Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” turns 15 this week. We all feel old.
It was 15 years ago this week that Jake and Jesus Shuttlesworth played some one-on-one, father vs. son, with both of their futures on the line. It was 15 years ago this week that Big Time was schooling Jesus on the pitfalls of ball players trying to get out of Brooklyn to the pros.
It was 15 years ago that “He Got Game” came out, the best basketball movie ever made. Man, that makes me feel old.I’d forgotten about that but a post by Todd Johnson at NBCNews.com’s The Grio reminded me.
Fifteen years ago today, He Got Game set a blueprint for how basketball films should be made. This wasn’t based on a true story of any historical significance or an underdog team’s ‘season on the brink.’ This was about one player’s view from the top — navigating the pressures from all angles to please others while simultaneously confronting his strained relationship with his father.
The player was Ray Allen. The father was Denzel Washington.
That was the gamble — taking a star young baller like Allen and making him the emotional focal point of the movie. But it worked because Allen could act, at least well enough to be convincing. And Denzel could ball well enough to be convincing. But the movie mostly works because writer/director Spike Lee told and urban family story, a father/son story, through basketball. It also gave a realism to the idea of what young elite players deal with.
“I think my role was important because it helped a lot of kids to see what they may have to deal with in not only basketball, but in life as well,” Allen said via a team spokesperson. “To this day, I still get called Jesus at least once a day.”
There are other good hoops movies — “Hoosiers,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Semi-Pro,” even “Blue Chips” if you want — but none of them work as well as “He Got Game.”
Think I’m going to have to pull my copy out and watch that again this weekend. It’s certainly more entertaining than the Pacers/Hawks series.