The Resurrection of Jesus
By Paul Benedict.
I watched Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” for the umpteenth time the other day and I couldn’t help but wonder where Jesus Shuttlesworth’s career went after he signed the letter of intent with Big State. Many people like to assume Jesus’ career followed the same path as Ray Allen’s, but let’s not forget that Allen’s professional career had already been well underway when Jesus was still making his college visits. Before I delve into the current whereabouts and past travails of Jesus Shuttlesworth, let’s remember some of the accomplishments, accolades, and praise already garnered by Jesus when we last left the phenom.
- Consensus #1 basketball prospect in the country.
- Won state title at Abraham Lincoln High with such future NBA prospects as Lonnie “Dub” Dukes (John Wallace), Sip Rodgers (Travis Best), and Mance Littles (Walter McCarty).
- Appeared on the covers of Slam Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
- Scouted since junior high school according to Tech U coach Billy Sunday.
- “The best thing to happen to basketball since the tennis shoe.” — John Thompson
- “Better than Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury.” –former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins
- “With you and Chick Deagan (Rick Fox), we could go to the Final Four.” –Dirty slut at Tech U
- “Might be ready for the big league right now.” –Reggie Miller
- “Pure shooter and fearsome defender.” –Shaquille O’Neal
- “He can do it all– defend, run, pass, finish, make people better, play within a crowd.” –George Karl
- “There are several contending NBA teams already interested in you.” –Top NBA Agent Dom Pagnotti
- “The most coachable kid I’ve ever had.” –Lincoln High Coach Cincotta
- Showed immense ability to perform under pressure when he manhandled legendary pornstars Chasey Lain and Jill Kelly in an unforgettable threesome during his visit to Tech U.
Jesus Shuttlesworth hit the Big State campus like a freight train in his first season. Immediately cast into the starting lineup, the 6’5″ 1998 consensus high school player of the year made his college basketball debut against Marshall in the first round of the preseason NIT and scored a Big State freshman-record 33 points to go along with 7 assists in leading the team to an 82-66 victory. This was just the beginning of things for Shuttlesworth in a star-studded freshman season– he led Big State to regular season and Conference Tournament titles in being named both Conference Freshman of the Year and Conference Player of the Year. He was also elected 1st Team All-American, was the consensus Freshman of the Year, and was a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards. Big State would receive the #1 seed in the South Regional heading into the 1999 NCAA Tournament thanks to Jesus, and would have no problem advancing into the Sweet 16 after opening weekend wins over Winthrop and Oklahoma State. On March 18, 1999, the legend of Jesus Shuttlesworth added a new chapter in a game against Scoonie Penn and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Upon hearing the news that his father Jake had been released from prison during halftime, Jesus went out and poured in 32 2nd half points, including 7 3-pointers as he set an NCAA Tournament freshman record with 48 points in a stunning 78-73 come-from-behind triumph. Jesus would then drop 26 on NYC rival Ron Artest and St. John’s in the regional final as Big State advanced to the Final Four for the first time in years. A miraculous freshman season came to an end in the national semifinals as fellow 1st Team All-American Richard Hamilton and the UConn Huskies would put away Big State 81-76 and go on to win the National Championship.
After perhaps the greatest freshman season in NCAA history, the consensus was that Shuttlesworth was essentially a lock to go 1st overall in the NBA Draft if he were to come out. GMs were enamored with the versatility of his game– one was quoted as saying, “He’s got the shooting touch of Reggie Miller, the court vision of Magic Johnson, and everything else about him is just eerily reminiscent of Michael Jordan– the hustle, the leadership, the defense, the ability to take over a game, and most of all, the heart. If the Bulls get the first pick, we may get a chance to re-live the Jordan era all over again.” Shuttlesworth, though confident he was ready to take his game to the next level, was stringent on receiving the education that his late mother always considered to be of the utmost importance. Jesus eventually decided to heed the advice of his father Jake and on the last possible day, announced that he would leave Big State after his freshman year and declare for the NBA Draft. Jesus and Jake coordinated a plan that would enable Jesus to take a full semester of classes each summer until finished his degree in family psychology.
Jesus announced his intentions to rise above the college game and enter the NBA Draft following his freshman season at Big State.
For those interested in the original movie. Here is a review of this movie ‘He got game’
If 1997 was known as the ‘Tim Duncan Draft’, then 1999 was quickly being dubbed as the ‘Christmas Day Draft’– the birth of Jesus into the NBA. Sure enough, the Bulls hit the lottery and landed the first pick in the draft. On June 30, the Chicago Bulls selected Jesus Shuttlesworth with the 1st Pick of the 1999 NBA Draft; they would then select childhood rival Ron Artest with the 16th pick, and just like that, a new chapter in NBA lore was set to begin.
The Bulls entered the 1999-00 season with very low expectations, but Jesus Shuttlesworth and Ron Artest set the bar high after storming out to a 5-game winning streak to begin the season. It didn’t take long before the Jordan and Pippen comparisons started flooding in, but Jesus didn’t mind. “Ron and I always pushed each other as kids, bringing the best out of one another. I never really liked him, and he never really liked me, but maybe that was because we were never on the same side. When I found out the Bulls drafted him after me…I was surprised at first, but then I got excited. I’ve never met anyone who had the same drive as me, except Ron Artest.” The duo developed an on-court relationship that the league hadn’t seen since Michael and Scottie, and despite their youth, they knew what it took to win and it showed. By the All-Star break, the Bulls were firmly engulfed in the Eastern Conference Playoff race with a 26-22 record, and Jesus was on his way to the All-Star Game. It was in Oakland, CA during All-Star Weekend that Jesus Shuttlesworth and Vince Carter performed one of the most memorable moments in All-Star history as they staged a dynamic duel in the Slam Dunk Contest that will be remembered for ages. Back and forth the two went, outdoing one another with gravity-defying dunks. After Vince Carter sailed from the free throw line for an incredible two-handed jam, Jesus needed to perform a miracle in order to win. So as the story goes, the 6’5″ kid from Coney Island started from the 3-point line in the corner and started jogging towards the hoop as he tossed the ball across the backboard, sailed off his feet, turned 360 degrees in mid air, caught the ball on the other side of the backboard, and threw it down one-handed with authority. Game over.
They talk about something called the ‘rookie wall’ in the NBA, but Jesus wasn’t a believer. Hell, he once took on renowned pornstars Jill Kelly and Chasey Lain in a threesome– compared to that, this was nothing for Jesus of Coney Island. He earned Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in March and guided the Bulls to the 5th seed heading into the Playoffs. On the same day that he was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, Jesus drained 9 3-pointers in a series-clinching 88-80 win over the 76ers that advanced the Bulls into the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There the Bulls fought a hard battle, but would succumb to the Indiana Pacers in 6 games.
During the summer, Jesus was chosen to represent Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Sydney. Despite being the youngest player on a team that featured such star guards as Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Gary Payton, and Tim Hardaway, Shuttlesworth played valuable minutes off the bench in helping Team USA earn the Gold Medal. Jesus proclaims, “The experience playing with those guys over in Australia while representing my country, it’s one that I’ll cherish forever.”
Jim Boeheim once said, “Michael Jordan could give you 35 minutes of everything, but Jesus could give you 40.” How about 43.8? That’s how many minutes per game Shuttlesworth averaged during the 2000-01 season, tops in the NBA. Jesus never wanted to come out of games, and never showed signs of fatigue that would encourage coaches to sub in for him– maybe that’s why he lead the NBA in steals (2.72) and rebounds from the guard position (7.7). The Bulls improved to 51-31, good enough for the 3 seed in the East. Jesus earned 1st Team All-NBA status and finished 4th in the MVP voting. The Bulls swept through the 1st Round of the Playoffs before knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks in the next round– a date with MVP Allen Iverson and the 76ers was next. The Bulls would lose the series in 6 games to the 76ers, but nobody will forget the historic display Jesus put forth in Game 3. With the Bulls down 2-0 in the series and desperately needing a win, Jesus hit 20 of 28 FGs, 6 of 9 from beyond the arc, and 11 of 12 from the free throw line for a Jordan-esque 57 points in powering the Bulls to a 102-96 win.
The Bulls took an unfortunate step back in the 2001-02 season, with Jesus, Artest, and center Brad Miller all suffering crippling injuries. Shuttlesworth dislocated his shoulder in early December and was forced to spend 2 months on the injured list. When he returned in February, the Bulls were 6 games below .500 and still without Jesus’ sidekick Artest. Chicago would put on a furious run through March in which Jesus dropped 30+ PPG, but after their star re-injured his shoulder on April 2nd, they went on to drop 7 of 8 and eventually fall out of the Playoff race. Jesus vowed to bounce back strong the following season.
Jesus had his sights set on a run for the NBA Title in the 2002-03 season and that became no secret when he engineered an 11-game win streak to start Chicago’s season. The Bulls would enter the All-Star break with the league’s best record at 39-8 thanks in large part to new additions Robert Horry (via trade) and Jesus’ former Lincoln High teammate Sip Rodgers, but everyone knew almost all of the team’s success was due to Jesus himself. A starter for the 1st time ever at the All-Star Game, Shuttlesworth scored 36 points and assisted to lifelong hero Michael Jordan for the game-winning basket in overtime to earn the game’s MVP Award. The Bulls continued to charge through the regular season and had clinched homecourt throughout the Playoffs by the end of March en route to a final record of 66-16. Jesus earned his 1st ever regular season MVP Award, Artest was the unanimous choice for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bulls were everyone’s pick to win the title. The Eastern Conference foes were no match for the Bulls as they ripped through the bracket, losing only 3 games on their way to a Finals date with the San Antonio Spurs. With Bruce Bowen smothering him throughout the series, bringing back early memories from his childhood when his father Jake bullied him around the court, a frustrated Jesus struggled mightily throughout the series. With the Bulls down 2-1 in the series and trailing by double-digits with minutes to go in Game 4, Jesus’ aggravation became more than he could handle. Doing anything and everything to pull his Bulls back into the game, Shuttlesworth drove hard to the basket on a fast-break lay-up only to be fouled by Bowen. Jesus responded by jumping up from the ground, grabbing the ball, and firing it directly at Bowen’s face from a mere 3 feet away. Bowen’s nose was shattered and began gushing with blood– Jesus was suspended for the remainder of the Finals. The Spurs held on in Game 4 and finished off the Bulls two days later.
Though the Bulls signed Jesus to a max contract during the summer of 2003, Jesus felt unfulfilled and unsatisfied with where his career was headed. He felt as though his reputation was tarnished after the Bruce Bowen incident and decided to work with Spike Lee on producing a series of NBA-related anti-violence public service announcements. The support he received from players around the league and the response he garnered from the public was more than Jesus could ask for. Now it was time to focus on winning that Championship. The Bulls once again rolled through the regular season, only missing a beat when Jesus landed on the injured list in January with a sprained ankle. They would finish with a 62-20 record, once again best in the East. Though the East was a far tougher conference in 2004, the Bulls had little problem dismantling the Knicks, Pistons, and Pacers on their way to the Finals where they would face Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers. LA came in a team shuffling with problems, and left with even more. Jesus Shuttlesworth won his first NBA Championship in 2004 as the Bulls swept the Lakers 4-0 with Jesus earning Finals MVP honors.
Many reigning champions have difficulty rediscovering a sense of motivation and intensity as they seek to claim a second title. Of course, there’s exceptions like Russell’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls, and now apparently Jesus’ Bulls. “The feeling I got when I hugged the Larry O’Brien Trophy, I can’t describe it. I kept telling myself, this is what you’ve worked for your entire life. This is what it’s all about. And then someone handed me the phone and it was Michael, and he told me, “now you’re on the board, let’s see how many you can get.” I decided right then and there that I was going to work harder this off-season than I ever have to make sure that this wasn’t the only ring I got.” Shuttlesworth came into training camp with an additional 15 lbs. of muscle and claimed he was running a sub-5 minute mile. Everyone knew he meant business when he dropped one of the most remarkable triple-doubles in NBA history in the very first game of the season with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 15 assists. The Bulls were an absolute wrecking crew in the first two months of the season, going 28-3 and shellacking every opponent they faced. And then on January 2nd of this year, a fan at the Palace of Auburn Hills threw a D battery in the direction of Ron Artest. The battery hit the unsuspecting Artest directly in the eye, leaving the star forward shaken on the ground. Artest’s season and possibly career were deemed over the very next day when it was revealed that he had damage to his cornea that was in all likelihood permanent. “Don’t matter whether Ron can only see out of one eye, he’ll be back next year. But he’s a part of this team, this dynasty we’re creating. This year is for Ron,” said Jesus. The Bulls would continue to stay atop the East without Artest, but their dominance was a thing of the past. Shuttlesworth put together by far his greatest season to date in winning his 2nd MVP Award and leading the Bulls to the East’s best record for the 3rd consecutive season. Chicago looked vulnerable in the first round against New Jersey, but still advanced to face Detroit in the 2nd round. The Pistons’ stifling defense mesmorized the Bulls early on in the series, but Jesus proved to be too much as the Bulls moved on the Conference Finals in 6 games. Next up for Chicago was Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat, who had taken 3 of 4 from the Bulls during the regular season. In a rugged back-and-forth series, the Bulls got the last laugh thanks to a heroic 45 points from Shuttlesworth in the deciding Game 7. And back they were to the NBA Finals– standing in their way, the San Antonio Spurs. The Finlas took off from San Antonio where the Spurs won Games 1 and 2 in convincing fashion as budding superstar Manu Ginobili stole the spotlight from Jesus by wowing the crowd with his stunning display of artistry and gamesmanship. The Bulls fired back in Games 3 and 4, giving hope to Chicago faithful who assumed their Championship hopes were dashed without defensive stalwart Artest. Game 5 turned out to be a classic– with Jesus suffering from an off-shooting night, the Bulls relied on Robert Horry to bail them out. Two monster 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds led Chicago to victory and gave them two chances to close out the Spurs in San Antonio. The Spurs received an enormous performace from Tim Duncan in Game 6 to offset Shuttlesworth’s 40 points and even up the series. And now, we bring you up to date as the NBA has its first Game 7 Finals matchup in 11 years with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs duking it out at the SBC Center on Thursday.