Glory Road

There was a time, years ago, when it was thought that black men couldn’t play basketball. We laugh at that now, because the stereotype has done a complete 180, but at the time it must have been extremely frustrating to those who know they could. And who knew they were being denied opportunities.

The national championship won by Western Texas University (now UTEP) in 1966 smashed those misconceptions, mainly because, shortly before the championship game, coach Don Haskins decided to go with an all black line-up, just to prove a point. The opponent in that game was a powerhouse Kentucky team that was coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp. There were no black players on UK’s team, nor had there ever been.

Glory Road is a classic sports movie set up: David and Goliath, with a little sociology thrown in. We follow the Miners throughout the whole season. As it becomes more and more apparent that they are good enough to compete, it draws the attention of people who don’t think it’s right to have so many blacks starting on a basketball team. Hotel rooms are vandalized; beatings in restaurant bathrooms are administered, and the racial make-up of the team becomes a distraction. None of this is terribly original, even if it’s basically true and the script definitely follows a formula.

The performances are good, however. Josh Lucas overcomes his slick persona to portray a competitive, yet compassionate coach. John Voight shines brightly as Adolph Rupp in what’s essentially a cameo role. The players are good. They play basketball convincingly and are decent actors.

Glory Road is not a major film, but it is entertaining.

 

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