Basketball has played a huge role in cinema. It can be as simple as the backdrop in a budding relationship, an escape to a better life, away from the inner city, or the only way to save the world from alien invasion. Basketball in cinema is riveting, inspirational and fantastic.
So, welcome to the SLAM PH Movie Week! The team breaks down their favorite basketball movie (or movie with any semblance of basketball).
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
We all know that quote. We’ve heard it one way or another. There’s zero doubt: Coach Carter is one of those films that can inspire anyone at anytime.
For me personally, I watch it anytime I’m feeling down about myself. Two hours and 16 minutes later, you’ll probably find me on a basketball court, calling out “Linda! Linda!” to my non-existent teammates while my neighbors stare in confusion (and concern).
For the sake of this piece, I decided to go a different route. I didn’t need any inspiration, I wanted to answer this one thing: Just how good were the Richmond Oilers? We knew as a team, they were the underdogs. What about as individuals? Could you confidently say that these players were legitimate, as well as some of the competition that they had to face over the course of the movie?
So I sat back, didn’t really relax, and put on my scouting glasses. Let’s take a look at some of the key players from Coach Carter, and make sense of just how good they were.
Freshman Phenom Damien Carter
One of my takeaways every time I watch Coach Carter: Damien Carter looks a lot like Aaron Black of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Kinda fits, since they’re both sons of really good coaches (But could Coach Carter lead the Richmond Oilers to a five peat?).
Other than that, what always impressed me about Damien was how composed he was for a point guard. Guys like Timo Cruz were points guards more than anything else. With Damien, he was always committed to setting up his teammates, making the right play, and only taking the big shots when the opportunity presented itself.
This was most evident in Richmond’s game versus Bayhill. With time running down the clock, the Oilers needed to make a basket to win the game. The initial instruction from Coach Carter was to run Linda. Kenyon Stone was supposed to curl off the screen from Timo, which was exactly what happened. The only problem was, he bumped into a Bay Hill player, thus taking out the primary option of the play.
With the ball in Damien’s hands, he had to make a decision. The game was on the line. Instead of freezing and forcing a pass, he settled himself down, attacked the basket, and made a play.
By the way, he’s just a freshman. Damien Carter is LEGIT.
Junior Battle and how he grew up
You couldn’t really pinpoint who the best player was on the Oilers during the early parts of the movie. Of course you couldn’t, the team was straight up problematic. It’s like asking someone who the best player is on the Brooklyn Nets (I’m sure Jon Rodriguez will answer Spencer Dinwiddie with ZERO hesitation). Even if you have an answer, you’ll hesitate one way or another.
The only thing you could see from that group early on was potential, and Junior Battle personified this the most. He was an athletic specimen, someone who stood at around 6’9” with long arms and a strong frame. The issue with him was IQ. He didn’t know how to use these natural born gifts of his, and it led to him making some costly mistakes on and off the court.
Then came in Coach Carter, master developer. He honed the talent of Junior, and slowly but surely, that potential was turning into actual production for the Oilers.
It culminated in a HUGE block Junior had on Ty Crane, the player he was matched up during the start and the end of the film.
Timo Cruz is just like the rest of us, in more ways than one
Timo Cruz is best known for his epic speech towards the end of Coach Carter, but this is often forgotten when talking about him. Timo, by all accounts, was a hard ass.
It wasn’t just off the court where Timo would find himself in trouble. Even on the court, he found himself getting an earful from Coach Carter because of some questionable decisions that he made.
This was most evident with Cruz’s favorite shot: the transition three. Timo made transition threes cool, not Steph Curry. But Coach Carter wasn’t having ANY of it. Any time Timo would try to attempt that shot, Coach Carter would frown, obviously wanting his guard to go to the rack for the higher percentage shot.
(The movie was set at around 1999-2000, by the way. So you could understand Coach Carter’s frustrations. Maybe if you transported Timo to 2018, he’d be the sixth man for the Rockets. Or maybe even their main shooting guard. Sorry James Harden.)
At the end of the day, Timo is just like the rest of us. He’s a hard ass. He makes some boneheaded decisions on the court at times. But he just wants to have fun, with his own little flavor.
Was Ty Crane really the next LeBron James?
There wasn’t really a main “villain” in Coach Carter, but if you HAD to give that title to somebody, then it would be Ty Crane. He was called the next LeBron James, someone who would go straight to the NBA out of High School.
But really, was Ty Crane REALLY the next LeBron James?
It’s important we discuss first just how dominant LeBron was in High School. He was a physical freak of nature, who possessed of strength and athleticism that was unheard of. But more than just his mere physical tools, what made him so special was his versatility. He was a 6’8” 240 pound monster of a man, who didn’t just play the Small Forward position, but also the 1 and 4. Imagine Damien defending LeBron. It would not end well, even for the freshman phenom.
What about Ty? He stood at around 6’9”, with a seven-foot wingspan. He had a thin frame, so let’s put his weight at around 220. He wasn’t the same physical specimen as LeBron, not even CLOSE. What about skills then?
LeBron was a Point Forward. Ty, by all accounts, was a modern power forward. He loved to score off the post, with decent touch around the midrange. He had a quick first step and could attack the rim, but that was it. To call him anything close to LeBron’s Point Forward brilliance would be blasphemous.
He isn’t the next LeBron James. Far from it. Other than the fact that calling him the next LeBron James didn’t make sense since the movie was set at around 1999-2000 (LeBron was a freshman in High School, which meant Ty Crane was a full three years older than him), his skills don’t fit the bill of a LeBron. To even call him the only Ty Crane didn’t make much sense. His game reminded you a bit of Kevin Garnett, except KG wasn’t a lefty.
Sorry Ty. You were awesome, but you aren’t the next LeBron James.
Photos from Alamy
SLAM PH Movie Week