My two favorite Spike Lee movies are "Clockers" and "He Got Game" and they share similarities: both are about guys trying to keep integrity amidst characters whose primary motives are to persuade him to leave the path.
"He Got Game" gets the edge because I love basketball and because I'm a sucker for well done father-son conflicts. The basketball parts of this movie are absolutely brilliantly shot. Most sports movies share two commonalities: completely ridiculous storylines and actors who throw like sissies. He Got Game avoids both.
Okay, some parts of the story are hoky, but allowable. But what makes this movie work, similar to "Clockers" is that you get sucked into a main character whose nobility is tested at every turn. Will Jesus Shuttlesworth make it through the maze or fall prey to it? And will he be able to recognize that his father is not just one more flesh peddler? It makes for good drama. But above that, the basketball scenes just completely rock. They're examples of absolutely masterful cinematography and editing. In fact, the movie has some of the best montage sequences every put on film. Seriously.
Denzel is excellent in this movie. He plays a Jeckyll and Hyde and plays both sides well. This conflicted character was very easy to root for. (I can identify.) NBA perennial All-Star Ray Allen, while more than a little stiff at times, holds his own as a non-actor in a dramatic role.
He Got Game is a flawed piece of work: parts drag, it's not without its hokiness, and the subplot with Denzel and Jojovovich didn't quite fit. But the essential storylines work and play true: you believe in a conflict between father and son and you root for a high school basketball player who requires the wisdom of an adult to avoid the flesh peddlers. Kudos to Spike for not trying to hit us over the had with his message, but letting it unravel naturally.