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He Got Game (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, Sport  |  1 May 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 34,626 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 109 user | 45 critic | 20 from Metacritic.com

A basketball player's father must try to convince him to go to a college so he can get a shorter sentence.



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9 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ray Allen ...
Dakota Burns
Lala Bonilla
Coleman 'Booger' Sykes
Warden Wyatt
Uncle Bubba
Michele Shay ...
Aunt Sally
Big Time Willie
Coach Billy Sunday
Martha Shuttlesworth


Tells the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the most sought after high school basketball prospect in the nation. Jesus and his dream to make it to the big ranks in professional basketball are overshadowed by his father, Jake, who is spending his life in prison for killing Jesus' mother. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A father's freedom depends on his son's choice. See more »


Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexuality, some drug content and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 May 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tudo em Jogo  »

Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$7,610,663 (USA) (1 May 1998)


£42,999 (UK) (4 September 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In addition to the multiple coaches an players appearing as themselves, three of Jesus' teammates were played by NBA players at the time of the movie's release, Travis Best, Walter McCarty and John Wallace. Another NBA player, Rick Fox, played Chick, who show Jesus around Tech University. as of 2014 Fox has quite a bit acting roles, but this movie is the only screen roles for Best and McCarty, while Wallace only has one other acting role, in another Spike Lee movie Bamboozled (2000). See more »


At first while D'Andre is touching Lala's neck, he's not wearing any ring - next scene he's wearing a silver ring on his ring finger. See more »


Michael Jordan: He got game.
See more »


References The Fugitive (1993) See more »


Orchestral Variations
Performed by London Symphony Orchestra
Aaron Copland, Conductor
Written by Aaron Copland
The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., Copyright Owner
Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., Solo Publisher
Courtesy of Sony Classical
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Well Played
10 December 2004 | by (Wooster, Ohio) – See all my reviews

Spike Lee's He Got Game is a beautifully shot and well-executed exploration of the role that the sport of basketball plays in the relationship between a father and his estranged son. At the outset, having not seen very many other Spike Lee movies, I didn't really know what to expect or what to compare this film to. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the plot and the cinematography that composed this film. Furthermore, I really liked the definitive sense of Spike's style that was quite apparent throughout.

Told through flashbacks that reveal the plot throughout the course of the movie, He Got Game is about Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) and his basketball-star son, Jesus (Ray Allen). Jake is in jail under mysterious circumstances, yet can get out of jail if he is able to convince Jesus to choose to play basketball at a specific school, namely the state governor's alma mater. Released for a week in order to complete the daunting task, he hounded by probation officers, and does a lot of things that he couldn't do in jail, such as have a light dalliance with Milla Jovovich's slightly-unnecessary prostitute character, Dakota Burns. Denzel, as usual, excellently handles his role as the intense father, and is utterly believable in both his emotion-laden and his violent, angry scenes.

Ray Allen's portrayal of Jesus is also an interesting and well-played usage of the strong dichotomy of masculinity in the sport of basketball. He very clearly shows the purer and more tender side of his character through his love for his younger sister, whom he lives with and takes care of. Yet he is torn between that and the glittering, vice-infested world that his ability at basketball brings him ever closer to. At times he does even succumb to the cloying ploys of others, and there is a particularly raunchy scene as evidence of this. Allen carefully and quietly allows the audience to see the conflicts between sensitivity and machoism that exist in his life, as a result of basketball.

Probably one of the more interesting ways in which this film is set up is through the use of comparative shots that allow the similarities of Jake and Jesus's actions to show. Jesus tries so hard to distance himself from his father, yet the shots and the camera framing show just how alike they both really are. I also particularly enjoyed the use of color and contrasts that appeared throughout. For instance when Jesus and his errant girlfriend LaLa (Rosario Dawson) are talking at the end of the film, both their faces vividly reflect a shade of jealous green from the amusement park lights.

Overall this film is a very good spin on the basketball sports movie, yet with no huge stadiums or big games to win the championship, like what usually constitutes a basketball movie. Instead, the two main characters go through much self-analysis and introspective maturing, something that is quite rare for sports-playing men in film to do. I liked the strong use of color and the well-framed shots, and especially enjoyed Denzel Washington's brooding performance. A classic, must-see movie for anyone interested in cinematography or film.

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