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Moviemaker Matches For Your Chicago Bulls

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 15, 2015 4:45PM


Movies and basketball. It's not a match made in heaven. Unlike baseball or boxing, a list of really good movies about basketball starts to look thin once you get past Hoop Dreams and Hoosiers (though if you toss in some of ESPN's "30 for 30" documentaries, it looks a little better).

But let's go beyond movies about the game and waste some time with this truly strained novelty concept. We've studied the roster of this season's Chicago Bulls squad and come up with some filmmakers and actors who kind of, sort of (not really) correspond to the top players. (Apologies to fans of Tony Snell, E'Twaun Moore, Doug McDermott, Nazr Mohammed and Cameron Barstow, as our meaningless comparisons don't cover the entire bench.)

Jimmy Butler = Miles Teller
Both these guys have gone from promising to exceptional in short order. Teller seemed like just another face in the youth movie crowd (Project X, the Footloose remake) until The Spectacular Now made people take notice. Still, his astonishingly intense work opposite a bullying J.K. Simmons in Whiplash was a bit of unexpected, early career greatness. Similarly, Butler grew quickly from uneven rookie to dependable role player, but few expected the leap he would make this year to a 20-plus points per game go-to weapon. It's way too early know how either career will turn out, but right now the sky seems the limit for both.

Pau Gasol = David Cronenberg
Calm and intellectual on the surface, Cronenberg can reveal his more visceral side in his filmmaking, just as Gasol keeps it cool off the court but makes a big, physical impact during the game. Gasol studied medicine and Cronenberg studied science, so a shared interest in "body horror" — real or cinematic — also makes them a good pairing.

Derrick Rose = Terrence Malick
Malick announced himself as a masterful director with Badlands and Days of Heaven. And then...he was gone. He didn't make another movie for 20 years. Derrick Rose burst on the scene as NBA Rookie of the Year, made the All-Star Team his second season, and then surpassed all expectations with an MVP season in 2010-11. And then...he was gone. Rose's injury-imposed absences haven't been nearly as long as Malick's self-imposed exile, but a similar question surrounds both men: should they have come back sooner and will their work ever reach the same heights? The Tree of Life admirers would say Malick has already matched his early glory, while detractors say that film's best scenes are crippled by overreaching, pretentious moments. Since coming back from his second serious knee injury, Rose has shown some of his peak form but uneven play and games missed have given plenty of fodder for doubters. Another common trait? Neither Rose nor Malick like to give interviews, though in Rose's case, less talk may be a good thing.

Joakim Noah = Sam Rockwell
Rockwell is the quirky character actor who carved an unlikely career in Hollywood through hard work in countless little-seen indies, eventually working his way into bigger films and bigger roles. He has never been the industry's idea of a leading man, but he has shown he can do the job with distinctive verve in movies like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke, and especially his nearly one-man show in Moon. Noah was the first round draft pick many doubted, with an awkward physicality and an eccentric personality to match. But he proved as gritty as they come on the court, making up in effort what he lacks in pure talent.

Taj Gibson = Don Cheadle
Gibson and Cheadle both have serious talent and star power, but each is willing to take a smaller share of the spotlight if it means a winning season or a better movie. Cheadle is a supporting player more often than a lead, but he's no slouch in a starring role. Gibson should have been starting over Carlos Boozer the previous two seasons and fans worry how long he will accept coming off the bench, but with Pau Gasol he's part of the best 1-2 power forward punch in the league.

Kirk Hinrich = Robert Redford
Could have gone with the obvious here, William Shatner (Captain Kirk being Hinrich's nickname), but Hinrich has less in common with the mannered Canadian Star Trekker than with the understated, often underrated, Sundance Man. Both have had long careers with many ups and downs, but just as Redford showed he could still carry a film in All Is Lost (a literal one-man show), Hinrich is proving he still has something in the tank as a player, and he'll take occasional directing duties (as point guard) when needed.

Aaron Brooks = Jeremy Renner
Both have been backups to franchise players, but have enough talent to warrant starting/starring roles. As relief for Rose (and occasionally Hinrich) Brooks has logged serious minutes and delivered in some very big games. Renner may not look like blockbuster material, but he won the lead in The Bourne Legacy (albeit as a character not named Bourne) when Matt Damon bailed out, and he's been rumored as potential new lead for a Mission: Impossible movie. However, to date, Tom Cruise's knees have proven stronger than Rose's, so Renner will repeat a supporting role in M:I 5.

Nikola Mirotic = Christoph Waltz
Christoph Waltz had over 30 years of mostly German and Austrian TV and film credits behind him in 2009, but few Americans had seen him before Quentin Tarantino cast him as a cruel, conniving but somehow charming Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. He quickly became an invaluable addition to almost any Hollywood production he appeared in, winning two Oscars along the way. Mirotic was certainly better known before coming to the U.S., but it was largely by reputation. After securing his draft rights, the Bulls waited three years before he left the European pro league for the NBA. It's still early in his first season, but like Waltz, he may soon have a trophy for his mantel: NBA Rookie of the Year.

Mike Dunleavy = Dennis Quaid or John Sayles
The Kirk Hinrich/Robert Redford veterans' traits apply here as well, and Dennis Quaid is one of those old reliables so we'll give him the movie star slot. Longtime American independent filmmaker John Sayles (Lone Star, Eight Men Out) is also a good equivalent, as he's made quality movies for a long time, but somehow his work is just kind of hard to get excited about.