Ray Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth.
It can’t be undone nor should it.
But, what if Kobe Bryant got the role as Spike Lee originally had in mind?
On the film’s 20th Year Anniversary, we imagine if KB8 co-starred with Denzel Washington and the impact it would’ve made on film, footwear and hoops…
What Was // Kobe Bryant Turns Down Role
Originally back in 1997, Kobe Bryant turned down Spike Lee’s offer to star in He Got Game because it was a “big summer” for him — and it was.
Following an early and airball filled exit from the ’97 NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Utah Jazz, KB8 did more than just grow an afro in the summer of ’97. Hitting the weights ridiculously hard and working at his game to no end, he doubled his scoring average the next season and became an All-Star starter before he became a Lakers starter.
Good call, Kobe.
But what if He Didn’t?
Kobe Takes Role in He Got Game
So let’s pretend Kobe Bryant does take the role in He Got Game as originally offered by Spike Lee.
How’s he do?
As a teenager, Kobe Bryant may have wanted to be like Mike, but he had bigger aspirations than just basketball. He likened his ascent to the Will Smith of the hardwood, becoming a multi-faceted icon that excelled in anything with a spotlight. Based on this, he crushes in He Got Game and the Spike Lee joint beats out Shakespeare in Love at the award shows.
From a script standpoint, the movie is exactly the same, just Kobe instead of Ray. Footwear is a different story, however. While Spike is still deep with Nike, Denzel dons the Air Jordan 13 as originally intended with the nickname sticking the same. While Lee has leverage with Nike as alluded to, it doesn’t keep Kobe from honoring his adidas deal. The brand with Three Stripes uses the flick to debut his first signature shoe, the KB8, while Jesus Shuttlesworth as played by Kobe dons EQT favorites from his rookie season. Because of this, retro acclaim for adidas Kobes grows exponentially.
Kobe Still Starts in the 1998 NBA All-Star Game
There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you’re spending eight of them on set playing a basketball player in a movie you’re not spending that time actually playing basketball.
Because of this, Kobe’s sophomore explosion in the league isn’t quite the same if he takes the role as it is in real life. He plays more and scores more, but Eddie Jones is still getting burn in crunch time while KB8 is on the bench.
His All-Star nod, though? That’s still a go. The ASG has always been a popularity contest and Kobe’s fandom is through the roof after the movie. Still, the press from the movie isn’t all good…
Kobe Goes Fan Friendly for His Follow Up, Good Burger II
He Got Game is a smash hit, but smashing two twins at Tech U on screen is not going so smashingly on selling jerseys to the Inside Stuff crowd. How’s he get good with Nickelodeon again? He goes straight to the source and stars in Good Burger II!
Managing the unruly All That duo on the job but also becoming a mentor figure once the aprons are off, Kobe’s character Rufus is wholesome, cool and collected. Sure, he shows early signs of Mamba Mentality in the beginning of the flick as he chews out Kel’s character in front of his high school crush, but it proves a teaching moment for both as he apologizes for it after a chance run-in at Blockbuster video afterward. [IMDB nugget: Rufus is actually holding Good Burger 1 when checking out at the store!]
The movie is panned by critics but beloved by kids and their parents. Kobe ends up hosting the 1999 Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, delivering a Will Smith status monologue while wearing sunglasses.
Kobe & Shaq Still Three-Peat
You’d think all the acting off court would make for slower progress or more drama on court. Conversely, it’s the opposite. While Kobe is vying for leading roles on camera, he’s a little less worried about a leading role with the Lakers. The Hollywood hotshots have something to talk about besides hoops and are better friends on and off the court because of it.
Still, come ring three Kobe is ready to become the man and make some changes.
Kobe Leaves adidas…For Jordan
While Kobe wearing adidas in He Got Game changes the value of his early signature wears from a retro standpoint, it still doesn’t stop him from making a move to a new brand early in his career. Thanks to his deep relationship with Spike and long adoration of Mike, he signs with Jordan Brand.
Though Kobe has the IMDB profile because he beat out Ray for the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the two ’96 draft classmates are now the face and feet of Jordan Brand, now competing for best in show in regards to retros. More PEs, more rings, but no ankle insurance.
If only Kobe took that role…