Veteran teleplay writer Prince-Blythewood's debut film script sparked a bidding war after a reading at the Sundance Institute, and Spike Lee's production company, 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks, emerged as the winner. Long time basketball fan Lee was keen to promote a film that gave the female players a voice, and saw that in Prince-Blythewood's script. It's also a darn sight more commercial than Lee's similar He Got Game.
The gamble paid off in the States, with Love & Basketball out-grossing Lee's film and developing a strong teen following - helped in part by the good-looking leads (there's plenty of flesh on show). Lethan matches up to the better-known Epps and comes off the obvious winner, but sometimes the film is too forced in her favour. She has the best lines, the best sporting skill - months of intensive training turned the basketball virgin Lethan into a convincing player - and, while it's great to see a heroine promoted in the same way as a traditional hero, it shouldn't be at the expense of reducing the man to 'the girlfriend'.
Love & Basketball faces a tougher ride in the UK, where the sport lacks following and the mysteries of the American collegiate system are hard to fathom. It also comes off second best to the soon-to-be released Girlfight, another Sundance champion, which deals with the same issues of a woman challenging the rules in a male-dominated sport with greater success. Where Love & Basketball suffers is in being too predictable.
There's not a scene that can't be seen coming a mile off, from the sports-loving Monica's confrontation with her stay-at-home mom (Woodard playing against type), to Quincy's realisation that Monica is quite pretty when she puts on make-up and a nice dress.