Judge Terry Coli turns in a slam-dunk review of this highlight film of many years of professional hoops action. It begs the question, "Why isn't that movie on DVD where the Harlem Globetrotters turn up on Gilligan's Island?"
The most exciting and spectacular plays in NBA history are compiled together on one DVD!
First the AFI gives us the "100 Greatest Films of All Time," then the "100 Greatest Stars" and "100 Greatest Comedies"; it's no wonder the NBA is getting in the list game, so to speak, with their new disc The NBA's 100 Greatest Plays from USA Home Entertainment. Jam-packed with footage of the greatest dunks, steals, blocks, alley oops, and buzzer beaters, the disc also contains plenty of interviews with NBA coaches, sportscasters and legendary players. For hardcore NBA fans, this disc will be a valuable addition to their collections.
Facts of the Case
The NBA's 100 Greatest Plays makes it really simple: the ten best moments in ten important categories. The first category on tap is "Dunks." We are treated to a historical perspective on the evolution of what is, perhaps, the signature move of professional basketball today. George Mikan of the early Minneapolis Lakers was the first player to take the ball straight to the hoop. The dunk was later perfected by legends like Elgin Baylor. Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan moved the focus of the game from the floor to the sky with their flamboyant dunks. The top-ten dunks, belong to players young and old, ranging from Kobe to Dr. J, whose round-the-world tuck dunk is an amazing sight to behold. The number one dunk goes to Michael Jordan. That's no surprise; he practically flies from the sidelines to dunk over Patrick Ewing in the 1991 playoffs. The next several categories on the disc are just as impressive: Alley Oops, Assists, Steals, and Blocks, highlighting a nice mix of archival footage with more recent feats. But the disc really begins to hit its stride in the last few categories. "Teamwork" features some of the great teams in NBA history in top form. It's amazing to see players so in tune with one another that all five touch the ball before a basket is even attempted. This section of the disc focuses on Bill Russell's Celtics, Magic and Kareem's Lakers, and the Bird-McHale Celtics. "Clutch Plays" is the final great category on this disc, containing the most memorable game-on-the-line plays of the sport. Included here is John Paxson's game winning three-pointer clinching the Bulls victory over the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 Finals. Also here is Reggie Miller's unbelievable back to back three-pointers in the course of about twelve seconds that sealed an Indiana win over their hated New York Knicks. That's number four. Number one? Jordan's memorable final shot over the Utah Jazz securing his sixth championship ring.
The NBA's 100 Greatest Plays delivers on its promise. And if you have a favorite play, there's a great chance it's here. I'm impressed with the approach that the producers took with the disc, making sure that certain plays weren't left out simply because they were performed over twenty years ago. Including interviews with greats like George Gervin and Bill Russell, as well as comparatively younger players like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley gives the documentary a well-rounded feel. But this is really just an excuse to put together a terrific highlight reel. In my mind, there is no way to categorize which of these plays are truly greater than the other. And whittling down the list to simply 100 must have been difficult, when certainly one could cull a 100 Greatest Plays disc for a player like Jordan alone. If you're a Chicago fan like I am, you'll be happy to know His Airness figures into 14 of the 100 plays and secures the number 1 spot in three categories. Compare that to Larry Bird, the next highest, who charts with seven plays. Before you start crying "bias," realize that Jordan was the greatest to ever play the game.
As for the video presentation, the disc is full frame. This is to be expected, as most of these plays were originally broadcast on live television. I think it is fair to say that the video quality is as good as can be expected. The more recent plays are in better condition, of course. The older broadcast footage, featuring Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, for example, is in poor condition, either a grainy black and white, or a muddy color. Of course, back in the early '60s no one probably had the foresight to preserve live television sporting events for future home video posterity. So that comes as no surprise. Thankfully, most of the footage looks very good, as do all of the interviews. The disc includes a Dolby 5.1 surround mix, which is a nice surprise, but not really necessary for a disc like this one. As is, the orchestrated music plays softly out of the rear speakers.
As if 100 plays weren't enough to suffice, USA Home Entertainment has included 30 by way of a special features menu. The 10 "latest and greatest" dunks, assists and plays, feature the likes of more recent talent like Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and Latrell Sprewell. Though I wasn't necessarily hungry for more, it's always nice to have a little bonus content.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though the disc presents a nice mix of events on the NBA timeline, this is all basically recycled material. Of course, the game footage has been seen before, but the interviews seem to be a few years old. Though they are appropriate and interesting, it's as if they may have been lifted from other projects, perhaps from the superior NBA at 50 documentary of a few years back. This contributes to a cheapie, thrown-together kind of feel, that fortunately, the footage itself is able to overcome.
Also, the narrator of the documentary has a "nature program" tranquility in his voice. You know, the kind of programs on migrating geese that you turn on so you can fall asleep? Give this guy a Jolt Cola.
If you're a junkie for SportsCenter or Classic Sports Network, this is a disc for you. If you're a casual fan of the NBA, pick it up for a rental as a nice way to buffer the time between playoff games. This disc is bound to give you a lot of thrills and bring back at some great sports memories!
Not guilty! Now let's keep our fingers crossed that MJ will return next season!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: USA Films
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