Let’s be real here, people, Love & Basketball is probably thee most underrated and underappreciated love story of the 2000’s. While everyone was still trying to figure out why Aaliyah (R.I.P.) and Jet Li didn’t hook up in Romeo Must Die (I was wondering why the movie was named Romeo Must Die when there was barely any romance and much less anyone named Romeo), Love & Basketball didn’t just fly under the radar, it basically went into stealth mode. And man did the masses miss out.
The movie perfectly balances two themes: sports and love. Since childhood Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) grew up with two things in common: a love for basketball and a crush on each other. They eventually find their way into each other’s arms only to be separated by not only their professional basketball careers, but by their own stubbornness and pride. After being separated by time and circumstance, Quincy has found himself engaged to the next woman while Monica contemplates her yesterday, today and tomorrow. In one final attempt to rekindle their love which she in her heart of hearts knows was meant to be, she challenges the still recuperating from knee surgery Quincy, to one last game of one-on-one ball. At stake is a future with or without one another.
It was heartbreaking for me to see the love in Monica’s eyes with a quivering voice saying that if she won she’d win Quincy’s “heart.” Let Sanaa Lathan make any other man in the world that same offer. Dudes would purposely – and gladly – play no defense and put up enough bricks to build a house where they’d raise a bunch of children with they baby mama, Sanaa . But Quincy, being the quintessential example of an NBA player who fell off because of injury and feels they have to go on the defensive whenever their manhood or game is “called into question,” simply chuckles in defiance. Next thing you know, game on.
What made this final game between the two so compelling was the emotion each player displayed during a contest where there was so much to lose.. Quincy was really nonchalant to begin the contest, but as soon as Monica began with the trash talking and the “your knee hurt” comment, he turned into the bootleg Black Mamba... Monica on the other hand, displayed the characteristics of a woman frustrated that things had to go this far. Picking and clawing at him on defense and growing irritated after missing the potential game and heart winning basket while continuing with a look of dread on her face. All the time knowing that love is about to walk out of her life if Quincy made the next basket. And not only did he win, but even rubbed some salt in the wound saying, “All’s fair in love and basketball, right?!”
And that’s what really made this scene come together. After a lifetime of putting basketball before Quincy, she ended up losing the only game she ever loved and the only man she’d ever love because of it. Walking away with a broken heart and hurt pride, Quincy says “Hey, double or nothing.” And love prevails.
Say what you want about this scene (and really you can’t say much,) what you can’t say is it’s lame or exaggerated or even girly. Save that talk for scenes out of The Notebook, cause this final game between Quincy and Monica was as real and moving as a definitive love scene can get.