Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood first came up with the idea for the 2000 hit before the WNBA was founded in 1996. Following Monica (Sanaa Lathan) through four quarters of her life, Prince-Bythewood expertly combines vastly different genres — sports, drama and romance — in a heartbreaking, semi-autobiographical love story that made a major impact.
Monica and her neighbor Quincy (Omar Epps) both dreamt of being professional athletes since they met at 11 years old. When they played their first pick-up game together as kids, Quincy couldn’t believe that a girl could have such good game. As they grew up, Quincy tried to help Monica tame her fiery spirit, which often got her into trouble on the court — and at home.
Though she knows exactly what she wants out of her future as a basketball star, Monica struggles to be vulnerable with those around her and make her feelings for Quincy known. The lifelong friends try taking their relationship to the next level as freshmen at the University of Southern California, but their love for the sport causes a rift between them.
When she finally achieves her professional athlete dreams, Monica starts to feel like something is missing. Just weeks before Quincy is set to walk down the aisle with another woman, Monica surprises him with a challenge: a game of one-on-one for his heart. Though she loses the high-stakes bet, Quincy realizes he can’t live without Monica and calls off his wedding.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking film, Prince-Bythewood told BET that the praise she receives never gets old — especially when the compliments have come from some of the biggest names in basketball. In 2019, Stephen Curry called Love & Basketball one of his favorite movies and made the screenwriter feel like she “had just hit a three [pointer] at the buzzer.”
“To be someone’s favorite movie is amazing,” she said on April 17. “Steph Curry, who I watch and admire so much, dug something that I did. I love that.”
Watch the video above for more of the best moments from Love & Basketball, 20 years after its debut.