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The Basketball Diaries (1995)

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A teenager finds his dreams of becoming a basketball star threatened after he free falls into the harrowing world of drug addiction.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marilyn Sokol ...
Chanting Woman
Roy Cooper ...
Construction Worker (as Vinnie Pastore)
Jimmy Papiris ...
Nick Gaetani ...
Referee #1
Bobo (as Alexander Gaberman)
Ben Monk ...
Tommy (as Ben Jorgensen)


Film adaptation of street tough Jim Carroll's epistle about 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 around the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend who is dying of leukemia, a coach ("Swifty") who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an unhealthy appetite for heroin -- all of these 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 can't 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, an older neighborhood friend with whom Jim "picked up a game" now and then, is he able to begin the long journey back to sanity. Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The true story of the death of innocence and the birth of an artist See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic depiction of drug addiction with related strong violence,sexuality and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

21 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Basketball Diaries  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mark Wahlberg was widely felt to look too old to play a teenager. See more »


In the "dream" scene, when Jim is shooting his classmates, the one who gets shot in the back has a visible string attached to him which pulls him to the blackboard. When Jim has a vision on the basketball court and gets blown by explosion, the string is visible again. They were dream sequences, but it seems unlikely that he would dream of strings. See more »


Jim: And in the next life, father, I'M gonna have the PADDLE.
See more »


Featured in Hollywood's Top Ten: Shootin' Hoops (2011) See more »


Written by Tyler Willman, Robert Martin, Steve Ross, Daniel Kempthorne, Mariann Braden
Performed by Green Apple Quick Step
Courtesy of The Medicine Label
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Not just another kid/drug movie
10 February 1999 | by See all my reviews

This movie was Leonardo's first leading role, and he does great work as Jim Carroll. The movie cheats him from time to time, but he gives a consistent and believable performance. He is helped by an excellent supporting cast, especially Mark Wahlberg and Lorraine Bracco. Kids who think drugs are fun and games should see this movie, which gets extra credit for not glamorizing drugs.

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