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It’s not easy to find basketball movies you’ve actually heard of on Netflix. Think of all the most popular films on basketball—Hoosiers, Space Jam, Blue Chips, and Hoop Dreams. None of them are on the streaming service (though they are available if you have a DVD subscription). Good news, though. Netflix has plenty of other basketball films for you to experience. You might not be totally familiar with some of these movies, but watching them might give you an even greater appreciation for the sport.
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High Flying Bird tells the story of a sports agent caught in the crosshairs of an NBA lockout who tries to end it on his own. A strong script from Moonlight screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney and a leading performance from André Holland make potentially insider story compelling, and the film takes on the NBA’s long history of exploiting Black athletes in the process. —Michelle Jaworski
Considered one of the best sports movies of all time—let alone on Netflix—Hoosiers tells the (loosely interpreted) story of Milan High School’s unlikely 1954 state championship. While the film’s racial dynamics don’t hold up under a modern lens, it captures the dynamics of small-town sports well and Gene Hackman gives a career-best performance as troubled coach Norman Dale. —Austin Powell
At All Costs
If you want to understand what high-level amateur basketball is all about and how that translates into potential college stardom and NBA riches, this 2016 documentary lays out all the behind-the-scenes highs and lows. The filmmakers focus on AAU (Athletic Amateur Union) basketball, as they follow the players and their parents who hope to make it big (and the shoe companies that are looking to profit). The documentary shows the one factor that’s behind the entire amateur basketball enterprise. As Fox Sports wrote, “The documentary is quite telling of the business, and as you find out, money reigns supreme.”
He’s one of the best point guards in NBA history, but for those who are unfamiliar, Allen Iverson has quite a backstory. He grew up in poverty in Virginia, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he was convicted of a felony stemming from a bowling alley fight at the age of 17 (his term was eventually granted clemency by Virginia’s governor). He managed to become an 11-time NBA All-Star, and in this 2014 Showtime documentary, Iverson tells much of his story himself. Along with plenty of highlights from his career, the film shows the impact Iverson had on the league with his basketball talents, the way he wore his clothes, and the tattoos he displayed. And yes, the movie talks about the “practice?!?” rant that might be the most famous press conference moment in sports history.
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This is the story of Satnam Singh Bhamara, a 7-foot-2 basketball prospect who was brought to the U.S. to try to become the first India-born player in the NBA. This 2016 documentary features NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and it takes Bhamara from the rural village of Balloke to the NBA Draft in New York. “Satnam’s story is certainly his own,” producer Michael Ratner told Sporting News. “Satnam, he gets it. And he got it as a 15-year-old. His family was, not dependent on him, but in his mind, he had to do it for his family, had to do it for his village, had to do it for his coaches in India and Ludhiana who taught him the sport, for all of India.”
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Writer-director Ryan Koo’s Amateur is a Blue Chips for the Instagram generation, following a basketball prodigy, Terron, as he navigates the seedy world of amateur hoops. Koo crams a TV show season’s worth of ideas into his 96-minute feature, trying to make Amateur a mentor-mentee story, a cautionary tale, and a rags-to-riches story all at once. But condensing the story takes the air out of the ball, and what’s left feels like a jumble of narrative threads that don’t cohere. If any player were as predictable as Amateur, they would get their shot sent into the stands mercilessly. —Eddie Strait
If you’re a serious hoops fan, you already know about the legend of Rucker Park, the street court at 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem that’s given rise to NBA stars and helped birth the flashy, modern style of basketball. This hour-long documentary coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Harlem sports program that’s helped countless at-risk youth. It’s not essential viewing by any means, but it fills in some important overlooked history
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.