by Russ Bengtson

Another piece of ancient SLAM history. When we were putting together the first-ever issue of KICKS, I flew out to Chicago to interview the first group of Jordan Brand guys for the “Jumpmen” In Your Face section—Michael Finley, Eddie Jones, Vin Baker, Derek Anderson and Ray Allen. Allen was still with the Bucks then, and had recently finished filming He Got Game, his cinematic debut. We talked about it (and NYC basketball in general) a little bit.

SLAM: Now that you did the movie you’re sort of following in MJ’s footsteps a little bit…
RA: We played the Bulls yesterday and I told him. He said ‘How is the movie coming along?’ and I told him things were going pretty well. I just told him I was trying to follow in his footsteps.
SLAM: What did he say to that?
RA: He said ‘I think your movie is going to be a little bit better than mine.’ I said ‘Well, who directed Space Jam?’ and he looked at me and sort of smiled and said ‘Huh.’
SLAM:. This was on the court?
RA: Yeah, for the captain meeting in center court.
SLAM: He did his movie and had that court on the Warner Brothers set. Did you get to play a lot while you were filming?
RA: Nah, I didn’t get to play a lot. Jordan had such a great budget on that film. They had basically what he needed on that set. I didn’t really have that. I had sites available for me to work out, but I didn’t have a court. You know Spike doesn’t get a lot of money to make his movies, so that limited us a lot.
SLAM: Did you actually play pick-up games for the film, or just film scenes?
RA: Yeah we played.
SLAM: John Wallace was out there along with some of other NBA guys. Who else played?
RA: That was like the funnest part of shooting. You know we would shoot the basketball scenes and we would just play. It would be us five against whoever he put out there. These are guys that can really play. We’re NBA players hooping it up with guys that wanted to make the NBA, but couldn’t. Didn’t have enough skill. So they’re playing their hardest in the middle of the projects. So everybody that was in that part of NY was out there—at three or four in the morning—just watching us play. As you see in the film, people are on the side cheering, but they are really cheering. It wasn’t like ‘OK everybody scream real loud, everybody jump up and down and start clapping.’ They were really oohing and ahhing the whole time
SLAM: Have you ever played like that before? Did you play in NY?
RA: No.
SLAM: Would you play out there like Rucker or something like that?
RA: I played in Rucker last summer.
SLAM: Oh OK, so you have played. Are you going to keep playing you think?
RA: Nah I just did it cause them people out there at Rucker, they’re tough and you have to really—I won’t say I’ll never go back. I’ll probably would go back and play one day, but those people at Rucker… I think everybody should just go out there and just sit there and see what it’s about because that’s where there’s a lot of high school kids, a lot of college kids, people who have been in college, a few celebrities here and there. I mean, that’s real basketball. NY is the mecca of basketball and to have it on that court and playground, that’s what most guys haven’t experienced. The thing about it is, the NBA doesn’t mean nothing [at Rucker]. You just going out there and you’re going to be a target and everybody goes at you. You really have to step up your game.