SLAM PH Movie Week: The Anatomy of a Basketball Movie Speech

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).


Sports movies have their tropes: Underdogs. Training montage. Inspirational coach. Being down in the climactic game and coming together in the dugout for The Basketball Movie Speech, a gorgeous motivational moment that is somehow delivered without notes and without faltering, not a word out of place.

They’re cliches, and we know it. Nobody goes into a sports movie looking for grounded realism, because that would mean David vs. Goliath games are more likely to end with David being crushed under Goliath’s boot, or that a lineup of misfits will need several seasons to get their act together, not one magical year; or even something as simple as the average coach during crunch time does not speak like a literary genius. But…they’re just so much fun.

Samuel Jackson had several of these moments in “Coach Carter,” one of the most popular sports movies of all time, but there are also gems from older films such as Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers.” On the other end of the spectrum, “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” is not a sports movie—heck, it’s not even a good movie. But even though the speech of Ryan Reynolds’ man-child of a character to his school’s basketball team is mostly played for dumb laughs, it sneaks a couple of good lines in.

So how does one go about assembling your own Basketball Movie Speech? Here’s a breakdown of those lovable cliches that you should keep an eye out for next time you watch a sports film. Or who knows, you might even use these to up your speech game at your next Barangay Liga.

Lean into the underdog life

Everyone loves an underdog story, partly because writing a narrative requires conflict, but more importantly, because we are all underdogs in our own way. Everyone has experienced being the little guy—whether you’re an underappeciated office worker, an entrepreneur trying to compete with big business, or Michael Jordan fighting The Monstars.

The Basketball Movie Speech reminds both the team and the audience of this.

1. “There’s a tradition in tournament play to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you. I’m sure going to the State finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.” (Hoosiers)

2. “We’re letting them push us around. We’ve gotta fight them back.” (Space Jam)

3. This ball club is the heart of this institution. You win, it beats. You lose, it breaks. (Van Wilder)

Game Plan

There are as many ways to fire up the team as there are coaches in the world. You can channel the dignified intensity of Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers,” or the shouting desperation of Josh Lucas in “Glory Road.” You can also be a belligerent Ryan Reynolds/Van Wilder: insult everyone and promise the team a rager of a party, “but not without a W tonight.”

You could also get your players to dance like Zac Efron, but maybe not do that.

1. “Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again.” (Hoosiers)

2. “You’re not boxing out Big Poppa. You’re my Windex man. I want you shining glass. Quentin! We gotta D up out there. Darius. I want you all over that ball like a fat kid on a cupcake.” (Van Wilder)

3. “They’re not gonna give it to us. We gotta go out there and take it.” (Glory Road)

4. “We’ve gotta take it to them. We gotta get right in their faces. What do you say, are you with me or not?” (Space Jam)

5. “Get’cha head in the game!” (High School Musical)

It’s not about X, it’s about Y

It’s not about the game, it’s about our town. It’s not about whether we win, it’s about whether we play with pride. It’s not about proving others wrong, it’s about proving ourselves wrong. It’s not about the medal, it’s about making our families proud.

This even applies to sports flicks that aren’t just about basketball. See: “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and still keep moving forward.”

This is usually the most quotable part of a speech, and for good reason! A key portion of The Basketball Movie Speech is the idea that the entire endeavor isn’t about basketball, after all. It heightens the ecstasy of a coming win, and gives dignity and comfort to the pain of a loss.

1. “Right now, it’s not about talent. It’s about heart.” (Glory Road)

2. “It’s not what you do, goddammit, it’s how you do it!” (Blue Chips)

3. “What you achieved goes way beyond the win/loss column or what’s going to be written on the front page of the sports section tomorrow. You’ve achieved something that some people spend their whole lives trying to find. What you achieved is that ever elusive victory within. And gentlemen, I am so proud of you.” (Coach Carter)

4. “Don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game. If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners!” (Hoosiers)

Primal Yelling

This explains itself.

1. “TAKE IT! TAKE IT! TAKE IT!” (Glory Road)

2. “Rich-what? RICHMOND! Rich-WHAT? RICHMOND!!!!” (Coach Carter)

3. “What team? WILDCATS! What team? WILDCATS! WILDCATS! GET’CHA HEAD IN THE GAME!” (High School Musical)

4. Generic slow clapping, leading into cheers (All sports movies, TBH)

So, are you ready to assemble your own Basketball Movie Speech?

Here are my picks:

Lean into the underdog life: No. 2 (Space Jam),
Game Plan: No.1 (Hoosiers)
It’s not about X, it’s about Y: No. 3 (Coach Carter)
Primal Yelling: No. 3 (High School Musical)

Result:

We’re letting them push us around. We’ve gotta fight them back. Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again. What you achieved goes way beyond the win/loss column or what’s going to be written on the front page of the sports section tomorrow. You’ve achieved something that some people spend their whole lives trying to find. What you achieved is that ever elusive victory within. And gentlemen, I am so proud of you. What team? WILDCATS! What team? WILDCATS! WILDCATS! GET’CHA HEAD IN THE GAME!

What did you get?

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