Past Film/Video | Classics

He Got Game

(Spike Lee, 1998) 

Introduced by Hanif Abdurraqib

35MM Print

Ray Allen spins a basketball on his index finger while sitting on a guardrail at a beach.

Basketball superfan Spike Lee takes on the often-seedy world of big-time college athletics as only he can. 

He Got Game stars NBA great and future Hall of Famer Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttleworth, the top high school basketball talent in the country. In hopes of steering Jesus to his alma mater, Big State University, the governor plots to release Jesus’s father Jake (Denzel Washington) from Attica on a work release program with the understanding he will try to convince Jesus to attend the school. Together, Jesus and Jake contend with their violent pasts while their futures hang in the balance. The all-star cast also includes Milla Jovovich, John Turturro, Rosario Dawson, Jim Brown, and numerous then-current NBA players. (136 mins., 35mm)

See the entire Pick and Reels: Basketball on Screen lineup.

He Got Game, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

"The movie is too big, too complex, too sentimental—too much. The movie is dangerous. And the last 20 years have only proven it right."
K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair

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About the speaker

Hanif Abdurraqib chevron-down chevron-up

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio, who has been published in the New York TimesNew YorkerFADER, and Pitchfork. His first full-length poetry collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016) was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017) was named a book of the year by Esquire, NPR, Oprah MagazinePasteLos Angeles Review, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. His critically acclaimed Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas, 2019) is a New York Times Bestseller and A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (2021) was a finalist for the National Book Award. His next book, There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension will be released in March 2024. Learn more on Abdurraqib's website.

National Endowment for the Arts
Ohio Humanities

Rohauer Collection Foundation

Ohio Department of Development
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Wexner Family
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Ohio Arts Council, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts
Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme
The Columbus Foundation
Nationwide Foundation
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease

Mike and Paige Crane
Axium Packaging
Nancy Kramer
Ohio State Energy Partners
Ohio History Fund/Ohio History Connection
Larry and Donna James
David Crane and Elizabeth Dang
Bruce and Joy Soll
Rebecca Perry Damsen and Ben Towle
Jones Day
Alex and Renée Shumate


Past Film/Video

He Got Game