There’s always been an obvious connection between the NBA and the world of hip-hop. The music is played in the arenas, the players have it on in their headphones pre game, and the Warriors are apparently in love with coco. After years of watching the NBA and after years of wishing the And1 Mixtape Tour would come back to ESPN I’ve noticed that there a lot of players in the NBA who actually remind me of some biggest names in Hip-Hop.
Dr. Dre and Phil Jackson
When you think back on Kobe Bryants’ and Micheal Jordan’s championships and when you think back on how cool Snoop made it look to host a house party while sipping Gin and Juice you have to acknowledge the men behind the success. At this point I’m pretty sure Jackson is Dre’s spirit animal. Dr. Dre is known for making some of the hottest beats in the history of the rap game. He’s had such an influence as a producer that people are willing to over look the fact that he has people ghostwrite his verses. They’ll even overlook that Dre has spent years selling you fake audiophiles those whack ass name brand headphones that overemphasized the bass in every song on your iPod. But as long as it allows Kevin Garnet to hear what he wants when he’s putting up one of his worst statistical seasons then I guess folks are willing to give him a pass for the fact that he sold ya’ll headphones that only sound good when you’re listening to The Chronic or Doggystle.
Dre produced some classic records and is forgiven by all the fans who know that he can’t rap, that his headphones are overrated and that we’ve been waiting for his third album to drop for damn near 15 years. Phil Jackson has won so many rings that he has gotten a pass for every stupid move he’s made since he got Kobe his fifth ring. The Knicks wanted Jackson to coach the team and he told them that he didn’t really feel like traveling. Because those long road trips from New York to Toronto are just so hard on your body. The Knicks were struggling with Carmelo Anthony running the offense with Iman Shumpert and JR Smith. And since Smith and Shumpert were the only other exciting players on the roster they got traded to Cleveland for a third round pick in the 2019 WNBA draft. The Knicks look so bad right now its making me reconsider my stance on soccer-type league relegation in the NBA. If you think Carmelo looks good now, imagine how many points he’ll put up once he’s playing the Liaoning Flying Leopards in the Chinese Basketball Association. And meanwhile Jackson is just laughing to the bank with a team that is destined for a lottery pick. Even with every stupid move he has overseen or approved he’s done so much that people, myself included, will still call him a basketball genius. Jackson didn’t all of a sudden forget what good basketball looks like. He’s just supervising a rebuilding process. Which is hilarious since he got brought in so they wouldn’t have to rebuild. So, shoutout to the Knicks for holding out hope that Jackson was going to save their sinking ship of a franchise and shoutout to the fans who are still waiting for Detox to hit the shelves. Dre and Jackson already got their money so just enjoy watching high lights of a broken triangle offense on your laptop through your sub-par over priced headphones.
Zack Randolph and Nate Dogg
Honestly, I’m a big fan of both these cats. People like Z-Bo and Nate Dogg make me think that if I had just put in a little bit of work towards a more lucrative craft I could have found a way to make some real money. (In case your wondering, no. Getting a journalism degree from a small liberal arts college dose not allow me to make it rain at the club.) The reason these two give me hope is because on the one hand, we have the most un-athletic athlete in the NBA who has no business being as good at his job as he is. And on the other hand we have a guy who got famous singing on some of the most recognizable hooks in hip hop history when we all know good and damn well he can’t really sing. Randolph got your old ass uncle talking about how he can still hang on the court with the young folks at your local blacktop because he plays the game smart and has some low post post moves. That same old ass uncle thinks he can sing along with Nate Dogg on Deez Nutz. Now, depending on whether or not your uncle is 6 foot 9 with an awkward left handed style that no one really knows how to defend against your old uncle may not be able to put in work in a three on three half court game. But if your uncle ain’t completely tone deaf he can hang with Nate Dogg on anything he’s ever sung.
The thing that ties them together isn’t talent but the fact that they found ways to work around their natural ability. Nate Dogg’s persona is the precursor to modern day R&B singers who give you that crooner you don’t want to meet in a dark alley type of vibe and Z-Bo plays like one of those guys from an era where stuff like this happened.
If you ever find yourself on the black top with one of the old heads who compares his game to Randolph he should be pretty recognizable. He’ll probably talk about how soft the Modern NBA is and how all LeBron does is flop his way to the free throw line. Then he’ll mention how Randolph plays the game like a real man as the old man hikes up his shorts that are already way too short and plays tight man coverage at the top of the key because zone is for cowards. Then right as you drive past him and go for the finger role he’ll punch you in the kidneys and remind you that “there’s no easy layups, young blood.” As you take you’re foul shots you may even over here him tell someone on his team how important it is to regulate the paint.
T.I. And Kevin Garnet
Both of these guys have been in the game a long time in professions that have a tendency to produce short careers. But Garnet and and T.I have both crafted this tough guy image that no one seems to want to question. At first, it can be confusing as to why two guys who enjoy almost getting into physical altercations still get praised for their toughness. At least part of the reason is that their both crazy. T.I dropped an album where he was actively battling against himself and we all sat there and acted like this dude wasn’t showing early signs of schizophrenia. And while we were giving him a pass for having an entire album dedicated to his internal battle, he was also apparently gearing up for external battle. T.I got caught with all those guns in his house like he was expecting a raid on his compound. Unless you’re in the jungle asking the members of your cult to drink the Kool-Aid before the government shoots up your camp site, you don’t need the number of guns that T.I had and you don’t need the types of guns that T.I had.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to take a Timberwolves team past the second round on the playoffs despite the fact that you’re the lone good player you may need to be ready for an actual war.
Look at the seriousness in this man’s eyes. Battlefield metaphors are overused in sports. Close competitive games are called wars, players who play through injuries are called soldiers and players who show strong leadership skills are called generals. But, I’m not convinced Garnet was using any metaphors here. He knew his team wasn’t making any kind of a deep playoff run unless his enemy suffered heavy casualties. However, due to David Sterns strict no-semi-automatics-during-gameplay policy the T’wolves would fail to get deep into the playoffs and Garnet would have to wait a few more years to find out that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!
But, despite the fact that Garnet had guns that he may or may not have been borrowing from T. I’s crib neither of these dudes is actually trying to fight. Garnet is the king of “hold me back”. I’ve never seen anyone look so out for menacing, so dangerous, so out for blood while slowly backing a way with four of his team mates and two officials forming a human wall between and whoever fouled him just a little too hard when he went up for a lay up. At the same time we were all calling KG tough for getting into a pseudo-fight T.I was getting into it with Floyd Mayweather.
I know Mayweather doesn’t have any punching power to speak of relative to the people he’s competing against but for a random dude walking down the street, he’s liable to put your lights out like you were late on your electric bill. T.I is 5’9 and unarmed at the time of the altercation that allegedly involved his wife. Mayweather 5’8 and is so slick that professional punchers have a hard time hitting him. This isn’t a good match up for ya boy Clifford. Luckily, the entourage stepped in before Mayweather hurt his hand on T.I’s face. (And no, T.I does not get credit for “defending his woman’s honor”. He wasn’t defending her. Mayweather would have got curved by Tiny and that would have been it. T.I started that baseball style fight because someone trying to holla at his girl was a blow to his own ego and he wasn’t having it.)
You can keep hyping up these men as tough guys if you want. The idea of KG and TI being tough guys who will fight anybody that shows them disrespect. The reality is that the they both worth too much money to be out here scrapping with everybody. If you’re T.I, why would fight when you got at least 10 niggas with you at all time ready to throw hands? If you’re KG why would you engage in a real fist fight when you make your living with your hands? Both these men are going to be able to get away with the fact that they don’t actually wanna fight anybody because they are both well respected in their craft and have an image that is larger than themselves. But, I still ain’t trying to go to war with either of these dudes. KG could flagrant foul you to death and people who had guns like how T.I had guns don’t just stop collecting guns. T.I dosen’t need the arsenal he used to have to damage you. He told us in his first single that he has a 9 is his right and a 45 in the other hand. He may not throw a punch but if T.I is coming for you, you better get your Nikes, bruh.
Josh Smith and Diddy
Its time for us all to admit it. Smith and Diddy really need to just chill. They both need to just top being the most in the way ass people on the planet. I’ve been trying to make sense of Smith’s career stats for years. The man cannot shoot threes. He’s not good at it. I feel more comfortable with the idea of pulling Shaq from behind the desk at TNT and asking him to sink a pair of game winning free throws than I have in Josh Smith shooting more than 35% from beyond the arch. Its not even that he is without skill. In the paint, he can be a legit scoring threat. I gave him a bit of a pass for his shooting in Detroit where other players clogged the lane and forced him to take lower percentage jump shots. But the offense in Houston isn’t crippled like the offense in Detroit and Josh Smith is still taking shots around the three point line. I’m pretty sure Smith was the second unnecessary shooter just beyond the perimeter of the Grassy Knoll when JFK got assassinated. Don’t worry, Smith missed that shot too.
Diddy is still making music for some reason which is a problem that this current generation of fans will have to deal with but back in the day Diddy had another problem. If Diddy was responsible in anyway shape or form for putting you on he was in your music video probably doing something stupid as hell. Someone needs to explain to me who thought it was a good idea to let Puffy on to the set of a music video with a baby that may or may not be his. And something about the empty bottles clanging together as he asks the Bad Boys to come out to play seems like something corny that could have only gotten a pass in the 90’s. Dave Chappelle’s version was better anyway. Diddy was even in the background of the Rubberband Man I posted earlier. We didn’t need him playing with rubber bands to make the video cool. Micheal Vick made an appearance too but I feel like he was actually invited. Combs may have just heard a video was being shot and showed up to dance around in his finest mink coat. Sometimes I think I’m being too hard on Diddy. He was involved with a lot of good music in the 90’s even though I can’t remember a single verse he’s ever had. But for reference here’s how other producers act when they get to be in the video.
Eric B doesn’t even want to be in this video. He just wants these vixens to stop touching him so he can get back to looking stoic and disinterested behinds the wheels of steel. But Diddy be in the video do so much extra shit he’ll confuse you and have you thinking the song is his. Meanwhile, Josh Smith will take so many shots he’ll confuse you and have you thinking he’s an actual perimeter shooter. If I had never heard of Josh Smith before and was watching him play for the first time I would think he was jump shooter who is just having a bad night. The reality is, he’s been a bad shooter for his whole career. So if you don’t want the producer all in the videos, come to Death Row Records . And if you don’t want your power forward all behind the three point line, keep Smith on the bench.
Lance Stephenson and Action Bronson
People who know basketball can tell you how valuable Lance Stephenson even if his offensive numbers don’t show it this year. When he was at his best last year with the Pacers he was someone that could hit a jumper and play lock down defense. People who know hip hop will tell you how talented Action Bronson is. When Bronson is at his best he’s bragging about being involved in ridiculous things while sounding like a Caucasian version of Ghostface Killa. These dudes are real entertaining to watch, but everyone once in a while I have to stop and laugh because they do something so ridiculous I have to question what the hell they are doing.
That’s not a bad thing, though. Stephenson pulling out those elementary school maneuvers when he was guarding LeBron in the playoffs was inspiring. I’ve already incorporated Stephenson tactics into my blogging style. Every time fellow Suits and 40’s blogger Etefia Umana tries to write something brilliant to make my posts look bad I start playing defense on him by blowing in his ear. One time I even started making the “choke” sign when Etefia started talking about doing 2015 version of his “keep gettin them checks team” because he’ll never be able to write anything that good again. In addition to clowning around on his way to playing some quality minutes against the Heat in the playoffs last year he’s still finding ways to be entertaining on a Hornets team that will miss the playoffs.
This would have been a lot cooler if he was back on the Pacers hitting jumpers in the Eastern Conference Finals late in the fourth quarter. But he’s stylin’ and profilin’ against the Pistons who have Mo Williams running point and still have Tayshaun Prince hiding on their roster. I’m not even mad at Stephenson for showing out in a meaningless game. Its the sort of the Action Bronson would do if he played shooting guard in the NBA.
And since Action Bronson isn’t an NBA player he’s got time rap about fixing NBA games. Actually, Bronson just likes fixing sporting events in general. Even when he’s not point shaving he just likes talking about sports when he raps. My personal favorite is this line about Tennessee Women’s basketball. Along with his over the top sports references Bronson will also do what Stephenson did against the Pistons and start bragging about some stuff that I wouldn’t be that proud of. Why is talking about smoking on weed the same color as Jalen Rose? I have heard rappers talk about their weed being all kinds of colors but brown weed isn’t supposed to be the kind of thing you boast about when you get in front of the mic. And why is he hanging out with these wild ass groupies?
The cool thing about Stephenson and Bronson is that they’re both a lot of fun as long as you don’t take either of them too seriously. You have to respect their talent but when they start blowing in your ear right before the ball is inbounded or they find a
crude creative way to talk about how untouchable he is you have to enjoy their antics and not take it too seriously. If you’re one of these old school guys that thinks the NBA and hip hop both peaked in the late 80’s then you’re probably not enjoying either of these two very much. (You also probably rock an Iman Shumpert hair cut, reefer to loose women as skeezers, have a walkman with the Low End Theory on tape, and are trying to figure out how to get a phone installed in your car so you can call the theater to see if anyone of them is still showing House Party 2)