The seven-time All Star almost stole away the role of Jesus Shuttleworth from Ray Allen.
It's been 20 years since Spike Lee introduced the basketball world to Jake and Jesus Shuttleworth in "He Got Game." Denzel Washington, who starred alongside Ray Allen in the classic, reminisced on behind-the-scenes moments from the film's creation on Bill Simmon's podcast over the weekend. Washington revealed that another young up-and-comer almost got the part over Allen — Tracy McGrady.
Although McGrady went on to become a seven-time NBA All-Star, at the time he was a relative no-name. McGrady was new to the NBA and lacked in the swagger — and pocketbook — of a full-fledged NBA star.
Washington recalled his first impression of the young guard:
Denzel Washington: "I just remembered he hadn’t made any money yet, so he had this suit on, I remembered this suit being a little shiny, like it had been ironed a lot...Tracy McGrady was one of the kids that they were thinking about."
Bill Simmons: That’s so funny that you have that memory because I remember going to Celtics games the year he was a rookie and he was hurt and he wore this suit on the bench and it was like, “Ah, look how cute, he doesn’t have like real NBA money yet.”
Denzel Washington: [laughing] It was probably the same suit.
McGrady didn’t end up making the cut, and Allen went on to win the most iconic one-on-one in film history.
In a 2013 Sports Illustrated cover story, Kobe Bryant told senior writer Lee Jenkins that he turned down the offer to play Shuttlesworth.
"That summer Spike Lee begins filming He Got Game, a movie with Denzel Washington about a basketball prodigy named Jesus Shuttlesworth. "I want you to be part of it," Lee tells Bryant. "Thank you but no thank you," Bryant says. "This summer is too big for me." Ray Allen lands the role as Shuttlesworth."
According to The Undefeated, Allen says Lee wanted Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Felipe Lopez to audition for the role.