In 1999 Ken Carter, head coach of an inner city high school basketball team in California, created a large controversy when he locked out his undefeated team because they were doing poorly in school. The movie, which tells his story, takes place in Richmond High School -- a facility where many of the students end up in jail or get pregnant. Coach Carter attempts to capture the life of a man who dared to challenge the rules of high school sports.
I know what you're thinking: the underdogs win and the star player gets the girl. And Coach Carter does have its corny moments -- in one scene, the players grind through 1,500 pushups so that their teammate can play. But all melodrama aside, Samuel L. Jackson does paint a convincing portrait of a coach desperately trying to get his team to see the importance of academics.
Complementing Jackson's strong performance is the reserved yet determined Kenyon Jones, played by Rob Brown (Sean Connery's shy protege in Finding Forrester). Unsurprisingly, the main drag is Ashanti, who poorly depicts Kenyon's under-privileged, pregnant girlfriend. By the end of the movie, the heart strings have been pulled (think Dangerous Minds meets Rudy). But for anyone whose a sap for team-bonding, Coach Carter is just what you're looking for.