White Men Can't Jump

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White Men Can't Jump
White men cant jump.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ron Shelton
Produced by David V. Lester
Don Miller
Michelle Rappaport
Written by Ron Shelton
Starring Wesley Snipes
Woody Harrelson
Music by Bennie Wallace
Cinematography Russell Boyd
Edited by Kimberly Ray
Paul Seydor
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
March 27, 1992
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $90,753,806[1]

White Men Can't Jump is a 1992 American sports buddy comedy film written and directed by Ron Shelton, starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as streetball hustlers. The film was released in the United States on March 27, 1992 by 20th Century Fox.


Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) and a group of streetballers are playing a pickup basketball game. When one of the players on the other team is injured, Sidney pushes his opponents to pick Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson), a white bystander, to take the injured man's place, figuring he cannot play well because of his race. Billy proves to be better than Sidney, leading his team to beat Sidney's and later beats Sidney in a "Best out of five/top of the key" game.

Billy makes his living by hustling streetballers who assume he can not play well because he is white. Billy and his girlfriend Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez) are on the run from out-of-state mobsters because of a gambling debt. A voracious reader, making note of obscure facts, Gloria says her goal in life is to be a contestant on the television show Jeopardy! and make a fortune. Sidney's mission in life is to buy a house for his family outside the rough Baldwin Village, Crenshaw District neighborhood of Los Angeles. He talks Billy into a partnership and they hustle other players for money. But when they unexpectedly lose a game, it turns out that Sidney has double-crossed Billy by deliberately playing badly alongside him, making Billy lose $1,700 to a group of Sidney's friends.

Gloria is incensed at Billy for blowing his money again and is also suspicious of how it happened. They go to Sidney's apartment and appeal to his wife (Tyra Ferrell) for fairness, and Gloria agrees to share some of the money provided Sidney and Billy are willing to team up again for a major two-on-two outdoor tournament. While they bicker incessantly, Sidney and Billy do win the grand prize of $5,000, largely due to Billy's ability to disrupt his opponents' concentration. Billy's most notable claim is that he is "in the zone", a state of mind in which nothing can distract him. Sidney is pleased with the outcome, yet he cannot help mocking Billy about his inability to slam dunk. "White men can't jump," he notes.

Billy insists that he can indeed dunk but Sidney clearly disagrees. Infuriated, Billy claims he is willing to bet his share of the $5,000 on his ability to dunk. Sidney accepts and gives him three chances. Billy fails, losing his share. When he tells Gloria, she leaves him. Sidney reveals that he has a friend who works as a security guard at the TV studio that produces Jeopardy! He agrees to get her on the show, if Billy can sink a hook shot from beyond the half-court line, which he does. To begin, Gloria stumbles over sports questions (notably naming Babe Ruth as the NBA's leading rebounder), but makes a comeback with a pet topic, "Foods That Start with the Letter 'Q'". She wins $14,100 on her first episode. Gloria and Billy get back together.

Billy sings Gloria a song he has composed to win her back. Everything in his world is all right again, but now it is Sidney who suffers misfortune and needs a favor. He and his family are burglarized and become more desperate for money. Billy is supposed to get a steady job and settle down, but Sidney needs him to play basketball for money again and use his share of Gloria's take. Gloria warns that if Billy gambles with her money "we are through". Billy feels he must honor the obligation he owes Sidney for getting Gloria on Jeopardy! in the first place. They play a final game against two hoops legends of the L.A. scene, "The King" and "Duck". In a very tight game, Sidney and Billy prevail, the winning points coming when Sidney lobs an "alley-oop" pass to Billy, who dunks it.

Returning home happy, Billy discovers Gloria has kept her word and left him for good. He is crushed. Then the mobsters who are after Billy track him down and he pays off his debts. Billy asks Sidney to set him up with a real job. Billy says that Gloria has left him many times, but that "this is it", and Sidney remarks "Maybe you two were better off without each other."

Billy launches into yet another basketball argument with Sidney and they are right back where they began—but, this time, as friends.



Bob Lanier, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks legend and Hall of Famer, was hired as basketball coach for the movie. He was impressed with Harrelson and Snipes, suggesting that both reached Division III college basketball skill level.[citation needed]

The original music soundtrack and song "If I Lose" were composed by saxophonist and composer Bennie Wallace, who also scored Ron Shelton's film Blaze.

The musical R&B quintet Riff recorded a song and accompanying music video called "White Men Can't Jump" for the movie. The music video featured Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Rosie Perez. It can be seen on the DVD release with bonus features.

Marques Johnson has a supporting role as Raymond, who loses a game to Snipes and Harrelson. Johnson was a star player for UCLA's 1974-75 national championship team coached by John Wooden and later played for the NBA's Bucks, Clippers and Warriors.

Freeman Williams, who played "Duck" Johnson, also had a distinguished NBA career, playing for the Clippers, Jazz, and Bullets from 1978-86.

NBA player Gary Payton made an uncredited appearance as an unidentified street baller.[2]

The category "Foods that start with the letter 'Q'" was an actual category on an October 1997 episode of Jeopardy![3]

There is a video game based on the movie, for the Atari Jaguar console.

To introduce a new basketball shoe, Nike teamed up with the makers of White Men Can't Jump to assemble the package of shoes inspired by characters Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane.[4]


Two soundtracks were released by Capitol Records, the first, White Men Can't Jump was released on March 24, 1992 and consisted mostly of R&B, the second, White Men Can't Rap was released on April 7, 1992 and consisted entirely of hip hop.


Box office[edit]

White Men Can't Jump grossed $14,711,124 in 1,923 theaters in its opening weekend, with a total gross of $76,253,806 in the U.S. and $90,753,806 worldwide [1][5] and was the 16th highest grossing movie of 1992.

Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 76% based on 51 reviews with an average rating of 6.4 out of 10 with the consensus "White Men Can't Jump provides a fresh take on the sports comedy genre, with a clever script and a charismatic trio of leads."[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars, saying it was "not simply a basketball movie", praising Ron Shelton for "knowing his characters".[7] Janet Maslin from The New York Times praised Wesley Snipes for his "funny, knowing performance with a lot of physical verve".[8]


  1. ^ a b "White Men Can't Jump". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2006-07-28. 
  2. ^ White Men Can't Jump (1992) - Full cast and crew
  3. ^ J! Archive - Show #3008, aired 1997-10-01 Quail, quiche, quince, quinoa, quahog, quesadilla, quenelle, quick bread.
  4. ^ Halfhill, Matt (2009-07-15). "Nike Hyperize "White Men Can't Jump"". Nicekicks.com. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  5. ^ Dutka, Elaine (1992-04-07). "Weekend Box Office : 'White Men' Outjumps 'Basic Instinct'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  6. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/white_men_cant_jump/
  7. ^ "White Men Can't Jump". Roger Ebert.com. 
  8. ^ "White Men Can't Jump". NY Times.com. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 

External links[edit]