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Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed her first feature film, Love & Basketball, in 2000. It is a romantic sports drama set in the United States. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps are in the movie, which was made by Spike Lee and Sam Kit. It’s about Quincy McCall (Epps) and Monica Wright (Lathan), who live next door to each other in Los Angeles and are both trying to make it as basketball players before they fall in love.
Love & Basketball came out in the United States on April 21, 2000. Critics liked it a lot. They liked how Lathan and Epps played their parts, how Prince-Bythewood directed and wrote the script, and how emotional the movie was. Still, it made $27.7 million around the world on a budget of $14–20 million to make.
Over time, the movie has gained a loyal fan base, solidifying its place in popular culture and making it a cult classic.
Cast of Love & Basketball
- Monica Wright-McCall is played by Sanaa Lathan.
- Kyla Pratt as young Monica
- Quincy McCall, played by Omar Epps
- Glennon Chatman plays young Quincy
- Alfre Woodard as Monica’s mother Camille Wright
- Dennis Haysbert as Quincy’s father Zeke McCall
- Debbi Morgan as Quincy’s mother, Nona McCall
- Harry J. Lennix played Monica’s father, Nathan Wright.
- Boris Kodjoe as Jason
- Shawnee, played by Gabrielle Union
- Kerry played by Monica Calhoun
- Regina Hall as Monica Wright’s sister Lena Wright
- Naykia Harris as young Lena
- Erika Ringor as Sidra O’Neal
- Coach Davis is played by Christine Dunford.
- Tyra Banks plays Kyra, who is engaged to Quincy.
- Coach Hiserman, played by Al Foster
The movie’s soundtrack, Love & Basketball, came out on Overbrook Entertainment and Interscope Records on April 18, 2000. Raphael Saadiq, Angie Stone, Zapp, and Steve “Silk” Hurley were among the recording artists who helped make the album. The album reached its highest position in the US at number 45 on the Billboard 200 and number 15 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album got three out of five stars from Stacia Proefrock of Allmusic, who said, “Songs like “Fool of Me” by Meshell Ndegeocello help bring this story about childhood friends who love each other almost as much as they love basketball to life. There are also songs by MC Lyte, Al Green, and Rufus that stand out on the soundtrack.”
Prince-Bythewood said that her goal in writing the semi-autobiographical movie was “to do a black When Harry Met Sally.” She says that Spike Lee, who was the film’s executive producer, was a big reason why she was able to direct her own script. Gabrielle Union tried out for the lead role of Monica, but ended up playing the high school love interest of Quincy. Sanaa Lathan had never played basketball before she was cast as Monica. Prince-Bythewood didn’t know that Lathan and Omar Epps had started dating before the movie was made.
This was the second movie that both Epps and Dennis Haysbert were in together. In the 1994 baseball movie Major League II, they played teammates on a made-up version of the Cleveland Indians.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the picture an 85% approval rating based on 113 reviews and a 6.9/10 average rating. The site’s commentators agree: “Confident direction and acting provide an intriguing look at youthful athletes.” Based on 28 reviewers, Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, indicating “generally good reviews”. The film received an average “A” from CinemaScore viewers.
Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum scored Love & Basketball an A−. “The speed and wiliness of the game itself mean that movies about men who shoot hoops are thrilling, but the novelty of watching women bring their own physical flair to the challenge is a turn-on,” she said, enjoying the film’s portrayal of women’s sports.
3.5 stars from AllRovi’s Rachel Deahl. “Love & Basketball serves as a sobering reminder of how few films exist (much fewer love stories, even fewer ones that focus on the female perspective) about multi-dimensional African-American individuals beyond the ghetto,” she said in her review, praising Epps and Lathan. “Love and Basketball featured moments of such sensitivity and complexity, complimented by such romantic dreaminess between main performers Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan,” noted Washington Post Entertainment Guide film critic Desson Howe. Gina Prince-first Bythewood’s film joins The Best Man and The Wood in seeking class, not vulgarity, in African American society.
“It brilliantly depicts the exhilaration of basketball from a player’s point of view,” said New York Post film reviewer Jonathan Foreman, but “it’s loaded with fake-sounding dialogue you only see in the cheesiest TV movies.” “The picture is not as taut as it could have been, but I prefer its emotional perception to the pumped-up sports clichés I was sort of expecting,” writes Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. It’s about star athlete life pressures, not game highlights. The last shot isn’t convincing. I assume she dresses for the sequel.” Three stars from Ebert. “[It] is a film based around transitions so weak and obvious it’s remarkable the entire thing doesn’t collapse on itself,” wrote Dallas Observer critic Robert Wilonsky. You want to root for it like any rookie underdog, but it offers nothing to cheer for.” “Omar Epps sports a sculpted body and a blank stare,” he adds about the acting. Lathan is marginally better, but her role is empty.”
The Box office
Love & Basketball came out on April 21, 2000, in 1,237 theatres in North America. It made $3,176,000 on its first day and $8,139,180 over the weekend in North America. This made it the second-highest-grossing movie of the weekend of April 21–23, 2000, behind only U-571. Love & Basketball made $27,459,615 in the U.S., which is the ninth most money ever made by a basketball movie and the 37th most money ever made by a sports drama. The movie made a total of $27,728,118 around the world; $268,503 (1% of the total) was made outside of the United States.
After it came out in theatres, Love & Basketball was put out on DVD in the United States. On September 21, 2021, The Criterion Collection put it out on Blu-ray.
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