The on the court talent with the Flint Tropics, Clarence Withers (AKA: Coffee Black/Downtown "Funky Stuff" Malone/Sugar Dunkerton/ "Jumping" Johnny Johnson) brought his 70’s afro and basketball skills to the America Basketball Association. Withers’ dream was to make it to the NBA, which would happen initially by a trade near the end of the season, but his return to the Tropics in the team’s final game ever, and the use of the innovative “Alley Oop” made him the star of the court. That said despite the third billing, the co-member of Outkast did not feel like a star in this movie and was constantly overshadowed….even with the Alley Oop.
There was something a little strange seeing Woody Harrelson in Semi-Pro. It was not because we didn’t buy him as a Basketball player, as he proved it years before in White Man Can’t Jump, but he was the straight man, which was essentially the “sane” man in the Will Farrell vehicle. As Ed Monix, Harrelson was a washed up physically, though he continued to play at a pro level due to his high Hoops IQ. Monix may not have been the star, but a lot of his role comprised (leading man, de facto team leader) had first billing tendencies. Overall, Harrelson was the balance needed to Farrell’s goofiness, and the film would not have been the same without him.
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Will Farrell was at his comedic best as Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro as the Owner/Power Forward of the 1976 ABA Flint Tropics. Moon was a bungling owner who was able to purchase the team based on the royalties of his hit single, “Love Me Sexy”, a song he stole from his mother three weeks before she died. Moon worked hard with various gimmicks (all with poor success) to draw crowds with the hope of bringing the team into 4th place, a position that was promised an NBA birth in the impending merge between the two American Professional Basketball Leagues. On the court, Moon was not a great player, but in a dream he had while unconscious in halftime in the final game, he is given a play by his dead mother (Patti LaBelle), called the “Alley-Oop” which helps them win the game and finish fourth, (although the ABA would not grant small market Flint a merge into the NBA). The character would actually do beer commercials that year, and we wager that this film will remain a sports classic for years to come.