In 1976, Jackie Moon is a singer who used the profits from his one-hit wonder, "Love Me Sexy," to buy a basketball team in the American Basketball Association, the Flint Tropics, becoming the owner, head coach, and starting power forward. The ABA Commissioner announces a plan to merge the league with the National Basketball Association, but only four teams will move to the more established league. The Tropics, the worst team in the league, are in danger of dissolving. Jackie argues that the teams with the four best records should be merged and the Commissioner accepts.
Jackie trades the team's washing machine to the Kentucky Colonels for Ed Monix, former backup point guard for the Boston Celtics. The Commissioner reveals that the Tropics will also need at least 2,000 fans at every remaining home game.
Jackie begins to stage extremely desperate stunts, like wrestling a bear named Dewie. The Tropics begin playing better with Monix, as well as the increased intensity of Clarence Withers. Monix takes over as offensive and defensive coordinator and starting point guard, leaving Jackie as the head coach. Monix trains the team rigorously with a play he calls the "Puke" as the players are to run it, until they throw up.
From Monix's training, the Tropics go on a winning run, moving from last to fifth. Jackie gets a visit from the Commissioner. The NBA does not think that Flint has a large enough media market and will not allow the Tropics into the league even if they beat the first place San Antonio Spurs. Jackie admits that he stole "Love Me Sexy" from a napkin his mother wrote on three weeks before she died. Realizing that all his assets are basically stolen, Jackie trades Withers to the Spurs so that he may realize his dream in the NBA. Monix inspires the team to leave everything on the court, while they may not be able to continue the franchise after this season, they have come very far and still have a lot to prove.
Going into the Spurs game, which Moon declares the "MegaBowl", the Tropics are in fifth place and with a win they would make it into fourth, although they have no chance in making it into the NBA. The game begins and the Tropics fall behind quickly. In the closing seconds of the first half, Jackie gets fouled hard by Petrelli while going up for a shot and is injured. Withers decides he has seen enough and rushes into the Tropics locker rooms with the rest of the team, which angers the Spurs.
During halftime, an unconscious Jackie imagines that he is in heaven with his mother. He apologizes for stealing her song and she gives him a weapon in order to win. On the court, the Tropics reveal their new weapon: the alley-oop. With the return of Withers, it is very effective and he leads the charge. The referee calls the play a foul, but after some persuasion by Jackie and Monix, is soon convinced that it is a legitimate score. The Tropics take advantage of this new strategy and begin coming back. After the Spurs start defending against the Alley-Oop, Monix calls a time-out and calls for them to run the "Puke" with 12 seconds left and down by two points, 115–117. The play gives Jackie the ball, but he gets fouled hard again with two seconds left. Shooting granny style, Moon sinks the first basket. The second rebounds off and Monix tips it in right at the buzzer for two points to win.
The Spurs' coach offers Withers his position back. The now-former ABA Commissioner offers Jackie a position on the staff of the NBA Assistant Commissioner, as a marketing director. As Jackie is about to accept, the Commissioner is mauled by the Dewie the bear.
The 5-year-old, 7 1⁄2-foot-tall (2.3 m), 700-pound (320 kg) male grizzly bear named Rocky appeared in the film in a scene where Will Ferrell's character wrestles him to promote his basketball team. Stuntman and trainer Randy Miller doubled for Ferrell during the wrestling match with the bear. On April 22, 2008, the bear bit 39-year-old Stephan Miller (Randy Miller's cousin and fellow trainer) on the neck, killing him.A number shown in the teaser trailer 1-800-TROPICS, when called played a recorded message of Jackie Moon talking about season ticket packages for the 1976 season
Several ads for Anheuser-Busch were filmed featuring Will Ferrell in character as Jackie Moon that were aired during Super Bowl XLII. Some of the ads touted humorous promotional items with offers expiring in November 1977.
A music video was released with Jackie Moon singing his 'hit' "Love Me Sexy"
Ferrell appeared in character as Jackie Moon in TV spots for Old Spice deodorant
A prescreening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas two weeks prior to the box office debut featured an appearance by Will Ferrell and director Kent Alterman. In order to obtain entrance to the theater, all viewers had to wear a basketball uniform similar to the one worn by Ferrell in the film.
An official Jackie Moon Semi-Pro costume was released in summer 2008 for Halloween.
A Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue spread featured Ferrell with Heidi Klum.
Semi-Pro received negative reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 21% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 157 reviews, although the movie also received a rating of 4.5/10 from the same site. The site's critical consensus reads, "Semi-Pro is an intermittently funny, half-hearted attempt at sports satire, and one of Will Ferrell's weaker cinematic efforts." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 47 out of 100, based on 29 reviews. Matt Zoeller Seitz of New York Times said, "Semi-Pro finds the sweet spot between sports melodrama and parody, and hammers it for 90 diverting minutes."
Peter Travers writing for Rolling Stone stated, "when the script, by Scott Armstrong, shoots air balls, Ferrell is a slam-dunk." Claudia Puig of USA Today said, "Although not exactly a slam dunk, Semi-Pro is definitely more than semi-funny." In his review for The Village Voice, Robert Wilonsky gave the film 2 stars of a possible 4 and wrote that director Kent Alterman, "valiantly tries to tweak the formula by adding a dash more sincerity and humanity to the froth but doesn't get too adventurous. But in the end, it's comedy comfort food, something powdered poured from a box."
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $15 million in 3,121 theaters in the United States and Canada, holding the number one position at the box office. Alicia Chang of the Associated Press described the opening as "lackluster" compared to Ferrell's previous sports spoofs Talladega Nights, which opened with $47 million, and Blades of Glory, which opened with $33 million. The basketball film went on to gross $33,479,698 domestically and $10,405,206 internationally, for a total of $43,884,904 worldwide.
2008 ESPY Awards
- Best Sports Movie ESPY Award
2008 Teen Choice Awards
- Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie - Comedy (Nominated)
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on June 3, 2008. There is a theatrical R-Rated version DVD and a 2-Disc "Let's Get Sweaty" Unrated Edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Special features include unrated deleted scenes and more.
The soundtrack for the film was released on February 26, 2008 and featured songs by LaBelle, WAR, Curtis Mayfield, Will Ferrell, among others. "Love Me Sexy" is sung by the fictional Jackie Moon (played by Will Ferrell).
- "Love Me Sexy" – Will Ferrell
- "Get Da Funk Out Ma' Face" – Brothers Johnson
- "Lady Marmalade" – LaBelle
- "The World Is a Ghetto" – WAR
- "Tell Me Something Good" – Ronnie Laws
- "Mr. Big Stuff" – Jean Knight
- "Give Me Just a Little More Time" – Chairmen of the Board
- "Why Can't We Be Friends" – WAR
- "Walking in Rhythm" – The Blackbyrds
- "Dance to the Music" – Sly & The Family Stone
- "Love Rollercoaster" – Ohio Players
- "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" – Sly & The Family Stone
- "Move on Up" – Curtis Mayfield
- "Shining Star" – Elijah Kelley