So yesterday evening I happened to watch much of game one of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, and quite naturally, I was disappointed as the Celtics came away the victors. Somewhat coincidentally, I was flipping channels this morning before heading in to work and I happened to come across the movie He Got Game airing on one of the cable stations. Now for those unaware, He Got Game is a 1998 movie featuring Denzel Washington as Jake Shuttlesworth, the incarcerated father of Ray Allen's character Jesus Shuttlesworth, the top prep basketball player in the country. The coincidence, of course, is that Ray Allen is now a member of the Boston Celtics.
I had seen the movie in the theatre ten years ago, and then as no, something really disturbs me about the film. Well, at the very end of the film... Oh wait, maybe I should not spoil how the movie ends... No screw it; the movie has been out for ten years and so you have had plenty of time to see it. At the very end of the film, Jake Shuttlesworth, after fulfilling his end of a bargain whereby if he convinced his son to attend Big State, the alma mater of the governor, the governor would shorten his prison sentence, finds himself still imprisoned with seemingly no change to his sentence. Concurrent while Jake is out playing basketball in the prison yard, his son is playing basketball states away in the gym of his new school, Big State.
And then the symbolic (I guess) but truly perplexing occurs. Jake begins to walk while holding a basketball toward one of the goals and beyond into a section of the grounds labelled "Out of Bounds." Now I know what you're saying; what's so wrong with labelling the part on the basketball court that is out of bounds with "Out of Bounds?" Behind the basket is out of bounds after all. Now that's a good question except for the fact that this out of bounds section was the out of bounds section in which the prison guards evidently shoot you. Now Jake is walking out toward the shoot-me-please out of bounds section while the guards call him back as they simultaneously aim their guns at him. What does Jake do? Well, he tosses the basketball high up into the air and over the prison wall.
The scene shifts, and we are now back in the gym at Big State with Jesus Shuttlesworth alone getting some practice in. He's about to attempt a shot when seemingly out of nowhere a basketball flies onto the court. Now this was no ordinary basketball (of course it wasn't, I've just told you that it came flying in from seemingly nowhere) as when Jesus picked it up, we the audience could see that it was the same basketball that Jake threw from within the prison yard those many states away. The movie ends with Jesus staring up toward the arena ceiling in amazement as he holds the basketball and Jake walking back onto the court at the prison.
Now I always swore to myself that if I ever got the chance to meet Ray Allen, I would have to ask him about this scene. This is how I would envision this going:
Me: Hey Ray, how's it going?
Ray Allen: Great.
Me: Hey Ray, can I ask you a question?
R.A.: No, you can't have an autograph.
Me: No, I have a different question. It's about He's Got Game.
R.A.: Yes, I do get annoyed when people call me Jesus.
Me: No, it's about one of the scenes from the movie.
R.A.: Yes, the scene with me and the two porn stars was as awesome as it looked.
Me: No, I want to ask about the final scene in the movie - the one where you stand there when the ball magically flies into the arena from nowhere.
R.A.: Oh, that scene.
Me: When you read the script or when Spike Lee told you about this scene, did you think that he was a crazy person?
Me: I mean, did Spike bother to explain exactly what the symbolism behind this was.
Me: Was your character in the movie even supposed to know that your character's father threw the basketball because I couldn't see the ball closely, but I don't recall seeing "Property of Attica State Prison" on it?
Me: Oh, did Spike even tell you that a scene with Denzel throwing the ball was juxtaposed with the ball flying into the arena? Wait, did you even see the movie?
R.A.: Look, do you want my autograph or not?
And that's exactly how it would play out. Well, I wish to inform you that I did encounter Ray Allen on one occasion in early April of 2004. And how did things play out? Forgive me, but that is a story for another day...