There’s a Major Plot Hole in the Basketball Episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air



Something has always bothered me about the basketball episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Essentially, it boils down to a very simple question: just how good was Will Smith?

The show is maddeningly inconsistent in answering this question. In the Season 1 episode “Courting Disaster,” Will joins the school basketball team and dominates with ease. Here we have a 6’2” superstar dunking over just about everyone, yet we never see him play ball at the next level. Why is that?

In “My Brother’s Keeper,” Will plays a major game against Malibu Prep with a recruiter from Georgetown in the stands. As it’s explained in the show, the star of the winning team (Will for Bel Air, Marcus Stokes for Malibu Prep) will be offered a scholarship. There are so many incorrect premises there. First of all, both Will and Marcus have incredible games, and Marcus wins at the end only because Will lets him. With their talent levels being relatively equal, why didn’t Georgetown just recruit both of them?

More importantly, they’re both being scouted by Georgetown, a major basketball power. Why is that the only school scouting these players? If they’re good enough to be considered by Georgetown, then surely they’re easily worthy of playing for, say, Oklahoma State or Iowa. Neither of them should have to worry about playing Division I basketball. But Will loses the game and ends up bussing tables at the University of Los Angeles. If he was that good, why doesn’t he just play at ULA?


In fact, how did a player of Will’s caliber slip through the cracks to such a degree? He moves to California for his sophomore year of high school, but by then he should have been well established on the AAU circuit. Was he not playing any competitive basketball before arriving in Bel Air? And if that was the case, how was he so dominant once he started? There’s a limit to what natural athleticism can do.

Another point of contention: Uncle Phil was a football star at Princeton. In the Season 3 episode “The Alma Mater,” Will makes a strong impression on a Princeton interviewer and could easily be accepted there. Why wouldn’t he just play basketball at Princeton?

Even if he’s dead set against returning to the Northeast, as he tells his mother in “Mommy Nearest,” there are still plenty of schools in the Los Angeles area that would love to have a player like him. USC and UCLA are both in the same general recruiting stratosphere as Georgetown, so you’d at least think they’d send a recruiter to watch him at some point or another. Heck, why wouldn’t some lower tier school like UC-Riverside bring him in as a ringer?

There’s no greater point to this post. It’s just something that has bothered me to no end for the last decade. It’s a major basketball-related plot hole in well-known sitcom led by a future movie star. All I ask is a plausible explanation. Someone explain to me why the hell Will Smith doesn’t play college basketball in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

2 thoughts on “There’s a Major Plot Hole in the Basketball Episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”

  1. Awesome piece, Sam! I love those episodes in Fresh Prince when Will and Carlton played ball (especially the one with Marcus Stokes). Another thing I noticed about them: I always thought it was hilarious, bordering on ridiculous, how small the court was at Bel-Air Academy. This is supposed to be one of the wealthiest, most esteemed prep schools in California, yet its basketball court was about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. Shouldn’t they have the resources to build an immaculate, if at least not regularly sized gym? My other issues with the gym: players sat on literal benches, not chairs (although it was the late 80’s, so maybe I’ll give them a pass); the bleachers could hold 50 people at most and were right on top of the court; and the hoops/backboards were abysmal. They looked like hoops you’d find in a park! I’m assuming they weren’t shooting at a real school–it was probably just on a set–but either way, some more things to think about. Love the article!


    1. I’ve never thought of that, but yea, you’re totally right. My one explanation would be that Bel Air Academy wasn’t exactly known for basketball before Will showed up (the team was dreadful as you’ll recall), so they might not have seen much of a need to invest in a court as opposed to resources for sports that they’re better at. Still, I’d imagine that gym has uses beyond basketball, like volleyball, assemblies, P.E. class, so the size is still bizarre.


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