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

Monday 06.19.17

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

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

Tuesday 06.20.17

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

Wednesday 06.21.17

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

Thursday 06.22.17

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

FRIDAY 06.23.17

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

All Day Podcast: 6/22/17 A trip around New York City, with a twist

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Remember back when I mentioned that the All Day Podcast was going to become a lot more personal? Well, that day has come. This week, I traveled up to New York to talk to a couple of people about their connection to the basketball and sports world, with the NBA draft set to go down Thursday night in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.

Basically, I grabbed my recording equipment and hit the streets, hoping to capture some stories and give you an idea of what interests me beyond the obvious stick and ball sports that we cover so regularly here. It was a fun ride, and I hope after listening you’ll get a better idea of exactly what makes me tick.

To begin with, I sat down with Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, the co-creators of Jopwell. It’s a firm that places minority candidates in tech jobs, started by two black men who met while working in finance on Wall Street. I met them at their downtown offices in Manhattan to talk about what prompted them to leave the money world and try to help others in a field that neither of them had much experience in.

Braswell, who played basketball at Yale, talked about what it was like to bring his athletic persona into the corporate world once he was done with hoops and how it helped shape his business strategy. Williams pointed out this was not a popular career decision in his household, but it certainly has paid off at this point in terms of what he’s getting out of it. Then, I got crushed at pingpong.

Later that afternoon, I made my way to midtown to check out the unveiling of Nike’s new REACT technology, featured on the Hyperdunk and Jordan Super.Fly 2017s. The event was held at a place called Terminal 23, which holds invite-only open runs for people in the business and youth players looking for more than the average gym experience. I played horribly, but I did get to talk to three Nike execs who were responsible for creating the new shoes, one of which Golden State Warriors center Draymond Green wore in the NBA Finals. He was there, too.

Lastly, I took a trip to Queens to decompress after hearing the news of the death of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. He was only 42 years old, making him the latest in a long line of hip-hop greats who have died before 50, which is just really sad. He was a force on the rap scene since “Shook Ones Pt. II,” and his presence in the game as a ’90s artist will never be forgotten.

I talked with K-Sise, a lifelong friend and family member as far as I’m concerned, about what his impact meant to the borough. K is a semiretired recording artist who grew up in Queens, so I thought his input on this subject would be valuable. We sat down at his place and talked about the crazy day that was and how it affected us as fans of the culture, never mind him as a Queens native and New Yorker. I think you’ll find it interesting.

Overall, it was a pretty exhausting Tuesday, but I did my best to make it sound good. With any luck, you’ll get an idea of where this show is looking to go, because although this episode isn’t perfect — none are — it’s as close as I’ve gotten to something that best represents what this blog is really about.

Enjoy.

Bryson Tiller partners with Nike to revamp basketball courts in his hometown The Louisville, Kentucky, native spent the day with fans at Wyandotte Park before performing in a pop-up concert

R&B singer and songwriter Bryson Tiller returned to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, with a gift that community members won’t soon forget.

Tiller teamed up with longtime partner Nike to revamp the popular Wyandotte Park in south Louisville. The renovations were revealed to hundreds of fans whom Tiller stopped to hug, sign autographs for and take selfies with after an introduction by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Kids wore Nike-sponsored shirts with one of Tiller’s favorite messages of encouragement, “It’s possible here,” printed on the back. The message is also inscribed on the court sidelines to serve as a daily reminder to anyone who visits the court.

“I never thought this day would come,” Tiller told the crowd Wednesday. “I’m happy that it’s finally here. I’m surprised so many people came out here to show love … I just want to tell y’all, everybody always used to tell me that you can’t make it out of Louisville, Kentucky. You gotta go somewhere else — I disagree, because I made it out of this city. So if anybody on this court right now got a dream, you believe in yourself, you can do it. You can do this, too.”

The revamped space features three new courts that were designed to not only give the park a face-lift but also keep kids occupied and out of trouble during the summer by providing positive activities. For Tiller, being able to restore new life to the basketball court is something he’s looked forward to doing.

“Every time I come to Louisville, I just drive past on Taylor Boulevard, and I used to just see this court,” Tiller said earlier in the day. “I’m just like, ‘Yo, man, that court looks terrible. It’s time to do something to that court.’ ”

After the ceremony, Nike held a three-hour basketball skills clinic for local children. Tiller concluded the evening with a pop-up concert, performing music from his sophomore album, True to Self, which currently stands at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.

This isn’t the first time Tiller has partnered with Nike to show his hometown some love. In December 2016, Tiller teamed up with Nike Sportswear to craft his own version of Louisville-inspired Air Force 1 Bespoke iD sneakers.

“I wore a uniform to school, so the white-on-white or black-on-black Air Force 1 Low was the simple sneaker to wear, but it was the standard,” Tiller said. “You were cool if you had on a pair of Air Force 1s. It’s still a staple for me while on tour.”

The custom design included an upper in university red leather “to recreate the look and feel of boxing gloves,” according to the site. The eye stay and custom tongue tag honored the branding generally found on the same gloves. The city-inspired design on the midsole and outsole, along with the word “possible,” complete the shoe.

“Whenever you fly into Louisville, you see a sign that says, ‘It’s Possible Here,’ ” Tiller said. “I remember my first time seeing it … I was working on my debut album, and I just thought, ‘Wow, it is possible here.’ Everybody always thinks you have to move out of the city and go where the music industry is, but it’s possible in Louisville and it’s possible anywhere. You just have to believe.”

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

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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.

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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”

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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”

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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.

Daily Dose: 5/19/17 Basquiat is still selling and breaking records

This has been one of the longest weeks in Washington I can think of in a really long time. Here’s hoping that we make it through the weekend with our democracy intact.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more precarious at the White House, the president takes off on a foreign trip. Obviously, people are a bit worried about how this might go, considering President Donald Trump’s proclivities for bluster and hyperbole, which may play well here with his base, but are a different matter overseas. He’s representing not only himself but also the nation. A misspeak or errant tweet is not going to fly with a foreign audience when you’re on their turf. Let’s hope his aides are armed with what they need to make this go smoothly.

I love dogs as much as the next person, but let’s be clear — they are not human. So when it comes to lives being taken unfairly, I’m pretty much always going to consider those of actual people more important than those of pets. But if you want to get an idea of where we are in America, a woman just walked free for killing a black man while in the line of duty in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, a guy who shot and didn’t even kill a police dog gets 19 years in prison. That is seriously messed up.

Jean-Michel Basquiat is a legend in the game. The street artist turned megastar died in 1988, but his influence on how galleries and subculture began to meld together to create a mainstream genre is still felt today. His work still sells, in some cases for amounts so astronomical that it makes you sad he’s not around to enjoy that money. But his latest is really off the charts. One of his works just sold for $110.5 million, making it only the 11th piece ever to break the $100M mark. I can’t even remotely contemplate paying that much for something.

Under Armour just scored a big league deal. The athletic apparel company will be supplying uniforms to Major League Baseball in 2019, taking over for Majestic and Nike. It feels like those two have been there forever; it’s 1982 for the former, to be exact. It’s a massive score for the Baltimore-based Under Armour, which has been growing consistently since it started in 1996. Now it’s one of the big boys for sure. I do wonder if it’ll do anything drastic to the usually staid, traditional style of MLB, but I doubt it. Why mess with greatness?

Free Food

Coffee Break: As if you don’t have enough things to worry about when buying a house, you can now add “gigantic terrifying honeycomb” to that list. That’s what happened in Georgia, where a woman discovered she had more than 100,000 bees inside her house. That is terrifying.

Snack Time: In this business of show, creativity is required but not always easy to find. So don’t ask me how or why we need a movie about the life of Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s monkey.

Dessert: You know what is good news, though? Lin-Manuel Miranda being involved in a DuckTales reboot. YES.

Baltimore kid stunts on chess tournament in Nike slides Cahree Myrick is a gawd for this

When I grow up, I want to be like Cahree Myrick.

I didn’t know who he was until this morning when this crossed my desk. I have no context for this photo other than what’s tweeted. Alec Ross, by the way, is running for governor in Maryland. But his political career aside, let’s talk about the sport.

Chess, for years, was the purview of dudes on park benches and European dudes who took things extremely seriously. Over the past decade, it’s grown quite a bit in the black community, with after-school programs being the primary vehicle. Here’s a story about one in Ferguson, Missouri, for example. As a concept though, the effect of teaching black kids to play chess is such a marvel that it’s been the subject of pretty serious academic study, too. You might be familiar with Maurice Ashley, the first black chess grandmaster, who’s been at the forefront of this movement.

But let’s talk about this kid. I have a kid brother in middle school. He dresses exactly like this every day possible. When I was his age, I dressed exactly like this, every day possible. It was my outfit for walking to the gas station to get snacks, maybe hitting the mall with a friend or lounging at my cousin’s house. This young man decided to rock it to a chess championship. And he won.

I have no clue what any of his competitors wore, but I like to imagine that they wore the kind of stuff your parents forced you to wear to Sunday school — you know, just in case someone took a picture. My man Cahree rolled up in some slides, banged a couple of checkmates and walked away with a trophy.

This is black boy joy.

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.”

Daily Dose: 5/12/17 L.A. Reid moves on from Epic Records

I’m going to see Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night between the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. I really, really, hope that this isn’t the last NBA basketball game in D.C. this season.

If you listen to music in this country, you should know who L.A. Reid is. One half of the original team that started LaFace Records, Babyface being the other, he’s been a dominant force in the industry for a generation. He’s the kind of guy who’s always making various people’s power lists, and in an era in which the concept of the record company mogul is kind of a dying breed, he’s still around. But now, he’s out at Epic Records. It’s not exactly clear why, either, because it’s not like he wasn’t enjoying plenty of success. Where he lands will be fascinating.

President Donald Trump is letting the tweets fly, again. After apparently nearly incriminating himself during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, he decided it was a good idea to get up and start tweeting even more things that could eventually end his administration — which for my money, is exactly what he wants to do. No. 1, he admitted that he fired FBI director James Comey because of his investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, which in most leagues is a foul, to borrow a sports phrase. Then, he basically threatened a congressional witness.

The man in charge of Rikers Island is stepping down. Joseph Ponte is his name, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put him in charge of the Big Apple’s correctional facilities three years ago. Let’s just say that he’s not exactly leaving without a cloud over his head. De Blasio talked long and loud about how he was going to close Rikers, but that still hasn’t happened, and Ponte’s own proclivity for being extremely shady is as much of a reason to point to as anything else. In short, conditions for inmates are not getting better in NYC anytime soon.

LaVar Ball’s had a decent week. He’s managed to stay in the news cycle without being completely destructive and sell a few shoes in the interim. Also, if you want to hear the clearest example of why most people have no issue with Lonzo Ball’s father, but actually like him, look no further than rapper The Game, who broke it down in pretty simple terms. He also managed to get into a bit of a row with Kobe Bryant, but in the end, NBA execs say this will not affect his son’s draft status. Which, for Lonzo, is all that should matter.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I’m not going to lie. I don’t want to read or watch content about Tupac and Biggie for the rest of my life. I just don’t. I know that some people do, and that’s fine, but personally, with each successive project about their lives and deaths, I feel ickier as a fan of hip-hop. USA Network has greenlit a series called Unsolved.

Snack Time: Missy Elliot has always been a style icon, and that ain’t changing anytime soon, so to see her on the cover of Elle magazine is a big win for her and the culture in general.

Dessert: Need a good gift for mom? How about a Nike outsole iPhone case! For real, though, they’re dope.

Kobe Bryant partners with Nike to create basketball program The eight-week program welcomed 288 boys and girls from underserved communities in L.A.

Kobe Bryant may be retired from the NBA, but the Black Mamba has found time to keep the sport in the forefront of his life. He has partnered with Nike and the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club to create a new basketball league for kids.

The Mamba League was launched to teach kids ages 8-10 core basketball techniques and the importance of teamwork while building relationships and showing young athletes how the game connects to everyday life. From February to April, 40 volunteer coaches from the Nike Community Ambassador Program and the Boys & Girls Club mentored, taught and trained 288 players from four underserved communities in Los Angeles County — Nickerson Gardens in Watts, Whittier, West San Gabriel Valley/Monterey Park and Venice — for eight weeks.

“The Mamba League is a fun league for kids to learn the game, have fun, but also understand the connection the game has with life in general and convert that into being a better son, a better daughter, a better student,” Bryant said in a Nike video about the program. “I’m really excited about building this league with my Nike family.”

Courtesy of Nike

Bryant wanted to take the Mamba League in a direction slightly different from most youth programs. Basketball rims were lowered to 9 feet, a foot shorter than a regulation hoop, in order to give players room to develop their skills. Coaches were briefed on how to communicate different drills and techniques to players of all skill levels.

Another unique factor of the league was its female turnout, which can sometimes be modest in male-dominated basketball programs. Female coaches were brought in to train the girls, who made up around 45 percent of the league’s rosters.

Although the league was formed to help players learn the mechanics of the game, Bryant hopes the lessons learned during the eight weeks will be valuable in their everyday lives.

“This is more than just a competition,” Bryant told players at the Mamba Challenge tournament in April. “The league is about empowering players and coaches and seeing kids increase their self-confidence as young leaders both on and off the court.”

Plans are to expand to more sites next year.

Michael Vick’s next chapter includes forgiving himself and guiding young athletes The retired QB has started sports academies and is pushing his brand V7

A normal day in the life of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is spent with family, maybe indulging in some golf and during this time of year taking in some NBA playoff games.

“I wake up and I try to handle all my business by 2 o’clock. I’m golfing from 3 to 5, maybe practicing some short game, trying to get better as a golfer,” Vick said. “Then come home and spend time with my kids if I don’t go to pick them up around 3:30, and that night I’m trying to find the best TV show I can find. Right now it’s the playoffs, though.”

He was rooting for the Indiana Pacers, who were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of this postseason.

Vick announced his retirement in February after spending 13 seasons in the NFL, which included times filled with controversy, a prison sentence, a second chance and acts of remorse that involved advocating for animals.

April 30 marked the beginning of the postretirement Vick era. He’s turned his sights to the next chapter: guiding young athletes. Teaming up with the National Playmakers Academy (NPA), he launched the V7 Elite Playmakers Showcase Series, a premier sports camp in the South and East geared toward young athletes ranging from fifth- to 12th-graders.

The showcase provides an interactive camp setting where the kids will receive a combination of instruction from elite college and professional coaches and athletes, have their performances evaluated by college coaches by livestreaming, access to exclusive V7 gear (Vick’s official clothing line) and competition among elite talent. V7 Elite Playmakers Showcase Series kicked off its multicity tour Sunday at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Vick’s next chapter represents his road to healing, including forgiving himself after serving 18 months in federal prison following a guilty plea to dogfighting conspiracy on Aug. 27, 2007.

On April 25, 2007, police raided his Virginia property and found several neglected pit bulls and evidence of dogfighting. By Aug. 24, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Vick indefinitely without pay, but later said he’d have to show genuine remorse to get a chance at resuming his NFL career.

Vick, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, made four Pro Bowl appearances over his professional football career. He still holds the record for the most career rushing yards by a quarterback (6,109) and the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,039). The former Virginia Tech standout’s on-the-field career accomplishments include the NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2010) and the collegiate Archie Griffin Award in 1999.

Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick after his release from prison in July 2009, and in August of that year he signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and was fully reinstated in week 6 of the 2009-10 NFL season.

In his dark days, those prison days, Vick said, he did a lot of writing.

“I wrote a lot of people, whether it was prominent people, ambassadors, vice presidents. I was writing everybody,” he said. “I got over like 50,000, 60,000 pieces of mail that came through the prison systems for me. That just goes to show that people did care, and it was people of all different races, all different backgrounds, all different colors, all different denominations, and that’s what kept me uplifted.”

Vick was a target for animal rights activists, and protests followed him in the latter stages of his career. After Vick signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, head coach Mike Tomlin told Trib Total Media that Vick had made efforts to atone for his past. “Rest assured that he has done a lot since some of the things that he has gone through. His track record to this point speaks for itself,” Tomlin said.

According to MNN.com, “since his release from federal prison in 2009, Vick has worked with the Humane Society to help stop dogfighting, and he helped get the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act passed in Congress. Recently, he made a trip to the Pennsylvania statehouse to support a bill that would give police more authority to rescue pets left in hot cars.”

Vick opened up to The Undefeated about retirement, his showcase series, prison and his journey to forgiveness.


How is retirement for you?

I feel good in retirement. As of right now, I feel like I’ve got enough going on to keep me occupied, and I think postcareer, for a lot of players, you worry about what’s to come or you don’t plan for what’s to come, and I didn’t have a plan. I just kind of followed all my resources and just allowed them to help me dictate what was best for my immediate future following retirement and I’ve got combines, showcases coming up for kids.

Ten different showcases in 10 different states, different cities. I’ve got a clothing line that’s about to emerge and some other things that sparked my interest that I think would be beneficial for my brand long term.

How did you decide on starting your showcase and your clothing line?

Well, I’ve done a lot of camps over the years. And camps, they follow the same format. And I think with a showcase, it gives collegiate coaches the opportunity to come out and view the kids and the kids can get some form of recognition in terms of being recruited by a major, Division I university or a DIII school.

I think every kid can place at some level of college football and I’ve been around those kids, following them. A lot of them now are entering the NFL from working with them in 2010, 2011, and that’s the exciting part about it. I’ve found so many kids who I can influence and who I can help.

In regards to the clothing line, I had my brand with Nike years ago, V7, and V7 did very well. We had five different shoes, we had a clothing line consisting of hats, T-shirts, headbands, and it was just a brand within itself that was taking, and I figure now it’s about the next generation.

A lot of kids follow me. A lot of them admired my style of play and look up to me as a role model, so I figure I’d come with the V7 the next generation and just keep the brand going.

How is your showcase camp different from other traditional football camps?

We’re continuing to help educate the kid moving forward. Some kids are going to be sophomores, some are going to be juniors, some are going to be rising seniors. For the younger guys, the underclassmen, they’ll get an opportunity to come back every year, annually, and as the season goes on, anything that they learn from these combines they can take it and apply in the season while they’re playing.

They can’t get it all, but just a weekend worth of consistent coaching and letting the kids know like this is the proper form, this is the proper technique, this is the attitude that you’ve got to display, competition-based, what your vision has to be as far as your competitiveness. Those are things they can take a long way, and it’s up to them to practice these skills on their own postcombine.

How many children do you expect at each showcase?

It’s going to vary. We’re thinking in places like, cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Texas, we’re looking at 500, 600 kids maybe. I don’t want to overwhelm it. I want to be able to be accessible to all the kids that’s at all the combines, so if registration gets too crazy, we’re going to shut it down. But looking at capping off, always trying to cap off at around 400 kids, which will be a good look.

We want to encourage more the middle-school kids, sixth through eighth grade, to come out and be in attendance. They’re the ones that’s going to be able to learn from the older guys, from the guys that are sophomores, juniors, seniors. Even at a young age you can vicariously learn, and we want to always make that a priority.

You’re beginning the camp at an HBCU, Tennessee State University. How did you decide on the various locations?

We would love to go to black schools, but you’ve got to cater to what’s available and the amount of kids that you can have, and it depends on how many fields that they have. That’ll always dictate where the location will be, but we want to be accessible to a whole diversity of people.

Football players come in all sizes, all colors, all shapes, whether small or big, and we encourage everybody to come out. And it’s going to be a great learning experience, first and foremost, and an opportunity to compete at a high level, which is most important.

It’s all about just turning that page, the next generation of athletes to come, on and off the field and, most importantly, being student-athletes. That’s what’s most important, and that’s probably what I preach more than anything. I believe the classroom is more valuable than sports and I took that seriously, and I think that was the reason why my way was paved for me as time went on.

Looking at your overall journey, what is the difference of what you learned when you first got into the league versus what you know exiting?

Well, I think when you first come into the National Football League, it’s a show-and-prove attitude that you have to have. On the field, you want to show your franchise or the franchise who picked you that you were worthy of the pick, whether it’s the first pick or the 250th pick. It’s all about dedicating yourself and it’s all about honing your skills to be the best that you can be, for the overall franchise and for the city. Because, depending on your position, you have a city on your back.

Throughout the whole process, you don’t really understand what it’s like to be in the NFL as far as the glamour, the limelight, all the splendor that may come along with it that you enjoy and that’s what we dream of, but I think inside of that sometimes we lose sight of the real dream, and that’s trying to win a championship and being the best citizen that you can be outside of football.

We lose sight of that, and at a young age I didn’t accept that. I didn’t want to take that responsibility on. I just wanted to play football and just be a good, honest, genuine person. After I had my situation, which I call it, I went in, I came out a better person. I got with a group of people who really cared about me and cared about my well-being and wanted me to succeed off the field first and on the field secondary.

I thought that was important, and what I learned as I went through those years was that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And if I could do it all over again, if I was the person I am today, I wouldn’t have never went through some of the things I went through. But it made me a complete person, and I’m still growing as the days go on.

I think just the journey within itself helped me to mature to a grown man who is dedicated to family, dedicated still to football, and dedicated to my off-the-field endeavors, whichever they may be.

What stages did you go through to overcome your adversity?

Well, I think just stage 1 was accepting it, knowing that, listen, I screwed up, I made a mistake, and somehow, some way this has to be corrected, but as of right now, I don’t know how I can do it, but I know it’s some challenges ahead that I’m not going to like, but I have to deal with.

Step 2 was living in it and understanding that, listen, I’m in a place where I don’t want to be, it was all self-inflicted and I accept it, and it hurts right now and I’m struggling, but I put my faith in God and not in man.

Step 3 was just the whole belief in the people around me and the whole faith thing that I had. And believing in God centered me around people when I came home that gave me a different vision, a different structure, a different outline on what my life could look like in seven years.

I looked at it and I accepted, and I said, ‘Listen, I’ve pushed through the toughest parts of my life, and maybe there will be parts of my life that will be tougher. I know what I leaned on. I’m accepting the truth and faith,’ and being proactive, making my life a reality in terms of what I wanted, and I did that. And that’s where I’m at to this day, and I stand by it.

What has been the hardest part of your journey?

The hardest part of my journey, I think, is being in prison for 18 months. That’s something that you never envision. I know it’s times where people can visualize moments and put yourself in positions and say, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to do that. I never want to be in that position.’

I was one of those guys who always straddled the fence and thought about what could possibly be the worst thing that could happen, and prison, I think, was it. And I never expected to be in that situation or wanted to be, and when I found myself in that situation I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this has happened to me,’ but not for a week, not for a month, or a weekend. It was for 18 months.

Were people’s thoughts and opinions of you important?

Yeah, I always cared what people thought about me ever since I stepped into preschool. I was one of the guys who I always wanted to make my teacher proud. I never wanted to disrespect. If it was a teacher and I looked at her and I thought she was nice and kind and I thought she was beautiful and sweet, then I would go out of my way to make sure that she was proud of me.

At what point did you forgive yourself?

I forgave myself once I finished my prison sentence. I think when it was all said and done and it was over with, I forgave myself. I did my time, and then I was ready to walk into a different walk of life.

Who inspires you?

It’s so many people that inspire me. I would have to say so many coaches. Andy Reid inspired me. Mike Tomlin inspired me. Arthur Blank inspired me. My kids inspired me. My wife, family. Man, the list goes on and on.

A lot of people out there who give me so much inspiration. LeBron James inspires me. Kobe Bryant inspires me. Isaiah Thomas, he inspires me after what he went through last week. I get inspiration from so many places that it’s unbelievable. Even Sergio Garcia winning the Masters two weeks ago from all the adversity he went through.

I find inspiration in people and the moments that they have that’s gratifying. I relate to those situations on all levels because I feel like I’ve been there at some point, and that’s where my appreciation for life comes from.

Do you read a lot?

I did a lot of reading when I was in prison. I still read a lot now. I don’t have a lot of time. I read so many books when I was in prison. I think I’ve read enough for 40 years. I swear. That’s all I did. If I wasn’t playing chess — I learned to play dominoes towards the end — so if I wasn’t playing chess, I was reading. I was always thinking. I always had my mind involved in something.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Man. I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was just the character of a man and what it exists of. I think some people take that for granted, and I think if kids learned that from a young age this world would be a better place. Character goes a long way, and it’s all dictated on how you present yourself over a certain time span, and that’s what I believe in.

I just thought the character of a man dictates the type of person that you are, how people perceive you, was the best piece of advice that I could get because it fits the mold of me. It may be different for other people.

What do you tell other young men who ask for your advice?

Dream. That’s it. You dream, and that may actually turn into something, but I think you have to have imaginary thoughts of what you want your life to look like, because I know from the age of 10 I knew exactly what I wanted my life to look like. Some things went as planned, some things didn’t, but my life turned out the way I wanted it to be and it looked like what I envisioned when I was young, so dream.

If there’s anything regarding your sports path that you could’ve changed, what would that be?

If it’s anything that I truly would change to this day, because I think I did it all, like when I was younger I was lazy. As I got older, I worked harder. I would say just self-preservation. I would have preserved my body a little bit better. I just had ankle surgery, and it stemmed from a lot of downs, a couple of injuries that I had back in the day. Preserving myself is what I would have did just a tad bit better, but the competitive side of me didn’t allow me to do that when I was young.

What do you tell your babies, your children now about perseverance, growth and maturity?

My son is 14, my oldest daughter is 12 and my youngest daughter is 9. I tell them to dream, and the ultimate character to them is going to be dictated on what they learn every day in this household. How they see their mom and their dad conduct themselves on a daily basis. Being vicarious learners and having goals.

Like two weeks ago, I asked them what they wanted to be, all of them. Give me two things that you want to be or you want to do when you turn of age, 18, 21, finish college, and they all had some good answers and I was satisfied with what they wanted. And I think if they can narrow that focus and just take it serious, I think the sky’s the limit for them all because they’re all smart kids and they’ve all got goals and aspirations — but it starts when you’re young, and I try to instill that in them.

What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?

In five years, I see myself coaching. I’m setting the platform up now to get me geared into coaching and understand what it’s about. I already know I can do it on the highest level because I played on the highest level. It’s just all about information that won’t be redundant, but I’ll have to just be able to do it all over again.

It’ll give me the opportunity to chase a championship. I want to celebrate one more time in my life. I did it when I was young, had success in college. I didn’t win a national championship, but I know what it feels like to have those good moments and those good years, and I just want to feel that feeling again. If it takes coaching to chase that and be able to fulfill that need in my life, then why not give it a shot?