The name Jesus Shuttlesworth in basketball circles may or may not resonate, especially with younger fans who started following the sport after 2000. For those who have no clue who this basketball player is, don’t worry. He technically wasn’t a real basketball player.
Jesus Shuttlesworth is the name of the character that former NBA player Ray Allen played in Spike Lee’s 1998 hit movie He Got Game. Because of its novelty and the allure of the semi-fake high school for which Shuttlesworth (Allen) plays, the jersey holds appeal to fans.
What does the Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey look like? Where can you find it? And who is Ray Allen?
We will answer all of that and more ahead.
Where Can I Buy A Jesus Shuttlesworth Jersey?
The jersey can be found pretty easily online with a simple Google search. This version is super affordable and has rave reviews. The breathable fabric of this jersey makes it terrific to wear. And, without breaking the bank, you can buy both the blue and white jersey for home and away affairs.
With the ‘Shuttlesworth’ name on the back, the jersey looks and feels authentic. It’s for die-hard fans of the movie or Ray Allen.
He Got Game
Let’s start with the movie that put the name Jesus Shuttlesworth on the map. He Got Game is about a high school hooper who has his sights set on the next level. He’s recruited by all the big names in basketball, both pro and college. He has to decide which path to take while raising his younger siblings and dealing with his father’s (Denzel Washington) release from prison. The Jesus story is only half the movie, though.
The other half follows Denzel’s character. He was released from prison to try and sway his estranged son to select his prison warden’s college alma mater in exchange for a shorter sentence. He now has to acclimate himself into the world, reconnect with Jesus and the rest of the family, and talk him into the biggest decision of his young hoops life.
Spike said he wanted a basketball player because of how hard it was to fake the skill and talent of an actor playing basketball. He needed, however, a young enough talent that could pass for a high school senior at the same time. Such casting would be risky. It probably meant the guy he chose would have more on-court skills than acting chops. Oh yeah, he would have to share the screen with Denzel, one of the greatest actors of this generation.
Casting Jesus Shuttlesworth
Spike Lee used his proximity to NBA players—he has sat courtside for the Knicks dating back to the early ‘90s—to scout and eventually recruit for the Jesus role. Along with Allen, who got the part, Kobe Bryant (who would himself become the subject of a Spike Lee joint), Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady tried out for the part.
Another star and former Lincoln High standout (the high school used in the movie) who Lee considered was Stephon Marbury. In the end, Marbury, perhaps a little salty that he had to jump through hoops, never auditioned for the role. In his eyes, they were doing the movie about his high school career, so why try out?
The story seemed written for him, though Spike denies this. “Coney Island has been basketball-crazy for a long time,” said Lee at the time. “The story is not unique. It happens to a lot of these kids.” A 2018 article about the movie revisits the Marbury claim, goes in-depth on casting, and is an excellent read for hoops fans.
Ultimately, Lee chose Ray Allen after seeing him—where else?—courtside. Spike was at a Knicks game against Allen’s Milwaukee Bucks and walked up to him. Usually, Lee would approach non-Knicks players to talk trash. This time, however, Lee asked Allen to audition for the movie. Allen gave Spike his info but didn’t think much of it until he was asked to read for the part. The rest was history.
Putting Faith In Ray Allen
Now, you can look at Ray Allen’s Hall of Fame career and say, “of course, he was the right person for the role.” But, in 1997, when he was cast, Ray Allen was a 22-year old rookie. When he finally hung up his sneakers, Allen had played in 1300 games—but the Ray Allen who Spike cast had only one season under his belt.
Let’s put this into perspective in today’s NBA. Ray Allen ended his rookie season averaging 13.4 points and being named to the All-Rookie team. Rookie Tyrese Haliburton, by contrast, finished the 2020-21 season averaging 13 points and making an All-Rookie. Allen did win Big East Player of the Year one year prior. He also had a bigger name. Haliburton, though, was impressive his first year, and his numbers were similar to Allen in 1997.
Allen was asked, without any acting experience, to co-star in a Spike Lee film. He was also supposed to hold his own on-screen with Denzel Washington.
To prepare, Allen took eight weeks of acting classes, which produced a fairly competent character actor. But how did Allen learn to deal with such an intense performer like Washington? Funny enough, through Michael Jordan.
Allen played an exhibition game against Jordan in 1996 as a college player and remembered the intimidation factor. Once Allen made it to the league, he became the first athlete endorsed by MJ’s Jordan Brand and regularly dealt with the GOAT. His time with Jordan is what eased his nerves around such a force of nature.
“I’ve been around Michael Jordan,” Allen said in an interview. “So that aura there . . . it’s no different.”
Where Are They Now?
Since He Got Game, Spike Lee has directed 13 films. He continues to be held in high regard by the film industry. In 2015, at the age of 58, he became the youngest winner of an Honorary Academy Award for championing independent film and inspiring young filmmakers.
He is still a die-hard Knicks fan and can be found regularly courtside at The Garden.
Denzel’s already significant stardom rose after He Got Game. In 1999, Washington was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor with his portrayal of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter in the movie Hurricane. He then played the role of Coach Herman Boone in Disney’s Remember The Titans. The film grossed over $200M worldwide and made Denzel an even bigger global star.
Be it Training Day, Inside Man, American Gangster, Flight, or the rest of the twenty-seven films he has made since He Got Game, Denzel continues to do top-tier work. He doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, either.
After He Got Game, Ray Allen played another seventeen seasons in the NBA. He is the all-time NBA leader in three-pointers made with 2,973, is a 10x All-Star, a 2x All-NBA selection, and 2x NBA Champion. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Allen dabbled in acting a little after He Got Game. He had roles in Kyrie Irving’s Uncle Drew series, a Pepsi commercial campaign, and the 2001 movie Harvard Man. However, he never acted at the same level of his first-ever role: Jesus Shuttlesworth.
The name Jesus Shuttlesworth is one you forget once it is in your head. I’m sure Spike Lee made it memorable on purpose. When someone sees a blue Lincoln jersey with the last name ‘Shuttlesworth’ on it, they know it means one thing. You can grab your own Jesus Shuttlesworth kit for a reasonable price. It makes an excellent addition to your already abundant jersey collection, or it can be the fan piece that sets you apart from your friends.
Either way, the Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey will make a splash at the courts or in the arena.
What is your favorite scene in the movie He Got Game? Let us know in the comments below!