Review of “No Look Pass” which is a slam dunk on and off the court.


Emily Tay thinking during a pause in action on the court.

On Monday night, I saw the movie, “The No Look Pass”, at the IFC Center, in New York City.  I heard about the movie a long time ago but the main reason I went was because Amanda, who is my Team in Training teammate, was the editor of this well made documentary.  She did an excellent job!

Right before entering the movie theater I decided to walk around a little to see if I would find anything new to eat.  It was my lucky day since I spotted the Northern California styled Taqueria that Casey had told me about called Dos Toros.  To get me ready for the movie, I devoured the best burrito that I have ever had, easily topping the ones sold at Chipotle or Qdoba.

The main character of the movie is Emily Tay, who is a fascinating one because she is a basketball star who is gay and Asian.  She tries to differentiate herself by being outgoing but deep down she is really somewhat reserved and cautious.

Her parents came to California in 1980 in pursuit of the American Dream for them and their children.  They came from the poor country of Burma, where Emily thought that if she would have grown up in those circumstances she would have had a menial job on a boat all-day, but since she was in America, Emily was able to pick up basketball at about the age of 13, which would help her experience the world.  They had a son as well, who was a few years younger than Emily, who had not really come out of his shell yet, but he surely would not have had the same opportunities in Burma.

Emily attended a prestigious private school in California because one of the workers at the school frequently went to her mother’s nail salon.  She was shown as somewhat of a problem child in high school (this was possibly before she started to excel on the court), but this would be where she would truly display and hone her basketball talent.  Her game is a mix of how Allen Iverson was able to get to the hoop in his prime mixed with the passing wizardry of Steve Nash and Deron Williams.  (Williams and Nash can both pull off the no look pass to perfection just like Emily.)

Her next step was becoming a starter on the Harvard University basketball team.  She would go on to lead the team to many victories, with her patented no look pass, which when pulled off is one of the most eye-opening plays in basketball.  However, she does struggle with when to come out to the team, as well as to a lesser degree, being Asian in college basketball where they are few and far between.  However, her humor does make itself known throughout.

(She has many parallels with Jeremy Lin.  He comes from California, his parents came in search of the American Dream from Asia (China), he went to Harvard after being under-recruited out of high school, was a novelty because he was Asian and his flashy but under control basketball ability landed him a spot as a free agent signee with his hometown Golden State Warriors.)

She had some trouble taking over games and her coach would get on her for that, but she could make shots in crunch time and find open teammates.  She seemed to enjoy her Crimson teammates, as that is very important because college athletes spend a significant amount of time with their squad.  She said that her goal was excelling on the basketball team so that she could get a professional contract in Europe (she rejected the thought of the WNBA), but she ended up getting a psychology degree from arguably the best college in the U.S.A., Harvard.

Harvard lost to their archrival, Yale, to prevent Emily and her best friend Katie from winning the Ivy League championship (this is because they are the only league that does not have a play-off).  Emily thought to herself that this loss might hurt her pro aspirations but she got the news she wanted late in the summer.  During many road-trips with the team, Emily and Katie dreamed about playing on the same squad in Europe and this would indeed come to fruition.  (I even recognized the hotel that they stayed in when they faced Cornell, in Ithaca.)

Another moment that stands out from her time at Harvard was parent’s weekend.  All of the family’s were with the team in a conference room area and Emily’s dad started speaking.  This is where the whole American Dream idea would really come to a forefront as he said that the only school he knew of was Harvard when coming to America, and it would have been his dream for Emily to attend the school.

Emily was sad when graduation came and remarked that it didn’t really matter but Katie convinced her that she should be proud of graduating from Harvard.  Possibly the reason she thought it didn’t really matter was because she did not have a plan besides taking her talents to Europe to experience that culture for the first time.  After some confusion, Emily would go back to Los Angeles to be with her friends from high school, and Katie landed an unpaid PR internship in New Jersey.

Emily, or “The Ninja”, as she was known, had image issues since she didn’t really know what social category she fit into, partly because she didn’t think that her clothes, or her overall style, matched her sexual orientation, but this would not be a problem in Germany.  She was a star on an off the court while never worrying about her image.

The movie was accurate in portraying Emily and Katie as having more pressure to perform on the court than everybody else because that is how it is in real life for the Americans playing overseas.  They even almost got sent back home after partying the night before a game, but the American assistant coach realized that there was a misunderstanding.  It is easy to understand why they took full advantage of the lifestyle because they were treated like rock stars.

Emily and Katy greatly enjoyed the cultural aspects of being in Europe since they had never traveled outside of the United States/Canada before and the $1,000 a month pay also didn’t hurt (this is much less than the men make).  Their head coach was not exactly a basketball expert, but he knew how to put a lot of pressure on his two American stars from America’s premier university.

The team did reach the championships series, but it was not a fairy-tale ending as they would lose in three games to their rivals.  An added benefit of Emily being in Germany was that she was able to meet a new partner, a woman stationed in Germany for a few months with the army, after her previous relationship ended at the end of college.  The movie had a fitting ending as in the closing credits it said that she came out to her father but not her mother.

Finally, this movie was a timely one because the issue of “coming out” in front of one’s team has recently been in the sports landscape.  A few notable sports names have revealed that they were gay, but none of them have done so while they were active in one of the three major sports.

Two that have “come out” recently include Will Sheridan, who was a starter for Villanova basketball teams that made the NCAA Tournament, as well as Rick Welts, who was the President of the Phoenix Suns.  Everybody seems to question how teammates would handle it in modern day American culture, but Emily’s Harvard teammates handled it just fine and it seems like if somebody “comes out” in the next year or two in one of the three major sports they should be able to continue to fit in.

It seems to me that if the teammates know that the person who “comes out” was a decent person and will help the team win, they will treat them with just as much respect as before.  Team sports are so competitive, as was accurately displayed in the movie by the German and Harvard coaches who screamed at the team when they were not performing their best to try and pump them up and get them to perform at the best of their ability.  Similar to what happened in the movie, if the individual can play they should continue to fit in.

I recommend this movie for anybody that likes to see the deeper stories in society that sports can display.   This is a basketball movie with thrillingly exciting basketball scenes, but it is much more than that.  It is about a girl who turns into a woman, using basketball as an outlet to get a top of the line education, see the world, meet many new friends and find out her true identity.

I highly recommend seeing the movie because there is a lot that can be taken from it.  In basketball terms I give it a Nate Robinson (5’9) blocking Yao Ming’s (7’6) shot on the scale of excellence.

2 Comments

Excellent stuff! Gonna have to see this movie…

Thanks a lot. You should see the movie. Posting and Toasting is the best! You have me laughing every time I read it. Hopefully the Knicks are back before February.

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