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Sports Movie of the Week — ‘Blue Chips’ [VIDEO]

Blue Chips
Paramount Pictures

After last week’s deluge of games, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament has reached the regional semifinal round. The growth of the tournament’s annual ‘March Madness’ has helped make college basketball a money-making industry whose latest broadcast rights brought in more than $10 billion. As in any industry, the promise of wealth can lead to institutional corruption and ethical lapses. College basketball has shown to be no exception.

Our Sports Movie of the Week, ‘Blue Chips,’ offers a fictionalized account of how even ‘clean’ college basketball programs can become tempted to break rules to stay among the nation’s elite schools.

In the 1994 film, Nick Nolte stars as Pete Bell, head coach of the Western University Dolphins men’s basketball team. Bell’s teams have been successful in the past, but his most recent squads are becoming less competitive and the boosters and the administration want their school to return to prominence. Bell, however, believes that some of the nation’s best recruits are no longer coming to Western because other programs are breaking the rules by paying the ‘blue chip’ players with cash and gifts.

After much internal hand-wringing, Bell begins to look the other way as a smarmy booster (J.T. Walsh) helps the Dolphins land star recruits Neon (Shaquille O’Neal), Butch (Penny Hardaway) and Ricky (Matt Nover). Western begins to regain its status at the top of the polls, but questions start to loom over the quick turnaround of the program.

Five Reasons to Watch ‘Blue Chips’

1. Nick Nolte shadowed blusterous former Indiana University coach Bob Knight to help him shape the character of Pete Bell. Knight, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Jim Boeheim are among the many real-life coaches and basketball-related people with cameos in the film.

2. By using basketball stars Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Matt Nover in its cast, the movie made the basketball-playing scenes perfectly realistic.

3. Director William Friedkin also directed ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist .’

4. Professional basketball Hall of Fame member Bob Cousy is cast as the athletic director of Western. In one scene between him and Nolte, Cousy effortlessly makes free throw-after-free throw without a miss.

5. Actors J.T. Walsh (as a booster) and Ed O’Neill (as a sportswriter) are wonderfully cast in supporting roles. Each man nails the nuances of his characters.

Click the play button to watch the original trailer of the film below:

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