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One of the more divisive films in Spike Lee’s controversial body of work is He Got Game, which stars Denzel Washington and Ray Allen as a conflicted father and son bound together by hoops. Allen played lauded prospect Jesus Shuttlesworth, a young hoopster being aggressively recruited to various colleges with several shady tactics. And Washington, in one of his harsher and more complex roles, is his ex-con father, who is sprung from the big house to try to convince his son to commit to the fictional Big State University. The film was met with mixed reviews, and came and went pretty quietly back in 1998, grossing $21 million.
Allen took the role in the middle of his 1996 rookie year. Since then he’s become maybe the greatest shooter in NBA history, handily shattering the record for most three pointers of all time. Allen has collected ten All-Star appearances, two NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal. Anecdotally speaking, his jump shot is like a dollop of honey, a real thing of beauty. But when January 10th rolls around and Allen’s Miami Heat wear nickname-branded uniforms in a game against the Brooklyn Nets, it’s "J. Shuttlesworth" that will be on the back of his jersey. So it’s not a surprise to hear, via the Charlotte Observer, that Allen and Lee have discussed returning to the character and story.
"Sequels to most movies are always fluff and not as good as the first. But it's something we've been talking about for the last couple months. If we get a really good story line and are able to bring everybody back, then it would be something worth doing."
Of course, two things make all the difference here. Allen claims he and Lee have been discussing the idea for months, but they don’t have a storyline at all. The other is that Lee may have a hard time funding this. His last project, the $30 million Oldboy, has grossed less than $5 million worldwide, and the filmmaker recently had to turn to Kickstarter to fund his latest, mostly through very deep pockets. And when it became known that he was revisiting his Mookie character from Do The Right Thing for Red Hook Summer, the movie couldn’t even generate half a million in grosses. He Got Game which also starred Milla Jovovich and Rosario Dawson, cost $25 million back in 1998. Lee’s probably not getting even $15 million from Disney, who financed the original, even if he got Denzel to come back and Kobe Bryant agreed to play Jesus’ distant younger brother.
So where does the story go from here? Allen talks about bringing back Washington and Dawson, but where is Jesus Shuttlesworth today? Is the baby-faced Allen going to play an in-his-prime Jesus? Does Jesus have his own teenaged son facing an even-more-hostile recruiting environment? Is Washington’s Jake finally out of jail for good? And can they get Public Enemy back to do the soundtrack again?