The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American coming of age crime drama film directed by Scott Kalvert, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg. The film is an adaptation of Jim Carroll's autobiographical work of the same name, telling the story of Carroll's teenage years as a promising high school basketball player and writer who developed an addiction to heroin with his misguided friends.


The film is an adaptation of poet and memoirist Jim Carroll's (Leonardo DiCaprio) juvenile diaries chronicling his kaleidoscopic free-fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction. As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school basketball squad, Jim's life centers on the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend, Bobby (Michael Imperioli), who is dying of leukemia, a coach ("Swifty") who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an appetite for cocaine and heroin, all of which begin to encroach on young Jim's dream of becoming a basketball star.

Soon, the dark streets of New York become a refuge from his mother's mounting concern for her son. He cannot go home and his only escape from the reality of the streets is heroin, for which he steals, robs, and prostitutes himself. Only with the help of Reggie (Ernie Hudson), an older neighborhood friend with whom Jim "picked up a game" now and then, he is able to begin the long journey back to sanity, which ultimately ends with Jim's incarceration in Riker's Island for assault, robbery, resistance of arrest, and the possession of narcotics. After months that Jim spent in prison, he gets released and changes his life around performing his poetry from his diaries about his life.


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The film currently holds a 46% "Rotten" rating at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[3] Roger Ebert gave two stars out of four, concluding, "At the end, Jim is seen going in through a "stage door," and then we hear him telling the story of his descent and recovery. We can't tell if this is supposed to be genuine testimony or a performance. That's the problem with the whole movie."[4]


After the 1997 Heath High School shooting, activist Jack Thompson brought this film into a $33 million lawsuit in 1999 claiming that the film's plot (along with two internet pornography sites, several computer game companies, and makers and distributors of the 1994 film Natural Born Killers) caused 14-year-old Michael Carneal to shoot members of a prayer group. The case was dismissed in 2001.[5][6]

The film became controversial in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre and the Heath High School shooting, when critics noted similarities between these shooting attacks and a dream sequence in the film in which the protagonist wears a black trenchcoat and shoots six classmates in his school classroom. The film has been specifically named in lawsuits brought by the relatives of murder victims.[7][8][9][10]


The Basketball Diaries soundtrack was released in 1995 by PolyGram to accompany the film, featuring songs from Pearl Jam and PJ Harvey. AllMusic rated it three stars out of five.[11]

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  3. "The Basketball Diaries". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
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  7. Carter, Nick (1999-05-06). "Linking of 'Basketball Diaries,' Columbine Shootings Upsets Author". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  8. "Moral Panics and Violence in the Media". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  9. "Media Companies Are Sued in Kentucky Shooting". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  10. Sink, Mandy (2002-03-06). "National Briefing: Rockies; COLORADO: COLUMBINE LAWSUIT DISMISSED". Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  11. Script error: No such module "String". at AllMusic

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External links

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