On this date in 1937, Joe Louis knocked out James Braddock in the eighth round of a boxing match at Comisky Park in Chicago, IL. That fight, and the career of James Braddock are the subject of the film, “Cinderella Man,” starring Russell Crowe.
In honor of the anniversary of that historic fight, we’re tracking the legendary sports figures or events that deserve to be captured on film next!
What better source of big screen drama than global athletes on the biggest stage? Usain Bolt seems like the most obvious choice in this category as he might be the greatest Olympian in history. He rose from humble beginnings in Jamaica to become a global phenomena in one of the Olympics’ most high profile events. He set world records left and right and became an overnight sensation.
Other similarly iconic athletes in this lane include Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Rulon Gardner. All turned heads with dominating performances when the world was watching.
If we reach back through history, “The Miracle on Ice” from the 1980 Olympics and the Jamaican bobsled team from the 1988 Olympics have each already had their turn on the silver screen. But history is filled with inspirational moments we have only scratched the surface of.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ iconic protest was the subject of an Australian documentary entitled “Salute,” but could still benefit from a dramatic treatment. Similarly, Kerri Strug’s historic landing to capture the first US gold medal in gymnastics is with the kind of drama that could make for a compelling movie.
Baseball has given us countless movies over the years. Everything from “Moneyball” to “Field of Dreams” has tried to capture Americans’ love for the game. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more stories out there to be mined.
Bill Buckner made one of the most memorable mistakes in MLB history. He went on to become synonymous with failure and was often ridiculed by fans. That ridicule led to a miserable public life for a man who would have otherwise been celebrated.
Baseball also has a number of stories that started in Central America and likely include all sorts of drama that would compel audiences on the big screen. Such stories include Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz (whose story just took a sad turn) and Albert Pujols. There are also the stories of the people who have become known for steroid use, including Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
There are any number of colorful characters in basketball, but some of the most inspiring stories likely come from the league’s early days. Figures like Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson fought hard for the NBA as it exists today. Not only did they have to fight for contractual rights with the league, but they were also fighting racial injustice on several fronts.
By contemporary standards, the story of Len Bias might offer enough drama for the big screen. He was a highly touted prospect who drew comparisons to Michael Jordan. But days after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics, Bias died from a cocaine overdose. His story could serve as a cautionary tale on the dangers of addiction and getting too much too fast.
Similar to Basketball, early NFL players faced certain injustices that might give filmmakers a platform to make a statement. Jim Brown’s story, for instance, speaks to the best and worst of America. He was a world class athlete in multiple sports, but ended up fighting for basic rights alongside stars like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.