Antoine Tyler (Kadeem Hardison) and Kenny Tyler (Marlon Wayans), two close brothers, are shown as children playing in a basketball game in the year 1986. Their motto for each other is "A&K: All the Way", created by their mother. Their father, James Tyler, is coaching the team and directs Kenny to take the last shot for the win since they are in deficit, but Kenny passes the ball to Antoine out of fright, who misses. Later that night, Kenny and Antoine are playing basketball in their front yard, where Kenny tries to cheer Antoine up, who is still upset about missing the shot. James tells them that all they have to do is stick together and anything can happen. Shortly after that, James has a conversation alone with Kenny, encouraging him to take risks and shoot the ball whenever he has the chance to and not to be afraid of missing.
The film fast forwards to the present-day and both Antoine and Kenny are attending the University of Washington. They make up a famed duo on their college basketball team, the Huskies. The team goes out to a night club to celebrate their most recent win. While at the nightclub, Kenny meets R.C. St. John (Michael Michele), a reporter for UW, with whom he sparks an interest in.
Later, Washington is playing a road game at UCLA. During the game, Antoine slam dunks a ball. Then, as he's hanging from the rim shouting out in victory, he suddenly cries out in pain. He has suffered a heart attack, unbeknownst to the team at that time. He is carried off the court and tragically dies in the ambulance car before reaching the hospital. Coach Pederson (David Paymer), the head coach, choked up, informs Kenny and the team after the game that Antoine has died. Devastated, Kenny cries into his coach's arms as the team moves to comfort him.
The next game shows Antoine's jersey number being retired as a sign of respect. However, the team begins falling apart. Without his brother by his side, Kenny loses his drive and is constantly hounded by the press. During one game, however, odd sequences begin to occur, leading to a surprising win (later learned to be contrived by Antoine's spirit). Antoine later appears to Kenny in the locker room, which initially frightens Kenny, though he eventually realizes it is indeed Antoine. The brothers share a happy reunion. Antoine explains that the reason he's back is because Kenny called him and that he's the only one who can see and hear him.
Kenny's teammates begin to question Kenny's concerning behavior (as they can not see Antoine). Kenny concedes into telling his teammates about Antoine's reemergence, who are in disbelief. The team is reluctant to believe Kenny, but are convinced once Antoine uses supernatural forces to persuade them. Antoine begins to help the team.
Under the influence of Antoine, the team begins to storm through the competition and eventually make it to the NCAA tournament, for the first time in over a decade. Meanwhile, Kenny's relationship with R.C. deepens, despite Antoine's efforts to disband the two as he believes R.C. is only out to get a story on him, which is partially true, as she is originally prepared to submit a story to the paper on him upon his revelation to her that Antoine is in fact aiding the team, though she eventually decides against it.
The rest of the team begins to have misgivings about Antoine aiding them in their games. They confront Kenny on the matter, as Luther LaSalle states that Antoine is a ball hog. "He was when he was alive and no disrespect is even worse as a dead man." Kenny informs Antoine. Antoine becomes irate, and in a fit of supernatural power, wrecks the room they're in. After calming down, Antoine relents to Kenny that he never wanted to pass away. As he had things he wanted to do, he had plans. Kenny tells the team he wants Antoine to stay, clearly because he doesn't want to lose his brother again. However, in the Final Four against Georgetown, Antoine's antics seriously injure their All-American, Jerrod Smith (Flex) who was also a close friend of Kenny's. While Kenny is visiting the player at the hospital, R.C. comes to see how he's doing and knows it's because of Antoine, having discovered his spirit and clues in a game's footage. R.C. tells Kenny that even though Antoine is dead, Kenny's still letting him run his life, to which Kenny tells her she doesn't understand how hard it's been for him to live his life without his brother. R.C. understands but says that Kenny will never truly live unless he lets Antoine go. Kenny then tells Antoine not to interfere during the Championship game with the team by his side, or they will voluntarily forfeit. Disappointed, Antoine leaves, but lingers nearby.
The team plays poorly in the first half of the championship game. At halftime, Kenny gives a speech to fire the team up, telling them that they still have Antoine in their hearts, with the coach being proud that Kenny has finally stepped up as the leader he wanted him to be, and Antoine in tears, to be proud of his brother. The team goes back in the second half with an impressive rally to bring the game close. Kenny attempts the game winning shot. Antoine tries to help, but Kenny tells him not to. He makes the shot on his own and the Huskies win the championship for the very first time. With his job completed, Antoine makes his way back to Heaven. Kenny stops him and attempts to have one final moment with his brother. Antoine tells Kenny that he is proud of him (as he never let Kenny do things on his own) and that he will always be with him as he reminds Kenny what their father told them as kids. Kenny returns to celebrate with his team. Antoine goes off into the distance under an array of lights. Coach Pederson sees this and asks Kenny if this was Antoine (that's our sixth man, wasn't it?), to which Kenny admits, finally able to say "A&K all the way".Marlon Wayans as Kenny Tyler
Kadeem Hardison as Antoine Tyler
David Paymer as Coach Pederson
Michael Michele as R.C. St. John
Kevin Dunn as Mikulski
Gary Jones as Gertz
Lorenzo Orr as Malik Major
Vladimir Ćuk as Zigi Hrbaček
Travis Ford as Danny O'Grady
Jack Karuletwa as Luther Lasalle
Chris Spencer as Jimmy Stubbs
Kirk Baily as Coach Nicholls
Saundra McClain as Camille Tyler
It was set and filmed in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on April 2 until May 17, 1996. It had an estimated budget of $11 million.
The film was released on March 28, 1997 and made $4,128,178 in its opening weekend at the box office, and went on to gross $14,772,788 throughout its theatrical run.
The 6th Man has a 23% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an average critic rating of 3.8/10 based on 13 reviews. Roger Ebert said of the film "The Sixth Man is another paint-by-the-numbers sports movie, this one about a college basketball team that makes it to the NCAA finals with the help of the ghost of one of its dead stars. Let's not talk about how predictable it is. Let's talk about how dumb it is. … Movies like The Sixth Man are an example of Level One thinking, in which the filmmakers get the easy, obvious idea and are content with it."
The soundtrack was released on March 25, 1997 by Hollywood Records. It peaked at #33 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.