For the filming of Pete's team versus Bobby Knight's, the filmmakers had the teams play two games, from which they took bits and pieces to assemble what is seen in the film. Unlike the screen version, Knight's team prevailed in both games, as he had instructed his players to treat the games as real, and play as hard as they could. Knight also refused to wear make-up while on camera.
In the scene where Bob Cousy shoots baskets, he was told to just keep shooting them as he talks to Nick Nolte, regardless of whether the baskets went in or not. But Cousy never missed, prompting Nolte to ad-lib his reaction.
At the end, Neon and Butch McRae, played respectively by Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway, leave school early to play pro ball. In real-life, O'Neal and Hardaway left school early and played in the NBA, furthermore, as teammates. Having seen Hardaway's talents on the set of this movie, O'Neal, who had been drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in 1992, persuaded the Magic to pick Hardaway in the 1993 NBA Draft. On draft day, the Magic successfully traded number one overall pick Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for Hardaway, who had been selected third by the Warriors, and future draft picks. With O'Neal and Hardaway on their roster, the Magic posted the best record in the Eastern Conference in 1994 to 1995, and overcame the Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (the last playoff series the Bulls lost with Jordan on their roster. He had only come out of retirement that March) and the Pacers with Reggie Miller to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
William Friedkin's decision to cast basketball players, such as Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway as the basketball players, was rooted in the director's sentiment that actors make for unconvincing athletes in most sports films.
The fictional university is called Western University and is located in Los Angeles, California. Western University is also the name of the fictional university in One on One (1977) starring Robby Benson. This was also a movie about college basketball. The fictional Western University in this movie was also located in Los Angeles.
As in the film, Shaquille O'Neal's real final college game came against an Indiana team coached by Bob Knight, as the favored Hoosiers beat O'Neal's LSU Tigers 89-79 in the second round of the 1992 NCAA tournament. (The Hoosiers went on to reach the Final Four, losing in the national semifinals to the reigning champion Duke Blue Devils, who were coached by a famous Knight protege in Mike Krzyzewski and who went on to successfully repeat as national champions.)
The court which served as the home court for Western University is the Frankfort High School Gymnasium. Frankfort is about 20 miles north of Indianapolis and their mascot is the Hot Dogs. Game attendees are local townspeople who flocked at the chance to see NBA stars Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardware as well as college stars Calbert Chaney, Bobby Hurley, Eric Anderson, and Matt Nover, and of course Indiana University Head Coach Bobby Knight.
Nick Nolte was considered to star alongside Jeff Bridges in Tequila Sunrise (1988), which also had J.T. Walsh as the bad guy, like in this film. But they both dropped out, and it went to Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell. Nolte and Bridges were considered for Kurt Russell's roles in The Thing (1982) and Escape from New York (1981).