Almost every old-school hoops fan is familiar with the name Sidney Deane and the 1992 classic basketball movie “White Men Can’t Jump.” In the film, Deane’s cocky character was portrayed and given justice by Wesley Snipes.
But did you ever wonder why the role seemed very fitting for the award-winning actor? Let’s hear it from the man himself.
Wesley was perfect for Sidney
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2017, Snipes said that “everybody who was anybody at the time and everybody who wanted to be somebody” came over for the auditions. The film’s director Ron Shelton wasn’t just looking for good actors but also actors who could play ball.
Indeed, passing Shelton’s auditions was so challenging that even big-name actors at the time, such as Keanu Reeves, did not make the cut as he was “not a basketball player.” Snipes himself is not a good basketball player as well but based on his assessment, he’s got “great handles, passing, and defense.” However, what separated him from the pack was his natural cockiness.
“I had great handles, great passing, great defense, but every shot I took was a brick, [laughs]” Snipes said. “Every time I shot it, even if it didn’t go in, I talked like it did. I made you believe that you were lucky it didn’t go in.”
Attitude gets the job done
As it turned out, Snipes was telling the truth. In the same interview, Shelton echoed everything Wesley said about himself during the auditions.
According to the veteran director, Snipes “just had more attitude” than anybody. And it quickly captured his attention as that trait is something vital if you are playing Sidney Deane in the movie. And yes, Shelton confirmed that Snipes had the worst jump shot than anybody as well.
“Wesley is not a great basketball player, but he is a great athlete — big distinction,” Shelton explained. “When he showed up to audition, he just had more attitude than anybody. He walked on the court trash-talking and it didn’t matter if he had any game [laughs]. He showed up with more attitude and less jump shot than anybody.”
Looking back, Shelton was proven right about picking Snipes to play Sidney Deane, as most of us would agree that it was an epic portrayal. On the other hand, Wesley’s audition story goes to show that sometimes, all it takes is confidence and a little bit of attitude.