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What Denzel Washington Had To Practice Every Day While Filming He Got Game

Denzel Washington isn't one of the most famous film icons of all time for no reason.

The 67-year-old is respected and admired by the entertainment industry for the talent and work ethic that he brings to every project, from "Malcolm X" to "The Book of Eli" (via The New York Times). Anyone around in the 1990s saw Washington star in blockbusters like "The Pelican Brief," "Philadelphia," and "Courage Under Fire" (via IMDb). Although it's easy to recognize Washington from a number of these massive films, any sports fan might say that they first saw him in Spike Lee's 1998 basketball drama, "He Got Game."

Featuring one of the newest NBA stars at the time, Ray Allen, in a supporting role alongside Washington and Rosario Dawson, "He Got Game" was set up for success from the beginning and performed great amongst fans and critics (via Rotten Tomatoes). The story follows Washington's Jake Shuttlesworth and his son Jesus (Allen), as Jake pushes Jesus to become a great basketball player as a kid. Later in life, Jake ends up in jail after inadvertently killing his wife and is offered shortened time if he can get Jesus to commit to the governor's favorite college. Ultimately, Jesus heads to Big State and forgives his father, although Jake is not released from prison.

For Allen, the basketball aspects of the film were likely the easy part, but for Washington, some scenes in particular took a lot of work to keep up with his co-star. 

Denzel Washington had to practice dribbling with his left hand

According to a recent interview with the American Film Institute where Denzel Washington reflected on some of the great movies in his career, he discussed some of the things he had to do to prepare for "He Got Game."

Washington explained that he had informed the crew beforehand that he couldn't dribble with his left hand whatsoever, but he definitely didn't want to only dribble with his right during the basketball scenes. So, every day before and after filming, he would practice with his left hand until he got better. He went on to note that in a particular scene with co-star Ray Allen where they're playing one-on-one, he noticeably goes left first after practicing all that time.

Washington laughed and said that he was actually beating Allen in that particular scene, and that Allen's acting coach was yelling at him from behind the camera — although Washington knew Allen was just taking it easy on him. 

In an interview with KTLA 5 News, Allen even noted that Washington was like a point guard on set when it came to directing him for his acting scenes, so it looks like they both helped each other quite a bit.