Recasting 10 Of The Greatest Basketball Movies Ever

Spike Lee (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports)

When Spike Lee announced that he was in discussions with Ray Allen about a possible sequel to He Got Game, every basketball head who dearly loved the movie wondered who could possibly be casted for the next film. Would Ray Allen come back as Jesus Shuttlesworth? Would Denzel Washington come back and take on the role of Jake Shuttlesworth?

The film was released in 1998 and is hands down one of the greatest hoops flicks ever. While we are decades removed from some of the most prominent basketball movies ever, it would be interesting to see which list of today’s stars would be able to cast in some of the most memorable roles in basketball movie history. I recasted ten of the best basketball films with some of today’s current stars on the court and off the court.

*** *** ***

Hoop Dreams
Released in 1994
Original Cast – Arthur Agee and Williams Gates
New Cast – Two freshmen in high school from the same area that are NBA hopefuls.
There is no way you can possibly recast a documentary, of course, but it would be fun to see another basketball movie like this. Hoop Dreams is the best basketball documentary ever made. It was a groundbreaking film that followed high school basketball players Arthur Agee and Williams Gates as they tried to make it to the NBA. Agee and Gates were both very talented players from Chicago. In the Internet age basketball prodigies are all over the ‘net on YouTube and recruiting sites. It would be great to see a new batch of hopefuls who are from the same area with the same goals of trying to make it.

Finding Forrester
Released in 2000
Original Cast – Sean Connery and Rob Brown
New Cast – Robert De Niro and Tristan (Mack) Wilds
Rob Brown played in two of the best basketball movies ever in Finding Forrester and Coach Carter, which makes him one of the good actors that can actually play basketball. In the movie, Brown’s character, Jamal Wallace from the Bronx, is a standout on the court and off the court in the classroom. In the movie, Jamal receives help and mentorship from an old writer in William Forrester, played by Sean Connery.

To replace Jamal in the film, Wilds would be a great candidate. Wilds is one of the best promising actors on the big screen. He played major roles on the TV drama The Wire and the movie Red Tails. Then as Forrester, who else would be better to play an anti-social old guy than Robert De Niro?

Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault
Released in 1996
Original Cast – Don Cheadle
New Cast – Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis
No disrespect to Don Cheadle–he is a phenomenal actor but he does not fit the part to be a basketball player. The film was about one of the greatest streetball legends of all time in Earl “The Goat” Manigault. The Goat was known for his extraordinary bounce at his height and had the makings of a pro until a drug addiction never made it possible.

Russell Westbrook is someone who would make a great Earl “The Goat” Manigault. Standing at 6-3, Westbrook is one of the most athletic point guards to ever play in the NBA and his bounce is ridiculous. In the movie, a young Kevin Garnett makes an appearance as Wilt Chamberlain and Anthony Davis would be a perfect fit to be a Wilt Chamberlain in the recast. Davis is the future of NBA big men and to represent a young Wilt would be incredible (would be an interesting movie on its own as well).

The Air up There
Released in 1994
Original Cast – Kevin Bacon and Charles Gitonga Maina
New Cast – Mark Wahlberg and Joel Embiid
The Air up There is about a desperate college basketball assistant, Jimmy Dolan (Bacon) on a trip to Africa for his team to recruit Saleh, a raw basketball talent in Africa. Long story short, Dolan teaches the game to Saleh, he comes to America and plays for him. Mark Wahlberg is an actor that I can definitely see playing the Jimmy Dolan role in this movie. Wahlberg always plays the tough guy role in movies but can be funny as well.

A prospect from Africa with an absurd amount of talent who comes to America to play basketball, sounds a bit familiar, right? There is no better person for the Saleh character then Kansas freshman Joel Embiid. Embiid is already considered one of the top draft picks in the 2014 NBA Draft despite only playing basketball since 2011. Serge Ibaka would also make a great Saleh.

Space Jam
Released in 1996
Original Cast – Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley
New Cast – LeBron James (As MJ), Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki and Nate Robinson
Space Jam will forever be one of my favorite movies. The intro alone gets me hyped as it showcases vintage MJ highlights. If I had to cast someone today, LeBron James would be the obvious choice. LeBron is one of the most marketable athletes of today and has the charisma and fun personality to act with animated characters such as Bugs Bunny. On a Twitter Q&A a couple years ago, a fan asked LeBron if he loved the movie and he responded “I love that movie, wish I could do Space Jam 2!”

Like MJ, having some of LeBron’s closest friends on the court in the film with him–such as D-Wade, Bosh and Anthony–would make a dope cast. Nate Robinson as Muggsy Bogues and Dirk as Shawn Bradley just makes things a little bit more perfect.

Love & Basketball
Released in 2000
Original Cast – Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan
New Cast – Michael B. Jordan and Skylar Diggins
Love & Basketball is the ultimate romantic flick you can watch with your girl but still feel cool because it is about basketball. Michael B. Jordan is one of the best upcoming actors and did an incredible job in Fruitvale Station. I heard in interviews he plays a lot of ball in his off time. He has the build to play the role of Quincy McCall.

I could have put an actual actress here but it would be great to see Skylar Diggins get some film time. She is one of the most popular female basketball players because of her competitiveness on the court and her looks. Diggins is the dream girl for every guy that dreams of having a legit basketball wife in the future.

White Men Can’t Jump
Released in 1992
Original Cast – Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez
New CastColumbus Short, Michael Rapaport and Zoe Saldana
White Men Can’t Jump did a great job focusing on all hoop stereotypes. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes had perfect chemistry, which the made the film very funny in some scenes. Harrelson can hoop and Snipes, despite the fact that he was dunking on a 7-foot rim during the film, can hoop as well.

To cast in the Snipes role, Columbus Short would be a great addition. Short and Snipes are both the same in height and Short has shown he can ball in some celebrity games I have watched. Michael Rapaport and Woody Harrelson both fit the mold of white guys that are actually black on the inside. Rapaport is a big basketball junkie but I don’t know if he can hoop–he got away with an MVP award in the NBA Celebrity Game a few years back, despite only scoring four points. Zoe Saldana replacing Rosie Perez seems like a great fit to me.

Above the Rim
Released in 1994
Original Cast – Tupac Shakur, Duane Martin, Marlon Wayans
New Cast A$AP Rocky, Chris Brown, Brandon T. Jackson
Above the Rim was one of the coolest hoop flicks because it had the perfect blend of basketball with hip-hop culture. Tupac’s presence along with Duane Martin made the film standout. It worked well that Martin can flat-out ball and was signed to the Knicks for a brief stint.

A person such as ‘Pac would be difficult to replace. He had a genuine personality that can never be matched. It was a tossup on rapper the Game and A$AP Rocky for the Birdie (Tupac) role but Rocky’s Harlem style is kind of like ‘Pac’s with the all-black gear and bandanas. I can see him playing the role with his collective A$AP mob by his side.

Chris Brown as Kyle Watson would make sense. CB can ball–just check some of his highlights on YouTube. He has been a regular playing in the Drew League every summer in California.

Blue Chips
Released in 1994
Original Cast – Nick Nolte, Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Matt Nover
New CastAl Pacino, Blake Griffin, Paul George and Kevin Love
If there was a vote for the most authentic basketball movie of all time, Blue Chips would win the vote. From the coaching of Nick Nolte to the dirty side of the NCAA, the film touched on all parts of the business. Nolte deserved an Oscar for his role as Coach Pete Bell. He was as realistic as any coach in the NCAA and when there was a scene full of other college coaches, he fit right in. I would cast Al Pacino in the role as Pete Bell. Pacino had one of the best on-film coaching performances in Any Given Sunday as a football coach and it would be fun to see him try basketball.

Blue Chips also did an incredible job of bringing in some of the best young, talented basketball players at the time to be in the movie. Shaq as Neon Boudeaux and Penny as Butch McRae was great but how about them bringing in Calbert Cheaney and Bobby Hurley to be on the opposing team? Cheaney and Hurley were both great college players.

Blake Griffin probably has the record for the most commercials for an athlete–I am just waiting for him to get cast into a movie role. He would make sense to be Neon Boudeaux, an exclusive talent just reckoning the hoop. Paul George would make a great Butch McRae; two young players with supreme versatile abilities on the court. As much as I hated Ricky Roe in the movie, he signified everything that is wrong with amateur athletics and greed. Kevin Love would make a great Ricky Roe as someone who can play big and stretch the floor.

He Got Game
Released in 1998
Original Cast – Denzel Washington, Ray Allen and Rosario Dawson
New CastIdris Elba, Kevin Durant and Lauren London
This one was probably the toughest recast because Denzel Washington’s acting was remarkable as Jake Shuttlesworth. I decided to go with Idris Elba because he is sort of the modern day Denzel. He has been casted in some major movie roles and women love him.

Kevin Durant would have made the perfect Jesus Shuttlesworth. KD has a flawless jump shot, is very young, and was once one of the top rated recruits in America in 2006. He is Jesus Shuttlesworth basically. He does have experience on the big screen starring in Thunderstruck, which I continuously deny to watch. Who can forget Rosario Dawson’s role as Jesus’s girlfriend, LaLa? Lauren London has all the attributes and personality to take on that role.

What do you think?

Follow Jarrel on Twitter at @_JarrelHarris.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.