Spike Lee on the 25th Anniversary of ‘He Got Game,’ Casting Ray Allen and the Inspiration Behind the Iconic Film
By Jael Rucker
We hear the words legendary, iconic, and impactful a lot, but in our opinion those words have become over applied and misused. The true testament of something being legendary, iconic, and impactful is having a game-changing impact on the culture, and being able to withstand the test of time is the icing on the cake. He Got Game has proven to meet the criteria in every shape and form. Legendary director. Check. Legendary actor? Check. A future NBA hall of famer to play the part of a basketball player as opposed to hiring an actor and trying to teach them how to play? Check. Cool fashion that was in line with the trends at that time, and a banger of a soundtrack are also things that we can cross off our list when it comes to He Got Game as well.
Today marks 25 years since the film premiered, and we’re trying to figure out how to celebrate. Which component do we focus on? The movie itself, the figures that were a part of it, or the fashion/music. It’s too hard to choose, so we’re going with all the above for $200 Alex. Let’s take it back to 1998. In 1998, Ray Allen was still a youngin in the NBA with only two years of his experience under his belt. The recognition of being recognized as one of the NBA’s all time great shooters would come later, the championships were about ten years away, and that three-point game-tying shot against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals was roughly fifteen years away. Allen beat out many other NBA players for the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth including Stephon Marbury who many believe the film was inspired by.
The roles of Jake and Jesus Shuttlesworth were portrayed by Denzel Washington and Ray Allen. Now let’s take a look at where both were in the year 1998. Washington was already an acclaimed actor with titles such as 1992’s Malcolm X, and Philadelphia (1993), however, despite critically acclaimed performances and an Oscar nomination for Malcom X, he had yet to win the coveted award (that would come in 2002 for Training Day).
Spike Lee. By the time 1998 rolled around, Spike Lee was already recognized as one of the most prolific directors of the decade with credits like Do the Right Thing (1988), Jungle Fever (1991), and Malcolm X (1992), which he also worked with Denzel on.
Ray Allen was a Jordan Brand athlete which meant he was seen in Jordans/Nikes (Air Jordan 13s to be exact) through the film. Then of course you had the standard 90s athletic/street styles with the tracksuits, the basketball shorts, the oversized basketball t-shirts, and tank tops. Denzel also sported a retro 70s afro through the film as well. Oh, and lots of chains and watches.
He Got Game is a movie that your children’s children are going to watch, and clearly the legacy of the film is going strong if we’re still talking about it 25 years later. Happy 25th birthday to a classic.