The film follows the history of the sport (created by Zucker years earlier) of the same name, from its invention by the lead characters as a game they could win against more athletic types, to its development as a nationwide league sport and a target of corporate sponsorship.
This is the only work involving Parker and Stone that was neither written, directed, nor produced by them, although Zucker himself has stated that Parker and Stone contributed innumerable suggestions for the film, most of which were used.
Somewhere around the beginning of the 21st century, sports like football, baseball, hockey and basketball have fallen in decline as competitive play was replaced by an ever-growing corporative play, to the point where teams could change cities, stars were easily traded like 'hired guns of the Old West', stadiums became huge outdoors and even prison inmates were chosen to integrate sports teams. All of this, combined with unchecked violence and no genuine game, alienated true loving sports fans whom abandoned sport loving, which yearned for a hope at revival that would soon come in the most unexpected way possible.
Coop (Trey Parker) and Remer (Matt Stone) are 23 and unemployed. They arrive uninvited at a party hosted by a former high school classmate. After finding that their classmates have matured, Coop and Remer find themselves outside drinking beer and shooting hoops. Two former classmates challenge them to a game. The two see that their opponents are very good at basketball, so they say they will only play a new game they picked up while secretly inventing the rules (based on basketball as well as baseball) as they go along and winning the new game, which also includes psyche-outs - ways to disrupt the game without being considered cheating. While the game isn't taken seriously, it slowly grows in popularity while Coop and Remer adopt Kenny 'Squeak' Scolari (Dian Bachar), a former gas company employee whom isn't taken as seriously as the other two.
Six months later, Businessman Ted Denslow (Ernest Borgnine), enticed by the game itself, shows up to propose the creation of the National BASEketball League (NBL), with numerous rules in place to prevent this sport from deteriorating as the other sports had done: teams cannot switch cities, players cannot be traded, and individuals cannot make money via corporate sponsorship deals. It's also completely open to all publics, with Denslow stating 'anyone can be a sports' hero'. Coop hesitates, but comes to accept, realizing the opportunity in hand.
Five years after creation of the league, the NBL is in full swing with stadiums, teams, fans, cheerleaders (most half-naked) and a major championship, the Denslow Cup. They even have a major network television contract (though it is never made clear which network it is) with Al Michaels and Bob Costas as the announcers. During the 1997 championship, Denslow, who is the owner of the Milwaukee Beers (in reference to real-life baseball team, Milwaukee Brewers) for whom Coop and Remer both play, dies choking on his hot dog, which causes Coop to miss his shot and the Beers to lose the finals. Denslow's will grants Coop ownership of the Beers for one year - if they do not win the next Denslow Cup, ownership reverts to Denslow's widow Yvette (Jenny McCarthy). Meanwhile, Coop and Remer meet (and eventually fight over) Jenna Reed (Yasmine Bleeth), who is head of the children's Dream Come True Foundation. They also get an opportunity to approach her through one of her children, Joey (Trevor Einhorn), who's an avid fan of BASEketball.
The greedy owner of the Dallas Felons, Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn), wants to change the rules to allow corporate dealing, teams to move cities and players to switch teams, but could not accomplish this while Denslow was alive. Yvette, shown to be easily swayable, would've complied had she been given ownership of the team, but Coop refuses to accept any changes. Cain and Yvette work to make sure the Beers will lose the next Denslow Cup and Yvette will win ownership of the team. Cain starts with slowly convincing Remer to make a deal, which has the rest of the team start alienating from Coop, thinking his traditionalist management is denying the Beers their opportunities.
Afterwards, Cain, realising Coop's relationship with Jenna, cuts the funds to her foundation, forcing Coop and Remer to ask Cain for help. Cain suggests creating a clothing line but Coop is entirely against it, but Remer, as part team owner, immediately agrees, and becomes so obsessed with his newfound fame that he alienates Coop. After they win the league semifinals, Cain informs Coop and Remer through photos that their clothing line has been produced through child labor in Calcutta. If the public finds out the team and Jenna's foundation will be ruined. Cain threatens to release the photos unless Coop and Remer lose or forfeit the Denslow Cup game, effectively losing the Beers ownership. Jenna learns about the child labor scandal and breaks it off with Coop. Coop blames Remer for the mess, while Remer blames Coop for saying no to Cain's proposals in the first place. They fall out, and Coop goes to Calcutta to resolve the situation.
Coop replaces all the child workers in the factory with adults and makes it back just as the fifth annual Denslow Cup begins. The Beers start with an abysmal performance, failing to make one hit in six innings. At the seventh-inning stretch, the Beers are down 16-0, and Coop and Remer continue to blame each other and fight. Having had enough, especially after a ceremonial play, Squeak gives both a pep talk, reminding them of where they came from, what they did that changed their and everyone else's lives and what they were risking losing. Squeak's speech is so moving that Coop and Remer reconcile their differences and Yvette breaks off her alliance with Cain. Coop, Remer, and Squeak finally get back into the game and start scoring.
In the bottom of the ninth, Remer is on second, Squeak is on third, and Coop is up when his custom-made BASEketball (La-Z-Boy) pops. Joey brings Coop a new custom-made BASEketball made from a Barcalounger. Coop misses, but successfully completes the conversion, which is considered a home run for the win and the Denslow Cup. Coop and Jenna reunite while Remer hooks up with Yvette, as the team happily carries Squeak on the Denslow Cup.
After the credits have rolled, Al Michaels and Bob Costas repeat the Coop and Remer "Dude" argument from earlier in the film and the movie ends as they draw the curtain and are seemingly about to kiss.Trey Parker as Joe "Coop/Airman" Cooper
Matt Stone as Doug "Sir Swish" Remer
Dian Bachar as Kenny "Squeak/Little Bitch" Scolari
Yasmine Bleeth as Jenna Reed
Jenny McCarthy as Yvette Denslow
Ernest Borgnine as Ted Denslow
Robert Vaughn as Baxter Cain
Trevor Einhorn as Joey Thomas
Francis X. McCarthy as Dr. Kaiser (credited as Frank McCarthy)
Bob Costas as Himself
Al Michaels as Himself
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dale Earnhardt, Reggie Jackson, Jim Lampley, Kenny Mayne, Tim McCarver, Pat O'Brien, Dan Patrick, Reel Big Fish, Victoria Silvstedt, and Robert Stack make cameo appearances as themselves. Greg Grunberg, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Peter Tuiasosopo also make cameos as athletes.
BASEketball received a 42% approval from 50 critics on review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. It also garnered a score of 38 out of 100 from 18 critics on Metacritic.
Yasmine Bleeth and Jenny McCarthy were nominated at the 1998 Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress respectively for the movie. Bleeth lost to the Spice Girls for Spice World while McCarthy lost to Maria Pitillo for Godzilla.
Lead actors Trey Parker and Matt Stone later went on to reference the movie's mostly negative reception in the third episode of season eight of their co-created TV show South Park, The Passion of the Jew, in which two of the show's main characters, Kenny and Stan (voiced by Stone and Parker, respectively), attempt to get a refund for the tickets they bought to see the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ, the latter at one point telling the former "This is about being able to hold bad filmmakers responsible! This is just like when we got our money back for BASEketball!"
The soundtrack featured a bouncy ska cover of Norwegian band a-ha's signature single "Take on Me" by Reel Big Fish. The band also appears as the live entertainment at the home stadium of the Milwaukee Beers, playing "Take on Me" and several of their other songs.