achieve their ultimate goal by playing fair. (Others that come to mind are "Ladybugs," "Angels in the Outfield," "Teen Wolf," and "Rookie of the Year.")

Marlon Wayans has come a long way in this movie since his embarrasing ball-handling display during the previously mentioned "Above the Rim." In this movie, his turnovers are down and I trust him to run the point for my Silver Screen All-Stars.



What better player to bring off the bench than this crafty forward who is basically Mark Aguirre with more intensity and a tether attached to his ankle? Jake (Denzel) is Ray Allen's dad in the movie, and actually makes the NBA star work for the victory in the film's climactic scene. A few reasons why Jake is a great selection for our squad.

1. He made like 25 straight jumpers in the prison yard near the beginning of the movie.
2. He's got a real high release on his J, which means you aint blockin his shot...and even if you could, I don't think you would want to, anyway.
3. A lot of people only remember that final scene when grown up Jesus beats up on his dad in that deciding game of 1-on-1. Well what about their little battles earlier in the movie when the in-his-prime Jake absolutely wiped the court with 9-year old Ray Allen. Lil Fella couldn't even get a shot up against Denzel, not to mention he stalked off like a loser after throwing the ball over the fence to end the night.
4. You gotta appreciate his dedication to the game when he has limited funds to work with on his short release from prison, and he spends a large chunk of it to get the new Jordans. I always liked that scene in the shoe store. ("My brother's got the same arthritic condition.")


There was a time there from about 1994-95 where Sinbad was probably the funniest man on the face of the Earth. He makes this team because of his absolute domination of a 2-on-5 pickup game where his only help was a loser 11-year old who thought he was Dan Majerle when he was really more like John Crotty. Sinbad shows nimble footwork and incredible leaping ability for a man of his stature, registering some sick highlight dunks that reminded me and many others in the theater that day of a young Kenny "Sky" Walker. Instead of playing for money, Sinbad and his boy win the game and therefore get to have the clothes off the backs of the guys they just beat. This always struck me as one of the more curious decisions in basketball history.

(Note: Do you think Sinbad and Mark Curry are friends?? They should be. They basically had the same life. Hit their career high points somewhere toward the mid 90's, played some hoop, tried finding other roles for a couple more years, only to never be heard from again. I can picture their conversations as they kick back to re-runs of A Different World and Hangin with Mr. Cooper.)

Sinbad: You believe all these movies Will Smith keep gettin? The boy aint funny!
Mark Curry: Man, I know! He couldn't carry my jockstrap! I played 2-on-2 with Billy Owens!!

Then they both get up to go answer the knock on the door, because Cole and Tommy from "Martin" are coming to join the "We used to be pretty sweet" party. Admit it, you could picture that whole scene, too.

Head Coach- PETE BELL (Blue Chips)

Yes, I know. Basically anytime you think of a coach from a basketball movie, everyone goes with the great Norman Dale from "Hoosiers." Well I'm going a different way with the fiery mastermind from Western University, Coach Pete Bell. Who else could have recruitecd arguably the top 3 prep prospects in the same year, albeit with so much cheating going on that Jerry Tarkanian would probably have been offended by Coach Bell's recruiting strategies.

I like a coach with a little craziness to him, and Nick Nolte's Pete Bell has got that. In one instant, he is throwing Ricky Roe out of the locker room and off the team for informing the coaching staff that he could be "theirs for $30,000." A short time later, we see a gym bag being delivered to Ricky with said cash, enticing him to come back to school. Way to hold your ground, Coach.

It seems like Nolte gave like 25 great speeches throughout this movie. There was the emotional scene with Tony when he found out about the point-shaving scandal. And his speech in the final press conference after being hounded relentlessly by Al Bundy the whole movie was excellent.

When I try to think of a coach who could handle all the different personalities and skill sets of the team that's been created, Pete Bell seems to be the right guy for the job. And if he can't get them to play together, he can always go with his old stand-by and offer brand new tractors to Jimmy Chitwood and all the Hickory boys to get them to come out of retirement and the team wouldn't miss a beat.

THE 1992 BARCELONA Dream Team might have had surefire Hall-of-Famers like Bird, Jordan, Magic, and Barkley. They might have had "Daddy Rich" Chuck Daly roaming the sidelines. But I'll tell you what. You give me a team with the raw talent of Saleh, the ever-expanding waistline of Chubby, the hustle of Billy Hoyle, the cold-blooded stare of Shep, the out-of-body ability of Kenny Tyler, and the cunning ways of Coach Petey Bell, and we'll take you on ANY day of the week. Just make sure the game is in Winabi.

Email me your thoughts and starting lineups at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our Time Will Come...

I must have rented it 50 times.

Any time my parents would pack me and my three brothers into the minivan for a trip to BlockBuster, it was an adventure. We knew the rules. Each kid was allowed one rental. We had to be ready with our selection within 20 minutes. (Though that rarely was the case) There was the constant inner-battle of "do I go for a movie or a video game?" These were big decisions for a 7-year old. But then came the answer. Perched on the 2nd shelf of the "Sports" section was a title called The Boys of Zimmer. Immediately, I looked behind the box to confirm that was in stock. Yessir...I had found my rental. For the next million visits.

Looking back, it was probably the most influential piece of cinema of all-time. I would spend the week with Boys of Zimmer watching it over and over again. I could not get enough. Jerome Walton seemed like a superhero when they played the montage of his 30-game hitting streak. Les Lancaster was made to look like a modern-day Christy Mathewson. I learned that Shawon Dunston had an arm on the left side of his body and an actual bazooka on the right. And then there was the skipper, Don Zimmer, the only man on Earth gutsy enough to call for the hit-and-run with the bases loaded. If all that wasn't enough to make a little 45-pound kid a Cubs fan for life, they hit you with the marvelous tune, "Cubbies Are Rockin." It's been about 18 years since that first rental, but the lyrics are still fresh as ever in my mind.

Walton and Smith, man they got speed,
With Sandberg and Grace, what more do we need?!?

The end of that video never changed, though. Much like the Dodgers did a week ago, the Giants stormed into Wrigley Field for that 1989 NLCS and stole Game 1. I grew up associating Will Clark with all that is evil. I knew that there was a special place reserved in Hell for those people that dared mess with my heroes. Master Shredder for trying to defeat the Ninja Turtles...Andre the Giant and anyone else who did bodily harm to Hulk Hogan...and Will Clark, for becoming the first player in baseball history to knock in over 40 runs in one playoff series. (Or at least the video made it seem that way) The music that accompanied Robby Thompson's backbreaking home run in game 3 was enough to make the strongest Cubs fan cry.

(On a sidenote, the similarities are eerie in regard to those playoff openers. In '89, the Cubs trailed by one run in the 4th when SF first sacker Will Clark came up with the bases loaded and 2 outs. If Maddux retires him, who knows how that game unfolds? And for that matter, the series as well. All Cub fans know, however, that Clark was most definitely not retired. Instead, he hit a ball so high and so far that even today when I go outside to get the paper in the morning, I worry that the ball will return to orbit and smack me in the head. Almost two decades later, and the script remains the same. The Cubs are in control of the opener, leading by two, when LA first sacker James Loney sauntered up to the plate in the 5th with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Dempster delivers, Loney deposits...game, set, and match.)

But one thing I will never shake is the feeling that would come over me when "The Boys of Zimmer" was winding down to its final moments. I'd seen the video countless times before and knew exactly how it was going to end. But somehow, when the Cubs began making a little charge in the 9th inning of that last game, I found myself hoping it would end differently. After all, the narrator even seemed to be getting excited with Ryno coming to bat and the tying run in scoring position. But it wasn't to be. Sandberg rolled one over to second and the season was over. I've still never seen a player run harder on a routine ground ball than Sandberg did on that bouncer to Thompson.

I guess that blind hope is what keeps us Cubs fans coming back each day and each year wishing the final result will be different this time around. There is a reason I continued to rent that worn out videotape time after time. (And eventually just bought for $5.00 from the store, since the fine folks at BlockBuster acknowledged that not one other soul had ever rented the masterpiece in 10 years.) I knew those '89 Cubbies were not going to wind up as World Series champions, but I still found myself on the edge of my seat when Sanderg strode to the dish in that fateful 9th. It's the same old story today. With each new year, it remains highly unlikely that the Cubs will finally break through and hoist that trophy. After all it has been 100 (soon to be 101) years. My allegiances aren't going anywhere, though. I'm a Cubs fan. I'm the guy who once told all my buddies at elementary school that Rick Wilkins will go on to become the best catcher in history and shatter all of Johnny Bench's records. I convinced myself after watching Amaury Telemaco's first start that we had the next Juan Marichal on our hands. I am still confident these predictions will one day come to fruition.

Our time will come. As Cubs fans, there is something inside all of us that will not allow us to stop believing. As for me, I'm gonna go pop in 'Boys of Zimmer'...maybe Sandberg will hit a homer this time.

Email me at highsockslegend@gmail.com