Comments Off on Basketball On The Big Screen: White Men Can’t Jump
The provocatively-titled Hollywood blockbuster White Men Can’t Jump was released in 1992, and played on the numerous racial stereotypes surrounding the game of basketball. Many people blindly state that basketball is a “black man’s game”, despite the presence throughout NBA history of a number of Hall of Fame white players such as Larry Bird. An equally common stereotype is that the white players who do make a team are invariably the steady hands of the team rather than flair players – something Larry Bird also disproved.
In White Men Can’t Jump, Woody Harrelson plays Billy, a down on his luck former college ball player who has no job and makes his money playing ball against street players. In the most part these opponents are black, and assume that Billy will be an easy match because he is white. Billy does nothing to encourage this assumption, allowing the opponents to make their mistake without him needing to lie. Of course, Billy turns out to be a fantastic player and wins his fair share of cash.
The film is given its impetus by the acquaintance Billy makes with a man named Sidney, played by Wesley Snipes. Sidney is one of the many street ballers who loses t
o Billy, but unlike the others he decides to turn the situation to his advantage, with the two pairing up to win money from a string of opponents. As with all such films, the friendship goes sour, only to be rescued in the end by the bond that the two have struck up. The title comes from the assumption that white players are unable to dunk the ball, an assumption disproved in the end by Billy, who makes a dunk in the film’s crucial scene to win the pair $5000.
Ask a hundred people what word comes to mind when they think about basketball, and there is a fairly good chance that as many as half of them will say “Tall”. Perhaps more than any other sport, basketball has the association with body shape that can put off a lot of young players. Some think because they’ll never grow to six feet tall that they can’t ever have a shot at being a pro basketball player. While it is true that basketball is dominated by taller men, it just isn’t the case that you need be a six or seven-foot giant. It may help in terms of being able to dunk the ball, but not everyone on court is going to do that anyway.
Perhaps the most notable case of a basketball player who was shorter than the rest of his team was the former Charlotte Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues. Although the target of some gentle teasing for his height – a tiny 5’ 3, small even by the standards of non-sportsmen – Bogues was a player who had genuine success in the game, enjoying a career which spanned more than a decade, with his fast-passing, hustling game earning him the very genuine respect of a number of people who would not have believed him capable of what he achieved.
Height is an advantage in pro basketball – there is no pretending otherwise. It gives you a better perspective on the basket, more of a chance to slam dunk the ball, and allows you to put up a formidable defensive barrier. However, growing to be seven feet tall will not guarantee you a successful basketball career, and being in the mid fives will not on its own prevent you.