The NBA Awards show scores a win for the league — and for fashion Players and stars go for the slam dunk on the red carpet

The first annual NBA Awards kicked off in Basketball City at Pier 36 in New York with a hosting assist from Drake and a seriously good style show from some of the best players in sports.

It’s true that the biggest NBA stars were not there — no LeBron James, no Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, for example — but that will likely change next year. This awards show has plenty of room to grow into the “NBA Prom.” Besides, everyone knows how obsessed with fashion NBA players have become. Work that red carpet, boy! You know you want to. The fans want you to. And we will all watch anything — anything — that’s NBA-related in the postseason.

The top-of-the-line fashion appraisal of the night: A-plus for effort. Everyone pretty much brought their A game and were, as Dennis Green once said, exactly who we thought they would be (Draymond Green and John Wall). Actually, a few players did better than expected (we see you, JaVale McGee!), and the rest left the ridiculous style stuff to the Hollywood types (Nick Cannon and his ratty turban). Can’t wait for next year.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook won a few awards Monday night, including the NBA MVP and Game Winner of the Year. He also (rightly) won the best style award. Westbrook carried his suit jacket and let us luxuriate in his perfectly cut trousers, white shirt, tie and muscles.

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green

Green won the Defensive Player of the Year award Monday night, and your boy came to the show wearing a seafoam tuxedo jacket, formal Bermuda shorts and velvet slippers. Jesus, be a fence!

James Harden

James Harden lost the MVP award to Westbrook, his former Thunder teammate, but the Houston Rockets point guard was in fine style form after his recent jaunt to men’s fashion week in Paris. A muted green/blue suit and patterned shirt with brown suede boots? Very fall 2017. The Beard never disappoints.

James Harden attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

2 Chainz

The Atlanta hip-hop star is a huge NBA fan and was a constant courtside presence throughout the playoffs and Finals. He performed “Realize” with Nicki Minaj during the show. His pre-show outfit of capri pants and gold jewelry was a combo order of “dinner date at Cheesecake Factory” and “Saturday soccer dad.”

2 Chainz attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

2 Chainz attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

John Wall

Washington Wizards player John Wall was best dressed of the entire night in his custom three-piece suit by Jhoanna Alba and Christian Louboutin sneakers.

NBA player John Wall attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Ros Gold-Onwude and Drake

Ros Gold-Onwude, the Stanford-educated sideline reporter for the Golden State Warriors, walked the red carpet with Drake and legit sent Twitter into “Who’s that girl?” meltdown. The color of her red Jessica Rabbit dress (and figure) popped against Drake’s classic white dinner jacket and black tux pants.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Drake arrive at the NBA Awards at Basketball City on June 26, 2017 in New York.

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Wanda Pratt

Kevin Durant’s mother, Wanda “the Real MVP” Pratt, wore a bright yellow Carolina Herrera gown, Christian Louboutin heels and loads of stylist-assisted jewels.

Wanda Durant attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Jada Pinkett Smith

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith was a presenter (with Grant Hill) at the awards in a sheer black-and-gold lace gown from Sophie Theallet’s spring/summer 2017 collection. Stunning.

Jada Pinkett Smith attends the 2017 NBA Awards at Basketball City – Pier 36 – South Street on June 26, 2017 in New York City.

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

It’s no surprise Drake dropped three new tracks — here are the three reasons why He owned ‘Summer Sixteen,’ and now Aubrey Graham’s quest to stay relevant this summer has officially begun

On the last track of his long-awaited playlist More Life, which was released mid-March, Drake did the unthinkable: In the final four lines of the song, he informed the world that he was taking a sabbatical from music. Even more shocking, the Toronto hitmaker professed that the time off would take place during a time of the year when he always flourishes creatively.

Takin’ summer off, ’cause they tell me I need recovery / Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me / I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary / More life, Drake floated on the playlist’s 22nd track, titled “Do Not Disturb.”

The declaration itself is jarringly out of character, and its contents are strange. For the past four years, when the weather heats up, school’s out and the rooftop parties are in full swing, it’s inevitable that the season’s soundtrack is brought to you by Drizzy. Receipts below:

2016

One Dance,” “Controlla,” “Too Good (featuring Rihanna),” you name it. “Summer Sixteen” — the name of his track that inspired a 60-show journey across North America with Atlanta rapper Future, the highest-grossing hip-hop tour of all time — belonged to Drake, all sparked by the release of his fourth studio album, Views, in April 2016.

2015

The smash hit “Hotline Bling” sticks out, but don’t forget the two diss tracks directed at Meek Mill, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” from which the Philly rapper has yet to recover.

2014

Diddy gave Drake a beat and asked him to ghostwrite for it. But Drake took it for himself and delivered the undeniable “0 to 100/The Catch Up” in July 2014 — one of his definitive tracks that never made one of his albums.

2013

Drake gave us the smooth “Hold On We’re Going Home” in August 2013, which teed up one of the best albums — if not the best — of his career, Nothing Was the Same.


After such prolific summers, how would Drake take off in 2017?

It looked like he wouldn’t. Until now. But Drake recently made his way onto three new tracks. There’s the Louis Vuitton 2018 spring/summer runway theme “Signs,” a remix of PartyNextDoor’s “Freak in You” and a Metro Boomin-produced collaboration with Migos rapper Offset, titled “No Complaints.”

As his trademark season was approaching, Drake’s bold proclamation at the end of “Do Not Disturb” proved to be a bluff. He couldn’t resist the urge to release music this summer, and here are the reasons:

  • For a brief moment, Drake wasn’t the man anymore

Nearly a month after More Life dropped, Drake became a bit of an afterthought because of the release of the already certified platinum album DAMN., from Kendrick Lamar. The drop had to irk Drake at least a little bit, for the simple fact that it was Kendrick. Those two have been going at it for years, with a subtle beef dating back as far as 2013. And now, to Drake’s chagrin, Kendrick is the current leader in the clubhouse of critical acclaim.

  • Jay Z is set to drop his first album in four years

I shouldn’t even worry, backward n—-s / 12 solo albums, all platinum, n—- / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ numbers, right? / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ summers, right? These are Jay Z’s seminal lines from DJ Khaled’s Grateful track “Shining” (also featuring Beyoncé) that debuted in early 2017. Was Hov taking a shot at Drake? That’s what everyone thinks. Even though Drizzy began his career by rapping I never cried when ’Pac died / But I probably will when Hov does, asserting his admiration for the man many consider the greatest of all time— GOAT of hip-hop. The two MCs have butted heads quite a bit over the years, through bars and petty chess moves. Drake continued the trend with three new tracks on the brink of Jay Z releasing 4:44, his first album since 2013. Coincidence? Probably not.

  • Drake’s personal life became a bigger focus than the music

Not once, but twice, since the release of More Life, claims have been made that Drake has gotten a woman pregnant. First, a former stripper named Layla Lace alleged that the Toronto artist was the father of her unborn child, though the rumor was quickly dispelled. Then, TMZ reported that former porn star Sophie Brussaux was pregnant with Drake’s child — and she’s got a baby bump to support her claim. “If it is in fact Drakes child, which he does not believe, he would do the right thing by the child,” one of the artist’s reps said in a statement to the New York Daily News. So, in a way, the new music is a proclamation from Drake that, after all that’s happened out of the studio in the past few months, “I’m still here.”

Regardless of why you think Drake made a return, the reality is he’s back with new music that will certainly be in rotation this summer. The question, though, is this: Is there a new summer 17 project from the 6 God in the works? We shall see.

The Heart of a Songwriter: PartyNextDoor The OVO singer/songwriter should one day be in the Songwriters Hall of Fame

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriters Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


Room full of beautiful women, but I want one/ Room full of women and they notice me/ Now all they wanna listen to is Jodeci

— PartyNextDoor from “Freak In You”

PartyNextDoor turns 24 next month. And despite an ever-evolving catalog of hit records, he maintains a semblance of anonymity in a genre where very little is secret. But the young Mississauga, Ontario, native already boasts songwriting credits with two of the biggest pop stars in the world: Rihanna and Beyoncé. The towering responsibility of penning lyrics, which almost immediately become worldwide calling cards, for the biggest names in music isn’t so much a challenge for the former church choirboy as an escape. “It’s the same process [as when I write for myself],” he said, “but I can go into imagination with other people. You know, go into a different bag.”

It’s this type of moody ambiance that defines OVO’s most sluggish yet savagely romantic records.

Born Jahron Brathwaite, OVO’s enigmatic pen has secured writing credits on Rihanna’s magnum opus, Anti — in particular, last year’s smash “Sex With Me” and the No. 1 pop hit “Work” featuring OVO honcho Drake. And moments after the conclusion of the 2017 Grammys, DJ Khaled unleashed the first of what should be a string of massive hits from Beyoncé and Jay Z with their “Shining”; PND wrote for Beyoncé on the track: Money don’t make me happy/ And a fella can’t make me fancy/ We smilin’ for a whole ’nother reason/ It’s all smiles through all four seasons. PartyNextDoor has also already established himself as a solo artist in his own right. He released his third full studio album, P3, last summer, led by the hit singles “Not Nice” and “Come and See Me.”

It’s said solo work that requires a different level of self-realization. A level he wasn’t always totally comfortable with. Credit marijuana for the breakthrough. “I was so against smoking weed ’cause I always wanted to be in control, but my friend convinced me to smoke weed one day,” he told The FADER in 2015. “And as soon as I smoked weed, that’s when I started writing like that.”

Writing like what? Writing like what you would say in a DM and you knew no one was ever going to take a screen shot. It’s PND’s desire to tell truths that led him to release his recent five-song Colours 2 EP. Recorded entirely over production from longtime collaborator G.Ry (who also scored production credits on Drake’s More Life), the project sticks to the script of Party’s vibe. It’s mysterious, yet honest in its intentions. It’s melodic, yet enigmatic to the point where Party’s fantasy could be just that — or reflections of an idea simply yet to become reality. And his music is sexual — yet vulnerable. No record on the project encompasses the ROYGBIV spectrum of emotions than the subtle cover of Jodeci’s 1995 ode, “Freek’n You.”

His version is called “Freak In You” and is more of a question than action. Room full of beautiful women, but I want one/ Room full of women and they notice me/ Now all they wanna do is listen to Jodeci. It’s this type of moody ambiance that defines OVO’s most sluggish yet savagely romantic records, so many of which flow from the pen of PND. Old-fashioned ideas of “love” aren’t the driving emotions. Love is often a revolving door at October’s Very Own. Love is the desire for companionship, however temporary. This is your time, PND croons, I need to know if you’re down/ ‘Cause if not, I know there’s more around. Reality.

Much of the allure from the songwriter arises from the picturesque yet flexible vibe his music emits. “Freak” plays on words — If you want it/ Burnin’ rubber (skrrt)/ Burnin’ through these rubbers is exhausting/ Drop, drop, hot/ Baby girl, it’s Crossfit. But the lyrics are also clear in their intentions, a characteristic that came to define Jodeci’s music, a la 1991’s “Come and Talk To Me” and 1993’s “Feenin’ ” — Ain’t no peer pressure, sings PND. Girl, it’s what you wanna do/ So what kind of mood you in?/ You know what I wanna do/ You see what I see.

“Freak In You” falls in line with erotic PND songs such as “Persian Rugs,” “Break From Toronto” and “Recognize.” It’s easy to imagine lips touching lips. G.Ry’s dark yet carnal backdrop makes it easy to imagine the daylong text sessions leading up to the night’s main event. And it’s easy to understand why so many of his songs aren’t safe for work. So pretty, girl, you belong in a gallery / What’s your fantasy? (Your fantasy?) / Say something you ain’t never did (ain’t never did). What PartyNextDoor is trying to do is be the soundtrack for our memories. Even if you can never speak on them.

NBA glamour is all about courtside From Rihanna to Jay Z; Beyoncé to Drake, sitting on the wood is its own red carpet

Rihanna just walked in front of me,” Jeff Van Gundy yelled during the first quarter of Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals. He completely skipped over the vicious dunk LeBron James had just unleashed on JaVale McGee. “Are you kidding me?!”

Fellow commentators Mike Breen and Mark Jackson chided their longtime colleague, but Van Gundy’s brief moment of distraction was warranted — she’s one of the biggest pop stars and beautiful people in the world. But it wasn’t just Rihanna sitting courtside in the Oracle Arena in East Oakland, California. Maybe it’s the trilogy effect, but this may just be the most star-laden NBA Finals ever. Aside from Rihanna, Jay Z, Kevin Hart, Marshawn Lynch, Power’s Omari Hardwick and Bay Area legends Too $hort, Raphael Saadiq and E-40 were all in attendance — either courtside or a few rows back.

Yet, it was Rihanna, from her plush digs — on the announcers’ side just a few seats away from Jay Z — who made worldwide headlines by matching wits with Kevin Durant. The Grammy winner and 2014 NBA MVP locked eyes on more than one occasion as Rihanna used her multimillion-dollar voice to chastise Durant. Rihanna came up short, though. KD dropped 38 points in a Game 1 blowout victory.


Celebrities and sporting events, to quote the great Tracy “Hustle Man” Morgan, “go back like spinal cords and car seats.”

As Muhammad Ali’s fights were makeshift Met Galas for actors, actresses, musicians and hustlers, at 2015’s Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao bout, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Don Cheadle, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, Antoine Fuqua and more piled in to Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. But what makes the professional basketball courtside experience different is that the attendee is sitting right on top of the game. Courtside is more intimate than ringside: One’s feet are literally on the field of play. Jay Z refers to himself in 2009’s “Empire State of Mind”: Sitting courtside / Knicks and Nets give me high fives / N—-, I be Spiked out, I can trip a referee.

This is far from Shawn Carter’s first courtside homage. On Cam’ron’s 2002 anthem, “Welcome To New York City,” Jay boasts: I ain’t hard to find/ You can catch me front and center / At the Knick game, big chain in all my splendor/ Next to Spike if you pan left to right/ I own Madison Square / Catch me at the fight. It makes sense that both these lyrical moments nod at the world’s most famous Knicks fan — and courtside royalty — director Spike Lee. It’s Lee — Rihanna’s courtside prophyte in a sense — who stars in basketball’s most well-known courtside beef. He and Reggie Miller’s infamous back-and-forth during the 1994 Game 5 of the Knicks vs. Pacers Eastern Conference finals was defined by Miller’s 25-point fourth quarter and capped off with Miller’s choking gesture to Lee. The tense moment is immortal, iconic NBA playoff lore.

For the Los Angeles Lakers, courtside culture can be dated to the legendary actress Doris Day, better known as “the Neil Armstrong of Lakers’ celebrities.” Day, the biggest female box office star of the late ’50s and early ’60s, opened the courtside door at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Fellow A-listers such as Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon, and Walter Matthau followed her in to watch future Hall of Famers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor lead the Lakers to multiple Finals appearances. The move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles made the Lakers the NBA’s first West Coast squad in 1960 — a move directly influenced by Lakers owner Bob Short noticing the financial gold mine the Dodgers found in L.A. following their move from Brooklyn, New York, two years earlier.

The appearance of celebrities courtside exploded in the era of the Magic Johnson-led “Showtime” Lakers. Johnson embodied 1980s Hollywood — the flashy play, the good looks and, of course, that 2,000-watt smile. Comedian Arsenio Hall was a regular at the Forum, as was singer Dionne Warwick, Michael J. Fox, Ted Danson, Jimmy Goldstein and, most famous of them all, Jack Nicholson. These were kings and queens of that era’s show business realm.

“If you’re an A-level person, and we know the fans are going to go bananas when your picture goes up on the scoreboard, then there’s a value having you there,” Barry Watkins has said. He’s the Madison Square Garden Co.’s executive vice president and chief communications officer. He’s the plug when it comes to courtside seats at the Garden. “It’s a big part of the brand. Win or lose, it’s one of the reasons people come to the games.” Entertainers want to be entertained, too. Plus, basketball and Hollywood were meant to be significant others off the rip: talent, egos, competition, drama, controversy, animosities and, all playing out under the bright, bright lights.

According to Shawn “Pecas” Costner, vice president of player relations at Roc Nation Sports, the continued charm of courtside seats has largely to do with the popularity and influence of hip-hop culture. “The flyest thing you can do at a basketball game — besides play in the game — is sit courtside,” he said from his New York City office.

And this is not solely due to the glamour and bravado associated with rap. Pecas believes that these days, the courtside thing is just as much about the hard-knock journeys associated with the music’s biggest stars. Pecas came to Roc Nation Sports in 2014, following 18 years in the music business, most notably as executive vice president at Def Jam Recordings. The Bronx, New York. native, who grew up with Big Pun, Lord Tariq and Jennifer Lopez, earned his stripes in several capacities at V2, Elektra and Arista Records before joining Def Jam in 2005. “When we were kids,” he said, “and used to go see the Knicks play the Bulls on Christmas Day, we were in the 300 section. You had to bring your binoculars to watch. You always wanted to see who was the one or two black guys sitting courtside because at that time, it was only one or two.”

While not quite a regular courtside fixture, Pecas has his share of memories. He and his longtime colleague Mike Kyser, president of black music at Atlantic Records, sat courtside for rookie game and dunk and 3-point contests at the 2012 All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Florida. Pecas would normally give his tickets away to artists in town for the big game on Sunday, but as destiny would have it, not as many came that year, and Pecas and Kyser received floor seat assignments for the actual All-Star contest. “You’re like, ‘Oh s—!’” he said, his voice getting higher as he takes a trip down memory lane. “ ‘Am I courtside for the NBA All-Star Game?’ You gotta make sure the outfit is right just in case. Make sure you wear the right sneakers.”

The game itself was one of the more entertaining All-Star Games in recent memory, the highlight being a LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant scoring barrage. Pecas and friends documented the memories on social media with the hashtags such as #OnTheWood, and #Woody Harrelson. In Pecas’ office hangs framed photo of himself in the New York Daily News. He looks on as Kevin Durant — now a Roc Nation client — flushes home a dunk with James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love looking on.

As for this year’s NBA Finals, Pecas said he can’t even begin to predict the number of celebrities who’ll be sitting courtside for however long the Warriors and Cavaliers do business. The possibilities are limitless because the NBA is more committed to its fans both domestically and abroad than any other American sports entity. While cries of superteams killing the product cause constant debates at social media and on sports talk shows, the NBA celebrated its third consecutive record-breaking year of fan attendance. And the NBA certainly loves the social status of having some of the world’s biggest celebrities taking in the game mere feet away from some of the world’s most popular athletes. The photos below showcase some of those personalities, from yesteryear to the present.

Pecas said it’s difficult to describe the feeling of sitting courtside, but he gives it a try: “Sitting courtside is like flying private for the first time,” he said. “You never wanna go back.”

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Jay Z and Kevin Hart share a laugh at Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Time heals all wounds, so one can only hope they’re sharing a laugh about the time the comedian once spilled an entire bottle of pineapple juice on Jay Z and his wife, Beyoncé, in a nightclub.

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That’s Rihanna at Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals probably yelling at Kevin Durant. Given her history with the Warriors these past few seasons, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction she gets the next time she has a concert in Oakland, California, or San Francisco. (Spoiler: She’ll still sell out the arena and be welcomed like a queen because her fan base really doesn’t care about her sports preferences.)

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Never, ever doubt Spike Lee’s loyalty to his New York Knicks. Here’s the famed director in January 2013 at London’s O2 Arena for a regular season game between the Knicks and Detroit Pistons. This won’t happen — but if the Knicks win an NBA title within the next 15-20 years, Lee needs to be the first person to hoist the trophy. That’s the least we can do after the powers that be robbed him (and Denzel Washington) of an Oscar for Malcolm X.

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While I did get to attend Dave Chappelle’s famous Juke Joint party this year in New Orleans, I’m greedy. This is the same reaction I have every time I think of the Chris Rock/Chappelle superset they did in The Big Easy in late March. In reality, it’s Rock gesturing at Will Smith at Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

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On the bright side, Mary J. Blige got a chance to see Kobe Bryant drop 50 points on Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2006 opening round quarterfinals. On a not-so-bright side, it’s almost as if you can see the inevitable written on her face — the Los Angeles Lakers blowing a 3-1 series lead and Bryant having the most controversial game of his career in Game 7.

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Sean “Diddy” Combs and Snoop Dogg: Pictured at Game 6 of the 2010 Finals between the Celtics and Lakers, neither knew the series would shift that night when center Kendrick Perkins went down with a knee injury. There’s also no confirmation if the two spoke of their appearance on The Steve Harvey Show as they attempted to quell the simmering East Coast-West Coast tensions 13 years earlier.

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At this point, the New York Knicks need whatever residual prayers are left over from Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Act series.

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LeBron James and Drake: There’s no rapper currently who enjoys the perks of sitting courtside more than Drake. Perhaps paying respects in The 6, that’s LeBron James taking a drink from Kevin Hart and giving it to the Toronto Raptors ambassador during the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto.

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Everyone wanted hottest ticket in America in the fall of 2010 to see the Miami Heat’s new “big three” of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Including the greatest of all time herself, Serena Jameka Williams.

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Jack Nicholson and Michael Jordan: The Joker and The Cold Blooded Killer post up at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, 1999, for a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. The night featured six Hall of Famers (Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Dennis Rodman and MJ, himself, courtside). Seven including future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.

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Stuart Scott, Samuel L. Jackson and Allen Iverson — In one of the cooler sports pictures out there, we’ve got three legends. One in Samuel L. Jackson who, if he doesn’t by now, should have a trademark on the word “m—–f—–.” Two, we have Allen Ezail Iverson, 2016 Hall of Fame inductee and NBA living legend. And three, Stuart Scott doing what he always did best. R.I.Booyah, Stu. We still miss you.

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Murder Inc.’s two genius creative seen here in 2002 at a Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors game. That year — ironically the one before 50 Cent became global sensation — was a good one for the label. Ja Rule and Ashanti’s “Always On Time” and “Down 4 U” both made Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 Singles.

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Here we have Diana Ross at a Knicks and Charlotte Hornets playoff game with her sons. Fun fact: Ross’ No. 1 smash single “Touch Me In The Morning” was released on the same day the New York Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the 1973 NBA Finals — a series that would give the storied franchise its last NBA title.

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Barry Obama’s love of hoops is one of the most relatable and endearing parts of his legacy. He even had a court put in at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Here’s the 44th president sitting courtside at an October 2015 game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Obama’s hometown Chicago Bulls.

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John Legend, Benny The Bull, and Chrissy Teigen — Life was all good for the Bulls in 2011. Derrick Rose was a superstar en route to an MVP season. They were the top seed in the East. And Benny The Bull had model Chrissy Teigen sit on his lap while future husband John Legend snaps a picture.

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YG and Nipsey Hussle: When they’re not making anti-President Donald Trump anthems, two of L.A.’s finest young guns can be found supporting the hometown squad. This was also the game that birthed one of the funnier basketball memes of the season, too.

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Supporting her husband, Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union takes in the festivities of Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. The Miami Heat would, of course, go on to win that game and repeat as NBA champions. But not without its share of drama.

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Jay Z and Beyoncé Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell down 0-2 to the Warriors last year and won four of the last five. But that was last year before a 7-foot pterodactyl with range out of the gym joined the squad. If you’re Cleveland, it’s time to call in the secret weapon: Beyoncé. She look like she’s ready to give birth at any moment to the twins (if we’re lucky, they’re named Bad and Boujee Carter). But LeBron James always plays superhuman — and he’s going to have to play super, super, superhuman to beat the Seal Team 6 Warriors. That only happens if The Queen is courtside.

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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett — One of America’s longtime premier black power couples is no stranger to the courtside life. Here, the two TV stars turned movie stars share a smooch. The No. 1 all-time Will and Jada courtside story? Three days following the release of what became The Fresh Prince’s most commercially successful album in Big Willie Style and a month before their wedding, the couple attended the Sixers/Lakers game on Nov. 28, 1997. The matchup featured a pair of Hall of Famers dueling it out in Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, who came off the bench. But more importantly, the couple got up close and personal with Jerry Stackhouse and Eddie Jones, who crashed into them.

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Wanda Durant and Marshawn Lynch — In the past year, Oakland, California, has welcomed Kevin Durant — and by proxy his mother, Wanda Durant — and its favorite football son, Marshawn Lynch, back to The Town’s fold. Both pictured here at Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals. While it wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden State Warriors held on to win two more games, the more fascinating plot twist is if they let Lynch party with them during a potential championship parade. Mic Lynch and Draymond Green up and show it on pay-per-view.

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

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

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

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

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


20. WEEK 10 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS — LSU

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

Instagram Photo

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

16. week 12 vs. cleveland browns — Paint splatter

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

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

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

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

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

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Instagram Photo

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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

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

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

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

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

9. Week 14 vs. dallas cowboys — 300

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

5. week 4 vs. Minnesota vikings — OVO

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

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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

4. 2017 Pro Bowl — Toy Story

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

3. WEEK 16 VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — GRINCH

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

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

1. WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — THE Joker

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

Aux Cord Chronicles XI: Rooftop vibes From 2 Chainz to Beenie Man and Mya to Drake — 51 songs to jump-start your summer

This 11th edition of Aux Cord Chronicles is predicated on something we all love: the benefits of warm weather. And what’s the point of having longer days and warmer nights without the appropriate soundtrack to go with it? While the title says “rooftop,” #ACC11 is transferable to lazy days on the beach, boat parties (if you’re ballin’ like that) and any other situation where you and your people can, as someone once put it, “look forward to the memories of right now.” With songs from Xscape, Timbaland and Magoo, Beenie Man and Mya, Usher, Miguel, Drake, UGK and OutKast, Beyoncé, Rihanna, SZA, Travis Scott and a ton more, there should be something here for just about everyone. You know the rules by now. Hit us up on social media and let us know your entries. Let’s get it. After all, I’m not going to say our Aux Cord Chronicles is the best thing to happen to music since Don Cornelius created Soul Train. But I’m not going to stop you from saying it, if the spirit moves you.

Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff — ‘Summertime’ (1991)

Just like it’s not the holidays until Donny Hathaway tells us so, it’s sure not summer until The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff give us the go-ahead with this Grammy winner. Here it is/ The groove slightly transformed/ Just a bit of a break from the norm: Seriously, play “Summertime” around just about any age group and you’re guaranteed to get a reaction. Based on a sample from Kool & the Gang’s eternal B-side, “Summer Madness,” this is truly one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Mary J. Blige — ‘You Remind Me (1992)

While the remix is great in its own right, my heart and unyielding love will always remain with the OG New Jack Swing-era version. Certain songs have an uncanny ability to make me wish I was in college when the song was new, and popular. The way you walk/ And the way you talk/ And the way you move and … oh to be at a historically black college when Blige’s first Top 40 hit was played at every house party.

2Pac — ‘I Get Around (1993)

Compared to his bigger, more controversial releases — 1995’s Me Against The World, 1996’s All Eyez On Me and The 7 Day Theory — Tupac Shakur’s sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. But it should. The 1993 album was a focused project showcasing a 22-year-old Shakur tackling issues of police brutality, women’s rights, inner-city blues and, yes, his penchant for “getting around.” I love the way she licks her lips/ See me jocking / Put a little twist in her hips/ ’Cause I’m watching: With verses from Digital Underground’s Money B and Shock G (who produced), not even New York radio personality Funk Flex can deny the staying power of Strictly’s second single.

Xscape — ‘Just Kickin’ It (Remix) (1993)

There’s an entire generation who knows of Kandi Burruss and Tameka “Tiny” Harris from their reality shows. But real ones know they represented 50 percent of ’90s quartet Xscape — along with LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott. As a foursome, these ladies produced a trilogy of platinum albums that included six Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 songs, including this one. But we’re focusing on the remix. It’s almost as if you can see you and your friends, drinks in hand, with the city’s skyline behind you as you sway to the Staples Singers’ sampled beat, singing the hook. It’s one of the best hooks from the ’90s. Period.

Da Brat — ‘Funkdafied’ (1994)

Want to feel old? Da Brat’s classic — her Jermaine Dupri-produced introduction to the world, her first single from the album of the same name — is actually older than most of the seniors who graduated from college this year.

Junior Mafia feat. The Notorious B.I.G. — ‘Player’s Anthem (Remix)’ (1995)

Could’ve gone with 1994’s “Big Poppa.” Could’ve gone with “One More Chance,” from the same year. But I went with “Player’s Anthem (Remix)” for two reasons. One, Kim’s verse — Big Momma shoots the game/ To all you Willies and criminals — is still flames. And, two, the hook is just as cold today as it was 22 years ago when Biggie stood as The King of New York.

Timbaland & Magoo feat. Missy Elliott & Aaliyah — ‘Up Jumps Da’ Boogie’ (1997)

We praise the Bad Boys. The Death Rows. The Rocafellas. The No Limits. The Cash Moneys. For bona fide reasons, too. But if I’ve said this a million times, that means I have at least another 2 million to go. The Timbo-Missy-Aaliyah-Ginuwine-Static Major quintet and the sounds they produced in the late ’90s and early 2000s were paramount for my growth as a music fan. It’s tough to call “Up Jumps” a purely Virginia classic, especially when the record hit No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the pop singles chart. And the record wasn’t full-fledged hip-hop or R&B but a weird, happy mix of both that came to define their sound. It’s utterly ridiculous how much great music they released in that span.

DMX — ‘How’s It Going Down’ (1998)

Yes, I’m aware X’s first album classic, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, has been in an Aux Cord Chronicle before. It’s not my fault that it fits various moods. And, OK, sure, the song is about infidelity and a potential drug run. Coming through, like I do, you know, getting my bark on/ Knew she was a thug ’cause when I met her she had a scarf on. But you can’t tell me this doesn’t feel like warm summer nights with cold drinks and chill vibes.

Beenie Man feat. Mya — ‘Girls Dem Sugar’ (2000)

It’s Beenie’s song, no doubt about that: Excuse me baby/ But I really just have to tell you this / It’s been a while/ I’m admiring yuh tenderness. Yet and still, let the record forever show Mya as the real MVP here: You can take the stars like the sky for you /There’s nothing in this world that I couldn’t do for you. A must-have for any kickback. And if there’s a rooftop and view of a city’s skyline, or sunset at the beach, even better.

Fabolous feat. Jagged Edge & Diddy — ‘Trade It All Pt. 2’ (2002)

Enough to make you wanna grab your throwback jersey or jersey dress and remember when life was so much easier 15 summers ago. Salute to ESPN’s Jalen Rose in the video, too.

Usher — ‘Bad Girl’ (2004)

A classic from Confessions, the best R&B album of the 2000s. I meant what I said the other week, too. Usher was truly the most unstoppable force in R&B for a good minute.

Sleepy Brown feat. Big Boi & Pharrell — ‘Margarita’ (2006)

Because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. And because it’s a vastly underrated Pharrell hook — Go with me for a ride / Aren’t you feeling nice? — that deserves more appreciation.

UGK feat. OutKast — ‘International Players Anthem’ (2007)

Or, as it’s known in my life — the perfect rap song. I challenge you to come up with five more legendary opening lines than So, I typed a text to a girl I used to see / Saying that I chose this cutie pie with whom I wanna be/ And I apologize if this message gets you down / Then I CC’d every girl that I’d see-see ’round town. In the decade since its release, I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love this iconic collaboration. Yes, iconic. The real fun is in debating who had the best verse. There’s no wrong answer, but if you’re asking me today, I’m going with Pimp C. Chad’s sermon opening as soon as the beat drops (a decision he was originally against) sounds like the gates of rap heaven opening up. Bless everything about this record.

Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne — ‘Girls Around The World’ (2008)

We all remember how influential the words “featuring Lil Wayne” were in the mid- to late 2000s. At the peak of his powers, The Best Rapper Alive connected with Lloyd, who had his own impressive run during the same time, as the two waxed poetic on their favorite topic: women.

F.L.Y. — ‘Swag Surfin’’ (2009)

Also known as the updated “Electric Slide.” I couldn’t name another song by Georgia’s own Fast Life Yungstaz if my life depended on it. But that’s OK because this really is one of the all-time great party gospels. And, apparently, graduation songs. While we’re here, one of the great regrets in my life is never getting to Swag Surf with the Obamas at the White House. I’d never try it at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. now, though. They might think I’m having a medical emergency and then deny me health insurance because they’ll see Swag Surfing as a pre-existing condition. Disclaimer: Just so we’re clear, though, it’s Lil Wayne’s version over everything. So why not go with it here? Well, simple. Wayne’s freestyle doesn’t have the Man, I got that swaggggggg/ My hat matchin’ that baaaagggg … part. Which, of course, is the calling card of the whole vibe.

Rihanna feat. Drake — ‘What’s My Name’ (2011)

It’s crazy to believe six years have already passed since this song was one of the biggest records on the planet — Rihanna’s eighth U.S. No. 1 and Drake’s first. It ensured that Rihanna topped the U.K. singles charts for the fifth consecutive year, putting her in the company of Elvis Presley. But when Rihanna and Drake finally do what they’re supposed to do — drop their joint album, AubRih — this will be known as the collaboration that started it all.

Beyoncé — ‘Love On Top’ (2011)

I still haven’t forgiven Beyoncé for overshadowing my most recent birthday with her pregnancy announcement. But I have to remember she did the same thing to someone else on Aug. 28 when, at the 2011 MTV VMAs, she said, “Tonight I want you to stand up on your feet, I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me” — then proceeded to perform “Love On Top” without missing a beat. She revealed to the world that Blue Ivy Carter was on her way, much to the delight of Jay Z and Kanye West, seen here in much simpler times. It’s a great and soulful and upbeat song — one that’s going to be around for a long, long, long time. You’re the one that gives your all / You’re the one I can always call / When I need to make everything stop / Finally you put my love on top. It’s a wedding reception classic.

Drake feat. Majid Jordan — ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ (2013)

Almost like you should be on a boat, in a white linen outfit, with a Cuban cigar off the coast of Santorini, right? In a career with countless smash records, the second single from Aubrey’s third studio album Nothing Was The Same is Drake at his most infectious. He’ll be performing this at his Las Vegas residency in 20 years. Also, the video is a classic Drake juxtaposition: with guns, murder and the betrayal of false friends and Drake saving the damsel in distress. But doing so over a smooth, R&B-laced record.

YG feat. TeeFli — ‘Do It To Ya’ (2014)

God bless Tha Dogg Pound homage. YG’s laid-back summer ode — from the modern-day classic My Krazy Life — deserves all the love it receives three years after its release. Pool party, day party and rooftop-tested. Pool party, day party and rooftop-approved.

Jamie xx feat. Young Thug & Popcaan — ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’(2015)

This song should’ve been so much bigger than what it was. Side note: It is featured on NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K17.

The Internet — ‘Get Away’ (2015)

When we’re recapping the best albums of the 2010s come December 2019, The Internet’s Ego Death will deserve serious consideration. “Get Away,” the LP’s opening track, sets the mood perfectly. This group has mastered the art of mood music.

Future — ‘March Madness(2015)

What’s wild is that after 200,000 listens from me alone, it still tugs at the heartstrings just as much as it did when I heard basketball great LeBron James’ favorite song in Los Angeles for the first time. I really hope I can weave Dress it up/ And make it real for me into my wedding vows.

Miguel — ‘Waves’ (2015)

It’s been almost two summers since Miguel dropped Wildheart. There’s no way I can hear “Waves” and not instantly reminisce on summer nights in Los Angeles, house parties in Hollywood and the Fourth of July at Manhattan Beach with the homies. If I could ride that wave right now … That year on the West Coast was a dope period in my life, and one I’ll carry with me forever. And since we’re on the topic, some new music from the “late bloomer” wouldn’t be a bad look at all this summer.

NxWorries — ‘Scared Money’ (2016)

We talked a lot about artists like Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott in 2016. For good reasons, too. All of their albums knocked. But one of the coldest and most underrated was Yes Lawd! from the duo of Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge. Truth be told, any cut from their winsome collab project applies here. But whenever anyone does a Paid In Full homage, they had me at Hello.

Gucci Mane feat. Drake — ‘Both’ (2016)

We may never see their mythical collab album, The 6ers, and that’s fine. It’s probably best not to ruin a good thing because this The Return of East Atlanta Santa standout, produced by Metro Boomin and Southside, is hitting its stride just as the weather takes a turn for the warmer. Perfect.

PARTYNEXTDOOR — ‘Not Nice’ (2016)

This song just reminded me to book my vacation. We’ll leave it at that.

Chance the Rapper feat. Knox Fortune — ‘All Night’ (2016)

Confession: While Coloring Book instantly became a personal favorite last year, “All Night” was the one record I always skipped. Then, I started hearing it when I was out, to the point where I came to understand the song’s intention — stop treating me different and just party. Sure, I could’ve easily chosen “No Problem” and been just fine. But there’s something about warm weather, good vibes and hearing Is you is or is you ain’t got gas money/ No IOUs or debit cards, I need cash money at just the right time.

Bruno Mars — ‘That’s What I Like’ (2016)

Cool jewel be shining so bright / Strawberry champagne on ice: It’s of the truly awesome feel-good songs of recent memory and shows no signs of slowing down as you prepare to make summer memories with your Day 1s.

Kap G — ‘Girlfriend’ (2016)

Credit Issa Rae’s Insecure in particular, episode 6, Shady As F— for putting me on to this song.

The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk — ‘I Feel It Coming’ (2016)

It’s that song you hear at post-work happy hours as the day drifts from evening to night. You’ve heard the song a thousand times already. Just as long as you’re cool with hearing it another 10,000 times by the end of the summer. It’s The Weeknd and Daft Punk. You can’t expect anything less.

Travis Scott feat. Young Thug & Quavo — ‘Pick Up The Phone’ (2016)

Honestly, just let the entire Birds In The Trap Sing Brian McKnight ride. No, for real, press play on the first song and step away from your phone. Thank me later. This cut in particular is the seamless and perfect collaboration featuring three of the game’s most sought-after and enigmatic forces. Tell me you wouldn’t listen to an EP from all three. I dare you.

D.R.A.M. — ‘Cute(2016)

Girl, we need to go out on a date/ We can really do a little something/ If it’s cool, I’ll pick you up at 8/ We can really do a little something/ We can really do a little something, baby/ Looking at this pretty face, it drives me crazy. Don’t forget that the Hampton, Virginia, native dropped a stellar album last year. On it was this lighthearted number about breaking the ice with that someone who caught your eye at the day party.

Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos — ‘Slide’ (2017)

Nearly went with Frank’s “Biking” featuring Jay Z and Tyler, The Creator. But I decided it was in my best interests to ride with this. Minus a brief bit of controversy, ’17 has been Migos’ most successful year, one in which they became a bona fide crossover rap supergroup. Yet, while it could mean nothing, what’s good with Takeoff not being on two of Migos’ biggest hits this year — the unstoppable “Bad and Boujee” and this one?

DJ Khaled feat. Beyoncé and Jay Z — Shining(2017)

Nearly went with Khaled and Drake’s “For Free” here, but it’s best to give some up-and-coming, lesser known artists a shake — you know, like the Carters. No, seriously, I’m not sure I need a full-length project from Blue and the twins’ parental units, but it’s no denying Mr. & Mrs. Carter held it down for all the married couples wanting to prove you can mix business and pleasure.

Migos — ‘T-Shirt’ (2017)

I know that “Bad and Boujee” was the most popular song in the universe at one point this year. But you’re going to hear that song any and everywhere this summer. That’s not to say you won’t hear “T-Shirt” just as many times, but it’s the slightly better song. My only regret about this record is that The Three Wise Migos should have taken their own advice before taking the Saturday Night Live stage with Katy Perry last weekend. Do it for the culture/ They gon’ bite like vultures. Truer words have not been spoken in 2017.

Drake — ‘Passionfruit’ (2017)

The dude who just took home a record 13 Billboard Music Awards makes this type of vibe easier than anyone doing it right now (and over the past decade). I’m of the belief that the “Madiba Riddim” + “Blem” combo is more lethal — and that “Blem” is low-key the best song on More Life, but all that said, it’s “Passionfruit” that could well become Drizzy’s 2017 “One Dance” or “Controlla.”

Wale feat. G-Eazy — ‘Fashion Week’ (2017)

Folarin’s SHINE crept in under the radar, but he does have a nice little summer ditty with this. An easy and fun listen, and, if you live in the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia), you can expect to hear this at any and every function between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Ed Sheeran — ‘Shape Of You’ (2017)

I mean, look. This song’s undeniable, fam.

Goldlink feat. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy — ‘Crew’ (2017)

Simply put, the best single of 2017. From my personal favorite project of 2017.

Rick Ross feat. Ty Dolla $ign — ‘I Think She Like Me’ (2017)

It was dope to see Rick Ross come back in full force this year with the great project Rather You Than Me. Who else could flip a chorus into 40 million / Out in Cannes with Leonardo DiCaprio / While out on bond / Pray I go to trial rapido. No one does luxury rap quite like Rozay.

French Montana feat. Swae Lee — ‘Unforgettable’ (2017)

If, somehow, you still doubted Swae Lee’s star power, let this be what finally converts you. “Unforgettable” sounds like a record you’d hear shopping at an H&M in Dubai. It’s got that far of a reach.

Future — ‘Mask Off’ (2017)

As if there was any doubt that Future’s first career Top 10 Hot Billboard 100 hit would make the list. And if you’re gonna run this — because you’re definitely running this, since it’s the law of the land — run “Draco” right after this. Thank me later.

Jeremih feat. Chris Brown & Big Sean — ‘I Think Of You’ (2017)

Alongside two talented artists with several songs worthy of inclusion on this list, it’s Chris Brown who absolutely owns this record. He does it running away, too. Therein lies the crux about Brown. Even in 2017, he remains one of the most naturally virtuoso entities in the game (his new single “Privacy” rings off, too). He’s so gifted that it’s frustrating.

SZA feat. Travis Scott — ‘Love Galore’ (2017)

Gimme a paper towel / Gimme another Valium / Gimme another hour or two / Hour with you. Out of nowhere, SZA and Scott gave us the summer anthem we never knew we needed.

Kendrick Lamar feat. Zacari — ‘LOVE.’ (2017)

Kung Fu Kenny’s critically adored DAMN. has its fair share of slappers. “DNA” and “Humble” are already mainstays. And I’m guessing sooner than later, his Rihanna collaboration “LOYALTY.” will dominate summer airwaves because RiRi is allergic to not making a hit. But, man, this one? Keep it a hundred / I’d rather you trust me than (to love me) / Keep it a whole one hund’, don’t got you I got nothing. Somebody’s legit going to fall in love to it this summer.

2 Chainz feat. Gucci Mane, Quavo & The Trap Choir — “Good Drank 2.0’ (2017)

Like a certain Canadian mentioned earlier, The Honorable Dos Necklaces could have his own individual playlist, too. “It’s A Vibe” with Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz and Jhene Aiko is beyond worthy of inclusion here. But trust me on this. You have not lived until you’ve heard a gospel choir sing Put that thing up in her ribcage. You’ll wonder how you ever lived before. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music needs to hurry up and get here. Like yesterday.

Wizkid feat. Drake — ‘Come Closer’ (2017)

My colleague Bre, The Undefeated’s resident Drake aficionado, says this is her favorite Drake verse right now. Too mix up in drama to go outside / Too mix up in drama to free my mind / Jealous people around me / I need to change my life. Honestly, it’s hard to knock it. The song as a whole is hella chill and tailor-made for long summer nights, cookouts and/or plush excursions. Just another summer mainstay from The Canadian You Love To Hate.

Lil Uzi Vert — ‘XO TOUR Lif3’ (2017)

The most perplexing song on the list. On the surface, it’s a fun record. Then you actually listen to the lyrics. Push me to the edge. The hook, at least.

Calvin Harris feat. Future & Khalid — ‘Rollin’ (2017)

I’ve been rollin’ on the freeway/ I’ve been riding 85/ I’ve been thinking way too much/ And I’m way too gone to drive/ I’ve got anger in my chest/ I’ve got millions on my mind/ And you didn’t fit the picture/ So I guess you weren’t the vibe. Get you some this summer.

Playboi Carti — ‘Magnolia’ (2017)

Another song you won’t be able to escape this summer unless you stay in the house and avoid all social interactions where music is played and drinks are served. And for what it’s worth, it’s already received LeBron James’, Kyrie Irving’s and Iman Shumpert’s seal of approval.

DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne — ‘I’m The One’ (2017)

Given the cast of characters, Khaled’s newest creation had no choice but to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. No rap record has done that since Eminem’s “Not Afraid” seven years ago. But if we’re really being truthful with ourselves, all credit goes to Asahd. Khaled’s been batting 1.000 since little man graced the world with his presence.

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.”

Leah Still’s mom talks strength and endurance during difficult times Channing Smythe celebrates her cancer survivor’s 7th birthday right before Mother’s Day

Last weekend, young Leah Still, daughter of NFL defensive lineman Devon Still, celebrated her 7th birthday. It is also the week leading up to Mother’s Day, and her mother, Channing Smythe, is just like any other single mother who wants the best for her children.

The 28-year-old proud “East Coast Girl” is all about love, motherhood and family, and she is dedicated to helping others like those who have helped her become more than just Leah’s mom.

Smythe has stayed out of the spotlight by choice, with the blessing of her 92-year-old grandmother. “That’s my baby,” Smythe said of her daughter, as she chatted for nearly one hour outside of her Baltimore residence. “As my grandmother watched everything on TV with Leah and her father, she simply told me to remain behind the scenes.”

With Leah now cancer-free for two years, Smythe believes it is time to share her story of raising Leah and her son, Perez, as well as a work-life balance that every mother can relate to.

Smythe and Devon met as students at Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, and conceived Leah a few years later. Leah was born a healthy child on May 6, 2010, but at age 4 she started having health problems that were initially thought to be just a stomach virus.

“When Leah was being tested and examined, the doctors said that her ailments could have been one of six or seven different things, with cancer being at the bottom of that list,” Smythe said.

Of course, no parent wants to think of the worst-case scenario, but Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer. As devastating as this news was, Smythe did not have to go far at all to receive a strong support system. Family, friends and even complete strangers showed their love.

The toughest thing for Smythe, though, may have been where to live during Leah’s medical stays that began at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, and on to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“At the time, Devon was playing for the Bengals and he wanted us to move to Cincinnati, but my support was here [in the Philadelphia area],” Smythe explained. “I had no friends or family in Cincinnati. It would have been just me, along with Devon and his wife.”

Smythe also mentioned how difficult it was to work while Leah was in and out of the hospital, on top of being pregnant with Perez.

Leah Still and her mother, Channing Smythe, visit Fox 29’s Good Day at Fox 29 Studio on Sept. 20, 2016, in Philadelphia.

Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

“I was an assistant director at a day care center at the time, doing a lot of the administrative work, but once Leah’s dad decided to continue playing football I had to be there for my child by taking a lot of sick time. Even now, it’s still difficult to work,” Smythe said.

Smythe endured many experiences during Leah’s battle with cancer, inspiring her to start the Leah Still Foundation.

“It was a challenge to buy food, paying bills and for parking,” Smythe said. “After talking to a hospital social worker to help with those things, I decided to launch the foundation and do for other families I know that may have an even tougher time keeping up with bills than I did.”

She echoed her mission to align with her struggles, as it states on the foundation’s website:

“It is our impassioned desire to be able to enhance the lives of children diagnosed with cancer by providing support and guidance for their families. Our ultimate goal is to be a resource for families to ease some of the burdens caused by having a child with cancer.”

Since launching the foundation in August 2014, the feedback has been tremendous.

“I’ve even had siblings of young cancer patients reach out to us. That’s the most fun, sharing the stories,” Smythe said. “We have served other families by having a couple of food and toy drives. However, we haven’t been able to generate as much funds as we would like, and the marketing, which my mother handles, are also a factor with costs.”

Smythe said the hardest part of her journey was watching Leah change emotionally and physically as she went through the chemotherapy and radiation, and being pregnant with Perez.

“I felt the world was crashing down on me after the diagnosis,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. Dealing with Leah having cancer was much different from a grandparent suffering. I felt helpless because she was so young and I wanted to trade places with her. That said, I had to prepare myself, focus, not stress, and keep my faith.”

Smythe said other mothers dealing with similar struggles often reach out to her for advice.

“I tell other moms to keep pushing, be strong, be there for your child, believe in your faith,” she explained. “Research is also key to prevention when it comes to your child’s diet and intake, and following the doctor’s orders. I tried as much as possible to keep a normal life for Leah by taking her skating, trips to the park, going to the movies and out to eat. She did have to wear a mask at times, though, which prevented normal trips to places like the mall.”

Throughout Leah’s battle, Smythe has remained positive and has been inspired by her daughter.

“Leah always tells me that I’m a good mom and I do a good job. It’s inspiring that she stays strong and smiles through it all and says she’ll bounce back. She’s so smart for her age,” she tearfully explained. “Leah is very protective of her brother, and vice versa. She loves him very much, although she won’t let him play with her toys and says he can be annoying at times.

“SixTwo represents so many important dates and milestones in my children’s lives,” Smythe said. “I’ve been passionate about design since I was a little girl sitting in my bedroom drawing blueprints for clothes, homes, etc. I still have those blueprints around somewhere. I’m looking to relaunch my clothing line by the end of 2017. I tried to launch it previously but just didn’t have the time. Currently, you can go to my website, sixtwointeriors.com, where I specialize in interior decorating and home organization/cleaning and wardrobe styling. I also want to go back to school. I also credit my mom and dad for my work ethic.”

Smythe continued, “I wouldn’t change anything. This journey builds character, maturity, and has made me wiser. I asked, ‘Why me?’ at first, but then I thank God because had this not happened, I wouldn’t have been able to help others.”

Jay Z, Live Nation ink $200M deal which means the ‘Forbes’ richest hip-hop artists list needs to change

When Shawn Carter is 57 years old, he’ll still be touring.

According to Variety, Jay Z and Live Nation have signed a deal for his exclusive performance rights that’s reported to be in the $200 million range. Their previous deal together, signed in 2008, was worth $150M. At the time, when Jay was 38, many questioned the sense of such a big move for the events company. A slew of Made In America festivals later that have made their mark on the country’s pop culture landscape, and boom — they were right.

For those of you who have been following Jay’s actual recent music career, this news comes with a bit of irony. As my colleague Breana Jones said, “Guess he did not, in fact, hold out for three.” That’s in reference to his 2012 song with Rick Ross and Dr. Dre (more on him in a second) titled “3 Kings.

I ran through that buck fifty Live Nation fronted me
They workin’ on another deal, they talkin’ two hundred fifty
I’m holdin’ out for three
Two seventy five and I just might agree

Also interesting is that we might have a change at the top of the Forbes richest artists in hip-hop list, which was just released Wednesday. This list is always a fascinating one. In an era in which record sales aren’t how anyone makes big money anymore, the lists are more representative of the best businesspeople in the game. Mind you, this was released Wednesday.

  1. Diddy – $820M
  2. Jay Z – $810M
  3. Dr. Dre – $740M
  4. Birdman – $110M
  5. Drake – $90M

So, unless Sean Combs announces something before the end of the week, he’s already off the top of this list by a reasonably large margin, depending on the breakdown on the payout for Jay. Of course, this is all based on net worth. Perhaps more interesting to me, though, is how wide the gap is between Birdman and Dre. There’s an argument that while you’ve got those three at the top, an overall look at the top 10 would be far more informative as to who’s really doing the best with their talent in the hip-hop game.

Clearly, no one’s catching up with the men on the medal stand, but they’re also not really making music with any regularity anymore. Which is basically why they’re rich. They did that in an era in which record sales mattered, then parlayed that into branding opportunities and general wealth acquisition through business that was smart and fruitful. You’ll note someone who’s not on this list who once was: 50 Cent. But that’s a whole other story.

Rounding out the top five is an old tale of music industry shadiness. Birdman, who heads Cash Money Records, is being sued by Lil Wayne. And not just for Lamborghini money — we’re talking $50M. That’s nearly half of Baby’s worth, according to those Forbes numbers. Also, there’s a lawsuit involving Drake’s work with them from early in his career. Basically, the whole thing is a mess over rights and royalties, which is really sad. Particularly when you know explicitly that Drizzy is responsible for a not-insignificant portion of that label’s hits.

Point is, by next year that list will likely be very different at the bottom.

Rolling Loud. Essence. Lollapalooza: The 13 best rap and R&B festivals of summer 2017 Chance is everywhere, there’s a hip-hop cruise — plus two big weekends in New Orleans

Summer is upon us — why not make a trip to George, Washington (yes, that’s an actual place), or East Rutherford, New Jersey? By June, even the small city of Manchester, Tennessee, will be a go-to destination. As random as these places may seem, they are music meccas: home to iconic summertime festivals.

The official start to summer isn’t until June 21, but while festival season spans nearly six months of the year (bookended by Coachella in mid-April and Made in America in early September), summer is the peak fest time. Jazz, hip-hop, old-school R&B, trap music — there’s a festival lineup of musical artists out there for everyone.

Be careful, though. Lineups and locations can be deceiving. If there’s one thing we’ve learned early on this season, it’s to resist attending a festival organized by Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. The recent debut of the inaugural Fyre Festival was an utter disaster. It began with so much promise: There was a dope lineup of artists, featuring Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Rae Sremmurd, Migos and Lil Yachty, and the location was the Bahamas’ Great Exuma (which has an interesting historical connection to America). The festival now faces a $100 million lawsuit. Fyre, though, is an exception to the rule. Festivals reign supreme come this time of year, and summer 2017 has much to offer. Below are the festivals that should be on your radar as we wind up basketball season, head deep into Major League Baseball and WNBA, and prep for NFL preseason.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — New Orleans

Usher, Black Thought and Questlove perform with Usher & The Roots during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

April 28-May 7

Notable performers: Stevie Wonder, Usher and The Roots, Snoop Dogg, Alabama Shakes, Patti LaBelle, Nas and the Soul Rebels, Corinne Bailey Rae, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Happening right now in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is blessing people with an all-star lineup that specializes in feel-good sounds. There’s the legend Stevie Wonder and the O.G. Snoop Dogg. There’s the sweet-singing Patti Labelle (hope she brought some of her pies) and the Grammy Award-winning blues rock collective Alabama Shakes. Boomers and Gen X-ers from far and wide get to two-step to Maze and Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” while hip-hop preservationists get to witness Nas float through tracks from his 1994 Illmatic. But the one set in particular to circle in red ink? Usher performing with The Roots. Imagine Questlove on the hi-hat cymbals of “You Make Me Wanna.” Lord, give us strength.

Rolling Loud — Bayfront Park, Miami

May 5-7

Notable performers: Everybody and they mama

Do I go see Future at 9 p.m. on one stage, or Travis Scott on the other stage at 9:30? Do I go see Kendrick Lamar at 10, or Young Thug at 10:30? These are the unfathomable questions that festivalgoers will ask themselves at Rolling Loud — which is the best hip-hop festival lineup since the Rock The Bells days of the mid-2000s. Rolling Loud has come a long way since its debut as a one-day show in 2015 with Schoolboy Q as the headliner. In 2016, it was a three-day event with Future leading the pack. This year’s lineup, though? Kendrick Lamar, Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Young Thug … the fact that Migos is on the fifth line of the bill is mind-boggling.

Broccoli City Festival — Washington, D.C.

Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals perform on the main stage at the 2016 Broccoli City Festival.

Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

May 6

Notable performers: Solange, Rae Sremmurd, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty

In the backyard of the country’s 45th president will be a unique display of unapologetic and green-living blackness: Broccoli City. The festival boasts brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, who form Tupelo, Mississippi’s, own rock star rap duo known as Rae Sremmurd — the geniuses behind the 2016 megahit “Black Beatles.” The young phenom 21 Savage will be out there “trappin’ so hard,” and headlining the show will be Solange, fresh off winning her first Grammy for “Cranes in the Sky,” the lead track from her No. 1 album A Seat at the Table. Remember, don’t touch Solange’s hair. Don’t touch Lil Yachty’s either. He’ll be taking the stage at Broccoli City, too, swinging his red-beaded braids.

Powerhouse 2017 — Glen Helen Amphitheater, San Bernardino, California

May 6

Notable performers: Big Sean, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled

Lil Wayne hasn’t released an album in almost two years, but people still love Weezy, and they’ll be there to see him break out his deep catalog of hits at the Powerhouse, hosted by Los Angeles’ Power 106 FM. Wayne will be joined by Detroit’s own Big Sean and the king of the summer anthem himself, DJ Khaled, who recently dropped “I’m The One,” the first single from his highly anticipated album Grateful. And with Khaled set to take the stage, you gotta wonder: Which surprise guests will he bring along? (Insert eyes emoji) Hope his 6-month-old son and executive producer, Asahd, is one of them.

Sasquatch! Festival — Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington

Leon Bridges plays an acoustic pop-up show at the Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on May 29, 2016 in George, Washington.

Suzi Pratt/WireImage

May 26-28

Notable performers: Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Kaytranada, Mac Miller

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend than with Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper at one of the most beautiful venues in the country? The Sasquatch! Festival, which launched in 2002, is bringing both for the three-day festival. Ocean headlines Day 1, and Chance closes out Day 3. These two artists became musical gods last summer, with Ocean dropping his first album in four years, and then another album days later, and Chance releasing a Grammy Award-winning mixtape. Both deserve to be on that stage as the last act of the night. Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

The Governor’s Ball — Randall’s Island Park, New York City

Fans react as De La Soul performs at the Governors Ball Music Festival, June 4, 2016 in New York.

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

June 2-4

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Schoolboy Q, Majid Jordan, Kehlani, Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang Clan, Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Ferg, YG, Wiz Khalifa, Logic

Another Chance The Rapper festival appearance? Yup, another Chance The Rapper festival appearance. Can’t knock the hustle, and what’s so crazy is, while he’s hitting all these festivals, he’ll be in the thick of his own nationwide spring tour. In New York City, he’ll tee up an epic weekend of music. To be honest, the roster for Day 2 rivals the depth of the Golden State Warriors: YG, A$AP Ferg, Rae Sremmurd, Wu-Tang Clan and Childish Gambino. Sheesh. If you have to pick just one day to go, Saturday is your day.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — Manchester, Tennessee

Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs onstage at Silent Disco during Day 4 of the 2016 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 9, 2016 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival

June 8-11

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Tory Lanez, D.R.A.M., Skepta, Gallant

The city of Manchester, Tennessee’s, population of approximately 10,100 balloons by tens of thousands when the masses flock to the fields and stages of Bonnaroo, where the wide range of performers include U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Travis Scott and D.R.A.M. And, yes, Chance The Rapper will be at Bonnaroo. His festival appearance tally is up to three.

Summer Jam — MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Travis Scott, Kanye West and Big Sean perform at the 2016 Hot 97 Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium on June 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Manny Carabel/FilmMagic

June 11

Notable performers: Too many to count

Summer Jam is an institution. Since 1994, the New York City radio station Hot 97 has preserved the sanctity of the hip-hop genre and black musical culture by hosting artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Big Pun, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z — let’s just stop there, because we could be here all day listing names. Chris Brown, Fat Joe and Remy Ma, Migos and DJ Khaled “& friends,” as noted on the lineup, are among 2017’s crop. One of the most special sets of the show will certainly be delivered by Faith Evans. It’s been exactly 20 years since her husband, The Notorious B.I.G., was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997. She’ll likely perform songs from her new album, which features the slain rapper. Will there be a hologram? R.I.P., B.I.G.

Summerfest — Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee

June 28-July 2 and July 4-9

Notable performers: Future, Big Sean, Migos

Scrolling through the lineup page of 2017 Summerfest, it’s hard to get past a row without discovering another bomb artist who’s scheduled to perform. Ironically, Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year. The main amphitheater features Paul Simon, Pink, The Chainsmokers, Future, Big Sean, Migos, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow. (How much you want to bet Willie Nelson and the Migos blow an L together?) But don’t sleep on the ground-stage performers, who include Alessia Cara, Steve Aoki, Ziggy Marley, T-Pain, BJ The Chicago Kid and more.

Ironically, Milwaukee’s Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year.

ESSENCE Festival — New Orleans

Singer Andra Day performs onstage at 2016 ESSENCE Festival Presented by Coca Cola at the Louisiana Superdome on July 3, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival

June 29-July 2

Notable performers: Diana Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Chance The Rapper, Solange, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Monica, Jazmine Sullivan

Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift for your mama, aunt or granny that you will enjoy as well? Go ahead and cop those ESSENCE Festival tickets. They’ll love you forever, because this lineup is LOADED. Three generations of #BlackGirlMagic will take the stage in the form of Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and Solange. If that isn’t enough R&B for you, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie and Monica all have you covered. New Orleans hometown hero Master P will also be performing. Oh, and Chance The Rapper will be there (that’s four festivals and counting).

Summer Fest Cruise — Miami to Nassau, Bahamas

June 30-July 3

Notable performers: Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Migos

There is nothing in the history of this universe that could be more fun than a five-day cruise from Miami to the Bahamas featuring performances from Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky and Migos, hosted by none other than DJ Khaled. If you haven’t booked yet, congratulations, you played yourself. Don’t worry, though, DJ Khaled’s Snapchat stories will keep you in the loop — and in the process give you the worst fear of missing out you’ve ever had.

Lollapalooza — Grant Park, Chicago

A general view of crowds watching Flume perform on the Samsung stage during Lollapalooza at Grant Park on July 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

Aug. 3-6

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Rae Sremmurd, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Joey Bada$$, 6lack, Sampha

Lil Chano from 79th is coming home. After winning three Grammys and embarking upon a cross-country tour (with multiple festival appearances in between), Chance The Rapper is returning to his hometown of Chicago in August as one of the headliners of the four-day, jam-packed Lollapalooza festival. Chance has to bring out former President Barack Obama during his Saturday set. The two saints of Chicago dancing together onstage would be nothing short of legendary.

Made in America — Philadelphia

Jay-Z performs with Pearl Jam during Budweiser Made In America Festival Benefiting The United Way – Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Sept. 2-3

Notable performers: Jay Z, J. Cole, Migos, Solange, Run The Jewels, Sampha, Pusha T, Vic Mensa

The finale of festival season couldn’t feature two better top performers. A mentor and mentee. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Son. One of the greatest of all time in American music and one of the leaders of its new school. Jay Z and J. Cole are the marquee names of this year’s anticipated weekend, with Hov headlining after the warmup from Cole. With Jay’s sister-in-law Solange also on the bill, Made in America 2017 will be all about keeping the family close and fans screaming.