From ‘The Last O.G.’ to hosting The ESPYS, Tracy Morgan is back Returning from a horrific accident, the comic had to learn to be funny again

Tracy Morgan’s sharks don’t have names.

“Are you crazy?!” he asks me, jutting his head back in mock dramatic fashion at the idea of such a silly question. And then comes the isn’t-it-obvious? tone familiar to anyone who has heard Morgan’s deadpan delivery: “They’re sharks!”

Still, he’s enamored of them. Proud even. He smiles as he points out a hammerhead, a whitetip and a Japanese leopard shark. A puffer fish coexists in that same tank; he’s the first fish to greet us as Morgan uses a remote control to turn the security system off and open the doors to the pool house to reveal the shark tank in the backyard of his palatial, 31,000-square-foot estate in suburban Alpine, New Jersey.

He smiles as he looks over at me. Nearby, there’s a swingset and play area for Maven, his 6-year-old daughter, a barbecue grill area that only he can touch and a pool that would rival that of any five-star vacation compound.

“My babies swim in here,” he says of the house his fish live in, “and my family swims out here,” he says, pointing at his pool.

Morgan, who will host the 27th annual ESPYS show July 10 on ABC, smiles again.

It’s one of the last times he smiles during my time here. For much of our conversation this day, Morgan, who became famous for his ability to make people laugh, is reaching for tissues as we sit next to one another in matching leather recliners in his office, unapologetic about the tears that continually fall from his eyes.

We’re only a few weeks removed from the five-year anniversary of a crash that nearly took Morgan’s life. He had to learn how to walk again. He had to learn how to talk again.

He had to learn how to find, and be, funny again.

“My face was this big,” he says, measuring a space big enough for three Tracy Morgan-sized heads to fit inside.

The accident was horrific. But he’s been coping with trauma since he was a small child. Like many sports superstars, he understands what it takes to return from a devastating injury.


Tracy Morgan and Allen Maldonado of TBS’s “The Last O.G” attend the WarnerMedia Upfront 2019 arrivals on the red carpet at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 15, 2019 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

2019 has been Morgan’s comeback year.

Yes, he’s been working steadily since a triumphant return 14 months after his accident to host Saturday Night Live, the show that made him famous.

But 2019 is where the payoff begins.

His TBS series The Last O.G., which he created with Jordan Peele, is some of his best work ever. Morgan plays Tray Baker, a recently sprung ex-con who is surprised to see how much Brooklyn has changed during his 15-year stint in prison, with chain coffee shops, yoga studios and white people inhabiting the old haunts where Baker once worked as a petty drug dealer.

The series launched as the network’s biggest original TV debut last year, came back for a successful second season and was recently renewed for a third. The funny wasn’t a surprise — this is Tracy Morgan, after all — but the show’s depth was revelatory.

“A lot of times as a writer you’re scared of playing with the tone too much because people, admittedly, tune in to a show because they want to laugh or they tune in to a show because they want to see dragons. Very few of us ever think consciously, ‘Oh, I’m going to tune in to that show because I want to laugh and cry,” says comedian and actor Diallo Riddle, who wrote on season one of The Last O.G. “But I think that Tracy had such a good relationship with his audience and such a good relationship with the truth. Even old white people in rural communities can watch that show and watch black men in Brooklyn and be like, ‘I love Tracy Morgan!’ ”

The good news doesn’t stop there. Later this year — Morgan beams every time he mentions this — he’ll begin filming his yet-to-be-announced role in the highly anticipated Coming to America sequel that is set to hit theaters sometime next year. Eddie Murphy is an idol, and now he’s also a friend.

And this week, of course, the 50-year-old Morgan will host the ESPYS, perhaps his biggest audience since the Saturday Night Live gig in October 2015, 16 months after a crash that nearly took his life.

“I still remember the time I saw Tracy after the accident and you just go, ‘I’m so happy he’s alive.’ That’s all you could say,” Riddle says. “I’m so happy he’s alive because he kept grinding, and then to go into a third season of the show and to be hosting the ESPYS? … The ESPYS is a beast of an undertaking. It’s not easy physically or mentally. And the fact that he’s hosting it, given where he was, is incredible.”


June 6, 2019: Tracy Morgan at his home in Alpine, New Jersey just a few weeks from the five-year anniversary of the traffic accident that nearly killed him.

Timothy Smith for The Undefeated

Back inside his home, Morgan is wiping away a fresh set of tears.

I ask if his ability to be emotionally open is a result of his accident or if this is who he was before June 7, 2014. We don’t generally give black men license to feel like this — not without it being some sort of indictment on their masculinity.

His life has been painful, far more than one person should have to deal with, really. And Morgan allows himself to be, well, human.

“My dad survived Vietnam … he came home a junkie. He didn’t go there that way, [but he] came home that way. That was his terror, seeing babies dying in villages, and he expressed those to me,” Morgan says. “I didn’t understand it because I was a kid in [his] prime in high school, playing football, but I didn’t know what his struggles. … He had demons. You go to war, nobody wins.”

Certainly not Jimmy Morgan Sr., who died of AIDS when Tracy was 19. Morgan also talks about how much he looked up to his Uncle Alvin, the cool uncle who played college football and who died of the same syndrome.

That kind of trauma can be crippling. Somehow, Morgan discovered comedy.

“You find it in that pain,” he says softly. “Without no struggle there’s no progress. People don’t know. ‘How did he get that funny?!’ My father and my mother breaking up when I was 6. My oldest brother being born with cerebral palsy. … Him having 10 operations by the time I’m 5. My mom’s by herself, struggling to help my brother with them Forrest Gump braces on, him screaming, she trying to teach him … I seen all of that.”

Morgan pauses.

“You know why I became famous?” he asks quietly. “Because the kids of the playground could be mean. When they be mean, you go get your big brother, your big brother got your back. … I couldn’t do that. I go get my brother, he come, hey, he crippled. They start laughing. So I had to learn how to be funny to keep the bullies off my a–. All of my life, turned into business.”

Then, as if tossing it over in his head for a bit, he chases all of that heft with some lightness: “And plus, I learned in high school, when you funny, you get the girls. You might not score, but they be all, ‘Where Tracy’s stupid a– at?” he recalls. “They want you around, you make them laugh! My biggest audience is female. Same motivation. I’m married now, but I still want to make the girls laugh. Y’all got the world on your shoulders. At the end of the f—ing day, if you can make her forget about all that s— for an hour, you the man.”

“Great comedians — which Tracy is one of the great comedians — their comedy comes from pain,” says director David E. Talbert. “And the great ones allow themselves to access that, and then they share that.”

Morgan’s first taste of fame came in 1993 via HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, which was hosted by Martin Lawrence. Back then, it was a must-watch series, introducing and amplifying many now-famous black comics like Chris Tucker and Bernie Mac.

His childhood best friend Alan always told him how funny he was and that he should really make a go at pursuing comedy. Morgan, who was born in the Bronx and reared largely in Brooklyn, took workshops and eventually was working the local comedy club circuit. Comedy was his love, but he still had one foot in the hustle game.

“I was selling crack [when] my friend Alan got murdered, my best friend,” Morgan shares. Losing Alan made him focus.

“I come home, my youngest son is 2 years old. … Told him, ‘I’m gonna do comedy. …’ By all means, [my first wife, Sabina] could’ve said, ‘No you ain’t m—–f—-, we got three kids. What you going to do is go get a f—ing job.’ She never did that. She said, ‘Pull the trigger, Tracy.’ ”

“Four months later, I was on Def [Comedy] Jam.”

And then, another painful memory: “She passed away three years ago. Cancer.”


Comedians Chris Rock, left, and Amy Schumer, center, sit with actor Tracy Morgan and Morgan’s daughter Maven during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors, Feb. 26, 2018, in New York.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Morgan was almost gone too.

On June 7, 2014, a Walmart truck driver who had been awake for more than 28 hours was going 20 mph over the 45 mph speed limit in a work zone on the New Jersey Turnpike. He crashed into a limousine bus carrying Morgan and a small group of friends and colleagues. Morgan’s friend James McNair died, and Harris Stanton and Ardie Fuqua were hospitalized. Morgan himself was listed in critical condition and was comatose for two weeks.

The driver, Kevin Roper, was indicted on charges of manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. He later accepted a plea deal that dismissed the charges in exchange for entering a pretrial intervention program. Walmart settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

Morgan’s life changed that day. He came out on the other side appreciative. Attentive. Spiritual, yet spirited.

“When bad things happen to you, that’s when you grow. It was painful at the time,” he said. “But now you look back on it and you go, ‘Wow.’ So this story is not just for me. It’ll be for the young people who want to achieve anything in their lives. You can’t give up. I got hit by a truck!”

But before he could do the work physically, Morgan’s road to recovery had to start with forgiveness.

“You have to learn to forgive yourself before you can forgive anybody. OK, you had a setback on the field. But a setback ain’t nothing but a setup. Because when you come back better, you going to do something that ain’t been done,” Morgan says. “Don’t you ever let no doctor, nobody, tell you you can’t. They said no, I broke every bone in my face. On this side of my skull you could see my brain. … I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ever going to walk. That’s when I had to put the work in. …”

Morgan begins to cry again.

“Ugh. Damn. Excuse me.”

I tell him to take his time. Soon, he begins to tell a story of sitting in his wheelchair and watching his infant daughter scoot around in her walker.

“I don’t want her looking at me like this; she ain’t understand what’s going on. I’m working, I’m working hard, because I want to walk again, I want to play with my daughter, I want to chase my daughter. That was my motivation. I wanted to chase my daughter. I didn’t care about show business. I wanted to chase my daughter,” he says, wiping away fresh tears. “And I worked so hard for a year just to get back on my feet. And I don’t care what athlete you are, you better pick a motivation, something near and dear to you. Something that you would give the world for. And you better go for it, don’t let it be over. I put the work in for a year, and then the triumph, like we was talking about. I saw my daughter — she was 14 months — and I seen her take her first steps. It made me get out my wheelchair.”

I ask him to clarify: seeing his daughter take her first steps motivated him to attempt to take his own first steps?

He nods.

“She took her first steps and I got up, and my wife started screaming. She said I was going to hurt myself because my femur was crushed. And I was like, ‘F— that,’ and I stood up and I took a step to my daughter. I took a step with my daughter,” he says. “That was four months after I got hit. The rest of the year, I just started working. It wasn’t just physical, it was cognitive — I didn’t even know my name. I had to learn how to talk again.”

Drying up the last tears with a new piece of tissue, he says, “It was a bad accident.”


This is who Tracy Morgan has always been.

In 2008 he co-starred alongside Ice Cube in First Sunday, a comedy written and directed by Talbert, who was a top-grossing playwright before he directed Morgan in what was his directorial debut.

In that film, Morgan played LeeJohn Jackson, best friend to Cube’s Durell Washington. Together they were portraying petty thieves who concoct a rather desperate scheme to steal $17,000 from a neighborhood church in order to pay off a debt for Durell’s ex-girlfriend — to not do so would mean that she and their son would relocate to a different state.

“This story is not just for me. It’ll be for the young people who want to achieve anything in their lives. You can’t give up. I got hit by a truck!”

After Morgan auditioned for the role, he and Talbert went out for lunch.

“He started telling me about his relationship with his mother, which is a complicated relationship,” Talbert recalls. “I knew that if I could access that, then he could really dig into the character.”

“And I remember when he was about to do his big scene with Loretta Devine. And he says, ‘Today I’m going to cry because real actors cry! Richard Pryor cried!’ That’s all he was screaming all day! The scene singing ‘Happy Birthday’ with Loretta Devine, he was just telling everybody, ‘I’m going to cry! Real actors cry!’ ”

Talbert gave Morgan some advice before they dug into the scene: “I said, ‘Tracy, the thing about emotion is you have to try not to cry, but it moves you so much that you can’t help but to cry.’ And I said, ‘So I want you to try as hard as you can not to cry. And as she’s singing to you, I want you to think about all those birthdays that were missed.’ ”

That scene is one of Morgan’s favorites. By the time Devine gets to the last few notes of the song, she pulls Morgan in close for an embrace. The camera zooms in on his face, a mixture of bewilderment and sadness. Tears are streaming down the sides of his nose.

It wasn’t just good acting. It was real life. When Morgan was 13, he left his mother’s home to live with his dad in the Bronx. He and his mother went years without speaking.

“Loretta Devine started singing. And Tracy, I saw him. [He] wasn’t playing the character anymore. He was the little boy thinking about his own relationship with his mother. And slowly as Loretta started to sing, he was welling up and just the most genuine, authentic tear fell. I yelled, ‘Cut!’ I only had to do one take of that scene,” Talbert says. “It was beautiful. It was perfect. I only did one take, and he said, ‘D, excuse me for a moment.’ And he went to the back, and about 15 minutes later he came out and I said, ‘You OK?’ He said, ‘I just called my mother and I told her she missed out on a real actor.’ ”

Since the accident, Morgan and his mother have reconciled.


“I learned in high school, when you funny, you get the girls. You might not score, but they be all, ‘Where Tracy’s stupid a– at?”

Timothy Smith for The Undefeated

As we’re wrapping up, I remind Morgan of a joke I once heard his friend Chris Rock tell in a stand-up routine. Rock observed that he was the only black man in his tony neighborhood and shared all he had to accomplish to afford to live on the street. One of his neighbors is a dentist, Rock said, before landing the punchline: “Know what I had to do to afford this house? Host the Oscars!”

Morgan breaks into the hardest laugh I’ve heard from him this day. He has a similar story.

“Just last week I had some rich white man jogging in front of my gate. So I’m coming out my gate, and he’s looking at my house. And he’s looking at me …”

“So what do you do?” the jogger asked him.

“And I said, ‘About what?!’ ”

Morgan and I both break out laughing.

“I had to justify why the f— I live here … but you know I start f—ing with him,” Morgan says.

“You know the McDonald’s box the french fries come in?”

“Yeah.”

“I make those. You know the straw you drink the Coke [out of]? I make those.”

Morgan laughs at his own story.

“And he started laughing. … In your mind, you got to justify why I’m here.”

Tracy Morgan is here — and hosting the ESPYS.

“That’s going to be fun. Because everybody knows that Tracy Morgan thinks outside the f—ing box. … Buckle up, kids. It’s about to get wild and woolly.”

The ESPYS Collection Portraits of past and present stars set the stage for this year’s awards show, July 10 at 9 p.m. ET


Second-generation pro athletes are becoming a thing It’s not just Steph and Klay, it’s happening in so many sports

Last year, Justify won horse racing’s Triple Crown and retired undefeated. He is a descendant of previous Triple Crown winners, including Seattle Slew, Secretariat and War Admiral. And he is a four-legged reminder of a trend that’s racing through elite pro sports: Justify, like his two-legged counterparts, is a descendant of former stars in his sport.

More and more athletes are entering the family business: sports. If current trends continue, we may see favorite son or daughter categories in The ESPYS or publications that look back on the year in sports.

In April’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa joined his brother, Joey, and father, John, as football players who were first-round draft picks. Earlier this month, Bobby Witt Sr. and Jr. became the first father-and-son duo to be picked among the first three selections in the Major League Baseball draft when Bobby Jr. was selected second overall by the Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors have led their team to its fifth consecutive NBA Finals. Both men’s fathers enjoyed long NBA careers.

Now it could be that sports scientists will discover a jump shot gene or pass rushing in the DNA of second-generation athletes. Perhaps the ability to hit major league pitching can be passed down too. Maybe there is something innate and inheritable that has led to multiple generations of Boones in baseball, the Mannings in football and the Unsers in auto racing.

But we know that Nick Bosa, Curry, baseball’s Vlad Guerrero Jr. (son of Hall of Famer Vlad Sr.) and other second-generation athletes had fathers who could show them the ropes in their chosen profession, which is to say that big-time sports, like other endeavors in our country, favor young people whose families can help them succeed and show them how.

At the same time, we see fathers — and it is mainly fathers — who seek to groom their sons or daughters for sports stardom: the Williams sisters in tennis or the Ball brothers in basketball, for example.

During the various pro drafts, we see such fathers give a special look to their drafted children, a look that should be familiar to parents who have attended their kids’ college graduations. It’s a look that says, “This is the end.” It’s a look that says, “This is the beginning.” It’s a look that says, “We did it.”

Of course, as society changes, so do our families: Would-be male sports stars such as Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are just two of many men inside and outside of sports who have been nurtured by strong, resourceful and resilient women, especially black women. And the NBA’s LeBron James continues to invent himself as a man, a father and a businessperson while withstanding the scrutiny and sometimes the scorn of the media. And, like legions of others outside of sports, he has done so without his biological father showing the way, a feat comparable to anything the Los Angeles Lakers forward pulls off on the basketball court.

The world of big-time sports appears so seductive and compelling that it is understandable when some fathers want a chance to see if they can endure the spotlight and not melt under its heat.

But fathers and others don’t have to resort to stunts such as catching a baseball in major league stands while holding a child (the stupid guy trick of sports fans) to get our attention. They can use sports and their ups and downs to give our children “the talk.” I’m talking about the one best delivered in a whispered but confident voice after our children lose a game. It is the one where the elders tell the children they can come back from defeat, they can withstand the end of the world and try again and again, that there can be triumph beyond numbers on the scoreboard.

Becoming good at delivering that talk might not land the elders on the sports highlight shows. But it could earn them a vote for most valuable dad, parent or guardian, at least in their households.

Happy Father’s Day.

Charlotte welcomes NBA’s Building Bridges program during All-Star Weekend Program aims to connect community and law enforcement through basketball

NBA legend Dell Curry didn’t see professional basketball as a career choice growing up. Instead, it was another field that captured his attention.

“I wanted to go into law enforcement,” Curry said. “I had no idea I’d be an NBA player. Basketball helped me bridge that gap. I wasn’t the best student in high school, but once I realized what I wanted to do, I had to have good grades to help get me focused, disciplined and dedicated to my craft.”

Curry was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1986, where he retired in 2002 as the team’s all-time leader in points. But the father of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and Portland Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry still had thoughts of becoming involved in law enforcement.

More than three decades later, Dell Curry and the Curry Family Foundation are part of the seventh installment of Building Bridges Through Basketball, an NBA program designed to forge a relationship between police and youths in communities.

On Saturday, the program was launched at the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, the same location where brothers Stephen and Seth Curry spent countless hours practicing. It’s one of the centers in the local area where the siblings started playing basketball. Children participated in skills drills and interacted with members of law enforcement.

Weekly sessions will begin at the center March 9, with 2.5-hour classes featuring basketball training and hands-on leadership activities developed by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), to focus on identity, diversity and conflict resolution.

Two newly renovated outdoor basketball courts were also revealed on Saturday, courtesy of the Curry Family Foundation and Under Armour in partnership with Nancy Lieberman Charities.

Hornets legend Dell Curry and others unveiled a new outdoor court at Naomi Drenan Recreation Center as part of the NBA’s Building Bridges Through Basketball initiative on February 16, 2019.

Photo courtesy of Under Armour

Seth Curry, NBA Cares ambassadors Bob Lanier and Felipe Lopez, Lieberman, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and RISE CEO Diahann Billings-Burford all attended.

“We have to build relationships and it’s not just the relationships with our children,” Billings-Burford said. “Law enforcement officers have to see and understand our children just like our children have to see and understand law enforcement officers. We’re bridging that divide to make a difference every day like in the streets. Even as we protest and we fight injustice, we also just have to improve conditions everywhere we can.”

Cooper hosted a similar program in 2009 when he was North Carolina’s attorney general. Badges for Baseball in North Carolina served more than 1,500 youths in 17 communities across the state. Cooper used sports as a catalyst to enhance communication between police and the community.

“I think that many communities yearn for a voice and yearn for respect and I think there are a lot of law enforcement officers that really want to bridge that gap … ,” Cooper said. “Sports is an amazing way to do this.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, NBA legend Dell Curry, RISE CEO Diahann Billings-Burford and Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman attended the court unveiling and launch of Building Bridges Through Basketball program in Charlotte, NC.

Photo courtesy of Under Armour.

Building Bridges took off nearly a year after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony used their platform to spread awareness on social injustice at The ESPYS in 2016. Their speech was delivered in the wake of fatal shootings by police and it soon began to take on a broader awareness.

The NBA launched the 10-week Building Bridges program to help build trust and bridge divides in the community. They partnered with Under Armour, then with RISE to facilitate the curriculum. According to the NBA, more than 11,500 youths and members of law enforcement since 2016 have come together in the initial six Building Bridges Through Basketball programs. With New Orleans as the inaugural site in 2016, other cities involved are Chicago (2), Detroit (2), Los Angeles and Charlotte.

Rashawn Ray, associate professor of sociology and director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland, said the program is a start in the right direction.

“I tend to think that the NBA is definitely doing something that’s proactive,” Ray said. “Obviously these cities have troubled histories, as well as troubled things that have happened in the present. … Particularly to have police departments at the table, when they’re not telling someone what to do on the street, but instead are simply having a conversation to see, particularly black and brown youth in cities, as simply another human being. I think part of what 10 weeks can do is it can start to form a new baseline. It is not the ending, instead it’s a big beginning.”

Dell Curry said he can see the benefit of 10 weeks of interaction.

“You can get a lot done in 10 weeks,” he said. “If everybody involved has the same focus, the same dedication, the same goal, definitely so.”

Jacoby Jackson, 14, is a member of the program in Charlotte. He says 10 weeks is enough but it could be more if you don’t have a fully formed relationship.

Jacoby Jackson (left) and his mother Tabitha Jackson (right) met some of the police officers that will participate in the seventh Building Bridges Through Basketball program in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend.

Kelley Evans/The Undefeated.

“It’s good to build relationships and communicate with them,” he said.

His mother, Tabitha, has been a social worker in Charlotte since before Jacoby was born and raised her children in the area. Like Ray, she believes 10 weeks is a start.

“You have to start somewhere,” she said. “It is an awesome experience. This is a great opportunity.”

For the mother of two honor students, law enforcement lacked cultural competency. Her eldest son, Cameron, is a sophomore at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“I think that both students and adults can improve in that area and this program gives them opportunity to do that.”

Draymond Green’s designer and stylist confirm he wasn’t trolling LeBron James with his shorts suit The Warriors star really did beat LeBron to the style

LeBron James vs. Draymond Green: the battle of the shorts suit. For Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, James arrived at Oracle Arena, rocking a gray version of the look from New York designer Thom Browne. By Game 2, three days later, James went at the look again — only this time, he was joined by Green, who donned a custom-made teal ensemble from a Los Angeles designer named Fresh. The outfit had been on Draymond Green’s mind, and in his closet, long before the fourth-straight heavyweight title matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers delivered an entertaining undercard of off-the-court style.

Contrary to popular belief, Green’s wardrobe decision was not rooted in pettiness, or a moment of swagger-jacking. “I started that trend a long time ago. Go check the pictures,” he said before Game 2. And he wasn’t lying. The versatile Warriors forward has a storied history, and deep connection, to the shorts suit.

“With him and LeBron, absolutely Draymond is the originator,” says Fresh. Four years ago, he founded his own brand RICHFRESH after quitting his job at the Beverly Hills retail location of Ermenegildo Zegna. “Who came up with the plane first? Fred Weick or the Wright Brothers? I don’t know. Fred Weick got a lot of attention, but the Wright Brothers did it first. Was there a day, before LeBron, that Draymond wore the shorts suit? Yes. That’s an easy myth to debunk.”

“It won’t be the last time you’ll see him in shorts.”

That day? The first annual NBA Awards show on June 26, 2017, when Green was presented with the league’s Defensive Player of the Year trophy while wearing a seafoam shawl-collared tuxedo jacket, accented by a Tom Ford bow tie, Yves Saint Laurent brooch and velvet Del Toro skull slippers. In the New York City sun, he sported shorts with the classy tuxedo top. It was a custom look that had been in the works for over a year.

“The NBA Awards shorts suit was originally supposed to be for the ESPYs in 2016, but that’s when the Warriors lost the Finals and Draymond didn’t want to go,” says Vick Michel, Green’s L.A.-based personal stylist. He met the 2012 second-round draft pick early in his career, but didn’t start working with him until 2016. “So we had it just laying in the arsenal.”

In preparation for this year’s Finals, the shorts suit was at the ready. While searching the internet for inspiration, Michel came across an image of a peacock feather and fell in love with the vibrant hues of green. He sent a screenshot to Fresh. Together, they locked in on a specific shade, and the designer began figuring it into one of his creations. The original plan was for Green to wear the shorts suit for Game 1, but final fitting tweaks took longer than anticipated.

“We didn’t get the tailoring right,” says Michel, whose other athlete clients include Deshaun Watson, Denzel Valentine, Giancarlo Stanton, Domantas Sabonis, Jahlil Okafor and Malik Jackson. “I told Fresh, It’s not ready. It’s not gonna be done. I don’t like to rush anything, because it’s all about fit with Draymond. He can wear anywhere from a 50 to a 56. Sometimes, it’ll be a 54, sometimes it’ll be a 52, sometimes it’ll be a 56. It just depends how certain garments feel on his body. We couldn’t wear it for the first game, so we said we’ll wait for the next opportunity. I’d rather pass the ball 10 times until we get the right shot. I’m not gonna rush just to shoot it.”

For his client’s series-opening outfit, Michel put Green in a Vivienne Westwood blazer with a custom pair of half-black and half-plaid paints, crafted by Fresh. Meanwhile, LeBron turned heads and broke the internet with his Game 1 shorts suit, which even garnered praise from NBA commissioner Adam Silver for being fashion-forward.

Instagram Photo

“I was caught off-guard,” Fresh says of LeBron’s outfit. A designer for 15 years, he’s made pieces for everyone from Belly to DeAndre Jordan, The Weeknd, Joel Embiid, ASAP Rocky, Zendaya and more. “But I didn’t want it to sully or cast a shadow on the moment that I expected Draymond to have.”

Following Golden State’s 124-114 win in Game 1, Fresh flew into the Bay Area, where he, Michel and two tailors worked tirelessly to assure Green’s swaggy fit would be good to go. And as soon as he hopped out of his whip in the arena parking lot, cameras began snapping photos of the finished product: a teal hopsack shortsuit, loosely woven to feel like linen but fall like silk, with tuxedo panels on each side of the jacket and cuts on the thigh area of the bottoms to mimic actual basketball shorts. “It has a beautiful drape,” Fresh says. “I’m sure it felt amazing on him.” Michel paired the fit with a $350 t-shirt from Dolce & Gabbana (one of Green’s favorite brands because the name matches his initials), as well as a $602 brooch from Chanel and a pair of $1195 Christian Loubotin Aurelien sneakers. Fresh declined to disclose the amount Green paid for the shorts suit, but valued it at $3,300.

Instagram Photo

Following Golden State’s 122-103 Game 2 win, Green’s outfit was the subject of more than one question at the postgame press conference. He shouted out both Michel and Fresh — and even to share the swag of his shorts suit with one of the reporters in the audience. Quite literally. “You can have this one,” Green joked. He must’ve already been thinking about what he’d break out in Cleveland. For Green, Fresh, and Vick Michel, a new city with different weather doesn’t shift the focus.

If it’s Game 1 or Game 6, he has to look fly,” Michel says. “How you play is how you should look. If you wanna play well, you dress well.” Maybe not in the Finals — but can we expect to see the revisited trademark of Green’s style once again?

“I’ll tell you right now,” Michel continued, “it won’t be the last time you’ll see him in shorts.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad talks diversity, body image and, of course, Barbie The Olympian says she is honored and humbled to be part of Mattel’s Shero doll line

When Ibtihaj Muhammad hit the scene at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, she immediately caught the attention of women everywhere. As the first Muslim-American woman to sport a hijab while competing for the United States, she was an instant hero. She went on to earn the bronze medal as part of Team USA.

Now the 31-year-old Olympian has her very own Barbie. Muhammad joins women such as Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, Selma director Ava DuVernay and dancer Misty Copeland in the Mattel Inc.’s Shero line, which honors women who break boundaries. Mattel Inc., the maker of Barbie, says the doll will be available online next fall.

“I’m excited and honored and humbled. I really look up to the women that have been part of the Shero program previous to me, and I think this is a wonderful list of women to join,” Muhammad told The Undefeated. “Barbie’s been a really big part of my life as a kid, so to now have my very own Barbie, I don’t know, it’s almost like an indescribable feeling. A lot of excitement.”

Muhammad agrees that Mattel’s efforts toward diversity are indicative of today’s times.

“I think, as a company, Mattel has decided to make a decision to be inclusive and to celebrate diversity,” she said. “So to have dolls of various sizes and different skin tones, and now to even have a doll that clearly wears hijabs and is modeled after an American Olympian, I think is revolutionary. I hope that other brands, especially in the toy industry, follow. It’s important for children to see themselves represented in the toys that they play with.”

The new doll bears a striking resemblance to Muhammad, who says the likeness is uncanny.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“I wasn’t expecting the doll to look exactly like me,” she said. “I think that Mattel’s really nailed it, all the way down to the eyeliner, which was really important to me that the doll had, because I love a good winged liner.

“I guess Mattel is moving forward and changing this traditional way that Barbie has been made in the past. They have dolls now in different sizes. My Barbie doll isn’t tall and, like, really leggy. My doll has these more toned, athletic legs, which are more reflective to the body type of myself and other athletes. I hope that this creates a more positive image, especially in terms of the body image for young girls who play with the doll.”

The most important aspect in the Shero line of dolls for Muhammad is that young girls understand the message behind it.

“What we want to encourage little girls to believe is that they can be anything and anyone that they want,” she said. “One of the great things about doll play is that children are able to imagine themselves in any role, doing anything, being anyone and achieving whatever they want.”

Muhammad said the hardest part of her overall journey is the obstacles that she’s faced as an African-American, and as a Muslim female athlete, growing up and developing in the sport of fencing.

“A lot of them do have to do with being discriminated against,” she said. “I wanted to embrace those difficulties in my journey, especially like they’re notches in the belt, and it’s helped me achieve and get to where I am as an athlete. I would say that one of the most instrumental things in helping me achieve the success I have as an athlete is learning to believe in myself. That’s also part of the messaging that I would like to extend to little girls who purchase a Barbie from this Shero line, is that everything that they need is already inside. We’re all going to be faced with obstacles in our life, and it’s how we approach and how we handle these things that makes us, and that dictates our future and makes us who we are.”

The doll also is donning a dress from Muhammad’s clothing line, Louella, named after her grandmother.

“I was given, in addition to my doll made in my athletic apparel, I also had a second doll made in an evening dress, and they modeled it after a dress that I wore to The ESPYS.”

The show, the after-party, the hotel — live from The 2017 ESPYS Peyton Manning, LL Cool J, Ice Cube made all the memories

It’s one thing to watch an awards show on TV. It’s different to be there in person. And it’s totally different to actually have to work it. You see everything. You hear everything. And, most importantly, you feel everything. For example, it was impossible not to shed tears when Jarrius Robertson was handed the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Goose bumps arrived when former first lady Michelle Obama graced the stage to honor Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. But for those who require a more intimate view of what The ESPYS were like, I’m glad you’re here. Follow along.

The Red Carpet Hustle

This was my first red carpet experience. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but as the great songwriting philosopher Jay-Z once said, Fresh out the frying pan/ Into the fryer. Once it’s on, it’s on. Publicists coming up to you asking if you want to speak to their clients. Jumping on the carpet and chasing people down to speak to them. It looks glamorous on TV, but it’s a haze in real life. From Malcolm Jenkins, Draya Michele, Josh Norman, Dak Prescott, Derrick Johnson and more. Sweating in a suit and standing for three hours isn’t glamorous. But if you get a chance to do it, I recommend it.

Peyton Manning’s opening monologue

Manning didn’t say, “Omaha!” which remains a severe disappointment, but his opening monologue? Yeah, he did that. There wasn’t much doubt as to whether the two-time Super Bowl-winning signal-caller would do well at hosting. He’s one of the more personable athletes in sports, with a list of comedic moments to his name already — his Saturday Night Live appearances are some of the funniest spots in the show’s history. But believe me when I tell you this: His Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook joke had everyone in the building laughing while also saying, “Yikes.” K.D.’s and Westbrook’s reaction was all that needed to be said. Then he followed it up with a quip about the Atlanta Falcons blowing the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. For what it’s worth, Jamie Foxx is still the greatest of all time ESPYS host. Justin Timberlake and Drake were pretty good as well. But The Sheriff was on one last night.

LL Cool J’s catalog is certified

I’ll be the first to admit I was hesitant about attending a party that featured LL Cool J as headliner. He’s a hip-hop icon and should be the next rapper inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But it’s 2017, LL’s a TV star, and music doesn’t necessarily feel like his main objective anymore (which is totally understandable), combined with the fact that Naughty By Nature had performed at ESPN The Magazine’s Body Party the night before with extremely limited success (for the record, Naughty was cool, but the trio really only has a handful of songs that cross over).

Needless to say, any concerns I had about LL walking into the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles were quickly alleviated. His catalog is deep. He came out to “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Then there was “I’m Bad.” “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” too. By far, though, the highlight of LL’s set was the Total-assisted “Who Do You Love.” The entire venue instantly went back to 1996. Everyone danced with each other and sang the hook in unison, Who do you love?/ Are you for sure?

The ESPYS Post Party Presented by Coors Light.

Kohjiro Kinno / ESPN Images

The energy kicked up when LL brought out Ice Cube and WC to perform “Bow Down” and “Gangsta Nation.” Also, if you ever needed proof that Cube is a living legend, check and see how a room full of people react to his (and N.W.A.’s) “Straight Outta Compton.” There’s something about yelling, Straight Outta Compton, crazy m—-f—– named Ice Cube/ From a gang called N—-s With Attitude. All in all, LL won last night. The only complaint I had was he didn’t do “Paradise” with Amerie. Or “I Need Love.”

There’s always an after-party to the after-party

About 2 1/2 hours into the official after-party is when people begin planning their next move. It’s Los Angeles. There’s always another move. There was a Vanity Fair move. And an Uninterrupted one that was apparently full before it even began because everyone was texting everyone else to see who they knew who could get them in. The trick is, if you’re going out, you can’t overdo it at the open bar. Which, let me be perfectly clear, is much easier said than done. You’re always convincing yourself one more drink can’t hurt when it doesn’t hurt your bank account. And nights like that normally end with 3:30 a.m. trips to Subway. I should know.

The hotel

Just don’t be that guy, slightly inebriated at near 4 in the morning, standing on the elevator wondering why the JW Marriott has a dysfunctional elevator because it won’t take you to your floor. You’re pressing “7” to take you to your floor, but it’s not going anywhere. You’re standing with a delicious Subway sandwich in your hand, and all you want to do is eat and fall asleep, but you can’t because the elevator is broken. You seriously waste a good five minutes mad because the establishment won’t let you be great — or maybe it was doing you a favor, because did you really need Subway at near 4 in the morning? Of course you didn’t, you savage. Then you realize you have to scan your card, and you feel like an idiot. I should know.

The 2017 ESPYS brings out the style in sports once again Brilliant tuxedos — traditional and postmodern — ruled the evening

Some of the world’s best athletes and brightest celebrities met on the crowded red carpet in front of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles before the 25th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday. Despite the sweltering July heat, pros from the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB looked cool and relaxed as they paraded into the hall to celebrate their achievements in sports — and popular culture. Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning has been nominated for an ESPY Award 19 times over the course of his pro career — he’s won nine times. This year, he hosted the show and threw plenty of zingers.

While the highlight of the night was undoubtedly the appearance of Michelle Obama, who presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award posthumously to Eunice Kennedy Shriver for her role in creating the Special Olympics. Golden State Warriors superstar and two-time NBA champion Stephen Curry looked perfect in a black-on-black tux. Curry’s wife — and best-selling cookbook author — Ayesha Curry, brought some disco-era cool to the yard with her granite-colored, sequined jumpsuit.

NBA player Stephen Curry (right) and Ayesha Curry attend The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12 in Los Angeles.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson walked the red carpet in a black velvet Tom Ford tux jacket and pants. Wilson attended without his wife Ciara, who gave birth in April to the couple’s first daughter, Sienna.

NFL player Russell Wilson attends The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12 in Los Angeles.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

NBA player D’Angelo Russell attends The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Laker and current Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell followed in the (camouflage pants) footsteps of another fashionable Russell (Westbrook). The 2017 league MVP brought his best green pants — and gold chains — to The ESPYS.

NBA player Russell Westbrook (right) and Nina Earl attend The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12 in Los Angeles.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Courage and perseverance were the themes of the show, and no one represented those two things like 15-year-old Saints superfan Jarrius Robertson, who received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his battle with a rare liver disease. Robertson’s tiny black-and-gold tuxedo repped for his hometown of New Orleans.

Jarrius Robertson attends The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Image Group LA via Getty Images

U.S. Olympic gold medal winner Simone Biles was nominated this year for Best Female Athlete. Her blue dress and towering sandals were a perfect combination.

Simone Biles on the ESPYS red carpet.

Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images

Issa Rae, creator and star of HBO’s hit Insecure, looked quite secure in a black miniskirt and billowy top.

Issa Rae arrives at the 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Joe Scarnici/WireImage

And you’ve gotta love a guy who switches out formal neckwear for chest tattoos and chains. Los Angeles Clippers star DeAndre Jordan did L.A. cool in a camel tux and gray suede shoes.

DeAndre Jordan arrives at the 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Joe Scarnici/WireImage

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban has become de facto ambassador for Music City, and for hockey itself — and his robin’s egg-blue jacquard jacket and vest added a little Southern charm to his ensemble.

NHL player P.K. Subban attends The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12 in Los Angeles.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The award for Best Breakthrough Athlete went to Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, who came through in a beautifully tailored gray tuxedo jacket and black pants.

NFL player Dak Prescott attends The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12 in Los Angeles.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

One of the best dressed men of the night: Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, Jr., who wore a silk tux with a black-and-gray circular pattern.

 

There’s more to Jarrius Robertson than superfandom The 15-year-old Jimmy V Perseverance Award recipient is transforming lives through organ donation awareness

In the past year, New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius Robertson has made more appearances than even he can count.

First there were Saints games, Saints training camps, interviews with players and coaching, where Jarrius’ playcalling often rivaled — and debatably fared better than — that of head coach Sean Payton. Last year, after signing a contract to become a Saint, Jarrius bounced from city to city, appearing everywhere from the Good Morning America studios in New York City to the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. But no matter where he is, Jarrius never forgets to spread the message that “It Takes Lives to Save Lives” in order to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation.

It was only fitting that the charismatic 15-year-old was chosen to be the recipient of this year’s Jimmy V Perseverance Award at The ESPYS for the strength and courage he has displayed while battling biliary atresia, a rare, chronic liver disease that affects the bile ducts, beginning at infancy.

“It feels good because I get to go down with some of the greatest people, and it’s a big opportunity,” Jarrius said of the award.

The announcement came just two months after Jarrius’ second liver transplant surgery, which has been helping him get back to everyday activities that he was forced to give up because of the illness.

“Recovery is going good because I can do all the things I couldn’t do with my old liver,” Jarrius said. “I’m eating better and playing and going outside.”

The outpouring of love and support Jarrius has received is something his father, Jordy Robertson, is still getting used to. But he is grateful for the opportunities Jarrius has to speak for other kids who are battling chronic illnesses or waiting to receive an organ. There was a time Jordy Robertson wasn’t sure his son would make it past 1 year old.

Jordy Robertson and Jarrius’ mother, Patricia Hoyal, became parents when they were teenagers.

“We were young,” said Jordy Robertson, 34. “We didn’t know nothing. But as a father, I stayed by his side because this was my first kid. I was so excited, not knowing what I was about to be faced with.”

Jarrius, who appeared to be healthy at birth, was diagnosed with biliary atresia at only 4 weeks old. The rare disease affects about 1 out of 18,000 infants and can cause slow weight gain and stunted growth. Jordy Robertson ended up missing most of his senior year just to be by his son’s side.

“The principal gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, if you could pass this test, you can walk with your class and get your high school diploma,’ ” Jordy Robertson said. “I studied hard that week, aced that test, and when they asked if I was ready to walk with my class I said, ‘I don’t want to walk with my class. I have to run to the hospital.’ I got my diploma, and I ran.”

When Jarrius was 1 year old, Jordy Robertson remained hopeful that the liver transplant his son was about to receive would be the cure for his illness. Instead, what was supposed to be a time of celebration turned into Jordy Robertson’s worst nightmare.

Jarrius successfully made it through his first liver transplant. But after surgery, the 1-year-old aspirated, causing fluid to be drawn into his lungs.

“He never made it out of the [operating room],” Jordy Robertson said.

Jarrius was placed in a medically induced coma for a year. A ventilator moved air in and out of the small boy’s lungs, working to breathe for him. Weeks passed before doctors delivered the crushing news to Jordy Robertson that Jarrius’ progression had significantly decreased. There was nothing more the hospital could do for his son.

“As a family, we signed the papers to not revive him,” Jordy Robertson said. “But once they unplugged him from the ventilator, the doctors said, ‘Hey, this kid is breathing.’ They placed the bag on him and rushed him straight into a room and went to work from there. It was a great moment.”

Since then, Jarrius, who stands a little under 4 feet tall and weighs 52 pounds, has undergone 36 surgeries and two liver transplants. Yet, none of his medical emergencies has dampened his spirit.

“His personality, he gets it from being his age and his size and having the heart that he has,” Jordy Robertson said. “He’s got the heart of a lion but the body of a baby. But if there was a war right now, he’d say, ‘Dad, put me on the front line and let me go.’ He’s a brave person with courage and understanding.”

Besides spreading awareness about organ donation and chronic illness, Jarrius has picked up several famous friends, including Saints quarterback Drew Brees, running back Mark Ingram and defensive end Cameron Jordan, all of whom have been on the receiving end of Jarrius’ tough love and advice to better themselves as football players.

“They don’t challenge me because they know around there, I’m the boss,” Jarrius said.

Jarrius met Saints players for the first time in December 2015 during their annual visit to Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans, where he was being treated for gastrointestinal bleeding. Right before Jarrius was set to be discharged, players walked the halls in their plush red and white Santa hats, giving gifts, taking pictures and chatting with the kids.

“I was happy and excited since I’d never met them before,” Jarrius said. “[Saints punter] Thomas Morstead changed our lives,” Jordy Robertson added. “The hospital partners with his foundation, What You Give Will Grow, and this is how we met them. He was the one who offered us tickets to the game where we could be on the sidelines.”

Although Jarrius sometimes faces complications that cause minor setbacks, they aren’t enough to keep him down for long. Most days, just as any other teenage boy, Jarrius prioritizes video games and family fun over rest. Jordy Robertson laughed while partially placing blame on ESPN analyst Randy Moss for Jarrius’ intermittent sleep patterns.

“That kid stays up all night playing [NBA 2K],” Jordy Robertson said. “If we aren’t doing anything and there’s no hospital visits, he’s not getting up until about 3 p.m. … Randy Moss has him like that. Randy will call me at like 11 or 12 o’clock at night and say, ‘Hey, what are the boys doing?’ I’ll go to their room and check, and Randy will say, ‘Tell ’em I’m ready. Tell ’em it’s time to get it on,’ and they’ll play until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning.”

Moss learned of Jarrius through Annie Apple’s profile of the teen on Sunday NFL Countdown earlier in the season and immediately took a liking to Jarrius’ sprightly personality. The pair finally met in February on the ESPN set at Super Bowl LI in Houston.

“Jarrius was so full of energy. That hit me instantly,” Moss wrote via email. “When I met him, his excitement lit up our stage. I learned more about his condition and it hit close to home, understanding that I’ve got children of my own that could easily be in the same position. I was battling some things personally, but not like Jarrius. He showed me with his energy, laughter and determination to keep fighting no matter what. God answered both our prayers and for that, I love this kid.”

Jordy doesn’t mind the late hours his son keeps, nor the designated parent-turned-publicist position that Jarrius’ overnight fame has made for him. For Jordy Robertson, watching Jarrius have fun and entertain others while spreading awareness will always trump the nights he has spent praying for a miracle for his son, wary of the lurking complications that could strike at any moment.

“I know that my son is like a superhero, he’s saving lives,” Jordy Robertson said. “But I also get to bring to light something I’ve been stressing over, worried about and fighting for 13 years. It’s hard as a father to wake up in the middle of the night to stand over your kid to see if your kid is breathing or even alive. And even crying and praying over your kid in the middle of the night is something that most people in the world may not have to experience. For me, I did it so many nights it became part of me.”

As Jarrius grows and learns to manage his illness, the future remains bright. Besides helping others, Jarrius aspires to become an actor and comedian, and he hopes to meet actor Kevin Hart.

The most important thing Jordy Robertson hopes for his son is that he’ll keep fighting for not only himself but also for other kids who are battling chronic illnesses. He said he’s grateful for those who help Jarrius through donations, and who attend or volunteer for events hosted by Jarrius’ foundation, It Takes Lives to Save Lives.

“As a father, the major accomplishment I want to achieve is to make my son the face of organ donation,” Jordy Robertson said. “The reason I say that is because when you talk about organ donation, you talk about Jarrius Robertson, a kid who has been fighting for 13 years of his life and is finally getting the chance of winning the battle. He’s fighting for a cause that helped save his life that can help save the lives of other kids, too.”