May 1 marked the 21 year anniversary of the release of the film, “He Got Game.”
The film, stars Ray Allen and Denzel Washington and keyed in on the life of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the basketball star of Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School. Jesus is the most sought after high school basketball prospect in the nation.
Denzel Washington plays the role of Jake Shuttlesworth, Jesus’ father. Jesus’ story is overshadowed by his father who is doing a long bid in jail after accidentally killing Jesus’ mother.
Although in prison, Jake Shuttlesworth tries to earn himself an early release by talking his estranged son into playing basketball at the governor of New York’s alma mater, Big State University.
Simply put, Lee’s film gave the world a glimpse into the life of a blue chip athlete.
Actor, Hill Harper not only played the role of cousin to Ray Allen in the “He Got Game” film, but he also played the role of his teammate on that Rail Splitters team. At the time of the film, Allen was in the early years of his career as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, but way back then, Harper knew that Allen had something special.
So what stood out?
“His work ethic,” Harper told me on Scoop B Radio.
“He had a work ethic. He was shooting and playing every day. He wanted to do well as far as the acting was concerned, wanted to do well as far as the basketball was concerned.”
Selected fifth in the 1996 NBA Draft, Allen is a ten-time NBA All Star.
Allen has hit the most 3-pointers in NBA history at 2,973.
Allen was also a recipient of good screens from his big guys which allowed him to shoot with space from the 3-point line.
This spring, Allen’s No.34 jersey at UCONN in Storrs Connecticut.
Harper is not surprised by Allen’s success, in fact he saw it coming even on set.
“People that I know who are successful and have longevity, they have work ethics and it comes down to that and he obviously had that. When he was acting, he wanted to be the best that he could be. When he was playing ball, he wanted to be the very best that he could be.”
With a budget of 25 million, “He Got Game,” made 22.4 million in the box office.
It ultimately comes down to a high-stakes game of one-on-one. If the father wins, the son will sign a letter of intent to attend Big State, thereby hastening Jake’s release. If Jesus wins, Dad agrees to never again attempt to make contact with him or his younger sister.
Basketball is a subject very near to Lee’s heart, and he (along with frequent collaborators DP Malik Hassan Sayeed and editor Barry Alexander Brown) choreographs the net navigation with a reverent grace. Particularly arresting is a final, unspoken, long-distance father-son reconciliation that is as movingly poetic as anything Lee’s ever put on film.