On this day/evening of the 85th Academy Awards over in Hollywood, BallinEurope in turn celebrates excellence in basketball-centric films of 2012. Third of the four Oscar (Robertson) Awards to be given here is for the category of Best Television Documentary.
It’s that time of year again in Hollywood as America’s movie-making industry tonight rolls out the red carpet for the Academy Awards, its annual celebration of excellence in film. In parallel, BallinEurope likewise awards (and by “awards,” BiE here means to say “writes up a column and pretends to gift an utterly imaginary trophy to the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar”) the Oscar (Robertson) every year for the best in basketball movies. Previous winners include:
Assessing year 2012 in basketball movies in short: Wow. In terms of sheer numbers, the past year blew away recent crops in a real boon the cinema junkies among basketball fans. Not only did ESPN’s “30 for 30” series debut a half-dozen quality roundball-focused documentaries, 20th anniversary celebrations of the Barcelona Olympic Games spawned a pair of films charting two of the most memorable teams in us older guys’ lifetime while Hollywood attempted to launch the acting career of Kevin Durant. And the year of Ben Affleck’s Argo also saw release of an ambitious independent film about an American playing ball in Iran…
As a result, BiE’s widening the playing field a bit for 2013 — you know, kinda like how the Academy did four years ago so that a bit more mediocrity could creep into the “Best Picture” category and snubs of Quentin Tarantino would be made all the more obvious. With so much to celebrate in 2012 basketball movies, BiE awards four virtual trophies this time ’round. So without further ado, the first envelope, please!
Best Full-Length Feature: Thunderstruck. The best review BiE read on KD’s star movie turn read, “I have to say this is the best kids’ movie starring the greatest basketball player of his time since Space Jam. The only problem is that this is the only kids’ movie starring the greatest basketball player of his time since Space Jam.”
All right, so it wasn’t exactly twenty years ago today per se, but the current Argentina-Spain-US tournament playing these days brought to mind some of the warmup games in 1992 – at that time, all the Dream Teams kept us enthralled as we imagined the upcoming clashes in Barcelona.
So today another chapter in BallinEurope’s series looking back at ‘92 runs below – just a couple of quickies on qualifying games before the tournament. And Charles Barkley.
• The Dream Team’s first appearance had them opening the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, an Olympic qualifying round (giggle), against Cuba. Team USA ultimately went 6-0 in the tourney, rolling over opponents by an average score of 121-70; it all began with a 136-57 victory over Cuba which ultimately elicited the old Cuban adage “You can’t cover the sun with your finger” from head coach Miguel Calderon Gomez.
Drazen Petrovic: The name is always mentioned in any discussion of all-time greatest European player, his effect inestimable, his ultimate greatness unknowable. BallinEurope has waxed poetic on the Basketball Mozart innumerable times already, but must say that lost in the general hoopla of the Dream Team in 1992 was the fact that one of the world’s top three or four players at that time (BiE’d put him with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen) wasn’t on Team USA.
Following a year which saw the dissolution of his Team Yugoslavia and the finalization of his demanded trade to the New Jersey Nets, Petrovic’s brilliant 1991-92 season earned him a deserved reputation among the NBA elites. The stats say the Croat led the Nets in points (20.6 per game), shooting percentage (50.8%), three-point percentage (44.4%) and minutes played (36.9 per game with appearances in all 82 games), but they just called him team MVP.
Along with Derrick Coleman, Petrovic helped the Nets to a 14-win increase over 1990-91 and the playoffs, racking up some amazing individual performances such as the 29 he dropped on the Boston Celtics early in that season…
BallinEurope continues with its look back at 1992 through the YouTube scope with a rundown of players on that Team USA of legend, a.k.a. The Dream Team. This of course means highlight clips of some of the greatest ever to have played the game … enjoy!
To start this one off, a personal reminiscence … the announcement of the long-awaited “Dream Team” roster was one of the great “Where Were You When” sports moments of my 20s. In early 1990s America, we had no internet and maybe three sports TV networks to choose from. Really speedy rumors traveled by fax machine and speculative chatter was relegated to sports talk radio.
Needless to say, in 1992, the Team USA basketball selection team was able to keep a tight cap on their priceless information – the superteam roster – until evening-edition newspapers were printed and local/prime-time news shows were ready to air. Crazy.
Sure, there were rumors. We heard Magic Johnson was being discussed, though he’d retired after the 1991-92 NBA season after announcing his HIV-positive condition. We heard Larry Bird might not play, in line with his intention to retire from the game after the playoffs. We heard bizarre stuff about Michael Jordan demanding that Isiah Thomas be excluded from the team.
But we didn’t know, y’know?
Just about 20 years ago, Angolan basketball was known internationally for a single game, for their service in providing the appetizer course for the angry/hungry Dream Team in the 1992 Olympic Games. Ultimately, Team Angola’s first turn on the big stage was remembered for a single moment of ignominy, i.e. Charles Barkley’s hammering of Herlander Coimbra amid a massive blowout.
Angola today has a long way to go before finally upending a Team USA in tournament play, but the FIBA Africa runners-up delivered a message to world basketball in defeating Europe’s Cinderella story of 2011, FYR Macedonia, 88-84, in game one of the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men.
Regular readers of BallinEurope may recall a similarly entitled writeup on Montepaschi Siena on these pages from a long time ago – actually two weeks, but already it *feels* like quite a spell. Contributing writer Enrico Cellini was as surprised as any of us when Olympiacos began Siena’s ejection from the tournament, Facebook-messaging BiE with the note that “Siena is trying its best to prove me wrong…”
But this post doesn’t concern BiE’s now-busted bracket, a frustrating finish to what had been a good-looking campaign for Montepaschi Siena, or even the Final Four surprise Olympiacos. Nope, we’re talking CSKA Moscow and that individual symbol of all of international basketball in 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko.
In fact, why waste time? BallinEurope gets right down into an even 10 reasons why CSKA and the AK must win the 2012 Euroleague title.
Meanwhile, over in Hollywoodland … to no cineaste’s surprise, the silent film The Artist was named “Best Motion Picture of the Year” at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony. While Tinseltown may have had a decent, if not mind-blowing, twelve months of production in 2011 – as evidenced by Woody Allen taking the “Best Original Screenplay” award for Midnight in Paris with his perhaps 24th- or 25th-best ever script – the year in basketball movies was disappointing to say the least.
In hindsight, no real possibility existed for the 2011 crop of hoops flicks to match the previous year’s output in terms of either quantity or quality, what with ESPN in the midst of its “30 for 30” documentary series. Eight basketball documentaries (nine if you include June 17, 1994) mostly well worth watching – spearheaded by the most excellent Once Brothers – were released in ’10 alongside the barely-seen Saints of Mt. Christopher. Plus, BallinEurope got to crack jokes at Common’s expense while enjoying fave Queen Latifah thanks to the essentially NBA-sponsored Hollywood flick Just Wright – who remembers that one?
And, of course, the artistic achievement of the 2009 tour de force, Who Shot Mamba? by former Yahoo Sports blogger/general comic genius at large has yet to be matched by any human endeavor, so one can’t fault the international film community for not approaching this one.
But come on! By BiE’s count, there were four major basketball film productions crafted in the year 2011. A pair of European documentaries saw no release outside their native countries (more on these below), while the compelling-sounding “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story” is apparently still seeking a distributor. How is this possible? Just check out the official synopsis from producer/director Franklin Martin:
Before BallinEurope signs off for 2011, let’s give a late Christmas gift to the dunkaholics out there, shall we? Below runs a collection compiled through the year featuring dunks by Europeans, on Europeans or perhaps simply in Continental games.
The first 20 will listed by competition, followed the top five runners-up and the champion jam of the year. Who will be no. 1? Read (and watch) on to find out…
Just days ago, Peja Stojakovic appeared to be a viable free agent for an NBA team with roster holes, a still-deadly long-range assassin at the age of 34, a 19-year veteran with gas enough in the tank for late-game daggers and smart D, a prototypical European baller with an American championship pedigree. “Couldn’t he drain a few 3s for a contender?” rhetorically asked hoops sage Bill Simmons last Friday.
Alas, it was not to be. The Serbian sharpshooter will not be part of the Dallas Mavericks’ quest to repeat as NBA champions, announcing his retirement from professional basketball late Monday night. Citing injuries to his neck and back, Stojakovic decided his physical struggles were “a wakeup call” for him to leave the game at this point.
On the plus side, Peja has the privilege of going out on top, in 2011 not only topping his seeming long-time personal rivals the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA playoffs, but also finally earning the ring which had eluded him for a dozen seasons ‘Stateside.
Today BallinEurope pays tribute to the gold-medal winning, NBA title having, future FIBA Hall of Fame nod achieving legend in the traditional fashion … let’s go to the ‘Tube!