Content Caution

Champions 2023 movie


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

One DUI.

That’s all it took to ruin Marcus’ chance of becoming become an NBA coach.

Flashback: Marcus was an assistant coach for the minor-league Iowa Stallions when, in a moment of anger, he shoved the head coach to the ground. Why did he shove him? Well, because he was going to call the wrong play.

Thatincident got him removed from the basketball court. The ensuing drunk-driving charge landed him in a legal court. The verdict? Most definitely guilty. The punishment? Ninety days of community service coaching a team of adults with intellectual disabilities.

Marcus wasn’t prepared for how different his coaching tactics would need to be in order to effectively coach his new team, the Friends. In fact, Marcus calls the job “impossible.”

“You don’t have to turn them into the Lakers,” a program manager says. “They just need to feel like a team.”

With his eyes still set on reaching the top, Marcus finds it hard not to be thinking about what it might be like to coach the Lakers.

But as Marcus’ mandated community-service clock starts to tick down, and as he begins to build relationships with the players on the team, he starts to wonder if “the top” is really where he wants to be.

Positive Elements

Champions confronts the stereotype that adults with intellectual disabilities are incapable of living without assistance. When Marcus expresses surprise that one of the players is able to ride his motor scooter home, another man tells him, “These guys are a lot more capable than you think.” He tells Marcus that some of the players work jobs: one in a fancy restaurant, another as a welder. Some of them live alone, while others live together. And besides, he says, that player on the motor scooter has never crashed—unlike Marcus.

As for Marcus’ growth, he begins to realize that he’s been using his players as means to an end rather than cultivating relationships with them. For instance, on his previous team, Marcus was frustrated by one player’s absence; he later learns that the player wasn’t in the game because he was visiting his grandma in the hospital—something Marcus would have known had he bothered to ask. It takes a few different people to point this out, but eventually, Marcus recognizes his self-focused orientation and works to fix it.

One player on the Friends team, Darius, initially refuses to play on Marcus’ team. We eventually learn that it’s because Darius suffered a traumatic brain injury from being hit by a drunk driver. Because of that, Darius “hates drunk drivers,” including Marcus, who was charged with a DUI. When Marcus learns of this, he goes to Darius’ home to apologize and to tell Darius how he regrets his actions.

Spiritual Elements

Darius tells Marcus that his mother is a Christian. “She wants me to forgive the lady who hit me,” Darius says. And though he doesn’t think he can forgive her, he wonders if he might be able to move toward that goal by forgiving Marcus.

Marcus believes visualizing certain outcomes can bring them into existence. Accordingly, he has the team visualize winning the championship game in an attempt to influence the future.

Sexual Content

Sexual jokes pervade the film, and the story largely promotes a culture of sexual promiscuity.

Marcus and Alex, the sister of one of the players, meet on the dating app Tinder and have a one-night stand. We see Alex in lingerie, and she puts on her underwear beneath a skirt. The two later agree to have sex but not commit to a relationship, and we see a few scenes of the two passionately kissing before cutting away (and in one, we briefly see Alex in her bra). We see them in bed, covered by clever sheet placement and obviously unclothed.

They’re sleeping together because, as Alex puts it, “Sometimes, I hop on Tinder because a woman’s got needs,” and Marcus “gets the job done.” She later justifies their relationship, such as it is, by saying that it’s “just sex, OK?” Of course, the two inevitably do admit feelings for one another. But one of the team’s players  comments on Marcus and Alex’s relationship, stating that “[Alex] can have sex with whoever she wants.”

Later, Alex’s mother pries into the couple’s relationship, and she confronts Alex about having sex with Marcus—not condemning that choice but just wanting to confirm that’s what’s happening between the two. When Marcus visits later, Alex’s mother asks if he’s come over for an “afternoon quickie.” Alex wears outfits that reveal cleavage.

Another player on the team, Craig, seemingly exists solely to make sexual remarks about his girlfriend. He claims to have two girlfriends, and one is said to “get around.” Marcus tells the players that he’s going to teach them a “ball-handling exercise,” and Craig makes a crude joke about it, also referencing having sex. Later, as part of a motivational speech, Craig tells his teammates that “I was scared when I had my first threesome, but it was good!”

Marcus uses crude anatomical slang to describe how much he likes a certain basketball play. Multiple references to that coarse euphemism turn up later in the film.

The team’s lone female player, a young woman with Down syndrome named Cosentino, calls a players-only meeting in the locker room, forcing Marcus out by threatening to “MeToo” him if he enters.

Male characters are seen shirtless. The men on the team shower, and we see them in towels. Marcus hugs a player who’s taking a shower (though the player in question is afraid of showering and still has his pants on). One player enjoys doing popular NBA celebration dances after he shoots. In particular, he most enjoys one called the “Big Balls” celebration. When a player hears about a hotel where they’ll be staying, he exclaims that they’ll be “living like pimps!”

We also hear various verbal references and crass exhortations involving male genitalia. And speaking of that …

Violent Content

… Marcus references testicular torsion. A player’s finger gets snapped to the side, and he snaps it back in place to the sound of grinding bones. Marcus gets hit in the face with a basketball. Marcus pushes someone to the ground, and he later punches a man in the stomach. Marcus drives while under the influence, and he crashes into a police car. A bus driver is hit in the head with an object.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word is used once. The s-word is heard six times. “A–” is used over 15 times, and “h—” is used 10 times. We also hear many instances of “b–ch,” “d-ck” and “d–n.” “P-ss,” “b–tard” and “prick” are all used once. God’s name is abused 12 times. We see a crude hand gesture. People with intellectual disabilities are called “retards” twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

We see Marcus taking a shot of alcohol before hopping into his car. Later, Marcus’ lawyer asks if he is intoxicated while they’re at court together. Marcus says no, which prompts his lawyer to say,
“Good, because I’ve had several.” As mentioned above, Marcus is ordered by a court to complete community service as a result of his DUI.

Elsewhere, another character sings about piña coladas.

Other Negative Elements

Someone vomits on another person. A player passes gas on a man while stretching. Marcus says refs are “meant to be yelled at.” We learn that a player’s father left after his boy was born.

Marcus impersonates a police officer to extort a restaurant for money. A restaurant owner makes disparaging comments about other ethnicities and someone with Down syndrome.


This Woody Harrelson film, based on the Spanish dramedy  Campeones, challenges audiences to think about how many people in society disregard and preemptively judge those with mental disabilities. Champions also gives us the story of a man who gradually learns how to value others instead of just using them for his own agenda.

Those nicer parts of the film, however, are simply buried beneath a plethora of other issues, the biggest of which is the movie’s promotion of sexual promiscuity. Jokes about casual sex fly constantly through the film.

While the movie never condemns this anything-goes sexual ethic, it does show how two adults who agree to a no-strings-attached sexual relationship eventually hurt each other when they start to develop feelings for each other (which they both promised wouldn’t happen).

That said, most of the time sex is just treated as a means to a cheap laugh. Toss in frequent profanity (including an f-word), and what we’re left with is a jarring disconnect between this movie’s clearly aspirational themes and content that’s anything but.

Let’s put it this way: If Champions was a player on your basketball team, the movie might get a couple of points on the board. But it’s definitely going to foul out before you even make it to halftime.

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Kennedy Unthank

Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”