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Not That Jesus! Ray Allen’s Nicknames

Ray Allen had a number of nicknames with the most common being Jesus Shuttlesworth and Sugar Ray. Allen was also called other names including Ray Ray, Mr. Basketball and Skinny Walt. Allen got the name Jesus Shuttlesworth from his performance in the Spike Lee movie “He Got Game”, and that name stuck with him the most. 

Why was Ray Allen called Jesus Shuttlesworth?

After trying out a dozen NBA and college basketball players, Spike Lee cast Ray Allen as the character Jesus Shuttlesworth in his 1998 film “He Got Game”. Allen had no small part: he was the co-star along with Denzel Washington. 

The film was made in the summer between Allen’s first and second year playing for the Milwaukee Bucks after being drafted 5th overall in the 1996 NBA draft. 

To prepare for the role, Allen spent forty hours a week for 8 weeks working on developing his acting skills with an acting coach. 

The movie told the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth, a star city basketball player facing pressure from many sides to decide his future. The film was well regarded by critics and became something of a cult classic for NBA fans of a certain age. 

Allen’s acting was extremely well reviewed. None other than Roger Ebert himself said that Ray was “that rarity, an athlete who can act.”

The video below shows Siskel and Ebert praising the film and Allen’s acting in it. 

With the film being a reasonable hit that performed well with NBA fans, and with Allen being its star whose acting was praised, it is no surprise that the nickname Jesus Shuttlesworth stuck with Ray Allen throughout his career. 

Why was Ray Allen called Sugar Ray?

Sugar Ray was a common nickname for great athletes named Ray. Probably the first one with the name was all-time great boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. 

Robinson is considered by some rankings to be the greatest boxer of all time and by nearly everyone to be one of the all-time greats. He had a mind-blowing 91 fight win streak in the 1940s into the 50s.

He also had a flashy style outside of the ring and is credited for starting the practice of athletes having an entourage. 

With Sugar Ray already being used widely in the boxing world, it is no surprise that another great boxer was called Sugar as well. Sugar Ray Leonard was part of a group that put on a bunch of great fights in the 80s along with Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler.

Sugar Ray Leonard is best remembered for beating Marvelous Marvin Hagler in a 1987 superfight. I was devastated – Hagler trained in Brockton, a city two towns over from my town and lived even closer. 

So the name Sugar was commonly used for athletes named Ray by the time Ray Allen became famous. But it was not just the name Ray that got Allen called Sugar. While Allen did not play much defense, he had a ridiculously sweet shot. 

Allen ended his career as the all-time leader in 3-point  attempts and makes. He shot an incredible 40% for his career. He finished in the all-time top ten in free throw % as well. There was no doubt: Ray Allen had a sweet stroke. 

So with the first name Ray, and a sweet shot, Ray Allen became Sugar Ray for some. 

What other nicknames was Ray Allen called? 

The name Ray Ray is just something many people with the name Ray get called. I can find no evidence why Ray Allen got the name, but it seems obvious: his name was Ray so someone started calling him Ray Ray. My name is Jim. Some people call me Jimmy. 

Ray Allen got the name Mr. Basketball because he was just that! He was the 2003 Mr. Basketball for the state of South Carolina where he played high school ball. 

The name Gentleman was given to Ray Allen because of his personal style, which was fairly unique for the NBA. Allen was a military kid growing up who, as an adult, came across as educated, thoughtful, well-mannered and well-spoken. The name Gentleman was a fairly obvious choice for him.

Allen got the name Skinny Walt from another of his acting gigs. He appeared in a Pepsi commercial featuring Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew. Uncle Drew faces off against Skinny Walt in a game of horse. 

Summary: Ray Allen’s Nicknames

Ray Allen had many nicknames including Skinny Walt, Gentleman, Mr. Basketball and Ray Ray. The two that stuck with him the most were Sugar Ray and Jesus Shuttlesworth. Sugar Ray is a legendary sports nickname that fit Allen well because of his sweet stroke. Jesus Shuttlesworth was given to Allen because he played that character in Spike Lee’s He Got Game. 

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