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Origin of a Nickname: Air Jordan XIII “He Got Game”

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For as long as we can remember, sneaker releases have been accompanied by catchy nicknames to the point where these monikers are now the accepted terms in identifying the shoes. There are the newer terms to the sneaker vocabulary, like ‘South Beach’ from the LeBron series or ‘Grinch’ on the Kobe, but there are those that have been long-lasting like ‘He Got Game’, which has been in heavy and exclusive use for the upcoming Air Jordan XIII release. For that release in particular, the nickname has been around since the Spike Lee film first released in 1998 – a film that might be older than some of the sneakerheads who are planning to buy the shoes on the March 16th release date.

This Air Jordan XIII colorway originally released in 1997 and was actually the only Air Jordan XIII colorway to release that year (all other original colorways dropped in 1998). In the movie, Jake Shuttlesworth (played by Denzel Washington), a prison inmate, gets sent on a mission to convince the convict’s son, a star High School basketball player, to play for the warden’s alma mater in exchange for a shorter sentence. One iconic scene of the film features Jake shopping for a pair of kicks, and without hesitation, he requests the new Air Jordans to which he is presented with the Air Jordan XIII. From then on this colorway adopted the ‘He Got Game’ nickname; the trend resurfaced when the shoes retroed for the first time in 2008, and picked up yet again when the release was confirmed for 2013.

There are a few scenes in the film in which the sneakers as a whole take center stage, like when his son Jesus (played by Ray Allen) points them out, and when Jake and Jesus battle in one last game of one-on-one. The movie itself is a star-studded line-up of actors, NBA stars, and iconic kicks, so there’s no doubt that ‘He Got Game’ is among the must-watch films for sneaker hobbyists. Check below for these scenes and if there’s a shoe nickname you’re not quite sure of, drop a comment with a request and it might get featured on the next segment of Origins of a Nickname.

In this scene, Jake Shuttlesworth picks up the “new Air Jordans”. The employee helps him try the shoes on, but not without an awkward moment!

Jesus and Jake meet for a chat on the Coney Island boardwalk. Son quickly recognizes the “new Jordans” on his father’s feet!

This epic scene ends with Jesus finally defeating his father in a game of one-on-one. Jake’s wearing the He Got Games, while Jesus rocks a Nike classic – the Air Hawk Flight.