Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) have wanted to be professional basketball stars since they were kids. Monica wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and wear Magic Johnson's number 32, and Quincy wanted to be like his father and play for the Clippers, wearing number 22. However, Monica has to work hard to establish herself, while Quincy was born with natural star potential. As the two struggle to reach their goals of playing professionally, they must also deal with their emotions for each other.
The film spans roughly thirteen years of friendship between childhood sweethearts Monica Wright and Quincy McCall. The first quarter of the story begins in 1981, when Monica (played as a youth by Kyla Pratt) and her family moved to Los Angeles in 1981 from Atlanta, Georgia, and quickly became acquainted with their new neighbors the McCalls, a wealthy family due to the success of Quincy's father Zeke, the star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Clippers. Quincy and Monica are drawn to each other instantly, sharing a love of the game: basketball. Quincy (played as a youth by Glendon Chattman) is shocked that a girl could ever love basketball as much as he did, and he is even more shocked when Monica plays so well. Although their first interaction results in Quincy angrily knocking her down during game point and accidentally scarring her face, they share their first kiss on the first day of school and end the "first quarter" of the story fighting in the grass.
The second quarter of the story begins in 1988, when both Monica and Quincy are the respective leaders of their high school teams. Scouts have taken clear notice of Quincy, who many see as one of the top prospects in the country. His popularity was not just evident on the court as he is extremely popular with the other students and could have any girl in school that he wanted, but he is still good friends and neighbors with Monica.
Monica, on the other hand, struggles with her fiery emotions on the court, which often resulted in technical fouls at critical moments of games, getting benched, and eventually pushing away many potential scouting opportunities due to her lack of control. Aside from her emotions on the court, she also struggles with the emotions she secretly still harbors for Quincy and struggles to express them as he is always surrounded by other girls. Monica also has problems with her mother Camille, who is a stay at home wife and mother. Ever since she was a little girl, Monica has been pressured by Camille to give up basketball and "act like a lady", to the point that Camille would force her to wear dresses and skirts against her will. This has continued into her high school years, with Camille still complaining that Monica is too much of a "tomboy" and needs to learn to be more feminine, which leaves Monica feeling hurt and resentful of her mother for not accepting her for who she is and refuses to embrace the domestic "housewife" work that her mother seems to enjoy so much. Through soul searching throughout the season, Monica learns to control her emotions and leads her team to the state championship game. However, both she and her team came up short leading them to a victory, leaving Monica devastated and in tears.
Later on, Monica begins to recover from the defeat with the help of her older sister, Lena, who gives her a makeover and even finds a college friend to take her to her spring dance. With nothing more than a new hair style and a dress, Monica shows up to the spring dance looking as beautiful as ever. Despite having a date of his own, Quincy notices her and immediately walks over to her to compliment her new appearance but doesn't hesitate to comment on her date. They both show jealousy towards each others' dates and part ways. Later that night, they both speak outside her window and reveal to each other how their dates didn't meet their needs. She also lets him know that she has a letter from University of Southern California (USC) and insists on him to open it. After the letter reveals that she has been accepted, he finally stated that USC was also his choice. As they move in to congratulate each other with a hug, Monica mistakes the gesture as a kiss and that leads to them finally acting on their feelings for one another by making love to each other. It was Monica's first time.
The third quarter of the story follows Quincy and Monica to their freshman year at USC in 1988-89, where they are managing themselves as athletes, students, and a couple. Again, the same problems seem to present themselves, this time on a bigger stage. While Quincy finds instant success on the court, as well as more and more female admirers, Monica struggles for playing time, being the backup to USC's senior guard, Sidra O'Neal. To make matters worse, she falls on the bad side of the head coach, Ellie Davis, both for showing off and for her lack of defense. Her relationship with Quincy becomes more and more strained as Quincy struggles to deal with the media attention surrounding his father, who is trying to convince Quincy to finish college before going pro, and a paternity suit against him from a former lover. Quincy feels betrayed by his father for lying to him and threatens to leave school for the NBA early, despite his father begging him not to sacrifice his education just to spite him. Zeke mentions that his mom was only nineteen when she was pregnant with Quincy and he wasn't ready for a family, but he stayed anyway. Monica finally earns the starting point guard spot at the end of the season. However, Quincy can't be happy for her, because he blames her for not being there for him when he was having problems with his father. Monica is hurt deeply by Quincy, leading the two of them to go their separate ways.
The fourth quarter of the story follows the characters through the early 1990s, a few years before the establishment of the WNBA. In 1993, Monica's prospects for professional basketball lie exclusively in the IWBA, the International Women's Basketball Association, while Quincy steps into the pros at home. Monica settles into her new life in Barcelona, where she struggles to cope with the everyday grind of playing overseas away from family and friends. She misses home, but can't imagine a life that didn't include basketball. (Sidra points out that their teammate at USC, Big Toni, quit the previous year and now works at a bookstore). She tries to adapt to her surroundings as a local sports celebrity and the focal point of the team's offense. She leads her team to a dominant victory in the championship game at the end of the season. Despite all of her personal success, she starts to realize that her love for basketball isn't the same as it was before.
Having left USC after his freshman season, Quincy is now in his fifth year in the pros, trying to find a role with his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers. The moment he finally finds some playing time, he injures himself landing awkwardly after a slam-dunk and tearing his ACL. His family rushes to the hospital to be with him, but his now divorced parents still have bad blood when they see each other. After Monica hears about Quincy's injury, she flies home to see him.
Monica goes to the hospital to visit Quincy, and is stunned to hear of Quincy's engagement and to meet his fiancée (Tyra Banks). After her meeting with Quincy, Monica soon realizes that her feelings for him still exist. Monica also clashes with her mother Camille again over old resentments, causing Camille to remark that she had to give up her own dreams after having children and resenting Monica for not appreciating the sacrifices she made for her family, with Monica counter-arguing that Camille never made her feel loved and accepted, because she kept trying to force her to give up her goals for a stereotypical "woman's role" in life that she didn't want. Over the next few months, Quincy undergoes rehabilitation, while the day of his wedding draws closer. By this time, Monica has decided to give up basketball and work at a bank with her dad instead. When questioned by Quincy, she states that it was no longer fun for her. However, Quincy does not understand, stating that he never knew anyone who loved basketball as much as she did. After seeing how truly unhappy her youngest daughter is without either basketball or Quincy (or both) in her life, Camille finally relents and encourages Monica to fight for her dreams and the man she loves. Quincy and Monica meet up, this time as friends, and reminisce over their shared past. At this point, Quincy has recovered from his injury, and Monica finally steps up with an ultimatum. She challenges him to one final game on the court, but this time, the stakes are higher: if he loses, he calls off the wedding and chooses Monica; if not, he marries his fiancée. Her reasoning is that if he loses, it would be, because he let her win, which would mean that, deep down, he really doesn't want to get married, because he still loves her. Quincy agrees and beats her in the game, but can no longer be apart from Monica and chooses her instead. The phrase "double or nothing" brings a whole new meaning to the game.
The film fast-forwards to five years later in 1998. Monica has finally gone pro in the WNBA, which was created two years earlier by the NBA in 1996. The movie ends with Quincy helping their baby daughter cheer on Monica during her game. The back of her jersey is seen with the name "Wright-McCall", showing that Monica and Quincy got married. In the closing post-credit scene, Quincy and Monica's toddler daughter is seen in the backyard, running and putting her basketball into her toy basketball hoop.
Cast and crew adapted from AllRovi.Sanaa Lathan as Monica Wright
Kyla Pratt as Young Monica
Omar Epps as Quincy McCall
Glenndon Chatman as Young Quincy
Alfre Woodard as Camille Wright, Monica's mom
Dennis Haysbert as Zeke McCall, Quincy's father
Debbi Morgan as Nona McCall, Quincy's mother
Harry J. Lenix as Nathan Wright, Monica's dad
Boris Kodjoe as Jason
Gabrielle Union as Shawnee
Monica Calhoun as Kerry
Regina Hall as Lena Wright, Monica's sister
Christine Dunford as Coach Davis
Tyra Banks as Karen, Quincy's fiancé
Al Foster as Coach Hiserman
From August 1999 to October 1999
Love & Basketball is the soundtrack to the film, released April 18, 2000, on Overbrook Entertainment and New Line Records. Production for the album came from several recording artists, including Raphael Saadiq, Angie Stone, Zapp, and Steve "Silk" Hurley. In the US, the album peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200 and number 15 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Stacia Proefrock of Allmusic gave the album a three-of-five star review, saying "Songs like MeShell Ndege'ocello's 'Fool of Me' help punctuate this story of childhood friends who love each other almost as much as they love the game of basketball. Other highlights of the soundtrack include songs from MC Lyte, Al Green, and Rufus."
Love & Basketball was released in the United States on April 21, 2000.
Love & Basketball received generally favorable reviews from film critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 70, based on 28 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable". At Rotten Tomatoes, which is similar to Metacritic, the film received an aggregated score of 82%, based on 87 reviews stating, "Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes." Film reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave Love & Basketball an A- review. She enjoyed how the film portrayed women's sports in general and says "The speed and wiliness of the game itself ensure that movies about men who shoot hoops are exciting, but the novelty of watching women bring their own physical grace to the contest is a turn-on." Schwarzbaum also appreciated Prince-Bythewood's directing skills, claiming "[She] is also vigilant and honest about the hard sacrifices made in pursuit of sexual equality. And for that, she scores big in her first pro game."
Rachel Deahl of AllRovi gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. In her review she complimented Epps and Lathan on their performances, and said, "Love & Basketball serves as a somber reminder of how few films exist (much less love stories, much less ones that focus on the female perspective) about multi-dimensional African-American characters outside the ghetto." Film critic Desson Howe of The Washington Post's Entertainment Guide wrote, "Love and Basketball had moments of such tenderness and sophistication, complimented [sic] by such romantic dreaminess between lead performers Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan. First-time filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood's film joins such films as The Best Man and The Wood, which look for the class, not the crass, in African American life." Howe gave the film a favorable review.
New York Post film critic Jonathan Foreman gave the film a mixed review; he appreciated how the film "effectively conveys the excitement of basketball from a player's point of view", but says it's filled with fake-sounding dialogue you only find in the cheesiest TV movies." Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, says "The film is not as taut as it could have been, but I prefer its emotional perception to the pumped-up sports clichés I was sort of expecting. It's about the pressures of being a star athlete; the whole life, not the game highlights. I'm not sure I quite believe the final shot, though. I think the girl suits up for the sequel." Ebert gave the film three out of four stars. Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer gave the film a negative review, saying, "[it] is a film built upon transitions so weak and obvious it's astonishing the entire thing doesn't collapse on itself. You want to root for it, as you would any rookie underdog, but it offers nothing to cheer for." He also elaborates on the acting, stating "Omar Epps possesses a chiseled body and a blank stare [...] Lathan is only slightly better, but she's stuck in a hollow role."
Love & Basketball was released in North America on April 21, 2000 to 1,237 theaters. It grossed $3,176,000 its first day and ending its North American weekend with $8,139,180, which was the second-highest grossing movie of the April 21–23, 2000 weekend, only behind U-571. Love & Basketball grossed $27,459,615 in the United States, which is ninth all-time for a basketball film and thirty-seventh all-time for a sports drama. The film grossed $27,728,118 worldwide; $268,503 (1%) was grossed outside of the United States.BET Awards
Black Reel Awards
Independent Spirit Awards
Key Art Awards
NAACP Image Award