The National Senior Games prove age ain’t nothin’ but a number Oscar Peyton started his track and field career at age 49 and quickly became one of the best competitive athletes

Oscar Peyton has never missed a National Senior Games competition since competing in his very first one at 50 years old — a year after his track and field career began.

This year, Peyton took home two more gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter races to add to his unblemished record during his eighth appearance at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

Every two years, athletes age 50 and over come together to participate in more than 850 events in 19 sports. This year, more than 10,500 athletes are in Alabama for the games’ 30th anniversary that began June 2 and ends June 15.

The games rotate to cities across the country, which is one of Peyton’s favorite parts about competing since his start in 2003.

“I love going,” Peyton said. “I love competing. Every year, they try to make it interesting by holding it all over the country. You get to see the country.”

Peyton, undoubtedly a late bloomer in the sport, was 49 years old when he began to develop himself as a competitive athlete. Before that, becoming a track and field star was the furthest outcome from his mind because growing up it was not considered a viable career path.

“When I was coming up, you couldn’t make a living off of track and field unless you were Bruce Jenner or somebody on a box of Wheaties,” Peyton said. “I didn’t want to put all my effort into something I couldn’t live off of, so I didn’t pursue track and field back then.”

But Peyton, along with friends and family, always knew he had a gift when it came to running. “When I was younger, I used to outrun guys who ran track and field,” Peyton said.

The 64-year-old was born and raised in the small town of Bogalusa, Louisiana, 73 miles southwest of New Orleans, and stayed close to home to attend the historically black Grambling State University, about a four-hour drive from his hometown. After graduating, Peyton moved to Maryland, where he worked as a computer programmer until retiring in 2008.

With very little to do outside of his job, Peyton tried to remain active as much as possible. Even before retirement, Peyton found comfort in recreational sports, but a sedentary lifestyle in his early and mid-40s turned what used to be an enjoyable game of pickup basketball into a chore.

“I really had no intentions of [choosing track and field], but I was getting close to retirement and I just needed some activities that I would try occupy my time with,” Peyton said. “I was always fast, so, hey, why not track and field?”

When he made up his mind to take up track and field, Peyton already knew the journey ahead would be a tough one.

“The first few years were rough,” Peyton said. “At 49 years old, I had to qualify in Maryland to be able to compete in the Senior Games at 50. The first four years of training, I just kept getting injured because training is a high-risk activity for injuries. My muscles just weren’t used to it.”

Over the years, Peyton has dedicated his time to retraining his body and recognizing his limits. For the Senior Games, Peyton trained about three days a week at local high schools, and with a group of his friends. Most of his conditioning includes drills and sprinting with a few home workouts in between.

Peyton has reaped health benefits from his lifestyle as a conditioned athlete as well. Before training, Peyton suffered from elevated cholesterol levels and muscle pain. Now, Peyton’s cholesterol levels have been lowered and workouts help keep him moving. Two of his younger brothers have had heart surgery, but Peyton believes training has helped him avoid some of the health problems that run in his family.

“I’m not on any medications or anything,” Peyton said. “I haven’t had to go to the hospital for anything. It’s been a health benefit.”

As the week comes to a close, Peyton has no choice but to look forward to the next game. Track and field may not be for everyone, but Peyton hopes his peers will continue to remain active as they mature.

“I would encourage anybody in their golden years to get out and be active,” Peyton said. “Eating right, exercising, getting proper rest are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. The Senior Games is an avenue to give you the motivation to do just that.

“My goal is to try to be the best that I can be at what I’m doing, which is track and field. I’ve set records, and I want to continue to set records. When you set them, your name goes in the books. Long after you’re gone, your name is still there. All the elites that come behind you, they take note of that. And I want to set the bar high.”

Daily Dose: 6/12/17 DeMario’s disastrous year on camera continues

The Morning Roast was exciting this week, with Mina Kimes back on the East Coast for some family stuff. But, I’ll also be filling in for Bomani Jones on The Right Time Thursday and Friday, so if you’re into solo Yates, set your alarms.

Another week in Washington that we can expect to get hectic. Ivanka Trump was on Fox and Friends this morning, saying that she didn’t expect D.C. to be so vicious in terms of how people acted. Yeah, this is the big leagues. Speaking of, as it turns out, one of President Donald Trump’s insiders is trying to get involved with the FBI building contract, which is clearly a conflict on so many levels. Also, Maryland and D.C.’s attorneys general are suing Trump. Meanwhile, the notion of firing special counsel Robert Mueller is seriously under consideration.

So, things are getting very dicey in Bachelor Nation. One of the spinoff shows, Bachelor in Paradise, has had production halted, amid allegations of sexual misconduct. First off, this is really disheartening. After all, it was the most fun show in the franchise, and to think that it’s spiraled out of control to the point of making people unsafe is really sad. Secondly, the story is no joke. I won’t wildly spread rumors, but what I’ve heard makes it seem like that show and possibly the franchise might end up being done forever. Details are extremely bad for DeMario.

While last weekend was Pride, there were also graduations to be had. (It is also the one-year anniversary of the Pulse shootings in Orlando, Florida. Condolences.) And for one student in Washington, D.C., since the two things fell in the same window, he gave the crowd a little extra on that commencement stage and it was absolutely glorious. Every time I see one of these, it makes me wish I had done something ridiculous when I walked at 18 just to be able to say I did. I would hire this kid instantly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup Sunday night on the Nashville Predators’ home ice. It was a decent skate, but was marred by a really bad call that took a goal off the boards for the Preds, which would have opened the scoring and given them the lead. Instead, it was called back due to a random whistle, which is such an awful rule. On top of that, it can actually be reviewed and corrected and the league chose not to do that. I can’t even imagine how angry I’d be if I were a Preds fan. They got jobbed. It was a good run, though, for sure.

Free Food

Coffee Break: When I was a kid, you either held planes in your hand and acted like you were flying them or you let someone else do the flying of whatever super mechanical toy you had and let them handle the hard part. But one guy (an engineer) put together a model Lego Space Shuttle and made it fly, which is tremendous.

Snack Time: Amazon decided in its rush to sign more talent that it was going to sign a bunch of Indian comics. Alas, none were women. Not one among the 14. So, Netflix went out and got Aditi Mittal. Well played and smart.

Dessert: On this day in 1990, Mariah Carey dropped her eponymous first album. The rest is history.

The Cleveland Summit and Muhammad Ali: The true story Historic meeting organized by Jim Brown had an economic incentive

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, June 4, 1967. Some of the greatest black athletes in the country gathered in a nondescript office building in Cleveland.

According to legend — and countless media reports in subsequent years that failed to challenge that legend — the athletes had come together to decide whether to lend their support to Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his heavyweight title and faced charges of draft dodging for his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War.

Ali needed support, that much is true. Ever since he’d changed his name from Cassius Clay, joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and refused to join the military, he’d become one of the most reviled men in the nation, hated almost as much by black Americans as by white ones. So the fact that other black athletes would convene in support of Ali held significance. The men meeting in Cleveland that day — including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor — were widely admired.

But as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Summit, the time has come to scrape off the barnacles that adhere to this story. There were multiple interests at play in that room and differing conceptions of the best way to advance the position of blacks in America. Some of the men were ex-military. Others had economic stakes in the outcome.

Before the meeting in Cleveland, boxing promoter Bob Arum and others, including prominent members of the Nation of Islam, tried to persuade Ali to accept a deal that one of Arum’s law partners had negotiated with the government. If Ali would agree to perform boxing exhibitions for U.S. troops, the draft-dodging charges would be dropped.

At the time, Arum was running a company called Main Bout, which controlled the closed-circuit television rights for Ali’s fights. Main Bout needed Ali to attract closed-circuit viewers. Among Arum’s partners in Main Bout were Jim Brown and two leading figures in the Nation of Islam: Herbert Muhammad, son of the NOI’s leader, Elijah Muhammad; and John Ali, the NOI’s national secretary. John Ali told me that he and Herbert Muhammad profited personally from the agreement with Main Bout. It wasn’t a deal with the Nation.

That meant Arum, Brown, Herbert Muhammad and John Ali all had an incentive to get Ali in the ring as soon as possible. A lot of money was on the line.

In addition, Arum told Brown that if he and other black athletes could persuade Ali to resume boxing, the athletes would be rewarded with local closed-circuit franchises. In essence, a portion of the proceeds from Ali’s fights would go to these athletes.

Brown, who organized the meeting, had retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher a couple of years earlier and was working as an actor while also pursuing his interest in black economic empowerment. He invited not only Russell and Alcindor, who was playing for UCLA at the time (and later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), but also Sid Williams and Walter Beach of the Cleveland Browns, Curtis McClinton of the Kansas City Chiefs, Bobby Mitchell and Jim Shorter of the Washington Redskins and Willie Davis of the Green Bay Packers. Also present was Carl Stokes, a prominent attorney in Cleveland who would be elected the first black mayor of a major American city that November.

The meeting, held in the offices of Brown’s Negro Industrial and Economic Union, had only one purpose, according to Arum: “To convince Ali to take the deal because it opened up tremendous opportunities for black athletes.” He continued, “I wasn’t setting it up for the athletes to rally around Ali.”

Several of the men in Cleveland were military veterans. Some believed Elijah Muhammad’s separatist ideology was racist and, if followed through, would lead to an American apartheid. They arrived intent on challenging Ali.

“My first reaction was that it was unpatriotic,” Davis of the Green Bay Packers said, referring to Ali’s anti-war stance. Davis was one of three men in the room who confirmed Arum’s version of the story.

Ali worked the room like it was his birthday party, cracking jokes and talking to everyone at once. When men aimed hard questions at him, the boxer never got defensive. He spoke passionately and confidently.

McClinton, a halfback for the Chiefs, was a member of the Army’s active reserves at the time. He told Ali that while he respected the boxer’s religion, it was important to remember his nationality, too. McClinton said he told Ali, “Hey, man, all you’d do is get a uniform and you’d be boxing at all the bases around the country. … Your presence on military bases gives that motivation to military men.”

The meeting went on for hours, but Ali never budged. When it was over, Brown led the group to a news conference.

“There’s nothing new to say,” Ali announced, perhaps recognizing that reporters expected him to make big news by backing down from his anti-war stance. Other participants said they were convinced Ali was sincere in his religious conviction.

Two weeks later, an all-white jury needed only 20 minutes to find Ali guilty of draft evasion. His exile from boxing would continue for three more years. The Supreme Court eventually reversed his conviction in 1971.

Given that the Cleveland Summit had little impact on Ali’s decision about the draft, why has it become folklore? The answer is that the story makes us feel good. It shows athletes in solidarity, standing up to power.

But, in this case, the full story works just as well, if not better, than the myth.

Several of the men gathered in Cleveland came seeking economic opportunity. When they recognized that they were not going to change Ali’s mind and they were not going to see any money from a deal with Arum, they could have walked away. Instead, they used their collective power to support Ali. They sacrificed some of their own popularity to stand up for religious freedom and to stand up to a government that seemed to be singling Ali out for punishment because he was black and outspoken.

In an article written for Sports Illustrated after the meeting, Russell said he envied Ali. “He has something I have never been able to attain and something very few people I know possess,” Russell wrote. “He has an absolute and sincere faith. … I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. He is better equipped than anyone I know to withstand the trials in store for him. What I’m worried about is the rest of us.”

That day, Russell and the rest of the men did just fine.

13 documentaries to dive into this summer — on Netflix, PBS, or at the cinema A Baltimore step team. Dr. Dre. A woman wrestler. Freedom of the press. This summer’s docs aim to entertain — and educate.

If you’re looking for deep dives into real-life information to go alongside the usual summer offerings of massive explosions and budget-busting superhero fights, we’ve got just the thing. There’s Stanley Nelson’s latest project focusing on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Step, the film about a group of girls on a Baltimore step team that netted raves at Sundance. Debuting in theaters Aug. 11 is Whose Streets?, the film from artist-activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis about the killing of Ferguson, Missouri, teen Michael Brown and the aftermath of his death. If the date sounds familiar, it’s because the film is opening on the anniversary of Brown’s death.

There’s a wide range of subjects to peek at this summer, both unfamiliar and not, with edifying works that will leave you a little bit more knowledgeable about the world than you were when you walked into the auditorium to see them.


Unacknowledged | May 9

Director: Michael Mazzola

Remember the warm, fuzzy feeling of hope and intrigue that you felt after walking out of Arrival? Well, Unacknowledged is a film about aliens too, although it will likely leave you feeling uneasy, paranoid and maybe more than a little willing to don a tricornered hat made of Reynolds wrap. Unacknowledged bears a tenor not unlike Alex Gibney’s explosive 2016 documentary Zero Days — they both set about to reveal things the U.S. government purportedly doesn’t want you to know, and in the case of Unacknowledged, it’s the government’s apparently vast secret apparatus directed at all things extraterrestrial. Assuming you believe in that sort of thing, Unacknowledged boasts footage of UFOs and, in an effort to distance itself from the inventions of supermarket tabloids, interviews with government officials. At the center of the film is Steven Greer, founder of the Disclosure Movement, which agitates to get the government to release whatever information it has about aliens and their contact with humans. This movie is now available to stream on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Video.

Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine | June 3

Director: Patrick O’Dell

In every generation, there’s a group of maniacs who insist upon rule-breaking, not in the name of some sort of principled stand for freedom but simply because they’re a bunch of roustabout, devil-may-care libertines. And that’s basically the characterization of the skateboard fanatics behind Big Brother magazine. The ideological predecessor and inspiration for Jackass, Big Brother was a chronicle of all tricks great and stupid, instructing its readers in the art of hell-raising, interspersed with the usual NSFW sex stuff about Big Brother-certified hotties. In short, it was sought-after contraband for teenage boys before YouTube, or The Man Show, or Tosh.0. The movie will be available to stream on Hulu.

The Defiant Ones | July 9

Director: Allen Hughes

Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) followed Dr. Dre and Interscope records co-founder Jimmy Iovine for three years, resulting in a four-part HBO documentary that shares a name with the 1958 film starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. Iovine was instrumental in the astronomical success of Beats by Dre headphones, and the two men’s professional partnership is one that’s netted many millions for both. Hughes’ look at their empire includes interviews with Dre’s protege Eminem, plus Nas, Ice Cube, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Snoop Dogg, Iovine’s business partner David Geffen, and Bono. Promos for the documentary series have promised never-before-seen footage of recording sessions with N.W.A, J.J. Fad and Eazy-E.

City of Ghosts | July 14

Director: Matthew Heineman

One of the challenges of America-centered rhetoric about Syria and the Islamic State group: It’s generally framed as a discussion of how what’s going on there affects the interests of the United States. But City of Ghosts, the latest film from Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman, is a searing look at the people who are most directly victimized and terrorized by ISIS: other Muslims, particularly those who refuse to pledge allegiance to the group’s extremist ideology. Heineman’s film follows those who are risking their own lives to document and stop ISIS’s campaign of terror, and who risk the lives of their families to do so.

Step | Aug. 4

Director: Amanda Lipitz

If you liked The Fits, chances are you’ll enjoy Step, Amanda Lipitz’s look at a real-life step team providing hope, confidence and motivation to a group of impoverished Baltimore teen girls, which netted admirable buzz and even better reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. With a cast of compelling subjects, Step reels you in as the seniors on Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women strive to become the first individuals in their families to attend college.

Whose Streets? | Aug. 11

Directors: Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis

Even the release date of Whose Streets? — which coincides with the anniversary of the death of Mike Brown, the teen slain in 2014 by former Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson — makes a statement. Whose Streets is a story about not just Brown’s killing but also the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the violent reaction to news that Wilson would not be indicted for killing Brown. The story is told from the viewpoint of those who were on the ground in Ferguson — Folayan identifies herself as an activist — and serves as a counterweight to national media struggling to fairly and accurately cover the result of decades of injustice that came to define black life in Ferguson. After Whose Streets? premiered at Sundance this year, film critic Nick Allen declared it the documentary he’ll recommend when people ask about the Black Lives Matter movement in 50 years.

Wrestling With Chyna | release TBA

Director: Erik Angra

Even if you weren’t a consummate wrestling fan, it was nearly impossible during the late ’90s not to have encountered Joanie Laurer — although you likely knew her as Chyna, the muscular, 5-foot-10 star of the WWF, and wrestling’s “Ninth Wonder of the World.” Angra takes a look at the tumultuous life and career of Laurer, from her struggles to reconcile her career and physique with pressure to look and appear traditionally feminine, to the struggles with drugs that led to her 2016 death at age 46. Angra captures Laurer as a smart, self-aware, tortured figure, including footage of an interview with Laurer days before her death. Wrestling With Chyna is a sober look at one of pro wrestling’s most magnetic performers just as hype begins to surge for Glow, Netflix’s forthcoming dramedy series about female wrestlers.

Served Like A Girl | release TBA

Director: Lysa Heslov

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the specific challenges many female soldiers face, whether it’s a military structure not exactly conducive to identifying and punishing perpetrators of sexual assault or the debate over women serving in combat roles. But less attention is given to female veterans returning from war. In her debut feature, which premiered this year at SXSW, Heslov follows the lives of five female vets as they compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America. Yes, it’s a pageant, but it’s also more than Miss Congeniality with combat fatigues: The pageant serves as a fundraising event for homeless female vets.

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities | release TBA

Directors: Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams

For so long, education has held a particular significance in the black American community: valued as an engine of freedom, social uplift and economic advancement. While recent studies show education is not a salve for the racial wealth gap, Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams take an in-depth look at the importance of HBCUs, historically and culturally, beginning with the rise of such schools during Reconstruction. Nelson is perhaps best known as the director responsible for Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and here, with Williams, he delivers another chapter of black history on film, in the exact moment that chronically underfunded and undervalued HBCUs are facing new threats and uncertainty about their futures.

500 Years | release TBA

Director: Pamela Yates

Bursting with color and inspiration, 500 Years examines the aftermath of the conviction of former Guatemalan President José Efraín Ríos Montt, who stood trial in 2013 for genocide and crimes against humanity. The title draws its name from the five centuries of violent apartheid to which the indigenous Mayans of Guatemala have been subjected, a subject Yates examined in the 1983 film When Mountains Tremble and again in 2011 with Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. Now, the Mayans face new challenges as they assert their voice politically — namely, destruction of their homeland from multinational corporations seeking to mine the land and control their water with hydroelectric dams. Yates, a familiar and regular presence at Sundance, is an accomplished director when it comes to telling the stories of people living under repressive and unjust regimes. Besides her epic trilogy following Guatemala, she’s explored the subject in The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court, and in 2015 told the story of political documentary filmmaker Haskell Wexler.

Give Me Future | release TBA

Director: Austin Peters

Granted, a whole concert documentary about the electronic dance music group Major Lazer sounds, well, eye-roll-worthy, but Peters manages to sneak in more than a little bit of a look at Cuban youth culture and politics. Turns out Major Lazer was the biggest American name allowed to perform in Cuba in 2015, not long after President Barack Obama began normalizing relations with the country. Besides following Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire behind the scenes, Give Me Future offers a glimpse into what it’s like to live in a place that for so long has been largely immune to America’s most potent export of all: its pop culture.

40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic | release TBA

Director: Derek Wayne Johnson

Forty years after the release of the film that came to define Sylvester Stallone’s career, director Derek Wayne Johnson (Broken Blood, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs) captures the actor and Rocky director John G. Avildsen discussing work on the most recognizable boxing movie of all time. Johnson brings a passion to the story of Rocky and Stallone that practically makes him the Ken Burns of the subject. Besides 40 Years, Johnson is also responsible for a biographical documentary about Avildsen and another yet-to-be completed project about singer-songwriter Frank Stallone, Sylvester’s younger brother.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press | June 23

Director: Brian Knappenberger

The result of Hulk Hogan’s 2013 lawsuit against Gawker Media was a chilling one for journalists. Financially backed by venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel, Hogan sued the Nick-Denton-founded media company for invasion of privacy. With a $140 million judgment hanging over the company’s head, Gawker was forced to declare bankruptcy, sell itself to Univision and settle with Hogan for $31 million. Knappenberger’s (We Are Legion, The Internet’s Own Boy) film, which will air on Netflix, seeks to put the lawsuit and its fallout in a broader context: Thiel’s involvement in the case set a dangerous precedent. Don’t like what a news organization says about you? Find someone rich enough to help you sue them out of existence.

A power ranking of Odell Beckham Jr.’s custom cleats from the 2016 NFL season The New York Giants wideout was determined to break out the heat on any given Sunday

Every NFL Sunday is a footwear fashion show for Odell Beckham Jr. Over the past few seasons, the New York Giants wide receiver has shown up and showed out on the field with the freshest cleats in all of football. His secret? Well, it’s not really a secret at all, because OBJ takes much pride in his custom-made creations, for which he entrusts the skill and creativity of Los Angeles-based sneaker artist Troy “Kickasso” Cole, who cranks out masterpieces inspired by every concept fathomable. From album covers to video games and movies to personal tributes, whatever Beckham Jr. dreams up in his imaginative mind, Kickasso can translate onto cleats.

Yet, as a result of the NFL’s enforcement of its strict in-game uniform and equipment policy, most of the kicks in OBJ’s one-of-a-kind collection are worn exclusively during pregame warm-ups before he changes to a more traditional pair for games. But every now and then, Beckham Jr. will risk a fine to ensure that his flashiest shoes find their way onto the field when the game clock starts rolling.

During the 2016 NFL season, the anthology of custom cleats that OBJ unveiled was second to no other player in the league. Throughout the regular season, playoffs and Pro Bowl, he truly became a titan in the sneaker world, which certainly contributed to Nike recently inking the 24-year-old to the biggest shoe deal in NFL history, estimated to be worth more than $29 million over five years.

Hopefully the huge new contract with Nike doesn’t prohibit Beckham Jr. from continuing his tradition come next season. As we anticipate what else OBJ and Kickasso have in store, let’s take a look at their creativity through this definitive, descending-order power ranking of 20 custom cleats they made pop last season.


20. WEEK 10 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS — LSU

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s cleats before the NFL game between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 14, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every NFL player deserves to rep his alma mater however he sees fit, but, man, these cleats in the signature purple and gold of Louisiana State University — the school the Giants drafted Beckham Jr. out of in 2014 with the 12th overall pick — are quite hideous. A more appropriate salute to LSU would’ve been cleats featuring detailed illustrations of tigers, the mascot of OBJ’s former school. As for these plaid concoctions — in the words of the illustrious 21st century musical talent scout Randy Darius Jackson, “yeah … that’s gonna be a no for me, dog.”

19. Week 5 vs. green bay packers — Breast cancer awareness

Since 2009, the NFL has been committed to spreading breast cancer awareness. Every season in October, players take pride in wearing the color pink as a display of their dedication to finding a cure. Beckham Jr. didn’t disappoint last October. His breast cancer cleats were a simple but very classy tribute to every woman and family affected by the disease.

18 and 17. week 7 vs. Los angeles rams — Burberry and Rolling Stone

Instagram Photo

When the Giants traveled to London to face the Los Angeles Rams in October 2016, OBJ channeled his inner European designer by breaking out pregame cleats embossed with the beautiful pattern of British fashion house Burberry (the iconic brand of clothing that Jay Z rapped about swimming in on his 2002 track with his then-future wife Beyoncé, ” ’03 Bonnie & Clyde”). These cleats are uber-swaggy, but don’t hold a candle to when Beckham Jr. went full-on designer and commissioned a pair of Supreme x Louis Vuitton customs to be made after the season.

Instagram Photo

OBJ changed his kicks before kickoff, but remained authentic to the game being played across the pond by switching to red, white and blue cleats, and matching gloves, featuring the legendary logo of the English rock band the Rolling Stones.

16. week 12 vs. cleveland browns — Paint splatter

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stands on the field during practice before a game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

These are just really fun. Camouflage is always a good look, and the extra splash of color with the rainbow flecks and green and yellow shoestrings set them over the top. Stay tuned for more camo cleats from OBJ.

15. week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys — sept. 11 tribute

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants wears cleats as a tribute to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Giants’ 2016 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys happened to fall on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 — one of the most infamous days in the history of the United States. Beckham Jr. illustrated his patriotism in the form of U.S. flag-themed cleats with bald eagles on the outer soles of each shoe. OBJ was certainly proud to be an American on the first night of football last season.

14. Week 6 vs. baltimore ravens — “Kirby”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike cleats during warm-ups before the game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HUGE shout-out to OBJ for throwing it back to our childhoods by paying homage to the one and only Nintendo character Kirby. He unveiled these in the middle of October 2016, taking the NFL’s tradition of wearing pink to advocate for breast cancer awareness and running with it. Beckham Jr. chose a pink character and crafted an entire cleat design around it with the utmost detail, from the warp stars to the Whispy Woods (Kirby’s recurring foe in the video game series). On this NFL Sunday, OBJ represented the video game nerd that resides in every one of us.

13 and 12. week 13 vs. pittsburgh steelers — Make-a-wisH (Dora The EXplorer and The Simpsons)

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation during warm-ups before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Instagram Photo

For one week during the season, the NFL, aka the “No Fun League,” allowed players to wear their in-game cleats however they wanted, outrageous customization and all, without receiving fines in violation of the league’s uniform policy. The #MyCauseMyCleats initiative, which required players to commit to supporting a charitable cause, saw approximately a third of the league (around 500 players) participate. Beckham Jr. chose to represent the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which, according to its website, has a “vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.” And true to his cause, OBJ depicted the child within himself on two pairs of cleats he had designed. One pair was inspired by Homer and Bart Simpson, two of the main characters of the popular animated sitcom, The Simpsons. The other pair, which he wore during the Week 13 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, featured characters from the educational children’s series Dora the Explorer. Not the league, nor Swiper, could steal these cleats from Beckham Jr.’s feet on #MyCauseMyCleats Sunday. OBJ did it for the kids.

11. WEEK 2 VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — “NOLA BOY”

New Orleans Native New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears Nike cleats with Nola Boy on them before the game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” Beckham Jr. has surely come across this legendary James Baldwin quote at least once in his life — or heard a variation of it from his grandma, aunties and uncles, or parents — while on his journey from growing up in Louisiana to becoming an NFL wide receiver in New York. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is OBJ’s hometown, but he also claims New Orleans. So when the Giants faced the Saints early in the 2016 season, Beckham Jr. made his allegiance to the city known with “NOLA BOY” custom cleats in Mardi Gras colors. These are pretty special.

10. week 9 vs. philadelphia eagles — “Salute to service”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats with a camouflage pattern while warming up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 6, 2016, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day, Beckham Jr. honored the nation’s armed forces with camouflage cleats reminiscent of the Japanese clothing brand A Bathing Ape’s fresh camo print. These are pretty sweet.

9. Week 14 vs. dallas cowboys — 300

Division matchups in the NFL are always battles. And no one went to war like the Spartans, whose combat skills were epically portrayed in the 2006 film 300. So when the Giants went up against their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, OBJ imagined he was taking the battlefield for Leonidas I, unleashing these SUPER dope 300-inspired red, black and gold cleats.

8. wild-card playoff vs. green bay packers — “grab the cheese”

Instagram Photo

In January, the Giants journeyed to the land of cheese for a wild-card matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Before the playoff game, Beckham Jr. countered Green Bay’s cheesehead fans with cheese feet. He donned a pair of yellow cleats that resembled blocks of cheese, with carefully drawn holes and images of Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Itchy the Mouse from The Simpsons. Like these two mice, OBJ was after the cheese. Too bad the Giants took that smooth L.

7. week 15 vs. detroit lions — craig sager tribute

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Craig Sager tribute cleats during the third quarter of the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions on Dec. 18, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Beckham Jr. was fined only once last season for violating the NFL’s uniform and equipment policy with his flashy cleats. The penalty was issued following Week 15, when OBJ played against the Detroit Lions in a pair of multicolored, and multipatterned, cleats honoring longtime NBA broadcaster Craig Sager, who died at age 65 three days before the game. Known for his bright and brazen sideline outfits, Sager would’ve loved OBJ’s cleats, which he auctioned off following the game to benefit the Sager Strong Foundation for cancer research. Yet despite Beckham Jr.’s heartfelt gesture, the NFL still slapped him with an $18,000 fine, which didn’t sit too well with the superstar wide receiver.

Yet if you asked Beckham Jr., he’d probably tell you that, for Sager, the fine was worth every single penny.

6. WEEK 17 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — KANYE WEST “GRADUATION”

Instagram Photo

Kanye West dropped out of college and became a 21-time Grammy Award-winning musician. Beckham Jr. never graduated from college, either, deciding to forgo his senior year at LSU and enter the NFL, where he is now an All-Pro wide receiver. So the only commencement the two have in common is OBJ’s cleats he had designed after the cover of West’s 2007 album Graduation. On these kicks, the colors morph from an orangish-pink to a drank purple, and illustrations of Kanye’s signature bears are beautifully done. Hot take: Graduation is one of the best, if not the best album of West’s career. Obviously, it’s up there in the ranks for OBJ, too.

5. week 4 vs. Minnesota vikings — OVO

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s OVO custom-made cleats are seen on the field during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 3, 2016, in Minneapolis.

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

If you didn’t know that Beckham Jr. and Drake are BFFs, you must have been living under a rock like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants for the past year. Last NFL offseason, Beckham Jr. house-sat the hit-making musical artist’s Calabasas, California, mansion, known as the “YOLO (You Only Live Once) estate,” while he was on tour. Drake later shouted out his bro OBJ on his October 2016 track “Fake Love” with the seminal line, Just when s— look out of reach / I reach back like one, three / Like one, three, yeah — a reference to the most revered play of the NFL wide receiver’s young career, which also happens to be arguably the best catch in league history. And even this year, Drake stopped one of his shows to get Beckham Jr., who was in the audience, to sign a fan’s jersey. Yet, before all of these epic chapters of their friendship, OBJ paid tribute to his big homie during the 2016 NFL season with these simply gorgeous October’s Very Own (OVO)-themed cleats. The sky blue base of the shoes, with softly drawn white clouds, is a subtle nod to the cover of Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was the Same, and the perfect complement to the metallic gold illustrations of Drake’s trademark owl on the outer soles of each shoe. Man, these cleats are a truly a work of art.

4. 2017 Pro Bowl — Toy Story

OBJ definitely “gotta friend” in Troy Cole, because the artist appropriately known as Kickasso absolutely did his thing with these Toy Story-themed cleats that the wide receiver sported in January’s Pro Bowl. What a beautiful touch to dedicate one shoe solely to Sheriff Woody Pride, and the other to space ranger Buzz Lightyear. Beckham Jr. is surely ready for 2019’s Toy Story 4, and so are we.

3. WEEK 16 VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — GRINCH

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants warms up wearing Christmas cleats featuring the Grinch before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

There’s only one way to celebrate Christmas on your feet, and that’s with the Grinch. Basketball great Kobe Bryant did it with his signature Nikes in 2010, and Beckham Jr. continued the tradition in custom fashion last holiday season. The vibrant colors and details on these cleats are amazing. We wouldn’t be mad if Beckham Jr. rocked them all season long — they’re that nice to look at. Yo, OBJ, if you’re reading this, next Christmas you gotta go full Home Alone with your kicks. It’d be the perfect way to tell every D-back in the league, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal! … and a Happy New Year.”

2. WEEK 11 VS. CHICAGO BEARS — “BACK TO THE FUTURE”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike Cleats with “Mattel Hover Board” and “Back to the Future” on them before a game between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears on Nov. 20, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All three films of the Back to the Future trilogy were released before Beckham Jr. was born in 1992. But as we saw last season, OBJ is a young Marty McFly at heart. He and Kickasso put their creative minds together to give the people not one, but two pairs of Back to the Future-inspired cleats, incorporating multiple elements and moments from Back to the Future Part II, in which Marty and Doc Brown travel 30 years into the future from 1985 to 2015. Beckham Jr. wore the first pair during warm-ups before a Week 11 matchup with the Chicago Bears, which included illustrations of the Mattel hoverboard, Marty’s metallic hat and the DeLorean time machine, all featured in the film. These cleats are glorious, but Kickasso saved his best work for what OBJ wore during the game. The wide receiver took the field in a pair of remarkable silver-and-electric blue creations, designed after the self-lacing Nike Mags that debuted in the 1989 film. Nike released the shoes for the first time nearly three decades later, and again in 2016, making OBJ’s Back to the Future cleat idea timely and relevant in the world of sneakers.

1. WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — THE Joker

OBJ has a unique obsession with The Joker, which we’ve seen translated through his on-field apparel in the past few seasons. The wide receiver first made his infatuation known during a December 2015 Monday Night Football game, when he wore cleats and gloves illustrating the comic book supervillain’s chilling face. Last season, however, he took the obsession a huge step further. Everyone knows OBJ and Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman aren’t too fond of each other. And, coincidentally, Norman’s favorite superhero is Batman, The Joker’s archnemesis. So, in all his pettiness, Beckham Jr. had two more pairs of Joker cleats made for a 2016 Week 3 matchup with Norman and the Redskins. The pregame pair featured graphic details in bold colors, from The Joker’s eyes on the tongue of each shoe and his stained teeth on each toe, to his tattoos and catchphrases such as Why So Serious?, on the inner and outer soles. The pair he wore during the game were more subtle — mostly white with speckles of lime green around the laces, and red ink circling each shoe to represent The Joker’s blood-stained smile. With 11 catches for 121 yards against Norman and the Redskins, Beckham Jr. became the fastest wide receiver in NFL history to reach 200 career receptions and 3,000 receiving yards. So, now, his in-game Joker cleats are displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. You know what that means, right? OBJ has a Hall of Fame cleat game.

The story behind The Notorious B.I.G.’s spooky ‘Life After Death’ album cover 20 years after the photo shoot, the photographer recalls a long day at the cemetery

Twenty years have passed, but the shock is still fresh — and still incomprehensible. On March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. It remains unsolved.

At 12:30 a.m., Wallace left a Vibe magazine Soul Train Music Awards after-party at Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum. The SUV in which he was traveling stopped at a red light just 50 yards from the venue. A dark Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up along the passenger side. The driver rolled down his window, drew his weapon and fired. Four bullets struck Wallace. He was rushed to nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.

Not long afterward, The Notorious B.I.G. rose again: The double album Life After Death was released March 25. It sold 700,000 hard copies almost immediately, jumping from No. 176 to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in the space of a week. The album’s cover art featured the man formerly known as Biggie Smalls in a long black coat and black bowler. He stared us in the face while leaning against a hearse that bore the license plate “B.I.G.” There were no sunglasses to hide his lazy eye. He wore it full and proud, looking over his shoulder as if he already knew. He wasn’t smiling. But he wasn’t mad. He was just stating the facts from the other side of the grave.

It seemed like a prophecy.

Biggie wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t mad. He was just stating the facts from the other side of the grave.

Six weeks beforehand it was just a job, albeit one of the biggest of photographer Michael Lavine’s career. Hailing from South Denver, Lavine arrived in New York in 1985. After a stint at Parsons School of Design and an internship with fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, Lavine started his own business in 1988. Rick Rubin hired him for his first music gig: photographing heavy metal band Danzig for Def American (now American Recordings). Lavine was best known for shooting bands such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys. In the early years, it was hard to cross over into the hip-hop scene. He remembered, “The look was different, a lot of clean and clear. It wasn’t supposed to be crazy and wild like it is now. Back in the early ’90s, you couldn’t get away with doing weird, arty photographs for the urban market.”


Bad Boy Records had grand plans for Life After Death. But the album, originally scheduled for a Halloween 1996 release, was pushed to ’97. “Puffy [Combs] was very demanding,” Lavine said. “He did not mess around. I hired a location scout to find a graveyard. I took photos up to Puffy’s office and he was like, ‘These are terrible! Find a better graveyard!’ And he was right. They just weren’t dramatic enough. We had to push the shoot back a day. We scrambled, and we found the proper graveyard.”

Established in 1848, Cypress Hills Cemetery is as proper as it gets. The graveyard is seated on a promontory on the border of Brooklyn and Queens and has majestic views of Manhattan, the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island countryside and even the distant blue hills of Connecticut. Jackie Robinson is buried there, as well as Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Eubie Blake and pioneering actress Rosetta LeNoire.

Permits were secured. A date — Jan. 24, 1997 — was set. It was cold and gray. Big was walking with a cane, his left leg shattered in a car accident months earlier. Those who knew him described him as grumpy, but he maintained a professional demeanor throughout.

Although the cover has been described as having overtones of Alfred Hitchcock, Lavine said he doesn’t use references. “It’s very risky to do that. There’s more opportunity for failure [without references], but there’s a better chance for greatness. In this situation, I was given certain elements: I didn’t pick his clothes, and I didn’t decide ‘cemetery.’

“I was told, ‘Get a hearse.’ That’s all the direction I got.”

“Back in the early ’90s, you couldn’t get away with doing weird, arty photographs for the urban market.”

Lavine scouted a location within the cemetery where he could visually tell the story of Life After Death. “I wanted to have some space around the hearse,” Lavine explained. “I didn’t want it to feel too cramped. I found a spot, and then we had a smoke machine to give it some atmosphere. Groovey Lew was trying to get the styling right, and Puffy was yelling about the buttons. Puffy kept jumping in. He was like a guy who wanted to be in the picture. He would literally be getting in a lot of the shots with Biggie.”

Then, during the shoot, Lavine asked for another camera. His assistant Karen Pearson whispered, “It’s not in the truck … it’s missing.” A bag with $15,000 worth of camera equipment had been stolen while they were loading the truck outside of Lavine’s Fifth Avenue studio earlier that day.

“I almost threw up,” Lavine said with a laugh. “Fortunately, I had a lot of other cameras.”

The last thing he wanted was Biggie or Puffy to be aware that anything had gone awry. But the stolen camera bag was not the only thing amiss. Lavine remembered thinking, “ ‘I need to find something else,’ because [the shoot] wasn’t rendering right in my mind. I wasn’t happy with how things looked. At lunchtime, I scouted on my own. I drove around until I found this amazing spot at the top.”

As soon as he saw the location, Lavine could see the picture in his mind’s eye. He drove back and told Puffy.

“Surprisingly, he said ‘OK.’ We were not in tune, but … he trusted me enough to go,” Lavine remembered. The entourage was assembled, and the caravan headed out. “Puffy, Biggie and I got into my Ford Explorer. I had a six-disc player, and it automatically went to Elvis. … I don’t know what it was doing in there, but Elvis came on and Puffy was like, ‘What’s wrong with you? What do you listen to this for?’ Biggie was in the back and he said, ‘Hey, man, chill out. Elvis was cool,’ ” Lavine laughed. “I thought it was so awesome that Biggie was sticking up for me for listening to Elvis.”

At the second location, Lavine set up the shot with Biggie standing in front of what appear to be endless rows of ghostly tombstones. “There’s this timelessness to it,” said Lavine. “It takes you out into a different realm because it’s black and white, his outfit looks like it’s from the 1800s and his eye is like jacked over. It’s a powerful presence. It makes you feel like he works there, or presides over all those souls. It’s like his home.”

“Biggie was in the back and he said, ‘Hey, man, chill out. Elvis was cool.’ ”

By the time the world saw the photograph, Biggie was gone. His death lent the image deeper meaning. “If you go there to that spot, it doesn’t look like that. That’s the nature of photography: You can sculpt an image out of a location. That’s my challenge, how to make him seem bigger than life. On the most simple level, I want people to look cool as hell.”

The news of Biggie’s death of course caught everyone by surprise. “It was shocking, really nonsensical. How do you process something like that? You feel helpless,” said Lavine. “That’s one of the things that’s so powerful about the photos. That changed the whole dynamic pretty radically. You have a photograph of a man in a graveyard who died violently weeks later — it makes the image more emotionally laden. … It’s not just a photo. … What’s the name of the album? Life After Death. That’s crazy. Flirting with disaster.”

On the 20th anniversary of his death a new perspective comes, one that is only possible with the benefit of staying alive. “Twenty years is a long time,” Lavine reflected. “Time is hard to describe until you experience the passing of more time, and then it becomes relative. A kid who is 15 can’t comprehend what 20 years feels like.”

In many ways, the title “Life After Death” isn’t just about Biggie — it’s about us. We are the ones living life after his death.

“The album changed my whole life in a way,” Lavine revealed. “I had been working in New York for 10 years to get to that moment. The brilliance of the record alone was enough; to just be associated with it is a big deal. The gravity of his death was overwhelming.

“As far as my photography is concerned, it became a magnet. People wanted to be associated with me because I was associated with him. It shot me out in space. It changed the trajectory of things. It fueled my spaceship, and I rode it for a long time.”

Daily Dose: 5/17/17 Happy anniversary to us!

A year ago Thursday this website was launched, starting a new era in journalism, entertainment and content for the ESPN family. I’m grateful as heck to be here and extremely proud to have built something with my colleagues. Congrats!

Your man James Comey has the receipts. After all this madness surrounding the former FBI director’s firing by the president, it turns out that he kept notes of everything, meaning the threat of recordings from the Oval Office to prove him wrong about whether President Donald Trump asked him to end the Russia investigation takes on new relevance. This is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a complete mess in the White House, and the lack of direction is downright staggering. The Dems say that they need those notes, badly.

There’s been a great new entry in the men’s summer fashion world: rompers. Yep, there’s a Kickstarter effort to make romphims a thing, which, as far as I’m concerned, is great news. The possibility of such a tremendous piece of clothing becoming a popular bit is extremely exciting for your boy. I’d rock a dashiki romper in a second in these streets. And the jokes Wednesday on Twitter about it were full-blown hilarious, as they mocked the constant nonsense that women have to deal with when it comes to their clothing and street harassment. Fun!

I couldn’t live without the internet. It’s where my job is; it’s where my fun is; it’s how I communicate with everyone. And at this point, thinking of the world without it is almost bizarre. There are also times when I think, am I too connected to this plastic/glass rectangle in my pocket? Is this thing actually making me crazy? There are people in the world who live their whole lives nowadays without constant access to it, and I imagine they’re pretty happy people. That’s why in some places, not going online is the new going online.

LaVar Ball really wants his son Lonzo to play for the Lakers. He’s talking about it all the time, says it’d be a perfect fit and claims he can speak it into existence. He just might be right, too. Now that the Lakers have the second pick in the NBA draft, that fantasy can become a reality. Say what you want about LaVar and his antics, but he’s got his kid in a great position to succeed. Now, apparently they’re so dead set on staying in the Los Angeles area that he’s not even going to work out for any other team. Mini-wow, but not really.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Holidays are big driving days, as people head out across the country to see friends and family. Which means a whole lot of traffic all over the place. What it also means is more accidents. Turns out, Memorial Day is the most crash-prone of all holidays. Be careful.

Snack Time: When it comes to traditional images of God and his disciples, etc., the people involved are almost always white. Then a woman painted The Creation of Adam with black women, and people went nuts.

Dessert: Dudes. Don’t be like this guy. At all.

Reflections on our rookie season The Undefeated staff members reveal why they joined the team

For every member of The Undefeated’s staff, it is an honor and a privilege to provide our fans with the latest insights and developments in the world of sports, race, and culture. You may already know some of our staff members from their frequent appearances on ESPN, or by reading their work on our website. But, we wanted to introduce you to the staff members who make things happen behind the scenes. Here they discuss what inspired them to join The Undefeated.