The classic 1992 sports comedy flick White Men Can’t Jump carved its own unique path, challenging societal stereotypes with humor and finesse. Now it's being updated—with Sinqua Walls stepping into the role Wesley Snipes originated and rapper Jack Harlow as Woody Harrelson's character.
Damian Young, a basketball player from Georgia, plays Sinqua Walls’ body double in the film. He also portrayed the legendary Michael Jordan in Air. EBONY sat down with the young baller and actor, after his morning workout—which included shooting hoops with the Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving—to delve into the White Men Can’t Jump remake, Young's role in Air and his views on LeBron James versus Michael Jordan.
EBONY: Let’s start with the movie Air. How did your role come to be?
Damian Young: When I first came out to L.A., I did a project for this guy who had received a pair of Jordan Ones during Jordan’s rookie year while he was the ball boy for the Denver Nuggets. He auctioned those off for $1.5 million, and he did a whole recreation of the scene of when Michael Jordan gave him the shoes—that was the first time I played MJ. So I had that as my [acting] reel. Then I was playing for a DREW League team and one of the team's managers was like, “Man, I want to submit you for this role coming up. You look like you could play Michael Jordan.” Fast forward a few months later, and I'm on set filming the last week of White Men Can’t Jump, and I get a call from the production team at Air!
It must have been mind-blowing playing Michael Jordan.
Yeah. Sometimes I wish I was just an actor so I could love it more. From a competitive athlete perspective, it's like, I know I’m not MJ, [but] it’s still great just to have my name mentioned alongside his.
In Air, you co-starred with Viola Davis, an EBONY cover star. How was that?
Man, that was crazy. She and her husband—they played Michael Jordan’s parents—and I didn’t know that they were married in real life, too. I’ll never forget that they imparted wisdom on me as if they were really my parents. They were putting me on game as far as relationships, marriage, finances and my acting career path.
Oh, it's MJ, still.
What if LeBron James wins a ring this year?
If LeBron gets number five, he’s still got to get six to catch MJ. But if LeBron gets five and [his son] Bronny gets one down the line, I’ll give it to LeBron then, because that means Bronny is everything Jordan wanted his son Marcus to be.
For sure! Do you feel like your basketball background helped you with this role?
No, it's crazy. They didn't even know I could play basketball. I think this was strictly off my looks. If you see the movie Air, there’s nothing of me playing basketball in it.
So as a body double in White Man Can't Jump, you actually get to hoop.
It's crazy, bro. I get paid to hoop! I get paid to hoop on a higher scale! Coming out of high school and college, I was chasing a dream. You never see this. This route is not talked about. I'm blessed, humbled and thankful that I was able to take this route with basketball instead of, maybe, playing basketball overseas or other options most hoopers [who don't make the NBA] have to go do.
How was your experience on set?
Being able to play the body double for Sinqua Walls was the best—my job was to hoop! They let me be me. White Men Can't Jump is filled with some real high flying, some real hooping. And please pay attention to the storyline—you’ll see why this character is really dedicated to the game of basketball and making his dreams come true.
Who would you say is a better hooper? Jack Harlow or Sinqua Walls?
I’ll be honest, I'll give it to Jack that he’s a better shooter. But all-around? Sinqua!