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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Luis

‘Chang Can Dunk’ Themes, Explained: Determined Chang And His Qualms

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Like every other sports film, “Chang Can Dunk” fields motivation as a major theme. But along with it come various other important subjects that the director, Jingyi Shao, doesn’t shy away from addressing. To keep the film relevant, he introduces the aspects and influence of social media in our lives. Despite the autonomy that the current generation is talking about, Jingyi Shao presents the importance of a mentor and a parent in our journey. As teens, we have the extra energy to experiment and achieve whatever we put our minds to. But when we consider that the only thing necessary, we forget our friendships, our parents, our teachers, and basically our surroundings. We think that we can achieve success through our own might. But hardly so; there are very many people responsible for our growth and success. “Chang Can Dunk” encourages us to respect and honor these individuals and be grateful for their presence in our lives. “Chang Can Dunk,” through the subject matter it discusses, teaches us that doing so is vital for our personal growth and motivation in life. Becoming aware of these aspects will help us become confident and responsible individuals, ready to conquer the world, bracing internal and external challenges to our personalities.


Deandre testifies to Chang being determined right from start to finish. Chang has talent in basketball, but he gets scared when it comes to winning the slam dunk and thus deliberately cheats during the last home football game. You will notice Chang making a mind map to go about training himself to be able to dunk. He says, “To get somewhere, you ought to evolve.” And every single day, with the help of YouTube and other possible techniques, he trains rigorously. But he feels that he cannot do it alone and that he needs a trainer to help him. Chang comes across the DBC channel on YouTube, where Deandre Buckets Cooke, a county legend, coaches basketball players. Without wasting time, Chang meets up with Deandre and requests that he train him. Deandre agrees and trains Chang.

At first, Deandre thinks that Chang will give up after some time. But Chang doesn’t; he continues training wholeheartedly. Chang fails only when he cheats. But then he learns from his mistake and starts to train again. Determined this time to achieve what he wants through fair means. Chang reminds himself constantly of the life of Kobe Bryant, who saw every obstacle as an opportunity to learn something new and every challenge before him as a way to improve, and thus, he could face anything without being afraid. His determination to slam dunk makes him forget about the negativity that surrounded him when he cheated. Not just Chang, Deandre is determined to skyrocket his followers and make a difference through his YouTube channel. Matt is determined to prove that it is only he who can dunk and that he is the best at school.

Social Media Dominance

Social media has its advantages as well as disadvantages. It can make you a star, or it can shatter your dreams; you never know. But throughout the film, social media dominance is clearly advertised. When Chang wants to become like Kobe Bryant, he switches to YouTube to learn the tactics. When he bets with Matt that he will slam dunk despite his height, he uses social media to learn about the diet necessary and the regimen one has to take into consideration to become good at a slam dunk. It is through social media that Chang gets to know of Deandre and his channel, wanting to learn from him. Deandre has students to coach but then uses social media for advertising himself and his coaching. Bo assists him in taking it top-notch as he trains Chang.

It is social media that keeps Chang on his toes and makes him bet with Matt. He sees that his name is being spoiled on social media through memes, etc. When opportunity strikes, he doesn’t shy away from humiliating Matt. When Matt loses, the shaving of his head is live-streamed, and that causes Matt to suffer PTSD. Active social media influencers observe that Chang has cheated and thus dragged him down. Chang takes to social media to announce that he cheated and apologizes to all those who trusted him. Hence, as you may have noticed, social media dominates teens’ lives; for them, more than the real world, a virtual world thrives simultaneously.


In Bo, I notice a wonderful friend who stands by Chang at every moment. Whether at school, in the hospital where both of them volunteer, or at home through video calling, Bo accompanies Chang as a real friend. Bo isn’t possessive of Chang but allows him to grow. When Chang needs ideas, Bo bestows them upon him. Bo is ever-ready to help Chang achieve his dream of making a slam dunk. Bo accepts the transformation taking place in Chang as he is getting famous. He doesn’t get jealous when Kristy enters Chang’s life. He is certain that Chang will always be his friend and come back to him when he needs him. The friendship that Bo and Chang enjoy is not overbearing but kind and modest. They accept each other as they are and help each other when needed.

Courage And Perseverance

It is only when one perseveres with courage in spite of obstacles coming one’s way that one can achieve laurels. When Chang cheated, the whole world was against him. He could have lost his courage and given up. But he perseveres and works harder to achieve what he desires. His mother, too, doesn’t give up on him. When Chang detests his mother’s actions and angrily leaves her alone in the car, she keeps running after him. She observes his struggle with dunking. She instills in him the confidence he requires. When he says he is not good enough, his mother opens his eyes, telling him that he is not here for other people to take charge of him but rather that he needs to keep going, remaining authentic to himself.

Matt has been a cheater, no doubt, but when it comes to proving Chang cheated, he perseveres so much that they get into a fight with each other. Matt’s perseverance to prove that Chang can’t dunk forces Chang to come forward and try it. Chang becomes courageous and isn’t worried about losing this time; he gives it his best shot and wins. It doesn’t matter if there is just you and no one to stand by you and support you; your perseverance can make you successful, just like it did for Chang.


Initially, the competition between Chang and Matt started because they were jealous of each other’s success in sports. Chang couldn’t make it to the school team, and therefore, all the limelight was stolen by Matt. Chang didn’t like it, as he wanted to be popular in school. He wanted the limelight that Matt enjoyed. Chang was jealous that Matt had a nice house and a nice fit. It became worse when Kristy entered the school. Both of them started to earn the attention of Kristy. Matt started to attract Kristy’s attention while he was playing basketball, dedicating the basket to her. And Chang tried to spend time with her discussing music. Although not explicitly stated, the jealousy also led them both to bet with each other for Kristy. Social media fills us with the fear of missing out, and Chang was affected by it. Chang felt the need to be popular and enjoy luxurious stuff after having seen the celebrity culture. He was jealous of them and wanted the same for himself. At one point, he almost forgot that Deandre, Kristy, and Bo were waiting for him to enter the party. Jealousy made him selfish to the core. And when he returned from the party, he wasn’t even sorry that he made his friends wait outside.

“Chang Can Dunk,” through its spectacular characters and the drama springing between them, argues, expresses concern, asks questions, and gives out important messages that need to be ingrained in a sportsperson and otherwise.

First Published on Film Fugitives: Click Here


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