When you think of Like Mike, you think of your childhood. The movie came out when I was seven years old, and was instantly one of my favorite films. Not just in the basketball category. The same was probably true for most of you reading this article right now.
We saw so many great NBA players in the movie, and became aware that they can all act. Lil Bow Wow was throwing down alley-oop dunks at Staples Center. And we had the great Eugene Levy in there too. What was not to like?
When anybody asks me to rank my favorite basketball movies, there are always two that come to mind. One is Space Jam, and then obviously Like Mike.
The Magic of Sneakers
Like Mike is centered around orphan Calvin Cambridge, who is not very good at basketball. But as soon he finds a pair of old Michael Jordan sneakers, he opts to put them on. As soon as he does, he finds himself able to emulate the GOAT when he plays.
He realizes these abilities when he throws down an alley-oop dunk against the fictional LA Knights star player Tracy Reynolds (played by Morris Chestnut) during a halftime 1-on-1. And from there, he earns his way onto the Knights roster as a stunt to increase attendance.
Just like with Henry Rowengartner in Rookie of the Year (1994), he finds his way onto the court. And the team just magically starts winning, because a little kid with superhuman talent is now playing for them.
The point is, the ability of Cambridge was all in the sneakers he wore. Though it can’t happen in real life, it shows that the intricate details matter when we choose our basketball sneakers. I played my best ball when I wore the Delly 1’s, Matthew Dellavedova’s signature shoe.
And when somebody throws on a pair of LeBron’s, they’ll pretend to be like him. They won’t be able to make the same plays, but still. Everybody thinks of Calvin Cambridge and that old pair of MJ’s.
The Movie is Loaded with NBA Players
We saw quite a few basketball players appear in the movie. From Dirk Nowitzki, to Alonzo Mourning, to Steve Nash and Allen Iverson, plenty were in the film. And they proved their ability to actually show some humor on the big screen.
The aforementioned Nowitzki came up to Calvin before the Knights were set to play the Mavericks, and he asked him for an autograph. When asked who to make it out to, Nowitzki replied by saying it was for his niece. Asked for the name, he hesitated and said: “Uh… Dirk.” Classic.
Cambridge went up to Allen Iverson before his team was set to play the 76ers, and asked for an autograph. His teammate Tracy Reynolds came over and told him that players don’t ask other players for autographs. We then saw Iverson yell: “Player!?” with a confused tone. And as the story goes, the Knights won the game after Cambridge faked Iverson on the final possession.
The best was Vince Carter. In the Knights final game of the year, where Cambridge shows up before the start of the fourth quarter, Carter sees him walk into the gym and smiles. And when Cambridge gets him on a pump-fake before dishing to Reynolds for the win (after his sneakers fell apart), Carter points at him in affirmation at being outplayed by the young man. That’s just game recognize game. Half-man half-amazing acknowledged Cambridge’s greatness.
It’s A Feel-Good Story
Throughout his wild NBA journey, families are lining up to try and adopt Calvin Cambridge. But he doesn’t feel at home with any of them. An orphan for most of his life, his home was with his friends that he lived with at the orphanage.
The film ends with Tracy Reynolds, who was Cambridge’s basketball idol (and teammate) visiting him at the orphanage, with plans to adopt him. Not only does Cambridge now have a new father that he loves, but his best friend, Murph, gets to come live with them too.
How can you not love that? The Cambridge-Reynolds partnership wouldn’t end because Cambridge’s NBA stint was over. It would continue with a father-son dynamic. It was a beautiful way for this movie to conclude.
They Even Had A Sequel
But I’m not going to talk about it. I did enjoy it, but we’re not taking any credit away from the original. Truthfully, the best part of the movie was seeing Kel Mitchell with a prominent role. How can you not love anything that Kenan (Thompson) or Kel do? They made the 90’s… lit.
Thank you, John Schultz, for directing a masterpiece. A masterpiece called Like Mike. ONE THAT IS FOREVER GOING TO BE ONE OF MY FAVORITE BASKETBALL MOVIES.
It’s an All-Timer. No questions asked.