Movies like Love and Basketball: Professionalism with Affection
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Movies like Love and Basketball: Professionalism with Affection

Entertainment
Complementing a sports movie with elements of interpersonal relationships demands masterful command on the part of the director. That’s why movies like ‘Love and Basketball’ are not easy to find, but are very easy to remember.

Athletes Are Driven by Emotion

In the core of each great sports story, there is an underdog struggling to overcome the odds through sacrifice and valor. The competitive edge is what makes athletes, real or imagined, worthy of our continued adoration.

Things get interesting when athlete’s competitive nature starts getting in the way of personal connections. Private life, and especially romantic involvements, can be difficult to separate from the never-ending grind of sports.

Exploring this gap between personal and public adds another quality to movies that dare to venture in this direction. There have been several notable examples through the years.

Movies similar to ‘Love and Basketball’ include:

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‘The Cutting Edge’ (Paul M. Glaser, 1992)

Olympic glory is the ultimate confirmation of athlete’s talents, but the level of emotional stress and physical hardship necessary for the triumph can be devastating. This film does a great job bringing the viewer behind the scenes and showing the entire process from up close.

Most of the film takes place on ice, which is a great visual metaphor for emotional detachment so typical for the greatest competitors. Under such conditions, collaboration can be a tough challenge. 

When the main characters eventually start a romance, it comes as a logical extension of the mutual respect they built through constant battles on ice.

Similarity Match: 85%
Characters meet as adults, but quickly develop a similar relationship.

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‘Bull Durham’ (Ron Shelton, 1988)

In the testosterone-fuelled world on minor league baseball, women are often seen as spoils of war. It takes a special person to rise above this environment and express true feelings.

This touching saga from American South is boiling with passion, eroticism and romance. Far away from their dreams, the characters are battling their demons and each other in a frustrating quest to stand out from mediocrity.

Front-lined by the amazing trio of Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, this is one of the classics of the genre that still rings fresh after nearly 40 years.

Similarity Match: 75%
Another successful mix of sports and romance, with some extra spice added.

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‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (Ron Shelton, 1992)

Street basketball is unforgiving, especially for guys trying to make a quick buck out of their skills. When two supremely talented ballers team up with cash in mind, they first need to earn each other’s trust on the court and off of it.

Unlikely friendship will be forged as they navigate their way out of trouble, but not before they exchange a number of harsh jokes – one of which serves as the movie’s title.

Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson take this movie to another stratosphere, as their rivalry gets completely hilarious from time to time.

Similarity Match: 75%
Both films are about basketball partnerships, but in this case the association is not romantic.

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If You Like Love and Basketball You Will Like…

It can be mesmerizing to watch a great tandem of actors working to create on-screen relationship. When they are called to mix professional and personal within the same scene, their talents can truly shine. Here are a few films where this is the case.

‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ (Doug Liman, 2005)

Two professional killers are married to each other and spend years in ignorance, before they both get the same assignment – to eliminate their spouse.

The fact that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie started their real-life relationship after this movie tells you all you need to know about its realism.

In this case, competition between lovers turns deadly in an instant.

***

‘Jerry McGuire’ (Cameron Crowe, 1996)

A brilliantly written movie, featuring a sports agent who decides to change the way he does business and focus on building closer relationships with his customers.

He encounters huge problems along the way, but gains support of a loudmouth black football player and a romantic-minded divorced office assistant.

A film about value of friendship and love in the cold world of million dollar contracts.

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Nothing Wrong about a Bit of Romance

The conventional wisdom implies that sports movies are for boys and romantic movies are for girls. Perhaps that’s why movies like ‘Love and Basketball’ or ‘The Cutting Edge’ don’t really belong to any genre and require some flexibility from the audience.
 
Open display of emotions in films that cherish competitive values provides some additional depth and makes such films more complete. It is easier to relate to our heroes when we see them dealing with human relationships.
 
As an added bonus, flicks of this kind are a great choice to watch in mixed company…
 
Do you feel romance should be kept out of sports films and why?

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