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Growing up, I was more of a ‘tomboy’ than an average or normal ‘girly’ girl type. I was a little rough around the edges and always tried to do everything that boys did. For as long as I can remember, I have participated in sports. In fact, my family as a whole is known to be very athletic. You name it, and someone in my family has probably played it at one time or another. I was surrounded by sports and the importance of being a competitor as a child, and I think that is the primary reason why I have grown to have such an appreciation and interest in sports today.
The very first sport that I can remember playing was tee-ball when I was just five years-old. Everyone was amazed at the speed and athleticism I possessed at such an early age. I was young, but I was fascinated with the sport and caught on so easily to the composition of the game. The wearing of a team uniform and being able to interact with other children my age also played a crucial part in my enjoyment and thus fueled my ambition to want to try other sports, which is exactly what I did.
As I grew older, I began to experiment with various sports, ranging from softball, which derived from my earlier tee-ball experiences, to running track. I even tried being a cheerleader, which is considered by many to be a sport. Although I excelled in every sport I was a part of, basketball by far was the one in which that I was completely and utterly fixated. I have received numerous awards and achievements in this particular sport as a result of my dedication and passion for the game. In any sport that one plays, giving it all you got is referred to as playing with your “heart”. I never knew I could develop such an emotional feeling for a game.
One can only imagine the excitement that flowed through me when the movie Love and Basketball hit the screens. It was a movie that I could relate to in more ways than one, including the fact that one of the main characters is an African-American female athlete like me. This movie was so compelling and relevant to my own life that I watched it at least a dozen times and envisioned myself as this character that I admired and even began to envy in a number of ways. In a perfect world, this is exactly what my life would be like. This movie, at the same time, left me speechless in its’ effortless portrayal of how the two passions of my life (love and basketball) come together as one.
This movie made its debut in 2000, as did the author Gina Prince-Bythewood. This was to my surprise because she did such an outstanding job with the direction of this aspiring crossover film. Love and Basketball was about two African-American athletes form L.A. who shared the same passion for the game of basketball. They met when Monica moved next door to Quincy when they were about eleven-years old. Quincy’s interest in Monica first came when she played ball with him and his friends. They were dumbfounded when they realized that she could actually play and afterwards Quincy asked Monica to be his girlfriend. On the way to school he wanted her to ride on his bike, but Monica insisted on riding her own bike. Although this fueled a fight and ended the very short relationship, the two remained friends. Both Monica and Quincy wanted play in the NBA like Quincy’s father who played for the Los Angeles Clippers and was his role model.
During high school, the two excelled in basketball with hopes of receiving basketball scholarships to USC. Quincy had his choices in colleges, whereas Monica had to work hard to be noticed; even by Quincy. Monica was not the type to wear a dress or even dress up at all for that matter. However, the opportunity presented itself when she was set up by her sister with a cute college guy who accompanied Monica to her school dance. She was transformed into the young lady her mother longed for her to be that night and once again grabbed the attention of Quincy. The two became a couple for a second time and continued their relationship as freshmen at USC. Quincy had it made as usual and Monica had to work hard to earn her spot on the court. Quincy’s relationship with his father, however, took a turn for the worse when he learned of his father’s infidelity which caused Quincy to make hasty decisions such as an early entry into the pros and ending his relationship with Monica.
A few years later, Monica’s professional basketball career (that led her to Spain) suddenly wasn’t enough. It left her isolated and lonely which ultimately drove her back home to pursue being the ladylike figure her mother envisioned wearing skirts and heels. On the other hand, Quincy blew out his knee and ended up in the hospital where the two met once more and this time, to Monica’s surprise, Quincy was engaged to a beautiful woman played by Tyra Banks. In disbelief and desperation to fill and empty void in her life, Monica challenges Quincy to a one on one game of basketball for love. Needless to say, Monica lost the game, but won the game of love and basketball as the two were married and Monica had become a member of the WNBA.
This movie brought to light a multitude of aspirations and affirmations about my own life. First and foremost, you have an African-American film, written and directed by an African American woman; that was culturally relevant during a time where African-Americans were becoming viable in the film industry. It also had a crossover appeal in that the plot was very applicable to the lives of many. It is a universal story because as Linda Seger mentions in the article “Creating the Myth,” “it is a story that connects and speaks to us all” (356). It takes you through a journey of a seemingly love-hate relationship from childhood to adulthood both on and off the court.
Here you had what David Denby, the author of “High-School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies”, explained to be an archetypal high school film filled with “unease and odd, mixed-up emotions” with your typical handsome and popular athlete (Quincy) who was greatly admired largely due to his social status (Denby 396). Then, there was the “female outsider”, but this was the choice of the female in this particular case. This character is played by Monica in the film and she was a rebel when it came to being lady-like which I know a lot of females can certainly relate to. Monica wasn’t the glamorous girl her mother and sister were. She was so immersed in her sport that she really didn’t care to be like or a part of anything else. However, she did seek and ultimately received the attention and affection of her young, handsome male counterpart. Denby goes further to explain this scenario as the part when the movie “turns into a myth of social reversal-a Cinderella fantasy” in the fact that the outwardly, unlikely female attracts the attention of the handsome, most popular boy in school (399).
I could not agree more with the reviewer, Beastwakko, on the film on imbd.com when he suggests that the movie had levels of meaning one could not have dreamed of. These levels extended far beyond a high-school courtship and basketball. It spoke of faith, perseverance, and of strength. Above all, this film spoke of the courage and undying will of a woman in her pursuit of happiness and completion. “There is the relationship not only between Quincy and Monica, but the relationships they had with their father and mother respectfully,” he says. Another reviewer of the film, Maccaveili, goes even further and makes clear, there is more to the film than just two people who fall for each other and coincidentally both just so happen to play basketball, “yet it all was held together cohesively by the love affair and commitment to the sport” (imbd.com).
Overall, this sense of relatable context was exactly what compelled me to the film and brought about numerous emotions. This truly was a universal story, even though the characters and a few circumstances may have differed, it was one that I could certainly identify with. In the article “Creating the Myth,” Linda Seger says that “we all share in the life journey of growth, development, and transformation. In this film, the common story was that of achieving the dream and a search for fulfillment (356). This was truly a story of the passion it takes to keep dreams alive and I share that same passion as well as some of the characteristics with the female star Monica when it comes to my love for the game of basketball. In the end, whatever my goals may be and wherever my journey’s in life may take me, I stand firm to the credence that all’s fair in love and basketball.
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