The original film was financially successful, despite being defeated by Air Force One for the #1 spot on the film's opening weekend, grossing US$4 million in its opening weekend and totaling US$24 million for its final run, against an estimated $3 million budget.
The plot revolves around a 12-year old boy, Josh Framm. After the death of his father, who has passed on in the crash of a test flight due to a fuel shortage on his plane, Josh moves with his family to Washington State and is too shy to try out for his middle school's basketball team and too shy to make any friends. He meets Buddy, a Golden Retriever who had escaped from his abusive owner, an alcoholic clown named Norman Snively. Snively had locked Buddy in a kennel after causing trouble at a birthday party and was taking him to the dog pound when the kennel fell out of his truck. Josh soon discovers that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball. Josh's mom initially only agrees to let him keep the dog until Christmas and plans to send him to the pound if the rightful owner does not claim him. However, Josh's mother sees how much Josh loves Buddy and vice versa. When Josh wakes up on Christmas Day and Buddy is not in his room, he goes downstairs and sees Buddy with a bow on his head. She gives Buddy to Josh as a Christmas present.
Josh wants to join the basketball team but chickens out at the last minute and becomes the water boy. After two slots are opened up and learning of Buddy's talent, Josh tries out (despite basketball coach Joe Barker's reluctance) and makes the team. At his first game Buddy shows up and disrupts the game and causes mayhem, but the audience loves him, even after he scored a goal. After the game Buddy finds coach Barker abusing Tom, one of Josh's teammates and friend who gave him a lucky orange peel he got at a Seattle SuperSonics game, by trying to make him catch better by pelting him with basketballs.
Barker is fired and replaced by the school's engineer, Arthur Chaney, who Josh discovers is a former New York Knicks player. Buddy becomes the mascot of Josh's school's basketball team and begins appearing in their halftime shows. But just before the championship game, Buddy's former owner, Snively (after seeing Buddy on TV), tricks his mom and steals Buddy from Josh. Josh then infiltrates Snively's backyard where Buddy is chained up.
Snively initially does not notice Josh in the yard due to a stack of beer cans on his windowsill until it falls and Josh is caught trespassing his backyard. Josh gets the chains off Buddy and both escape, causing Snively to chase Josh and Buddy in his dilapidated clown truck. The chase rages on to a parking lot near a lake, during which the clown truck begins to fall apart, causing Snively and his truck to splash into the water, but he survives. A few minutes after the chase, Josh then decides to set Buddy free to find someone else. Initially, his team is losing at the championship until Buddy shows up. When it is discovered that there is no rule that a dog cannot play basketball, Buddy joins the roster to lead the team to a come from behind championship victory.
Snively sues the Framm family for custody of Buddy. Fortunately, at the suggestion of coach Chaney, of whom the judge is a fan, it is decided that the dog will choose who will be his rightful owner. During the calling, Snively takes out his roll of newspaper, which he often used to beat Buddy, and snaps at him, causing Buddy to attack Snively, tearing up the weapon of abuse and run towards Josh. The judge grants custody of Buddy to Josh while Snively, who runs at Buddy and Josh in a last-ditched effort to get the dog back, is dragged away by the police and arrested for animal cruelty, while Josh and the rest of the citizens rejoice for the new home of Buddy.
- Air Bud as Himself
- Kevin Zegers as Josh Framm
- Michael Jeter as Norman Snively
- Wendy Makkena as Mrs. Jackie Framm
- Bill Cobbs as Coach Arthur Chaney
- Eric Christmas as Judge Cranfield
- Jonas Fredrico as Julius Aster
- Nicola Cavendish as Principal Pepper
- Brendan Fletcher as Larry Willingham
- Norman Browning as Mr. Buck Willingham
- James Manley as Professor Plum
- Joeseph Lester as Father Cunningham
- Stephen E. Miller as Coach Joe Barker
- Shayn Solberg as Tom Stewart
- Jesebel Mather and Kati Mather as Andrea Framm
- Snazin Smith as Nurse (uncredited)
Home video release
Air Bud was released to VHS on December 23, 1997 and to DVD on February 4, 1998. It was released again on March 3, 2009 in a special edition DVD set, featuring commentary from B-Dawg, Budderball, Rosebud, Buddha, Mudbud, Molly, and Buddy himself.
Sequels and spin-offs
- Main article: Air Bud (series)
The film generated one theater-released sequel and many direct-to-video sequels and a spin-off film series. In each film, Buddy learns to play a different sport.
- Air Bud on Wikipedia
- Official website
- Air Bud at the Internet Movie Database
- Air Bud at Rotten Tomatoes
- Air Bud at AllRovi