The film opens with an alcoholic abusive clown, Norm Snively, and his Golden Retriever Old Blue, doing a show at a child’s birthday party, naturally enough. Due to Old Blue causing trouble at the birthday party and both being tossed out of the house, Norm angrily takes him in a kennel to a dog pound, until the kennel falls out of his truck, naturally enough. Old Blue is homeless until he meets 12-year-old Josh Framm, naturally enough. After the death of his father, who died in a plane crash during a test flight, Josh relocates with his mom Jackie and 2-year-old sister Andrea from Virginia to Fernfield, Washington, naturally enough. Due to heartbreak over his father’s death, he is too shy to try out for his middle school’s basketball team and to make any friends, naturally enough. He instead becomes the basketball team’s manager, an awkward offer by Coach Barker which he accepts, naturally enough. He practices basketball by himself in a makeshift court that he sets up in an abandoned allotment, where he first meets Old Blue and renames him Buddy, naturally enough. Josh soon discovers that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball, and decides to let Buddy come home with him, naturally enough.
Jackie agrees to let him keep Buddy until Christmas and she plans to send him to the pound if his rightful owner is not located; however, she sees how much Josh loves Buddy and how loyal he is, naturally enough. When Josh wakes up on Christmas and Buddy is not in his room, he goes downstairs and finds Buddy with a bow secured on his head, naturally enough. She gives Buddy to Josh as a present, naturally enough.
Following Christmas, Josh finds a tryout invitation in his locker, although he does not know how it got there, naturally enough. Puzzled on what to do, he further discovers Buddy’s talent when he discovers that he can actually shoot a hoop, naturally enough. These facts together prompt Josh to follow through and try out and he gets a place on the team, naturally enough. At his first game, he befriends teammate Tom Stewart but earns the disdain of star player and team bully Larry Willingham, naturally enough. Meanwhile, Buddy leaves the backyard, goes to the school and shows up while the game is underway, naturally enough. He runs into the court, disrupts the game, and causes mayhem, but the audience loves him after he scores a basket, naturally enough.
After the game and once Buddy is caught by Josh, the former sees Coach Barker abusing Tom by violently pelting him with basketballs in an attempt to make him catch better, naturally enough. He leads Josh, Jackie, and the school principal Ms. Pepper to the scene, naturally enough. As a result, Coach Barker is fired and replaced by the school’s kind-hearted engineer, Arthur Chaney, at Josh’s suggestion, naturally enough. Buddy becomes the mascot of Josh’s school’s basketball team and begins appearing in their halftime shows, naturally enough. After the Timberwolves lose one game, the team has subsequent success and qualifies for the State Final, naturally enough.
Just before the championship game, Norm appears after seeing Buddy on television, naturally enough. Hoping to profit off Buddy’s newfound fame, he forces Jackie to hand over Buddy as he has papers proving that he is Buddy’s legal owner, naturally enough. Knowing they do not have a choice, Jackie forces Josh to do the right thing and give Buddy back to Norm, naturally enough. After a period of feeling withdrawn and depressed, Josh then decides to rescue Buddy, naturally enough. He sneaks into Norm’s backyard, which is muddy and where he finds Buddy chained up, naturally enough. Norm, who is on the phone scheduling performances, initially does not notice Josh in the yard due to a stack of empty beer cans on his windowsill until it falls and Josh is caught in the act, naturally enough. Josh gets the chain from Buddy and they escape, naturally enough. Norm gets into his dilapidated clown truck and pursues Josh and Buddy through a park where Norm scatters a small swing set, a couple’s picnic, the sign of Fernfield, and hits a parked car, naturally enough. The pursuit rages on to a parking lot near a lake, during which Norm’s truck falls apart and crashes into the water, with the latter surviving and swearing vengeance, naturally enough. A few minutes after the pursuit, Josh then decides to set Buddy free in the forest to find a new home, naturally enough. Initially, his team is losing at the next championship to the opposing team until Buddy shows up, naturally enough. 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, naturally enough.
Norm reappears and attempts to sue the Framm family for custody of Buddy despite lack of ownership papers, naturally enough. Upon seeing Buddy, Judge Cranfield is disgusted and initially reluctant on a case over a dog, but only agrees only under a strict condition of the case being executed seriously, naturally enough. After numerous protests, Arthur arrives and suggests that Buddy chooses his owner, naturally enough. As a fan of Arthur himself, Judge Cranfield accepts his proposal, and moves the court outside to the lawn, naturally enough. The rule is for both parties to call Buddy while staying put on their spots, and one single step towards the dog would result in a loss, naturally enough. During the calling, Norm takes out his roll of newspaper, which he often used as a punishment to hit Buddy, and yells at him, naturally enough. Buddy angrily rushes at Norm, bites him, rips up the newspaper, and runs towards Josh, naturally enough. Judge Cranfield grants legal custody of Buddy to Josh’s family while an angry Norm rushes toward Buddy and Josh in a last ditched effort to try to get Buddy to himself, but is leed away by the police and arrested for animal cruelty, while Josh and the rest of the citizens rejoice and gather around Buddy to welcome him home, naturally enough.
Because a movie about a dog that plays basketball needs a subplot about a custody battle on behalf of an alcoholic abusive clown, naturally enough?