Fifteen Years Later, Love & Basketball Still Endures (Lifestyle)

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Fifteen years ago this month, Gina Prince-Bythewood made her directorial debut with Love & Basketball. Starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, the film became a quintessential love story for an entire generation of fans unused to seeing faces of color in this context on the silver screen.

The Shadow League has done an in-depth piece celebrating the anniversary of the film and examining its legacy fifteen years later. The article both summarizes the film and analyzes the themes that made it compelling then and now:

“Love & Basketball tells the story of two childhood friends who love the game of basketball and see it as a way of changing their particular realities. For Quincy (Epps), basketball is a birthright of sorts due to his father Zeke McCall (played by Dennis Haysbert), having been a star for the then San Diego Clippers of the NBA. Monica Wright (Lathan) is a huge fan of Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers who wears the number 32 in emulation of the former NBA superstar. Her road to basketball stardom is more arduous than her male counterpart. Along the way the film juxtaposes the seemingly enchanted life of a blue chip athlete with that of an aspiring star in comparing the careers of the two would be professional athletes.”

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The Shadow League also spoke to Prince-Bythewood about the story she brought to life on screen:

“I love love stories. I love movies that make me feel. I want to go to the movies and really feel. Not just laugh or see something that’s on the surface, but make me feel. So I write what I want to see. I’m just so interested in putting us up on screen, being real and authentic. I’ve just been fortunate with the movies that I’ve made, to be able to have the casts that I’ve had to embody these characters that I’ve created and make them so real. So much of it is just drawing from my personal life. That’s what leads to some of it. ‘Love and Basketball’ is half autobiographical…So, maybe it’s just being able to mine my own life and put it up on the screen.”

Part of what made the movie special also was the cornucopia of music from artists of multiple genres and generations. Critical scenes were accompanied by the sounds of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Lucy Pearl, Guy, MC Lyte, Zapp & Roger, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, and more. And, who could forget the climactic scene set to Maxwell’s stirring rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work?”

In many ways, Love & Basketball was one of the crown jewels in a renaissance of film featuring Black actors. Shortly thereafter, that era would dissipate amidst a decline of such movies to a scant few per year–less for those who are not Tyler Perry fans. This may in part be due to the changing face of America, as reflected in blockbusters like Furious 7. Or, perhaps the content has migrated to a smaller screen, as suggested by the breakout of TV shows featuring Black characters (Empire, Black-ish, Love & Hip-Hop). Whatever the case may be, Love & Basketball still endures on in the hearts of many. Click here for the full article at The Shadow League.

Related: The Friday Soundtrack Turns 20. Here’s Why It’s Still Influential Two Decades Later (Food For Thought)