‘Black Duke’ takes flight After decades of resistance, black America embraces Blue Devils basketball

Once upon a time in college basketball, black fans had a special sort of hate for Duke.

This season is different. The Blue Devils are so good in the ‘hood, Jay-Z came to watch them play … in Pittsburgh. LeBron James witnessed the Zion Williamson mixtape in Charlottesville, Virginia. After every game, the internet is flooded with highlights of Williamson and Duke’s three other one-and-about-to-be-dones. The program has come so far from its so-called “Uncle Tom” days, Sacramento Kings rookie and recent Duke star Marvin Bagley III just laced the newest J. Cole beat with raps such as way back I was hated but they love me now.

And all that’s not even counting when Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Gurley, Spike Lee and former President Barack Obama came to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rivalry game with North Carolina.

Black fans now root for Duke at higher rates than the general population, according to the ESPN Sports Poll. In 2017, 12 percent of black college basketball enthusiasts identified as Duke fans, compared with 8 percent of all college basketball fans. So far this season, 24 percent of the audience for Duke games on ESPN is black, compared with 21 percent for all games.


How did Duke go from ashy to classy? From supposedly privileged punks who vanquished iconic black teams to having a hairstyle named after the 2015 championship squad? From featuring white stars who fizzled in the pros to Zion running through competition like a midnight locomotive?

Like everything pertaining to Duke basketball, it starts with coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K changed with the times, gradually embracing the concept of recruiting players who would be at Duke for only a few months before jumping to the NBA. His credibility grew when he started coaching Olympic teams and building relationships with legends such as James and Kobe Bryant. The turning point was Duke’s 2015 title team, featuring three one-and-dones and the “Duke Starting Five” haircut trend.

Now Duke is an apex competitor, ready for the next “Nike check coming out the projects.” The freshmen Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones draw huge TV ratings. Duke has black fans like this dude, straight photobombing ESPN in Louisville’s arena after Duke came back from a 23-point deficit in the second half:

“I do think the success of the program, having a series of one-and-done players now, Coach K being fully embraced by the stars of the NBA with the Olympics, a confluence of things have contributed to changing that narrative,” said Grant Hill, the Hall of Famer and former Duke star who was unfairly saddled with much of the black community’s dislike of his team.

“It’s kind of funny why people didn’t like us back in the day. It’s even funnier now that people are big fans because of the haircut,” Hill continued.

“But the fact that Duke is now sort of embraced is interesting.”


Jay-Z laughs during the game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Duke Blue Devils at Petersen Events Center on January 22, 2019 in Pittsburgh.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Duke hired Krzyzewski from West Point in 1980, two years after losing the NCAA championship game to Kentucky. In 1982, Krzyzewski brought in Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Dave Henderson and Jay Bilas. In 1986, that group and freshman Danny Ferry went to the championship game, which they lost to Louisville.

In that era, black America’s team was Georgetown, led by pioneering coach John Thompson. He took the Hoyas to three Final Fours, winning the 1984 national championship and the hearts of black folks with an attitude of uncompromising blackness.

Like Georgetown, Duke was an expensive, academically elite private school. Unlike Georgetown, Duke featured a high proportion of white stars, including Alarie, Ferry and, in the 1988-89 season, a bratty freshman named Christian Laettner. In the 1989 NCAA tournament, with Ferry and Laettner leading the way, Duke beat a Georgetown team featuring a young Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo to secure a spot in the Final Four. Thompson never got that close to a championship again.

The next two seasons, two players arrived who would put Duke over the top and set the Duke image for years to come. Point guard Bobby Hurley fit one type of Duke stereotype: scrappy, not overly talented, and white. Hill fit another: He was the privileged son of a former NFL star and a corporate executive, and black.

“In the ’80s, it was almost the more struggle you came from, the blacker you were,” Hill said.

Another factor contributing to black fans’ past disdain for Duke was that the team’s best white players — Alarie, Ferry, Hurley, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kyle Singler, the Plumlee brothers — often had mediocre NBA careers. Laettner, the best white Duke player, whose arrogance and frat-boy looks inspired hate in whites and blacks alike, made one All-Star appearance and averaged 12.8 points per game over his 13-year career. J.J. Redick, twice the National Player of the Year at Duke, has a career average of 12.8 points per game in his 13th NBA season.

Laettner and Hurley got destroyed in the 1990 NCAA championship game, losing 103-73 to University of Nevada, Las Vegas, led by gold-toothed forward Larry Johnson. But in the 1991 Final Four, with Hill as a freshman, Duke took down undefeated UNLV, then went on to win Krzyzewski’s first title.

The following year, Laettner, Hill and Hurley smashed another set of black icons, Michigan’s legendary Fab Five freshmen, to capture a second straight championship.

“You had this idea about the kind of black players Coach K recruited,” said Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal, chair of the African and African-American studies department. “Kind of a cut-and-dried, clean-cut type of black player … a lot seemed to be mixed-race. When it came to color, they were often light-skinned. It seemed like he had a pattern.”

Neal hated Duke basketball for years, even after he became a professor there in 2004. “What framed my view of Duke was when they played UNLV and it was portrayed as these great student-athletes versus the thugs,” he said, then added: “Laettner didn’t help.”

The Fab Five, who injected hip-hop style and attitude into college basketball, were viewed as the antithesis of Duke. Michigan’s Jalen Rose crystallized those feelings in his Fab Five documentary, describing his feelings as a 17-year-old high schooler: “I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.”

That was a false label — Rose’s teammate Chris Webber was a middle-class kid, for example, and Krzyzewski recruited Webber hard — but it resonated.

“I said what people had been thinking for 30 years,” Rose, now an ESPN analyst, said in an interview.

Kyrie Irving (left), during his one-and-done year at Duke, gets second-half instructions from coach Mike Krzyzewski (right) against Michigan State at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, on Dec. 1, 2010.

Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/Getty Images

But with two championships, Duke could now recruit with anyone in the country. The Blue Devils won a third title in 2001 with Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer and Shane Battier. Their fourth title, in 2010, featured Nolan Smith and white players such as Singler, Miles and Mason Plumlee, and Jon Scheyer.

Black stars such as Hill, Williams and Boozer probably would have been one-and-done in today’s game. As the college basketball landscape shifted, Corey Maggette left Duke after one season. Elton Brand left after two and became an NBA All-Star.

Then came Kyrie Irving, whose spectacular 11-game Duke career in 2010-11 set the program on a new course. Irving went first in the NBA draft, won Rookie of the Year, is a perennial All-Star and became an NBA champion in 2016.

The next generation of young stars took notice.


From left to right: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson and Justise Winslow of the Duke Blue Devils wait for player introductions before their game against the Miami Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 13, 2015.

Lance King/Getty Images

The Black Duke turning point came in 2015: the championship team featuring freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, and senior Quinn Cook.

“My freshman year, it was different,” Cook said. “Me and Amile Jefferson talk about it all the time. Warming up, it’d be like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber playing in the arena. And by my senior year, they were playing like Lil Durk and Shy Glizzy and Chief Keef and Meek Mill.”

Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” became the soundtrack to their championship run. The idea came from assistant coach Jeff Capel, the former Duke player whose jersey was spotted on Tupac Shakur back in the day.

“We play team basketball. Coach has a military background. We take charges. We get hype after little plays,” Cook said. “I think in the basketball community, it just looks like — I don’t want to say ‘corny,’ it’s just different. But coach lets you add your flair to it, add your little swagger, your team swagger.

“If we buy in and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on the court and in the classroom, coach lets us be us.”

When Cook arrived on campus, he was surprised to find out that several teammates had tattoos. They wore sweatsuits on the road, not suits and ties. Krzyzewski was a Beyoncé fan and had a picture with Jay-Z on his phone. After a disappointing first-round loss in the 2014 tournament, Cook started growing his hair out to show his complete focus on basketball. Then the entire team said no clippers would touch their hair until they lost. That took 14 games. They left the tops of their ’dos long and shaped up the bottoms. By the time they won the 2015 tournament, the Duke haircut had trended nationally.

In 2016, Brandon Ingram wore that haircut in his one-and-done Duke season. Then came Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Bagley. Next up is Williamson, one of the most electrifying college athletes ever and the obvious first choice in the 2019 NBA draft. Barrett is projected to be picked second, Reddish fourth and Jones later in the first round.

Today, “I just think Duke has a look to it,” Cook said. “If you look at the guys in the NBA, I don’t want to say it’s never been cool to go to Duke, but Duke is everywhere now.”

Said Rose: “Now, Coach K is recruiting the player. Before, they were recruiting the program. Before, Coach K wouldn’t even necessarily want four of the top 10 players because he wanted guys who he could mold them and culture them and bring them into the system. Just because you’re a top-flight player, that doesn’t mean you fit into what we’re trying to do.”

“Now, he fits Duke to the top-flight player.”


The roots of Black Duke run much deeper than Zion, Kyrie or Coach K.

In 1892, Trinity College relocated to Durham, North Carolina, with the generous assistance of a local tobacco baron named Washington Duke. That same year, Duke’s barber in Durham, an enterprising black man named John Merrick, expressed an interest in learning about real estate. Duke helped Merrick buy the barbershop, which he expanded into a chain of barbershops. Under Washington Duke’s tutelage, Merrick made more real estate purchases, which became Durham’s “Black Wall Street” district of businesses and homes owned by African-Americans.

Washington Duke also advised Merrick as he co-founded two pioneering black businesses, the North Carolina Mutual Provident Life Insurance Co. and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank. After Duke’s death, his son James Duke gave millions to Trinity College, which was renamed after the Duke patriarch in 1924. Duke family money also endowed historically black universities such as North Carolina Central and Johnson C. Smith, plus what once was the black hospital in Durham.

“There’s a reason I like Duke that’s deeper than basketball,” said rap producer and longtime Duke fan 9th Wonder, who also is a professor at Duke, Harvard and his alma mater, North Carolina Central. “The Dukes went on record saying we cannot empower black people without teaching them economic empowerment.”

Duke went on a building spree with its new endowment. The architect for many of the campus buildings still in use today, including Cameron Indoor Stadium, was a black man named Julian Abele.

This history casts a different light on the perception of Duke as a “white” school — especially since we now know that Georgetown sold 272 slaves in 1838 to ensure its survival.

“When I talk to my friends and start pulling all this history up, it’s a hard reality for them to face,” 9th Wonder said. “They’re like, ‘The black person in me should have been rooting for Duke all along.’ ”

Outside Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University as snow falls from Winter Storm Diego on December 9, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.

Lance King/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens rookie Lamar Jackson is into 21 Savage and NBA YoungBoy — and old-school Miami Hurricanes football The Florida native counts Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and Odell Beckham as fave wideouts

It has sunk in for Lamar Jackson: He’s a professional quarterback in the NFL. But some of the responsibilities that go along with his position with the Baltimore Ravens, who went 9-7 last season, still feel surreal. It’s May 2018 and the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner is signing cards and participating in a Panini America rookie photo shoot in Los Angeles. It wasn’t all that long ago this reality was a just dream taking root in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida. “Get ready!” Jackson says when thinking about what he’d tell his elementary school self. “The world is wild and different. Totally different.” Jackson conducted this interview while signing a mountain of trading cards. How many, exactly? “Three thousand of them,” he says with a laugh. But the first round pick is more than amped to wax poetic about his Mount Rushmore of wide receivers, his game-day ritual, Kodak Black, and much more.


Who’s the one teammate that you’d trust to cut your hair?

None of them. They don’t know how to cut. I never seen none of them cut themselves or anyone else, so I know they won’t touch mine. At all.

What’s your game-day ritual?

I like to listen to music. I listen to Kodak Black, NBA YoungBoy, Young Thug and Future before the game. I like to have fun with my teammates, too, you know? It’s a game at the end of the day. It’s business, but it’s a game at the same time.

Speaking of Kodak, how close were you all growing up?

Yeah, we’re from the same neighborhood. We just went to elementary school together. He was doing his thing. I was doing mine.

As a quarterback, you know the value of a great wide receiver. Who is on your Mount Rushmore of wideouts?

My favorite? Randy Moss. He’s No. 1 to me. Hmmm, who else? I really like consistent receivers, though. Like the ones that make you change your defense around to cover him. I like Odell [Beckham Jr.].

What about somebody like Terrell Owens?

Oh, my God! I don’t know why I didn’t say T.O.! He’s definitely No. 2! Then Odell. I don’t really have a fourth. No! Chad Johnson. Those my boys there.

If you could go back in time and attend any sporting event live, which would it be?

Oh, my God, that’s wild! [It’s not sports] but I’ll say Lil Wayne and them when they was with the Hot Boys. Definitely them. But what else? I’d like to watch Sean Taylor play live. I’d like to watch those great Miami Hurricanes when it was all of those guys like Ed Reed playing. That 2001 team, definitely.

Favorite throwback TV show?

I have a few. Martin, The Wayans Bros., The Jamie Foxx Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Proud Family. I love a lot old Cartoon Network shows too.

Name three songs that define your mentality heading into your rookie year.

I can’t really tell you, because when I’m out there [on the field] my mindset is different, because I hate to lose. I don’t really have no songs in mind right now. Not that I can think of at least.

What’s the last concert you attended?

21 Savage and NBA YoungBoy. It was in Louisville.

What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit but hadn’t gotten there yet?

Brazil.

Where does your courage come from?

Definitely becoming a man at a young age. My mother raised me on her own. All that came into play. I had to mature early.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Baller or nah? We checked out whether the ‘Rampage’ and ‘Ballers’ actor really could ball at The U

From actresses Gabrielle Union and Queen Latifah to rapper 2 Chainz, singers, actors and rappers have often bragged about their athletic accomplishments. #ShowMeTheReceipts, a recurring feature at The Undefeated, will authenticate those declarations. In this installment, we verify actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s receipts.


The four-second scene easily could have been missed if one was not paying exceptionally close attention during Furious 7.

Dwayne Johnson’s character, Luke Hobbs, is sitting in his hospital bed recovering from his litany of injures as the world is going to hell in a handbasket outside his hospital room. His daughter is entertaining herself in the corner, as Hobbs’ attention is on his TV.

Viewers realize he’s watching a football game when they hear the announcer say, “Back to throw. Here comes the blitz! No. 94 sacks …” But just before the game is interrupted by a breaking news segment, the director and editors of Furious 7 drop a quick hint for any vigilant audience members. The Florida State logo is the last thing people see prior to the news transition. (In the clip below, start at 2:10.)

Before Johnson, aka The Rock, made a name for himself as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time or a big-time actor 17 years ago, he was a 6-foot-5, 267-pound defensive lineman for the University of Miami. And that play he and viewers were watching on the TV was of him sacking former Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward in the No. 3 Hurricanes’ matchup against the No. 1 Seminoles on Oct. 9, 1993.

“I was on Twitter a while back saying that my penetration helped clear the way for him to get that sack,” North Carolina State defensive line coach and Johnson’s former Miami teammate Kevin Patrick joked. “He’s a good friend of mine; I love him dearly. I’ve watched almost all of his movies. I think that’s one of the few ones I haven’t seen yet, so I might have to catch that one. That Rampage movie [Johnson’s latest effort, released April 13], my kids have been begging me to see that, but we just haven’t had a chance yet.”

The former World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment star was the second-highest paid actor in 2017, the sexiest man alive in 2016 and on a bit of a rampage in movies and balling in his TV appearances this year. Originally, though, he put his efforts into a football career.

A year after finishing his senior season with Miami, Johnson was cut by the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders two months into the 1995 season. He had all of $7 in his pocket. But that experience appears to be one of the few things in which Johnson didn’t find immediate success.

He was the WWF/WWE’s first third-generation wrestler — following his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia — and has more than a dozen championships from the WWF/WWE, World Championship Wrestling, WWF Intercontinental, WWF Tag Team and Royal Rumble. When he graced the big screen in Scorpion King, he earned a Guinness World Record in 2002 for highest paycheck earned by an actor receiving top billing for the first time.

And in 1991, as a freshman on Dennis Erickson’s Miami team, he was a member of the 12-0 national championship squad that obliterated Nebraska, 22-0, in the Orange Bowl. Johnson compiled 77 tackles and 4.25 sacks in one start and 39 appearances as a Hurricane.

Patrick frequently pointed out that Dewey, as he was called by his Miami teammates, in addition to being a fantastic singer, lover of country music and all-around hardworking person, didn’t lack for talent. He just happened to play on star-studded teams throughout his tenure with the program. Johnson never backed down, though, and it showed when the Hurricanes’ lone sack from that game in 1993 came from him tracking down the ever-elusive Ward.

“It makes the hair on my neck stand up even to this day when you look back on those moments and you’re playing with great players and you’re playing against great players, some of the greatest of all time in college football,” Patrick said. “I can go through a laundry list of names of guys that I’ve played. … Dwayne was a hell of a football player. It’s noticed because of who he is now, but he was probably as good as anyone in the country at the time. He just had probably the greatest 3-technique in all of college football and pro football in Warren Sapp playing at the same spot. Just to be out there at that time speaks volumes of what kind of ability he had.”

With 1:51 left in the half, Florida State was on Miami’s 39-yard line with a fresh set of downs and looking to end a second consecutive drive with a touchdown. In the previous series, Ward escaped from the pocket and scampered untouched to the right pylon to give the Seminoles a 21-7 lead over their rivals.

Don’t get it twisted, the record crowd of 72,589 at Doak Campbell Stadium didn’t want Florida State to take its foot off Miami’s neck, with fresh memories of Wide Right I and II still haunting them. And since 1987, two of Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden’s three losses at home had been to the Hurricanes.

Flanked by two Seminoles in the backfield, Ward lined up in the shotgun. Johnson was stationed at the right defensive tackle slot, while Patrick took right end. Miami ran an X in which Patrick would penetrate toward the left tackle and Johnson would fake as if he was going to bull-rush the guard.

Johnson stutter-stepped and looped around Patrick, who was engaged with the tackle and being chipped by the running back simultaneously. The guard, realizing what Johnson was about to do, lunged at him but got caught in traffic at the line. Johnson lowered his left shoulder to absorb less contact, barreled around the corner and found an unsuspecting Ward waiting for him.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and star basketball player at Florida State turned to avoid the pressure — directly into Johnson’s waiting arms. Ward covered up the ball just before impact, and Johnson drove him all the way back to the Hurricanes’ 47. (Start at 46:42 to see the play.)

“I’ve got warrior blood, bro,” Johnson said in a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated.

Said Patrick: “You have a penetrator and then you have a looper. … The penetrator has the ability to see the upfield rush and take it into the B gap between the guard and tackle to pick the guard. It’s really a great play when you’re on man-on-man side and shortens that turn for the looper, where Dewey can have some success.

“I will tell these young bulls, and they’ll say to me, ‘You can’t catch me.’ And I say, ‘Listen, I caught Charlie Ward at least four times in my career.’ Some of them will know who he is, some of them won’t, and I’ll say look him up. He paved the road for a lot of quarterbacks that have come since then.”

Unbeknownst to Johnson, he would eventually return the favor to Patrick. About two decades ago, Patrick broke up with his girlfriend, Rachel, and realized he had made a mistake.

He begged her to get back with him. Patrick called Rachel and persuaded her to see him. She said she wouldn’t get back with him, so Patrick decided a trip to the mall was in order. Rachel told Patrick to take her home and that she wasn’t changing her mind.

All of a sudden, someone yelled, “KP!” as they were walking through the mall. Patrick brushed it off since, you know, it was a busy mall. Then the same bellowing voice again said, “KP!” So Rachel grabbed Patrick by the hand and he said to her, “Who is it?” She said, “It’s The Rock.”

Dewey came running up, and Patrick introduced Rachel to Johnson. She just stared at him, and Johnson said, “Hey, I’m wrestling tonight in a WWF match, do you want to come? I’ll give you front-row tickets.” Of course Patrick wanted to come, so Johnson turned to Rachel and asked if she wanted to come too. What was she going to say, no?

Two kids later, Patrick said he and his family have seen most of Johnson’s films, with Jumanji being the hands-down favorite among the group.

“If it weren’t for Dwayne, I would not be married to my wife, and he does not know this,” said the 46-year-old Patrick. “Ever since then, my wife has been by my side. Sometimes my wife and I joke about, ‘What if we didn’t see The Rock that day? Would she still have left?’ So I don’t think he knows that, but Dewey, thanks for helping me get my wife back.”

Our conclusion? He’s legit, and an A-1 wingman. Johnson’s receipts get a passing grade from us.

For their newest uniforms, the Miami Heat go Miami ‘Vice’ The team invokes the city’s 1980s style and swagger

The Miami Heat’s creative department pretty much put a key in the ignition of a DeLorean and cued up 1988. That was the year the Heat franchise was founded, the University of Miami Hurricanes football program claimed another national title and two fictional, pastel-suited detectives named Crockett and Tubbs solved crimes on the small screen.

Thirty years later, that golden age of South Beach style and swagger is inspiration for the Heat’s latest court outfit. On Tuesday, the team debuted its appropriately named “Vice” uniform — Miami’s version of the team-unique City Edition ensembles made by Nike in the brand’s first year as the official apparel provider.

But contrary to popular belief, the uniform isn’t directly influenced by the iconic 1980s series Miami Vice, which starred Don Johnson as James “Sonny” Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs. There’s a greater story that the franchise is telling with the look, particularly through the “Miami” script on the chest of the jersey, which is crafted in the same font and design of the sign that hung on the team’s first venue, Miami Arena, from 1988 to 1999. Although images of the “Vice” jerseys leaked online in late December, when Nike unveiled most of its City Edition looks, the Heat waited until January to roll out its expansive campaign, which includes a microsite that elaborates on the backstory of the design, which the team will wear in 15 games from Jan. 25 to March 8.

“It’s nice when you put on a jersey, but when you put on a jersey with a little bit of flavor, it adds a little bit more to your game. We look forward to wearing these jerseys. It’s something different,” second-year Heat guard Rodney McGruder said during the team’s internal media day last October, when players saw the uniform for the first time.

The Heat are breaking out the “Vice” uniform on the court for the first time in a home matchup with the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. We spoke with the team’s chief marketing officer Michael McCullough, chief of creative and content Jennifer Alvarez and graphic designer Brett Maurer, who detailed the 18-month process of bringing a taste of Miami Vice to the hardwood.


Why was now the right time for this uniform?

McCullough: We’ve been talking about doing this for a number of years. … We’d really kind of filled our dance card with other uniforms that we were executing, from our ‘Back in Black’ to ‘White Hot’ looks. We also had our successful ‘Home Strong’ military uniform. All of these were already in the pipeline, so we were kind of waiting for the next opportunity. When Nike came along with the City Edition, that gave us the perfect opportunity.

How did the ‘Vice’ concept come about?

Alvarez: We wanted to do a jersey that could represent Vice to us. Fans have been hungry for a design like this for years. … We wanted an updated look — something clean and contemporary.

“The name ‘Vice’ isn’t necessarily a nod to the TV program, because Miami has a lot of different things that you might call vices.”

How much of the concept was connected to the Miami Vice TV show?

McCullough: We definitely wanted to make this uniform resonate with folks here in Miami, from the colors … the feel … the nightlife … and the history of the team and the Miami Arena. The name ‘Vice’ isn’t necessarily a nod to the TV program, because Miami has a lot of different things that you might call vices.

Alvarez: By calling it ‘Vice,’ it’s an update to the theme. It’s very representative of the city. There’s a lot of vice here. Miami is a vice to people. It’s a different look.

How does the uniform draw inspiration from the sign of the old Miami Arena?

Maurer: We had everything from Miami art deco to retro digital video game graphics. Over time, we covered the fact that there was a lot that linked all this together. For one, the arena was in these colors. Don Johnson actually introduced the Miami Heat dancers for the first time before tipoff at the first game. It all seemed to just point in one direction. That mark just felt so right for the chest.

Alvarez: There were gradients and things that would tie into a specific era. We found our way to the Miami Arena mark. We … knew we could really bring it home by incorporating the Miami Arena, because that celebrates who we were and who we are. That pays homage to everyone who’s been here since the beginning. Once that mark was dropped into Brett’s silhouette, we knew it was it. It felt like it was an instant classic … but contemporary.

McCullough: While it’s a brand-new uniform, and brand-new relationship with Nike, it also had classic elements that aren’t forced. We weren’t stretching anything to make this uniform work. It was gonna work because of the mark from the Miami Arena. That cemented this as an authentic Heat fan-driven uniform.

What was it like seeing the final product for the first time?

Maurer: Getting that first sample in, it’s hard to put words around it.

McCullough: When that box came from the NBA, I took it and went out to the design area. I told everybody, ‘OK, guys, this is it … we’re gonna unbox this together.’ I made Brett pull it out of the box because this was his baby. When that uniform came out of the box, people just erupted. I was super happy. That was a really cool moment in the process, when the person who designed the uniform got to take it out and own the moment.

Take us through the moment the players saw the uniform for the first time.

McCullough: When we shot the player introduction video, in their changing room, the uniform was hanging up. We actually recorded their reactions when they were coming in. The guys loved it. They couldn’t wait to wear it … and we had to take their phones from them because we knew the first thing they would do is post it on social media.

Alvarez: We had players asking us for the official Nike colors of the jersey because they wanted to get back to their teams and have custom shoes to match the uniform, with the exact colors.

How did you land on blue and pink, which is such a departure from the team’s current colors?

Alvarez: That’s exactly why. We wanted to make a splash. It is a departure for us, but there’s still classic 1988 Miami Heat jersey in it because we kept the numerals the same, and the striping down one side. So if you look at what our 1988 uniform is, and this City Edition, they definitely complement each other. It was just kind of playing with the colorways and landing on the official Nike colors, which was a little bit of a back-and-forth. … Nike literally sent us a box full of colors, and we went through cards one by one and landed on two, which are laser fuchsia and blue gale. Those are the official ‘Vice’ colors for the jersey.

Did Pat Riley have a role in the design process, and what was his reaction when he first saw it?

“Laser fuchsia and blue gale. Those are the official ‘Vice’ colors for the jersey.”

McCullough: Pat was involved in the approval process, which is probably bigger than the design process. I can tell you that he dug it right from the start. … He was, and has been, a big supporter of the uniform concept from the very beginning. We got his stamp of approval right away.

What’s been the reception to the uniform?

Alvarez: People are so excited. … We enjoyed that everyone was debating whether or not it was real. We let people get excited about it on their own, because we knew what was coming and wanted to be really thoughtful with the rollout. It took years to put together this type of uniform, and we wanted to do it right.

How does the ‘Vice’ uniform embody both the franchise and city?

McCullough: It’s badass. There’s a lot of things you can say about Miami, good and bad, but there’s a reason why it’s one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. People want to come here, and they want to experience all it has to offer. It’s a city that has a lot of sheen and a lot of glitz, but it also has a little grit under its fingernails. We feel like that embodies the Miami Heat as well. We’ve earned our way to three championships. We have Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra at the head of it. But when you break a Miami Heat team down, it’s about being the hardest working, nastiest, meanest, toughest, most respected but most disliked team in the NBA. And this uniform really captures that badass vibe that Miami has to offer.

Have Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas seen it yet?

McCullough: I’m not sure if they follow us on social media. But if they haven’t, I’m sure they will.

Miami’s turnover chain is the best thing in college football — and we’re about to lose it Big, black, loud, arrogant and winning — how long can it last?

Just as a reminder to myself / I wear every single chain even when I’m in the house … — Drake, 2013’s “Started From The Bottom

Miami is hardly the first college team to rally around an inanimate object, the most recent high-profile example being Alabama’s “Ball Out Belt.” Much like Miami’s chain, the Crimson Tide’s belt was given for performance on the field. But unlike Miami’s chain, the belt didn’t have black South Florida roots. And it didn’t become anything like the cultural phenomenon the gaudy slab of diamonds and Cuban links so connected to brothers and sisters in the 305 area code.

The Miami Hurricanes’ chain was inspired by a quartet. First-year Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was looking to motivate his players. Cornerbacks coach and Canes alum Mike Rumph told famed jeweler Anthony John “AJ” Machado an idea he had for a necklace that defensive players could wear each time they forced a turnover. Super Bowl champion and former Canes standout Vince Wilfork was at Machado’s shop for an unrelated piece of custom jewelry and told Machado and Rumph the chain had to personally reflect who and what Miami stood for. Not just the campus, but the community’s culture. “In Miami, what are we famous for? We’re famous for the Cuban chains,” Machado told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in September. “But we need to add a little something to it.”

The chain’s true price remains a mystery, part of its ongoing fascination. But this 6.5-pound, 10-karat piece of jewelry — like so many trophy-esque watches, tennis bracelets and pearl chokers — is loud, boisterous, arrogant. And fun. Miami is famous for many things, and the swag of a Cuban link chain is one of them. The Miami Hurricanes’ turnover chain is Miami culture to its core. And it goes beyond — just ask Raekwon about his classic 1995 Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

The U’s ascension back into the ranks of the elite programs in the game is directly tied to the allure of its turnover chain. College football, fun but far from radical, needed Miami’s swagger again. The team — led by guys such as safety/leading tackler Jaquan Johnson, linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, defensive end Trent Lewis, quarterback Malik Rosier and running back Travis Homer — is as counterculture as Allen Iverson was to the Jordan years of the NBA. The team is a breath of fresh air in a landscape with dominant but less personable powerhouses like Alabama, Ohio State or Michigan. The NCAA — chided for years for its lockdown on celebrations, which is seen in many circles as the “Miami rule” — enforces the personality of teams over players. So watching a team not only revel in how good they are but also live up to the hype? It’s rich. And the turnover chain has galvanized a defense that’s as physical, violent and cocky as there is in the country — tied for fourth in the country in turnovers forced (24) in one fewer game. Their Sept. 9 game at Arkansas State was canceled as Hurricane Irma barreled toward South Florida.

At 9-0, and currently first in the ACC’s Coastal Division, the Canes are the No. 2 program in the country. They’re also sitting on a streak of four consecutive games of four turnovers, including Nov. 11’s dismemberment of No. 3 Notre Dame — much to the chagrin of Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who all but called the dogs on his own team with a peculiar pregame on-field rant. A recent poll, too, found that many believe the chain is the best story in sports. And even if it’s not, the financial implications and the marketing behind the chain have already paid dividends of hundreds of thousands of dollars for vendors capitalizing on the sudden nationwide appeal with various forms of apparel. It’s great, right? But is it?


Do it for the culture / They gon’ bite like vultures …Quavo, from Migos’ 2017 “T-Shirt

Because already, infatuation with the chain teeters on appropriation. There’s always this tension when something very black — like a big gold chain, being worn by black men — “catches on.” The success of a thing or a gesture or a style is great, but then suddenly it’s not “ours” anymore, the benefit of it is going to everyone else and it’s wrung out and dead before it can be fully enjoyed.

It’s a feel-good story until it isn’t, right? Take the dab for instance, popularized in 2015 by Migos and brought to the doorstep of middle America on Sundays by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Everyone did the dab. That includes candidates such as Hillary Clinton, as well as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s son.

The dab became a caricature of itself. A pure, fun creation of popular hip-hop was bastardized by an American culture that has always fed off its energy — and yet is so very often ultimately demonized. Comedian Paul Mooney talks about in a bit called “Ugly On Us But Cute On Them” in 2012’s The Godfather of Comedy.

He could well have added big jewelry. On black people: grotesque, over the top, showy. On others: bold, edgy, fancy, innovative.

The turnover chain is more talked about right now than the race for the Heisman Trophy. Everyone wants in on the most recent gold mine, the flavor of the moment. But however impossible, how about we try to let the players have this moment? And let’s not forget: Their spontaneously joyful on-field marketing of the chain has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, yet the guys on the field are entitled to none of the profits. The chain should be theirs.

Their spontaneously joyful on-field marketing of the chain has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, yet the guys on the field are entitled to none of the profits. The chain should be theirs.

The turnover chain is a flashback to “The U” that was the baddest, most intimidating and most threatening force in college football. But the rules changed, and the brand of bullying that made Miami nationwide goons (but neighborhood superstars) has been discontinued. So it begs the question, will this new we-the-best momentum of the chain soon feel the clip of new rules? Yes, because, as ESPN’s Dan Le Batard recently said, “This team is still black. And the people doing the ravaging on defense are still black. There will be a turning on that. Showboaty black guy rarely gets embraced. … To be honest with you, if we’re going deep into this, the chain is the only thing from those overtly black Miami teams that is allowed in 2017.”

This season, the Canes have forced 24 turnovers on defense — 23 from black players. The lone exception was defensive lineman Ryan Fines’ fumble recovery in the season opener against Bethune-Cookman.


“Don’t look down on the youngsters because they wanna have shiny things.” — Pimp C, 2013’s “F—WithMeYouKnowIGotIt

How long The U’s undefeated season lasts is no guarantee, especially since there’s a date with No. 4 and defending national champion Clemson on the very near (Dec. 2) horizon. Yet, there’s history that shines brighter than the 900 orange and green sapphires swaying back and forth on the necks of players who have revived arguably the most culturally relevant college football program of all time.

“This team is still black. And the people doing the ravaging on defense are still black. There will be a turning on that. Showboaty black guy rarely gets embraced.”

The chain creates excitement on the field. The chain is useful because the players are motivated by that gleaming trophy. And the chain is important far beyond just the Instagram ops for celebrities and fly-by-night fans. Don’t let the University of Miami’s turnover chain die the same death as the dab. Don’t let the true essence of the chain be swept under the rug. Don’t allow the history of the chain and its place in Miami culture to be overlooked. Because it’s going to happen. If it hasn’t started already.