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Film / Love & Basketball

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Love & Basketball is a 2000 romantic drama film coproduced by Spike Lee, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.

Quincy McCall (Epps) and Monica Wright (Lathan) have been next-door neighbors and Vitriolic Best Buds since childhood, with both sharing a great love for basketball and aspiring to become stars in the NBA leagues. The film chronicles their intertwining lives over a decade, as they grow from childhood to high school, then move on to college and finally chase their respective dreams. Along the way, they both must cope with individual trials, disappointments, and their ever-present attraction toward each other both on and off the court.

For those who haven't seen it yet, spoilers will be marked.

Tropes present in Love and Basketball:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game:
    Monica: I'll play you.
    Quincy: What?
    Monica: One game, one on one.
    Quincy: For what?
    Monica: Your heart.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Quincy and Monica in the first half of the film.
  • Betty and Veronica: A by-the-book iteration of this trope with Monica as the Betty and Quincy's fiancee, played by supermodel Tyra Banks, as Veronica.
  • Broken Pedestal: Quincy's father. Quincy believes in Mr. McCall in spite of the scandalous rumors of the older man having an extramarital affair...and then it turns out the rumors are true.
  • The Bully: Sidra towards Monica. She eventually becomes an ally towards Monica.
  • The Casanova: Quincy develops this reputation during high school and college, much to Monica's distaste.
    Monica: But then again, I guess you'll stick your thing in anything.
    Quincy: I didn't know you cared so much.
    Monica: I don't.
  • Character Development: Monica undergoes it twice, first to overcome her hot temper, and then to combat her cocky attitude on the court.
  • Fighting Your Friend: The combat takes the form of a basketball game.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe example when Monica plays and lives in Spain and meets Sidra there, who is playing for an Italian team. She talks about how they are treated like stars in Europe, whereas in the U.S. they are nobodies.
  • Invincible Hero: Quincy is naturally talented at basketball, so much so that recruiters are actively seeking him out while he's in high school. It's subverted later in the movie when he injures himself on the court.
  • Happily Married: Played straight with Monica's parents. Subverted with Quincy's parents. Implied with Monica and Quincy themselves by the end.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Monica's aim is to subvert this trope, especially in contrast to Quincy's Invincible Hero status. She's eventually successful.
  • Heroic BSoD: Quincy undergoes one when he discovers his father's infidelity.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Monica and Quincy are playing strip basketball in his room. She asks in a smack-talking kind of way, "where's the D?" He takes off his underwear and replies, "right here."
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: Early in the movie, when the two are children.
  • Ironic Echo: Early in the movie, when Quincy's studying, he exclaims in frustration that he can't get it. Cue this exchange:
    Mr. McCall: Boy, what did I tell you about using that word?
    Quincy: "Can't" should never be in a man's vocabulary.
    • Then later, after Quincy finds out his dad's an adulterer:
      Quincy: Well, since we're being so honest... since we're being so honest, I'd figured that I'd tell you I decided to drop out of school and turn pro.
      Mr. McCall: Oh, boy. Damn it! Look, man, I know you're mad at me, okay? But I cannot let you do this.
      Quincy: I always thought "can't" wasn't in a man's vocabulary.
  • Jerkass:
  • Mr. Fanservice: Quincy, especially when he wears those little shorts. Lampshaded by one of Monica's classmates: "Look at that booty. I could just lick the sweat off it." He takes his shirt off a lot too, and he's pretty ripped.
  • Precision F-Strike
  • The Resenter: Sidra, Monica's college basketball teammate, is this toward Monica due to the latter's showing off on the court despite being a freshman.
  • The Rival: Sidra, again. By the last quarter of the movie, it's become more of a friendly nature.
  • Serious Business: Basketball is this for both main characters.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Played to the hilt with Monica at the spring dance.
  • Shipper on Deck: Monica's mother ships her daughter with Quincy.
  • Shirtless Scene: Omar Epps gets a couple. Mr. Fanservice for the female viewers.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: When Quincy and Monica strip down to have Their First Time, the camera stays above their shoulders until they have a Modesty Bedsheet to cover their waists (and his body serves as Scenery Censor for her chest).
  • Scars Are Forever: The scar Monica got from her first meeting with Quincy fades gradually over time, but it's still present.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: More like Kis-Slap-Slap; Quincy and Monica in their childhood get into at least one physical fight—after sharing a kiss— with each other despite their mutual attraction.
  • Spirited Competitor: Both Monica and Quincy.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Monica's mother seems to revel in this trope. Later she acknowledges she had to give up her own dreams for her family.
  • Strip Poker: Playing to their strengths, Monica and Quincy share a game of Strip Basketball instead.
  • Their First Time: Monica loses her virginity to Quincy following the high school prom.
  • Time Skip: The film is split into four parts, called quarters (1st quarter, 2nd quarter, etc.) after the basketball time segments. The first quarter covers Quincy and Monica in their childhood; then the second quarter skips to their high school days; then the third quarter covers their first few years of college; The fourth and final quarter showcases their post-college years, when both are involved in professional basketball.
  • Title Drop: Done by Monica during their game of strip basketball, and then by Quincy during the climactic one-on-one basketball between himself and Monica.
    Quincy: All's fair in love and basketball, right?
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Monica and her sister Lena, respectively.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Quincy and Monica, for most of their lives.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl: Monica's mother. All Monica wanted was for her mother to approve of her playing basketball, but Mrs. Wright always felt Monica was too tomboyish. Then late into the film, we get this:
    Mrs. Wright: (talking about her own sacrificed dreams) My family had three meals a day. They had somebody to pick up after them...and when my daughters went to a dance...I could help them get ready. That is what I came to care about.
    Monica: That's all you cared about. I must have played in a thousand games...and I can only remember you being at two.
    Mrs. Wright: You had your coaches and your daddy for that stuff. It never mattered to you whether I was at them games.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A subdued version—Quincy chides Monica for confessing that she loves him when his wedding is only two weeks away. Turns out he reciprocates.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Quincy pushes Monica to the ground in a rage during their first childhood basketball game, inadvertently scarring her face in the process. The very next day, after she insults his father's basketball team, they end up fighting on the grass. Of course, as Quincy grows older, he gets the requisite Character Development.