Ice Cube’s BIG3 league is not novelty or nostalgia MVPs, a protester, misfits — these ballers have something to prove and are playing to win

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is 48 years old and he’s in an LA Fitness about 15 miles west of Atlanta. He’s getting frustrated. Abdul-Rauf is not happy with the way his jumper is falling. So he’s pushing, relentlessly, with the same behind-the-back dribble. Then two more dribbles to the baseline. And then a jumper about 15 feet from the basket. Abdul-Rauf drills for an hour and a half, shooting from midrange, from the 3-point line, from the corner. Shooting from the wrong foot, shooting off balance.

He’s made 23 of 25 shots. But Abdul-Rauf does a special kind of math: “Nope! It doesn’t count! Don’t count my shots if they hit rim!”

When he’s done shooting, he battles Deaundrae Ballard, a four-star recruit headed to the University of Florida this season. Abdul-Rauf, who has been training Ballard and prepping him for his college career, squares up with the novice, who’s at least 6 inches taller. Three-pointer. Wet. Repeat. The sounds of other basketballs hitting the gym floor disappear. The other ballers getting in morning workouts have stopped to watch. Another 3. Swish. His gray sweatpants and royal blue shirt are drenched in sweat. It’s also dripping from his salt-and-pepper goatee.

Former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who will play in the BIG3 league, works on his handles while training for the start of the league.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

Abdul-Rauf shoots for two more hours. He’s done some variation of this routine every weekday since he was a Louisiana State University standout. But he’s going harder now than he has in a long time. The former Denver Nugget scoring machine, who was Colin Kaepernick before Colin Kaepernick was Colin Kaepernick, is gearing up for another chance at the national stage. He’s got a new team, the 3-Headed Monsters, with teammates Jason Williams, Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis and Eddie Basden. And he’s got a new league to conquer. Abdul-Rauf is getting ready for the BIG3.


The phrase “dog days of summer” originated more than 5,000 years ago as a way to describe the months when the Dog Star, Sirius, would make itself most visible. Some believed The Dog was the cause of July and August heat. For the past century, afternoon baseball games have been a hallmark of those hot and lazy summer days, as fans flock to fields across the country to pass time with the heroes of the diamond. Yet, over the past 20 years or so, baseball has had an ever-decreasing impact on American culture, especially for African-Americans, who as of 2013 make up only 9 percent of Major League Baseball fans, far behind the black fanship of professional basketball and football.

For black folks, the dog days of summer, the season between June’s end of the NBA and September’s beginning of the NFL, are even more dogged because of the lack of sports they care to watch. That’s where Ice Cube and his BIG3 come in.

“Summer is boring as s—,” Ice Cube said at a January news conference announcing the BIG3, billed as America’s 3-on-3 Professional Basketball League. The league features former NBA players, most notably Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, in half-court games. It’s set to tour over the summer and to culminate in a championship game at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 26. The league, which launches on June 25, comprises eight teams (with names such as “Power” and “3’s Company”) of five players each: three starters and two reserves. All are coached by legends such as Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler.

“I feel great going into opening night,” Ice Cube said recently via mobile phone. “Fan interest is there. We have the teams and the talent to pull this league off. It feels good.”

From a distance, the BIG3 may seem like a novelty gig, a chance for nostalgia ballers to hit a few crossovers for YouTube and Instagram before retreating back into retirement. But a closer look at the league reveals passionate players, a brain trust and an organization that aims to be America’s second major pro basketball association.

Actor/rapper Ice Cube addresses the crowd at the 2017 BIG3 basketball league draft at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on April 30 in Las Vegas.

Sam Wasson/Getty Images

“We want this to be a viable [career] option for players who feel like they still got game and don’t want to go overseas, or who don’t want to do all that damn running up and down the court,” said Cube. “We hope to have an exciting season, and a championship game, with teams who deserve to be there.”

“I haven’t played against a lot of these guys, and they’re in their early 30s. By the grace and mercy of God, I didn’t have any problems.”

BIG3 is a real league. The competition is real. And the results are as unpredictable as they are exciting. Concepts for the BIG3 started on opposite sides of the country. On the East Coast there was Roger Mason Jr., a 2002 second-round draft pick for the Chicago Bulls who played for 10 years as a journeyman with teams such as the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks. After his final stint with the league in 2014, Mason joined the National Basketball Players Association as deputy executive director. While there, he spearheaded efforts to ensure that retired players had access to adequate health care.

Mason also has a passion for entertainment and for evolving the NBA’s tech thumbprint. Mason was the mastermind behind the inaugural NBA Player Awards show in 2015. It aired on BET, was a huge success and is a precursor to next week’s Drake-hosted NBA Awards on TNT. The BET version was executive-produced by Jeff Kwatinetz (an interesting guy), founder of entertainment company The Firm. Kwatinetz is also COO of Ice Cube’s Cube Vision film production company.

Mason had an idea he wanted to run by Kwatinetz: The NBA was seemingly headed toward a 2017 lockout (that was avoided), and Mason wanted to give players and fans something during the downtime. “My vision was a 3-on-3 tournament with active players,” said Mason. “It would give them something to do and keep games going. Then I learned that Cube and Jeff had been working on a concept for an actual league for about a year.”

The BIG3 teams don’t represent particular cities. Instead, the league will travel from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles, eight cities in total before the Nevada championship. Each stop will feature four games so every player gets seen. Think And1 Tour meets NBA basketball meets Harlem Globetrotters.

“Obviously, Cube and Jeff had been in the entertainment world,” Mason said. “And the idea of a touring league, similar to a music tour, was brilliant. I was all in to jump in with them after that.”

It was up to Cube, Mason and Kwatinetz to make the league familiar to fans while embracing rules that would make the game different, and innovative. The first team to 60 points wins. Halftime starts after the first team scores 30 points. There’s a four-point shot spread out over different areas of the court beyond the 3-point line (Ice Cube’s idea). The BIG3 features the return of legalized hand-checking, taking the ball outside of the paint after defensive rebounds. Once the rules were set, the trio set out to find established names. Chief among them was Iverson.


Allen Iverson was BIG3’s golden goose. Secure him and the league had its transcendent star. The 2001 NBA MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer was a human cultural landmark at the turn of the 21st century. His cornrows, baggy shorts, tattoos and hip-hop swag made him an icon. His name still resonates with NBA fans who remember the time he stepped over (now Cleveland Cavaliers head coach) Tyronn Lue in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals and put Michael Jordan on skates in 1997. Even now, whenever Iverson shows up in public, whether it’s to retire his jersey in Philadelphia, or to conduct an interview, fans become enamored all over again. So grabbing The Answer was a major coup, even if he was reluctant to play at first. BIG3 is using his star power, producing a video series documenting his road back to basketball. Iverson obviously won’t be the same MVP he was in 2001, but any flashes of his previous greatness would make the BIG3 a must-watch spectacle.

“Iverson had some things going on overseas that didn’t go as well as he thought,” Mason said. “So I had to reassure him that this was as professional as it gets. And we let him know we’d work at his pace, so he can do what’s comfortable for him.”

Cube himself has been keeping tabs on Iverson’s preparedness. “I saw him in January and he looked good, but I saw him a few weeks ago and he looks more chiseled, and even more in shape,” he said. “His flavor and his style and what he brings to the league will be huge for us.”

Creating new pro leagues is hard. Vince McMahon’s XFL was set to be an offseason professional football league and flamed out after its first season. Donald Trump’s United States Football League was a disaster. The American Basketball Association, formed in 1967 and possibly the most renowned competitor to a major league, lasted nearly a decade, starred Dr. J, and helped revolutionize the way basketball was played. The ABA merged with the NBA in 1976.

Terry Pluto, columnist at The Cleveland Plain Dealer and author of 1990’s Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, believes the era of leagues competing with the NBA is over. “The goal of the ABA was always to merge, never to exist on its own,” Pluto said. “And it came along at the right time. There will never be another ABA because of the timing. In 1967, there were only 10 [NBA] teams … 11 men on most rosters … 110 pro basketball players. The international game was nothing back then. Now, there’s basketball all over the world, and the U.S. has 30 teams and the D-League. I don’t see much future in anything new.”

For black folks, the dog days of summer, the season between June’s end of the NBA and September’s beginning of the NFL, are even more dogged because of the lack of sports they care to watch.

One reason it’s so difficult to battle established leagues is the fan bases that have followed teams for decades. Starting new franchises and getting fans to buy in is a major hurdle. That’s where the BIG3 has an advantage: It’s using players such as Iverson and former Sacramento Kings guard Jason “White Chocolate” Williams, a fan favorite. These guys are franchises in their own right, with their own followings. It’s more about them than the team, which has been at the heart of the NBA’s recent success and can be a driving force in BIG3’s longevity.

NBA legend Allen Iverson signs autographs before the NBA All-Star Game as part of the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 19 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

That’s the secret to BIG3. Former NBA players bring a level of expertise that surpasses leagues looking to use minor league players or former college stars. So while the BIG3 may not revolutionize basketball in the way the ABA did, it’ll remind fans of the NBA they loved in the ’90s and early 2000s, which is just as valuable. “It’s a good product because the basketball IQ is off the hook,” said Ice Cube. “These guys just knowing how to play the game is the draw.”

There’s also another important incentive for players to perform at their best: money. Yes, BIG3 is a real league with real contracts. Each player has signed a $100,000 contract for the year. The Basketball-Related Income is 52 percent of the league’s revenue, to be split at the end of the season. The championship team gets the lion’s share of the money. Each subsequent team gets a smaller cut. So players have the incentive to take the game seriously.

But the biggest reason to expect the games to be competitive and intense is that the BIG3 is full of players who are out to prove doubters wrong. For every Chauncey Billups or Mike Bibby who wants to play versus his peers, there’s a Ricky Davis or Rashad McCants whose off-the-court reputations led to the premature demise of their pro careers. “I’m not in the league now because of executive reasons,” said McCants, who will be playing on Trilogy with Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington.

McCants was drafted 14th in 2005 by the Minnesota Timberwolves after leading North Carolina to an NCAA championship the year before. By the ’07-’08 season, McCants was averaging just shy of 15 points per game and shooting 45 percent from the field. He was, however, outspoken and, fairly or not, had earned a reputation for being difficult to coach. And he was also the first athlete to publicly date a Kardashian, appearing as a guest in 2009 on Keeping Up With The Kardashians while dating Khloe.

Rashad McCants of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up for a shot against Yao Ming (No. 11) and Chuck Hayes of the Houston Rockets during their game on Dec. 20, 2008, at Target Center in Minneapolis.

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

By 2009, just four years into his career, McCants was out of the NBA despite averaging 10 points a game. “Me being out of the league has nothing to do with my play. To not get calls for four years? Not even a meeting?” McCants also came under fire in 2014 for comments about the athletic program at UNC. He’s spent the last few years bouncing around international leagues and sees the BIG3 as a chance to show owners that they were wrong to pass on him — and to also give them a chance to rectify their mistake. There’s an outside chance that someone like McCants could put on a show good enough to land back in the NBA. It’s an outcome BIG3 leadership fully encourages.

“If players get looked at by an NBA GM,” Cube said, “our league isn’t going to do anything to stop anyone from going back to the NBA, or any other league for that matter. We want this to be for the players. Really, we just want them to have fun.”


“Let’s go! It’s great to be around you guys!”

For McCants and other former players interested in joining the league, the first step to a championship was a combine and draft that took place in Las Vegas in April. McCants took center stage by breaking the ice: “I’m out here killing!”

The combine was an invitational for former NBA players: to run a few scrimmages so that player-coaches for each team — Gary Payton (who is just coaching, unfortunately), the aforementioned Iverson, Billups among them — could get a glimpse of their options and draft accordingly. The combine started tentatively enough, with players engaging in some one-on-one games. But mostly they were just feeling each other out, trying to determine how hard they wanted to go. “[My comment] got everybody’s attention,” McCants recalled. “It stole the show of me being the head of the pack and ready to go.”

On the other side of the court, there was a graying, slim participant quietly nailing jumpers. He was also dominating his one-on-one matchups. As he played, players took notice. It’s really him? But …

People were surprised to see me out there,” said Abdul-Rauf. “More than anything, they were surprised to see how I look. My stamina is still up. I look like I can still go out there and do it.”

BIG3 is a real league. The competition is real. And the results are as unpredictable as they are exciting.

Abdul-Rauf’s story has become part of sports lore. He was drafted by the Nuggets in 1990 as the third overall pick and soon became known as one of the league’s most feared streak scorers, infamously dropping 51 points on John Stockton’s head on a frigid December Utah night. The Mississippi native’s scoring prowess was so legendary that Phil Jackson tweeted in February 2016 that Stephen Curry reminded him of a young Abdul-Rauf. Then in 1996, it all came crashing down.

Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stands with his teammates and prays during the national anthem before the game against the Chicago Bulls on March 15, 1996, in Chicago. Abdul-Rauf, saying that the U.S. flag was a symbol of “oppression and tyranny,” was suspended Tuesday for sitting down during the national anthem. Friday was Abdul-Rauf’s first game back.

AP Photo/Michael S. Green

That’s when the star point guard decided not to stand for the national anthem, citing that the flag and what it represents was in conflict with his Muslim faith. This prompted the NBA to suspend him for a game, costing him $32,000. The league eventually let him bow his head and pray during the anthem. By the end of that season, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings. He was out of the league by 2001, unable to even get meetings with other teams. There’s no question his protest caused his career to end — and that’s even more apparent by the fact he’s closing in on 50 and still giving buckets to players a generation younger than him.

“The [NBA] already knows the truth,” Abdul-Rauf said of his exile. “When I talk to people in the street, it’s common knowledge what was done to me. I can never get those contracts back. But God has blessed me to have my quickness and stamina.”

That quickness and stamina wowed his competition and coaches at the combine. “I was curious to see if I could get my shot off,” he recalled. “I haven’t played against a lot of these guys, and they’re in their early 30s. By the grace and mercy of God, I didn’t have any problems.” Abdul-Rauf is the oldest player in the BIG3.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf trains for the start of the BIG3 league at LA Fitness.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

While Abdul-Rauf was showcasing his skill and endurance on one side of the court, leading him to be drafted 17th (out of 24 players) by Payton’s 3 Headed Monsters, McCants was engaged in 3-on-3 scrimmages that were beginning to get heated. A referee made a questionable call in a game involving McCants, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and others. Players got in the ref’s face, players got in each other’s faces, and the scrimmage deteriorated into a full-on scrum. The physicality and competitiveness set a tone for how the games might be played: physical NBA-style basketball that encourages trash-talking and ruggedness.

“A lot of times in [NBA] practices, players would play 3-on-3s,” said Mason Jr. “Some of those battles were the best battles no one ever saw. We’re unlocking these battles. … They’re competitive, high basketball IQ. It’s tough because you’re on an island defensively, so you have to step it up.”

What people may not realize is the fact that even though games are half-court and involve six players instead of 10, the cardiovascular toll can be greater than in a traditional game. For one, there’s a 14-second shot clock, which means attempts are going up rapidly and players are scrambling for rebounds. Also, no one can hide on defense. Defenders have to square up and create stops without much help. And with just six players on the court, everything is more spread out, so players have to cover more ground. Just shooting around? It won’t be enough. Players will have to show up to games in the best shape they’ve been in since they were in the NBA.

There’s definite potential for viral crazes, as Twitter videos are perfect for a league where a legendary point guard might end up face-first on the gym floor after a slick crossover. This works to the BIG3’s advantage, as the threat of embarrassment is going to pressure players to show up on June 25 ready to do business. “I don’t expect anyone to take this lightly, because they’re gonna get clowned if they do,” said Ice Cube. “Nobody wants to leave their legacy on the BIG3 court. Dudes are going to come out there and play with pride because that’s what I want to see.”

It’s impossible to predict the long-term success of a league like the BIG3. For Cube and Mason, if players get a chance to show off their talent and fans are entertained, then the BIG3 will find a winning formula. For Abdul-Rauf, the sustainability of the BIG3 means a chance to do something altruistic for members of the exclusive NBA fraternity — en route to making those summer days less dogged for fans.

Former NBA player and current BIG3 player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf trains at LA Fitness.

Kevin D. Liles for The Undefeated

“For some people, pay is important,” he said via phone while on his way to yet another workout — and with a sureness he’s gained as a public speaker over the past decade. “You don’t know who this will help down the road. This could … last four or five years. Taking it seriously could help someone who’s struggling … now they can make a little money and get back on their feet. At the least, people might say, ‘We didn’t know he still had it.’ ”

Warriors win the NBA Finals The Week That Was June 12-June 16

Monday 06.12.17

Ivanka Trump, who is the daughter of President Donald Trump and has presumably known him for 35 years, said that “there’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting” in response to her father’s presidency. Former potential NBC buyer Bill Cosby declined to testify in his sexual assault trial, and his defense team rested after only three minutes and without calling an original witness. Hip-hop entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs topped Forbes magazine’s list of highest-paid entertainers, notably beating out last year’s top earner, Taylor Swift, by nearly $100 million. McDonald’s announced it will use social media app Snapchat to hire future employees this summer; the app, known for its animated filters and porn, is expected to “lure in younger applicants” for the fast-food giant. Meanwhile, a close friend of the president told PBS that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who is in charge of the ongoing Russia investigation. Professional wrestler Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte was sentenced to community service and a $385 fine for his assault of a Guardian reporter during last month’s special election in Montana; Gianforte said it was not his “intention to hurt” the reporter whom he punched and slammed to the ground. During a meandering rant about abortion on his official Facebook page, Missouri state Rep. Mike Moon beheaded a live chicken, cut its feet off, and removed its heart. Twitter argued over the effectiveness of Crock-Pots; in the words of one straightforward dissenter, “why on earth u wanna cook slow.” Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy received another $55,000 for not being fat. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who spent more than a year in prison for illegally gambling on games, claimed the league will try to force a Game 6 in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors ended the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5.

Tuesday 06.13.17

After the Warriors’ victory, Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib took a shot at Golden State forward Kevin Durant, calling the Finals MVP a “suburban kid” who had to “Link up with the best” to win a championship, and that the Hall of Fame is “laughing at you right now”; Talib, who shot himself in the leg last year, joined the Broncos in 2014, a season after Denver eliminated his former team, the New England Patriots, from the playoffs. A Canadian man who is blind in one eye installed a video camera over his eyeball; faced with privacy concerns, the man posited, “Am I not allowed to put an eye camera in my own body?” Hours after NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea, an American college student who had been detained in the country since 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a political banner was released to U.S. authorities; Rodman, who is in North Korea for a reported fifth time, had his trip sponsored by a company specializing in weed-industry cryptocurrency. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said there was no evidence to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Hours later, it was reported that the president is being talked down by his staff from firing Mueller. R&B singer Tinashe, who is mixed-race, acknowledged the presence of colorism in the black community but explained that she is usually the victim of it, telling a reporter that “sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who has been rocked by the recent death of his mother and his own workplace behavior, including meditating in the company lactation room and instructing his employees to “not have sex with another employee” at a company party, has taken a leave of absence from the ride-sharing company. During a companywide meeting to discuss Uber’s alleged “bro culture,” a 74-year-old board member interrupted a female board member by making a sexist joke; the board member stepped down shortly afterward. President Trump reportedly told Republican senators that the House-adopted health care bill, which the president in May called a “great plan,” is too “mean” and called it a “son of a b—-.”

Wednesday 06.14.17

A gunman shot three people, including Rep. Steve Scalise, at a congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who was at the practice field, proposed that lawmakers should be able to carry weapons, including, presumably, while playing baseball. In response to the shooting, Vox editor-in-chief and U.S. history buff Ezra Klein tweeted: “It’s easy to forget what a blessing it is to live in a country where politics rarely leads to violence.” Hours later, three UPS employees were killed by a gunman at a sorting facility in San Francisco. Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who was called a “modern plantation overseer” by journalist Bryant Gumbel in 2011, called Gumbel “an idiot” and said he, the implementer of the league’s controversial dress code, has “done more for people of color” than Gumbel, a black man. Days after reports came out that UNLV basketball players Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez were quitting the team to pursue music and Central Florida football player Donald De La Haye may have to give up his YouTube channel in the face of NCAA violations, University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said the football team’s recent $800,000 trip to Rome was paid for by an undisclosed school donor. A fire at a London apartment complex left at least 12 people dead. Five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the ongoing contaminated-water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Right-leaning cable network Fox News has plans to drop its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, not because the tagline wasn’t true but to further distance the company from Roger Ailes, the late former network president. The Houston Astros, who called up outfield prospect Derek Fisher from Class AAA Fresno, will face the Boston Red Sox this weekend, with right-handed closer Matt Barnes expected to play. For the sequel to 1996’s Great White Hype, retired undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC fighter Conor McGregor agreed to a boxing match on Aug. 26. A Texas couple was arrested and charged after authorities found 600 pounds of meth-laced candy, some of which were shaped like Star Wars characters R2-D2 and Yoda, in the couple’s home. A 21-year-old Maine woman, who is a vegetarian, drowned a rabies-infected raccoon in a puddle of mud on a walking trail she had been jogging along.

Thursday 06.15.17

How now, brown cow: 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. A day after saying that “everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” President Trump tweeted that “some very bad and conflicted people,” presumably members of the FBI, were carrying out “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.” The Uber driver who shuttled Buffalo Bills cornerback Shareece Wright 540 miles from Chicago to Buffalo, New York, last week is an Iranian refugee who was tortured by Iranian intelligence agents on multiple occasions and hopes to one day become an astronaut; Wright, who was rushing to get to voluntary team workouts, injured his calf during minicamp. In more disturbing Uber news, the company is being sued by a woman who was sexually assaulted by one of the company’s drivers. Dennis Rodman, while still in North Korea, gave two books to country leader Kim Jong Un: Where’s Waldo? and President Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was issued a five-game suspension by the NCAA for his role in the hiring of exotic dancers for players and recruits; the panel that issued the punishment said in its findings that “NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts.” During the Warriors’ championship parade in Oakland, California, forward Draymond Green wore a shirt with “Quickie” written on the front, with the “Q” in the same font as the Quicken Loans logo; the Cleveland Cavaliers play in Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland forward LeBron James responded to the T-shirt on Instagram with a caption reading “That’s what she said, HUH?!?!?”; fellow NBA superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden “liked” the photo. Hours later, Green responded with a photo of James with the caption “Them dubs finally made him go bald!!! Congrats bro @kingjames.” A 71-year-old Kansas City man who robbed a bank because he’d “rather be in jail than be at home” with his wife was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

FRIDAY 06.16.17

E-commerce juggernaut Amazon, like most of America, spent a lot of money at Whole Foods, purchasing the supermarket chain for $13.7 billion. President Trump admitted that he is “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” Rod Rosenstein, the purported “man” who told Trump to fire FBI director James Comey, has, like his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reportedly considered recusing himself from the Russia investigation. To add to the president’s exceptional week, his approval rating dropped to 35 percent in a new poll. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, apparently bored with life and ready to die at the age of 31, will race a great white shark. After his bodyguards savagely beat protesters last month at the Turkish Embassy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized American authorities’ response, asking, “What kind of law is this? If my bodyguards cannot protect me, then why am I bringing them to America with me?” NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who is black, said he is the “black Steph Curry,” who is also black. The Boston Police Department’s Twitter account sent out a photo of an officer with three black girls along with the caption: “The #BPD Ice Cream Truck gives kids a reason to run towards our officers and not away from them”; the tweet was later deleted. President Trump’s lawyer hired his own lawyer. LeBron James, ironically nicknamed “King James,” said the only two people who can score on him in the post are “Shaquille O’Neal in his prime … and Jesus Christ.” Minnesota Vikings receiver Michael Floyd violated the terms of his house arrest by drinking alcohol; Floyd blamed the failed tests on Kombucha tea.

Daily Dose: 6/15/17 There will be no slander of ‘The Color Purple’

I’ll be filling in Thursday afternoon on #TheRightTime with Bomani Jones on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. Tune in to that if you want to hear me yelling about random things.

The game will go on Thursday night at Nationals Park. Despite the fact that a gunman tried to kill elected officials while they were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. If you don’t know, that’s a game played by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle every year that raises money for charity. And although the world of many members of Congress was turned upside down, I imagine Thursday night will be a very celebratory scene. On the real, however, Rep. Steve Scalise is still in the hospital. By the way, here are the two officers who prevented a massacre.

Elizabeth Banks, we need to have a talk. If you’re going to be calling people out, please get your facts straight. She said to a crowd that Steven Spielberg has never cast a movie with a female lead. Even though she was corrected, at the time, and told that The Color Purple is actually a thing that exists, she basically ignored that. Because it’s real easy to ignore black people when our stories don’t center on white people. Meanwhile, people are trying to say that movie was a flop. Which is, of course, completely insane considering how much of a cultural marker that film is.

It’s been quite the offseason for Richard Sherman. There were rumors that he wanted out of Seattle, and there were stories about how the locker room might be at odds because of an overall lack of respect for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, he’s opening up about his relationship with Wilson, which at this point feels like it’s basically the entire fulcrum of this team’s emotional balance. I gotta say, I’m fascinated by what this team is going to be in the upcoming season. They’ve easily got the most interesting locker room in the NFL.

Welp, it looks like things just got worse for Rick Pitino. The NCAA has ruled that the sex scandal that rocked the Louisville men’s basketball program will not only cost Pitino, the team’s head coach, a five-game suspension, but they’ll also have to vacate wins from 2010-14. You might recall that they won a little something called the 2013 national championship. Of course, who knows what vacating wins really means, because it’s not like you can unplay the games and undo the actual moments of victory.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There are certain goals in soccer that, no matter what, I will remember for the rest of my life. There are also certain guys who will be forever remembered for said strikes. Roberto Carlos is precisely that guy, and 20 years ago is when he made that mark. Check out this look back at one of the best goals, ever.

Snack Time: With Twitter getting a redesign and all this other nonsense going on, don’t let any of this distract you from the fact that DuckTales released its new title sequence.

Dessert: If you watch reality TV, this is worth your time.

Who should replace Jerry West on a new NBA logo? The choice is yours

Danny Glover’s zeal for activism continues to burn hot Now 70, the ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Color Purple’ star continues to lend his celebrity to causes that matter

As a paper boy growing up in San Francisco, Danny Glover had a thirst for information. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get his papers delivered, Glover made his first read the national section of the San Francisco Chronicle, where he learned that the seeds of activism were being scattered everywhere, not just in the Bay Area.

“These young men and women had a vision of a world that they wanted to see, and I said, Wow, I want to be like that,” said Glover, currently filming Proud Mary in Boston with Taraji P. Henson and Billy Brown.

Glover was destined to be like the men and women he read about. His parents, who worked as postal workers and were active in the NAACP, taught Danny to embrace change through organization.

“That’s a beginning point,” Glover said. “As I got older, I saw a subculture of people who viewed the civil rights movement differently. Some movements saw a connection to the struggles in Africa, radicalization and the Black Power movement. That all came to bear by the time I was 20 years old. Those are the kind of things that were a force in my life.”

It was that force that guided Glover to aspire to be more than an actor — even as he chased bad guys alongside Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series and starred with then-newcomers Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple.

“I tend to think that my first responsibility is that I’m a citizen,” said Glover, who visited Charleston, South Carolina, last week to attend the inaugural Charleston Civil Rights Film Fest. “I have a responsibility as a human, that if I see certain things I have to say something about it,” Glover continued while seated in a back booth at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen, a soul food restaurant he first visited while campaigning for then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

In a career that has spanned four decades, Glover is not your typical Hollywood activist. His IMDb profile is long, but so is his history of activism. “Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, Shooter, The Color Purple — all those things [are] a past life,” he said bluntly. “What I do today and tomorrow … that’s what matters. What we do in the moment.

“My production company, Louverture Films, just produced three Palestinian films. We’ve got a movie that’ll be at the Cannes Film Fest about Argentina in the colonial period in the 18th century. We were producers on Naomi Klein’s film, This Changes Everything, on climate change; and The House I Live In, a documentary about America’s war on drugs; and also Soundtrack for a Revolution; plus Black Power Mixtape, a documentary about the struggles and growth of activism in the civil rights movement. Those are things I’m passionate about. Those movies don’t get a lot of attention.”

Hip replacement has Glover walking with a slow, deliberate gait these days, but that hasn’t hampered his desire to champion causes at home and abroad. When he was asked to attend the Charleston Civil Rights Film Fest, a three-day event that also featured workshops and public discussions organized by the College of Charleston, Glover was eager to lend his celebrity to the fledgling event.

“Danny is one of the greatest actors of our generation. His acting resume speaks for itself, but his work as an activist and humanitarian has a whole ’nother life — something he ought to be commended for,” said David Dennis Sr., a longtime activist and friend of Glover’s.

“I don’t know if I can be that presumptuous to think [my attendance] is going to achieve anything other than I was here at the beginning of something and people thought that it was important enough for me to be here,” said Glover. “I don’t look to expect anything. All the things around my life find themselves, in some sort of concerted way, toward what I think is important to do. If I think the idea of a civil rights film festival is important, no matter how successful it is, then let me lend my voice to that, period.”

Freedom Song, a made-for-TV film starring Glover and based on true stories of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the 1960s, was among the films screened. Other films included Scarred Justice, a documentary about the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre; Stanley Nelson’s forthcoming Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Common-narrated Two Trains Runnin’, which pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians; as well as ESPN Films’ very own Redemption Song, about Howard University’s NCAA national champion soccer teams of the 1970s.

Glover was all too happy to be around projects poised to make an impact, spark social change and create dialogue. Asked what his 70-year-old self might say to his 40-year-old self, a reflective Glover dropped his head and smiled.

“I think he would listen to me,” Glover said. “I would tell him that even though you have 30 years coming up that we can guarantee that you’re going to be around, try to use those 30 years as effectively as you can in the service of justice. Whatever I do in terms of film, ask yourself: What is the service of justice?”

UNC symposium informs athletes on how to build wealth and share it ‘The Complexity and Comfort of Black Athlete Philanthropy’ gave insight and a chance for student-athletes to network with pros

For athletes, building wealth, securing a future after a playing career, and developing the ability to give back start with early and strategic planning. Those were just three of the big takeaways from a panel of authors, academics, former athletes and financial professionals at the Center for Sport Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

University of Houston professor Billy Hawkins kicked off the conference on April 21 by sharing a slide noting the popular NCAA slogan that:

  • Of 480,000 student-athletes, “most of them go pro in something other than sports.”
  • Fewer “than 1 percent of the athletes generate more than 90 percent of NCAA revenues,” and “on average, 60 percent of the athletes are black males.”

“It’s a poor business model when so much of the revenue is generated by such a small percentage of workers,” said Hawkins, who is the author of The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions.

“The black body is used for institutional development and capital expansion,” Hawkins said. But too often, the athlete is not getting the same wealth-building advantages out of the multibillion-dollar industries of college and professional sports.

That is the complex problem that discussions such as the one on April 21 are seeking to solve.

The discussion, titled “Investing in Futures: The Complexity and Comfort of Black Athlete Philanthropy,” often delved into strategies to drive former student-athletes to a position where they would able to give back.

The event was titled Investing In Futures: The Complexity and Comfort of Black Athlete Philanthropy.

Courtesy of Kevin Seifert

And much advice centered on solutions to prevent former athletes from becoming broke or “in financial stress” just a few years after their playing days are done.

Charles Way, who earned a civil engineering degree while playing football at the University of Virginia and who spent 14 years with the New York Giants, said that “understanding real estate and understanding the real estate development world” is one potential lucrative path after a playing career.

Way, a former vice president of NFL player engagement, has also served as the Giants’ director of player development. In those roles, he is credited with implementing an array of programs in financial literacy, leadership and career development focused on empowering athletes and their families both on and off the field.

Way and others also pointed out the “deficit” position from which many African-American athletes begin, compared with white athletes.

“Most of the time the black athlete is using his money to have fun, when white athletes are using daddy’s money to have fun,” Way said.

Panelists also agreed that too many black athletes suffer from “the lottery syndrome,” where they blow through wealth that was earned quickly and then resign themselves to going back to their regular means of living.

James Mitchell, director of football development for Duke University, said his student-athletes are introduced to financial planning shortly after they arrive on campus.

“We teach them how to spend whatever they have now,” Mitchell said. “For freshmen, we teach them how to spend food [meal plan] points.”

Attendees were urged to network with business leaders and business owners early on, create long-lasting relationships and seek out professional internships.

William Rhoden, a columnist for The Undefeated and author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, addressed the conference via Skype.

“I wrote Forty Million Dollar Slaves to give a history lesson, but also to call timeout,” he said.

Rhoden said the current question is: “Who are new now as black people in the 21st century?”

Rhoden also had a pointed answer for a question from the audience: What does he think about athletes who hold camps and other activities that are out of the financial range for lower- and moderate-income families?

The Impact Symposium was hosted by the UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Sport Business at the Kenan Center on April 21 with Deborah Stroman, director of the center. The event was titled “Investing In Futures: The Complexity and Comfort of Black Athlete Philanthropy.”

Courtesy of Kevin Seifert

“You are either a person who will make sure these things are accessible … or you are part of the problem,” Rhoden said.

Tre Boston, a Tar Heel alum and current defensive back for the Carolina Panthers, also addressed the conference via Skype, advising the conference that “you don’t have to be a millionaire to be a millionaire. You can save like $5,000 a year, and that will add up over the years,” he said.

Unfortunately, Boston said, you don’t often see young athletes discussing wealth-building.

“Guys you see talk about financial planning for the future are seven- to eight-plus-year veterans,” he said.

Phil Ford, a consensus All-American during his playing days at UNC and one of several alums who returned to take part in the symposium, helped shed light on why some African-Americans might not give back to their universities.

“When I left North Carolina, I thought everybody loved their school the way I loved North Carolina,” he said. “But I found out that often was not the case. It comes back to how much you enjoyed yourself when you were there.”

The audience included some Tar Heel athletes, including Jake Lawler, a spring early enrollee who will be a freshman defensive end on the football team in the fall.

“It was awesome,” said Lawler, who cited learning about “the scope of resources that are available.” He and his teammates began networking with panelists during breaks and after the discussions.

“It’s good to see there are people who care about you during your career and afterwards,” Lawler added.

The Center for Sport Business, part of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, drives discussion about economics, education and wealth management for athletics and former athletes.

Professor Deborah Stroman, director of the center and organizer of the event, said, “The purpose of the conference was to hear from academics and business leaders about a very important topic in America: black athletes and financial matters.”

For Stroman, the conference could not have gone much better.

“Today’s conference was a small but a most powerful attempt to touch lives and foster dreams,” she said. “We succeeded in connecting sport leaders — players, academics and businessmen — with an audience ready to hear the truth about the blessing and burden of money and athletic participation.

“Their insights were powerful and so inspirational,” she added. “The students left feeling connected, motivated and ready to take action on their plans for life after sport.”

WNBA style: The black-and-white case Nia Coffey and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough stand out as the athletes keep it clean and simple at the 2017 WNBA draft

The newest WNBA draft class was classy and (only slightly) sassy in New York on Thursday as the first round of picks were announced at a short ceremony. Most of the 10 women who attended the event wore black or white dresses or jumpsuits, simple jewelry, pretty makeup and loosely styled hair that draped elegantly across their shoulders.

Kelsey Plum, the 5-foot-8 guard from the University of Washington who finished her college career with an NCAA-record 3,527 points, was chosen first by the San Antonio Stars, and she set the style stage for a parade of little black shift dresses that seemed to be favored as appropriate for the dressy occasion. Seven of the 10 women present looked like they had reached into their mother’s or aunt’s closet for the simplest, safest frock they could find for their once-in-a-lifetime job placement crowning.

Unlike the young men who enter the NBA draft year after year, the women who are looking to enter the WNBA do not, as a rule, arrive at the draft ceremony dressed in outrageous patterns, bright colors or overly costumey ensembles.

There were no Jalen Rose or Amar’e Stoudemire draft moments in this class (look those up if you ever need a chuckle).

The ladies of the WNBA draft were all about to get paid, but their clothes kind of said, “Yeah, so … I’m just gonna hit up this draft situation real quick before church — I’ll just meet you guys there.” There were no Jalen Rose or Amar’e Stoudemire draft moments in this class (look those up if you ever need a chuckle). This was the fashion equivalent of an SMS text.

After Plum’s announcement and cordial photo op, three lovely ladies who played for the NCAA championship-winning South Carolina Gamecocks team — Alaina Coates, Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis — were drafted in the first round.

There were a few fashionable standouts: Nia Coffey from Northwestern was picked fifth by the San Antonio Stars, and the 6-foot-1 forward’s black dress with cold shoulder cutouts looked cool and modern paired with Coffey’s long gold pendant necklace and a pretty slick of red-orange lipstick.

Best dressed of the night was Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from the University of Maryland, who wore a skintight white pantsuit with an attached cape. The newly minted Washington Mystics guard looked like a cross between a superhero and Solange. Or maybe it was Solange dressed as a superhero. Whichever. It was an excellent, clean look, and Walker-Kimbrough should rock it as many times as she can.

The 2017 WNBA All-Star Game will be held at KeyArena, home of the Seattle Storm, on July 22.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey and late, great Japanese basketball coach Mototaka Kohama were two of a kind Kohama and Casey had a long and fruitful friendship

It was perhaps an unlikely friendship.

Dwane Casey was the sixth black player to be a member of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. He grew up during the segregation era in the American South, witnessed Ku Klux Klan rallies in his hometown of Morganfield, Kentucky, and spent countless hours working in coal mines and tobacco fields during the summertime. Mototaka Kohama was a basketball coach from Akita, Japan. He grew up during World War II — and was told to stop pursuing basketball because it was an American sport.

The two crossed paths in 1979, when Kohama spent a year in Lexington in order to study the champion Wildcats’ basketball program. Casey was then a graduate assistant with the team and often spoke with Kohama about basketball concepts after practices.

When asked about what drew Casey to Kohama, one particular word came to mind.

“Empathy,” Casey said. “[He was] different than I am, and was an outsider. I was attracted to him from that standpoint. He just had a great personality. It was a friendship that ignited and was easy. The more he learned English, which he did, and the more I learned Japanese, which I didn’t, it became easier to communicate.”

Despite the language barrier, Casey and Kohama started hanging out off the court and found other ways to connect. One was their shared interest in Nat King Cole.

“We used to go dancing,” Casey said. “I was young and single. I’d take him out. He loved music. We’d go to the disco. He was such an easy guy to be around and hang out with.”

Casey invited Kohama for dinner with his grandparents, where they had fried chicken and mashed potatoes. “He was very comfortable in my little country town,” Casey said. “I’m sure he didn’t know what he ate, though.”

“The more he learned English, which he did, and the more I learned Japanese, which I didn’t, it became easier to communicate.”

Jerry McKamey, a childhood friend of Casey’s, wasn’t surprised to hear about his friend’s generosity of spirit.

“Even as a child, his manners were impeccable,” McKamey said. “He’s a very genuine and kind-hearted person. That’s who he has always been.”

Casey, having introduced Kohama to his home cooking, decided to make his friend feel at home as well, surprising Kohama by driving him 60 miles from Lexington to Louisville, Kentucky, to eat at a Benihana of Tokyo. When they arrived, Kohama broke the news to Casey: This was not authentic Japanese food.

“My heart just dropped,” Casey said. “It broke my heart.”

Their year together though, forged a friendship that lasted almost 40 years.


Casey built his coaching resume in the NCAA as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky. And then, while at Kentucky in the 1980s, he began visiting Japan regularly to assist with basketball programs and clinics overseas. In 1988, while working as an assistant coach at Kentucky, Casey mailed an envelope during the legal recruitment of Chris Mills, then a student-athlete at Los Angeles’ Fairfax High School.

An employee at Emery Worldwide claimed to have seen $1,000 in cash addressed to Mills’ father. The scandal resulted in Kentucky being placed on probation for three years for NCAA recruiting and academic violations and a five-year coaching ban for Casey. Casey sued Emery for $7 million and settled out of court for a seven-figure sum. The ban was rescinded, but Casey couldn’t land a coaching job after the scandal.

In 1989, Kohama called and asked Casey to come coach in Japan. “It was a lifeline,” Casey said.

While in Japan, Casey worked for the national team and was the head coach of two Japan Basketball League (JBL) teams: the Sekisui Chemical and Isuzu Motors Lynx. He discovered an appreciation for teaching the fundamentals of basketball to players who had different skill levels and size compared with players in the NCAA. Casey also reconnected with Kohama, who returned his friend’s Kentucky hospitality by introducing him to shabu shabu and by hanging out late at night at karaoke bars. Casey also came to appreciate why Kohama was known as the godfather of basketball in his country.

“He always had a vision,” Casey said, “of what he wanted basketball to be in Japan.”

Ed Odeven, a basketball writer for The Japan Times since 2006, remembers Kohama as someone who wanted to push the standard of basketball in Japan in the professional leagues and at the national team level. Kohama pushed for Japan to improve its youth development at the local level, with the purpose of giving Japanese players more of a chance to compete in the NCAA and NBA.

Kohama won seven titles in the JBL as the head coach of Isuzu. Odeven compares his resume to those of Casey Stengel and John Madden, coaches who were remembered for their sustained level of excellence.

“He was a great winner,” Odeven said. “He was demanding, but he knew how to win.”

“He just wanted basketball to be good in Japan. When you talked to him, you saw that shine through.”

Kohama was ultracompetitive as a head coach, recruiting the best available players from America and spending more than other teams in his pursuit of championships. If those tactics sometimes rubbed opposing coaches the wrong way, their impression of Kohama often changed when they met him in person, as it did for Bob Pierce, who coached 13 years in Japan.

“He just loved basketball and wanted everyone to succeed,” Pierce said. “I realized he wasn’t this evil genius who wanted to win all the time. He just wanted basketball to be good in Japan. When you talked to him, you saw that shine through.”

Casey played an integral role in turning Kohama’s vision into reality. It was Casey who placed a call to former New York Knicks first-round pick Kenny Walker in 1996 to persuade him to extend his basketball career in Japan with Isuzu. The team won the JBL championship and fondly recalls being coached by Kohama.

“He had a presence about him,” Walker said. “He was so revered. Whenever he walked in, it was like the president was walking in.”

Casey was also the assistant coach to Kohama for Japan’s men’s basketball team at the 1998 FIBA Basketball World Championships in Athens, Greece — the country’s first appearance in 31 years. Japan lost all three games in group play by 91 points, but Dan Weiss, a member of the team, remembers the impact Casey made.

“I saw a different approach,” Weiss said. “Japanese coaches get stuck in traditional basketball drills with passing and shooting that never relate to what you’re doing on the court. Dwane worked on a lot of rebounding drills, stepping in, screening out, things that we never did before he got there. He didn’t come in and try and change players as much as he made them more aware of what they could do.”

Casey has also helped groom local coaches in Japan. Toshi Sato, who coached the Hakuoh University women’s basketball team to the All Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship title last year and is currently head coach of the under-24 Japanese national team, credits Casey, with whom he worked in the JBL, for helping him with game preparation and improving his knowledge of defensive schemes.

“He’s my mentor,” Sato said. Sato has visited Casey at his various NBA stops, and the two remain close friends today.


In 1994, Casey returned to the United States, working as an assistant coach under George Karl with the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics. In 2005, he got his first head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he went 53-69 over two seasons. In 2011, Casey won an NBA championship as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, and he was hired as a head coach by the Toronto Raptors that summer. After two losing seasons, Casey led Toronto to four consecutive playoff appearances, including the franchise’s first Eastern Conference finals appearance last season, which earned him a three-year extension with the team.

And through all of this, Casey and Kohama have regularly communicated via email. Casey kept up his visits to Japan, including a honeymoon trip in 2006 with his wife, Brenda, where they met Kohama for dinner at a shabu shabu restaurant. Last summer, before flying to Rio de Janeiro to watch Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan compete for Team USA at the Summer Games, Casey booked a two-day trip to Japan and flew alone to see Kohama, who was battling cancer, for the first time in nine years.

“I knew from what everyone was telling me the end was coming,” Casey said. “It was a very difficult trip to go see him because I knew it was probably the last time I’d get to see him. He was very frail and had lost a lot of his strength.”

Still, Casey and Kohama, along with Sato, Odeven and Japanese basketball agent Toshinori Koga gathered for dinner on the first evening to reminisce. What Odeven saw was a special friendship that went beyond just a shared passion for basketball.

“Their friendship extended decades, across different countries, different continents and different stages of their lives,” Odeven said. “They took their careers seriously, but they had a shared sense of humor. They both realized that this is sports. This is supposed to be fun. It was a genuine friendship. I don’t think there was any bulls— involved. They just genuinely liked each other.”

On his second day in Japan, Casey and Kohama participated in a basketball clinic at Hakuoh University, where approximately 100 coaches from around the country attended to learn practice drills and receive a speech from Kohama. Before leaving, Casey had one last message for his dear friend.

“I said thank you,” Casey said. “Thank you for bringing me over here when I went through some things.”

Kohama died in January at the age of 84, but his passing does not mean the end of Casey’s relationship with basketball in Japan. He still plans on visiting regularly and would like to take his two kids, Justine and Zachary, to see Japan one day.

“It’s like going home for him,” McKamey said. “He is respectful and grateful for the hand they extended to him. … There’s a debt of gratitude.”

For Casey, his lifelong friendship with Kohama and the years he spent in Japan mean the world, literally.

“It was the hospitality, and just how people invited you in with warmth,” Casey said. “There’s always been a connection. I just felt at peace and at home among my friends in Japan.”

Daily Dose: 4/7/17

Clinton Yates is not here today. He’s currently at the Coca-Cola headquarters, pitching executives on a new ad campaign starring Iggy Azalea.

The Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against the Syrian government Thursday night. According to ABC News, “59 tomahawk missiles were launched from destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea over a half-hour span beginning at 7:36 p.m. ET.” The U.S. military forewarned its Russian counterparts in the area that the airstrike was coming, and reportedly no Syrians were killed. National security adviser H.R. McMaster said the attack would not “stop [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad’s ability to carry out future attacks,” according to CNN, so not much can be made of what happened last night.

LaVar Ball is talking … again. The noted loudmouth has been saying insane things for months now, but now he just said something plain stupid. Ball told the Southern California News Group that UCLA, his son Lonzo’s former team, was eliminated from the NCAA tournament last month because “you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.” Aside from that not being true, UCLA lost in part because Lonzo Ball scored just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the team’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky, while Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox dropped 39 points in his face. And for nonblack people, this doesn’t make LaVar Ball racist, so leave those think pieces in your Drafts folder.

There’s a new All Eyez on Me trailer. The Tupac Shakur biopic looks amazing. From the cast — The Wire‘s Jamie Hector, The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira and Notorious‘ Jamal Woolard, reprising his role as Notorious B.I.G. — to the music to the drama, this movie appears to have it all. Lead actor Demetrius Shipp Jr., who plays the late rapper, makes you think you’re watching a documentary (or a Coachella hologram) rather than a feature film because of his striking resemblance to the titular character. And it appears we’re getting a 360-degree view of Shakur, from his upbringing in New York alongside his Black Panther mother and stepfather to his “California Love” lifestyle as a rap superstar all the way to his premature death at the age of 25. There’s even time to fit in former girlfriend Jada Pinkett Smith. The movie opens on June 17.


Quick notes:

1. An Arizona elementary school was out here stamping kids’ arms for not having enough lunch money.

2. Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn are officially calling it quits.

3. Kendrick Lamar was reportedly supposed to drop an album last night. He did not.

Big-time college athletes should be paid with big-time educations Before we discuss paying college athletes, let’s make sure they get a real college education

Education should be the college athlete’s greatest compensation.

Not a slice of the billions of dollars paid for TV rights for their games. Not a pay-for-play contract like their NBA and NFL brethren. The biggest crime in college sports isn’t that the system is rigged against paying college athletes, it’s that money-worshipping American culture is set up against educating them.

The clamor to pay players arose anew this week when North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams earned $925,000 in bonuses after his team won the national championship. “The players got awesome T-shirts and hats,” observed Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds in a viral tweet.

The NCAA collects $1.1 billion per year from CBS and Turner for broadcast rights to the basketball tournament. ESPN pays $470 million annually for the College Football Playoff. Conferences and individual colleges make additional millions during the regular season. Many have compellingly argued for years that, morally and legally, the players deserve to pocket some of that windfall.

They do. But our Money Over Everything society is minimizing or ignoring what’s currently within its grasp, which should last far longer than a six-figure revenue-sharing check.

Right now, college players receive up to six figures’ worth of higher education, plus the life-changing opportunity to elevate intellect and character. Yes, athletes are too often pushed into fake classes to keep them eligible, as in the infamous North Carolina academic scandal that threatens the Tar Heels’ championship, or hindered from serious study by the 40-hour-per-week demands of their sport. But these athletes, and generations of their descendants, would benefit more from reforming their educational experiences than from extra cash.

Let’s look at what those North Carolina ballers receive from their athletic scholarships.

Start with four years of tuition, fees, room and board that total $80,208 for in-state students and $180,536 for those from outside North Carolina. Add the benefit of a diploma from a top institution with an influential and passionate alumni network. UNC is nationally ranked the No. 5 public university and the No. 30 college overall. The name “North Carolina” on LinkedIn or a resume opens doors and gets phone calls returned — and that’s without including “2017 NCAA champion.” And for the majority of UNC players who won’t make NBA millions, lifetime earnings for college graduates are 66 percent higher than those with just a high school diploma. That can be worth more than an additional $1 million.

Then there are the intangibles.

“People ask all the time why I’m one of the youngest college presidents in the country, and one of the only African-Americans leading a private national university,” said Chris Howard, 48, who leads Robert Morris University in suburban Pittsburgh and played football at the Air Force Academy. “I credit a big chunk of that to my experience playing college athletics. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but attention to detail, discipline, teamwork, resiliency, learning how to deal with others, deal with people that are of different backgrounds. It was just a melting pot. It was a leadership lab for me.”

After finishing college, Howard flew helicopters, served in Afghanistan and Liberia, became a Rhodes scholar and got a Harvard MBA. “All those intangibles kind of laid the path. The path was laid by playing D-I football first,” he said.

Rather than an unfair burden, Howard sees the demands placed on college athletes as a down payment on a successful future.

“You’ll be a better human being when you learn to handle that load,” he said. “You’ll be a better father, better husband, better brother, better sister. You’ll be a better professional as an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a business manager.”

The pay-for-play crowd loves to holler, “Intangibles don’t pay the bills.”

College athletes certainly should receive enough compensation to cover living expenses. Their families should travel free to games. Some sort of trust fund sounds fair. But the intangible value of higher education is worth more than pizza or gas money.

Martin Luther King Jr. described it while a student at Morehouse College:

“Most of the ‘brethren’ think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses,” King wrote in 1947 at age 21. “Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.”

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education,” King wrote.

The real problem is, too many athletes are blocked from coming within a Hail Mary of that ideal.

“I would suggest that a lot of these kids aren’t getting an education. They’re just sitting in class,” said Leonard Moore, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is founder of the Black Student-Athlete Summit.

Moore has tutored, counseled and mentored athletes while teaching at Ohio State, Louisiana State and now Texas. He says most big-time athletes are limited to easy majors and prevented from taking advantage of many educational benefits because “revenue-generating sports are now year-round enterprises.”

“You can’t take a class after 1 o’clock. You can’t study abroad in the summer. You can’t get an internship on Wall Street or Silicon Valley,” he said. “The question then becomes how do these student-athletes take advantage of everything that a place like Texas or UCLA has to offer? I would argue that it monopolizes all their time. The only thing they can do is go to class, go to work out and then go lift, and then go to the meeting and then go to class.”

“I never understood why a football team has to practice in February when their first game of the season is in September,” Moore said.

Money is the biggest reason.

The University of Texas football team generated $121 million in revenue and a staggering $92 million profit in 2015. The business of college sports is so entrenched, Moore doesn’t believe it’s possible to make the players real students again.

“Just because you value education doesn’t mean [the athlete] values it,” he said. “If it’s basketball that got me on an airplane, that’s taken me to another state, that’s taken me out of the country, you know what I’m saying? Basketball has definitely helped me move forward in life. You say a four-year education, that doesn’t mean anything. That’s important in your value system, but it ain’t important in mine.

“Right now, it seems like they value the money and that we all value the money,” Moore continued. “That’s the athletes. That’s the university. Our society values the money, and so we say, ‘Look, they need to be paid. We need to pay them, pay them, pay them.’ Instead of saying, ‘We need to educate, educate, educate.’ ”

Efforts are being made. Over the past 15 years, graduation rates have risen from 46 to 77 percent for all black NCAA basketball players, and from 76 to 94 percent for white players. The NCAA gave Division I schools $45 million last year for academic programs and services.

But ballplayers can still get a sociology degree in three years while reading just one book. The clamor for cash still prevails. Demanding short-term gratification feels better than pursuing long-term goals.

A starting point for reform would be guaranteeing athletic scholarships for four years, instead of one, and providing free tuition, room and board for as long as it takes ex-players to graduate. Freed from the demand to produce revenue, these young athletes could finally obtain the incalculable benefits of a real college education.

Capitalism dictates that college players be paid fairly for the entertainment they provide. If money is life’s ultimate goal, the buck stops there.

Or here: “Capitalism is always in danger,” King said, “of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.”