Long before Hall of Famer and two-time NBA Champion Ray Allen sunk this iconic dagger to sully the Spurs’ title hopes in 2013, the UConn alum showed us his acting chops by portraying Jesus Shuttlesworth, the nation’s top high-school basketball recruit, in Spike Lee’s He Got Game.
Allen earned the part despite stiff competition from fellow auditioners Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury (who attended the same school, Lincoln High in Coney Island, as the fictional Shuttlesworth) and Kevin Garnett (who later scratched his acting itch by starring alongside Adam Sandler in the critically-acclaimed Uncut Gems). Now 22 years after the fact, Lee and Allen are eyeing a sequel (one that reportedly won’t include Academy Award winner Denzel Washington) with a new leading man in mind—highly-touted rookie Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans.
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily interrupted Lee’s pursuit of Zion, though the Brooklyn-based director remains hopeful of Williamson’s involvement. “We were trying to, before corona, get a meeting. Ray and I were going to go to a home game in New Orleans,” Lee explained while appearing on Monday’s Jordan brand Twitter livestream with Allen and host Sage Steele of ESPN. “I’m still for it. The story is murky in my mind but the material is so rich.”
The original will be a tough act to follow—He Got Game is widely recognized as one of Lee’s seminal movies alongside the similarly well-received Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing. The film’s climax pitted Allen against Washington in a father/son playground battle for the ages. The way it was written, the former Celtics and Heat guard was supposed to beat his dad 11-zip. But Denzel, a veteran hooper who played JV ball at Fordham under future NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo, decided to go off script.
“Denzel, I knew he was gonna’ try some stuff,” said Lee, thinking back to that blustery evening on Coney Island. “He threw some lucky [expletive] that went in. And then Ray said, instead of cut, ‘Timeout, timeout!’”
“I’m like, ‘Man they just sold me down the river,’” remembers Allen. “This is not supposed to go like this.” Ray did recover, eventually winning 11-5, but Washington showed, in keeping with the film’s title, he indeed had game.