James Harden’s new Meek Mill-themed shoes
NBA players continue to bring the jailed rapper’s plight to light
3:15 PMAs the leading scorer in the NBA, one of the many faces of adidas and en route to perhaps his first MVP trophy, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden is used to having all eyes on him. Come Thursday, though, special attention will be paid to his feet as Harden will be rocking custom-made “Free Meek” shoes. The message, of course, is a homage to rapper Meek Mill who currently sits in the State Correctional Institution in Chester, Pa., following a probation violation from a 2008 gun and drug case. Last month, the Philadelphia MC was sentenced to two-to-four years for after popping wheelies on his dirt bike and an altercation at a St. Louis airport early this year.
The decision immediately sparked outrage not only for Meek’s continuous battles with his own legal entanglement, but the disparities in the criminal justice system as a whole. Hip-hop, through names like Jay Z, Diddy, Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross and even friend-turned-foe Drake, have come to Meek’s defense expressing their support. But it’s Meek’s draw in the sports world that has been intriguing to watch unfold. Exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick—whose protest have become the defining sports story of his generation—spoke with Meek days before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the NBA has made no secret of its affinity towards the 30 year old rapper.
Harden visited Meek in prison on Tuesday, confirming his “spirits were high” and that he hoped the MC would be home by February. If, in fact, Meek is released in time for All Star Weekend in Los Angeles (Feb. 16-18, 2018), he could thank the league personally. Throughout his career, Meek has recorded with ball players. He played an involuntary supporting role in the odd melodrama between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. And he’s name dropped countless superstars in his music from James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson—the latter of whom he saw as a role model growing up in Philly. “A.I. had the style, he had the charisma, the braids, everything,” he told Complex earlier this year. “He was doing what he wanted on the court. That’s what we live by in Philly: do whatcha want, never let the game change you to the point where you’re not even yourself.”
Praying for @meekmill and his family!!! Crazy how bad the system is SMH
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) November 7, 2017
Harden’s showing of support is only the latest in the NBA’s very vocal support of the imprisoned MC. His hometown Philadelphia 76ers have led the charge. Sixers icon Julius Erving was one of many athletes who attended a rally in the rapper’s name last month. The team’s two superstars-in-training Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons recently posted up at Jay Z’s 4:44 tour stop in Philadelphia donning “Stand With Meek Mill” t-shirts. The move wasn’t just a photo opp either. Simmons frequently makes Meek’s music part of his daily routine through his Instagram Stories. Embiid visited Meek Mill in prison—an experience he succinctly summed up as “scary”—with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin. Yet, it’s Rubin’s relationship with Meek that is the most documented. They’re a pop culture “odd couple.”
Rubin and Meek met a few years back when both were sitting courtside at an NBA game. The billionaire owner was seated next to his daughter and Meek was with ex-girlfriend Nicki Minaj. “Once he figured out I was one of the owners of the Sixers and some other pretty big, internet companies he started asking me 1,000 business questions,” Rubin said of how their friendship sprouted. “I liked him. I would’ve had the stereotypical view, this guy is a hardcore rapper … I didn’t know who he was or what he did. But once he started telling me about his career I thought he would have an interesting business.”
Since his sentencing, Rubin has made frequent visits to visit Meek in prison. The two have largely talked legal strategy. For Rubin, Meek’s situation is personal. He considers the “Dreams & Nightmares” rapper one of his “closest 10-20 guy friends…someone I really care about.” He hoped Meek would be home for Christmas so he could spend the holiday with his family, but now the hope is that Meek can spend the bulk of 2018 in a recording booth as opposed to a jail cell.
Domonique Foxworth isn’t mad at Brian Bowen’s dad for taking the money. He’s mad more people don’t
Hear him out!
4:01 PMFriday, the news broke that former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen said he was kept in the dark about the alleged payments his father accepted from Adidas and the school to steer him to Louisville. But it doesn’t matter: According to Domonique Foxworth, if his father accepted the money, it was certainly illegal, but not necessarily wrong.
Click the tweet. Watch the video.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) December 22, 2017
Cardi B, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and more dropped a slew of new music in one night
Hip-hop must’ve caught the holiday spirit
2:15 PMMaybe it’s because Friday is the last business day before Christmas. Or maybe it’s simply hip-hop caught the holiday spirit. Whatever the reason, Thursday night/Friday morning saw a slew of drops from a who’s who kick-started by Quavo and Travis Scott’s joint project “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho.” But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
The long-awaited Cardi B second single. If there was any question following the overwhelming success of arguably the single of the year in Cardi’s “Bodak Yellow,” the wait is now over. Featuring 21 Savage, Cardi B returns with the next look into her forthcoming solo album. Complete with Offset mentions galore and a Migos-like flow, expect to hear this at any New Year’s Eve party where hip-hop is played. So, like, 95 percent of them.
A new Gucci Mane album. 2017 was the year Gucci became the pop culture star he seemed destined to be when 2009’s “Wasted” dominated airwaves. “This has been the best year of my life,” he told Zane Lowe earlier this year. And while it may have been for reasons far more than music (a book, new $10 million deal with Atlantic Records and a high-profile wedding), Gucci stayed true to the reason for his season. Guwop and his Tupacian work ethic dropped his third album of ’17 with El Gato: The Human Glacier. Happy holidays, from The Wops, indeed.
Nipsey’s next leg of his “Victory Lap.” If there’s one song I’m anticipating listening to in the whip this weekend, it’s Nipsey Hussle and Swizz Beatz’s new cut, “Been Down.” The Crenshaw OG’s new album, Victory Lap, drops Feb. 16, which coincides with the star of NBA All-Star Weekend in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Lil Wayne’s Dedication 6 preview. Set to drop Christmas Day, Weezy dropped off two sneak peeks last night over Jay-Z’s “Story of OJ.” and 21 Savage’s “Bank Account.” Both are strong offerings from the man who for years had a legit claim to “The Best Rapper Alive,” but it’s the latter where Lil Wayne really flexes. It’s one of the better tracks he’s dropped in quite some time. Maybe 2018 is the year when Tha Carter 5 is released from Cash Money purgatory. Maybe.
Baron Davis compares playing for Donald Sterling to being in ‘Get Out’
Ex-Clippers guard talks about disgraced former owner and more on podcast
5:11 PMDisgraced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling made his players feel like they were playing out a scene from Jordan Peele’s highly acclaimed movie Get Out. Well, at least according to former Clippers guard Baron Davis.
On Thursday, Davis spoke on ESPN’s The Hoop Collective podcast about what it was like playing for Sterling, when he knew Sterling was racist and how he handled working in that environment.
Now, if you follow the Golden Globe Awards and know nothing else about the film, you might think it is some sort of funny movie because it’s in the comedy category. Wrong, the movie is about racism, the subtle and overt kind, which brings us back to Sterling, who made racist remarks caught on audiotape, was banned from the league, fined $2.5 million and forced to sell the team.
Below is Davis’ comparison of the vanquished owner to the popular film and more.
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Baron Davis on Donald Sterling and playing for the Clippers:
For me, I say this — and I said this a million times — the day at my press conference when I walked up the stage, the head of communications said, ‘Hey, you know, he may say some things to you. Just ignore him.’ And I said, ‘Well, what kind of stuff he gonna say?’ He was like, ‘Man, the dude could say anything. He just don’t have a real good understanding of people or what he says. He’s loopy.’ I said, ‘Man, he better be careful what he say to me, because I ain’t like the rest of them m—–f—–s.’ And I walked off and I didn’t think nothing to it until I was like, ‘Yo. Uh-oh. This dude is racist. I can’t play for no racist.’ You know what I mean? I can’t play for no racist, man.
When did you realize Sterling is racist?
Yeah, when I start paying attention to like … it was like, you know … you’re in the city and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God!’ and everybody’s excited. And it was almost like … it was almost like the movie Get Out. It was like you walking in training camp, dude, and everybody was like, ‘Yo, what the f— you so happy for?’ And I was like, ‘S—, we about to play a season.’ And it’s like, ‘Nah, he comin’.’
And when he came in, he just sittin’ there, I saw at that moment he had no respect for nobody. You know? He had no respect for nobody. He couldn’t look nobody in the eye. And everything he was saying to people was like stuff you never say to somebody on their first day at the job. And so, for me, he rubbed me wrong from the jump because I ain’t like it. And the way that the whole Clippers system was set up … it was set up to protect him. Protect him from the media. Protect him from us, from saying stuff to us. And so it’s like he at fault, but everybody else at fault, too. You know, [former president of the Clippers] Andy Roeser, fo’ sho. [Former general manager] Mike Dunleavy, for sure. You know what I mean?
What was the wildest thing you ever heard Sterling say?
Besides the fact of him calling me a bastard and a heathen and a m—–f—– and telling me, ‘F— you! Why are [you] shooting? You shouldn’t be shooting in a f—ing blowout?’ Um, I say … I say the worst thing he probably did was when we lost a game and he came in the locker room. And he walked in the locker room and looked at me. He looked at everybody in the locker, and he went down the row, one by one, and he cussed everybody out. And he picked on Al Thornton, who was a rookie from Georgia. Who didn’t really know what was going on because Mike Dunleavy was puttin’ him out there to just tryna score. You know what I mean? And he dogged Al Thornton cold. And so that’s what I was like, ‘Hold on, dude. This dude ain’t right.’ Like, he don’t even know this kid … he just a kid.
And then he went around the room and tried to talk about everybody. But that s— was fallin’ on deaf ears.
Travis Scott and Quavo’s long awaited album is dropping at midnight
After (almost) making it through 2017, we deserve this
2:38 PMChristmas came early, y’all! Fire up that mistletoe and get ready for one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho” is apparently coming out Thursday night.
How do we know? Quavo dropped these less-than-subtle hints that our pre-Christmas travels will be filled with jingles to turn up to:
The album (mixtape? classic?) is the culmination of a bunch of teasers promoting the body of work and the tracks the two young legends have collaborated on, including “Pick Up The Phone,” “Dis Side,” and “Portland.”
The cover art was created by 81-year-old Welsh artist Ralph Steadman. Travis Scott shared a photo of the illustrator working up some magic on Instagram on Wednesday.
So, what do we expect? A Young Thug appearance, and a song with Offset in which Cardi B’s bae dominates them both. Everybody better start reworking their album of the year lists!
Enjoy, y’all! We (almost) survived 2017. We deserve this.
WATCH: City of Memphis gets rid of two Confederate statues
Monuments to Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis come down after campaign
2:32 PMTwo Confederate statues were removed from former public parks in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, after the properties were sold to the nonprofit agency Memphis Greenspace. It all went down Wednesday at 9:01 p.m. in the city, which coincidentally has the area code 901.
The decision to proceed with the removal came to fruition Wednesday after the city council voted to sell the parks where the statues were located.
During the summer, educator and city activist Tami Sawyer started the #TakeEmDown901 campaign, which was followed by protests that ended in arrests and sparked the initiative that prompted the removals. The campaign even got support of athletes and coaches including the then-Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.
— Natasha Sen Fizdale (@natasha_sen) August 18, 2017
According to The New Tri-State Defender, the parks were sold for $1,000 each, which legally gave the agency authority to remove the statues.
Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865 and lived in Memphis.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland posted a statement on Facebook that it was important to see the statues removed ahead of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 2018.
“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum,” he wrote.
The Plug, ‘Pure Gold’ (Episode 3): Dave East closes out 2017 with one of the year’s best interviews
From Kevin Durant to Lonzo Ball to Mike Beasley and more, the New York MC tells it all
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Hip-hop artist Dave East joins The Undefeated’s newest podcast, The Plug, for the final episode of 2017. Needless to say, the New York wordsmith does everything but disappoint. No topic is off-limits as the 29-year-old chops it up with Chiney Ogwumike, Justin Tinsley, Kayla Johnson and Tesfaye Negussie on any and everything, including: How and why fatherhood has become the biggest blessing of his life (and approximately when he thinks he’ll allow his daughter to start dating). He also weighs in on:
- What led to Kevin Durant’s mom nursing him back to health.
- His biggest lesson learned from prison.
- Why Lonzo Ball isn’t on his favorite people list.
- Some stories about Durant, Mike Beasley and more current NBA hoopers that you’re just going to have to hear to believe yourself.
- His starting five of musicians who can hoop (besides him, of course).
From there, the crew brings in Aaron Dodson to discuss his and Justin’s massive Kobe Bryant epic from this week. Enjoy your holidays and be sure to check for The Plug invading your airwaves all of 2018! Subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app!
Episode 1: The Debut featuring Fabolous and Jadakiss
Episode 2: Empire State of Mind featuring New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis
Chicago Bears’ Tarik Cohen gets Pro Bowl nod
This NFL rookie makes his alma mater N.C. A&T proud
11:12 AMTell the truth … you thought we might have been ridin’ Tarik Cohen too hard, puttin’ all this shine and expectation on a 5-foot-6 running back from a historically black university in Greensboro, North Carolina, of all places. Well, it’s what we do – and we don’t plan to stop, and we feel good that Cohen has backed up our love by flat-out ballin’ out. Cohen, a rookie from N.C. A&T State University, is the first NFL player since 1965 to score a touchdown running and catching the ball, on a punt and kickoff return.
This feel-good story of the year continues to grow – no, the Chicago Bears didn’t secure an at-large playoff spot – with news that Cohen was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate in this year’s game. That’s the definition of what it means to be Undefeated.
Chris Paul injury could further dampen Christmas Day games
The All-Star guard suffered a strained left adductor Wednesday night
9:44 AMIt’s one thing for the young, inexperienced Los Angeles Lakers (11-18) to beat the league-leading Houston Rockets (25-5) on Wednesday, breaking the team’s 14-game winning streak in the process, on the Rockets’ home court. It’s another to do it behind 38 points from once unheralded rookie Kyle Kuzma even while MVP favorite James Harden poured in 51 points on 15-for-27 shooting.
But the 122-116 loss to the Lakers stung just a little more for the Rockets – and the entire basketball community – when All-Star guard Chris Paul left early in the fourth quarter with what coach Mike D’Antoni is calling a strained left adductor. The groin injury isn’t connected to the bruised knee that kept Paul out for 14 straight games at the beginning of the season, but that same type of strain has sidelined Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker since Dec. 5 with an expected return date of the end of the month.
Paul will sit out the team’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. One has to imagine the Rockets won’t rush to bring him back this early in the season, which means he could miss Monday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder as well.
If that were to happen, at least four big-tickets stars could be missing or hobbling for the NBA’s upcoming Christmas Day slate of five games. Not only could Paul be absent in what is expected to be a high-octane matchup with the Thunder’s Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but two-time MVP Stephen Curry is out (ankle) for the Golden State Warriors’ Finals rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel “The Process” Embiid (back) will likely sit out the team’s home-and-home series with the Toronto Raptors the rest of this week and return for Monday’s game against the New York Knicks – whose center, Kristaps Porzingis (knee), hasn’t played since Dec. 14 – but who knows how much playing 49 minutes against the Thunder on Dec. 15 will affect Embiid’s output and minutes on Monday?
And while Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum is a ways away from being on anyone’s Top 5 list, his stomach-churning dislocated pinkie finger has him “probable or questionable” for Thursday’s game against the Knicks, which will likely dictate if or how much he plays on Monday against the rival Washington Wizards.
Jayson Tatum's finger is not supposed to point that way 😷 pic.twitter.com/TNekITQyFU
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 21, 2017
Monday’s lineup will still be a star fest – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Westbrook, Harden and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Big Three are all slated to play – but the Grinch may have stolen a little Christmas joy these past few days with the rash of injuries to marquee names.