I have a confession to make: I have not seen Love and Basketball.
Which, okay. I’m sure there are many people — even many people reading this — who’ve never seen that movie. But people who know me personally express shock, awe, and dismay when they learn I haven’t seen it (The usual response: “What??? You’ve never seen Love and Basketball??? You, of all people???“) for two somewhat overlapping reasons:
1. I was a division one college basketball player. And, today, I only have a cable subscription so I can have the NBA League Pass. So I obviously love basketball.
2. I love love. I love love so much that “Sweet Love,” a track on Method Man’s second album, is one of my favorite songs. And it’s one of my favorite songs because Cappadonna begins and ends his verse by saying “Love is love, love. Love is love, love” —a phrase I love so much I had it tattooed on my left arm. (Surprisingly, this is also actually the least regrettable tattoo I have.)
So naturally, a person who loves basketball and loves love should have seen Love and Basketball by now. I’m also a big fan of Omar Epps. (And really appreciate the work he’s doing coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers.) Gina Prince-Bythewood is an amazing director. I really enjoyed that movie about the bees with the secrets. And I love Sanaa Lathan so much that I have a recurring dream where she and I are at the same brunch. And we’re both waiting in line for omelets. And she’s standing in front of me. And I notice her being somewhat indecisive about what to get. And I say “Try the crab with the asparagus and the feta cheese.” And she’s like “Wow. That’s a great suggestion. Thanks. What’s your name?” And then we get married.
Alas, here is why I still haven’t seen the damn movie:
1. I love basketball, but I (usually) hate movies with basketball in them
My favorite basketball-related movies are He Got Game, Above the Rim, and Finding Forrester. The one thing they have in common is that they each star actors who are actually good basketball players. (And, with He Got Game, an actual NBA player.) And this matters to me. Because I’m a bit of a basketball snob. And it’s impossible for me to suspend disbelief in a movie where the star actor (or actress) is supposed to be a basketball star but looks like they’d have trouble making my 6th grade AAU team.
And yes, while Omar Epps is a fine actor, the little bit I’ve seen of him attempting to play basketball lets me know he would have had a very difficult time beating me in one-on-one. When I was 12. But in Love and Basketball, he’s supposed to be an NBA star. Um, no.
Lemme put it this way: If you were a scientist, could you seriously watch a movie featuring Tyrese and Riff Raff as astronauts? I didn’t think so. (To be fair, that actually sounds like an awesome movie.)
2. I’m a hater
I know, I know, I know. Any person who’d devote an entire piece to explaining why he hasn’t seen a 15-year-old movie must have some gluten-free Haterade in his blood. But it’s not that kind of hate. I don’t hate for the sake of hating. I’m not Kim Davis. You see, Love and Basketball came out in 2000. When the movie was released, I happened to be in a star-crossed romantic situation that, in hindsight, was ridiculous and hilarious and bizarre and basically every good and bad thing about every relationship everyone reading was in before they were 21. But, while I was going through it, it was the weirdest and worst thing ever. And I was so upset by it that, when a movie featuring basketball and love was released and everyone was lauding it like it was the best thing ever, I decided to do my own silent boycott of it. Because I was a basketball player, but fuck love.
It has been 15 years since that year, though. And, although Omar Epps couldn’t beat the 12-year-old me, he might win a game or two against the oldhead-at-the-Y-hooping-in-musty-gray-sweatpants me. So maybe it’s time to give it another chance.