By Mike Deak
WARSAW – A fun little turn this week of the Fun Film Friday series. Rather than taking on one of the all-time movies that are landing all over the movie brackets and Twitter contests, let’s go to one of the cult classics instead.
White Men Can’t Jump came out during the 90s basketball frenzy, specifically 1992. The Chicago Bulls were The Beatles of the sports world and were embarking on their second of six titles in the decade. The ESPN documentary, The Last Dance, premiered last Sunday and immediately became the most-watched sports documentary in television history. Pandemic or not, the documentary eloquently dotes upon the Chicago Bulls rise to become one of the most revered sports franchises in modern history, as well as the meteoric rise of its superstars, notably Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, which has reinvigorated their global popularity.
When White Men Can’t Jump came out, seemingly every young kid in the country had their favorite NBA player. In the Midwest, it likely was Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. Maybe Magic Johnson or Isiah Thomas for those in the Wolverine state. My friend down the street loved Scottie Pippen and another of my friends really took to LaPhonso Ellis. I’m sure the masses in Elkhart County loved Shawn Kemp, and northern Indiana quickly grew fond of the Supersonic as his star continued to rise in Seattle.
The movie itself was just about the hustle. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes met on the basketball court, both having made their names in the cash game, but find themselves playing together to make money in street ball games. Snipes’ character, Sidney Deane, at one point bets Harrelson’s character, Billy Hoyle, that Hoyle can’t dunk. Exclaiming ‘white men can’t jump’, Deane wins the bet when Hoyle can’t finish the dunk. The movie plays out with Hoyle making money to pay off debts, but loses his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) in the process. At the end of the day, Hoyle and Deane become friends.
The movie unofficially became the influence of a Twitter page, White Basketball Pains, which details the struggles of what Hoyle stereotypes as part of his hustle. White guys not being able to dunk, fundamentals are the truth, and a three is worth more than two. The page recently put an homage to the sentiment:
In honor of the 28th anniversary of White Men Cant Jump:
— White Bball Pains (@WhiteBballPains) March 27, 2020
This weekend was supposed to be the start of the NBA Playoffs, where the league really gains a stronghold of the sports world’s attention. A time when the legends of Bird, John Stockton, Chris Andersen and Brian Scalabrine collide with the folklores of John Paxson and Steve Kerr. But those guys could jump, which lends one to wonder, what’s it like to be able to jump like that?
“Dunking during a game is always an amazing experience and no matter what game it was in it gave us a huge boost of energy,” said NorthWood senior Trent Edwards. “In any big game I was always looking for an opportunity to dunk because it is such a big momentum swing.”
Edwards’ teammate, Jason Borkholder, also had a pair of big dunks that sent the Panther fans into hysterics this season. Dawson Perkins at Tippecanoe Valley almost made it his personal mission to hammer down, his reputation as a rim rocker quickly had him getting double teamed in the post to keep the momentum under wraps.
Of personal note, one of the most electrifying dunks I have seen as a media member was in 2004 when Valley traveled to Wawasee for a late-season matchup. Valley came into the game ranked highly in the state polls and Wawasee was having its best season in a decade. The two were nearly fighting for every point, but one the highlight moment, Wawasee’s James Ward found himself open and flushed down a dunk that sent the Hardwood Teepee into delirium en route to a 54-49 Wawasee upset of the Vikings.
That moment was the first time I had seen a high school player dunk.