The Notre Dame vs. Miami rivalry is the most relevant in this monstrous weekend of college football The storied matchup proves the woes of the country are rarely far from the field

Outside of championship rings, the most famous piece of jewelry in sports this year belongs to the University of Miami Hurricanes. “The U” turnover chain — comically huge, made of 10-karat gold and flooded with sapphires — has since the start of the season been momentarily given to defensive players who cause fumbles, recover fumbles or grab interceptions. This new age reward system is, in many ways, a relic of its yester-decade swagger, when The U’s players proclaimed their own greatness and then lived up to it. The team reveled in its bad boy image and intimidated All-Americans even before the coin toss.

On Nov. 4, as the waning seconds ticked off the scoreboard at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, it was clear that “The U” is back. The field was in shambles. They remain undefeated. Alex Rodriguez even wore his own version of the Hurricanes’ turnover chain while cheering Miami on last week — beside his girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez. Its iconic “The U” nickname — bestowed upon the Hurricanes for their rebellious, tyrannical, infectious and infamous dominance over college football in the ’80s and again in the early 2000s — is once again part of the national conversation. Nov. 8’s 28-10 drubbing of ACC foe (and then 13th-ranked) Virginia Tech was a statement win. And as destiny mapped out in its own high-stakes GPS navigation, the Hurricanes now have a chance at revenge against the last team to defeat them and perhaps, historically, their most notorious rival: Notre Dame, which won 30-27 vs. The U on Oct. 29, 2016.


Saturday’s showdown, also at Hard Rock Stadium, is urgent for a litany of reasons. Future Sunday talent resides on both squads — Miami’s star safety and reigning ACC Defensive Back of the Week Jaquan Johnson and Notre Dame’s star running back and long-shot Heisman Trophy hopeful Josh Adams are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10, meaning very real college playoff implications will be decided before a nationally televised audience. The No. 3 (Notre Dame) vs. No. 7 (Miami) clash is just a third of what will be a monstrous weekend in college football, with No. 1 Georgia taking on No. 10 Auburn and No. 6 TCU squaring off against No. 5 Oklahoma.

Players on both teams are, of course, cognizant of the Miami and Notre Dame lineage. Miami head coach Mark Richt makes it plain: “This is why I came back to my alma mater.” But none of his current players was alive when barely coded lines such as “playing the game the right way” and “Thug U” were a part of the national conversation. “Catholics vs. Convicts,” a T-shirt slogan created by a Notre Dame student and later the title of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, is a phrase firmly supplanted in football lore, describing their October 1988 clash — a titan of a sporting event surpassed only by a chaotically beautiful and controversial fourth quarter. Saturday’s game is important for what it means for the near future of both programs. Yet, the game itself takes a back seat to the hatreds it took to get here.

To understand Miami/Notre Dame is to understand the cultural dichotomies of the ’80s. President Ronald Reagan’s blueprint to “Make America Great Again” divided an already divided country that was neck-deep in recession. Crack cocaine flooded poor neighborhoods , setting off an epidemic that ripped apart black America. Inner-city plight was the backdrop for political campaigning and newscasts thirsty to capitalize on pain (but not the source). Race was still the straw stirring America’s proverbial drink. Sports were a big part of the cocktail.

“[The American public] likes narratives, and narratives are constructed in a lot of ways in sports. Sometimes it’s good guy vs. bad guy. Sometimes it’s black guy vs. white guy,” said University of North Carolina sports history professor Matthew Andrews. “Those … narratives historically have gotten a lot of juice.” Notre Dame and Miami, in many respects, would follow this same blueprint in the decade of Reagan, N.W.A and Showtime. But not before others paved the way first.

No fight, in the ’80s, represented black vs. white more than the June 11, 1982, Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney clash. “It was a dumb thing to do,” Cooney said later. He vehemently opposed the title of “Great White Hope.” Holmes walked away victorious after a 13th-round stoppage — and later became close friends with Cooney. “I made a lot of money that night,” Cooney told The Washington Times this year, “but the rest was all distasteful.”

The rivalry of the decade, between Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics, represented two Americas despite the presence of black and white players on both squads. “People can say all they want about ‘it was just basketball.’ No, it was racial drama. That was part of the allure. Different styles of play, different places. Boston has its racial history. We saw that recently again with the whole Adam Jones incident,” said Andrews. “There was a lot of meaning and narrative in there.” Notre Dame and Miami followed a path already emboldened.


The Notre Dame/Miami matchup is 62 years old; a 14-0 shutout by the Fighting Irish in 1955 marks their first meeting. Notre Dame won 12 of the first 13 matchups, including a 40-15 thrashing at the Mirage Bowl in 1979 in Tokyo. Until the ’80s and the arrival of coach Howard Schnellenberger, Miami was a school with no conference, no tradition and nearly no football team altogether, as the school seriously considered dropping the sport because of funding and lack of overall interest.

Under Schnellenberger, Miami won the 1983 national championship. The arrival of coach Jimmy Johnson, and a 58-7 thrashing of a once-proud Notre Dame in 1985, changed both programs. Johnson represented Miami. A young, handsome, outspoken leader of men who could’ve been a Miami Vice regular, Johnson had players instantly enamored with his coaching style. He cornered a talent-rich region of South Florida, recruited young men from poor neighborhoods and placed them in what seemed the utopian Coral Gables campus. “A lot of my kids come from inner-city backgrounds,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the reasons Miami doesn’t get a lot of respect, because your average football fan might not relate to that.”

The U seemingly tallied as many penalty yards as points, yards and wins.

In Miami/Notre Dame’s 1985 meeting, Johnson refused to take the foot off the gas, though often lost to history is the fact that Johnson played reserves the majority of the fourth quarter and a blocked punt came with only 10 players on the field. The Fighting Irish were in the midst of a coaching change, from beleaguered Gerry Faust to Lou Holtz. Johnson and Miami could not care less. From that moment on, hatred was cultivated. And Miami bathed in it.

As Miami’s program ballooned into a national powerhouse, so did its reputation. They were the bad boys of college football — an image that followed them throughout the decade and beyond. They bullied, trash-talked and ran by and through opponents. Numerous off-field incidents, alleged recruiting violations and rendezvous with law enforcement hung over the program. In January 1987, many members of the team exited a plane in Phoenix wearing Army fatigues — days before playing Penn State in the national championship. They lost 14-10. In a quote still embedded with the program, defensive tackle Jerome Brown notoriously asked, in what was supposed to be a skit, “Did the Japanese sit down and eat dinner with Pearl Harbor before they bombed it?” This was before the entire team walked out of a dinner catered for Miami and Penn State players. Regardless of their loss to Penn State, 34 players on that 1986 team were drafted. Twenty-eight went on to play in the NFL. By 1988’s meeting between Notre Dame and Miami, the game itself was billed as one of the biggest of the decade: “Catholics vs. Convicts.”


“Notre Dame hasn’t cornered the market on Catholic football players,” then-Miami quarterback Steve Walsh said before the game. Yet, the four Miami quarterbacks who defined the ’80s were all white and Catholic: Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde and Walsh. At the time, Miami’s entire starting offensive line and tight end Rob Chudzinski were too. Notre Dame ranked fourth in the country and was viewed as the college responsible for producing arguably the most NFL’s most recognizable megastar in San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana. The Irish were viewed as the classier squad, the Irish-Catholics who “played the game the right way.”

Meanwhile, the reigning champion Hurricanes rode a 36-game winning streak that spanned three seasons. The U seemingly tallied as many penalty yards as points, yards and wins. The Hurricanes were as explicit as hometown heroes 2 Live Crew and, in their own way, as militant as Public Enemy. Miami football, Mike Tyson, the 1985 Chicago Bears defense and the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons — these four balls of energy ruled during a decade when America struggled to find its footing economically, racially and culturally.

Preceded by a raucous pregame brawl, the Saturday heavens favored Notre Dame in a highly debated 31-30 finish with controversial touchdowns and two-point conversions. Miami and Notre Dame played four consecutive years between 1987 and 1990. Miami lived up to its own hype, capturing national titles in 1987 and 1989 — the latter being Jimmy Johnson’s final request before moving on to the NFL ranks, where he’d soon ignite another generation-defining dynasty in the Dallas Cowboys. Notre Dame, immortalized by its 1988 victory over Miami, capped off its season with a title of its own. After the 1990 season, Miami would join the Big East, putting the rivalry on ice for 20 years. The two institutions have played twice since 2010, with Notre Dame winning both times and owning an overall 17-7 series lead.

The stereotypes of both schools remain. And with Miami’s resurgence has come the revival of the wicked narrative of “The U” being no more than a collection of correctional center All-Americans. Yet, in this decade there has been unfavorable publicity from South Bend to Coral Gables — Notre Dame during the embarrassing Manti Te’o debacle and ugly sexual assault and cheating scandals. The latter forced the university to vacate 21 victories from its 2012-13 seasons, including a 12-0 campaign that propelled the school to a national title matchup versus Alabama. And Miami with its crippling battle with former booster Nevin Shapiro that led to a self-imposed postseason ban and a 2013 ruling of losing nine scholarships after an NCAA investigation. Miami, though, has revamped its image in recent years. The team is a current co-recipient of the American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award, and its No. 3 ranking in the NCAA Community Service Top 25 is the highest in the ACC.

Now, the series shifts to its most important meeting in two and a half decades. National championship dreams and season-altering nightmares await both teams. The U’s chain will glisten under the prime-time lights of South Florida for the second consecutive week. Although Notre Dame’s game plan calls for the chain to be a moot point rather than a star attraction, as it was last week when Miami’s defense forced four Virginia Tech turnovers. It’s a fitting revival of a rivalry to serve center stage during a period of American unrest, as it did 30 years before.

History provides the foundation that gives this 2017 installment something no other game on Saturday’s schedule boasts. Notre Dame vs. Miami isn’t what it once was. And maybe that’s a good thing in some ways. But that doesn’t mean Saturday night can’t be the start of something real and relevant. Again.

O.J. Simpson is a relic in a new culture that celebrates unapologetic blackness The Juice re-enters American society at its most divided since his ‘Trial of the Century’

O.J. like, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” / Okay / House n—a, don’t f— with me / I’m a field n—a with shined cutlery.

— Jay-Z, 2017’s “The Story of O.J.


Fate has a fetish for O.J. Simpson. Oct. 1 is nearly 22 years to the day of both his acquittal after the double-murder trial that captivated the world and nine years since being sentenced for armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas. Both happened on an Oct. 3. And now the sharp winds of the judicial and correctional system once again gust in the direction of the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner. After serving nine years, the man known as “Prisoner 1027820” in Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center is free.

Emphasis on free. Because what does it mean? What has it ever meant? And can O.J. Simpson, in particular, ever truly obtain freedom? He re-enters American society at its most divided since his “Trial of the Century,” and we are right now in an era defined by social, cultural and racial injustices — and the resistance and protests against them. The line between sports, culture and politics is as blurred and polarizing as it’s been since the 1960s. And the black world that Simpson sought to escape via football and a white wife is a world he can no longer run from — if he ever could. “The heartbreaking truth is,” says columnist and author Rochelle Riley, “O.J. Simpson is coming out of prison, and having to wake up black.”


Simpson’s former employer, the National Football League, looks a lot different from the one that existed before his 2008 conviction. There are Ezekiel Elliott’s crop tops and Dez Bryant’s custom Air Jordan cleats, Richard Sherman’s and Marshawn Lynch’s locks, and Odell Beckham’s Head & Shoulders-endorsed blond hair. There’s the NFL’s more cautious style of play apropos of player safety. Some aspects remain the same though — like the ongoing issue of the league’s embarrassing, harmful and erratically applied discipline for domestic violence offenders.

The NFL’s biggest lightning rod isn’t even in the league. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, intended to shine light on police brutality and the inequalities that persist within the criminal justice system, has reverberated far beyond football. Athletes like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Oakland A’s rookie Bruce Maxwell and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever have lent support to the exiled former Super Bowl signal-caller.

Kaepernick’s won adoration from and influenced Stevie Wonder, Tina Lawson, Chuck D, Carlos Santana, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, J. Cole and others. Jay-Z donned a custom Colin Kaepernick jersey on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, as Nick Cannon rocked a classic one at a recent St. Louis protest after the acquittal of Police Officer Jason Stockley for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. His No. 7 San Francisco 49ers jersey is now in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture announced in May that various Kaepernick items will be featured in future exhibits.

There’s no hierarchy in terms of the pain of dealing with black death, but it’s no secret Travyon Martin stands out. He’s this generation’s “Trial of the Century.”

The NFL also sits embroiled in a beef with President Donald Trump over protests inspired by Kaepernick — the same Donald Trump who entertained the idea of a reality show with Simpson back in 2008. And while we’re on reality shows, Simpson enters a world dominated by Kardashians. Keeping Up with the Kardashians has been a fixture in American pop culture since its premiere, 10 years ago this month. The family became famous during the fracas of Simpson’s first trial, where attorney Robert Kardashian — Simpson’s close friend and father of Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Rob — was part of O.J.’s legal “Dream Team.” Kim’s husband, the Adidas designer and Grammy awardwinning producer/rapper/cultural live wire Kanye West, references Simpson in 2016’s “THat Part”: I just left the strip club, got some glitter on me/ Wifey gonna kill me, she the female O.J.

Where we are now is this: Athletes and entertainers (and many, many others) have called the president of the United States outside of his name — and the president and his supporters clap back, tit for tat. There’s a culture war going on, and while it’s different from the 1960s and ’70s, it’s a vibe O.J. is all too familiar with. He’s seen it move like this before.

Getty Images

Consider the American psyche leading up to the pivotal year of 1967, Simpson’s first season as tailback at the University of Southern California, a private, predominantly white institution surrounded by black neighborhoods in Los Angeles. In 1961, 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the “Freedom Riders.” Fifty-seven percent viewed lunch counter “sit-ins” as hurtful “to the Negro’s chances of being integrated in the South.” The 1963 March on Washington was viewed unfavorably by 60 percent of voters. And by January 1967, 53 percent of voters believed black people, instead of protesting for equal rights, would be better off taking “advantage of the opportunities that have been made available.”

Compare all this to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group for ESPN from Sept. 26-28, just days before Simpson’s release. A clear racial divide exists: 72 percent of African-Americans strongly or somewhat agree with the protests, which were started by Kaepernick last season. Sixty-two percent of white people strongly or somewhat disagree. Other polls revealed similar numbers.

In 1967, like in 2017, everybody makes the decisions they make. On April 28, 1967, when Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title after refusing induction into the U.S. Army, the revolt of the black athlete entered the living rooms of Americans. This was the same year O.J. Simpson rushed into USC immortality and the American consciousness with 1,543 yards and 13 touchdowns. This was the same year that, on Thanksgiving Day, Harry Edwards, a sociology professor at San Jose State, organized the Western Regional Black Youth Conference. The gathering of about 200 people discussed the possibility of boycotting the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Sprinters Tommie Smith and Lee Evans were there, as was UCLA’s star center Lew Alcindor (who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). “Winning gold medals for a country where I don’t have my freedom is irrelevant,” Smith said at the meeting. “So far I have not won my freedom, and I will not turn back from my decision.” Alcindor refused to try out for the Olympic team, prompting critics to label him a national disgrace and an “uppity n—–.”

Though at a Western school, O.J. Simpson didn’t attend the conference. His epic 64-yard touchdown vs. UCLA, less than a week before, propelled USC to the national championship. Edwards had approached Simpson about lending his name and influence to the cause. Simpson disassociated himself from the movement, famously telling Edwards, “I’m not black. I’m O.J.” Smith and Carlos’ decision to speak out hurt their careers, in Simpson’s eyes. He wasn’t going down like that. “He absolutely distances himself from everything, which turns out to be a pretty good career move,” says Dr. Matthew Andrews. “It opens up all these doors in advertising, movies and so on.”

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The assassinations of Martin Luther King and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy defined 1968. Riots erupted throughout the country. Black America had seemingly reached its breaking point. The defiant and painful image of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s black power fists at the Mexico City Olympics ingrained itself in sports and American history. Meanwhile, O.J.’s celebrity ballooned as he separated himself from the swelling movement. He won the Heisman in 1968 and was the first overall selection in the 1969 draft. For the next two and a half decades, Simpson enjoyed the fruits of his decision and became one of the most recognizable, marketable and celebrated black men in America.


“You see, O.J. was under that illusion — ain’t been black since he was 17. Under that illusion of inclusion — [until he] got That N—- Wake-Up Call. Only n—- I know that could get on any golf course in America. They loved that boy! He had to come home when it got rough.”Paul Mooney, 1994

Simpson’s goal seemed to be: live a deracinated life. He didn’t want to make white people uncomfortable. He was handsome, charming and safe — and so, with 1969’s Chevrolet deal, became the first black corporate pitchman before playing a down in the NFL. Long after his playing career, Simpson was one of the few black faces on screen, as an actor or a commentator, during the late ’70s and early ’80s. “O.J.’s providing a very meaningful image for black kids in America,” said Ezra Edelman recently. He’s the Oscar-winning director of 2016’s O.J.: Made In America. “He deserves his due for the way he influenced culture, beyond being on trial for murder in 1994 and ’95.”

O.J. Simpson for Hertz, in 1978

Master Tesfatsion, 26, doesn’t remember the “Trial of the Century.” He’s a Redskins beat reporter for The Washington Post, and one of his most recent stories is about cornerback Josh Norman pledging $100,000 to Puerto Rico’s victims of Hurricane Maria. Tesfatsion’s first memory of O.J. is the 1997 civil case that ordered Simpson to pay $25 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Growing up Eritrean-American in Section 8 housing in Irving, Texas, Tesfatsion’s early O.J. knowledge primarily came from the neighborhood. “I just trusted the OGs,” he says. “If everyone on the block was telling you O.J. ain’t do it, what are you supposed to think?”

“O.J. really is this wisp of memory that is not as important because so much has happened since.”

Tesfatsion’s generation? They were kids when Simpson’s criminal trial happened. And they are well-aware of how deeply racial dynamics and police distrust played into Simpson’s case, and into their own lives. “People always think because you have a certain wealth status, whether it’s white people or even black people who are rich, they think they can escape colorism,” says the Arizona State graduate. “O.J. has proven on the highest of levels that that’s not the case.”

Tesfatsion remembers the passion the case evoked in his parents, and what was clearly two different Americas. So many white people mourned the not guilty verdict. So many black people celebrated quietly, or as if it were an NBA Finals victory for the home team. “The heartbreaking point about O.J.,” says Riley, whose The Burden: African-Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery is being published in February, “is not whether he got away with murder — if he did — but black Americans have been so mistreated and denied justice so many times and for so long that his acquittal was seen as a needed win.”

Simpson is a poster child for race and the legal system, but for Tesfatsion’s generation, he’s not on whom they hang their hat. Simpson’s verdict now of course has rivals in cases that have come to define this generation’s adulthood. “For a generation and a half, O.J. is not this larger-than-life person who meant so much, and who people paid attention to so much,” says Riley. “[O.J.] really is this wisp of memory that is not as important, because so much has happened since.”

Many of the same factors that came into play during the “Trial of the Century”—black bodies, white superiority complexes, and the assumption of black guilt have defined the cases of the Sandra Blands, Philando Castiles, Tamir Rices and Michael Browns. There’s no hierarchy in terms of the pain of dealing with black death, but it’s no secret Travyon Martin stands out. He’s this generation’s “Trial of the Century.”

“[Trayvon] was mine,” says Tesfatsion. “It was crazy how caught up I was into it.” Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict was delivered on his 22nd birthday. “To expect one thing, and see the other result, you know, as an African-American, the anger that you feel and the disappointment you feel it’s hard to explain.”


The question no one can truly answer is what happens next for O.J. Simpson. Fresh out of jail, he missed the entire presidency of Barack Obama and enters a world driven by Donald Trump — whose Twitter-fueled presidency has roots in the 24/7, reality-TV celebrity obsession culture rooted in the insanity that was his first trial. Rumors of a return to Hollywood even exist.

Former football legend O.J. Simpson signs documents at the Lovelock Correctional Center, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Lovelock, Nev. Simpson was released from the Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada early Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.

Brooke Keast/Nevada Department of Corrections via AP

But if there’s one reality starkly different from the one Simpson encountered pre-prison—and the beginning of it was the 24/7 coverage of his trial — it’s the extinction of the veil of anonymity. Does he attempt to live a life of modesty and recluse? Or has a nearly decade-long, state-mandated vacation done little to change him? Simpson’s been called a sociopath, one who craves constant attention strictly on his terms. Yet social media, his lawyers suggest, won’t be an issue for him. But he’s never dealt with the monster that is this iteration of media: social breaks stories and develops narratives before the first byline is written. Cameras don’t just sit on shoulders anymore, they sit in the palms of everybody’s hands. One click equals global broadcast.

Many already aren’t willing to deal with the potential fallout. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is attempting to bar him from the state — the same Sunshine State that houses the infamous generational antagonist George Zimmerman.

Dr. Andrews thinks that whatever the case, it will be interesting. “Which O.J. is he going to be? One would argue that pre-trial O.J. would distance himself from what many NFL players are doing. Certainly distancing himself from what Kaepernick’s doing. What Kaepernick did is exactly what [Tommie] Smith and [John] Carlos did in 1968. O.J. wanted no parts of that. [This] O.J. might get it a little more.”

But, Andrews asks, “Do you really want O.J. to be the spokesperson for this battle in racial justice?”

Riley is more than willing to answer. “The most important thing he could do for himself and America is to not answer the question,” Riley says. “To not weigh in and not try and make himself relevant in any way that he shouldn’t.”

It’s not just the NFL, and O.J. Simpson, but America itself that sits at a crossroads. All three face illness they never really addressed let alone medicated. O.J. walked out of prison Sunday a ghostlike relic of injustices he ignored, injustices he experienced and injustices he helped create. There is undeniable irony in karma greeting Simpson more harshly than his generational contemporaries. Ali, Abdul-Jabbar, Smith, Carlos and so many others were in their early 20s fighting demons older than America itself. The athletes were considered pariahs then but stand as saints of progress now. The same will one day be said about Colin Kaepernick. And about those for whom the killings of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown and others inspire a lifetime of resistance and service.

This is the third time O.J. Simpson experiences the first day of the rest of his life. Everybody isn’t that lucky.

Jay Z — an artist truly made in America — makes his case for an authentic rest of his life From Bun B to Styles P to T.I. — the grown men of rap are having a moment

In May, Jay-Z inked a new $200 million deal with Live Nation. Before this weekend, his last major tour was in 2014 with his wife Beyoncé for their ($100 million-grossing) On The Run excursion. Jay-Z’s return to Made In America, a music festival he founded with Budweiser in 2012, was to be the culmination of a chain of events that started with speculation, leading up to June 30 release of 4:44, about just how much Jay-Z did or didn’t have left in the creative tank.

Rap, historically, has been a young man’s game. Could Jay-Z, at 47, still shift the culture as he’s done countless times before? Could he successfully coexist in a world of Futures and Cardi Bs and Lil Yatchys and Migos — all of whom were either gracing the Made In America stage this year or in years past? Would Jay’s first major solo performance in three years be his next Michael Jordan moment?


Music fans in ponchos attend the 2017 Budweiser Made in America festival, day one on Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 2 in Philadelphia.

Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch

Sunday morning. On Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street. Jay Z’s new “Meet The Parents” blasts from a black Toyota Avalon. People on the sidewalk rap along — the car’s speakers are an impromptu appetizer for what’s to come later. He can’t explain what he saw / Before his picture went blank / The old man didn’t think / He just followed his instincts,” Jay-Z rhymes at the stoplight. Six shots into his kin / Out of the gun / N—a be a father / You’re killing your sons.”

On that day — before the Labor Day holiday and Night 2 of the sixth annual Budweiser Made In America Festival — a group of friends walking down 20th Street playing cuts from 2009’s Blueprint 3 on their mobile phones. Thousands of iterations of Shawn Corey Carter stared back from T-shirts worn by the crowd that swarmed Ben Franklin Parkway.

Then, it happened. An explosion lit up an adjacent stage. Just Blaze on the turntables.

And then there was the young man working at UBIQ, a chic sneakers store on chic Walnut Street. Looking like a student from Penn, he said he planned on taking in Jay-Z’s headlining Sunday set. At least for one day at the end of summer, the City of Brotherly Love bled blue, Jigga’s favorite hue. “It’s a skate park like right across the street,” Penn Guy said as cuts from Jay-Z’s lauded 4:44 play from the store’s speakers. “I’ve never seen him live. I’m excited.”

Jay-Z’s return to rap — there’s been no new solo album since 2013’s middle of the pack Magna Carta Holy Grail — has been a summer-long process. First came the rumors of a new album watermarked by mysterious “4:44” signage that covered everything from city buses to websites all across the country. Then, at the last of June came the album itself, which was met with immediate and widespread love. A slew of “footnotes” — videos, conversations between people such as Chris Rock, Tiffany Haddish, Will Smith, Jerrod Carmichael, Chris Paul and more — followed, which detailed the album’s creation and inspirations.

From there, in mid-August, the most-talked-about music interview of the year showcased Jay-Z alongside Tidal and Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson and Epic Records and Rap Radar’s Brian “B.Dot” Miller. The podcast left no stone unturned. In a two-part, 120-minute conversation, they peeled back layers of Jay-Z’s thought processes about music, life, love, motivation, depression and, even LaVar Ball.

On the heels of that talk, and through a Saturday of unseasonal chilly downpours, Jay-Z and Beyoncé watched a new generation of stars command muddy crowds. Family from both sides of the Carter-Knowles union cheered Solange on through her Saturday set. Was may well have been a kind of moment Jay-Z envisioned throughout the recording of 4:44. At 47, he had to wonder about his creative mortality, and if he could shift the culture as he’d done so many times before.


Bun B performs onstage at The Fader Fort presented by Converse during SXSW on March 16, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

Roger Kisby/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie point guard Lonzo Ball said it: “Y’all outdated, man. Don’t nobody listen to Nas anymore […] Real hip-hop is Migos, Future.”

On one hand, it’s difficult to fault a 19-year-old for backing the music of his youth. Younger generations of artists and fans alike have always bucked back at generations who view their contributions as destructive. Tupac Shakur openly dissed De La Soul on 1996’s seething battle record “Against All Odds:” All you old n– tryna advance/ It’s all over now take it like a man/ N– lookin’ like Larry Holmes, flabby and sick/ Tryna playa hate on my s–, eat a fat d–. And only weeks before he was murdered, The Notorious B.I.G. vowed to never rap past 30. On the other hand though? Right now is a particularly good time for a handful of statesmen who dominated hip-hop before Big Baller Brand was just a twinkle in Lavar Ball’s eye.

How generations before talked about Marvin Gaye, Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, he’s hip-hop’s them.

Run The Jewels’ Killer Mike and El-P (and their soundman, Trackstar the DJ) have consistently been one of the decade’s most impactful groups. They tour the world — and, in particular, amassed a melting pot crowd of various races and ages moshing at the Sunday Made In America set. Nas’ 2012 Life Is Good is, in many ways, rap’s interpretation of Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, and one of the great late-career albums from any MC. OutKast’s 2014 tour was weird, but Big Boi of OutKast has quietly been responsible for several stellar albums — 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors and 2017’s Boomiverse — in this decade alone.

Jay-Z wasn’t the only artist in the pre-Lonzo Ball era displaying moments of clarity over the last few years either. A handful of hip-hop’s mature and notable names have been creating art and expressing — via conversation and on social media — everything from encounters with their own mortality to the pain and occasional beauty of survivor’s remorse.

Rice University instructor Bernard “Bun B” Freeman (currently working with Beyoncé and Scooter Braun on a telethon to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey), one half of the legendary Port Arthur, Texas, rap group UGK, sat down with Queens, New York’s own N.O.R.E. for an installment of the MC’s popular Drink Champs podcast. Per tradition, both parties swap hip-hop war stories and imbibe for the better part of two hours. The most emotional segment centered around memories of Freeman’s partner in rhyme, Pimp C, who died in 2007.

“The illest s— Pimp [C] ever said was ‘I don’t need bodyguards. I just need mighty God.’ Ever since he said that, and I never told him, I move like that,” Freeman said. A single tear streamed down the right side of his face. “If you wasn’t moving with me within God, I’ll just move by myself. That’s the way life should be.” He continued, “If you are who you say you are, and you’re honoring that in a real way, you can move anywhere in this world. Pimp and I are proof of that.”

When it comes to honoring a fallen comrade, T.I. (who was not feeling Lonzo’s comments) understands all too well. In May 2006, T.I’s best friend Philant Johnson was murdered in Cincinnati following a drive-by shooting. Phil, is inspiration behind T.I.’s massive Justin Timberlake-assisted single “Dead & Gone.” Phil had been by T.I.’s side that same evening — holding his mobile while the rapper performed. Hours later, his lifelong friend lay bleeding to death in his arms. “I told him I had him, and it was going to be all right,” T.I. told MTV in 2006. “That was what I said. And he said, ‘All right.’”

The death could be viewed as the trigger that disrupted T.I.’s massive mid-2000s success. His 2007 weapons arrest and subsequent incarceration was seen by many as a response to Johnson’s murder. T.I. contemplated quitting rap. But T.I.’s moved forward. While not at just this minute the Billboard and box office star he split time as a decade ago, the film producer, actor, and two-time Grammy winner born Clifford Harris is still a recognizable figure in rap. Particularly on his very active Instagram account.

Instagram Photo

Last month, Tip (a father to six who is who has experienced his own share of public marital ups and downs with singer-songwriter Tameka “Tiny” Harris) posted the video of him presenting Phil’s daughter with a new car. She’s now a high school senior. In a heartfelt caption, Tip used the moment as a social media therapy session. “Making straight A’s and maintaining a 3.8 GPA, all the way through school, staying away from all the things we were eyeball deep in when we was her age, & doing any & everything that’s EVER been asked since you left,” he wrote. “How can we not make sure she rides cool & in comfort her senior year? We miss you more than we can express…but we fill in for you everyday until it’s all said and done.”

He promised to send her to college. And that she’d never suffer for anything. It was more than an Instagram caption. It was remaining true to a promise to a man who died in his arms 11 years ago. “Our loyalty lives forever!”

Lastly, it’s Styles P — one-third of ’90s Bad Boy trailblazers The LOX. He and his wife, Adjua Styles, visited Power 105’s The Breakfast Club in August. Among other things, the couple discussed the benefits of healthy eating, and Charlottesville, Virginia. They also talked about their daughter’s suicide.

It’s what performances like these are masked for—regular season games for a championship run.

In June 2015, Styles P’s stepdaughter, Tai Hing, took her own life. She was 20. Styles P addressed the tragedy a month later via Instagram, detailing the difficulty he and his family faced, and would face. Hing’s death, her mother believes, could have been the boiling point of depression, issues with her biological father, and perhaps her sexuality.

Fighting back tears, Styles P was emotional about never having been able to take the place of Hing’s biological father. The dynamic bothered him deeply, but was beginning to understand as he, himself, was a product of a similar situation. “If we knew she was depressed she would’ve been home with us,” he said. “ We all deal with depression on some sort of level … You expect your child to bury you, not to bury your child.”

Honesty has always been a prerequisite for hip-hop in its most soul-piercing form. Beyond the flash, the lights and the flossing, at its core, rap was necessary to explain the fears, dreams, joys and pains of a people so often still struggling. And dealing with police brutality, poverty, misogyny, and more. So Styles P’s pain, T.I.’s memories, Bun B’s instructions from Pimp C, and Jay-Z’s vulnerability aren’t new grounds for rap. But their grief, and willingness to shred the cloak of invincibility rap often mirages is living proof of the power behind the quote a wise man said nearly a decade ago. Ain’t no shame in holding onto grief. As long as you make room for other things, too.


Music fans attend the 2017 Budweiser Made in America festival – Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch

The weather Sunday proved to be Mr. Hyde to the Saturday’s Dr. Jekyll. The only visible fingerprint from Saturday was the mud that essentially became a graveyard for shoes. Jerseys were popular with the crowd. UNC Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. Cavaliers, Heat and St. Vincent-St. Mary LeBron. Sonics and Warriors Durant. Nuggets Jalen Rose, Sixers Ben Simmons. Lakers Kobe, and Hornets Glen Rice. UCLA Russell Westbrook, and Lonzo Ball. Arizona State James Harden, University of California Marshawn Lynch, Niners Colin Kaepernick, LSU Odell Beckham and Georgetown Allen Iverson. Obscure jerseys such as Aaliyah’s MTV Rock n’ Jock and Ray Finkle’s Dolphins jersey (from the 1994 Jim Carrey-led comedy classic Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) were sprinkled among the sea of thousands.

Afternoon sluggishly careened into evening. 21 Savage, Run The Jewels and The Chainsmokers all commanded large crowds. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from The Wire dapped up fans. Hometown young guns Markelle Fultz and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers walked through the crowd. Festivalgoers camped near the main stage for hours in hopes of landing an ideal viewing spot for Jay-Z’s performance. To pass time, cyphers were had. Weed smoke reclined in the air. Guts from dutches and cigarillos were dumped. All to pass the time.

Months ago, many, especially on Twitter, wanted to act like Jay-Z wasn’t a headliner. No one even saw an album coming. Now here they were minutes from history. That’s what Jay-Z is in 2017. How generations before talked about Marvin Gaye, Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson — Jay-Z is hip-hop’s them. He’s a throwback to the genre’s yesterday lyricism while embracing the newer generation he still attempts to impart game on and learn from.

The oversized Balloon Dog by famed sculptor Jeff Koons took the stage: It was time. “I’ve been waiting for this all summer,” one concertgoer said as he wrapped his arms around his girlfriend. “I know one thing, Jay better do the songs I wanna hear!” demanded another young woman.

So he did. Jay-Z’s set lasted nearly an hour and a half. He blended 4:44 cuts with classics from his catalog — the radio-friendly and the graphic street narratives. Jay-Z commanded of the crowd, but critiques did exist.

In his Rap Radar interview, Jay-Z mentioned that he was still toying around with the set list for his upcoming tour (slated to start in October). While it’s not a question to 4:44’s quality, Jay-Z weaving in old classics such as “Where I’m From,” “H to the Izzo,” “N—as In Paris,” “Big Pimpin’,” “Hard Knock Life,” “Run This Town,” “Empire State of Mind” and “Heart of City” captivated the crowd, cuts from his most recent album seemed to dissipate from the energy those helped muster. 4:44, after all, does not have a big radio single.

4:44 is Jay-Z’s most personal album to date. His thirteenth solo effort revolves around the complexities of his marriage, his mother’s sexuality and societal issues that continue to create systematic disadvantages for people of color. Its intimacy can get lost in an outdoor crowd of tens of thousands. For an album of that nature, it’s tough to ask even Jay-Z to plan for such.

Breath control was expected to be off-center in his first major performance in three years — though coaxing the crowd to sing Beyoncé happy birthday was a great diversion. Are these flaws that will doom his upcoming tour? No. He still has three more festivals on deck before setting sail on his own on Oct. 27. It’s what performances like these are made for — regular-season games for a championship run.

“It’s Jay, so he did all the songs I wanted,” a concertgoer told me. “But I’m greedy. I wanted more.”

Jay-Z performs at Budweiser Made in America festival on Sept. 3 in Philadelphia.

Arik McArthur/FilmMagic

Jay-Z’s catalog: a litany of hits he can employ at any time to wrap a crowd around his fingers. People filmed Instagram and Snapchat videos of themselves rapping along. People yelled to him from the back of crowd as if it were a Sunday service. And cyphers between friends sprouted everywhere. Another element Jay-Z kills with is the element of surprise. He concluded the show with a tribute to Coldplay’s Chester Bennington, who committed suicide in July: an inspired performance of his Black Album single “Encore.”

As he left the stage, crowds swarmed to the exit. Some concertgoers voiced their displeasure. Jay-Z did his thing in the 90 minutes he gave Philly. But there was still something missing. “That’s it? He didn’t even do half of the songs I wanted,” said a girl as she walked toward the exit. “It was aight, I guess. It’s Jay, so he did all the songs I wanted,” another concertgoer told me. “But I’m greedy. I wanted more.” Made In America was over.

Then, it happened. An explosion lit up an adjacent stage. Just Blaze on the turntables. Some slipped in the mud trying to get there, ruining their clothes, but those concerns were faint. Hundreds were already on the street heading back to their apartments, AirBnB’s or Ubers when Jay-Z informed Philly that the party wasn’t over yet. This set was only for his “Day Ones.”

Jay pulled his “Pump It Up Freestyle” out his back pocket. This bled into “Best of Me,” “I Know,” “Hola Hovito,” “Money Ain’t A Thing” and more. Hometown kid Meek Mill’s guest appearance gave an already frenetic crowd an HGH-sized boost of adrenaline as the rapper ran through his catalog’s zenith and most intense track, 2012’s “Dreams & Nightmares (Intro).”

As Jay-Z closed the second set with [his favorite track], “Allure,” the mood was ceremoniously serene. Michael Jordan finished with 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting in his first game back in versus Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in 1995. The 21 misses are footnotes in history. It’s a moment everyone remembers for two simple words: “I’m back.” Grown as hell, Jay-Z is too.

New Air Jordan 32s channel the swag of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 2s The new sneakers draw inspiration from shoes made more than 30 years ago

Nike senior designer Tate Kuerbis must’ve packed his bags, whipped out his passport and hopped into a DeLorean while crafting his latest Jordan Brand creation.

The new Air Jordan XXXIIs, which debuted on Tuesday in Turin, Italy, are the second coming of the legendary Italian-manufactured Air Jordans IIs that dropped more than 30 years ago during Michael Jordan’s third season in the NBA. Both pairs of shoes feature a similar structure, collar wings first seen in Jordan’s signature line on the IIs, and the iconic “Wings” logo on the tongue.

“Our goal with the AJ XXXII was to combine the essence of the AJ II with today’s best innovation to create a distinct design language both on and off the court,” said David Creech, Jordan Brand’s vice president of Design. That new technology is incorporated into the Kuerbis-designed XXXIIs through a “first-of-its-kind Flyknit upper,” formed by high-tenacity yarn. What does that actually mean? In layman’s terms, the XXXIIs boast components that make them the most flexible Air Jordans in history.

That means we should expect nothing less than for Jordan Brand athletes Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony to get busy on the court in the XXXIIs during the upcoming 2017-18 season. The question is, can they channel the same magic that His Airness delivered to the IIs, which he played in during the 1986-87 season.

Here are the top three performances and moments that Michael Jordan had in the Air Jordan IIs — the sneakers that served as inspiration for the latest release on his signature Air Jordan line.


1987 NBA SLAM Dunk Contest

Remember when Jordan soared through the air in his first career NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1985, with his gold chains swinging and Air Jordan Is on his feet? There was also 1988, when he threw down a dunk from the free throw line while rocking his Air Jordan IIIs. But never forget: Jordan first won the dunk contest in 1987, while rocking the Air Jordan IIs. On his final dunk of the night, Jordan connected on an acrobatic, leaning windmill from the left side of the hoop that earned him 50 points and the win over Jerome Kersey of the Portland Trail Blazers. A day later, Jordan wore the IIs in the 1987 NBA All-Star Game.

Not One, but TWO 61-point PERFORMANCes

Michael Jordan lays the ball up past Portland Trailblazers guard Clyde Drexler at Memorial Coliseum in 1987.

USA TODAY Sports

Jordan had the best scoring year of his life during the 1986-87 season, which he finished with a career-high average of 37.1 points a game and his first league scoring title. Two performances from that season especially stick out. First, on March 4, 1987, against the Detroit Pistons, Jordan scored 61 points, including 26 points in the fourth quarter that he capped off by draining a nearly impossible jumper to send the game into overtime. A month later, on April 16, 1987, Jordan put up 61 points again — while scoring 23 straight at one point in the game. The Bulls lost, but for Jordan, it was a record-setting night. He became the second player in NBA history, along with Wilt Chamberlain, to score 3,000 points in a season and the first player since Chamberlain to score 50 or more points in three consecutive games. Jordan was unstoppable in the IIs in both 61-point performances.

UNC vs. UCLA Alumni Game

Fun fact: The first player exclusives (PEs) Jordan ever received from Nike were a pair of Air Jordan IIs. After the 1986-87 NBA season, Jordan suited up for Dean Smith and his alma mater UNC in a charity alumni game against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. Jordan took the court in a pair of Carolina blue-accented IIs that were specially designed for him. Earlier this year, Jordan Brand paid tribute to the classic alumni game, and His Airness’ first pair of PEs, by releasing the same IIs that Jordan wore 30 years ago.

The “Rosso Corsa” Air Jordan XXXIIs are scheduled to be released on Sept. 23 for the retail price of $185. The “Bred” Air Jordan XXXIIs, in both mid ($185) and low ($165) versions, will be released on Oct. 18.

A power ranking of Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league With team names such as Trilogy, Power and 3’s Company, this league promises fun times

This past weekend, Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league held a combine and aired its first official draft live from Las Vegas. Teams are now set, and the league tips off on June 25. The draft day itself was broadcast live on Facebook and featured host Michael Rapaport cracking jokes, Ice Cube talking trash and players gearing up for returns to the spotlight. One thing was made clear: This league is going to be fun. So without further ado, here are three major storylines coming out of the draft and the preseason power rankings. Those never go wrong.

An Unexpected Top 5

There are a lot of big names in the Big3 — Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby, etc. — but most of those guys were linked up with teams already as co-captains. So the players drafted were familiar — but light on former NBA star power. The league held a combine over the weekend, and while we don’t know exactly what happened behind those closed doors, it seems like the top five picks put on great showings. Former UNC star and Minnesota Timberwolves wing Rashad McCants, 32, was the top pick. He joins Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (co-captain), James White and Dion Glover on team Trilogy. Andre Owens, Reggie Evans and Xavier Silas were the next three picks, with former No. 1 pick and Michael Jordan whipping boy Kwame Brown picked fifth.

Stringer Bell And Avon Barksdale Split

Remember how gut-wrenching it was at the end of season three of The Wire when Avon Barksdale and his right-hand man, Stringer Bell, double-crossed each other, leading to their demise? It was an on-screen partnership we never thought we’d see end. Well, that betrayal in the annals of black friendship breakups just got topped: Cuttino Mobley, co-captain of the team Power, actually allowed his team to pick former teammate Moochie Norris over former best friend and brother from another mother Steve Francis. Mobley and Francis were inseparable as a Rockets backcourt tandem, and seeing them have a chance to reunite was a prospective highlight for the Big3 league. And Francis’ redemption story as someone who has been through legal troubles since retiring was a tale we were rooting for. Unfortunately, Francis went undrafted — the band is definitely not back together under coach Clyde Drexler.

The Return Of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a legitimate college basketball star at LSU and a dynamic scorer with the Denver Nuggets in the early ’90s, but most people know him for sitting out the national anthem 20 years before then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did the same. As a result, Abdul-Rauf lost out on prime years of his career and was out of the media spotlight for most of the past two decades. It’ll be great to see him lace up again. Also, he’s sharing a backcourt with White Chocolate himself, Jason Williams. Pray for ankles. All of them.


And now the Big3 draft power rankings:

Rosters are in. Teams are set. That means it’s time to start placing odds and figuring out who’s going to come out with the championship.

1. Three-Headed Monster

Rashard Lewis (captain), Jason Williams (co-captain), Kwame Brown, Eddie Basden, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Gary Payton (coach) — As I mentioned before, the backcourt of Abdul-Rauf and Williams is going to create havoc. Of course, they may not both be on the court together, since this is 3-on-3 and bigs might be able to take advantage. Either way, the game is not timed and first to 60 wins, so the constant barrage of quickness might tire out any team of vets. Add in a Kwame Brown, who performed well in the combine, and Lewis and we may have a dominant force. Let’s also not forget that there are three spots for 4-point shots, and this team is as equipped as any to knock those down.

2. Power

Corey Maggette (captain), Cuttino Mobley (co-captain), Jerome Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Moochie Norris, Clyde Drexler (coach) — This team was going to get my vote as a top team no matter who they drafted for one reason: Mobley. In case you haven’t seen the videos, Mobley has been going out to the Drew League looking like the real Uncle Drew and demolishing young cats. I don’t know if there’s an MVP of this league, but if so, Mobley has to be preseason favorite.

3. Trilogy

Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (co-captain), Rashad McCants, James White, Dion Glover, Rick Mahorn (coach) — Anyone who plays 3-on-3 knows that rebounding is key. Players have to clear the boards and get the ball outside of the paint as quickly as possible. This squad, with Martin and Harrington, seems ready for that task. Also, there’s no illegal defense, so Martin camping out in the paint daring anyone to drive is going to be a deterrent. Add in top draft pick McCants and we have a sleeper squad on our hands.

4. Killer 3s

Chauncey Billups (captain), Stephen Jackson (co-captain), Reggie Evans, Larry Hughes, Brian Cook, Charles Oakley (coach) — This team might be smaller than most, with only one guy taller than 6-foot-8 (Cook). But they have shooters in Billups and Jackson and an athletic Hughes. Plus, Jackson being coached by Oakley seems like a recipe for bully ball. Ice up, kids.

5. 3’s Company

Allen Iverson (captain), DerMarr Johnson (co-captain), Andre Owens, Michael Sweetney, Ruben Patterson, Allen Iverson (coach) — This squad is going to be the most anticipated simply because it marks Iverson’s return to the court. Does he still have it? Can he score 50 points in a 60-point game? Is he going to practice?! That’s well and good, but he’s lacking another big former NBA star like the teams above him. Former Atlanta Hawk Johnson will be an athletic help, but this is going to be a one-man show. And if A.I. can pull out his magic, that’ll be all they need.

6. Ghost Ballers

Mike Bibby (captain), Ricky Davis (co-captain), Maurice Evans, Marcus Banks, Ivan Johnson, George Gervin (coach) — Bibby and Davis are going to make for an explosive backcourt. However, there’s one problem: shooting. There aren’t many 3-point specialists here, which might hurt them in trying to get to 60. But if anyone can go off for an unexpected monster game, it’s Davis.

7. Tri-State

Jermaine O’Neal (captain), Bonzi Wells (co-captain), Xavier Silas, Lee Nailon, Mike James, Julius Erving (coach) — One good thing about 3-on-3 games is spacing. Bigs get to work out in the paint and destroy guys one-on-one, so it’s possible the Tri-State squad might be dominant thanks to having the league’s best big-man scorer in O’Neal. The only problem is that if he gets double-teamed, I’m not sure if the rest of the guys can nail the 3s. They’re seventh in my ranking, but they have the best chance to move up quickly.

8. Ball Hogs

Brian Scalabrine (captain), Josh Childress (co-captain), Derrick Byars, Rasual Butler, Dominic McGuire, Rick Barry (coach) — I don’t want to be that guy, but I have to: These guys are already at a handicap with Scalabrine as their captain, expected to pile on minutes. Sorry, White Mamba. They also drafted seventh, so it’s a cocktail for a roster that has an uphill battle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Kevin Seifert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Kevin Seifert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lucas Bros. find laughter in ‘shrooms, Steph Curry and ‘white suffering’ The blipster twins are back with a new Netflix special — and plenty of fresh material

If you’ve never watched an episode of The Lucas Bros. Moving Co., the animated Fox comedy from identical twin brothers Keith and Kenny Lucas, you probably know them also as the scene-stealing twins from 2014’s 22 Jump Street.

Now the 31-year-old nerds have a new Netflix special, Lucas Brothers: On Drugs, and are working on a second. Their jokes range from riffs on feminism and Jermaine Jackson to Steph Curry and the rise of advanced analytics. There’s a very funny breakdown, complete with pie chart, of the factors that contribute to black happiness. The majority of the pie chart is taken up by “white suffering,” and there are jokes about O.J. Simpson, race and fame thrown in for good measure.

The Lucas brothers dropped out of law school to become comedians — Keith from Duke, Kenny from NYU — and their strongest material focuses on the drug war and its effects, complete with cutouts of Richard Nixon flanking the stage as a life-size boogeyman. Though the special isn’t strictly political, the brothers rock campaign buttons for Kerry/Edwards and Barry Goldwater (more on that in the interview). As with Moving Co., much of the Lucases’ humor is weed-based (they’re reformed sativa connoisseurs; now their preference is indica). It’s sharp, smart, insightful and hilarious. For fans of the Lucas brothers’ animation, the special includes a trippy short that examines a world in which the drug war never took place. The brothers are currently developing a new animated project, and they’re also working on a show imagining a wizarding school that’s also an HBCU.

The Lucas Brothers: On Drugs debuts April 18 on Netflix. I’d recommend watching the special before reading this interview, but it’s not entirely necessary.

What do you find so appealing about animation? It’s one of your trademarks at this point.

Kenny: I love animation for a number of reasons. One, it’s a very open form, so you can pretty much go wherever you allow your mind to take you, which I think is an asset when you’re trying to do comedy. The second thing is I love color. I love visuals. I love art. And I always have these vivid patterns in my mind whenever I go to sleep or if I smoke weed, and I feel like with animation you can get that out much easier. Stand-up is hard. There are some comedians who are very gifted verbally. They can paint a picture very well. I think Lil Rel [Howery] is a good example. Richard Pryor, those guys. But with us, I think our biggest asset is our mind, and with animation you can just get so much out there.

Keith: It always brings me back to my childhood when we’re able to dabble in animation. It’s just a vivid reminder of what childhood was like. Animation is playful, too. You can talk about serious issues, but when it’s in the guise of animation, it seems more playful. People seem to keep their ears and eyes open when animation’s on screen, irrespective of what that message is.

What were your favorite cartoons growing up?

Kenny: I loved Winnie the Pooh.

Keith: Ren and Stimpy.

Kenny: Looney Tunes.

Keith: Doug. South Park.

Kenny: Pinky and the Brain.

Keith: King of the Hill.

Kenny: Beavis and Butthead.

Keith: Daria.

I was wondering what you guys have learned about yourselves as a result of smoking weed?

Keith: I just don’t take myself as seriously. Before I smoked weed, I guess I worried a lot. I had a lot of anxiety. I used to just be afraid of the future and afraid of death and things like that, but as I started smoking more weed I’ve just been taking things a lot easier. I don’t know if it’s because of weed or because I’ve gotten older, but the two have coalesced together to minimize my fear about the future.

Kenny: Same. When you smoke you have an out-of-body experience where you feel like you’re traveling the universe and you sort of detach yourself from your body, from your ego, and I feel like [by] smoking weed in conjunction with therapy and meditation, you move away from your ego. That’s been a big thing for me. I’m so appreciative of weed.

I’d imagine distancing yourself from your ego is important for you guys since you work as a pair.

Keith: Absolutely. That was an early struggle. Even though we’re twins and we look exactly alike and we had a similar experience, we’re still individuals, and we held on to what we thought was the particular way to do comedy or to live life. As we got into comedy more and worked a little bit more, we started to realize that in order for this to function as a unit, we have to shed the ego.

Kenny: I think you can appreciate the distinctness and uniqueness of a person’s individual character and not necessarily be egocentric.

Speaking of weed’s anti-anxiety properties, have you found yourselves smoking more since the election?

Kenny: You know what? Absolutely. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t. It’s been a huge increase in how much weed I smoke, and I think it’s because 2016 was — even before the election — 2016 was exhausting. It was the most exhausting year I’ve ever had just because of the constant news coverage of Trump and the election. And then you’re like, Alright, it’s over. We elected a president. And then you’re like, Aw f—, Trump is president so it’s going to be even worse now. The only way I’m going to get through the next four years is if I’m stoned outta my f—ing mind. I have to literally detach myself because there’s no other way, really. I’ve looked at everything. If you’re not going to physically leave the country, you have to mentally and spiritually check out. You can protest, but come on.

Keith: You can’t protest for four years. That gets exhausting and you realize, what can we realistically do? You start to feel so small, like the universe is so much bigger than any individual and it doesn’t matter if we protest till we’re blue in the face. He has the capabilities and the power to do whatever he pleases.

Comedic duo the Lucas Bros. have a new Netflix comedy special: “Lucas Brothers: On Drugs.”

Lindsey Byrnes

Aside from the strangeness of doing ‘shrooms with someone who looks exactly like you, what else was that like?

Kenny: Awful. That was the worst. It was not a magic experience.

Keith: You go into thinking it’s going to be the dopest, like O sh—, we’re gonna be on like the sixth, seventh dimension, and you literally just start questioning everything. Like every little thought or belief you ever had, you start questioning it. And then you see your brother going through the same thing, so it’s literally like you’re watching yourself freak out. It’s out of body. If it’s not cool and flowery like the ’60s, then it’s just trippy and scary like a horror movie. It was too intense.

Kenny: I did look at this Woody Allen picture for, like, 40 minutes and he was wearing a dope shirt, so that’s good.

Keith: There you go.

Kenny: The power of positivity.

Is there anything professional that you would consider doing individually, where you don’t come as a pair?

Kenny: President of the United States. I’d definitely take that. If I was asked to host — no. (To Keith) Anything I do, I’d want to do with you.

Keith: Yeah. I don’t think there’s anything I would want to do if it didn’t involve him.

Kenny: Oh! Batman. If they asked me to be Batman I’d do it.

Keith: Oh yeah. If you were playing Batman, that’d make sense.

Kenny: If they said, ‘Kenny Lucas, we need you to play Batman in the next installment,’ I’d be like, ‘All right Keith, I’m sorry. We gotta break up.’

Keith: I would ask if I could play Robin though.

Kenny: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d put in a strong request for you to play Robin.

What was with the Kerry/Edwards and the Goldwater buttons?

Kenny: I think what we were trying to say, is that the political parties are not really that different. Especially when it comes to the war on drugs, because Nixon started it. Carter did nothing to stop it. Reagan expanded it. Clinton expanded it. The Bushes, of course, were big fans of the drug war. Obama — it did so much damage by the time it got to Obama there was very little he could do, and I’m sure with Trump and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, they’re going to ratchet it up, so it’s like the Democrats and the Republicans are both complicit in the failed policy.

You have firsthand experience with the effects the prison-industrial complex can have on a family. When you see the things that Jeff Sessions says about going after places where weed has been legalized, does that worry you?

Kenny: It troubles me.

Keith: Being a child of a prisoner and being directly impacted, you have a sense of fear. With Trump and Sessions, it seems like they’re taking everything to the next level.

Kenny: Yeah. The mythology that surrounds marijuana, you have to break through it.

Keith: People forget there are real-world implications from locking up a person. Families are destroyed. Communities are ravaged. We’ve lost a generation of African-American men who could have done great things. Our dad was very smart. He had all the talents in the world. He made some bad choices. His whole life was destroyed because of that.

Kenny: You’re not seeing people. You’re seeing statistics. You’re not delving into the particular story of a person.

On a little bit of a lighter note, Keith, I read that you went to Duke. How do you feel about this year’s NCAA national champions?

Keith: You know, it’s an ebb and flow. Duke wins one year. UNC wins the next. I think it’s good for Tobacco Road. You can’t tell the story of Duke without UNC. You can’t tell the story of UNC without Duke. I like to see it as a symbiotic story of two programs that push each other to great heights. But that’s just the standardized, PC version of what I need to say.

I was going to say, that’s mighty gracious of you.

Keith: I hate UNC. They’re a bunch of … cheaters. But! They had a good program this year. They also had a lot of seniors and upperclassmen, so I give ’em props for that. They didn’t try to go the one-and-done route, which is pretty popular in college sports these days.

What is your favorite example of white suffering?

Keith: La La Land losing. There we go. It was amazing.

Kenny: And, of course, to lose to Moonlight. It was like thank you, universe. This is exactly what we needed in the Trump era. Especially when Trump won, I’ve never seen so many white liberals have tears. I felt terrible, but it was great!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Rick Fox loves his yoga, his Tar Heels and the Gorillaz The actor and NBA analyst has a championship spirit about acting, the men he played with, and family

There’s of course Rick Fox the basketball player. The Rick Fox who led the UNC Tar Heels to the Final Four in 1991. The one who won three consecutive NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. He wore purple and gold for seven seasons, all while playing alongside a guy whom he calls his good friend. You may know that friend — his middle name is Bean. But there’s also post-NBA Fox: the actor/analyst/producer/esports mogul Ulrich Alexander “Rick” Fox. He began acting while still playing for the Lakers, but his career blossomed after appearances on HBO’s acclaimed and loved Oz. Fox now pops up on screens both little and big: Single Ladies, Dancing with the Stars and Dope, and he even played himself on The Game. Fox now has a recurring role on OWN’s Greenleaf. He portrays a handsome (of course) reporter assigned to cover scandals that revolve around Calvary Fellowship World Ministries. This is all besides his duties as an NBATV studio analyst. The Toronto-born renaissance man of Bahamian descent talks about his favorite apps, what he’s like during March Madness — and where he gets that hair cut.

What’s the craziest lie you ever told?

I don’t lie.

Where do you get your hair cut?

I have someone who comes to my house. Gilbert [Muniz] comes to my house whenever he’s available. He’s pretty busy. He’s been cutting my hair for about five years now, and his career has really taken off. I’m happy for him, but it makes it harder for me to have those haircuts when I need them.

Describe yourself during March Madness.

I get excited for my Tar Heels. I always want them to win.

What’s one app that you love that nobody else loves?

Well, I think everyone loves Postmates. The one app that may be gaining traction with people: MINDBODY. That connects me to all my yoga classes anywhere when I’m traveling around the U.S. Same with my Workplace app. Workplace connects me with all my employees. Those two are my favorite. Postmates I wear out, though.

What is one album you think is a classic that nobody else does?

The Gorillaz’s Demon Days.

What’s one thing about yourself that embarrasses you?

I’m sure I get embarrassed. I don’t know [laughs]. I wonder if that makes you arrogant if you don’t have many problems. Yeah, I don’t really get embarrassed about stuff. I don’t take myself too seriously.

Who is your favorite athlete of all time?

Some of my teammates were my favorite athletes because I knew them personally. I admire them as men and fathers, and then on top of that their skill sets were just off the charts, and then we went on to win championships. So I wouldn’t say any particular one of them, but every guy who I played years with and won championships with at the Lakers, I think about them. And I think about our times together and I miss them, competing with them. They’re some of my favorite people in the world, and they had amazing, historical careers.

What’s the last museum you walked through?

It was the MoMA [Museum of Modern Art] in New York with my daughter for her birthday, which was pretty cool. It was her 16th birthday. But it was awesome, a pretty fun father-daughter day.

What is the last stamp on your passport?

The last stamp on my passport would be Seoul. No, the last one would be the Bahamas. We went home. That was family; business was Seoul.

“I don’t really get embarrassed about stuff. I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Where does your courage come from?

Probably my kids. Just the desire to want to protect them and raise them, nourish them. When you become a parent, you get courage from somewhere because you want your kids to be safe in the world. And you want to be an example and live a life to teach them some clarity about how to carry themselves: getting up, and suiting up and showing up, and being professional, being a man of character and truth and authenticity. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed for people, and I have those days — we all do. But I think of them, and that gives me the courage to really say what I need to say, do what I need to do and just live an authentic life. I think about them.

Daily Dose: 4/11/17 The passenger and United Airlines are still getting dragged

I’m going to my first Major League Baseball game of the season Tuesday night. Needless to say, I’m extremely excited.

Pulitzer Day is a special one in the journalism world. It’s a day when, if you’ve done this job for any amount of time, you take a second to recognize your peers who’ve put in the work to change the world with that aspirational spirit that drives most reporters. If you’ve got a Pulitzer, people take you seriously for the rest of your life. That said, this year the winners list featured quite a few black writers, which is not usual. As a black journalist, yes, this makes me very happy.

The school shooting in San Bernardino, California, was a domestic incident. A man who was upset about his relationship with his estranged wife decided to walk into a school, her workplace, and shoot to kill her in front of children. There are multiple things worth noting here, besides the awful nature of the murder. The victim, Karen Smith, decided to leave Cedric Anderson. He then killed her. He had a history of abuse, so when you find yourself saying, “Why not just walk away?” when it comes to becoming a victim in that situation, now you know. Typically, it’s less safe.

If you get dragged off a plane by airport authorities, prepare to get your reputation dragged too. That’s exactly what’s happening to David Dao, the man you saw on TV and the internet getting pulled by his arms off a United Airlines flight Monday. As it turns out, his past in Kentucky as a doctor involves quite a few controversial incidents, including multiple felony charges for fraudulently giving out drugs. This is what we call the “no angel” defense that we’ve seen so many times before. Of course, none of this matters at all, really, because beating people up on planes isn’t cool, ever.

There’s no love lost between old ACC foes. Last week, the University of Maryland president floated a rather drastic idea when publicly discussing what should happen to the University of North Carolina regarding its academic fraud scandal. This situation is particularly awkward because it mainly involved letting kids take fake classes in African and Afro-American studies, which just does not look good at all. Wallace Loh thinks UNC deserves the death penalty. Wow.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you tell me that you were attacked by a runaway deer, the likelihood that I believe you is low. I mean, who on earth is just walking down the street when Bambi is rolling through? Well, it happened to this guy, and now there’s video to prove it.

Snack Time: Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing but bad news around these parts. Between all the outrage and injustice, here’s a story about strangers coming together to help someone find his dad’s lost friend. Cue the tears.

Dessert: If you’re in a bad mood and need cheering up, this song should help you out.

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

Education should be the college athlete’s greatest compensation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there are the intangibles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money is the biggest reason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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