Full-Court Miracle is the only Disney Channel Original Movie to focus on Hanukkah or Judaism. The film was written by Joel Kauffman and Donald C. Yost, who also wrote Miracle in Lane 2, and it was directed by Stuart Gillard. Alex D. Linz plays Alex Schlotsky, a middle schooler who goes to a yeshiva in Philadelphia. Alex knows what he wants to be when he grows up: an NBA basketball player. His mother (played by Linda Kash from Cadet Kelly) is a doctor, and she expects her son to follow in her footsteps. It’s normally the DCOM dad who tries to dictate his son’s future (which tends to involve sports), but mom is very against basketball in this movie. She’s unhappy when Alex and his teammates find a new coach out in their community: Lamont Carr, the University of Virginia’s first Black basketball player to graduate (true story). Carr passed away in 2017. He had a multi-faceted career after graduating from law school, including coaching Jewish basketball players and championing the sport of darts.
I read one Full-Court Miracle review suggesting that the film should have been more about Lamont Carr. That’s a fair criticism. However, he has an important role in the DCOM. After a fantasy flashback sequence in which Alex (holding a basketball) and Israelites face Antiochus’ army, the boy tells his rabbi, “Our team needs a Judah Maccabee.” The rabbi asks Alex during their conversation, “Will you recognize this Judah when you see him?” And so, Lamont Carr, an athlete with a knee injury who’s living out of his van while waiting for pro basketball opportunities, is the Judah Maccabee of Philadelphia Hebrew Academy Lions. The boys pay Lamont out of pocket for basketball coaching sessions, and he becomes more invested in their success and their lives, eventually having a Shabbat dinner with the Schlotskys and Rabbi Lewis.
Coach Carr is offered a job at the school so that players can practice on-site, and the nosy school principal reminds him that his place of residence is required information for his paperwork. Lamont gives a sham address, since his van is his home, but Alex’s realtor father helps the coach out by letting him stay in a rental unit in exchange for some labor.
I love seeing depictions of holidays in film and television, and the Schlotskys’ celebration of Hannukah is peaceful and very warm. They sing by the light of the menorah and then open their presents. Not surprisingly, Alex’s mother gives him a new encyclopedia CD-ROM, but his dad gives him a basketball card Alex had sold to pay for Lamont Carr’s first coaching sessions. Carr can’t stay on with the Lions, as the Philadelphia 76ers have a spot for him. The boys do their best to prepare for the big tournament that takes place during the last third of the movie. Hanukkah symbolism is at a high during the tournament, as the players complete their game with just enough oil to keep the generator running. Alex’s mom bumps into NBA player Jerome Williams while she’s out looking for Lamont. “What would you say to someone who’s 14 years old, five feet tall, and wants to be in the NBA?” she asks Williams. He answers, “I’d say sign that boy up. He’s a big dreamer.” She then takes Coach Carr to the tournament, where he helps the Lions secure their victory. All the while, Alex’s friend is holding up a “Miracles Happen” sign in the stands. Lamont is reunited with his family after the game and expresses interest in staying on to be a full-time coach for the yeshiva, at Alex’s mother’s request.
In the lovely closing montage, Alex lights the whole menorah, and he and his parents are seen playing basketball outside with Lamont Carr and his family. Happy Hanukkah; here’s to Disney Channel’s Full-Court Miracle!