Archive for September, 2014

hoopsreading

For years, the NBA’s “Read to Achieve” program has sought to promote literacy among its young fans by implementing various educational initiatives and incentives. For us adults, the importance of reading is no less.  If you’re reading this, or some of my other work here on this page, then you’ve already realized the fact that reading is important.

Despite the need for us all to be able to possess basic literary skills, reading can be made fun in the process. Because of my love for the game of basketball, I have included several b-ball themed books that are personal favorites of mine that I’m quite sure that you’ll love as well.  Reading is FUNdamental!!

Tales From the Cleveland Cavaliers: The Rookie Season of LeBron James by Roger Gordon

Magic: by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Richard Levin

Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America’s Youth by Dan Wetzel and Don Yaeger

Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir by Spike Lee

I have included a few vintage commercials where NBA stars encourage the kiddos to read. Take a look:

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What is it about me that you guys don’t know?

This is what Michael Jordan asked the crowd in attendance at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on a special evening in September of 2009. After hearing those words uttered by His Airness, you almost got the impression that even he’d be surprised by the fact that some of us had never even heard of him.

Due to the immense amount of scrutiny that he underwent over the years, it’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t at least have a clue who he was.To be honest, I’m not quite sure if there isn’t anything we don’t know about him. Perhaps one of the most famous human beings who have ever lived, it’s safe to mention that the life of Michael Jeffrey Jordan has been one devoid of boredom and predictability.

Thirty.

I’m not referring to MJ’s career regular season scoring average, nor am I referring to the age that Michael was whenever he and his Chicago Bulls won their third straight NBA title against the Phoenix Suns in 1993. While both of the aforementioned references were cool facts to know, the “thirty” that I’m referring to is the amount of years ago that he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1984. To the average person under the age of 25 who represent the demographic of youth who wear his famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) line of Nike sneakers, chances are high that they’ve never had the opportunity to watch him lace up the sneakers to actually play in them in during a live action NBA game. What made Jordan so unique was that his era–affectionately known as the Jordan Era–started almost immediately, in contrast to many NBA stars who entered the league after he did.

It’s hard to believe that MJ was drafted into the NBA over three decades ago, but it also makes sense because if you’re under the age of 50 and you have watched a considerable amount of basketball for a great deal of your life, then you felt as if Jordan was someone you grew up with, someone who should be enshrined not only into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but into our memory banks as well. All basketball fans have had a “Jordan experience”, and I’m no different. It was Jordan’s electric style of play, coupled with his undeniable marketability, and you have one extremely impressed 9-year-old boy who, during the fall of ’92, made a decision that basketball was his favorite sport, which would eventually become my passion to play the game of basketball, watch the game of basketball as a fan, and ultimately….write about the game of basketball.

In closing,  there isn’t much that we don’t know about the megastar. Thousands of publications, TV analysts, and barbershop regulars have proven that. I’ll keep this one simple because if you’re a lover of the game of basketball like I am, then you’ll realize we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the era that not only changed the sport, but reshaped pop culture at large.

My interview with Brandon King, April 2014

My interview with Brandon King, April 2014

Basketball and sneaker culture go hand-in-hand.  From Walt “Clyde” Frazier’s suede Pumas, to the iconic Air Jordan sneaker line worn, endorsed, and named after the one and only Michael Jordan himself, there is an unbreakable marriage between the sneaker industry and the sport of basketball. Over the past decade, the popularity of sneakers have exploded and progressed to the level of a subculture. Although I myself have had an affinity for sneakers for as long as I can remember, there are some individuals like Brandon King who have decided to turn his love for kicks into an online experience that will be guaranteed to be enjoyable for sneaker enthusiasts like him.

I won’t carry on much longer, but please check out the material posted below that I’ve written along with the audio of my interview with sneaker guru, artist, and entrepreneur, Mr. Brandon King from earlier this year. Enjoy!

(Interview and story originally posted by B.C. on April 27, 2014)

This past week, I had the honor of catching up with Brandon King, who is an expert and authority on all things sneakers, especially when it comes to basketball. His lifelong love of the game of basketball also happened to translate over to a love of sneakers as well, which eventually lead him to create his own YouTube channel that’s dedicated to reviews of some of the most iconic and innovative sneakers that we’ve ever seen. On his YouTube channel titled “airjordanxiv” (named after the 14th edition Air Jordan, which is his all-time favorite), he provides elaborate and very informative reviews and commentary on many of the sneakers that are worn on the basketball courts all across the country. I personally find his YouTube page to be very resourceful for those of you who are diehard “hoopers” who are in the market for new basketball shoes, but want to do their homework before shelling out your hard-earned money for a pair you know nothing about.

Not only does Mr. King discuss his love of sneakers, he also sheds light on the “sneaker buying craze” that has understandably created major criticism from people outside of the “sneaker head community”.  We also discuss his partnership with sneaker reference site SneakerTube.TV, where he has been a regular contributor for the past couple years. His partnership with the sneaker site has inspired him to create his own site, which is currently under construction, and will be launching at a later date.

In addition to his commentary on sneakers and sports, King talks about his lifelong passion for art, and we switch gears to a much more serious matter, where Mr. King speaks on the need for everyone to have legal representation. He is also a representative of LegalShield, where he is licensed to handle your need for legal representation.

Due to his expertise on all things sneakers, sports, art, and legal matters, Brandon has quite the following here on the Internet. To see what he’s up to outside of our interview on YouTube, go to any of the links that I have provided here:

Brandon King is a well-rounded young man who speaks in full-detail on his passions and endeavors. He, like many other enterprising and innovative young men and women in my generation, have taken the reins from their predecessors, and seek to propel society to greater heights by carving out their own unique niche on this planet. I want everyone who reads this to watch the video that is posted below, and please comment, like, and subscribe for upcoming video interviews with more interesting and great people  from Yours Truly. Peace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pxH9g5ECds

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(Originally Written by B.C. on October 13, 2012)

 

If you’ve had the opportunity to know me well enough, then you’ll know that I consider myself to be an enthusiast (I’ll refer to enthusiasts like myself as “fans” for convenience sake for the duration of this article) of the sport of basketball, particularly when basketball is played at its highest level in the National Basketball Association. Like many other fans of the sport of basketball, I’ll occasionally engage in conversation with other basketball fans about the current state of the sport, and depending on who you talk to, the NBA is over. Finished. Dead. Being that I’m a young black man who’s been born and raised in a small southern town, I’m very attentive of remarks that are made with a racist undertone, and such sentiments tend to continually resurface whenever the NBA is the topic of conversation between myself and many whites who are generally over the age of 25 . The recurring response regarding the NBA goes something like this: “The NBA players are too flashy”, “They lack mainstream appeal”, or the most classic line that I often hear is, “They’re overpaid”. When I hear such remarks from whites, the question I ask myself is this, “What are they implying , especially when the NBA is approximately 80 percent black, as of 2012?”

As noted earlier, I consider myself an avid fan and observer of basketball, and I will agree there is a noticeable general decline in fundamental basketball skills on every level for the past twenty-plus years, and I’ll be one of the first to admit that. However, no player can possibly play basketball for the best basketball league in the world with no fundamentals whatsoever. Many whites imply that these players attempt to play a style of basketball that exceeds the boundaries and fundamentals of the game.  However, I would argue that the high-flying, acrobatic style of play that’s generally been affiliated with the black players of the NBA, is the very same style of play that has made the NBA such a widely popular sports league that’s embraced worldwide.  I would also like to add that many of the NBA’s most celebrated and prolific players in history, such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James to name a few, played or are currently playing that flamboyant and explosive style of basketball that white detractors of the NBA are so highly critical of.

Since I’ve just mentioned a few of the NBA’s biggest names in history, it leads me to touch on the topic of the players’ popularity, or a term I’ve heard and read many white fans and white media members refer to as an NBA players’ “mainstream appeal”. The NBA is a global sport, with the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, better known as the “Dream Team”, greatly contributing to the sport’s burgeoning popularity on an international stage. That being stated, out of 12 players on that “Dream Team” roster, 8 of those players were black, including their two biggest stars, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Many whites I’ve spoken with on the topic of the NBA claim that they were once fans, particularly from the early 80’s until the late 90’s, which also happened to coincide with the retirement of arguably the NBA’s most popular star ever (and black player as well), Michael Jordan, in 1999. Some of the NBA’s incoming young black players during the late 90’s, such as Allen Iverson, were highly scrutinized and scorned because of his perceived image by many white fans as a product of the 90’s hardcore gangster rap generation, because of his tattoos, braided hair, and history of incarceration. As a result of this contempt for Allen Iverson and others held in the same regard by many white fans, many of these white fans claimed to have walked away from watching the NBA, thus their reasoning for the NBA not lacking “mainstream appeal”. The fact remains, during his tenure there, that Mr. Iverson was almost singlehandedly responsible for positively changing the fortunes of the team that he made his claim to NBA fame with, the Philadelphia 76ers.

One would be lead to believe that this perceived public image shared by many whites about the NBA’s black players would affect the profitability of the league and its business affiliates. I find this premise to be quite the opposite. For example, Nike, the athletic apparel giant, has benefited largely because of its past and present roster of endorsers of its footwear and apparel. Black players such as Jordan, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Gary Payton, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Blake Griffin, to name a few, are among the elite NBA stars to contribute to the financial and pop culture success of Nike, with its customers comprising of people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, gender, and economic status. Other companies, such as McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Gatorade, and Coca-Cola, also have received great financial gain selecting many of these black NBA players to endorse their product, often times doing so by involving these players in elaborate global advertising campaigns. So, with all of this money flowing into the pockets of the NBA and its business partners (the NBA claimed to have lost money in recent years, which resulted in an extensive labor dispute between the NBA players and their team owners in the summer of 2011), many whites continue to feel as if the players are still overpaid, although the owners of the teams are multi-billionaires. and the NBA itself  continues to be one of the most prosperous sports leagues despite several of its franchises losing money. Are these athletes overpaid? Or are the ultra-wealthy owners of these NBA teams responsible for allowing their players to even negotiate for a possibility to receive these multi-million dollar contracts that many whites seem to have issue with?

I conclude this by stating that many white Americans seem to have major issues with the professional basketball league that is the National Basketball Association, based off my personal observations. Issues that these whites don’t even seem to have with the NFL, which is also a predominately black sport, yet it is the most popular and profitable sport in the United States. What could the issue be that these white sports fans (and casual observers of the NBA) seem to have with the sport? Is it the quality of play? Is it the lack of likability of its players that seems to ostracize the white fans? Or is it the mere fact that these young black basketball players, often with little or no college education, make millions of dollars annually?

 

 

As a follow up to the material that is written above by Yours Truly, I originally wrote those words above back in 2012. Fast forward two years later, and racial tensions have heightened even more around the country. Non-Black celebrities and public figures have taken liberties to utter disrespectful words about the African-American community (Does Paula Deen and Donald Sterling ring a bell, anyone?). There are reports of racial profiling and police brutality towards Blacks on a nationwide scale, and Blacks are taking to the streets in protest of these unjust practices against them. The latest case of racist remarks towards Blacks would be none other than Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson. Apparently, Levenson takes issue with Phillips Arena’s (home of the Hawks) attendees being predominately Black, regardless of the fact that Atlanta is a majority Black city fill with African-Americans who have the disposable income to afford to go to Hawks games as they please. To make matters worse, this summer, former NBA player and current Hawks G.M. Danny Ferry made similarly nasty remarks concerning then-free agent Luol Deng, whom he tried to recruit to come play for the Hawks. I’m stating all of this because despite the NBA being a a predominately Black league with a strong marketing and grassroots connection to hip-hop culture, many non-Black fans share the sentiments of both Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry, which brings my previously written blog back full circle.

High school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid growing up in Dalton, GA. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly, the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

As a high school student growing up in Northwest Georgia, high school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly–the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

Back in the days when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again

~Ahmad

Most–if not all–basketball fans hold a special place in their hoop-filled hearts for high school basketball. In spite of the increasing loss of innocence of the bastion that is high school hoops due to the voracious appetite for college hoops’s need for the “next best thing”, high school basketball invokes feelings of nostalgia, community, and a sense of “connectedness” (Excuse my wordplay), because when we watch high school basketball, we watch our friends, relatives, and students lace up the sneakers to do battle on the hardwood for 32 minutes to give their schools bragging rights, but they also play to represent for the communities that they live in.

In my neck of the woods, high school basketball was played at an extremely competitive, yet entertaining level from the early ’90s until the early ’00s. In my local community, there were four high schools that would (and still) battle for bragging rights every basketball season. These four schools were Dalton High School, Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, and Murray County High School. From Murray County, I had a chance to witness the likes of Chris Bishop and his brother Eric, who could jump over the moon, and eventually tried out as a Track and Field athlete for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Next up on the list of one of the most memorable high school basketball programs in my hometown/area was Northwest Whitfield High School, home of the Bruins. Northwest had a colorful collection of hoopers. For example, you combine the blend of athleticism and power of a guy named “Pokey”, the playmaking abilities and defensive prowess of a cat named “Redd” (who evolved from being primarily a defensive stopper in high school to becoming a deadly  scoring machine years after his h.s. graduation), and a sharp shooter named Tommy (Thompson). You were guaranteed to get your money’s worth if you decided to buy a ticket to see the orange and blue-clad bruins get busy during the golden era of basketball in North Georgia.

I’d be too modest if I failed to mentioned my alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School. When I first graced the halls of Southeast as a freshman in the fall of 1998, the big men on campus at the time were Lance “Chief” Minor, Brandon Bonds, Tracy, “Tre Boy” Harris, Marcus “Coop” Cooper, and Rashad “Shad” Curtis, to name a few. Over the course of my high school years, my school’s fan section–affectionately known as the “Dog Pound” by us Southeast Raiders–would hoot, holler, and cheer on the Raiders boys team all of the way to the coveted spot of #1 in the state of Georgia during the 2000-01 basketball season. Back in the 90s/Early 00s, the maroon and silver were NO JOKE.

The last local school that  I’d like to mention is none other than the Evil Empir–I mean the Dalton High School Catamounts. While some of you who read this may want to discount my writing ability because of my omission of some of the great players over the years who donned the white, black, and red of DHS, I’ll just state that there were simply TOO MANY GREAT PLAYERS TO NAME who came out of the Dalton High School basketball program, and this includes the boys and girls b-ball teams. I will give honorable mention to players like Brendan Plavich, Mike Banks, the Westmoreland brothers, T.J. Blackwell, Brandon “Feezy” Fields, Derrick Tinson, Eddie Jackson, & Frank Pinson, while Sabrina Beavers held it down for the ladies. I had to jokingly refer to Dalton High’s team as the “Evil Empire”, because they were like the New York Yankees of North Georgia. You either loved them, or you hated them. You rooted for them, or you booed them whenever they stepped foot on your school’s basketball court. Not only were they the biggest school in my hometown in both sheer size and student population, but they always boasted a DEEP roster of incredible athletes…in ALL sports.

While I have no intention of belittling the numerous accomplishments of the younger generations of basketball talent in my area that came along later–like 2004 or later–the players and teams that I mentioned were a memorable part of my youth, so of course I’m going to be slightly more partial to them! No matter how much basketball that I write about, discuss, or play for that matter, I’ll never forget that golden era of hoops during my high school years. I apologize if I forgot to mention any more of you from my hometown who read this, and was a part of a great time period for basketball in Whitfield and Murray County. However, I’m optimistic that we’ll have the opportunity to see another great generation of basketball spring forward from my home town of Dalton, GA, and the neighboring Chatsworth (Murray County).