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Baller's review of Just Wright: scouting report on Common

Thanks to the folks at @AmoebaSF, I got a chance to see an advanced screening of Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah and Common, the other night. For the actual movie review, I recommend the "sophisticated" commentary by the New York Daily News, which kinda went over my head, but likewise I'm sure any of our GSoM NBA analysis would be met with a blank stare from Ms. Movie-Reviewer Elizabeth Weitzman. Then there's the on-point review by E! Online which basically says Just Wright is just ok.

But we hoopheads are looking for something else. Something way more insightful than the movie itself. And that is...

Is Common a balla?!

Well, aside from the YouTube clip above, hit the jump to find out -- plus some other interesting NBA tidbits from the film.

[TANGENT: Related to the poll, Bill Simmons's B.S. Report podcast recently had on David Duchovny, who seems to be a decent baller, and they discussed how Wesley Snipes sucks and Woody Harrelson is not bad.]

Thanks to the pedigree of GSoM, I was able to get in on the sports bloggers' conference call with Common this past Wednesday. More on that later. A few minutes after phoning in, I got to ask my question...

NBA Draft experts want to know: What is your height without shoes, with shoes, and your (estimated) wingspan, and did those measurements help you with your slam dunk as shown in the trailer for Just Wright?

Common's answer was the following:

  • He's 6'1", 180 lbs. He didn't specify if that was with or without shoes, so I'd have to assume it's with shoes.
  • He doesn't know what his wingspan is. I guess draft junkies like me are obsessed with such obscure stats and think about it all the time, even if it is a guess, but Common merely said he'd never got it measured, and he did not volunteer an estimate.
  • The film crew lowered the rim by four inches so he could do slam dunks.

You can read partial transcripts of the Common interview, which includes references to his being a ballboy with the Chicago Bulls and witnessing Michael Jordan in his prime, his take on Derrick Rose, and his training regimen for the role, at The Kevin Burke Project and Black Sports Online.

As far as how the film action went, first of all, they featured Common's character, Scott McKnight, against the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat. Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis were the clearly evident stars, whereas the rest of the team were obviously extras, possibly even with their real last names on the backs of their jerseys (what a cool keepsake, if that were true). For the Heat, it was Dwyane Wade.

I would have to say that it readily appeared Common was not that quick of a player. Therefore, as far as movie realism, it'd be hard to buy that a 6'1" scoring guard and "future Hall Of Famer" (maybe they should've left that line out) could be that slow-looking.

More movie-believability in Just Wright is discussed at Refined Hype.

Still, Common does have a chiseled body and a fairly decent midrange jumper. I emphasize "midrange" because there's a buzzer-beater trey by Common that did not look real at all. Now, mind you, the NBA line, if you've ever tried it, is extremely far for us normal human beings. So I think maybe the film crew could've done a better job of selling that shot to me, maybe with different angles and cut-ins, but certainly not the full-screen view of Common launching and draining from that deep downtown.

I've heard that it's ultra-difficult to find Hollywood leading actors who can double as credible athletes, so you still have to tip your hat to Common. As he discussed in the conference call, he trained really hard for the role, so much so that he felt like he could tryout for a real team. He definitely looks credible enough to get away with it, but those of us with a keen NBA eye will just have to imagine that he really has NBA speed.

Here are some other keen observations:

  • Standing next to Latifah, Common looks maybe one inch shorter, although Latifah is sometimes in heels. I don't know if that says how short Common is (for a balla) or how tall Latifah is.
  • While interviewing for a trainer's job for the 76ers (spoiler, haha!), Latifah stands next to Elton Brand and, wow, Elton sure does not appear 6'9".
  • Who the heck is the scraggly tall center white guy on Orlando walking to the locker room? Didn't notice him playing, but dang, he looks like a guy I saw at the PTA meeting last week! (NOT believable!)
  • Yet another blocked shot volleyball swatted into the stands by Howard. He can't even get those right in the movies (haha, j/k!).
  • If D-Wade is 6'4", he's only supposed to be three inches taller than Common, right? Well, standing next to each other, D-Wade looks huge! Much bigger, wider and taller than the rock-solid Common. I think that's just an indication of how superhuman D-Wade really is.

All in all, a nice little film, albeit a bit short on the romance and the comedy. Good basketball-related films are hard to find, so if you want more to be made, NBA fans ought to go see this at, say, a matinee price. Howard got a few lines, too -- go see if he can act! And the peek into the NBA lifestyle, which is very predictable, was kind of neat.

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