Based on a true story, this movie compellingly takes the underdog-team-that-comes-from-behind story a step further. Viewers love these kinds of movies because they (1) learn the importance of teamwork, (2) learn the importance of discipline and of respect for themselves and each other, (3) are galvanized by an inspiring leader, or, even better, (4) all of the above. Carter shows his player that the biggest obstacle is their own fear of trying for more than they have. "Starting today, you will act like winners, play like winners, and, most of all, you will be winners." This seems simple and straightforward enough unless you are a sports fan. Or unless you are the kind of person who calls himself a "realist" and thinks these kids are not worth trying to save. Their principal falls into that category. She figures that they are not going to graduate anyway, so the best she can do is give them one great experience they can hold onto for the rest of their lives.
For Carter, this was not about a winning season. It was about a winning life. He wanted his team to qualify for college scholarships. And he wanted them to learn discipline, teamwork, and self-respect. Jackson is terrific, as always, and his talent to mesmerize an audience makes him a great choice to play a coach who can give hope to people who gave up a long time ago. Just the way he says, "Sir," insisting and inspiring his team to call him "Sir" as well, tells you everything about his character and his relationship to the players. The young cast members in Coach Carter are more sure of themselves shooting hoops than they are showing emotion, but Jackson holds the screen so well that he gives them extra focus and presence.