CHAMPIONS*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film starts with basketball coach Marcus Marakovich (Woody Harrelson) in bed after hooking up with a woman named Alex (Kaitlin Olson). He is more focused on the game on TV than he is with her, and he ends up putting her off and making her leave.
Marcus goes to his job where he works as an assistant coach at a college with his friend and colleague Phil (Ernie Hudson). Marcus disagrees with Phil’s calls and gets into an argument with him. Things get heated and Marcus shoves Phil, knocking him down. The crowd boos Marcus out of the arena and he is fired.
Marcus becomes a laughingstock in the sports community. One evening, he gets drunk and notices cops searching two men. While distracted, he rear ends their vehicle and gets arrested.
After spending a night in jail, Phil bails Marcus out but makes it clear he is still fired. Marcus gets a lawyer and is put up against a strict judge who cracks down hard on drunk drivers. She gives Marcus two options – participate in 90 days of community service by working as a basketball coach for a group of special needs people, or spend 18 months in jail. Marcus reluctantly chooses the former.
Marcus arrives at the rec center and meets the manager, Julio (Cheech Marin), before he meets the team, who call themselves The Friends – Johnny (Kevin Ianucci), Benny (James Day Keith), Darius (Joshua Felder), Cody (Ashton Gunning), Craig (Matthew Von Der Ahe), Blair (Tom Sinclair), Arthur (Alex Hintz), Marlon (Casey Metcalfe), and Showtime (Bradley Edens). Darius, the star player on the team, refuses to play for Marcus for an undisclosed reason. Cody frequently talks about a supposed girlfriend of his, while Showtime’s signature move is throwing the ball backwards, though Marlon tells Marcus that he has never even managed to touch the rim.
Despite some frustrations early on, Marcus gets the team going in training. As he coaches, he also talks to his colleague Sonny (Matt Cook) about getting him a better coaching job. During a cold day, Johnny invites Marcus to get a ride with him and his sister, who, to Marcus’s surprise, turns out to be Alex.
Johnny has a habit of not taking a shower, which bothers everyone due to his body odor. The guys then spot a mouse in the bathroom and get freaked out. Everyone goes into the shower to find the mouse has gone into a hole and could drown in it. Marcus uses this as an opportunity to trick Johnny into washing himself, causing the rest of the team to cheer.
When the team is set to go to their first game, Marcus meets another talented player, Consentino (Madison Tevlin), who is also sassy with Marcus. Benny misses the game because his boss doesn’t let him get off work for basketball. They take a bus there, but Johnny annoys a woman with her son because he is singing out loud. When she moves her seat, Marlon annoys her with his attempts at conversing. Cody throws something at the bus driver’s head, causing him to angrily confront Marcus. Just as Marcus promises to keep the team behaved, Marlon barfs all over the mom and gets them all kicked off the bus.
The team is picked up by Alex, who drives a van for her job performing Shakespeare plays for middle school students. On the ride there, Marcus learns from Alex that Johnny dislikes showers because he almost drowned as a kid and has been scared of water ever since. The team makes it to the game and has fun.
Marcus and Alex begin having a sexual relationship in between the team’s training and playing. When Marcus talks to Sonny again, he confronts Sonny because he lied to Marcus about talking to his uncle about getting an NBA job because the uncle hates Marcus. He insinuates that Sonny was using him to move up as an assistant coach since his current job sucks, but Sonny hits back that Marcus was using HIM to get a better paying job.
Marcus is invited by Johnny to have dinner with him, Alex, and their mother Dot (Barbara Pollard). Everything goes well until Marcus mentions that some of the guys on the team were inviting Johnny to move in with them into their group home. This doesn’t sit well with Alex, who feels a need to protect her brother since they were kids due to him being bullied for having Down syndrome. Marcus leaves and Alex follows, telling him that Johnny has a tendency to get attached to guys that she is with, and them leaving makes him feel bad. When Marcus says that Alex is hiding behind Johnny, they decide to stop seeing each other.
Marcus has lunch with Phil, having a brief reflection on their work and friendship, as well as Marcus’s current coaching job. Phil says that he knew Darius from when he was much younger, as he displayed great talent on the court, but he was involved in a terrible car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. This leads Marcus to realize why Darius refuses to play for him. He visits Darius at his house and acknowledges that his mistake as a drunk driver caused Darius not to trust him, but Marcus apologizes and leaves Darius to decide on his own.
As the team continues training, Johnny is mad at Marcus for making Alex upset. Benny comes in and says he talked to his boss about taking time off to play, but he got fired for it. Consentino gathers the team inside the locker room to motivate them, and to tell Johnny to “snap the fuck out of it” regarding Marcus and Alex. Darius comes in and tells Marcus that he will play for the team, making him happy.
After completing his 90 days, Marcus learns that he is being considered for an NBA coaching job in Seattle. The team is set to play a finals game in Winnipeg, but as Marcus announces his big news, the rest of the team gets upset, thinking he is just going to abandon them like every other coach has. Marcus talks to Alex, reconciling with her and being encouraged to motivate the team. When he tries to get them excited for the big game, they are still despondent because they know the cost of traveling plus hotel rooms and accommodations would be too much for all of them.
Marcus and Alex hatch a plan to save their trip. They confront Benny’s obnoxious former boss, pretending to be cops and saying that they will expose his corrupt business practices and mistreatment of Benny. He ends up giving them enough money to fund the trip to Winnipeg.
During the big game, the team gets discouraged because their opponents are much bigger than them. As they start off, they fall behind due to their nerves, and Marlon suffers a gross but temporary finger injury. Marcus brings everyone into the locker room and gives them a motivational speech, saying that regardless of whether they win or lose, in their own special ways, they are all champions. This drives the team to get out and do better. In the final seconds, Johnny is set to make a winning basket using a maneuver that Marcus taught him, but he throws the ball to Showtime, who pulls off his signature move, to Marcus’s horror. Naturally, he fails to make the basket and the other team wins, but the Friends cheer for Showtime because he finally managed to touch the rim. Despite coming in second place, the Friends consider themselves victorious and are still champions. Marcus joins them as the crowd cheers them on.
The team enjoys their time at the resort, and Marcus tells Alex that he has decided not to take the NBA job, deciding to stay where he is. He then jumps in the pool with the team.
Marcus appoints Sonny as his assistant coach, and he has another friendly chat with Phil over who the better player is. Marcus then throws the ball backwards, and he makes the basket.
Disgraced basketball coach Marcus Marakovich gets involved in a drunk driving incident. He is given the choices between spending 18 months in jail, or 90 days of community service working as a basketball coach at a rec center for special needs youths.
Despite his initial reservations, Marcus genuinely bonds with the team and starts a relationship with Alex, the sister of one of the teammates named Johnny. The team makes it to a big game in Winnipeg, where they start off rocky until Marcus motivates them by saying that, win or lose, they are all champions. The team loses but are still proud of themselves for playing as hard as they did.
Marcus turns down an NBA coaching job to continue working locally and close to the team.