“Some Games You Play, Some Games Play You”
24 years ago, on 23rd March 1994, the movie Above the Rim was released. The movie, which stars Tupac Shakur, Duane Martin, Leon Robinson, Wood Harris and Marlon Wayans, follows the story of a talented high school basketball star called Kyle Watson (Duane Martin), who dreams of playing in the big league, the NBA. While he waits to find out if he will get a scholarship to Georgetown University, he is put in a difficult position at a neighbourhood tournament Shoot-Out.
Kyle want to play for a team that is run by his school coach but his best friend Bugaloo (Marlon Wayans) shows him to a club that is run by a drug dealer called Birdie (Tupac Shakur), who wants Kyle to play for his thuggish team. Shep (Leon) who is employed as security at the school, was a basketball star in years gone by and also Birdie’s older brother, who knows all about Birdie’s drug dealing. He tries to steer Kyle into college and away from the drama of the Shoot-Out. What does Kyle do, who’s side does he choose? Does he get his scholarship?
“Just cuz a motherfucka is born into ya family, don’t mean you stay family” Birdie, Above the Rim, 1994
Above the Rim was directed by Jeffrey Pollack, who was also the writer and producer for 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was filmed in 1993 in Harlem. Upon the movies release it took in $3,738,800 over the opening weekend.
The Above the Rim soundtrack was released on the 22nd March 1994 by Death Row Records and Interscope and features Tha Dogg Pound, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Nate Dogg and Tupac. The song Regulate by Warren G and Nate Dogg, taken off the soundtrack, was nominated for Best Movie Song at the 1995 MTV Movie Awards.
Tupac had one song on the soundtrack, Pour Out a Little Liquor, which he appeared with the group Thug Life. The soundtrack went double platinum in the US.
This was Wood Harris’s first major film role. He was cast as Motaw, Birdie’s young soldier. He would later play vital roles in Paid in Full and TV series’ The Wire and House.
In 2017 Wood Harris gave a radio interview that revealed a shock surprise, that Tupac had a lookalike play him at the end of the film.
“At the end of the movie, he was shot the first time, and the movie wasn’t done yet. At the end of Above the Rim there’s a lookalike. He had shot quite a few shots that the editors pieced together with a lookalike to make the scene work because after he got shot, they really had to change it up a lot in the movie to make it fit the footage they had”, revealed Harris.