Kobe Bryant is known by a lot of names.
Kobe. The Black Mamba. Vino. That guy who's going to take the last shot for the Los Angeles Lakers.
But what if we had to add Jesus Shuttlesworth to that list? According to Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, it almost happened during the summer of 1997, but Kobe turned the role down because a playoff loss to the Utah Jazz was still fresh in his mind:
That summer Spike Lee begins filming He Got Game, a movie with Denzel Washington about a basketball prodigy named Jesus Shuttlesworth. "I want you to be part of it," Lee tells Bryant. "Thank you but no thank you," Bryant says. "This summer is too big for me." Ray Allen lands the role as Shuttlesworth.
The history of the NBA almost went in an entirely different direction.
Had Kobe accepted the role, maybe Ray Allen wouldn't have gone on to make more three-pointers than anyone else in NBA history. He wouldn't have had that divine touch, and he certainly wouldn't have been considering wearing "Shuttlesworth" on the back of his jersey in 2013.
But the question remains: Would Kobe have been able to pull off this epic one-on-one battle against Denzel Washington?
There's a solid chance he would have gotten annoyed and just started throwing down dunk after dunk. He's so competitive that any dreams of a relatively close game at the beginning would've gone by the wayside.
With that said, Kobe does actually have some acting experience under his belt, although he typically tends to play himself.
Still, while the Mamba is rehabbing his injured Achilles and getting ready to spit on ESPN's collective decision to rank him at No. 25 among all the players in the NBA, it's pretty intriguing to think about what could have been.
The "Jesus Shuttlesworth" nickname is so ingrained for Allen, and thinking about the same thing happening for a true superstar like Kobe is...weird.
Personally, I'm just glad "Black Mamba" became the moniker we use most often.