I was a fan of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during his legendary NBA career and now subscribe to his weekly newsletter. Among the topics he discusses in his most recent is the movie “Challengers,” which I absolutely hated (read my review here). Considering the surprising number of other reviewers who have said nice things about the movie, I was happy to see Kareem’s opinion is in line with mine:

The best sports movies show how whatever sport is being featured is a metaphor for humanity’s striving to reach a higher level of achievement, while also showing the cost of such striving on the individuals and those around them. Such movies also instill a thrill for the sport, even if it’s a sport the audience is not familiar with. “The Hustler” did it with pool; “Bang the Drum Slowly” did it with baseball, “Vision Quest” did it with high school wrestling, “Hoosiers” did it with high school basketball. “Challengers” tries to do it with professional tennis but fails miserably.

The story follows three rising star tennis players, including Zendaya, caught in a love triangle that is meant to be titillating but is mostly comic. The supposed sexual tension is more like an SNL skit because the writer and director don’t know the difference between sexual and sexy. Sexual is physical writhing while sexy is a passion that arises from people we care about who care about each other. But these characters are hollow shells whose obsession with tennis with no other interests, opinions, or thoughts about anything else makes them champions of boredom. The ending is so abrupt, unearned, and silly that it seals this as one of the worst sports movies ever.