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‘Hoosiers’ always makes it when game’s on the line

NO. 1: “HOOSIERS” (1986) — I have been caught watching the paint dry 63 times or so. No movie better captures one’s love and admiration for the greatest sport in the world and no one line better encapsulates what that player and team meant to a small, rural Indiana town than this: “I’ll make it.”

My team is on the floor. The tape measure before the state championship. Ollie’s underhanded free throw. Shooter and the picket fence. Jimmy Fricken Chitwood. I love you guys.

The. Best. Sports. Movie. Ever.

NO. 2: “ROCKY” (1976) — “I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.” At 10 years old, I thought that was amazing, but even more so later on when I found out Sylvester Stallone wrote it.

NO. 3: “CINDERELLA MAN” (2005) — Paul Giamatti is unquestionably one of the best actors alive we hear too little about and I’d rather see James Braddock in the state he lies peacefully today than James Toney in the UFC. “I believe we live in a great country, a country that is great enough to help a man when he is in trouble. I owe everybody money. I had a run of bad luck. I didn’t always lose. I won’t always lose.” Braddock embodied the American spirit in one of our history’s lowest moments.

NO. 4: “BRIAN’S SONG” (1971) — “I love Brian Piccolo. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.” And if you didn’t dab away a tear or 100 at that point, you’re lying or have a heart of stone.

NO. 5: “FIELD OF DREAMS” (1989) — Brilliant writing. Speaking of losing it a little, what about when Ray turns to John in the closing scene with this: “Hey … Dad? You wanna have a catch?” Forget about it. I was cooked. No sports movie better defines a son’s dream to own that special relationship with his father.

NO. 6: “BULL DURHAM” (1988) — It doesn’t rival “I Have a Dream” for historical importance, but the “I believe” speech by Crash Davis is one of the all-time greats, because who among us doesn’t believe in the small of a woman’s back, good scotch and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone? And, well, you have Annie Savoy. ‘Nuff said.

NO. 7: “BEST IN SHOW” (2000) — The toy poodles, French bulldogs and whippets are relegated to USA Network, not ESPN, but I’m still calling this a sports movie. And if you have seen it, you know Fred Willard’s performance alone makes this a terrific film. “To think, in some countries, these dogs are eaten.” Absolutely classic.

NO. 8: “FINDING FORRESTER” (2000) — What a daily double. I always wanted to play hoops like Jamal Wallace and write like William Forrester. Jamal: “Women will sleep with you if you write a book?” Forrester: “Women will sleep with you if you write a bad book.” It figures. I had to wait until after getting married to learn this gem. Some great soup questions in this one, too. There is far more behind the window than a Pulitzer Prize-winning recluse.

NO. 9: “HOOP DREAMS” (1994) — Watch this documentary and know that each summer, a new Arthur Agee and William Gates hit the Las Vegas courts of the AAU high school basketball circuit. And know that they have every chance of being coached by someone as scheming, as sensitive, as cold, as caring. And that doesn’t begin to describe all the greedy family members in such tales.

NO. 10: “THE BAD NEWS BEARS” (1976) — It is wonderful in a way that most Little League teams you remember as a child had a Kelly and Engelberg and Tanner and Reggie and Ogilvie and Lupus. I suppose my own experience would’ve been enhanced with Buttermaker as coach instead of a local real estate broker who thought milk was too strong a beverage around kids and someone with the looks of Amanda on the mound, but it’s enough to just hear Tanner yell, “Hey Yankees … you can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straight up your …!” Ah, children. Such joys.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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