I suppose last year was one for the sports films in Korea. We got Dream, the one about an underdog football team, and now we have Rebound, a basketball one. Rebound tells the inspirational true story of the Busan Jungang High School basketball team that, against all odds, made their way to the finals of the national basketball tournament in 2012. It’s an admirable tale of camaraderie, hard work, and, most importantly, the power of hope. The story begins with Kang Yang-Hyun, an ex-basketball player, who decides to take up the job of head coach of the Jungang High School basketball team where there is no team. It’s a film about second chances titled Rebound, and it’s certainly going to motivate you to go get the rebound in whatever sport life is playing with you.
What Happens In The Film?
Coach Kang is a sensitive yet strategic person. On his first day as coach, there are two players on the team; however, they’ve got no interest in playing basketball; they’re just there because they’re good for nothing. It’s Kang who decides to go find local boys to coach and create a team that is worthy of a title. You see, it’s not like there aren’t talented players in Busan; they’re just always stolen by Seoul teams when they’re recognized as good players. The first 20 minutes of Rebound are spent on Kang establishing a team for the school. He finds boys from around the area, all of whom are more than capable, even if some of them have never played basketball before. He’s got a plan, though, and it’s going to work miracles. He even manages to rope in the most in-demand stars of Busan to make his team work. With Han Jun-Young, the center of all centers, the team is sure to make waves.
Kang is able to get the boys disciplined and listening to exactly what he has to say. Even if some of the players know what they’re doing and are capable of taking the shot, he’s unwilling to give them a chance when Han Jun-Young is around. It’s a big change in the school, and even the other teachers are fascinated to see what Kang can achieve with six lanky fellows. When it finally comes time for their tournament, the team is hit with the most stupefying of twists: Han Jun-Young has joined a team from Seoul. Now the team only knows how to pass to Jun-Young because that’s how they were coached. They still try really hard to win that first match, but they don’t just lose; the coach and the team get disqualified in contempt of court (yikes). You see, at this point, the team doesn’t even care for each other; they’re simply playing for the sake of it. Kang was so focused on winning that he never tried to get them to see each other as important. I reckon sweating it up together in a stressful situation makes one susceptible to caring for those around them. Kang is back to square one after being thrown off the court, which leaves all the boys miserable.
This is when Kang comes upon an old DVD of himself after winning an important match. While watching the clip of Kang crying about how he never thought their team would win, but that he wants to continue playing basketball happily, he finds a note that defines the word “rebound.” Kang is reminded that failures can always be turned around, and he has another chance to fix this. He returns to the best player of the team, Cheon Ki-Beom, who didn’t go to any of the Seoul teams because of Kang’s persuasion. Now, Kang apologizes to Ki-Beom, crying again and telling him that what he planned for the team back then wasn’t even basketball; it was simply his plan. Ki-Beom feels for the young man and promises to join back and play with the rest of the boys together.
This time around, two new middle school players join the team: one who calls himself the next Jordan and another who can’t even shoot a single hoop. With them, there are six members on the team. For months on end, the boys work tirelessly and together to figure out the perfect way in which they can defeat the much larger, much more experienced other teams. Kang tells Ki-Beom that he must imagine the match playing out in front of him before it actually happens because everything depends on him. This strategy actually works, as Ki-Beom has kept track of everyone’s best qualities, making for perfect captain-like qualities. Their first win is considered a fluke by everyone else; nobody expected it, but it’s a victory for the underdogs. Soon, though, to everyone’s shock, the team rises up the ranks easily. This is especially astonishing because they were a team of six members, meaning there was only one substitute who never actually left the bench. However, when Jin-Wook, aka Jordan, left unexpectedly and injured his shoulder in one of the earlier matches, their chances were lowered even further.
With exhaustion as the biggest hurdle, the team still fights on, reaching the quarterfinals and then the semi-finals. In the meantime, the team grows closer, and Kyu-Hyeok, a member with an injured ankle, reveals why he ran from the match many years ago when he was on Ki-Beom’s team. Kyu-Heok was humiliated by his injury and his family status, which restrained him from getting surgery. Ki-Beom had already started worrying about Kyu-Heok, but this story makes them tight as brothers.
What Happens In The Final?
With the team at its most exhausted, Kang tells them to play the game in the most relaxed manner. It’s not about winning; it’s only about the joy that the game brings them. It’s shocking how determined the team is, though. I suppose it’s a combination of the adrenaline and the eagerness to show everyone who didn’t believe in them. The Jungang High School boys’ team ended up losing the finals of the 2012 national basketball tournament against the best school team in the country. Despite having lost the match, they won millions of hearts. They learned to respect each other, look out for each other, grow together, and shine individually with the support of others. Technically, that’s “team sports,” no? It’s still shocking to imagine that a team of six could’ve played so many matches consecutively and won them too. A regular basketball team has 12 members, more than a substitute per player, but Jungang High School endured. In the end, two players got disqualified for too many fouls, thanks to their exhaustion. The three members continued to play to the best of their abilities, ultimately losing by a small margin of 10 points. A victory for the losers. All members of the team are now professional basketball athletes, and Kang went on to coach the youth national team, a university basketball team, as well as the national team for the Olympics. Only Kyu-Heok, whose ankle was already busted, ended up giving up his dream of being a basketball player after playing the match of his life.
I suppose the Jungang High School basketball story is one of passion. Without passion, it doesn’t matter how hard you push yourself, how you work in a team, or even if you’re the best player in the world; it’s the fire that is ignited once you “rebound.”