It could probably only happen in Indiana, a state long ago noted for its outstanding high school basketball.
The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2013 inductees today, which included Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, the makers of "Hoosiers", which is rated the No. 1 sports movie of all-time by such media giants as USA Today and ESPN.
They will be joined by LaVern Benson, Phil Dawkins, Gene Demaree, Chuck Franz, Scott Haffner, Bob Heady, Jim Master, Carl Meditch, Alan Nass, Bill Newton, Dan Palombizio, Dick Piper, Robert Rousey and Chad Tucker in the 52nd class to be inducted on March 20, 2013. John Forest Crane will receive the Centennial Award.
Pizzo, a native of Bloomington, Ind., was the screenwriter and producer, while Decatur, Ind., native Anspaugh was the director. They will receive the St. Vincent Health Silver Medal for contributions to Indiana basketball. They later collaborated on "Rudy," another well-received sports movie.
"Hoosiers," starring Gene Hackman, was loosely based on Milan, a huge underdog, which upset long-time power Muncie Central on a last-second shot by Bobby Plump to win the 1953-54 Indiana state basketball title.
This unique selection was applauded by executive director Chris May.
"The idea had been simmering for a couple of years and it made a lot of sense," May told MaxPreps. "That movie is so well thought of and well done. It represents Indiana basketball world-wide. Everybody roots for the underdog, the little guy. Its popularity has grown with time."
Asked if he ever dreamed of being in the Basketball Hall of Fame, Pizzo quickly replied, "Of course not! There are certainly a lot of kids I knew in high school and played with who will get a kick out of me being in the Hall of Fame. I got cut from the freshman team (at University High).
"It feels really great. I recognize this is a way to honor the movie and I don't think about it in any egotistical way. In the course of making a movie there are a lot of people involved. Listen, I'll take it."
Anspaugh, who started at quarterback for his high school football team, received minimal playing time on the basketball court.
"I have a very kind of surreal feeling," said Anspaugh. "My first reaction is that my high school coach — I don't know if he's living — if he is deceased he's spinning in his grave. We had really bad basketball teams. Football was my sport."
Both of the film's makers were surprised to see "Hoosiers" become such a phenomenon.
"I never in a million years thought the movie would sustain and grow in stature over time," said Pizzo. "Somehow our film has lasted and crept into cultural awareness. We were fighting just to get it released."
Anspaugh added, "I still shake my head. It almost went straight to video. We only hoped we could come home again and not be goats."
Both attended Indiana University and became friends through a fraternity membership.
"We discovered we each had a passion for movies and attended a lot of movies together," Anspaugh said. "We always talked movies. That was a fantasy then. One day we were sitting around and said, 'Wouldn't it be cool some day if we make movies? It would be cool to do one about Milan.' Eighteen years later we did it."
After interviewing Milan coach Marvin Wood and as many players as he could find, Pizzo returned to Anspaugh and told him, "I can't write this. I couldn't find any controversy."
Wood had been a young coach at the time with nothing to lose and his players didn't do much more than have to run laps for some small violation.
After much discussion, Pizzo, who worked with Scott Berg on his second draft, decided to "make it a coach who's been out of the game for a while and has one last chance."
Pizzo, who grew after high school and actually became a pretty good playground player, described the monumental struggle to see Hoosiers reach the big screen.
"We presented it to many different individuals, studios and production companies — 300 to 500 over the course of several years," he said. "We had nothing to lose. We had other jobs, but it was our pet project. What kept us going was there are 1,000 no's, but there's always one guy with a checkbook."
The search for that "one guy," which lasted from early 1982 until the spring of 1985, was successful when Pizzo and Anspaugh met John Daley of Hemdale Productions.
"He gave us $6 million and we were on our own," Pizzo said.
But that was just the beginning of climbing the movie mountain.
Anspaugh explained, "The process of finding locations is one of the biggest challenges I've ever had. Physically and emotionally, it is the most difficult movie I've ever shot (he has done seven). We had a shooting schedule of either 36 or 39 days."
The first problem was finding a place which had everything. They wound up using three different towns to represent "Hickory." They also had to shoot at multiple sites every day up to 30 miles outside of Indianapolis.
When the movie hit the big screen in 1986, however, it was not universally accepted by critics.
"Around 70 percent were positive. Maybe a little lower than that," said Pizzo. "But certain things happened over the years and it has grown in stature in critics' eyes. Gene Siskel (Siskel & Ebert on PBS) ripped it. Five years later when they were reviewing Rudy he saw Hoosiers again and gave it a thumbs up."
Pizzo never would have imagined "Hoosiers" eventually being ranked No. 1 all-time.
"It's stunning. I wouldn't know how to rank it," he said. "There's no objectivity because I knew what was going on. It triggers some memories — some terrible. It's hard to enjoy, because I see the flaws, some decisions we made. I would have to rate Raging Bull No. 1 (Anspaugh agrees). It was brilliant."
Even today, though, the popularity of Hoosiers cannot be denied. Pizzo said that longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told him he had seen the beloved movie "250 times. He always watched it on planes."
The 64-year-old Pizzo does not live on his laurels. He said he is currently working on four movie projects — a football player from Texas, basketball founder James Naismith, boxer Buster Douglas and a NASCAR story based on a book. Anspaugh is working on three projects, one possibly with Pizzo.
"I still kind of pinch myself," Anspaugh reflected on his latest honor. "I'll believe it when I get there (to Indianapolis for the induction) on March 20th."