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Can a ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ remake succeed?

Blake Griffin’s production company looks to take it on

4:00 PMFull disclosure: Legendary sports filmmaker Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump is my favorite basketball movie of all time, and it’s not even close. When it was released, I had just turned 11 years old. Somehow, I managed to see it in the theater. As a result, it will always be a kid’s movie in my mind.

So, when Variety reported that Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Ryan Kalil and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris planned to remake the buddy sports comedy, needless to say, it was good news. But then one thing occurred to me: This is going to be extremely difficult.

One Sheet movie poster advertises 'White Men Can't Jump' (20th Century Fox), a basketball sports comedy starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Tyra Ferrell, and Rosie Perez, Los Angeles, California, 1992. (Photo by John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)

One-sheet movie poster advertises ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (20th Century Fox), a basketball sports comedy starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Tyra Ferrell and Rosie Perez, Los Angeles, 1992. (Photo by John D. Kish/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)

John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

When it comes to all the remakes, reboots and faraway sequels that we’ve seen in the past five years, almost none have touched a nearly sacrosanct genre: the 1990s sports kids movie. (Space Jam is the exception that makes that rule, which we’ll get to later.) The list is pretty solid. In baseball flicks alone, you’ve got a handful that are tremendous. The Mighty Ducks franchise was smart enough to immediately triple down. Others just didn’t necessarily lend themselves to further editions, because they were historically anchored: Rudy, A League of Their Own and Cool Runnings, for example. Big Green, Little Giants and Ladybugs didn’t create the merchandising or cultural footprint to garner a second look. Toss in a few straight-to-DVD sequels, and there’s really nothing else.

For White Men Can’t Jump, the bar for a remake is particularly high for two reasons. No. 1, it was rated R. Forget about sports movies, anything that wants to be a blockbuster these days barely gets above the PG-13 rating before its released. And once you move down to that level, you’re stripping away the most relevant cultural contribution the movie made to the world: trash-talking.

Personally, as a middle schooler, seeing the interaction between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson changed my entire world view as to what the fun part of sports was. The idea of everyday brothers just destroying people psychologically with their vocal game wasn’t new to me, I’d just never seen it in such explicit detail on film. More importantly, it was hilarious. From that day on, that was how I played everything. Loudly.

The second reason is obvious: the major premise. It just doesn’t work the same way anymore. The very concept of white guys not being able to dunk just doesn’t hold the same water it once did. Never mind winning NBA Dunk titles, while there’s still a reasonable stigma against white Americans specifically in a lot of basketball circles, at the highest level, getting crammed on by a nonblack person is old hat.

On a basic level, the storyline is just less believable because of basic basketball evolution. We’re not talking once-in-a-lifetime Tom Chambers-type stuff. These days, you can get banged on a by a white dude every night in the league if you’re not paying attention. For lack of a better term, in many ways, the novelty has been lost. But that certainly doesn’t mean that this movie can’t be great.

The question comes in whether this serves as a true remake, or effectively a generational sequel. The latter is probably the better idea, considering. What White Men Can’t Jump also added to the landscape was a plethora of cultural touchstones beyond basketball that were incredible. The flags of Ghana and the Sudan became household images. Caps on the court were suddenly more acceptable. We all should know what a quince is by now. Some of you might be able to hear Jimi Hendrix at this point. In retrospect, basketball was a backdrop for just an otherwise funny movie about what life in Southern California was like in the early ’90s.

But that’s also where it could shine. If Blake Griffin can find a way to maybe draw on his mixed race heritage and create a more modern storyline surrounding what it’s probably like to live in both worlds as a hoopster, then you’ve got a smartly updated plot that likely reflects something more along the lines of what we’re looking at in the world today. Griffin had just turned 3 years old when the original film was released, for what it’s worth. More of this and we’ll be good. 👇👇👇

To be clear, this isn’t some “keep your hands off my childhood memories” manifesto. Not remotely. This particular project has a higher degree of difficulty than most. Snipes and Harrelson weren’t unknowns when they made the original. It was actually the second sports movie they made together (Wildcats). Anyway, the reason why Space Jam works is because it was a movie that came out of the gate as a blockbuster. There were toys, clothes, a soundtrack to die for and everything else that a megamovie is supposed to have. Remaking it was just a matter of time.

“That movie [White Men Can’t Jump] changed [things]. Commercials went from Nike, slo-mo, special effects stuff, to the street,” Shelton said on The Nerdist podcast earlier this month. “From South Africa to Australia, I’ve received letters ever since. It changed the way kids on the street dressed. I’m proud of that.”

Recreating the magic of the OG version should not be the goal here. But using it as a springboard for another hilarious tale won’t be an easy task. Either way, we’re still going to Sizzler after we see it.

Daily Dose: 1/17/17

Serena Williams is back in the land down under

10:00 AMYour boy made an appearance on the True Hoop podcast with Amin Elhassan, and it was a great time. We talked All-Star Game cities, Rip Hamilton vs. Derrick Rose and Barack Obama’s best.

Martin Luther King III is not a character without controversy. You might recall his role at the center of various things involving his father’s legacy, including their whole family fighting over various dollars, but that’s another story. On Monday, he met with Donald Trump (at Trump Tower no less), a decision that I’m sure had his dad spinning in his proverbial grave, if you believe in things like that. Apparently, it was a “constructive” meeting. Sure.

The circus is leaving town. After more than a century on the American landscape, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down. The company claims it wasn’t due to PETA’s incessant protests, which led to a phase out of elephants altogether, but due to the nature of the entertainment industry. Basically, the company is losing too much cash to stay afloat. This isn’t a huge surprise. Circuses are archaic.

When you watch sports, do you yell at the screen? It’s a natural reflex sometimes: A player does something wild, or a ref blows a call, and you start going nuts. Then, someone invariably will turn to you and say, “Why are you screaming? They can’t hear you, you know.” Well, as it turns out, in the actual NFL, all that yelling actually does have an effect. Coaches get vocal with referees in games, because it straight up works.

The Australian Open is tremendous. Matches are played in the middle of the night if you’re stateside, and it’s hot as Hades at all times. Plus, because it’s the land down under, the fashion is typically on a fun level of neon that we can all appreciate. Plus, the Australian Open has the best side court setup of all the majors. Some feel like black box theaters with tennis happening inside. Most importantly, though, Serena Williams is back to busting heads.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you got shot, and were in a wheelchair, how do you think you’d live out the rest of your life? I don’t know what I’d do, but we do know what Tyrone Shoemake is doing with his. The Upper Body Boy is now a thing, so when you need inspiration in your life, check for him.

Snack Time: For MLK Day, the cast of TNT’s Inside the NBA went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights to participate in a simulated sit-in. The results were powerful.

Dessert: Here’s what happens when Young Thug doesn’t show up for a video shoot. It’s great.

Daily Dose: 1/16/17

Bishop Eddie Long dies at 63

4:00 PMWe had some more fun on the radio this weekend, so if you didn’t get a chance to listen to The Morning Roast, here’s the podcast. Yes, we talked politics and The Bachelor, back to back.

We could have had a really awkward situation on our hands today. Over the weekend, it was reported that President-elect Donald Trump was going to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But since he had already started beef with civil rights movement icon, Rep. John Lewis, Trump had to cancel, because he might not have realized that Lewis is actually honored in said museum. Now, he says he’s going to visit with Martin Luther King III, which promises to be a mess.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., the last week has been odd. Since the inauguration is just a few days away, all sorts of things have been locked down, fenced off or otherwise blocked. The event, weekend and parade are a security nightmare on a local level and with all sorts of folks coming to town, it creates a real problem, logistically. Anyways, various groups have things planned for the festivities, if you will. Plenty people plan on protesting and one such collective will be theater groups.

Bishop Eddie Long has died. If you don’t recall, he was the Atlanta megachurch pastor who was accused of coercing young boys into relationships. As a result of his flair, his look and his open denial of the claims, he became famous on Black Twitter and eventually ended up being sort of an unfortunate symbol of what a lot of people consider to be the rampant hypocrisy within many black churches. He then started showing off a dramatic weight loss, which scared as many people as it impressed. He was 63.

I can’t imagine that Mike Tomlin is happy with Antonio Brown. After the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship, the Pittsburgh head coach gave a pretty rousing postgame speech. For whatever reason, his star wideout decided to live-stream said words. Seriously, a grown man actually decided to clandestinely document his boss after an excellent victory. Unsurprisingly, people are ripping him. And he specifically went against Tomlin’s words.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Portlandia is a favorite of ours in this household. Seriously, I love the show, because it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve probably ever seen on television that actually makes sense. Alas, it’s ending after the eight season, and that makes me very sad.

Snack Time: I’ve told you about Song Exploder before, and this episode with Solange talking about Cranes In The Sky is extremely fun to listen to.

Dessert: We don’t love pitch invaders, but we do love these two.

Daily Dose: 1/13/17

The presidential bromance ends perfectly

1:50 PMWe got the gang back together in the studio this week for the first All Day Podcast of this year, which was exciting. This week, we talked President Barack Obama’s farewell speech and the Golden Globes, among other things. Tune in!

Things got very real at the White House on Thursday. President Obama pulled an all-time great on Vice President Joe Biden, surprising him with a Medal of Freedom, which doesn’t happen every day. Men aren’t necessarily allowed to show love to each other, like actual love, in public or professional spaces, but it happened in a glorious way Thursday. Biden was legit caught off guard, but because he’s such a boss, he apparently just had a half-hour speech ready to go, which is basically what being a grandfather is all about. It was a pretty incredible moment, all around.

Did you know that the sky is blue? That water is wet? Those things seem obvious, no? Well, a new report from the Department of Justice shows that in Chicago, police officers have been engaging in patterns of violence that put both themselves and other civilians at more risk than necessary. I’m not trying to be flippant, but ask any person who’s lived in Chi-Town for any amount of time and he or she will tell you that these are all known facts. It is quite something to hear actual government officials admit that law enforcement officers are doing way too much.

Here’s the thing about diplomacy: If you suck at it, people notice. Meaning, if the people whom your country elects to lead them are wandering around the globe acting like jerks, it presents a problem for the regular citizens of said nation. Fast-forward to here in the United States of America, and Donald Trump being the president-elect. Is this actually going to be a problem for us, beyond our shores? It’s been said for a long time that the U.S. needs to improve its image, but the question remains: Is that still true?

You know Bo Jackson. The man who played for the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Royals and was a generational star from a marketing standpoint who is now driving cars on television? He’s cool. His impact as a two-sport athlete was unlike anything we’d seen to that point, and the way his career ended was a bummer to everyone. Now, he says that had he known about the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he would have never played football at all. Of course, that makes sense, but to hear former players be so candid about the game that gave them so much is really telling.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Hip-hop can be so incredibly dumb sometimes. Artists are artists and live in worlds that are different from anything you and I will ever know, but some things are just ridiculous. If you want to instantly understand why people hate the rap game these days, check out this interview with Kodak Black on The Breakfast Club.

Snack Time: Police officers and donuts go together like peas and carrots, to quote Forrest Gump. So someone in Georgia decided to take advantage of that. I’ve gotta say, writing “Black Lives Matter” on a box of donuts is strong.

Dessert: I hate coins. But this is a coin I’d gladly spend anywhere I could.