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Could watching a movie turn around a team’s season? Probably not, but here are a few recommendations that could potentially help offer some inspiration.
NBA players have a lot of down time. Between flights, off-days, and innumerable hours spent in hotel rooms, there is a lot of time to kill and, therefore, a lot of time to watch movies. While some movies may function as no more than escape, others may teach us about ourselves.
A great film can reveal something about oneself that they did not know before, unearthing hidden thoughts or feelings that may not have come to light otherwise. In light of that, here are five classic films that could potentially benefit some teams or players if they took the time to DVR them the next time they show up on Turner Classic Movies.
What classic movies should these NBA teams be watching?
Philadelphia 76ers: The Awful Truth
In Leo McCarey’s classic screwball comedy, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star as a married couple on the outs. They begin divorce proceedings but then go out of their way to sabotage their ex’s every attempt to begin a new relationship. It’s not petty spite that animates their actions though; rather it is the dawning awareness that, in light of their shared history, no one else can understand or satisfy them quite like the other.
Ben Simmons and the Sixers have been caught in an extended divorce process since last summer’s playoff flameout. And yet neither party has made it easy for the other to move on. Simmons has not played since last year’s playoffs, tanking his trade value a little more with each missed game, while Daryl Morey seems unwilling to let him move on except for a King’s Ransom.
Yet perhaps a team screening of The Awful Truth could remind them how much both sides have to gain from a potential reunion. Perhaps Simmons and Embiid could remember what a potent defensive combo they make and how many open shots Simmons could provide for Embiid. They could remember how much success they found together in the past and find a way to recapture that magic. As Grant and Dunne’s farcical attempts to find new love show throughout the film show, new does not always mean better.
Brooklyn Nets: Mikey and Nicky
In Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes star as the titular gangsters and old friends, spending a long night together in Philadelphia as Nicky worries about imminent retribution from a boss that he robbed. However, as Nicky comes to realize, Mikey is in cahoots with this very boss and is aiding an assassin attempting to track Nicky down. While the plot makes it sound like standard gangster fare, the script, direction, and performances combine to make it something much more than that. In reality, it is a profoundly sad meditation on betrayal, friendship, and how a shared history may not be enough for a relationship to last.
The Nets are in a strange place. Despite having three of the best players in the league, they are sixth in the Eastern Conference and no one seems happy. There are rumors that Harden wants out and Irving, having played just a handful of games this season due to his vaccination status, might as well not even be a member of the team. Durant is the best player of the three, the one that Nets management wants the others to complement, but will discontentment from Durant bubble over?
Durant wanted Harden and Irving alongside him in Brooklyn but do their current struggles outweigh that initial desire and the time they’ve spent together? They certainly do not have to worry about Durant contracting a hitman to take them out, but he wants to win a third championship and prove that he can do so without Stephen Curry by his side. Friendship is important, yes, but Mikey and Nicky may be a reminder that sentimentality or loyalty to longtime pals may need to take a backseat if such values harm one’s own title chances.
Sacramento Kings: Duck Amuck
Of all the great classic Looney Tunes shorts, Duck Amuck may be the best. In it, Daffy Duck plays the capable and loyal employee, attempting to do his job. However, Daffy is beset time and time again by a rogue animator who refuses to cooperate and places innumerable obstacles in his path. This animator changes the background, cuts off the sound, and alters Daffy’s appearance among many other indignities. Daffy alternates between annoyance, confusion, and outrage, continually beset by forces beyond his control.
The Sacramento Kings are staring down a 15th consecutive year of missing the postseason and the franchise remains a mess. While the Vlade Divac era is mercifully over, the end of his regime has not brought stability with it. The team did fire Luke Walton earlier this season, though the move was long overdue, and it remains hard to be optimistic.
That said, Sacramento does have some players who, against all odds, are continuing to play good basketball. De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are a very solid and very fun backcourt; Harrison Barnes remains the definition of ‘solid’; Richaun Holmes is probably nailing a baby hook as you read this. But thanks to a series of institutional blunders, none of their abilities seem to matter. They must feel stuck in a cruel universe run by a vengeful god — much like Daffy. Perhaps watching Duck Amuck, the Kings players will find themselves relating to Daffy’s plight, cracking up as they watch this poor, aggrieved duck struggle to overcome the cruel hands of fate. Because, sometimes, when you find yourself stuck in a tragic situation, all you can do is laugh.
LeBron James: The Last Picture Show
LeBron James is still a very good basketball player, one of the best in the league, yet the aura of invincibility and dominance that surrounded him for so long is starting to evaporate. Currently, in the midst of his 19th season, he is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it. Accordingly, it may be fitting for James to spend some time with Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film, The Last Picture Show, which captures a Texas town in the midst of transition. The high school seniors are trying to figure out what comes next and the movie theatre is shutting down (fittingly showing Red River, a Howard Hawks western about an older generation having to cede ground to a younger one).
It’s an elegiac picture that has a patina of sadness hanging over it. Yet it is one of the best movies ever made about transitioning into a new stage of life and the pain (and potential freedom) that arises when one is forced to let old dreams die. As LeBron prepares to move from a world revolving around establishing a legacy and winning championships, to one in which more modest goals are pursued, he may find the folks from Anarene, Texas amiable companions on the journey.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Chinatown
In Chinatown, a 1974 neo-noir, Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a private investigator who is initially hired to figure out if a woman’s husband is having an affair or not. As tends to happen in these types of movies, Gittes quickly stumbles upon something much bigger than an affair: a conspiracy to buy up land and water rights before selling them back for a huge profit. But however much Jake tries to get to the bottom of it and hold the conspirators accountable, the rot is too entrenched and all his efforts are for naught.
The Timberwolves have some promising young players and are in the midst of the playoff race yet, but it’s still just so hard to believe in them. Every great player they have had from Kevin Garnett to Kevin Love to Karl Anthony-Towns has seemed held back, as if there is something inherent to the franchise that inhibits success. This is a team that has only made the playoffs once since 2004 and only made it out of the first round once in franchise history. I’m not trying to inspire fatalism in the Timberwolves by recommending this picture, but sometimes it’s good to know what you’re up against. I want to see Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell live up to their potential and succeed together and finally be the ones to turn the franchise around. And yet, I think sometimes that it may be more gracious to walk alongside Towns, put my hand on his shoulder and say, “Forget it Karl, it’s the Target Center.”