He Got Game sets the tone for the film by introducing viewers to Denzel Washington’s character, Jake Shuttlesworth. The basic story line goes as follows: Jake is in prison for murder and a powerful politician will reduce or commute his sentence if Jake can convince his estranged son, Jesus Shuttleworth, to go to the powerful politicians’ alma mater, “Big State”. That is the basic plot of the film without giving anything away. Lee does a fantastic job of melding these plot lines together with the emotion of the father-son relationship and the realities of high profile collegiate recruiting.
The film also does a great job of showing the difficult choices a highly touted collegiate prospect will make amid endless temptation. He Got Game also shows the sociological aspects of where many of the best basketball players in America hale from. Often, many talented players come from less than advantageous socio-economic situations and are forced to not only make decisions based on their own individual dreams and aspirations, but also those of their entire family. He Got Game shows the struggles Jesus Shuttlesworth deals with as he deliberates over the futures of himself, his family and his estranged father.
I’m not a film critic so I’ll spear readers with my analysis of the technical aspects of the film, and will conclude with my final points on the basketball side of the film. He Got Game is a must watch for any basketball fan and certainly any top high school recruit. This is a basketball film that deals with many of the issues that top high school athletes will face off the court. The film might be slightly over the top with its portrayal of the dark side of collegiate recruitment, but the idea was to show the types of temptation and decisions that young athletes may have to make for themselves and others. From great character names to rich college boosters, He Got Game has it all.