...One thing I've never asked Jordan: What is his favorite basketball film? Guess he'd say Space Jam, the flat-as-a-pancake Warner Brothers movie starring Michael, costarring L.J., Patrick, Barkley, Shawn Bradley, along with Bill Murray, which premiered in November 1996. It was a cartoon combining actors, ballplayers, and animation characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, kind of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Space Jam made $29 million its first weekend, ended up grossing $88 million, domestic walkup. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did $11 million in its first weekend and grossed $150 million. If Mike had to pick his second favorite basketball film, what would he choose?

Here's a list:

One on One (1977): Robby Benson, G. D. Spradlin. Small-town high school hotshot comes to big-time college--UCLA, it signifies--finds out he's a pawn. I ain't buying it from word go. Robby Benson? Wonder Bread Robby Benson? Hell fucking no. Benson's character gets busted up, which is realistic. He cowrote the script. He tells the head coach that the coach is not going to take his scholarship away, which isn't realistic. Gotta like G. D. Spradlin. Gives a great cold fish, and he's had more coaching jobs than Larry Brown.

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979): Julius Erving. A kid who's into astrology gets only Pisceans to play for a local pro five in Pittsburgh. Doc's vehicle. Doc is sincere, but this isn't even The Greatest, the 1975 film starring Muhammad Ali. Doc was kind of stiff. Ali had a ball.

Hoosiers (1986): Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper. In some ways, Hoosiers is similar to Rocky, although better made, containing much better performances. At the time, the NBA was becoming rife with black players, while Georgetown had been establishing a dominating presence in the fabric of the college game, so what do you do? You fill a nostalgic need with a fantasy, turn back the clock to a much simpler time, a time...when ,nigras knew, " their place. It helps if the story is good. This one was taken from real life. Indiana high school basketball in the 1950s, when a state championship was won by a tiny small-town lily-white high school. They had to do it as a period piece because it's not going to happen in contemporary life unless the state is Utah, Wyoming, or Montana. So reconstitute history as mythology. Chariots of Fire was similar in intention and effect. They are usually warmly embraced, these pictures about how wonderful and fine it was when, basically, niggers weren't around. I agree, but ,niggers, " come in all races. Tell me when, in America, black folks weren't around? Exactly when was that? And there's been an honorable black basketball player or Olympian or two down through history, with stories that deserve to be told and told well. When Indiana won the national championship in 1987, right around the time Hoosiers was released, you knew with your own eyes the brothers were out there working, sweating, rebounding, hitting the game-winning j for Coach Knight's team. But not in Hollywood, the land of I Wish. It was ironic--for all of the team-play talk, in this film the game is won when the coach, the so-called keeper of the flame, runs a clear out, and lets its star go one-on-one, and he breaks the defender down off the dribble, then hits the game-winning j. Even with all the baggage, Gene Hackman was great in this. He usually is, come to think of it.

Sunset Park (1996): Rhea Pearlman, as a basketball coach with the acid tongue and the heart of gold at an inner-city high school in Brooklyn? What happened? Couldn't get Michelle Pfeiffer?

Celtic Pride (1996): Dan Ackroyd, Damon Wayans. Two fanatical Celtic fans kidnap a star player (Damon Wayans) of the Utah Jazz (read Karl Malone). Damon is a talent, but the roles he does? Either he has bad taste in material or his agents are giving him the wrong material. Celtic Pride is worse than the current edition of the real Celtics and, in the argot of the blue seats, they stank. Or, if you speak Ebonics, they be stank.

Above the Rim (1994): Leon, Tupac Shakur. Tupac has an allure that's hard to deny, but this was formulaic, the same old refrain. Basketball, O basketball, save me from the horrors and the pitfalls of the streets! Junkies and whores and dope dealers, oh, my! Coach Thompson has a brief cameo. He called earlier and asked me to read the script and see if he should do it. I told him he'd be better off passing. The opening scene of a rooftop one-on-one game where a guy falls to his death while trying to slap the backboard is a device, a confusing one. Miss and go splat on the street, young brother? This accident gives Leon's character a reason to hit bottom. He was why the brother died while playing ball. It also gives him interior motivation to save the life of the next young scrub, uh, superstar, the son of a woman who becomes his love interest.

If I see another eight-foot goal...

The Air Up There (1994): Kevin Bacon. I refused to see this. I thought the one-sheet, the poster for the film, was racist--like some African tribesman is just going to pick up a basketball and be Hakeem Olajuwon. They had already used that joke once in Airplane! and in a headache-inducing scene from Bonfire of the Vanities, showing the black citizenry protesting outside a hotel start speed-passing basketballs, like they're all on the Globetrotters. Okay, it's funny in Airplane! The second time, it's lame. To base a film on it seems desperate. Rosalind Swedlin, who produced this, also produced Clockers. When I went to meet her for the first time, she had the one-sheet for The Air Up There hanging in her office. I said to myself, "Oh, boy, here we go., " I didn't have a bad experience with her, but I knew, looking at the one-sheet, this was not something I needed to see. It would upset me. Before leaving the meeting, I asked her about the one-sheet. She said she had shown it to several black people, and they had all liked it. I never could bring myself to see this movie.

Eddie (1996): Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Langella. Good concept gone bad. John Salley, the Brooklynite ex-Detroit Piston, ex-Chicago Bull, and Dwayne Schintzius weren't all that bad in this. The ballplayers gave better performances than the actors. Disney asked me to make a cameo appearance. I said, "Thanks, but no., " Whoopi, coach of the Knicks? No love lost. Bullshit movie.