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

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

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

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

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

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green

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

James Harden

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

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

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

2 Chainz

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

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

Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

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

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

John Wall

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

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

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Ros Gold-Onwude and Drake

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

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

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Wanda Pratt

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

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

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Jada Pinkett Smith

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

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

Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The NBA draft prospects step into the style spotlight Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and other ballers make a play for best in class

I’m milling about the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York, where many members of the 2017 NBA draft class are counting down the hours until D-day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tall brown men are everywhere, many of whom are a little more than 24 hours away from being very famous and very rich.

I’m here to find out what the kids will be wearing on draft night. It becomes quickly apparent that ain’t happening. No one will spill the beans on details about suits, shoes, jewelry; they know that the big reveal gets the more screen time. Having that Hollywood mind frame starts early, yo. What we see pre-draft — formal-ish suits in low-key colors, flashy designer sneakers and jewelry — is an appetizer portion of what’ll be dished up later. The fashion menu is safe and tasty — but Thursday’s will be fire.

First up: Lonzo Ball. The 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard has had a rapid ascension in the pop culture hierarchy over the past several months, partially due to his serious skills as a ball player, but mainly because of his outspoken father and manager, LaVar Ball. The Ball family launched a sneaker and apparel line, Big Baller Brand, to much fanfare earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Lonzo Ball came dressed in gray pants and a black polo shirt stamped with the “BBB” logo on the left breast; a diamond crucifix hung from a diamond chain around his neck.

“I don’t feel pressure” to rep the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball said when asked what he planned to wear to draft night. “I’ll wear a black suit.” We’ll see. The marketing machine that is LaVar Ball has enough chutzpah to drop a ready-to-wear men’s suit line in time for Lonzo Ball’s handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On to De’Aaron Fox, the charming point guard for the University of Kentucky. Fox has been making the media rounds leading up to the draft, and the Houston-bred player was not playing around, sartorially speaking. His gray two-toned suit and black collarless shirt was tailored (by his personal stylist, no less) to perfection. The famous crown of hair was peaked high and looked magnificent. Fox joked that his Gucci slip-on sneakers, which were color stamped with a picture of a snarling tiger, were coveted by his fashion-obsessed Kentucky teammate, Malik Monk. “We wear the same shoe size, and he almost took these!” Fox said. “He had a different pair of Gucci shoes, so we’re good.

“I just like to look good — I feel like I can look good in anything, but my [draft day] suit is gonna look great,” said Fox, who took off the right GG Supreme Angry Cat sneaker and offered it for inspection. “The only question is how I’m gonna fit the hat over my head.”

Instagram Photo

At a nearby table, Monk wore a blue-and-white bomber jacket with leather trim instead of a typical suit jacket. “I always have something different on, whether you see it or not. You’ve gotta be different in the NBA, gotta stand out,” Monk said as he lifted his own colorful Gucci Ace GG Wallpaper sneaker-clad foot onto the table.

Instagram Photo

I’d been waiting to talk to Markelle Fultz, this year’s projected No. 1 overall pick and famous son of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Being a P.G. County girl my own self, I was pleasantly surprised when Fultz ended up earning the award for Most Low-Key Fashion Rookie of the day. Dressed in a black button-down shirt and black jeans, the University of Washington point guard let out a loud cry as he approached the interview table, packed seven deep with reporters. “Dang!” Fultz said before taking his seat.

What do you like most about what you’re going to wear Thursday, I asked.

“The lining of my draft suit is gray, but there’ll be some special stuff about it, too. I hope people will be surprised and like it,” Fultz said. “I always try to rep for a little bit of everywhere I’ve been, P.G. County, DeMatha [High School], [University of] Washington.”

How to match NBA socks with the perfect kicks Stance’s ‘Overspray’ collection gives sneakerheads a chance to freshen their look

When it comes to playoff basketball, Stance has your back — or feet, if we’re keeping it 💯. In April, the official sock provider of the NBA released the “Overspray” collection, featuring socks representing 10 different teams. So, in honor of the playoffs and NBA Finals, The Undefeated took socks from the collection of five playoff squads and matched them with the perfect pair of sneakers. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not included in the “Overspray” collection, but we gave the 2016 NBA champions a socks-and-sneakers combination anyway. Here at The Undefeated, we gotta make sure everyone is fresh during the postseason.

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.”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pots & pans: It’s time to slide into summer, it’s Memorial Day Whether it’s Kool-Aid or champagne, let’s toast ’cause summer is here

On Memorial Day, many of us return to the water. The ocean washes up on West Coast beaches. The spray from open fire hydrants splashes onto smiling faces in East Coast cities. On Memorial Day, many of us return to the land, rural campsites to big-city parks.

We crank up the volume on our stereos looking for the good-times soundtrack, today and yesterday, Motown to Nashville, Chic to Alan Jackson.

We eat strawberries and cream and chase them down with champagne. We eat roast pig and chase it down with cervezas. We eat fried chicken and chase it down with Kool-Aid, grape or cherry.

We dance, dance, dance, often in a line, but sometimes in delirious circles, our mouths open, as if we want to let the sunshine in. We watch the elders defy the march of time with their stunning and surprising dance moves. We march to the malls, our charge cards at the ready, to take no prisoners at the holiday sales.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with mourning the servicemembers who have died in the nation’s wars.

But Memorial Day can be what you make of it, what you want and need it to be.

And many of us need Memorial Day to be a time for barbecue, beaches and beer, the moment that the door into summer gets kicked open by feet shod in high-heeled sneakers, or cowboy boots or sandals.

After all, school is already out for many colleges and universities. And nothing announces summer more deliciously than the end of school.

In the coming days and weeks, the children freed from school will beguile us at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, The Little League Baseball World Series, celebrations of Americana through childhood competitions.

More importantly, in summer, the children beguile one another, lost in the poetry of unscripted play, a celebration of the childhood imagination.

And then there is love.

There is nothing like love, especially a new love, especially in summer, a kiss that lasts forever.

Throughout the year, TV brings us together to tell us horror stories, death and destruction, tumult and terror, with seemingly no one ready, willing or able to save us.

But the Memorial Day weekend begins the summer movie blockbuster season in earnest. Hollywood brings us together under the cover of darkness at our multiplex movie theaters: The American summer blockbusters give us bombs bursting in air, men with square jaws and women with hourglass figures. The good bad guys, the bad good guys, the superheroes, the ultimate outsiders, to save the day before all the popcorn has been eaten.

As always, Memorial Day finds the sports world in transition. The NBA and the NHL are set to choose champions. Then the focus of most big-time pro sports will move from indoors to outdoors, and Major League Baseball will enjoy its season in the sun.

No matter what games we play, no matter how well or how badly, we can all be boys and girls of summer.

And, for many of us, summer begins today.

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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


20. WEEK 10 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS — LSU

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

Instagram Photo

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

16. week 12 vs. cleveland browns — Paint splatter

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

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

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

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

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

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Instagram Photo

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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

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

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

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

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

9. Week 14 vs. dallas cowboys — 300

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

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

Instagram Photo

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

5. week 4 vs. Minnesota vikings — OVO

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

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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

4. 2017 Pro Bowl — Toy Story

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

3. WEEK 16 VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — GRINCH

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

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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

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

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

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

1. WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — THE Joker

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

‘The Wire’ — Game Day A play-by-play of that afternoon when a basketball game was more important than the drug game

Editor’s note: This story contains explicit language. And some spoilers.

The goal was for the aggression to stay on the blacktop at Baltimore’s neighborhood-famous Cloverdale Courts. Proposition Joe’s Eastside squad was going up against Avon Barksdale’s Westside unit. The losing team would have to throw a party for both crews. And a six-figure dollar amount was on the line. Hell, ’hood reputation was on the line. Tension was high.

Avon clowned Prop Joe. “Ayo, wassup playboy? How come you wearing that suit, B? For real, it’s 85 fucking degrees … and you trying to be like Pat Riley!”

Joe’s retort: “Look the part, be the part, motherfucker!” Yet, the Eastside projects drug dealer hadn’t made any markings on his clipboard. Couldn’t read a playbook if he tried. This is a scene from “Game Day,” the ninth episode of the first season of David Simon’s and Ed Burns’ epic, intense and critically fantastic series The Wire.

In Episode 9, Baltimore detectives were finally able to identify notorious drug kingpin Avon Barksdale. The police knew he existed, but save for a childhood boxing photo, they had no idea what he looked like. Barksdale had evaded law enforcement for years, but they were able to identify him in this episode because he was coaching a neighborhood basketball game. “Game Day” is an essential chapter in The Wire. It sets the rest of the series in motion.

The Wire debuted on HBO on June 2, 2002. It was the same night of a gruff Western Conference finals Game 7 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings — the Lakers won in overtime, closing out perhaps the wildest series of the decade. A slow-moving, expository, 62-minute pilot episode was no match.

But The Wire ran for five seasons. It succeeded by giving us a deep, 360-degree view of life inside an urban American city — the politicians, the cops, the corner boys, drug kingpins, stickup men, addicts, families of the addicts, dock workers, the local media — and more. The Wire could have been Detroit. Or Oakland. Or Newark. But this series was set in Baltimore — and fans all over the country and around the world were rabid about it.

Baltimore’s illegal activity (for the afternoon of Episode 9) was on a kind of TV timeout. It was Game Day in a city that birthed real-life basketball stars such as Muggsy Bogues, Keith Booth, Reggie Williams and Carmelo Anthony. This is where a high school hoops legend like East Baltimore’s Aquille “The Crimestopper” Carr flourished — and slowed down crime for two hours in Baltimore every time he had a game. The Wire’s Eastside vs. Westside contest, and the drama around it, was one of the most authentic hours in one of the most authentic television series ever to hit the small screen.

Thing is, The Wire never got its propers while it was airing. It never won a single Emmy. And The Wire struggled to maintain an audience during the last three seasons. Yet, if you ask any true-blue fans, they’ll tell you the experience ended far too soon. One more season, they wanted. Just one more.

The show did, after all, introduce Idris Elba, whose sex appeal never overshadowed the treachery of Stringer Bell. The execution of Michael B. Jordan in season one remains one of the most gut-wrenching and heartbreaking scenes ever aired on television. And we got familiar with one of the most dynamic and complex characters ever written for TV, the Robin Hood of the ’hood, Omar, a role seemingly effortlessly executed by Michael K. Williams. Oh, indeed.

Those who wrote it, starred and co-starred in it, directed and produced it — and who love the episode — contribute to this play-by-play. This is the story of “Game Day.”

Everyone quoted is identified by the titles they held during The Wire era.

‘Look the part, be the part.’

Each season of The Wire focused “with sociological precision” on a different aspect of Baltimore’s state of affairs. Season one zeroed in on drug dealers and the police officers who were desperately trying to crack down on them. Consequent seasons centered on life on the docks of the Port of Baltimore, local politics, the local newspaper and the school system. This series didn’t feel fictional. “Game Day” felt like real life — language and all.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

David Simon created a world. He [was] a beat reporter for The Baltimore Sun … so the entire show, the crux of all of it, is so entrenched … in reality.

Sonja Sohn
Detective Kima Greggs

By the time we got to the ninth episode, we knew that this was an authentic show.

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

I spent 20 years on the police force. I was engaged in the drug world. I love that world. I love how brave people were. I love the integrity of the corners, and the streets. [On The Wire] we weren’t too keen about ad libbing.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

Ninety percent of the time — when you see me, Hassan Johnson, Michael K. Williams — we’re speaking to the script. David is a very smart writer, a smart guy. He’s a pro-cultural person.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

Simon is the blackest Jewish man I know. … I also appreciated that he never wrote ‘niggers’ or ‘fucking niggers’ in his script.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

The N-word was always written down. [But] sometimes it was thrown in by the actors. The actors felt the moment and did it without it being on the page, but sometimes it was very much on the page.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

[People] were ‘shitbirds’ or ‘hopheads.’ I changed them to ‘niggers’ and ‘fucking niggers’ as often as I could.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

It was the necessary word. I’m not going to lie and pretend. Now, if it’s gratuitous, it’s gratuitous.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

I was like, ‘Well, David, I’m going to let you in on a little something: Black people who play by the rules and follow the guidelines really resent black people who don’t.’ So there’s a lot of anger there. A black cop is not going to call a black kid that he sees selling drugs a ‘shitbird.’ He’s going to call him something really personal, and ugly.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

Maybe Ed knew better, or maybe just I’m not remembering right — but my sense of it was if there wasn’t an annual east-west basketball game sponsored by the pre-eminent drug crews, there ought to be.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

[David] Melnick and I, we’re big sports fans. I don’t know if David assigned us this story because he knew that.

Members of the Barksdale Organization sit on the bench while intently watching a basketball game in HBO’s The Wire.

Photo by Paul Schiraldi/HBO

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

Basketball or boxing were the only two things that would have credibly created a moment for east to meet west. Baseball would have been absurd. Football would have been too complicated.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

When we turned in our first draft, [Simon] really brought it more to life. We were just a couple young guys who were like, ‘Man, the basketball stuff is popping, and David’s loving it!’ We were excited.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

I definitely praise David Simon … using [basketball] as the backdrop … [that] resonated globally.

Andre Royo
Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, heroin addict and police informant

[In the episode], you got everybody breaking the drug game to watch this basketball game. I remember games [like that] in [New York]. Lots of people would come to those … on Fourth Street. It rang true.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I didn’t have the money for basketball camp back [in the day]. Camp was like 500 bucks. At the time, my coach was a gentleman who made good money in the streets. He said, ‘Look, Maurice, you want to go to this camp? Every dunk you make, I’ll give you $100.’ I finished the game with about eight dunks, and that’s how I had money for camp. Playing ball … it kept me off the streets, from trying to hustle. We needed something to eat? They’d go buy 20 french fries, 20 hamburgers, 20 chicken sandwiches and bring it back to the court. They’d buy us sneakers, uniforms, books. I’m not proud these guys had to hustle for a living and sell drugs, but I was impressed they didn’t want the same thing for us.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

Basketball in the black culture is very important. It’s looked at almost as a refuge, as a way out. It gave us heroes.

‘Ain’t gon’ be no trouble over no ball.’

In “Game Day,” which originally aired on Aug. 4, 2002, Baltimore’s two biggest drug dealers have their annual streetball game. Simon and Burns say they weren’t aware whether such a game ever existed in Baltimore, but they wanted to have some sort of athletic competition. The rivalry basketball game is pivotal because it introduces new character Proposition Joe (Robert Chew, who died in 2013). Avon Barksdale (Harris) wants to beat Prop Joe’s team so badly that he and Stringer Bell (Elba) recruit a junior college player (Blanding) as a ringer. “Game Day” begins on the court, with Elba and Harris looking down on Blanding playing what looks to be pickup ball. The actual scene was shot at Baltimore’s historically black Coppin State University.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

We needed, for purposes of plot, to show that rivalry. We needed it because we were introducing the element of Prop Joe and his crew on the Eastside. We needed to frame that in some intelligent way. And the idea of competition naturally led to, ‘Is there a social function? Or a moment where these different crews would cross-pollinate? We came up with the basketball game.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

David Melnick, who wrote that episode [with me], are just a couple of guys from the ’burbs of Baltimore; there’s nothing hardcore about us at all.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

It would be hard to avoid the extraordinary love affair that urban America has had with the game of basketball. Generations of it. You’d have to be willfully ignorant.

Show Creator David Simon on Capturing the essence of streetball

Footage from HBO

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

All the kids, that was their one ambition, even more so than football, was being a great basketball player. We had a couple guys come out of Baltimore, Skip Wise being one of them, who would have been a great basketball player if he didn’t succumb to drugs.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

Everybody in Baltimore knows the painful story of Skip Wise. He didn’t quite escape the street culture.

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

There are moments when — in the first year of World War I, in the trench warfare — when Christmas rolled around, Germans and the French and the British went into no man’s land to celebrate that holiday. And then they went back to killing each other. There were moments when you could give me the ball, or the rock or whatever. And you could have that truce.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

I’ve played on basketball courts where gangsters are on the side and got money on it. You just want to play good. I knew what that feeling was like.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

That ringer thing was eye-opening for Melnick and I. We didn’t know that that would even be feasible in that world, that somebody with influence on the street level would connect with the university to try and get a ringer. That blew our minds. That was the first or second beat on that beat sheet. We saw that, and we were like, ‘Wow, that’s the way it works?’

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I grew up in Baltimore City, played everywhere in Baltimore City. Grew up with the real Avon Barksdale’s nephew. He played on my football team in high school.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

I remember that moment where we just sat down and started pounding keys and going, ‘OK, let’s, uh …’ [but] there is no research for that. First of all, the internet — we’re talking early 2000s — was not as far-reaching.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

It seemed kind of strange to me, but David Simon said he had heard about something like that before when he was [at] The Baltimore Sun. I mostly was excited that I was having an episode that I had more than two scenes in. Me and Domenick Lombardozzi referred to it as my Taxi Driver episode, because it’s my favorite movie.

Domenick Lombardozzi
Narcotics Detective Thomas “Herc” Hauk

We were heavy in that episode.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

We were using it so that the detectives could naively try to get eyes on Avon Barksdale, and to try to follow him. We were doing it so we could also show Herc and Carver up on the roof, being forgotten about.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

A layer of the shade [was] pulled back on how these guys are human. These are people. We’re treating them like they’re scum of the earth and they don’t have any rights. But if there’s a common ground like basketball, where two opposing sides can come together and put their differences aside … they mostly want to unify, they don’t want to destroy.

Domenick Lombardozzi
Narcotics Detective Thomas “Herc” Hauk

It didn’t catch me by surprise because … it’s kind of tradition. It’s very similar to the Rucker, you know? In New York. It all made sense to me.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

[My character had] that revelation of, ‘Oh, these motherfuckers might have feelings.’ They care about shit.

Detectives Herc and Carver watch an annual neighborhood basketball game while they try to identify who Avon Barksdale is.

Photo by Paul Schiraldi/HBO

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I was home on break from playing basketball overseas, and in South America. A buddy of mine was doing security for The Wire, and the director said, ‘Hey, do you know a guy that can play basketball, and can dunk?’ So I went up to Coppin … and I opened that episode up with Elba and Harris. Sometimes I look back and say, ‘Man, should I have started acting instead of continuing playing basketball in Europe?’ I made $2,500 in three days.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

I love that episode. “Game Day” is one of my favorites. … That’s the one I had the most fun shooting.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

The show was very urban, and gritty, but here we are shooting in a clean and pristine university gymnasium. That crossed grains with this show that we were getting to know. … It was outside of the element of the world that The Wire was [usually] taking place in.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I was overly impressed, even though Dunbar is Eastside and I [in real life] was Westside. So I had a little issue with that at first because, you know, the rivalry’s real!

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

Idris don’t really play basketball, but we still had a lot of fun.

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

He didn’t know anything about drug dealing, either, when he started out! Idris instinctively knew the value of a scene. You didn’t have to go to him and say, ‘This is the way things are done.’ There was no need for him to really love basketball.

‘The projects got a ball team?’

Baltimore basketball is serious business — in real life and on television. Detectives Herc and Carver finally figured out that everyone in the streets has suspended all drug trafficking to participate in or watch the basketball game. In a scene leading up to the end of the game, Lt. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) announces that the drug dealer they’re looking for (Harris’ character) is over at the historic Cloverdale Courts.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

They didn’t actually film that at Cloverdale. That was at Collington Square in East Baltimore.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

There was one issue. That episode was being directed by this French director whose name I can’t remember.

Milcho Manchevski
Director

I was born in Macedonia. I came here for film school and then stayed.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

Milcho turned out to be a very good director. He was a good friend of [former executive producer] Bob Colesberry’s. Bob brought him in, very much admired his work. And there’s a lot to admire.

Milcho Manchevski
Director

It’s the only piece of episodic television I’ve done. I directed five features and wrote all of them. But this one was just so attractive because the writing was great. Colesberry was producing … so I knew it was going to be a creative enterprise.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

He was a feature director who had never done television. In features it’s, ‘Get the writer off the set. We have the script.’ But in television the writers are the producers, so we’re worried about continuity, we’re worried if it will make sense in all [of the] episodes. He wasn’t used to having a writer always on set. If not me, Ed or somebody. We struggled a little bit.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

He was new to TV and just didn’t realize the concept of you can’t reinvent the wheel. You have to learn how to adapt and fall within a frame of what the show is … you have the ability to color it and put your name on it. You can’t come in and completely change it. It caused a lot of tension. Unfortunately, I was the middleman between him and our VP and also the actors.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

After lunch — when you have lunch on the set or whatever, it’s like an hour long and you come back — no director. The director couldn’t be found. So what happened was … Anthony Hemingway … he was second A.D. for The Wire.

Tray Chaney
Malik “Poot” Carr, teen drug dealer

When everyone came back from lunch … Anthony was the man.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

I had to rise to the occasion. It was very sensitive, only because the union obligations and all the legalities within that. I wasn’t technically directing, but … I was there for the show and had to step forward to protect the show.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

The basketball thing is obviously an intensely choreographed dynamic. And the A.D. would be influential in terms of placing everybody and … you’re coordinating between the actual athletic narrative within the game, what’s happening, where we’re placing all the extras, where we’re placing our characters among the extras. That was Anthony. And I think, in some respects, it’s where he really began to shine.

Show Creator David Simon on Developing iconic characters

Footage from HBO

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

We had a lot of faith in Anthony. He had been with us, particularly with [co-executive producer] Nina Noble, from the early ’90s. And he was extremely confident.

Domenick Lombardozzi
Narcotics Detective Thomas “Herc” Hauk

Hemingway was a big part of the show even when he wasn’t directing as a first A.D. He was very influential.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

That day in particular was challenging because we needed crowds. We had open calls on the radio, getting people to come out. We had the turnout that we needed.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

I think the extras were hired right from the neighborhood.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

And it was about 85 degrees. The humidity in Baltimore is ridiculous.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

Insane and intense and crazy. I didn’t technically direct that episode. I had to make it, I had to be the Band-Aid and make the day flow. I was still assistant director. … I had to step in and keep the day flowing … but I didn’t, and will not ever, call myself as the director.

J.D. Williams
Preston “Bodie” Broadus, teen drug dealer

Wood Harris is the star of Above the Rim. … It was a basketball film; it had Tupac [Shakur] in it. It just took me there, like, ‘Wow, now I’m doing a basketball scene with Wood Harris? I must be making some type of progress. …’

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I didn’t even know Idris Elba was from England. He spoke the Baltimore slang and language so much. He was that good.

Tray Chaney
Malik “Poot” Carr, teen drug dealer

I was a fan of J.D. [Williams] from him being on Oz.

“We’re really part of something that was incredible and has become a part of the fabric of television.”Shamit Choksey

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I’m a Tupac fan, and I’m also a Wood Harris fan. I asked while I was sitting there, ‘How was being around ’Pac?’ He said, ‘He’s the ultimate professional, he’s a perfectionist, but he’s a down-to-earth man, just like you and I.’ I was sitting here talking to Wood Harris about Tupac! This is crazy!

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

There was one cross, one vicious move that [Blanding] made from the top of the key. When we saw it we just fell down, we were laughing so hard. It was such a great inside move. You’ve got to remember, we’re only doing this with a few seconds of ball. We’re not filming the whole game … so whatever time we have to devote to actual basketball, you want the footage to feel real. You also want to get the in-your-face ballet of streetball.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

That was scripted, but that’s how I play. The director was like, ‘Listen, don’t shoot the ball.’ [We] said, ‘Well, we just want to play!’ And that’s when we started playing a little bit more physical, and I played my real game and they stopped stripping the ball because they knew an elbow might come behind it. So the first part was scripted, the second part was like half-scripted, and then they made use of us really playing ball.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

I remember seeing that on film and thinking, if you ever went to Collington Square, if you ever went to Cloverdale and watched the best players, that’s the kind of shit where you saw a move like that and it laid everybody out for 30 seconds. Like, ‘Oh shit! What just happened?’ We got one of those on film. I was very proud of us.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

I didn’t have to give them any technical advice. Everyone knew basketball. Everybody who was there was black.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

I thought it was authentic. When we play ball [in real life], you had guys who probably didn’t get along … on the street level, they’re enemies. But on the basketball level, they never brought it to the court. You’d have some shootings sometimes, people would get into a fight, but I’d say 95 percent of the time it was strictly about basketball. It did lower the crime rate in that area where we played — everybody just wanted to watch us play. Everybody wanted to see me dunk because I had like a 45-inch vertical back then.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

I was out there trying to find moments … where especially black men can come together and support each other. And put behind us all the negative drama that has been perpetuated over the years, and support one another and love one another. And be able to be in the same place together.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

It was as authentic as I have seen anybody portray the streetball of Baltimore City, where they gettin’ in the referee’s face.

Wood Harris
Avon Barksdale, Westside Baltimore drug dealer

When you see me get up and I’m bantering and checking the referee, that guy was a really good actor — one of my fondest memories of The Wire.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

We [wanted to] demonstrate something about Avon Barksdale’s personality when he intimidates the ref on a bad call and then, in the next moment, becomes frustrated that the ref is about to cave. He wants to yell at the ref. He doesn’t want the ref to treat him like the winner because he’s feared. He wants to be right on the merits, and he no longer can be because he’s Avon Barksdale. And he realizes that.

Maurice Blanding
Actual professional player in European leagues, portrayed junior college ringer for the Barksdale Organization

The crowd, that was normal. A summer league in Baltimore will generate a crowd of at least 500 people sometimes. It was just awesome.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

We’re not thinking to ourselves, ‘We’re really making a statement here about basketball in the inner city.’ We were just using found material.

Maybe we won.

Fifteen years later, this series still resonates (and it’s available at HBO NOW). Major urban centers are still dealing with the problems that embattled fictional Baltimore for the duration of this series. The Wire, sadly, feels contemporary.

Anthony Hemingway
First assistant director

I actually get very giddy when I go on different jobs, and I smile real hard when so many people really praise the show. That makes me feel great to be a part of that. That was my start.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

Five years out, when I started to hear, ‘Wait a second, he wrote for The Wire? I love that show.’ … I kind of scratched my head. It wasn’t those that are from that world. It was a white college girl who’d never spent any time in the city who was obsessed with the show.

Ed Burns
Producer, writer and co-creator of The Wire

I don’t think anything’s changed. Now the drugs embrace the white community, the working-class community, particularly. The language might change from rural America to city America, [but] it is the same. And the acting is so damn good.

“I have a problem with the glorification of a drug dealer and America is fascinated with that world. We’re celebrating the very … problem that America has in its ‘hood. But Stringer Bell was no role model. He ruled the people who worked for him through fear.”Idris Elba, 2009

Domenick Lombardozzi
Narcotics Detective Thomas “Herc” Hauk

Maybe people weren’t ready for a show like that, or maybe it was just kept in the shadows. It’s like a cult following now.

J.D. Williams
Preston “Bodie” Broadus, teen drug dealer

We blew everybody’s tops off, and they still didn’t give us whatever we deserved. That’s OK because that makes them look stupid. The most important thing is that the people who know, who love it, really love it.

Shamit Choksey
Co-writer, “Game Day”

I didn’t realize how big and iconic the show was when we were in the middle of it. We’re really part of something that was incredible and has become a part of the fabric of television.

Andre Royo
Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, heroin addict and police informant

We knew what we were doing was real stuff. There was a certain pride and awe every time we got a script because we were like, ‘Are they telling our side or not?’ And we’re really telling this side of the story, and with such fairness, and in such a nonjudgmental way. It just kept us intrigued and happy to be a part of the show.

Sonja Sohn
Detective Kima Greggs

The Wire is timeless. We’ve been living in these conditions for decades now. It’s not a surprise to me that it resonates. Until we address the structural issues that exacerbate the criminal element that exists in underserved black communities, this story will always be relevant.

Tray Chaney
Malik “Poot” Carr, teen drug dealer

I think I can speak for all of us saying we didn’t know that the show was gonna be a part of history like it is now.

David Simon
Creator, executive producer, head writer and showrunner, The Wire

I would prefer to be living in [a] country where The Wire was less relevant 15 years later. I would have much preferred to think of the show as being anachronistic.

Seth Gilliam
Narcotics Detective Ellis Carver

I thought it was gold when we were doing it. I still get a little frothy when people are like, ‘Why did that show go off the air?’ And I’m like, ‘Did you watch it when it was on? Well, that’s why the shit went off the fucking air.’ They were] watching The Sopranos, which was old and tired by that point. The Wire is still the best show in the history of television. And if you reran it right now, it would be better than everything else on TV.

These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Where they are now:

Maurice Blanding: Works at Baltimore’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Ed Burns: Lives in West Virginia and is working on several television projects.

Tray Chaney: Is a rapper and also stars in Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners.

Shamit Choksey: Currently working in automotive sports marketing for Kia; also working on a new TV project with his brother.

Seth Gilliam: Co-stars on AMC’s The Walking Dead, is set to co-star in feature film Change in the Air.

Wood Harris: Is set to co-star in feature films Once Upon a Time in Venice (with Bruce Willis and John Goodman) and 9/11 (with Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg).

Anthony Hemingway: Is producing and directing television series including WGN’s Underground and is set to direct the indie film Bury the Lead. He also served as an executive producer and director on ABC’s American Crime and was nominated for an Emmy for his work on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Domenick Lombardozzi: Is part of the cast of Fox’s Rosewood and will next star in the feature films Frank and Ava (2017) and Hard Powder (2018).

Milcho Manchevski: Recently wrapped the feature film Bikini Moon, which stars Condola Rashad.

Andre Royo: Co-stars on Fox’s Empire and is set to co-star in Amazon Studios’ Beautiful Boy alongside Steve Carell, out in 2018.

David Simon: His next series, The Deuce, is set to premiere on HBO this fall; it features several The Wire alums.

Sonja Sohn: Is currently filming Showtime’s The Chi.

J.D. Williams: Stars in Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners.

Daily Dose: 5/11/17 Steve Harvey does not have time for your nonsense

Wednesday night was a very depressing one for D.C. sports fans. The Capitals lost Game 7 to the Penguins and the Wizards got blown out by the Celtics, but the Nationals did get a walk-off. Consolation, but not the one I wanted.

Another day, another Confederate statue removed. This time it was Jefferson Davis, whom you might remember for his work as the president of said states. In the discussion about how to properly handle our sordid past, I stand firmly in the “tear it all down” camp, so all this nonsense about preserving history is lost on me. This is the second time New Orleans has done this, and once again it brought out protests and Confederate flags, which is obviously terrifying. Two down, who knows how many to go.

The impression I get from the president is often a sad one. A guy who had everything he wanted, but let ego get the best of him, went after the highest office in the land, only to actually get it and then find out the cruelest irony of human existence: Fantasy is often better than reality. Now, as the guy living alone in the White House, he just wanders around forcing people to be by his side while he tries to impress them with his vast knowledge of basic technologies like DVR. This story about Trump’s after-hours lifestyle in D.C. is fascinating.

Speaking of guys running one-man operations, there’s Steve Harvey. He’s a busy guy, you see? He hosts a morning radio show. He hosts all sorts of television programs, not the least of which is Family Feud, the greatest American television game show of all time. He’s also had his own daily syndicated television show, which is now moving to Los Angeles after five years in Chicago. And as it turns out, Harvey doesn’t particularly enjoy the company of others in the work environment. Check this out.

It’s impossible to overstate how much war affects people. In the case of a civil one, which is influenced by all sorts of outside actors, it’s particularly complicated. So for athletes in these nations, representing their country is difficult. And in some scenarios, it’s a legitimate life-or-death decision. Do you stand to wear the flag of a politician or leader you don’t respect? Or do you play because it’s your heart’s will and you can perhaps bring some joy to your otherwise struggling nation? In Syria, it’s the toughest question of all.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There are certain relationships that are stalwarts in the community. Barack and Michelle. Jay and Bey. Offset and Cardi B. Pillars of love and upstanding partnerships. One such was Cellino & Barnes, who created the greatest law firm jingle of all time. Now, Cellino is suing Barnes. I am crestfallen.

Snack Time: I love sushi. I also love sneakers. But sneakers made out of sushi are a bit much for me. But hey, if food art is your thing, check out this collection from a guy who’s really into kicks and raw fish.

Dessert: Here’s a nice song for a rainy spring day.