(ca) wrote: This HBO original movie tells the story of street basketball legend, Earl "The Goat" Manigault. The film opens up with Lakers legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, stating that the greatest player he ever saw was "The Goat".In the Harlem of 1959, young Earl Manigault lived with Miss Mary, a warm hearted, hard working woman who was devoted to his care, after his mother died. He was a young teenager who was just starting to burn up the local basketball courts, playing against older, more experienced players. Earl comes under the scrutiny of parks supervisor, Mr. Rucker, a well-known local and former street basketball player, who started the well-respected Ruckers League, and Diego, a self-styled coach and older local basketball player. He also gets to know Legrand, the local drug dealer.The viewer sees Earl as a young junior high school teen, getting friendly with an older, fast crowd and going to a party where they are drinking, smoking reefer, snorting dope, and getting it on with their women who happen to have bodacious bodies and wear tight dresses. Running around with an older crowd, Earl acquired some habits that cause him some trouble while in high school. He was also starting to make a real name for himself on the local courts, playing against such future greats as Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Connie Hawkins, Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, and Lew Alcindor. It was about this time that Earl Manigault was affectionately given his nickname, "The Goat", becoming known for all time as Earl "The Goat" Manigault.Earl attended Benjamin Franklin High School, where he scored an unprecedented record breaking fifty seven points in one game. This was a player who became known for his double dunk and the fact that he could jump so high that he could touch the top of the backboard. In 1965, he played in the high school championships held at Madison Square Garden, which saw Benjamin Franklin High School pitted against De Witt Clinton High School in the semi-finals. Of course, Benjamin Franklin won and was slated to play in the finals against Catholic high school powerhouse, Power Memorial, which then boasted as one of its players, Lew Alcindor, who would go on to become Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.Unfortunately, Earl gets expelled from high school, when some of his bad habits catch up with him. Mr. Rucker steps in, however, arranging for Earl to attend a prep school down south, which is run by a Dr. McDuffie. While there, Earl learns to read as he should. He also meets Evonne, with whom he develops a relationship and with whom he later has a child. Earl graduates from High School and goes on to college. He elects to go to a small college, where he and the college coach, Coach Pratt, have a personality clash. Coach Pratt wants him to play basketball his way, and Earl wants to play the way that he wants. When Mr. Rucker dies, this augers the beginning of the end for Earl, as he quits college and returns to the streets of Harlem, where drugs and crime are killing off its young men.There, Earl meets up with his old friends, but finds that it is a brave new world out there. He sees one friend shot and killed before his very eyes. Another returns from Vietnam maimed for life, while another is a big time drug dealer that is helping destroy the Harlem of his youth. Before he knows it, Earl joins this bleak landscape as addict and thief. Earl, now a street junkie, turns to a life of crime, while disappearing from the lives of those whom he loves: Miss Mary, Evonne, and his child. The years pass, and, having gone from basketball hotshot to junkie and thief, Earl finally gets a wake up call. Going cold turkey, he kicks his habit and takes back a bit of turf from the local drug dealer in order to create a small oasis for those who would rather play basketball than do drugs.Earl "The Goat" Manigault" organized "The Goat" Walk Away from Drugs tournament that would become a staple of Harlem's street basketball tradition for over twenty five years and would see over five thousand kids participate. At the end of the film, one actually sees a film clip of "The Goat" at one of his tournaments. "The Goat", who was a consultant for this 1996 bio pic, would die two years later in 1998 at the age of fifty-three from heart failure.This is a wonderful, inspirational film, which was a directing first for Eriq La Salle, and a successful one at that. It was a brilliant move to cast both Cheadle brothers, Colin and Don, in the roles of the younger and older Eric Manigault. I did not know this at the time that I viewed the film and was puzzled at how young Don Cheadle appeared at the beginning of the film. The brothers do look very much alike, and it was an inspired bit of casting. Both Colin and Don Cheadle give excellent performances. In Don Cheadle's sensitive and poignant performance, the viewer sees the talent that today sets him apart from others of his generation. Don Cheadle is one of the best and most versatile actors of today.Aside from his impressive directorial debut, Eriq La Salle also does a fine job with the role of Diego. Michael Beach is outstanding in the role of the drug dealing Legrand. Loretta Devine adds warmth to the film with her portrayal of Miss Mary, the woman and mother figure who loves Earl as if he were her own. James Earl Jones, cast in the small role of Dr. McDuffie, is, as always, impressive. Clarence Williams III is very good in the role of the autocratic Coach Pratt. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appears as himself. Those who love basketball as much as I do, as well as those who simply enjoy a well made film with a story to tell, will definitely like this movie . . . .