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Former NBA All-Star Recounts His Time On The Set Of 'White Men Can't Jump' And How Woody Harrelson Proved The Title Right

Former NBA All-Star Recounts His Time On The Set Of 'White Men Can't Jump' And How Woody Harrelson Proved The Title Right

One of the greatest basketball movies of all time is the 1992 classic White Men Can't Jump. This movie starred Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and Rosie Perez.

The movie's premise involves two street ballers who team up to hustle other players, while the Woody Harrelson character deals with his own problems. White Men Can't Jump combines basketball with incredible storytelling, making it an instant classic.

On top of the stars mentioned above, there was another actor in the film who happened to play professional basketball. I'm talking about the former 5x All-Star Marques Johnson.


Marques Johnson Recounts Woody Harrelson Not Being Able To Dunk On The Set Of White Men Can't Jump

Whenever a movie is filmed, the actors usually have a lot of fun behind the scenes. It's their job, and they take it seriously, but at the same time, actors, like anyone else, try to enjoy themselves. This is what happened while making White Men Can't Jump.

While the actors may have been filming the movie, there are stories of them also hustling each other, betting on games, and on one important, movie-related question: can white men dunk a basketball? This was the premise of the movie, where the Harrelson character was challenged by the Snipes character to dunk a basketball, and he couldn't.

Of course, by the end of the movie, the Harrelson character finally shows the Snipes character that he can, in fact, dunk a basketball, dispelling the stereotype that white men can't jump. But this is fiction. What about real life?

As mentioned earlier, a former NBA All-Star was on the set, and it was former Milwaukee Bucks great Marques Johnson. In the NBA, Johnson played 11 years and finished with career averages of 20.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.

In the film, Johnson played the character of Raymond, a player whose team loses in a two-on-two matchup against the Harrelson and Snipes character. Johnson's character then hilariously threatened to grab his “other gun” after his team lost and the entire court dispersed.

While making the movie, Johnson played basketball with the cast, and he surprisingly admitted that Snipes was a great athlete, but he was not a basketball player at all. In fact, when they started filming, Snipes apparently couldn't make a layup. Snipes would eventually develop this skill.

Now, as for Harrelson, he actually could play a little. Johnson was impressed by Harrelson's shooting ability, as he recounted in an interview with ESPN:

“Woody, first of all, was a really good kind of gym rat basketball player. He had this great jumper, going to his left.”

Okay, so Harrelson was a natural shooter. But could he dunk a basketball in real life? Harrelson thought he could, but Snipes didn't believe this to be true. Snipes believed Harrelson would be like his character in the failed dunk scene and miss every attempt.

So, Harrelson made a bet with Snipes that he could dunk a basketball, and like his character's initial attempts, he failed. Harrelson continued to try to dunk, but he kept failing. Johnson, Harrelson, Snipes, and the director of the film, Ron Shelton, recalled the incident in the ESPN interview:

Harrelson: [Johnson] was really good. I remember we used to do, uh, bets on the side when we were like almost like playing horse. And boy did I lose a lot of money.

Johnson: And so the basket was at ten feet. Woody had been walkin' around with these strength shoes -- these strength shoes have, like, a -- like, a big, gigantic pad on the ball of your feet, and then nothin' on the heels. So you're walkin' on your calves the whole time. So Woody's got these strength shoes on. He's preppin' to get this dunk down on the ten-foot basket. So we get to that part of the scene he's got to dunk. And he's nowhere close.

Snipes: And we had a side bet going on.

Harrelson: Yeah, we had a side bet, which kept growing.

Johnson: Ron Shelton's like, “We gotta lower this thing, Woody. We don't have all night.” So Woody's, like, “No -- no, whatever you do, don't lower the basket. I know I can do it. I've done it before. I've been workin' on this for the past couple of months.”

Johnson: Woody leaves and goes to his trailer. So my favorite line is Ron Shelton. It's, like, “Take that thing down to nine and a half feet, please.” And so -- they did, and Woody came out and dunked.

Shelton: I recall, as the bet was being upped, the rim was being lowered.

Harrelson: Then we upped the bet a little bit, and uh, oh my God. I'll never forget [Snipes'] face when I slammed that.

Snipes: Ron, you were the co-conspirator, man. ... You set me up.

Shelton: Yeah, gradually. I was.

Harrelson: I didn't realize. I thank you for that, by the way.

This is a funny recount of the story. It's also funny that the crew had to lower the rim just for Woody Harrelson to slam the ball home. So, I guess Harrelson proved the title right that White Men Can't Jump and gave us all a laugh while he was doing it.

As mentioned earlier, Harrelson's character did dunk on a regulation-size rim in the movie. It occurred at the end to win the game in a glorious fashion. As you will see, it was the perfect way to show the Harrelson character proving that he and white men can, in fact, jump.

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