Daily Dose: 8/2/17 NFL may allow marijuana for players’ pain relief

So, my week on Mike & Mike is done, but it was a fun one. I’d like to thank Booger McFarland and Sean Farnham for co-hosting with me, and of course, the crew in Bristol, Connecticut, for making everything work. Now, here’s an unpopular opinion.

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So, while you were too worried about Colin Kaepernick and whether his presence in Baltimore might create an issue for Ravens fans, the actual police there seem to be up to no good. See, aside from the whole matter of people dying in their custody, there’s also this small little concern about, you know, conspiracy to fabricate evidence. What’s that? You didn’t think that was real? It is. And it gets court cases thrown out. So, when you wonder why people don’t trust law enforcement officials, now you have an example.

I like robots, but they scare me. As in, when it comes to sci-fi movies, I’m here to watch them blow each other up and create havoc. But the idea of actual robots populating my life is terrifying. Which is why I get nervous whenever I hear the term artificial intelligence. There’s a small part of me that believes that only humans are dumb enough to invent things that will kill them, because, well, we’ve already done that many times. So, when it turns out that Facebook had to kill bots that created their own languages to communicate with each other, my skin crawls.

When SoundCloud first dropped, I was ecstatic. The easy-to-use interface that allowed both artists and fans to interact directly was a monster step from, say, MySpace, and it provided an incredible, searchable, savable community for people to share in. It was basically not even about the music, it was just a great environment to be a part of that happened to have quite a few songs. Now, with its future in jeopardy, people involved in everything are talking about how it all went down. What a sad tale.

It looks like the NFL is getting interested in weed. Not in the recreational sense, but it appears that when it comes to pain relief, the shield is considering allowing marijuana. Now, many people are concerned that this will just lead to more players blazing and acting like it’s for pain, which is an argument I don’t really understand why anyone cares about. If you want to smoke your way out of the league, you’re going to do it whether the league fines you for it or not. Allowing players to use it, for whatever reason, just makes more sense.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I have a dream to buy an International Harvester Scout and drive to California in it and basically never come back. Who knows if that will ever happen, but some people do this in minivans every single day of the week. As it turns out, that’s not really what minivans were made for at all to begin with.

Snack Time: What would you do if you invited the Obamas to your wedding and you actually got a response? What if it happened months later, though? That’s real life for some people.

Dessert: Want to improve your mood? Watch the videos for Khalid’s “Young, Dumb & Broke.”

Daily Dose: 7/14/17 Beyonce releases photograph of Sir and Rumi

All right, kiddos. It’s been quite the week here in Minneapolis. The X Games got underway Thursday night, but Friday is the first full day and I’ll be taking over The Undefeated Instagram page for the afternoon. This should be ridiculous.

Someone in our newsroom is actively hating on Beyoncé. “Does her photographer always have to be someone out of Alice in Wonderland? Sorry. Not supposed to troll the Queen. Forget I said that,” were the words of one writer who will go unnamed. Some of these jokes and memes are just plain hilarious though. Look at that photo. These children are going to grow up to be the most widely watched children on earth since Princess Diana’s boys were small. We can’t wait. Sir and Rumi are their names, in case you forgot. Also, watch this.

We officially have a start date for Bachelor In Paradise. Let’s be clear: This season is already wrought with controversy, and I do not feel good about this component at all. That being said, it’s important to note that this show is the best in the franchise, and it’s not even particularly close. But for us die-hard BIP fans, we’re going to have our ethics tested because after the consent dispute scenario, a major premise of the show as basically promoting rape culture is being questioned. That said, set your calendars and clocks for Aug. 14, kiddos.

If you were on your way to a job interview, would you stop to save someone’s life? What if you were living in a halfway house and had less than $5 to your name? That’s what Aaron Tucker, an ex-prisoner in Connecticut, did the other day when he was up first thing in the morning to interview as a busboy at a local barbecue spot. You know what, most of you out there would have just kept it moving and maybe called the cops. He missed the interview, but the community has reached out to help and job offers are coming in. GOOD.

Speaking of jobs, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders might be hiring. I say “might be” because with this new stadium they have to build in the desert, it’s obviously going to take bodies to do it. But in what I can only call a stroke of cynic genius, someone posted a hoax “pre-recruitment meetings” sign-up publicly that drew hundreds of people to an otherwise routine Las Vegas Stadium Authority meeting. In short, bringing the very people who need these gigs to the feet of those who will eventually decide who gives them. Mean, but brilliant.

Free Food

Coffee Break: This Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather promo tour has finally gotten good, now that they’ve decided to step up their disses toward each other. But now McGregor has brought 50 Cent into the situation, which is probably not a very smart move whatsoever. Curtis Jackson replied to him — on late night TV, no less.

Snack Time: We’ve all been waiting around for Vic Mensa’s new album, and we finally got something to rock with. His new song called “Wings” features Pharrell and Saul Williams. I love this song.

Dessert: I can’t think of anything better to send us into a weekend than two fighting pancake shops.

Pots & pans: As the NFL season approaches, every fan has championship dreams In our national fairy tale, curses will be ended or endured and even the stars are expendable

“Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.”

Hans Christian Andersen

In a month, the National Football League training camps will open, and I will imagine wide-eyed fans crawling onto the laps of storytellers to hear the old tales animated by new names.

This year, as always, players once deemed too slow, too small or too inexperienced will emerge as too determined to be denied. This year, as always, can’t-miss prospects, winners of what a Connecticut barber once called the genetic lotto, will fail to cash in on their talents. And this year, as always, players and fans hope their season will end with their index fingers in the air, proclaiming to the world, “We’re No. 1.”

This year, curses will be lifted. The chosen will lead their teams toward the promised land. Curses will also endure and fans, spurred by the mouse-click mob of social media, will exile players and teams who disappoint them to Palookaville.

This year, as always, to get ready for some football, fans and the sports media must get ready for the ways the crosscurrents of our roiling society flow through the game. Stark questions will be posed anew: How much will the players, largely African-American, be able to freely express themselves in celebration or in protest? Which transgressions will be shrugged off or punished? Who will be banished from the games? And which prodigals will be welcomed back to the playing fields, just so long as they can play at high levels?

NFL football, the nation’s defining pastime, brutal and unforgiving, is a serious game based upon acquiring turf and defending it with blood, sweat and tears.

And no matter how productive, respected and celebrated they have been, the players are expendable and disposable, just like most other American workers. All of them. All the time. Sid Luckman to Peyton Manning.

The NFL, with its long-term contracts not fully guaranteed, is the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, a game where few players control their futures. The games grind the players to dust. And too many players throw what’s left of their spent selves to the wind.

It’s as if they sing lines from “Going Down Slow,” a blues song whose lyrics change depending upon who sings it, though the meaning remains the same. It’s a song of rueful dissipation: I have had my fun if I never get well no more/All of my health is failing/Lord, I’m going down slow.

But none of that matters to those who love the game. The magic moments matter, the great catches, the exhilarating runs and the game-saving tackles. The roar of the adoring crowds matter. And, more than anything, the championships matter.

In each era, star players move through space in signature ways: Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown, Joe Montana and Barry Sanders, Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson. When the players move, the fans ride with them, spiraling through the air as if perched on one of Warren Moon’s pretty passes.

As always, as we look to the opening of training camps, the NFL football world turns on an axis of expectation. Anything can happen.

With a championship to win or defend, players begin each season as potential heroes in a modern fairy tale. But only the Super Bowl winners get to live happily ever after, at least until the next season.

Are you and your index fingers ready?

Prodigy dies at 42 and other news of the week The week that was June 19-June 23

Monday 06.19.17

The state of North Carolina, that bastion of civil rights, had a law barring sex offenders from using social media sites, such as Facebook, invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court also ruled that rejecting trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment; the Washington Redskins, locked in their own legal battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, wasn’t a party in the current case but supported the decision, which ruled in favor of Asian-American band The Slants. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, when learning of the decision, referred to The Slants’ members as “Oriental Americans,” and when told that phrase was offensive, he asked, “You’re telling me that using the word ‘Oriental American’ is a slight?” The 47-year-old husband of Beyoncé announced a new, stream-only album available exclusively to the hundreds of Tidal and Sprint customers. In honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, President Donald Trump released a statement praising two white men (President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger), and a sportswriter questioned the history of American police and slave patrols. A heady reporter tried Lyft Shuttle, the ride-sharing company’s beta-stage commuter option, which allows riders to “walk to a nearby pickup spot, get in a shared car that follows a predesignated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop” — or, in other words, a bus. A data firm hired by the Republican National Committee left sensitive information — including names, dates of birth and home addresses — of nearly 200 million registered voters exposed to the internet; the company responsible, Deep Root Analytics, calls itself “the most experienced group of targeters in Republican politics.”

The Philadelphia 76ers officially acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, paving the way for the team to draft yet another player with past leg issues. Markelle Fultz, the first pick in Thursday’s draft, not only was traded from 53-win team to one that won just 28 games last season but also briefly considered signing with LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand over Nike. A Green Bay Packers fan and Wisconsin resident who, for some reason, has Chicago Bears season tickets, sued the Chicago franchise for not allowing him to wear Packers gear on the sideline at Soldier Field; the Wisconsin man told the court that the Bears “deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience.” In other bear news, three New Hampshire teenagers are being investigated for potential hate crimes for assaulting and yelling a racial slur at costumed Boston street musician Keytar Bear, who is black.

Tuesday 06.20.17

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t appear on camera as much because “Sean got fatter.” Former five-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard offered UFC fighter Conor McGregor one piece of advice for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August: “Duck.” FBI director nominee Christopher Wray once represented an American energy executive who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government, but Wray deleted that information from his official online biography sometime in 2017. Mattel diversified its Barbie and Ken doll lines, offering different sizes, skin tones and hairstyles, including man buns, cornrows and Afros. For the new heavyset Ken dolls, Mattel originally wanted to market them as “husky,” but, “A lot [of guys] were really traumatized by that — as a child, shopping in a husky section.” Twitter was in an uproar after it was reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot was paid just $300,000 for her role in the critically acclaimed, $500 million movie, compared with $14 million for Man of Steel’s leading man, Henry Cavill; the latter figure was not true. Imprisoned former football player O.J. Simpson, who is up for parole for burglary and assault next month, spends his time in prison watching his daughter’s show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “He likes to keep up with all the gossip with them,” a former prison guard said. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, last heard fighting prostitutes in Arizona, has decided to donate his brain to scientists when he dies; Sapp said his memory “ain’t what it used to be.” New York rapper Prodigy, real name Albert Johnson, died at the age of 42; Prodigy, one half of acclaimed duo Mobb Deep, had recently been hospitalized because of sickle cell anemia. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawyer, hired his own lawyer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, catching up to the 20th century, signed a bill that raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18. An Algerian man was sentenced to two years in prison for dangling a baby out a 15th-floor window on Facebook, instructing his followers “1,000 likes or I will drop him.” A Canadian man stole a mummified toe that had been used as an ingredient in a hotel bar drink for more than 40 years; an employee said the hotel was “furious” because “toes are very hard to come by.” To test the performative advantages of the microbiome Prevotella, a Connecticut scientist performed a fecal transplant on herself, telling a news outlet: “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.” Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, at 8:55 p.m. ET, tweeted, “Ok Twitter Fans ,, give me your thoughts , trades or otherwise & Remember 2B-Nice”; five minutes later, Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wednesday 06.21.17

The Pentagon paid $28 million for “forest”-colored uniforms for the Afghan Army, yet “forests cover only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s total land area.” White House aide and former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault signs her name as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” despite not being a high-ranking federal official or judge. Despite President Trump once valuing his Westchester, New York, golf course at $50 million, the Trump Organization valued the property at $7.5 million on tax forms, half of the town assessor’s valuation of $15.1 million, to pay less in property taxes. The Russian government, accused by U.S. authorities of spreading fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, said it will “raise the issue of fake news” at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, calling it “a problem that should be defined and addressed collectively.” Although terrorism is defined as using violence for political reasons, the FBI said the shooting at a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball Game by a white man had “no terrorism involved.” Meanwhile in Flint, Michigan, the stabbing of a police officer at an airport by a man who reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar” is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. A group of CIA contractors were fired from the agency for hacking a vending machine and stealing over $3,000 worth of snacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), best known for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last month, was sworn in to the House; the Democratic Party of Montana sent Gianforte an orange jumpsuit for his first day in office. The daughter of two dentists who had enough education to teach their children about stocks and investments, and who, herself, owns a multimillion-dollar company, was taught to save and now plans to retire at 40. In shocking news, a new study found that films with diverse casts outperform films that are overwhelmingly white. A police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting a black man. An auto insurance industry-funded study found that states with legalized recreational marijuana laws had a higher frequency of auto collision claims than states without such laws. Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert E. Murray sued comedian John Oliver for defamation after the HBO host used his weekly TV program to mock the energy executive, at one point calling Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”; Oliver predicted on his show June 18 that Murray would sue him. Hall of Fame professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, known for calling women’s breasts “puppies” and other sexist remarks, said even he hated the finish of a historic all-women’s match that ended with a man winning. In response to the new American craze fidget spinners, Chinese companies have started selling the Toothpick Crossbow, a small, $1 handheld crossbow that can fire toothpicks 65 feet; parents worry the crossbows could blind young children, and Chinese state media fear iron nails could be swapped in for the toothpicks. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said he is willing to trade 21-year-old center Kristaps Porizingis, who is 21, with the “future” of the team in mind.

Thursday 06.22.17

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, still visibly upset over the recent actions of Phil Jackson, pointed out that the Knicks president’s first front office deal back in 2014 was signing forward Lamar Odom, “who was on crack”; Odom was released from the team three months later. Meanwhile, an NBA prospect said Jackson was “falling in and out of sleep” during the prospect’s workout. Knicks owner James Dolan skipped out on the NBA draft to perform with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at a local winery-music venue. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who last week said U.S. presidents “cannot obstruct justice,” said President Trump alleged he had tapes of former FBI director James Comey to “rattle” him. The president, who in May insinuated that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, tweeted that he, in fact, does not have any such tapes. The lack of diversity at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is so dire that some reporters have taken to calling the newspaper “White Castle.” In another example of “life comes at you fast,” Chicago Cubs outfielder and World Series hero Kyle Schwarber was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting just .171 through the first 71 games of the season. The trainer for former Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, in response to his client being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he’s met “drug dealers with better morals” than Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Hip-hop artist Shock G, best known for his seminal 1990s hit “Humpty Dance,” was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession; there was no mention of whether or not the arrest took place at a Burger King restaurant. Just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company amid hostile work environment allegations, some company employees began circulating a petition to have Kalanick reinstated, stating “[Travis Kalanick], no matter his flaws (everyone has them) was one of the best leaders I have seen.” Montgomery County, Maryland, police are using DNA evidence to help create composite sketches of those suspected of sexual assault; the DNA, described as “bodily fluids,” is assumed to be male semen. A New York woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic to get reduced breast implants and liposuction developed an infection and now has a hole in one of her breasts; the woman, who traveled to the Caribbean island for a cheaper $5,000 procedure, will now pay over $10,000 in recovery costs. Famed comedian Bill Cosby is planning a series of town halls aimed at young people, specifically athletes, on how to avoid sexual assault allegations. After nearly three months of secrecy, Republican senators publicly released their version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In unrelated news, only 38 percent of Americans want the president and Congress to repeal and replace the ACA.

FRIDAY 06.23.17

A Trump administration official once filed for bankruptcy because of his wife’s medical bills for treating her chronic Lyme disease. President Trump all but confirmed his former tweets about alleged “tapes” of former FBI director James Comey were an attempt to influence the director’s Senate testimony. Comey, who announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, refused three weeks earlier to attach his name to a statement on Russia’s involvement in that election because “it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.” A North Korea spokesman said the death of American college student Otto Warmbier just days after he was released from imprisonment in the country is a “mystery to us as well.” NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who was in North Korea around the same time Warmbier was released last week, said dictator Kim Jong-Un is a “friendly guy,” and the two sing karaoke and ride horses together. Zola, a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, danced to (a dubbed-over version of) Michael Sembello’s 1996 hit “Maniac.” The St. Louis Cardinals announced their first Pride Night celebration at Busch Stadium; a disgruntled fan demanded that the team “stop forcing this down my throat.” Great Britain, loser of the Revolutionary War, is now putting chocolate in its chili. In response to Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp asking an English crowd “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” a White House spokesperson condemned the remarks: “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead.” Hours later, New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump campaign adviser, visited the White House; last year, Baldasaro said Hillary Clinton “should be shot in a firing squad for treason.” Five-foot-9 Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said if he were taller he’d be “the best player in the world.” Nearly 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes against two provinces in the Middle Eastern country. Former MTV Jersey Shore star Ronnie Magro-Ortiz, describing his breakup with fellow reality TV star Malika Haqq, said he and Haqq were like “oil and water.” He added: “It tastes good with bread, but it’s just not mixing.” A jury deadlocked for the second time in the case of a police officer killing a black man. After less-than-stellar reviews from critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me is being sued for copyright infringement by veteran journalist Kevin Powell.

WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike does it all The Connecticut Sun forward is getting a head start on her potential post-basketball career

There is one rule of thumb Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike continually abides by these days as a WNBA player: Don’t wait to begin your next career until after your current basketball career has ended.

It’s a mantra the 25-year-old repeats to WNBA rookies, and a sentiment that carries her through her many off-court endeavors, including her most recent announcement of joining ESPN as an analyst for its newly launched ESPN channel on Kwesé TV. The channel provides coverage and a unique sports experience to fans in Africa. For nearly three weeks, Ogwumike has faithfully rehearsed lines, shadowed on-air talent and attempted to correct her posture to ready herself for the new role.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, almost like playing in a game,” Ogwumike said. “You’re excited, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to win, you don’t know if you’re going to lose. I second-guess myself because athletes tend to be different in broadcast. It’s a cool challenge for me because I love sports, it’s an African audience and, to me, the most important thing is, I knew this was out of the realm of what I imagined myself doing, but I knew representation matters.”

As a Nigerian-American, Ogwumike understands the passion African fans have for sports. Physical activities have always served as a bonding experience in her family, and the love for sports is partially responsible for Ogwumike and her older sister, Nneka, turning to basketball after being told they were too tall for gymnastics.

Staying connected and recognizing the need for in-depth sports coverage not only in her home country but throughout all of Africa is something that has been a priority for Ogwumike since her days as an international relations major at Stanford University.

Growing up, Ogwumike would travel back to Nigeria with her family once or twice a year. While attending Stanford and becoming a mentee of former U.S. Secretary of State and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Ogwumike was encouraged to align her passion for giving back with her academic pursuits. For the first time, Ogwumike made solo trips to Nigeria before studying abroad during her junior year. In her free time, Ogwumike traveled the continent, working with nonprofits on basketball clinics and to help raise money to build basketball courts.

“I saw the country with new, educated eyes,” Ogwumike said. “It was a huge educational experience for me, and I left very optimistic because when you think about Nigeria, you tend to think of a place left behind. But the potential is there.”

After being drafted as the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2014, Ogwumike immediately went to work. She completed her rookie season averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds before being named the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Shortly afterward while playing in Italy, Ogwumike suffered a right knee injury that required microfracture surgery. She missed all of the 2015-16 season.

“I think athletes tend to make the injury their narrative,” Ogwumike said. “Injuries happen in sports, but I never wanted to be defined by it, and I think that’s my motive. My mindset has always been I love basketball, it’s my passion, it’s opened doors, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me. When I got injured, it sucked because I was worried about what would be my basketball future, but the injury also gave me time to step back and think and plan on my future. I know I can’t play forever.”

Thinking ahead, Ogwumike focused less on the pain and slow rehabilitation process and more on how she can continue to strengthen and develop relationships on a different side of the sports realm. During her downtime, Ogwumike took advantage of television time, including co-hosting opportunities on ESPN’s First Take and His & Hers, as well as serving as an analyst for NBATV during the 2015 WNBA playoffs. Ogwumike also partnered with NBA Africa to help launch Power Forward, a youth engagement initiative that uses basketball as a tool to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria.

The next season, Ogwumike returned to the court to finish second on the team with 12.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game, earning her Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year honors. In a situation similar to the first, unfortunate circumstances befell Ogwumike again — this time, in the form of an Achilles tendon injury in her left leg while playing overseas in China.

“The second injury in China was a heartbreaker because I knew something was off,” Ogwumike said. “But I always try thinking of the positive. I got home within three days from China and had surgery quick, because I had doctors on speed dial for my other injury. The situation could be worse for me. If I’m going to be challenged in my career, I’d rather it happen now than later. I also know that my worth is not just my stats. As women basketball players, our worth is not just how we play but how we represent ourselves. Yeah, I’m missing my WNBA season and it stinks, but I’m really excited about this opportunity with ESPN.”

Juggling her WNBA career while co-hosting SportsCenter across subSaharan Africa will present challenges, Ogwumike said, only because it’s uncharted territory for her. Yet, Ogwumike is keeping a positive outlook. As she looks forward to returning to the WNBA in the 2018-19 season, her focus also lies in finding a deeper meaning off the court and giving back to the countries that have given so much to her.

“It’s unique for me because being Nigerian, I know what our passions are, and it’s sports,” Ogwumike said. “If you look at who I am, I’m a Nigerian-American female basketball player. And this show caters to all Africans, especially Nigerians because that’s some of the higher viewership, and I think female sports are on the rise. Even though it’s out of what I perceive to be the realm of possibilities for my career, it’s perfect for me.

“I always try to think of my little sisters and young girls that want to do what I’ve had the opportunity to do. That outweighs the fear. At age 25 it feels like an avalanche, but at the same time it’s like that adrenaline rush that I get from playing, and it’s cool. No matter what your lane is, attack it, do it to the best of your ability, and that can be the thing that opens doors.”

Daily Dose: 6/9/17 NASA selects black woman as part of new astronaut class

I’m in Bristol, Connecticut, on Friday to appear on Outside The Lines, so if you’re around a television at 1 p.m. EST, tune in to give your boy a look-see talking about the best stories of the week. I will not be wearing a hat this time, I promise.

In the classic film White Men Can’t Jump, there is much trash talk. And in one particular scene, a guy decides that “your mama’s an astronaut” is a serious insult. It’s so off the wall and ridiculous that his opponent takes mega offense and loses it. But let’s be clear, being an astronaut is awesome. And for Jessica Watkins, her childhood dream of becoming one just came true. A researcher at the California Institute of Technology, she was one of 12 people picked by NASA for its newest class. This story is so excellent that it makes me want to cry.

If you don’t know who Gwen Bunn is, you will soon. She’s a producer, an artist and a songwriter who came to fame when she linked up with Top Dawg Entertainment’s ScHoolboy Q for the song “Collard Greens.” But she chose to stay independent instead of signing with a big label because she wants to maintain her flexibility as an artist. Here’s a cool story about how she got there. But, while you’re here, make absolutely sure you check out SZA’s new album CTRL, because it’s incredible.

When it comes to being progressive, the NBA is as good as any league in the U.S. And not just in terms of what its players are saying when the cameras are on, but also in regard to what happens behind the scenes to keep their league diverse. Now a few teams are working with Jopwell, which places minority candidates in positions with major firms. And they don’t just work with the NBA. They’ve got agreements with the U.S. Tennis Association, and in general they keep these pipelines open. Half of the startup team is a former Yale guard.

Last night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, something foul happened. At one point, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators decided to renew their little rivalry in a game that was otherwise a blowout. Sid The Kid at one point was grinding Subban’s head into the ice as a way to tweak him. OK, whatever. But then NBC’s Mike Milbury gets on the camera saying that he deserved it, for God knows what reason. Oh, wait. Yeah, Milbury’s the reason that hockey will be forever stuck in the Stone Age.

Free Food

Coffee Break: It’s summertime now, so you’re going to be dealing with something that we all hate: bugs. Whether it’s keeping them off your body, out of your food or out of your house, they’re a problem. Some of us use the old magazine/newspaper method for the latter, but if you’re a humane person, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has something you can work with.

Snack Time: There are people actually paying money to walk around Brooklyn, New York, in tour groups as part of some “ghetto safari” experience, and these people are the worst. I’m so angry at just the concept, never mind execution.

Dessert: Sometimes, it’s rough with the fam. But we’re all gonna make it if we try. Happy weekend, kiddos.

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Jim Brown has no time for games Fifty years after standing with Muhammad Ali, the aging warrior is still working on his legacy of responsibility and economic empowerment

Jim Brown forgot his cane. A piece of breakfast is stuck to the front of his shirt. He has let his beard grow out, woolly and gray. It’s 7:39 a.m. outside the Cleveland Browns headquarters, across the street from Ohio Nut & Bolt Co. A backhoe has torn up the parking lot. Time to get to work.

The 81-year-old legend retrieves his walking stick from a black SUV, flanked by his wife, Monique, and loyal soldiers Rudolph “Rock Head” Johnson, James Box and Rob Wood. Everyone wears black except for Rock Head, a former Original Compton Crip, who is dressed in blue. They unload two rolling suitcases, one old-school valise without wheels and a raggedy cardboard box. Navigating past chunks of broken pavement, they enter the offices of the once-proud franchise.

Brown will not impart much football wisdom to his former team on this muggy day in May. No rah-rah to rouse the athletes after last season’s 1-15 debacle. His purpose here is as far removed from football as Cleveland is from its last NFL championship, in 1964, when Brown led the league in rushing for the seventh time, with 5.2 yards per carry.

Independent, intelligent and sometimes angry, Brown walked away from football at the peak of his abilities, for a movie career and to preach a gospel of economic empowerment, self-reliance and social justice. His thinking on those latter subjects is contained inside the suitcases: dozens of 142-page manuals titled The Amer-I-Can Program — The Responsibility of Self-Determination.

These are the textbooks for a 60-hour self-help course. They contain the heart and soul of Brown’s life and legacy. They illustrate both the greatness of Brown’s gifts and, after a half-century, their inevitable decline.

Thousands of people on three continents have benefited from Amer-I-Can since Brown founded it in 1988, an outgrowth of his earlier work with the Negro Industrial and Economic Union. Lives have been changed, even saved. But the Amer-I-Can foundation’s revenues have plunged 80 percent in the past few years, and far fewer people are studying the manual. Prominent staffers have been convicted of crimes. The curriculum is unavailable online and out of step with younger activists’ focus on structural racism and social media. Brown is hoping an infusion of cash from President Donald Trump’s slashed domestic budget can revive the program.

Still, he plows forward, dragging Amer-I-Can manuals from city to city with the determination that used to gain him as many yards after contact as before it. He says the program is far more meaningful than anything he did in the NFL.

This trip to Cleveland also shows that Amer-I-Can is fading away, along with the greatest football player of all time.

“The common concern of the group is that each of us helps the other become a better person.” – Amer-I-Can Trainee Manual, Page 2

“The youngsters now have to catch up and become more involved in making this a better world,” Brown tells me, referring to the Browns players and coaches, most of them in their 20s and 30s, who are gathered inside the auditorium-style team meeting room. An Amer-I-Can manual rests on each of the 126 chairs.

Brown, who is employed by the team as a senior adviser, steps to the front, clutching his cane with huge, gnarled hands. He wears a faded baseball cap, not the famous red, black and green kufi. You need to strain to hear his voice.

“Communities across the country need us to take more interest in what’s going on,” Brown says. He takes a moment to decry African-Americans killing each other. “But you are football players here this morning,” he continues, “so we’re gonna concentrate on giving you a philosophy that you might already have, but we’re also going to include community work in what we hope will be your motivation to be the greatest players you can be.”

The players give Brown their full attention. His football résumé demands it. In nine dominant NFL seasons, all with Cleveland, Brown never missed a game or practice. Playing the 1963 campaign with a broken big toe, he set a record of 1,863 rushing yards — in a 14-game season. He delivered so much punishment, many defenders feared tackling him. He still holds the career record of 104.3 rushing yards per game. He retired at age 29, coming off his fourth MVP season.

But one of Brown’s most significant accomplishments occurred two years after he left football. Fifty years ago, on June 4, 1967, Brown organized the Cleveland Summit, a gathering of star black athletes who came to quiz and ultimately support heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War. The athletes Brown convened included Lew Alcindor, who would soon change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Celtics great Bill Russell; Carl Stokes, soon to be elected Cleveland’s mayor and the first African-American to lead a major U.S. city; and football stars who would become bankers, radio station owners and a U.S. ambassador.

A group of top African American athletes from different sporting disciplines gather to give support and hear the boxer Muhammad Ali give his reasons for rejecting the draft during the Vietnam War, at a meeting of the Negro Industrial and Economic Union, held in Cleveland, June 4, 1967. Seated in the front row, from left to right: Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Standing behind them are: Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis mcClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten.

Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

After meeting with Ali, the 12 men stood in front of the cameras in downtown Cleveland, a united front of negritude that altered the course of the war, the civil rights movement and the nature of athlete activism.

“Can you imagine LeBron, Serena, Durant, Tiger, Simone Biles, Mayweather and Odell Beckham Jr. meeting to discuss the role of black athletes in the age of Trump?” says Leonard Moore, a University of Texas history professor. “That’s how powerful and impactful this meeting was.”

That meeting took place a few miles from the current Browns team meeting room, where the session is now being led by Box and Rock Head. The two facilitators will review two of the 15 chapters in the Amer-I-Can manual, which cover topics ranging from motivation and focus to family relationships and emotional control, plus details on how to behave in job interviews, set financial goals and avoid drugs. At every step, the program insists there are no excuses for failure: “Individual responsibility and determination are key factors,” it says. “Your success ultimately rests with you.”

Box steps to the front. “I grew up here in Cleveland, I’m 55 years old. I’ll just cut to the chase, we all men here. I spent 9 1/2 years of my life in the penitentiary, used to sell dope, gangbang, rob, steal, all that craziness.”

He discusses the “conditioning” he received as a child with no father and a mother addicted to heroin. Box speaks smoothly, without notes. He’s been working with Amer-I-Can for 27 years. He passes the mic to Rock Head, another Amer-I-Can veteran, who tells his own story of a misguided life, of the attitude change and motivation needed to succeed. Both facilitators use language straight from the manual. Both refer to Brown as their father.

At first, it seems like the presentation has little relevance for a team of highly paid athletes who must have had plenty of motivation and focus just to reach this room.

Then Box reaches Page 5, which he calls “the most intimate part of the training program.” It’s a list of 231 “feeling words.” Box tells the players he’s going to provide a topic, and they should say how it makes them feel.

“Father,” Box says.

The players start to open up. “I didn’t have a father,” one says. “He was a good guy,” says another. “Role model.” “Leader.” “Protector.” “I didn’t know him.”

“My father wasn’t there for the early part of my life. God was my father,” says linebacker Demario Davis (who was recently traded to the New York Jets). “But I was able to forgive, and now we’re best friends.”

Brown tells the players he saw his father only four times in his life. He asks for all the players without a good relationship with their fathers to raise their hand. About a dozen of the 100-plus men respond.

“The main ingredient to a lot of the problems we have in these streets is based on the fact that a lot of these young men do not have a father,” Brown says. “You’re an elite group of individuals. If you work together with other like-minded individuals, we can make a dent, a great dent, in the violence in our community. There are young people who need our help.”

Afterward, I ask Brown why he brought Amer-I-Can to the team.

“I know I could help them,” Brown says.

But Brown also needs help from the team — to keep Amer-I-Can going.

“We alone are responsible for the degree of financial stability that we create; we must not depend on, blame, or hold others responsible for our lack of monetary security. ” – Amer-I-Can Trainee Manual, Page 86

After giving the players a two-hour taste of Amer-I-Can, Brown and his crew met with Dee Haslam, who owns the team with her husband, Jimmy. Brown wants the team to take the full 60-hour curriculum and to help expand the program in the Cleveland community. Peter John-Baptiste, vice president of communications, said the team is trying to determine the best way to support Brown’s efforts.

In 2010, the nonprofit Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change had $1.15 million in revenue from grants, donations and contracts with local and state governments, according to public tax records. In 2014, the most recent year for which tax forms are available, the foundation had $182,489 in revenue — a drop of almost $1 million.

What happened? A decades-long contract worth six figures annually to teach the curriculum in Los Angeles County correctional facilities dried up. A major annual donor, shopping mall developer Mace Siegel, died in 2011. The former president of Amer-I-Can, Oregon State Police Lt. Col. Dean Renfrow, retired in 2011 and has yet to be replaced.

In Cleveland, the Amer-I-Can program lost support when Box was charged with inappropriate sexual contact with two women participating in a court-ordered program that he facilitated. He pleaded guilty in 2014 to attempted abduction, assault and unlawful restraint and was sentenced to three years of probation. In 2016, Cleveland Amer-I-Can staffer and former Browns receiver Reggie Rucker was sentenced to 21 months in prison for embezzling money from Amer-I-Can and other nonprofits.

The engine of Amer-I-Can has always been Brown. He raised a family of facilitators in cities across the country and improvised ways to fit his curriculum into existing endeavors at schools, prisons, community centers, even FBI training centers. Amer-I-Can’s only formal structure seems to be the curriculum itself. Dozens of Boxes and Rock Heads, from all walks of life, were drawn to Brown’s passion and empathy. His message of self-responsibility appealed to conservatives; his attacks on injustice excited liberals. Brown’s family and friends say he’s too proud to ask for money, but when the Hall of Famer showed up in a troubled city and talked up Amer-I-Can, rich folks found their checkbooks and politicians found room in their budgets.

From left, Pastor Darrell Scott, former professional football player Jim Brown and Omarosa Manigault arrive at Trump Tower, Dec. 13, 2016, in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high-level positions for the new administration.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

But the magic is wearing off. His fierce intelligence remains, but facts can slip and he is starting to forget things. He tells the Cleveland Browns that Amer-I-Can is 15 years old, instead of 29. He tells me that former President Barack Obama has never explained his feelings about his mixed racial background, which was the subject of Obama’s best-selling book, Dreams From My Father.

Rock Head used to be paid $6,000 per month as a facilitator. Now he’s driving an Uber and running a youth basketball foundation in California. Box’s salary has dried up too.

Most of Brown’s income comes from speaking engagements, memorabilia signings and his Cleveland Browns salary. Through Amer-I-Can, he and his wife paid themselves modest annual salaries of $18,000 to $50,000 from 2010-12. Brown’s salary was $120,000 in 2011, when revenues were $1.1 million. He was paid nothing in 2013, when revenues were $310,000, and nothing in 2014. Unless the Browns are paying, Brown often flies coach. On the trip for the team seminar, he stayed at the airport Sheraton.

Many members of the extended Amer-I-Can family told me there was money in Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget for the program. Brown voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but after the election he accepted an invitation to Trump Tower to meet with the president-elect. He hosted an Amer-I-Can fundraiser in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration.

But specifics are scarce on the Trump budget promise. Monique Brown says Amer-I-Can has “basically been approved,” but she won’t elaborate. Messages left with HUD and the House committee overseeing the budget were not returned.

When I ask Brown how he thinks Trump is doing as president, a flash of his famous fight emerges. “What kind of question is that?” he growls.

“Trump is the president sitting in the seat of power … so my way of looking at my contribution or our contribution is that we can’t ignore that seat and just call names of the person that’s sitting in it,” he says. “Calling names won’t do anything.”

It’s right there in the manual: Your success ultimately rests with you.

“If I analyze myself, what am I doing?” Brown continues. “Not what Donald Trump is doing, what am I doing to make this a better country?”

“Some people who are conditioned at childhood never break through the blanket of suppression in order to achieve their full potential.”– Amer-I-Can Trainee Manual, Page 10

Swinton “Sweet Sue” Brown, a boxer, gambler and womanizer, left a few weeks after James Nathaniel Brown was born Feb. 17, 1936, on St. Simons Island in Georgia. Two years later, Theresa Brown left baby Jim with her mother and grandmother to work as a maid on Long Island, New York. Jim didn’t rejoin his mother until he was 8.

Sweet Sue lived down the street from Theresa with his new family. On the rare occasions that Sweet Sue visited, he argued bitterly with Theresa. “They would fight in one part of the room, and Jim would just sit there in another part of the room and not say a peep,” Ed Walsh, Brown’s high school football coach, said in Mike Freeman’s unauthorized biography of Brown.

After becoming a football star in the 1950s, Brown hit the sexual revolution and indulged to the fullest, including while he was married to his first wife, Sue, from 1958 to 1972. He appeared in his first film, Rio Conchos, in 1964, and became a movie star with 1967’s The Dirty Dozen. Brown filmed some of Hollywood’s earliest interracial love scenes. He bought a home in the Hollywood Hills above Sunset Boulevard, with a commanding view from his rear deck of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, where he still lives today.

Publicity still portrait of American actors Jim Brown and actress Raquel Welch in the western drama ‘100 Rifles’ (20th Century Fox), 1969.

John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

In his 1989 autobiography, Out of Bounds, Brown devotes an 18-page chapter to his seduction methods, orgies he hosted at his home and his preference for petite women — the younger the better.

Near the end of Out of Bounds, Brown says he has “slapped women. … In a perfect world, I don’t think any man should slap anyone, and I don’t consider slapping people a sign of strength. In my case, it’s related to a weakness. If I’m dealing with someone, and they do something I feel is wrong, I’ll tell them that, and that I don’t like it. If they continue to provoke me, I’ll say, ‘Okay, you leave now, or leave me alone.’ That means we’re at an impasse, and I’m about to lose my temper. At that point, in that situation, I have slapped women, and put my hands on men. … I regret those times, I should have been more in control of myself.”

Authorities have accused Brown of violent acts seven times, five of them against women. Two accusations remained tattooed on his reputation.

One involves the model Eva Bohn-Chin, whom Brown met while filming The Dirty Dozen. In 1968, Bohn-Chin moved in with Brown when he also was dating Gloria Steinem. As Brown recounts in Out of Bounds, at home one night in L.A., “I slapped Eva and she slapped me back.”

Police found Bohn-Chin beneath the rear deck of Brown’s home. Authorities said Brown threw her over the railing. Brown maintains that after police arrived, Bohn-Chin jumped off the balcony trying to escape the situation.

Bohn-Chin gives a cryptic explanation in Spike Lee’s documentary Jim Brown: All-American. “He came toward me, and I found myself in the hospital the next day,” she said. “I was not able to jump. … I was a young, good-looking person who loved life. Why would I jump?” Brown was charged with assault with intent to commit murder, but charges were dropped after Bohn-Chin would not name Brown as her assailant.

The second incident came in 1999, when Monique Brown called 911 after her husband smashed the window of her unoccupied car with a shovel during an argument over whether he was having an affair. Brown was convicted of vandalism and served several months in jail rather than accept the sentence of counseling and community service.

By phone from Los Angeles, Monique Brown tells me that questions about domestic violence make her angry.

“The people that know Jim, obviously we’ve had our ups and downs like any other marriage, we’ve been together for 22 years, but more ups than downs. There’s no marriage of that length that hasn’t gone through things, but I’m far from abused.”

Jim and Monique met in 1995, when she was 21 and he was 59. Monique was a model making an appearance at a TV station in her native Buffalo, New York, that was interviewing Brown. The day after meeting Brown, she went to an Amer-I-Can meeting.

Monique Brown, now 43, majored in liberal arts at Denison University in Ohio. She speaks as passionately about Amer-I-Can as her husband does. They live in the Hollywood Hills home with their 15-year-old son, Aris; a 13-year-old daughter, Morgan; and two pit bulls adopted from a shelter. Brown has a mostly distant relationship with his three children with his first wife, as well as three children with three other women.

He’s no longer the same man who wanted to fight teammates over locker room debates or assaulted a golf partner over the placement of a ball. “He’s way more tolerant of differences and opinions,” Monique says. “He doesn’t have to have the last word or, things don’t always have to be a personal offense just because you disagree on certain things.”

Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown poses with his wife Monique during the unveiling of his statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium prior to game the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns on September 18, 2016 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

“Having that purity in our hearts for what our purpose is that’s bigger than us has really been a unifying factor,” she says. “No matter what we’re upset at each other about, we’re still committed to what we’re doing. Like, yeah, you know what? You pissed me off, but that’s not gonna stop the work.”

As long as people are suffering, the work remains. The work will outlive Brown.

Will Amer-I-Can?

“It’s like understanding the secret of life that we’re all going to die,” Brown tells me. “Old age is a challenge, but when you’re fortunate enough to have your business in order, your family will be all right, you’ll leave something that can be built upon, and you go away.”

“I’m very happy because I think that my wife and the babies will be all right. I think my friends can build upon what we set up. I think the country can benefit, and consequently the world. When I say benefit, I’m not talking about changing the world or changing everything. I’m talking about just contributing to something positive.

“What age tells you is that it’s not complicated. It boils down to being the best person you can be and helping others wherever you can. What else can you do?”

“There is opportunity and room in the world for each one of us to make a contribution …” – Ameri-I-Can Trainee Manual, Page 34

Brown’s contribution is real. He conquered a violent game, then used that strength to help people from some of the most troubled pockets of America.

Rock Head was a hardened criminal with years of prison under his belt when he led a caravan of 60 Compton Crips to Brown’s house in 1991 as part of a peacemaking effort. But when he saw news cameras, he left in disgust. Brown kept phoning him, but the gangster wouldn’t answer. Finally, Brown got him on the phone and asked, “Are you a man, or a b—-?”

Rock Head recalls grabbing his .357 and rushing to Brown’s house. Brown answered the door.

“What did you say?” Rock Head demanded.

“I said are you a man, or a b—-? Are you gonna shoot me, or come inside and deal straight up with your problems?”

They talked for five hours and have been together ever since. When Rock Head’s daughter was shot and killed, when Rock Head himself survived being shot 11 times at point-blank range, Brown talked him off the ledge.

“He is my father,” Rock Head says. “When people ask what I do, I tell them I work for my dad.”

Erica “Tati” Carey grew up gangbanging with the Mansfield Hustlers in West Los Angeles. She was introduced to Brown through her longtime boyfriend Ronald “Loon” Barron. Around 2002, they began taking the Amer-I-Can curriculum together in a gang intervention program. It changed their lives. Their graduation ceremony was held at Brown’s home.

“Loon used to kill, steal and destroy. He ended up being one of the most effective gang intervention facilitators in all of America,” Carey says. “I was with him for 10 years. The program 1 million percent did it.”

Barron was killed in 2010 by a 16-year-old he tried to stop from writing graffiti on a wall. Carey now is a skin care specialist with her own line of products and celebrity clients such as Floyd Mayweather. “Amer-I-Can changed the way I make decisions,” she says. “It can change the perception of one’s entire life. You can change. It explains very specifically how to make a change.”

Amer-I-Can changed East Hartford High School in Connecticut, where the dropout rate plunged 50 percent after principal Steven Edwards secured a $50,000 per year state grant to offer the curriculum in the late 1990s. “We spend so much time on content and high-stakes testing, essential skills just don’t get taught that are needed not just to thrive, but survive in life. Amer-I-Can filled that void,” says Edwards, who is now an education consultant.

The program also helped keep good kids on track. “It was a head start of guiding me,” says Roy Roundtree, an assistant football coach at Indiana State University, who experienced Amer-I-Can at his middle school in Canton, Ohio. “I could have been on the wrong path. Growing up in the ’hood, you have a lot of distractions. I learned a lot of core values.”

Memories of these victories push Brown forward. He wants to duplicate as many as possible, change a few more lives before he’s gone. He wants his wife and Amer-I-Can children like Rock Head and Box to keep his legacy alive.

“If it’s not set up right, it will [fail],” admits Rock Head. “I’m worried. We all worried. We want to show that although the engine of Amer-I-Can is Jim Brown, that he does have enough guys that he respects and loves enough to run this program. I’ve been with him since ’91, ’92, never went back to jail, no trouble, never accused of anything. I’m a true example of change.”

But there is only one Jim Brown. Without his celebrity presence, without him carrying Amer-I-Can into ghettos and owners’ suites, the manual is a nice collection of inspirational quotes and pragmatic advice.

One man can only do so much. Your success, after all, ultimately rests with you.

When the players have left the meeting room, I ask Brown whether Amer-I-Can is his greatest accomplishment.

“I don’t think that way. That’s almost like standing back looking at yourself,” he says.

He gestures at the empty room. “This is the Cleveland Browns, man. That guy used to be Rock Head Johnson. We’re sitting here with Rock Head Johnson giving the Cleveland Browns a lecture. This guy was incarcerated. So was this guy,” he says, pointing at Box.

“But they’re sitting here now in a National Football League team headquarters. That’s not bad.”

‘Get Out’ star Marcus Henderson is making big strides in his two new films He now has added the Urban Movie Channel’s ‘Halfway’ to his list of credits that includes ‘Django’

Marcus Henderson has an acting portfolio that goes back as far as 2007. His most memorable roles are as Big Sid in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained (starring with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington) and Walter in Jordan Peele’s new race-provoking horror/comedy Get Out.

He just recently was a co-star in the Urban Movie Channel’s feature film Halfway, alongside Quinton Aaron of The Blind Side, which premiered on April 12. Now Henderson has joined the cast of Juanita, starring Alfre Woodard, a film involving The Wire director Clark Johnson.

No one can forget Henderson’s role as Walter, the groundskeeper, in Get Out. When the main character, photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), tries to maintain a sense of familiarity in Walter, he finds that his strange behavior is more than what it appears. In the end, Walter plays an integral role in Washington’s escape.

Henderson, a husband and father of two girls, ages 4 years and 7 months old, recently spoke with The Undefeated about Get Out, Django, Halfway, working with legends, brotherly love and his busy year.


Who inspired you growing up?

My mom. She said that she wasn’t proud of movies I’ve been in or what successes commercially in that sense. She was just proud to see that I was independent and I had my own family and I was taking care of things, being the man of the house and things like that. Whatever that’s supposed to mean, but I get what she means. It’s just that’s her definition of what being proud of me was. She’s been proud, so it’s like, ‘All right. Cool. Cool. I did something in this life. I made my mom proud.’

How was it like playing Paulie in Halfway and working alongside Quinton Aaron?

It definitely gave me an opportunity to showcase embodying a character fully. I’m not saying that none of my other characters aren’t embodied fully, but in Django, I got a little bit, just a little bit of, ‘Oh, I got your gun.’

He’s one of the characters who allow me to really grasp the concept of what it is to be in front of the camera and for the camera to capture everything, to make choices fully. Then it’s actually to represent a lot of people that I feel like I know. I know a lot of people in that situation who want to do better, but they’re just caught in the system that won’t allow it, that won’t allow them to play by their rules. It’s a humbling experience. It allows me to remember that there are people who are like Paulie.

Are you shocked by the success of Get Out?

Yes and no. No because from the very first day of shooting, Jordan said the word iconic. Iconic was just the word he used. No other word, and I believed him. So when Get Out came out, I felt like it was surreal because I’m thinking, all my other movies, ‘Come on. I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie,’ and I don’t even feel like it got that much attention. It was more controversy around it than it was actual, ‘Oh, man. This film is so good.’ It was more like, ‘Oh, why does Quentin Tarantino get to direct a movie about a black slave? Why does he get to do that? Why does he get to say the N-word so many times?’

How is it to work with Woodard and Foxx?

From going from watching people when you’re growing up to actually working side by side with them, it’s kind of surreal because you … I don’t like to set myself up with an expectation of who they should be or anything like that, but I always look to connect a little bit with that nostalgia of who this person was to me and what they meant to me. It’s such a great experience to learn from these veterans. You get to learn your own path through watching them.

There were certain things I didn’t even know, I got to do, until all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Jamie Foxx asked for X, Y and Z from the sound department and the camera crew, and then they’re all able to work together to make this scene happen. It’s not just about me standing here and saying my lines, it’s about really interacting with the crew, really understanding that everyone has their specific job and role to make this thing jump and highlight. Yeah, it was something that I find very useful to work with veteran actors that are still exploring and learning the art for themselves. It’s really nice, yeah. It’s really nice.

Alfre, she’s a person, she explores roles and she constantly evolves. She’s queen mother. She’s queen mother.

How was it working with Tarantino?

I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that surprised me, and especially after working with so many directors, is how caring Quentin is about his actors. He’s so full of character. In particular, I can give you an example. There was a scene at the beginning where we’re walking through the terrain, the woods or whatever, and he really wants to get a shot of our feet, but to protect us, they had these little prosthetic booties, they call them booties, feet made for us. We would walk on those as we did wide shots or shots of our faces, but he really wanted a shot of our feet. It was so cold outside, and it was freezing, absolutely freezing.

Then he ended up going and coming into the tent and talking to us. He’s talking to me and the other guys who were in the beginning, and he’s like, ‘Excuse me. Guys, I hate to do this to you, but I want to ask you. Do you mind if we do this shot without your booties on? Because we’re seeing that it’s prosthetic and this and that, and it would be a really great shot if we could get one without the booties.’ Me and my friends, we were kind of looking at each other, me and my castmates were looking at each other and, all of a sudden we’re thinking, ‘Why is he asking us?’ He could have just said, ‘Take these booties off. We’re going to do this shot.’

None of us were going to be like, ‘Oh, no. We ain’t doing that.’ It was many of our first movies, or our first go, or my first go-around, really, so I wasn’t going to be like, ‘No, man. I ain’t going to do that. It’s cold outside. My feet, it’d hurt.’ In the big scheme of things, this is Quentin Tarantino. I felt like I wasn’t going to mess up because whatever. We ended up taking them off and doing the job or whatever, and it was great. It was awesome. Like I said, I was working with directors who could care less, and they would be like, ‘Booties off.’

They wouldn’t care to ask us if we minded, but he did that, and that shows so much respect and care that it impressed me for the rest of my life, just because he was at that stature that we all buy into and he would come and say, ‘Hey. Do you mind?’ That, to me, is everything. Yeah, I would go to battle for Quentin. I would go to battle for him. That’s what it feels like.

What’s up next for you?

July 5, FX is dropping John Singleton’s new Snowfall, where I’ll be playing the neighbor of the main character played by Damson Idris. It’s a show about the rise of cocaine in the early ’80s in Los Angeles. I think it’s a great script, a really good story. These Belgian directors directed the first episodes that I was in, and then I did a few other ones with other directors. Yeah, they’re really good, top-notch guys that did a movie called Black. It was a Belgian movie called Black that’s really great.

Yeah, and then I’ll be doing Insidious 4. That’ll be out in August sometime, I believe. Yeah, 4. I’m a big fan of the first few movies that they’ve done, and then that’ll be my third Blumhouse movie. Getting into the Blumhouse family is really cool. Yeah, yeah. That’s what’s up next.

Me and my brother, we’re working on this pilot right now that I think really has some traction. I think it’s going to be going really well. I think some really great things. Maybe there’ll be a Get Out 2. Hopefully. The origins of Georgina and Walter.

What’s been the hardest part of your entire journey?

The hardest part of my entire journey is being a parent. As you know, there are books about it, but there is no specific book for one person to figure it out. We all have to figure out this journey on our own and in our own way. Having to do business on one side and really being in show business at least, it’s a lot of bringing yourself to the thing. Especially being an actor, you bring yourself to it all the time. That’s where you start.

It’s very different when you have a family and you are not necessarily jumping back and forth, but it’s a very interesting weaving of life. When I have to go away for weeks at a time or something I don’t get to see my family, and that’s hard. I think that’s one of the hardest things. I have such a humble beginning that everything is just an extra cherry on top of the ice cream for me. When it comes to life, I’m not set out to believe that this life was meant for struggle. I believe we’re all meant to live our best life and do what we can while we can. That allows me to just look at the bright side of things.

Are there any roles that you would love to do that you haven’t so far?

I love doing content that creates discussion, that creates conversation. As you look a lot of the movies that I’ve done and TV, you will see that there is conversation to be had about, in pretty much a lot of the things that I’ve been in, there’s always something to talk about, someone to reach out to, a different audience that it goes to. I like doing things that matter to me, pretty much. It’s funny because I don’t get sent out for a lot of comedy. It’s not like I’m going out and I’m on like TBS shows or ABC shows doing comedy or anything, but everything that you see me in, there’s something that is a little funny.

When I go to the movies and we go see a movie now and then or something, there’s laughter every time my scene comes up. I think that I would probably like to do a little comedy. I’m a really big fan of the Naked Gun and Airplane, those movies that the Zucker brothers did, and Police Squad and such. I’m a big fan. Me and my brother are big fans of those types of shows that, what’s the word? Absurdist. Absurdist kind of a comedy. I love that. Maybe I’ll be able to dip my hands in an absurdist show or two. I just got done doing a play, which is a pretty deep play, but I love doing theater. Theater’s my first love.

How close are you and your brother?

His name is Leon Henderson Jr. He’s a stand-up comedian. We’re both from St. Louis. Let me tell you something. My brother is four years older than me, and growing up, he was my hero. He still is in a lot of ways. My brother has always stood tall to me, even though I’m bigger than my brother. What had ended up happening was when I was 14 or so, he left to go to Thailand on a foreign exchange kind of thing. Whenever you leave home, I think, after high school, that’s when people really discover who they are and really get into tune with this life, how they operate within this life.

He learned life in Thailand, I feel like. He learned who he was in Thailand. When he came back, he had a really hard time adjusting to the things that Americans felt were important. He was just always dead set on traveling after that. He always wanted to travel, so he went to China. He went to all these places. I didn’t have my brother anymore, so then we spent a lot of years apart. We were close, but we weren’t close like that. We just didn’t really talk a lot, but one day, when I was at Yale and he had moved back to St. Louis after a trip to China, and he was working at FedEx, I think, and things weren’t going so well for that, he just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, should I say. I said, ‘Man, come to Connecticut and live with me. Live with me. I’ve got another year of school. We’ll figure this thing out together.’

He came. He took me up on my invitation and we stayed together in Connecticut. That bond started to grow stronger again. He’s my inspiration in a lot of the times. That’s hard to come by, especially for siblings. When they move away from each other, they’re not that close to each other. Me and my brother are very close. We live right down the street from each other.

He’s very close to my children. They call him Tio. Not Tio Leon. It’s just Tio. That’s another thing that makes my mother very proud. Both of her sons, her only two children, they’re in their 30s and they’re still tight. Anything my brother needs, I’m there for him.

What advice do you give to aspiring actors?

Don’t ever give up on something that you truly believe in. Just bring positivity, because there are people, there is a spectrum, and it’s a never-ending line on each side of the spectrum. You can go down far one end of it, and you can go far down the other end of it, but at the end of the day, you’re always going to be on the spectrum. You’ve got to understand where you are on that spectrum, but you can never give up on the dream in which the spectrum is based on.

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.”

The King is crowned: the true and actual arrival of LeBron James On a Detroit night, exactly a decade ago — via 48 points in double overtime — LeBron graduated from ‘phenom’ to ‘grown man’

As LeBron James embarks on his ninth Eastern Conference Finals since 2007, we look back at a pair of his most legendary road contests. This, the first of a two-part series, travels back to Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, when James’ Cavaliers squared off against the top-seeded Detroit Pistons. LeBron recently revealed his affinity for playing road playoff games: Adversity is his basketball aphrodisiac.


All great NBA players — all great athletes, really — experience The Moment. “That little moment when it clicks,” says Chauncey Billups, 2004 NBA Finals MVP. “And it’s like, ‘I’m here.’ ”

There are moments that define a career. For Kevin Garnett, it’s hard to pick a better one than when he yelled, “Anything’s possible!” at center court after Game 6 of the 2008 Finals. Serena Williams’ 2015 return to Indian Wells ranks as one of her “proudest moments.” But a moment that says, I’m here — that’s different. Usain Bolt’s moment arrived when he was 15. With his victory in the 200 meters, Bolt became the youngest gold medalist ever at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Jamaica. This was six years before he truly sprinted into history at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Denver-born Chauncey Billups personally experienced The Moment in the opening round of the 2003 postseason when his Detroit Pistons rallied from 3-1 down to defeat Tracy McGrady’s Orlando Magic. The first-round pick from the University of Colorado played for four NBA teams in his first five seasons before settling in Detroit. And for the first four games, Billups struggled to find an answer for Magic point guard Darrell Armstrong. Billups’ shot wasn’t falling. And Detroit, the East’s top seed, was on the brink of elimination — and embarrassment.

But then something clicked for Billups. A hunter’s mentality. Billups could be a shark or a guppy. The predator or the prey. Shots drawing iron earlier in the series found water. His confidence swelled. Billups scored 40 points in Game 6 and officially lowered Orlando’s casket in Game 7 with 37. “That,” he says, “was the point where I felt like I can be the dude I always thought I could be.” An all-time great sports nickname, “Mr. Big Shot,” was born.

During Game 1 of that very series, an increasingly familiar face sat courtside. LeBron James — 18 years old, and still two months from being chosen No. 1 overall in the 2003 NBA draft — gushed over McGrady’s felonious posterization of Mehmet Okur. Neither he nor Billups could imagine that the high school phenom would experience His Moment on the very same court just four postseasons later.


The NBA looked different on May 21, 2007, when the Cavs tipped off against the Pistons in The Palace of Auburn Hills. It was their second consecutive postseason meeting. Detroit won the previous matchup, LeBron’s first postseason, in seven games. Detroit had held Cleveland to the lowest point total in any Game 7 in league history. In ’07 the NBA had yet to fall completely in love with the 3-point shot. Kobe Bryant still searched for a post-Shaq title. James’ current running mates, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, were in high school.

And before LeBron’s Game 5 heroics came Game 1’s, for lack of a better term, decision.

The Pistons — led by Billups, Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace — harassed James all night in the series opener. Double teams. A healthy dosage of hard contact. ’Bron, despite nearly notching a triple-double with 10 rebounds and nine assists, only had 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Down 78-76 in the waning seconds of the game, James opted against taking a contested but makeable layup, instead zipping the ball to the corner — Donyell Marshall was wide-open. Marshall missed. And though Detroit eventually won 79-76, the home team was anything but pleased. In the Pistons’ locker room was an aura of having barely escaped. “It’s a positive that we won,” Wallace said after the game, “but it’s a negative because we didn’t feel like we won.”

And per a routine that has been consistent throughout his entire career, what LeBron did in the loss (as opposed to what the winners did to win) was the sexy post-game debate topic. Twitter was new, James himself didn’t join until 2010. But in newspapers, in comment sections, chat rooms and in barber shops from Compton to Cleveland, LeBron’s decision to defer the final shot dominated discussion.

Detroit’s best bet was to live with the results of James pulling up from 25 feet. Only they weren’t living.

“I like my teammates to be able to knock down open shots even if I can get all the way to the rim—and kick it out for a three,” James had said prophetically before Game 1. “I like the satisfaction of guys like Sasha [Pavlovic], Anderson Varejao, Donyell Marshall, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and all those guys on our team to feel like they’re important on our team.” He stuck to the script after the game, too. “I go for the winning play. The winning play when two guys come at you and a teammate is open, is to give it up. It’s as simple as that.”

Marshall, who made six threes in the previous game to help send the Cavs to the East finals, saw the beating James took. “It’s one of those things where it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” says Marshall, today the head basketball coach at Central Connecticut State University. “Should he have taken the shot? Maybe. But why? Because he’s LeBron James? At the end of the day, if I make the shot, nobody is saying anything.”

In private, the backlash didn’t seem to bother James. What did agitate him were the critiques of his teammates being less than worthy of his once-in-a-generation skill set. Historically trustworthy of his teammates, dating back to his high school days, bashes against them only fortified the Cavaliers’ bond. He’d turned 21 five months earlier, yet Marshall saw a veteran’s cool in James. And while the entire country chastised him, James leaned even more closely on his crew. “One of the very many things I respect about ‘Bron,” says Billups, “is he’s always been comfortable with who he is, and who he was. ‘Bron’s the kinda guy … wired to make right play at the end of the game. And all game. He puts pressure on the coach to make sure everybody in the game can make a shot, because they might get it.”

The next day, in practice, head coach Mike Brown ran the same exact play. He put a few seconds left on the clock. And he put Marshall in the same exact spot. LeBron again drove to the basket and beamed a pass to Marshall. “I make the shot and LeBron and the whole team run and mob me like we had just won Game 1,” Marshall recalls laughing. “We actually made a joke out of it.”

As the series plowed along, the intensity skyrocketed. A trip to the Finals hung in the balance—Cleveland’s first as a franchise or Detroit’s third journey in four seasons. The Pistons captured the first two games on its home floor. In Game 2, both LeBron and Larry Hughes missed what would have been game winners, throwing gasoline on the conversation which began after the opener. Cleveland captured Games 3 and 4 at Quicken Loans Arena, tying the series. LeBron led the charge in both.

The first four games were decided by a total of 16 points. The stage was set for a critical Game 5 in Detroit where Cleveland was 1-5 in the previous two postseasons. What lay on the horizon was one of the most prolific performances in NBA history. The Moment that would announce the arrival of a kid called “The King.”


Brian Albritton Jr. attended Game 5 with his father, along with a friend and his friend’s father on May 31, 2007—the same day Kobe Bryant made headlines by demanding a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. Albritton Sr. and Jr. are Detroit natives and—like father, like son—are diehard Pistons fans. After having completed his junior year at Hampton University, Brian Jr. was home to decompress, and to visit family. A suite at the Palace, thanks to his friend’s dad, was the hottest ticket in town. Though Brian Jr. was not sold on the hype around LeBron James.

“Back then,” says Albritton, now 31 and an account executive at Qualtrics, “I was part of the ‘Carmelo’s better than LeBron’ camp.” He was far from alone. Throughout The Palace ran the belief that no one man could beat the Pistons, who in 2007 were the Eastern Conference equivalent of the San Antonio Spurs with regard to their willingness to play team basketball.

The Cavs remained in striking distance of the Pistons through the first three and a half quarters. LeBron was his normal self—scoring when needed, distributing the ball to teammates. Midway through the fourth quarter, though, a flip switched. Exit LeBron James. Enter Freight James. A 17-foot jumper from LeBron gave the the Cavs an 81-78 lead with six minutes left. Aside from a Drew Gooden free throw, James would be the lone Cavalier to make a field gold in the final 17:48. He was the only one to score—period—in the final twelve minutes and forty-nine.

“Should he have taken the shot? Maybe. But why? Because he’s LeBron James? But at the end of the day, if I make the shot, nobody is saying anything.” —Donyell Marshall

In Albritton’s suite, jaws dropped. People in the crowd looked at each other, some for comfort, some just to make sure what was happening wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t. It was Detroit’s nightmare. LeBron was coming. And there wasn’t a force in the world built to derail him that night. “It was one of those situations where you’re conflicted because you’re watching greatness,” Albritton says, “but he’s putting it on you.”

Even Donyell Marshall didn’t quite realize exactly what was happening. “It’s great to be a basketball player. It’s great to be on the floor with the guy,” Marshall says. “But you don’t really get to see what he did, because you’re in the moment.”

Albritton, meanwhile, felt the momentum shift with each James bucket, but refused to believe the inevitable. “I was like, ‘Yo, [the Pistons are] still going to win this. He can’t do this by himself.’” A driving and-1 layup and three pointer were appetizers: with less than forty seconds left in regulation, the Pistons held an 88-87 lead. The Palace was on its feet. In disbelief, but on its feet, regardless. Albritton felt alone in an arena of over 22,000. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says.

James used a hesitation and between-the-legs dribble to propel himself toward the rim. He threw down a thunderous dunk, the violence of which reverberated loudly throughout The Palace and on televisions across the country. The flush was so violent, All-Defensive Second Team member Tayshaun Prince cut his losses by getting out of dodge. After a Billups 3 that gave Detroit a two-point lead and Brian Jr. belief that his assertion of James’ one-man explosion not being enough, came another James dunk. Then Billups barely missed the game winner.

Tied game. Overtime. Unfortunately for Albritton, James was only getting started.

“Back then,” says Albritton, now 31, “I was part of the ‘Carmelo’s better than LeBron’ camp.” He was far from alone.

In the first extra five minutes, the Pistons punched back like any champion would. But James—a leaping, sprinting, shooting, uncontrollable weapon of mass destruction in signature Nike Zoom Soldier 1 Witness PEs—responded with full force. “I just remember saying, ‘He can’t keep this up,’” Albritton recalls. “Because he was the only person scoring! It was literally like the four might as well not even come down the court on offense.”

The one-man inferno was by design. Get No. 23 the ball and get the hell out of his way. Donyell Marshall didn’t score a point in Game 5, but considers it one of the finest games in his 18-year playing career. According to Marshall, in the huddle, there was a sense James was doing something special. No one wanted to say much. Just let it happen.

“That was one of the first times I really heard him say, ‘You guys just get the stops for me on defense and I’ll take care of you guys on offense,’” says Marshall. “It was one of them things like, ‘Yo, you gon’ take care of the offense? We got you on defense.’ If you look at it, we banded together. We got the stops. We got him the ball and he took over.”

On the opposite end of the court, the Pistons scrambled for a solution. Any solution. A common blueprint for slowing James down, even now, is forcing him to shoot jumpers. Detroit’s best bet was to live with the results of James pulling up from 25 feet. Only they weren’t living. James was sucking the life out of the arena, one rib-cracking body blow at a time.

Anytime Billups and the Pistons had the chance to devise a scheme, they did. They talked during timeouts. They chatted between free throws. For the Pistons, a veteran squad with experience in close games, this run from LeBron was new territory even for them. They’d ended the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers dynasty three years earlier. They didn’t lose to supernovas.

“We didn’t make it easy on him. He was going to the floor hard, man. We was putting him on the wood. Hard. And he was just bouncing back, getting up, not saying nothing.” — Chauncey Billups

“We tried everything and everybody,” says Billups. “Tay [Prince] was on him for a while, then ’Bron got cooking. Rip was like, ‘Boom, lemme take him.’ He started frontin’ Rip. Then I was like, ‘Bro, lemme take him. Probably somebody need to pressure him. Give him a different look.’ Then he started cooking me. I can honestly tell you we tried everything we had. But with the great ones, it happens. I just never seen it happen like that.”

They sent double teams. They forced him baseline. The entire time, LeBron said nothing. He wasn’t a trash talker to begin with, at least not with the Pistons. Much like with his basketball hero, Michael Jordan, Detroit was a hurdle he had to clear in order to get to the next chapter of his career. “We didn’t make it easy on him,” Billups says. “He was going to the floor hard, man. We was putting him on the wood. Hard. And he was just bouncing back, getting up, not saying nothing. He kept coming to the rack, kept doing his thing. I respect it.”

Those in Albritton’s suite sat dazed and confused. Look to the left for comfort? There was none. Look to the right? It’s someone rubbing their temples. Albritton Jr. couldn’t quite put his finger on what was happening. He leaned over to his dad. “Yo, has anyone else scored in a while? I don’t know what he’s at right now, but it feels like he has the last 50.”

“I don’t know,” said Albritton Sr. Dad was exasperated.

Maybe because, to make matters worse, they witnessed the explosion up close and personal. Their suite was on the basket where James was painting a Motown masterpiece that would make Berry Gordy jealous. LeBron’s elbow jumper over three Pistons with the shot clock expiring in the first overtime broke Albritton Jr.’s spirit. Of course Billups remembers the shot, too. “He had so many,” he says. “But that one right there was just like, ‘Aight, s–t. If we doubling, and he’s doing that, what else can we do?’ ”

As the game careened into its second overtime, an entire arena understood history was taking place. There was the step-back jumper with Prince’s defense so smothering he may as well have been inside James’ jersey. Then came the behind-the-back crossover jumper on Billups. While it wasn’t exactly Iverson on Jordan, it did seem like the soundtrack to James’ repertoire was Snoop Dogg’s classic 1993 “Serial Killa” as he gave Pistons fans Six million ways to die. Choose one.

Marv Albert, Doug Collins and Steve Kerr called the game for TNT. Albert labeled LeBron’s performance “one of the all-time in NBA history.” When James’ 3 tied the game at 107 with 1:15 remaining, Kerr dubbed the performance “Jordan-esque.” Yet and still, a familiar scenario greeted LeBron in OT2’s final seconds. Shades of Game 1 a week and a half earlier returned in full force. However unfair, after everything he’d done to keep the Cavaliers in above water, it was winning time. Sink or swim.

“Yo, has anyone else scored in a while? I don’t know what he’s at right now, but it feels like he has the last 50.”

There was James, at the top of the key, with the game tied and the ball in his hands. Billups D’ing him up, looking him square in the eye. The Palace was on its feet again, both in awe and pleading for any sort of miracle. ’Bron cupped the ball by his waist, eyeing the clock — and Billups. Stalking prey, like a cheetah in the wild. With five seconds remaining, James made his move, gliding by Billups and splitting the double team of Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell, who opted not to foul. That put James at a spot on the floor that has always been his on-again-off-again fling: the free-throw line. Marshall stood in one corner. Damon Jones was wide-open in the spot that Marshall had been in four games prior. Only this time, LeBron kept the rock for himself.

James made the layup, giving the Cavs a 109-107 victory.

When Albritton Jr. turned on the car radio, his suspicions were confirmed. James finished with 48 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He scored 29 of the Cavaliers’ final 30 points, and the final 25 consecutive. “I told you nobody else scored!” Albritton yelled. A decade later he admits, “That night is when I was like, ‘There’s no question about it now. He’s that deal.’ He couldn’t miss.”

LeBron was burgeoning pop culture royalty in 2007. He was one of the NBA’s biggest names with one of its brightest futures. The season prior, as a 20-year-old, he’d finished with season averages of 31 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, trailing only Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson for the scoring title. But it wasn’t until Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals when LeBron The Phenom disappeared and made way for LeBron The Superstar. “That one performance was his validation,” says Billups, who is a full-time NBA analyst at ESPN. “It was him coming into being a grown man. It was him saying, ‘I just did this to them? Yeah, I can do this.’ You talk about confidence and momentum? It … gave him momentum for the rest of his career.”

The series ended in Cleveland the next game, giving the Cavs their first Finals appearance. And while they were swept by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs, a moment James later admitted he wasn’t mentally prepared for, it was the beginning of James’ decadelong Eastern Conference dominance: He’s appeared in every East final since 2007, sans 2008 and 2010.

As Marshall and James walked off the court after Game 5, the two allowed themselves a brief escape into euphoria. They’d backed the Pistons, the Eastern Conference gatekeepers, into a corner. They walked into the tunnel when James suddenly stopped. Pistons fans crowded around as the players disappeared to the locker room. An intense energy still permeated the arena. One Detroit fan caught ’Bron’s ear.

“We’ll see you in Game 7,” the fan guaranteed, “just like last year!”

“No,” James said with defiance, “you won’t.”