Join Date: Jan 09, 2001
Which ’90s Sitcom Characters Would Make The Best Basketball Starting Five?
Twenty years ago today, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired for the last time. The popular 1990s sitcom marked the flowering of a future movie star, Will Smith, but it also embraced basketball as a large part of its protagonist’s backstory. The opening song and scene where Will’s hooping “In West Philadelphia, born and raised” featured a shot that Kobe Bryant unfortunately mimicked during his final season. But that’s not the only relevant NBA overlap.
The emotional high-water mark of the show, Will’s too-brief reunion with his biological father, has left LeBron James misty-eyed, and even the Tom Jones-loving Carlton gets dap from James Harden.
But the 1990s wasn’t necessarily a golden age of sitcoms. Oh sure, it’s a potent well of nostalgia for anybody of a certain age, but it was caught with an abundance of channels and airtime, yet without a vibrant creative community the likes of which is around today. There was a lot of sameness, is what we’re saying, and much of that sameness expressed itself in episode plotlines.
Somehow, many ’90s sitcoms would find a way to work basketball into a plot, with widely varying degrees of believability. Some characters were completely different people on the basketball court, and some had basketball written into their DNA, but a surprising amount of shows worked the hardwood into their respective universes.
To keep a show from getting stale, sometimes you need a change of location, and a basketball court is one of the cheapest locations there is, so a ton of ’90s sitcoms had basketball episodes. Some of them existed to jam in celebrity cameos or poke fun at the characters (or both, in the case of Full House).
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made up 30 percent of our best basketball moments in sitcom history, so why not use its hoop-heavy background to celebrate its anniversary? So we decided to compose an entire starting team, and one sub, made up entirely of 1990s sitcom characters. Will Smith isn’t the only baller from that TV era, even if he’s our on-court star.
Shooting Guard – Julie Connor
Allow us a little space here, because this might not be as well-known a choice. Julie Connor was the protagonist of Hang Time, originally a Saturday morning sitcom co-starring former NBA player and perm aficionado, Reggie Theus. The show was set in fictional Deering High School, and revolved around the Deering Tornados boys’ basketball team. Except, Julie had such amazing skills, when she arrives at the school as a transfer in the pilot episode, Theus — perhaps ironically, if you know about his notorious womanizing during his playing career (he actually dated Michael Jordan’s ex-wife before MJ married her) —- picks her for the boys’ team.
Now, it might not seem like much now with a woman finally close to becoming a major party candidate for President of the United States, but in 1995, when the show premiered, there wasn’t even a WNBA yet (it came the following spring, actually). So can you imagine what it was like for little girls to see a Saturday morning sitcom ostensibly about basketball, only with a strong woman routinely abusing her male counterparts on the court, instead of the usual Zack Morris clone? And because of the timing, we might not even be talking about Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie or Rebecca Lobo and the inchoate WNBA if Julie isn’t working her on-court magic.
Perhaps that’s giving Julie too much credit, but the actress who inhabited the role, Daniella Maria Deutscher, had serious game — or a really good film editor. She showed off her sweet shooting form in the pilot episode above, and we even saw her stand firm and ignore the pump-fake to thwack this shot attempt in a later episode.
If you want a shooting guard who can run the point and guard big shooting guards (think Joe Johnson) on the low block, not to mention sell a ton of tickets and look sharp in a uniform for billboards around town, Julie Connor is who you put on your all-sitcom squad.