Some cool people emailed me this very extensive ESPN piece, which is not accessible on the web as far as I can tell.
Walk This Way
By CHRIS BROUSSARDI
The men -- hairy, fat, mostly white, knocking on the door of middle age
dance without shame (or rhythm) to Snoop's "Drop It Like It's Hot."
than 18,000 Bulls fans roar as "The Matadors" back their thangs up
closing with a B-boy stance. This is what timeouts often look like in
NBA of 2005 -- adults, kids or mascots throwing the latest hip-hop
to the latest hip-hop tracks.
Shorts, which once covered nothing but jockstraps, cover everything but
calves. Samples, not organs, blare -- and not just during game breaks
game action. Headlines of the league publication, Inside Stuff, shout
"illest," "chillin'" and "playa." Nelly and Jay-Z own teams. Yes,
is as much a part of the NBA landscape as early entry. And to some
this is not good. They shake their heads at brash teenage rookies who
arrogant stares an essential follow-up to dunks and crossovers. After
Artest, who happens to hail from hip-hop's hallowed Queensbridge
in New York, went buck-wild in Detroit, league honchos winced as the
nation connected the brawl to hip-hop. Concerned about their "image
problem" -- as if image problems aren't as American as red, white and
-- they longed for the days of Michael Jordan.
Thing is, while MJ is held up as the NBA's anti-hip-hop icon, the
ties to the culture are rooted in him...
was the first pro to abandon
short shorts, and his Nike ads with Mars Blackmon were hip-hop way
Iverson traded rhymes with Jadakiss. It's exactly 20 years since the
Jordans were released and almost banned by the NBA for color
By the time AI entered the league 11 years later, hip-hop was the
established music of choice for young America. So when he rebelled
league standards -- sporting cornrows, shunning suits and ties and
a skullie at the Rookie of the Year presentation -- a cultural icon of
sorts was born. Today guys in the first post-Iverson generation, such
All-Star Amare Stoudemire, literally have no other frame of reference,
or off the court.
Not for nothing, the league's bottom line certainly hasn't been hurt by
its relationship with hip-hop. Gross NBA revenues this season are
projected to top $3 billion, almost double the take of MJ's last Bulls
season in 1998. No surprise there. Look at the rest of corporate
which has caught up with what the NBA figured out a long time ago. Turn
your TV. Hip-hop stars sell everything from cameras to fast food. On
Bowl Sunday, P. Diddy and his Pepsis got more screen time than Freddie
Yeah, the NBA has gone platinum. Listen up, as some insiders tell you
AMARE STOUDAMIRE "Hip-hop makes you feel like it's all right to be from
the streets. That's where I'm from. Now I'm representing guys who ain't
really got nothing, especially the kids who are trying to make it.
why it's great that guys like Nelly and Jay-Z have become
It's always nice to see young black guys who grew up in the slums
any positive role models make it. And I'm happy the NBA has become a
of that, giving Nelly and Jay-Z a chance to show how smart they are.
not easy to write rhymes and tell a story at the same time. But being
owners takes them to a whole new level. Listening to hip-hop music
motivates you, but watching these guys motivates you more."
Nelly 30; THREE-TIME GRAMMY WINNER; PART-OWNER, BOBCATS "There's a lot
love between rappers and players. When we see each other we're both in
awe. And rappers love making music for the guys to get hyped to before
game. I'm telling you, when you're in the booth making a record, you're
like, 'Oh, somebody gonna rock to this. Somebody gonna come out and get
started because of this joint.' Like when I did the '#1' song. I was
'Yo, T-Mac gonna have his way with this one.' You think like that
you love the league. Now, growing up I had dreams, but I never really
thought I'd own a pro team. So when Bob Johnson gave me the opportunity
buy into the Bobcats, I was like, 'Wow. That's a big move.' But I want
be an example to the kids in the city. You wouldn't believe how many
to be rappers, but that's all they want to be. They don't want to be
businessmen. I got into hip-hop for the love of the music, but I found
could parlay success into better opportunities in life. I've tried to
as many opportunities as possible. My ultimate goal, though, is to
an NBA franchise to St. Louis."
Kenny Smith 39; NINE-YEAR NBA VET; TV ANALYST "Basketball has always
connected to hip-hop and vice versa. Old streetball at Rucker Park
influenced hip-hop because the bravado of the players is what got the
people out to the event. The real hoopers were wearing adidas sweat
and shell toes before Run-D.M.C. came out on wax. Then Run-D.M.C.
that look to hip-hop and onto the national scene. Difference is, back
the day, the bravado stayed on the floor. Today players carry the
off it, and that's when fans don't like you and start blaming hip-hop."
Spike Lee "Corporate America, of which the NBA is a part, loves the
demographics and numbers hip-hop represents. But a lot of baggage comes
with that. Like when Nelly becomes part-owner of the Bobcats. So now we
have an NBA owner who endorses a beverage called Pimp Juice? I'm sorry,
but nothing about a pimp should be put on a pedestal. And do the
have to drink Pimp Juice instead of Gatorade?"
Bob Johnson 58; MAJORITY OWNER, BOBCATS; FOUNDER, BET NETWORK "The
criticism the NBA receives because of its connection to hip-hop isn't a
subtle racism. I would call it a subtle ignorance. Multiculturalism is
part of America that is going to impact our images and our cultural
experience from now on. The NBA is simply embracing the obvious. People
who don't understand that haven't looked at where this country is going
the 21st century."
Todd Boyd 40; PROFESSOR OF CRITICAL STUDIES, USC SCHOOL OF CINEMA-TV
"There's always been this give and take between the league and its
in terms of who has the final word on style. When Michael Jordan
participated in his first All-Star dunk contest in 1985, he had on gold
chains, his own Air Jordan warmup suit -- not the All-Star warmup --
Air Jordan shoes. That ticked off a lot of veterans. People forget
all that, like Jordan was always the guy that he was by the time that
Mark Cuban 46; OWNER, MAVERICKS; CHAIRMAN AND CEO, HDNet "The NBA
made a conscious effort to align with hip-hop; it's made a conscious
effort to build a fan base. Kids drive merchandise sales. Kids are our
future customers. If classical music were hot with 12- to 24-year-olds,
you'd be asking why the NBA is tied to Brahms. I don't even agree with
those who say hip-hop offends our older, mostly white ticket-holders.
Today's 45-year-olds listened to it in college. We were the first to
samples in-game because it was more energizing than an organ, and we
fined because the music was outside NBA parameters. Now everyone does
These days the only decision is whether to play 'Rapper's Delight' for
dads or 50 Cent for the kids."
Kirk Hinrich 24; BULLS; FIRST-TEAM ALL-ROOKIE 2004 "I grew up in Sioux
City, Iowa, and me and all my friends listened to hip- hop. We used to
play DMX, Mase, Tupac and, obviously, Biggie, before games. Almost the
whole population of basketball listens to hip-hop, regardless of where
they're from or if they're black or white or whatever. If you play
basketball, you're exposed to it."
Ludacris 27; THREE-TIME PLATINUM ARTIST "In rap it's about competition,
and in the NBA it's about competition. Hip-hop is also about confidence
and boldness, so when a player has a hip-hop mentality it means he
confidence and is creative."
Dean Bonham 53; CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE BONHAM GROUP, A LEADING SPORTS
MARKETING FIRM "It's a good thing that the NBA is reaching out to its
younger fans. What people lose sight of is that while there are some
unsavory images associated with hip-hop, the reality is there are
of good kids who are hip-hop fans and there are tons of hip-hop artists
who are good people. Any league that isn't aggressively and proactively
marketing to the younger generation is shortsighted. I think the NBA
done a terrific job of that, much better than Major League Baseball and
Drew Gooden 23; CAVS; NO.4 PICK 2002 DRAFT "I feel hip-hop because it's
pretty much all I've listened to my whole life. It's the era I grew up
When I was born, in 1981, that's when rap music was just starting to
off. Latrell Sprewell was the first player I saw wear cornrows in an
game. I remember there was a lot of controversy about him wearing them,
and a bunch of stereotypical comments made about him. Now everybody's
braids or cornrows. That just shows the league is evolving, just like
society is. By the way, when hip-hop is playing in the arena during the
game, you don't hear it. It's not until you watch the game on tape that
you notice, 'Hey, they were playing "Drop It Like It's Hot" in the
quarter. That's all right.'"
Carmelo Anthony 20; NUGGETS; WEARER OF THE NBA'S NO.1-SELLING JERSEY "I
guess Jay-Z said it best: 'Real recognize real.' I think hip-hop has
become so popular because it's real. When cats like me hear hip-hop
it's like, 'Man, I went through that. We can relate.' When suburban
hear it they feel they're broadening their horizons. They want to know
what's going on, they want to be down. People say I'm real, and while
of that is my personality, I think listening to hip-hop all my life has
had a lot to do with it. Like hip-hop, our generation links with the
streets. That's why, as a player, it's important to keep your street
credibility. But you've got to know how to balance when you can be
and when you should be a businessman. There's a time and a place for
Antonio Davis 36; BULLS; VP OF PLAYERS UNION "I hope the business sense
that artists like Jay-Z and Nelly are showing rubs off on the young
players. I want somebody to stand up and say, 'Look, these kids got it
going on. We want to be a part of them.' I actually think some of the
rappers can help our image, because the thing I'm concerned about is
NBA's image. I always want our image to be on the rise, and if the
can help young players get business-minded, then I'm all for it."
Juwan Howard 32; ROCKETS; TWO-TIME NCAA FINALIST AT MICHIGAN "Everybody
says the Fab Five started the long shorts trend, so I guess we did.
we got to Michigan, we made a special request to wear baggy shorts. I
mean, as soon as we stepped on campus, we all talked about it. Coach
Fisher gave his approval but under one condition. He said, 'In return,
guys better give me some victories, give me a championship.' At the
we had no idea the shorts would become so popular. But I did feel
would want to wear long shorts because, let's face it, those short
& I mean, I know the ladies liked them because they could see the guys'
legs, but they just weren't comfortable. The shorts were definitely
inspired by hip-hop. The black socks too."
Chris Hightower 25; MARKETING MANAGER, AND1 "I think the skull caps and
the cornrows spin off what the Fab Five had already established in
basketball. The Fab Five were viewed as outcasts because they would not
conform to the masses. They were like, 'Either you like us for who we
or you don't, but we're not changing.' By doing that, they set a
for being who you are and representing yourself and not being afraid to
step out of the box. They had people wearing long, baggy shorts,
black socks and wearing bald heads before Jordan."
Walt Frazier 59; NBA HALL OF FAMER; TV ANALYST "Some say the way
players dress is equivalent to how I dressed in the '70s. To an extent,
that's true: we dressed like the guys we idolized -- the Temptations,
Four Tops -- and now guys dress like their icons. The difference is,
entertainers were sharp. Now, the more street you are, the better. Back
then, we were representing our race on the court. The way we acted and
responded helped other black people get into the league. They don't
to worry about that anymore."
Allen Iverson 29; SIXERS; THREE-TIME SCORING CHAMP; SIX-TIME ALL-STAR;
SHELVED RAP ARTIST "It's an honor for me to be considered the guy who
hip-hop style okay in the NBA because at one time having a hip-hop
was a bad thing. Guys with cornrows, baggy jeans and tattoos were
known as suspects. Now you see police officers in baggy jeans when
off-duty. But dressing hip-hop is just a fashion statement. It's just
way you look. It don't have anything to do with what you got pumping in
your chest. Never for a second did I consider conforming. I'm me. I'm
satisfied with who I am and with what I stand for."
Jamal Crawford 24; KNICKS; NO.8 PICK 2000 DRAFT "When I first saw A.I.
sporting cornrows, it was like, 'Wow.' He made the people feel like
could reach out and touch him. That's why he has so much love. As for
I could use a little more love: I've never been mentioned in a song. To
hear someone rap "crossover like Crawford'' or something like that?
be dope. I can't lie."
Que Gaskins 38; VP OF GLOBAL MARKETING FOR LIFESTYLE AND ENTERTAINMENT,
REEBOK "Allen's playing in cornrows started from a bet. Cornrows were
becoming popular on an underground level in the inner city and some of
guys in his crew had them, so he started wearing them. Then one of his
friends said, 'There's no way you can rock cornrows in the league.'
A.I.'s the wrong guy to challenge. It drew a lot of controversy, but at
the end of the day, it made him an icon of young black culture. The
thought, 'He looks like me, he walks like me, he talks like me.' Plus,
had all these adults telling him how he should dress, who he should
out with. The kids related to that, too."
Gregg Winik 42; EXEC. VP OF ENTERTAINMENT, NBA MARKETING "Back when
Iverson won the league's Rookie of the Year award, he embraced the
look, and it was new to us and to a lot of the national audience. We
didn't really know how to handle it then, but now we've grown to
understand and accept it. It's got to start someplace."