Sneaker Theater: He Got Game

  • Nike Total Max Uptempo
    Nike Total Max Uptempo

    Aside from the opening sequences, the first sneakers you see Jesus Shuttlesworth wearing are a pair of Nike Total Max Uptempos that were popularized by the understated elegance and skills of San Antonio’s big man, Tim Duncan. An Air bubble and a signature reflective heel jewel were amongst the sneaker’s notable details. Aside from that, another of the game’s sharpshooter and fundamentals spokesperson, Reggie Miller, whose shot and follow-through was no less remarkable and masterful as Ray Allen’s, also chose the Uptempos as his in-game go-to.

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  • Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low

    The film begins with a scene of Jake Shuttlesworth in Attica stroking down jump shots and it’s only fitting to start with the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low. Denzel’s character is of the old and more traditional basketball school of thought that focused more on the fundamentals than anything. What better way to speak of the fundamentals than letting a pair of Chuck Taylors do the talking.

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  • Nike Air More Uptempo
    Nike Air More Uptempo

    The year was 1996. I was eight years old at the time and the air in New York City was swarming with all kinds of volatility. The Nike Air More Uptempo was probably my most desired sneaker of that time, particularly in the black/black-white colorway. The Nike Air More Uptempos were seen in the film on the feet of a player in a different colorway when Jesus, who was named after Earl Monroe rather than the prophet, took to “The Garden” in Coney Island with Railsplitter teammates for a full-court pick-up game.

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  • Jordan Jumpman Team 1
    Nike/Jumpman Jordan Team 1

    Without a doubt, one of the better non-signature Jordan releases. Similarly, these kicks were prevalent in the league around the time they debuted in ’97 and still to this day, you can see many NBA players wearing them. It’s always good to have an old reliable/go-to that’s as good now as it was then. A white and grey pair was on the feet of Vin Baker in the same scene at “The Garden” as the Air More Uptempos.

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  • Nike Air Foamposite One Mike Bibby
    Nike Foamposite One

    Jesus Shuttlesworth’s cousin Booger, who feels “handsome” while he’s on the court, is one of the few true characters in the film that wasn’t looking for a handout. While the subject of constant clowning brought on by his own self-consciousness (of the fact that he’s short), he still manages to flex hard in Nike’s ever-popular Foamposites in the OG colorway. How can you ever say no to that blue? Never.

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  • Nike Air Max Uptempo 97
    Nike Air Max Uptempo 97

    These and Jesus Shuttlesworth make the perfect team. They sort of have an out-of-this-world, alien shield-mask look to them. Shuttlesworth scrimmages in them on the wooden floor while speaking to the camera: “Basketball is like poetry in motion, cross the guy to the left, take him back to the right, he’s fallin’ back, then just J right in his face. Then you look at him and say, ‘What?'”

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  • Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Pearl”
    Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Pearl”

    Pearls are a perfect gift to bridge the gap between past and present. It’s no surprise that Jesus Shuttlesworth wore them in his first, proper sit-down with his father after he was let out of prison on a park bench (so New York City). Shuttlesworth, an emblem of street-style in the mid-90s, brought out even more of the Pearls luster as he questioned his faith and many other things. His father, whose troubles were unequivocal, was quick to put him in his place.

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  • Air Jordan XIII

    Probably one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, Jake Shuttlesworth let out his ‘fro and the first thing he did, with the bit of money he was allotted, was purchase a pair of the new Jordans at the time. He left the store looking like Pee Wee Kirkland and on the court, he looked even better in them. After the movie, the colorway that was seen on his feet earned the nickname “He Got Game.”

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  • Nike Zoom ACG Terra Sertig

    Nike’s ACG’s rugged characteristic teamed with the Enyce floral short-sleeve button down that Boogie wore (my brother had a light blue one) brought on a hard case of nostalgia. The thicker sole gave Booger, and maybe his confidence, an extra inch.

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  • Nike Air Hawk Flight
    Nike Air Hawk Flight

    These look more extra-terrestrial than the Uptempo ’97 and were the sneakers Jesus wore in the legendary one-on-one scene against his father. By getting his old man tired and belittling him even more with trash talk like the guy who made these famous, Gary Payton, Jesus unsurprisingly took the game but still made the decision that was best for the family (I think).

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  • Nike Total Max Uptempo
  • Nike Air More Uptempo
  • Jordan Jumpman Team 1
  • Nike Air Foamposite One Mike Bibby
  • Nike Air Max Uptempo 97
  • Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Pearl”
  • Nike Air Hawk Flight

What can you say about He Got Game? Another classic Spike Lee joint, a tale of the persistent status quo involving high school and collegiate athletes who are projected as “the next big thing.” Jesus Shuttlesworth, played by a chiseled/young Ray Allen, is a Coney Island Lincoln High School basketball phenom whose strained relationship with his father, played by Denzel Washington, forces him into raising his younger sister while still trying to maintain some level of order in the wake of big decisions. Everyone’s focused on what his next move will be and are mostly concerned with their own stake in the whole process.

The film is set to a fitting soundtrack by Public Enemy–included the iconic title track–and does well to portray Coney Island and the prevailing culture/style of 1998 in New York City: baggy jeans, shorts, long T-shirts all the way! From the Nike Foamposite park bench conversations between father and son to Denzel slaying it in a fresh pair of the new Air Jordan XIII, you’ll find not one dull sneaker moment in the film. (That makes sense, knowing Spike Lee’s history.)

As Ray Allen is hitting the new 30 today (40 years old), we’re paying homage by listing all the epic sneaker moments in the movie He Got Game, along with a little subplot of the corresponding scene. Watching a young Allen cut up, lean back, and J defenders or seeing Denzel play an old playground basketball legend/father/motivator never gets old. Here’s a bit of cultural teaching and lesson-giving from one of the greatest basketball films ever made. This is Sneaker Theater.