What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor: world champion cyclist

He was the second black world champion

7:28 PMMarshall “Major” Taylor was an African-American cyclist who raced in the late 1800s and early 1900s, establishing several world records.

Born: Nov. 26, 1878

Died: June 21, 1932

His story: Taylor was born in Indianapolis, where his father worked as a carriage driver for a white family. Taylor grew close to the family and ended up moving in with them. He received a bicycle as a gift and went on to perform tricks outside of a bike shop. Taylor would sometimes wear a military uniform, thus his nickname “Major.” He started competing professionally at age 18. His first pro event was a six-day ride at Madison Square Garden in which he finished eighth. Within two years, Taylor held seven world records. He became a national and international champion in 1899, joining boxer George Dixon as the only black athletes to win a world championship at that time. Taylor raced all over the globe, including Australia, but in the United States he could not race in the South because he was black. He faced racism not only from his fellow riders but from also crowds who often threw things at him. He retired at age 32.

Fast fact: Taylor was estranged from his wife and daughter when he died. He was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1948, a bicycle group had his body moved to a cemetery with a plaque to mark his final resting place.

Quotable: “I felt I had my day, and a wonderful day it was too,” Taylor wrote in his autobiography, The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

NBA

LeBron James and Kevin Durant: We’re the best two All-Stars

The champs keep it real with Cari Champion

1:50 PMLeBron James and Kevin Durant are celebrating an All-Star victory after the two and Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145 in the last seconds of Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. But they knew they were winners before even stepping on the court.

The ballers spent some time with Cari Champion for a collaboration between Uber and Uninterrupted entitled Rolling with the Champion. During their conversation, they humbly declare that they are the top two All-Stars in the group of 24.

“When you know where you come from, to be one of those 24 guys,” James said. “And you know, for us, to be the best two out there every single year. That Sunday night means a lot.”

The conversation has already gotten a lot of attention after Laura Ingraham responded to comments James made about President Donald Trump insisting he stick to sports rather than discussing political issues. The Cleveland Cavaliers star doubled down, refusing to “shut up and dribble.”

“We will definitely not shut up and dribble because I mean too much to society,” James said. “I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids who feel like they won’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation that they’re in.”

The champs certainly kept it real in the car with Champion. Check out more of their conversation on Uninterrupted.

Bubba Wallace’s mother, Desiree, hopes her son’s second-place finish at Daytona quiets the boo birds

‘Wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready’

10:04 AMAs thousands of NASCAR fans filed in to Daytona Beach International Speedway on Sunday for the sold-out Daytona 500, Desiree Wallace sat nervously in the No. 43 pit box alongside the pit road. Below, awaiting the green flag that would start the race, was her 24-year-old-son, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

When Desiree Wallace sees the waving flag and hears 40 engines revving on the track, nervousness settles in quickly — just like it does every time Wallace races. This year brought added pressure: He is driving the No. 43 car made famous in the 1970s by NASCAR legend and seven-time Daytona 500 champ Richard Petty. And he’s the first African-American driver at Daytona since 1969.

Be smart, be patient, be focused is what she always tells her son. As Wallace circles the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track for 200 laps, she hopes that he is protected by that advice.

The race went smoothly until a major crash during lap 59 wiped out nine cars. Desiree Wallace jumped up to search for the No. 43. Her son had escaped the damage. Twice more, she would pop up when crashes sent multiple cars flying one way, and debris flying the other. Each time, Wallace was spared.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s girlfriend Amanda Carter, left, his sister Brittany Gillispie, mother Desiree Wallace, middle and pit crew chief Drew Blickensderfer show their emotions as they watch the last lap of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wallace finishes the race in second place.

Willie J. Allen Jr. for The Undefeated

“I always get nervous when I’m watching him, especially when there’s a crash,” Desiree Wallace said. “I jump up, ‘Whew, it wasn’t the 43.’ I just feel like God had a lot to do with this. He had him in the right place on that track at the right time. When the crash happened up front, he was towards the back. When it happened at the back, he was up toward the front. I just think God had him placed where he was supposed to be on that track. God was looking out for him.”

After three hours and 31 minutes, Desiree Wallace’s nerves subsided after one last lap around the track sealed Wallace’s second-place finish. It was the highest finish for an African-American driver at the Daytona 500. Wendell Scott held the previous record with a 13th-place finish in 1966.

As winner Austin Dillon addressed the media on Victory Lane, Desiree Wallace made her way to the media center. Before the first question was asked, the proud mother met her son on the podium to wrap him in a hug.

“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she told her son through tears. “You’ve waited so long.”

Asked to describe what he was feeling, Wallace tried his best to pull himself together.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he told reporters while sobbing. “I’m just so emotional over where my family’s been over the last two years that I don’t talk about it. But it’s just so hard … I just try so hard to be successful. My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.”

Desiree Wallace thought back to last season, when her son — despite finishing among the top 10 in eight of his 13 races — struggled to secure sponsorships while racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His driving future felt uncertain, and when Petty decided to put him in the iconic No. 43, not every fan took kindly to Petty’s decision. Those moments are what left the mother and son overcome with emotion.

“It was more like a sigh of relief,” Desiree Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of naysayers with him getting the ride saying it should’ve went to this driver, it should’ve went to that driver. And I just feel like OK, wake up, people. He belongs here and he’s here to stay, so get ready. He just brings a totally different atmosphere to NASCAR.”

Wallace left the speedway Sunday as Daytona 500’s highest-finishing rookie. The No. 43 paraphernalia in the vendor trailers parked throughout the track nearly sold out. And watching along with the fans lining up for autographs was an emotional mother who couldn’t be prouder of her son.

“I’m elated,” Desiree Wallace said. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. A lot of tension has been released and I think [Bubba] is just ready to move on to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”

Bill Lester: the first black driver to win a Grand Am race

He left his day job to pursue racing full time

7:02 AMBill Lester is the first black driver to win a Grand Am race.

Born: Feb. 6, 1961

His story: Lester was born in Washington, D.C. and moved with his family to the San Francisco, California area. His parents took him to a race track when he was 8 years old, and from there he was hooked on auto racing. He later enrolled in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) driving school. Lester, after getting his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California at Berkeley, worked at Hewlett-Packard for 16 years while racing on the weekends. He competed in SCCA races, winning regional rookie of the year in 1985. He continued as a weekend racer until 1998, when he took a leave of absence from his job to pursue the sport full time. In 1999, Lester became the first black driver to compete in NASCAR’s Busch series, now the Xfinity Series. He also competed in NASCAR’s truck series and took part in the Champ Car African-American driver development program. Lester joined Wendell Scott as the only black drivers to win a pole position for a major NASCAR race when he finished first in qualifying for the 2003 Hardee’s 200 truck race. He raced twice in NASCAR’s top division, the former Nextel Cup Series, in 2006. He returned to the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series in 2008, and three years laster he won at Virginia International Raceway to become the first black driver to finish first in a Grand Am division race.

Fast fact: Lester is the first black driver and first truck series driver to appear on a cereal box (Honey Nut Cheerios in 2003).

Quotable: Lester’s father earned a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Catholic University. “I can definitely lay credit to my role model being my father, “Lester told the African Americans in Motor Sports website. “He’s a very strong man, a very strong African-American, and a very accomplished man at the same time.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Wendell Scott: the first black driver in NASCAR

He also was the first to win a Grand National race

1:28 PMWendell Scott was the first black driver in NASCAR and the first to win a race at its highest level.

Born: Aug. 29, 1921

Died: Dec. 23, 1990

His story: Scott was born in Danville, Virginia. He learned to be an auto mechanic from his father and opened a shop after serving in the Army during World War II. He started racing on the Dixie Circuit because blacks were not allowed to race in NASCAR. He won his first race in Lynchburg, Virginia, and would compete up to five times a week. He persuaded Mike Poston, a NASCAR steward, to grant him a NASCAR license during an event at Richmond Speedway in 1953. He spent almost nine years at the regional level before moving up to the Grand National division in 1961. He debuted in the Spartanburg 200 and two years later won the Jacksonville 200 to become the first black driver to win a race in NASCAR’s top division. But Scott, who faced racism throughout his career, was not initially declared the winner, as second-place finisher Bud Baker received the checkered flag. Scott was later given the victory after officials sorted through an alleged clerical error. Scott competed in 495 Grand National races, with 147 top-10 finishes, before he retired after an accident in 1973. Smith did not live to see his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. He died of cancer in 1990.

Fast fact: Richard Pryor starred in Greased Lightning, a 1977 movie about Scott’s life.

Quotable: Scott’s son, Frank, told NPR that one of his father’s favorite sayings was: “When it’s too tough for everybody else, it’s just right for me.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

It’s all about the women at Kendrick Lamar’s NBA All-Star 2018 Nike concert

Kamaiyah, Sabrina Claudio and H.E.R. open for Lamar at Makers of the Game concert

1:03 PMWhile Adidas flexed its muscle on All-Star Saturday night, mustering a rare public appearance out of Kanye West, who joined Kid Cudi on stage, Nike held court with its own full-fledged concert headlined by Kendrick Lamar in its Makers of the Game weekend series.

The event, though, was about far more than just Lamar. Rapper Kamaiyah and singers Sabrina Claudio and H.E.R. all performed. This all-female bill was intentional. Earlier that day Lamar released a sneaker, the Nike Cortez Jenny II, aimed at a very underserved female sneaker consumer. All of the performers captivated the intimate crowd, in particular H.E.R., who ran through a string of hits, such as her Daniel Caesar collaboration “Best Part,” as well as “Focus” and “Jungle.”

Kendrick Lamar arrives at the Nike Makers H.Q.’s where he talks about his collaboration with the shoe company and the launch of the Kendrick-inspired Nike Cortez sneaker.

The 1point8 for The Undefeated

“Some of the greatest artists, period. I don’t even like to say women or female,” Lamar said hours earlier in a Makers conversation with Emily Oberg of Tidal’s Groupchat podcast. “They’re just great, period … Everybody just doing they thing.”

And the man of the hour, himself, did not disappoint. Kamaiyah, Sabrina Claudio and H.E.R. all heat the stage up for Lamar to burn it down. Holding the crowd in the palm of his hand, his set was as much an intense choir rehearsal as an incredible live performance. Fan favorites “LOYALTY.,” “HUMBLE.,” “LOVE.,” “Swimming Pools,” “Money Trees,” “Levitate,” the soul-cleansing “Alright” and countless more records had the floor shaking, joints sparking and friends rapping to each other for the better part of 45 minutes.

From performing at the college football national championship, winning multiple Grammys, scoring the soundtrack for what will be the biggest movie of the year (and one of the most successful ever) in Black Panther to now this invite-only event in his hometown of Los Angeles, Kendrick Lamar is as powerful as he’s ever been.

Dwyane Wade unveils new shoe — inspired by fans — at private All-Star event

A 12-time NBA All-Star is always an All-Star

12:17 PMDwyane Wade made quite an entrance through a small, intimate crowd of fans — set to the track of Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares.” He stood on the stage and accepted the fanfare that some of his biggest fans — many in Miami jerseys bearing his name, some in Chicago jerseys — gave him at an event designed to unveil his limited edition All-Star WOW6 shoe, Moments.

There was a raffle to see who would be taking home the new limited edition shoe, one of only 30 created — which, quite appropriately was inspired by his intense fan base — and the first winner was an enthusiastic little girl who couldn’t have been much older than 3. “It’s like an out-of-body kind of thing,” the three-time NBA champion and 2010 All-Star MVP told The Undefeated after a shootaround at the Los Angeles Athletic Club with some lucky fans. “You don’t wake up knowing that people feel that way about you, right? It’s so cool when the moments happen and when you feel that people have appreciated the work you’ve done … The energy is great. And everyone wants to feel appreciated.”

The private reception and playing event was billed as Wade’s All-Star Open-Run and was held with Li-Ning. Participants could work on skill drills with NBA trainer Tyler Relph. The shoe unveiling was the exclamation point on the event. “We always did an All-Star shoe,” said Wade. “One year we only did 50 pair. We’ve always kept it limited.” He says he wanted to do this — even not being an All-Star this year — because his fans continue to vote for him to be in the All-Star game and want to see him play, after all these years, “so we decided to change the name of the All-Star shoe to Moments,” Wade said. “This was a big moment for me to see my fans’ support, and still want to see me in the game.”

2018 NBA All-Star Game

LeBron James: ‘We will definitely not shut up and dribble’

He thanks talk show host for helping him create more awareness

7:40 PMLOS ANGELES – As LeBron James settled into his chair for Saturday’s media session after Team LeBron’s practice, the first questions thrown at him could have been about his new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, his 14th All-Star appearance or the new All-Star team format.

Instead, James was immediately asked about conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who blasted him this week about being “barely intelligible,” and suggested he stick to dribbling a basketball rather than speak out on politics and social issues.

“First of all, I had no idea who she is or what she does,” James said, getting warmed up as he tossed shade grenades in her direction. “I would have had a little more respect for her if she actually wrote those words. She probably said it right off the teleprompter.”

If Ingraham thought James would cower from her commentary, she was mistaken.

“We will definitely not shut up and dribble because I mean too much to society,” James said. “I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids who feel like they won’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation that they’re in.”

As James spoke, his two sons and their best friend sat on some steps at his side soaking in his words.

“I mean too much to my two boys here, their best friend here, my daughter at home, my wife, my family and all these other kids that look up to me for inspiration and try to find a way out,” James said, adding he wanted to help those people find out “how great they can be and find out how they can make those dreams become a reality.”

He even went as far as to thank the talk show host.

“The best thing she did was help me create more awareness,” James said. “To sit here at NBA All-Star Weekend, the best weekend of the NBA, and talk about social injustice, equality.

“I want to help change kids not only in America but Brazil, England, Mexico and all over. So, thank you.”

Leonard W. Miller: founder of the Black American Racers Association

He also formed Miller Racing Group with his son

4:30 PMLeonard W. Miller is the founder of the Black American Racers Association.

Born: 1934

His story: Miller grew up in suburban Philadelphia, where his mother worked as a housekeeper. His love for cars developed through conversations he heard on those estates. He secretly worked on his parents’ car when he was a youth.

He formed the Black American Racers Association in 1972 with Wendell Scott, Ron Hines and Malcolm Durham. Scott, the first black driver to compete in NASCAR, was an honorary chairman. The group promoted black driver development and also honored black drivers, mechanics and others in auto racing. BARA grew to 5,000 members.

Miller also was part of Vanguard Racing Inc. and became the first black owner to enter a car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1972. Miller wanted Benny Scott to drive the car, but blacks were denied entry into the Indy 500, so John Mahler, a white driver whom Miller tapped to work with Scott, ended up driving the car. A year later, Vanguard morphed into Black American Racers Inc., with Benny Scott as the primary driver. BAR qualified for the inaugural Long Beach Grand Prix in 1975 as one of the top 60 race teams in the world. Benny Scott finished 11th in the race.

Miller later founded Miller Racing Group with his son, Leonard T. Miller. They became the first African-American team owners to win a track championship in NASCAR history when they won the stock car title at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia, in 2005.

Fast fact: Miller wrote the book Silent Thunder: Breaking Through Cultural, Racial, and Class Barriers in Motorsports, which details his life in auto racing, in 2004.

Quotable: “Living on those estates when I was real young, they talked about race cars and race horses,” Miller told Smithsonian magazine. “All of these rich, white families had all these rare cars that were beautiful and sounded good. So, I said that was for me. And that’s what started me off to a lifetime of races.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Kenny Smith’s annual NBA All-Star party rocked — on a Hollywood studio lot

Chris Webber, Lisa Leslie and Kenyon Martn were in the house

4:00 PMPer usual, the party went until the wee hours of the morning at Kenny Smith’s annual NBA All-Star jam.

Model and TV personality Nicole Murphy

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

The Friday night party took place on the lot of Hollywood’s Paramount Studios — yep, the place where movies and TV shows are made — giving the annual party that authentic Hollywood feel. And what’s a party in Hollywood without famous faces?

Actor Bill Bellamy (L) and his wife Kristen Bellamy (R).

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Mingling in the crowd were people like Tracy Morgan, Bill Bellamy, Nicole Murphy, Kim Porter, Too Short, Claudia Jordan and go-to Hollywood TV journalist Shaun Robinson.

Too Short

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

They partied to pop and hip-hop hits alongside former NBA players like Kenyon Martin and Chris Webber. Guests feasted on mini grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and sweet pastries, crowded in on the white dance floor space and snapped selfies until after 2 in the morning.

Tristan Thompson: ‘Vince Carter was our Michael Jordan’

‘The Carter Effect’ proves that without ‘Vinsanity’ there’s no Toronto basketball and no Drake

1:54 PMMany of us remember the high-flying, 6-foot-6 phenom who took the NBA by a storm that could only be known as “Vinsanity.” From his jaw-dropping dunks to his captivating energy, Vince Carter’s journey is one of epic proportions. And so much of it is captured in The Carter Effect.

The documentary, directed by Sean Menard and executive produced by LeBron James, catapults viewers back in time to explore how the eight-time NBA All-Star played a major role in solidifying the Toronto Raptors’ notoriety in the NBA and creating a basketball culture that put the city on the map.

Friday night, Uninterrupted teamed up with Beats by Dre for a screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion featuring Menard and executive producers Maverick Carter, Future The Prince and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland Cavaliers forward and Toronto native Thompson explained just how influential Carter was for both him and his city growing up.

“Vince was our Michael Jordan,” he said.

The film, which features Tracy McGrady, Thompson, Carter and Toronto native and rapper Drake (who is also one of the film’s executive producers), captures the intoxicating thrill Carter’s arrival brought to a hockey town whose basketball team was seen as a joke amid a league of popular teams in American cities.

Throughout the film, Carter discusses his arrival in Toronto, his legendary win in the 2000 slam dunk contest, his role in making the city a destination for athletes and celebrities and his heartbreaking departure. All of it is placed in the context of Toronto’s contributions to music, art and culture. The lesson: Carter is a large part of the reason that we take the city seriously today. Future The Prince truly drove that point home, telling the audience there might not be a Drake if Carter hadn’t come first.

“If you had told me 20 years ago that a half-white Jewish kid from Toronto who sings and raps would be as big as he is today,” he said. “I would say there’s no way.”

Snoop Dogg’s West Team beats 2 Chainz’s East in Adidas Celebrity Game

‘We all think we supposed to be in the league … just like all #NBA players think they supposed to be rappers.’

12:27 PMLOS ANGELES — At the intersection of hoops and hip-hop, one thing has always been the case. “We all think we supposed to be in the league,” the legendary MC Snoop Dogg professes, “just like all NBA players think they supposed to be rappers.”

So the godfather of West Coast rap approached Adidas about creating a special event for 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend. And at #747WarehouseSt — the brand’s two-day All-Star experience, which mixes fashion, sport and music — his vision came to life, via the first annual East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop celebrity game. The two teams featured only artists, and were coached by none other than Snoop and Atlanta hip-hop star 2 Chainz.

“My roster was based sheerly off the way artists walked. If you’re onstage going back and forth, there’s a sort of athleticism to it.”

“What happened was, I was sitting back at home watching the [official] celebrity game, trying to figure out a way to put something together … where we could have a good time, and it was only rappers,” said Snoop at news conference before Friday’s game — which he pulled up to an hour late with his fellow coach 2 Chainz, who came with a lit blunt in hand as well as his 4-year-old French Bulldog, Trappy Doo. “So I hit my nephew 2 Chainz up, and told him what I was thinking. He came in with a few ideas, and we matched these ideas together.”

Snoop’s roster boasted the likes of David Banner, Chris Brown, K Camp, Chevy Woods, and himself, of course, while 2 Chainz rolled with a squad that included Trinidad James, Young M.A., Wale and Lil Dicky. Originally listed as a player for the East squad, Quavo of the Migos pulled out at the last minute to take his talents to the NBA’s official Celebrity All-Star Game, during which he dazzled the crowd with an MVP performance.

“My roster was based sheerly off the way artists walked. If you’re onstage going back and forth, there’s a sort of athleticism to it,” said 2 Chainz, who served as strictly the coach of the East, having broke his leg last July. Snoop’s general manager skills followed a more traditional scouting approach. “A lot of the people on my team, I played with him, or I’ve played against them, in [other] celebrity games,” he said. “I’m just a fan of rappers that love the ball.”

The rappers-turned-hoopers took to the multicolored court, named after Pharrell, in custom Adidas jerseys that all appropriately featured the word “Rapper” on the back. Actor/comedian Michael Rapaport and rapper Fat Joe served as the AND1 Mixtape-inspired on-court commentators of the contest, from which Snoop’s West team emerged victorious. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. even made an appearance on the court. He’s a Nike-endorsed athlete, but on this afternoon, he couldn’t resist experiencing this cultural moment, brought to the people by Adidas.

Jaylen Brown on not sticking to sports

Celtics guard is tired of the stereotypical remarks

8:37 PMWhen Jaylen Brown came out of college, an unnamed NBA executive shared with our Marc J. Spears that the former Cal student might be “too smart” for the league.

When LeBron James and Kevin Durant spoke out against President Donald Trump, a conservative talk show host this week called their remarks “barely intelligible.”

Brown, a second-year guard with the Boston Celtics, has had enough with the stereotypical remarks.

“That’s the narrative that — I don’t know who’s painting it — it’s been there for a long time and it’s time to move on from it,” Brown said during Team USA media availability before Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge. “I think it’s time to move to a new generation where not only can you have a job and do your job well, but you can have other interests outside of that and that be OK. You don’t get backlash from it.”

Brown’s interests outside of basketball include technology, which has led him to host a “Tech Hustle” technology and networking lunch on Saturday during All-Star Weekend.

Brown was irritated by the remarks from Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who accused James and Durant of making “unintelligible” remarks that were actually clear and coherent.

“The recent comments that have been brought up with KD and what LeBron chimed in on, I think that was a narrative that’s been set for a long time now,” Brown said. “It’s on us as fans, as media, as players, to change that narrative and make that OK.”

Sushi and sake for NBA All-Star royalty

The stars align at L.A. Live’s Katsuya

8:13 PMSome of the best former and current NBA players are noshing on some of the best sushi in Los Angeles — right now. Verizon took over longtime L.A. hot spot Katsuya Friday afternoon so fans could mingle with ballers like brand-new Cleveland Cavalier Larry Nance Jr., Baron Davis, Boston Celtics champion/analyst Brian Scalabrine and more. A jovial crowd enjoyed yellowtail with jalepeños, veggie tempura, rock shrimp, beef sliders — and an open bar. Even ESPN host Stephen A. Smith stopped by the Verizon Up event, which will be taking place all weekend. It’s a smart hangout spot: Close to Staples Center, and it puts fans just a spicy tuna roll away from All-Stars.

For more NBA All-Star 2018 news, follow The Undefeated at Instagram.

Dillon Brooks does not hold back in praising 2017 draft class

Grizzlies rookie ranks it ahead of LeBron James’ 2003 class

7:52 PMAt least give Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks credit for not coming out and saying that his 2017 draft class was the best in NBA history.

But to say that his class was better than the 2003 class that produced LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — that’s a big statement to make from a guy who hasn’t even completed his rookie season.

The floor is yours, Dillon:

“I think it’s better than LeBron James, Melo and D Wade’s class from top to bottom,” said Brooks, who played at Oregon. “You haven’t seen Markelle Fultz play — I played against him in the Pac-12 and he’s an amazing talent.

“You got Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma coming out – guys who want to prove themselves every day,” Brooks added. “It’s a hungry class from top to bottom, from round one to round two. All these guys from this class are going to do big things.”

Brooks, who is averaging 9 points and 3.1 rebounds, was selected in the second round with the 45th overall pick.

“Forty-five is too low for me,” Brooks said. “It makes me hungrier.”

Brooks, who’s from the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, is playing with the World Team in the Rising Stars game. So it’s no surprise that his early influence in basketball played for the Toronto Raptors.

“I watched Vince Carter. He had the lobs he had in Toronto when everyone was wearing the purple Toronto jerseys,” Brooks said. “He made me want to watch basketball.”

Joel Embiid: ‘I kept pushing. Now I’m here’

Sixers star has busy All-Star weekend on tap

6:41 PMAt Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid’s lowest point, he wanted to quit basketball. He was tired of the public criticism, sick of the people in basketball circles who doubted him and annoyed by the headlines that described him as a bust similar to Greg Oden, the top pick of the 2007 NBA draft whose career came to an end due to knee injuries.

“You guys criticized me when I missed those first two years,” Embiid said Friday just hours before the NBA Rising Stars game. “It was hard, but I kept pushing. Now I’m here.”

The native of Cameroon is suiting up for the Rising Stars World team on Friday night, will participate in the Skills Challenge on Saturday, and will start on Team Stephen during Sunday’s All-Star game.

“I wanted to participate in the 3-point contest,” Embiid said. “Maybe next year.”

Embiid’s got a pretty busy schedule, which isn’t bad for a guy who missed two full NBA seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16) and has had limitations on his play since making his NBA debut last season due to multiple surgeries on his right foot.

Don’t expect anything from Embiid during the Rising Stars game other than waving his hand during introductions — and that has nothing to do with his knee. “My knee feels good,” he said. “There’s no point in my playing [Rising Star]. I’m just going to step out of the way and let the guys do their thing.”

Embiid says the weekend is more special for him with all that he endured during his early career. But being a central part of All-Star weekend is a place he knew he would be after last season.

“Coming into the league I showed a lot of flashes, but I didn’t think I was good enough at the time,” Embiid said. “Last year I only played in 31 games, but I figured I was one of the best players in the league.”

After starting at rock bottom, how does Embiid feel now that he’s finally here on center stage?

“It’s sweeter being an All-Star starter,” Embiid said. “I’m excited this being my first time, and I’m going to have fun.”

At Jordan Brand’s NBA All-Star pop-up? A working Interscope recording studio

The space opens Friday and is laser-focused on the new youth culture

1:54 PMLOS ANGELES — If you want to cop some kicks, or lay down a hot 16-bar verse, then the Jordan Brand pop-up, called Studio 23, is the place to be during NBA All-Star Weekend 2018. Located just outside of downtown L.A. in Little Tokyo, the two-level space houses the freshest new Jordan products, as well as a music studio experience co-created with Interscope Records.

“M.J. [Michael Jordan] transcended the game of basketball into culture, into art, into music. That’s what this space is really about,” said Sarah Mensah, general manager of Jordan Brand North America. “As we look to set the higher standard of greatness, it’s about that intersection between that culture of the game of basketball and the culture of, in this case, L.A.”

The pop-up opens to the public on Friday, but Jordan has a few requirements to get in. Folks who RSVP’d through the app commonly used for the brand’s events can only enter with a valid middle school, high school or college ID. So don’t expect anybody’s moms or pops to be navigating the venue. This weekend, Jordan is dedicated to catering to the youth and embracing a new generation of the brand’s athletes, apparel and consumers.

Don’t expect anybody’s moms or pops to be navigating the venue.

In the entryway of the space hangs the official black-and-white All-Star Game jerseys, which, for the first time in NBA history — and since Nike officially launched Jordan Brand in 1997 — feature the Jumpman logo. The next room is home to a retail space, where creative customization is not only welcome but encouraged. On-site tailors and local artists are around to help tinker with the apparel: bomber jackets, hoodies, fanny packs and more.

It’s also hard to miss the “Recording In Session” sign that leads upstairs, where you’re greeted by the Jumpman logo next to the iconic Interscope “i” on the wall of an area that appears to be taken straight from the record label’s headquarters. Multiplatinum plaques, from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic to the Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, are mounted around two studios, where real live producers are there, and ready, to work on tracks for anyone bold enough to enter with a pad and pen.

Oh, and don’t forget about the sneakers. Jordan’s latest releases are on display and available for purchase, including Drake’s Air Jordan 8 OVOs (in two colorways, black and white), as well as both the “Black Cement” and “Free Throw Line” Air Jordan 3s.

“It was 30 years ago that MJ did that iconic dunk from the free-throw line. There’s that group of folks that understand what the ‘Free Throw Line 3’ is all about. But this space is not just about that,” Mensah said. “This space is about the current Jordan athletes we have. Folks like Russell Westbrook, the reigning MVP, Kemba Walker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler. That’s the future generation, and it’s really on us to look to those guys to really lead the future and see the new standard for greatness.”

NBA

8 great quotes from Kobe Bryant’s All-Star sit-down with Jalen Rose

‘I couldn’t feel my legs, it felt like it was that last lap on the track for me … I just continued to run’

10:14 AMLOS ANGELES — “MAM-BA! MAM-BA! MAM-BA!” The massive crowd at Nike’s Makers Headquarters — the site of the brand’s activation during 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend — willed Kobe Bryant to spend 20 minutes chatting about his 20-year NBA career, his newfound love for filmmaking, and what he means to culture as a “maker of the game.” After loud and continuous chants, the Black Mamba, aka the now-retired Kobe Bryant, emerged onto the hardwood, 673 days after his final game in the purple and gold, and 59 days after both jerseys he wore in his career, No. 8 and No. 24, rose to the rafters at the Staples Center — the host arena of this year’s All-Star Game.

Wearing all-black, and a pair of his camouflage UNDEFEATED x Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protros, Bryant took a seat next to ESPN’s Jalen Rose, who led the Q&A. These are the best moments from Thursday’s conversation:


1. On his 2016 60-point performance in the final game of his career:

I was tired as heck. It’s one of those things. When you know it’s the last game, you have to literally leave it all out there. It’s a familiar position to be in for me, because when you’re running a track, when you’re working out and doing these things — I had like my last lap to run … You feel like you don’t have the legs anymore, like you literally can’t move anymore, but you do. You keep going. And you finish it, and you realize, you’re OK. So I drew from that. Because during that game, I couldn’t feel my legs, and it I felt like it was that last lap on the track for me. I just continued to run.

2. On his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006:

That Toronto game, there was a calmness to it. Like a stillness. Nothing mattered to me other than what was right in front of me. It wasn’t anybody in the crowd, or what an opponent may say or do. It was just about the play right in front of me, and I was able to … maintain that throughout.

3. On his who’s the greatest — him or LeBron James:

That’s a question? .. is that a question? Listen, everybody has their own way of measuring things, you know what I’m saying? My mentality is I never waste my time arguing things that I definitively cannot win. So I don’t waste my time even debating that kind of stuff. Because for every argument somebody makes for me being the best, there’s always somebody who makes an argument for LeBron being the best, or Jordan, or whoever. So I tend to focus on things that I can win definitively. If I can’t win definitively, I’m not gonna waste my energy on it.

4. On dunking on Steve Nash in

Well, I never really thought that was a big deal, because Steve’s like 5-10 … You’ve got players now who are jumping over 7-footers. I was able to catch Steve … but it meant a lot, though, because it felt good to win in Phoenix … we hated those guys. We felt like they were so arrogant. It was always like, ‘We could beat you guys any time we want.’ That sort of thing … but Steve is a nice guy. When we started playing together, I said, ‘Steve, you’re genuinely a nice guy.’

“… for every argument somebody makes for me being the best, there’s always somebody who makes an argument for LeBron being the best, or Jordan, or whoever.”

5. On his Oscar-nominated short film Dear Basketball:

Just like in sports, where you have an opportunity to play with great teammates … working with Glen Keane, working with John Williams — one of the greatest animators of all time, one of the greatest composers of all time — enhances things. It’s just all about the team, the group that you have working together. We really believed in the project. We believed in the core of the story, and wound up creating something that the academy deemed worthy for a nomination.

6. On the love and passion he has for production:

That’s the trick … finding something that you truly love … because there’s gonna be times where things are really, really hard. Physically, mentally, it takes its toll. If you don’t truly love it, you won’t get up that day and work. You’ll roll over and go back to sleep. You have to find something that you truly love, and if you find that thing, you don’t have to convince yourself to work hard. You just do it, because you’d rather be there than any place else. And I was fortunate enough to find that in basketball, and fortunate enough to find that in storytelling, and writing, and directing, and producing. That’s the key.

7. On how it feels to be a rookie in the 2018 class of Oscar nominees:

It feels wonderful. Being at the Oscar luncheon, and having a chance to sit with Steven Spielberg, and Octavia Spencer, and Meryl Streep … all those beautiful minds that I’ve admired for so many years is awesome … it’s a great experience.

8. On shaping the culture:

First is always finding things that you love to do — and focusing on that thing. When you focus on that one thing, it tends to have ripple effects outward. Whether you’re a painter, or a writer or a basketball player or a musician … having to focus on that creates ripple effects across culture. But it always starts with the craft.

Charlie Wiggins: the ‘Negro Speed King’

Colored Speedway Association driver also was a skilled mechanic

4:01 AMCharlie Wiggins, the “Negro Speed King,” was a driver and mechanic who fought segregation in auto racing in the early 20th century.

Born: July 15, 1897

Died: March 11, 1979

His story: Wiggins, born in Evansville, Indiana, competed in the segregated Midwest. He also was a top mechanic in Evansville before moving to Indianapolis and opening a repair shop. He built his own race car, the Wiggins Special, from parts from the junkyard. Denied entry into the Indianapolis 500, Wiggins and other black drivers in 1924 formed the Colored Speedway Association. The association’s championship race was the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, a 100-mile race on the dirt track at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds. Wiggins won the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes three times. In 1936, Wiggins lost a leg and an eye after a 13-car crash in the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes and had to retire from racing. He made himself a wooden leg and continued to build and fix cars. He fought for black participation in auto racing until his death at age 82.

Fast fact: IndyCar pilot Bill Cummings hired Wiggins in 1934 to tune up his race car for the Indianapolis 500. Wiggins pretended to be a janitor to bypass Jim Crow laws. He swept floors during the day and worked as a mechanic at night.

Quotable: “On Oct. 2, 1927, Wiggins won a race in Quakertown, Pennsylvania on a one-mile dirt track at an average speed of 81.6 miles per hour. One week earlier, IndyCar pilot Frank Lockhart, driving a top of the line racing car, had set the one-mile dirt track record at 82.826. Wiggins had come within 1.2 seconds of eclipsing Lockhart’s world record, in a homemade car!” For Gold & Glory author Todd Gould told roadandtrack.com.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Nike’s Makers Headquarters makes everyone a sneaker designer at NBA All-Star 2018

The new Kobe 1 sneaker is hot, but customization is the wave

6:42 PMLOS ANGELES — Tucked away in the Arts District of the City of Angels during NBA All-Star Weekend is a place of creativity, where Nike dares all sneakerheads to be themselves. It’s called Makers Headquarters — a vast warehouse that features a full-size basketball court as well as retail space stocked with shoes and apparel that will revolve every day during the weekend’s festivities. The hottest item for sale? The white and gum-bottomed UNDEFEATED x Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro, which officially releases on Friday. “This is the shoe of the year,” said Nike media relations director Josh Benedek on Thursday morning, when Nike welcomed a small group of tastemakers — writers, YouTube channel hosts, social media influencers — to preview the space before it opened to the public later in the day.

Most attendees were enthusiastic about Makerspace, where sneaker lovers can customize Nike’s newest products. White pairs of Air Force 1s, Air More Moneys, Huaraches, Vandal High Supremes and even Nike slides become canvases for the sneaker designer inside everyone. Hyrdo Drip, dip-dye and airbrush processes allow for colorization, while swooshes in every color imaginable are available for stitching — in case folks want to get their Virgil Abloh on. Sneaker lovers were soon lined up all the way down Mateo and around the corner of Palmetto Street.

Besides his ‘Cold Balls,’ Kevin Hart is set to pitch for Mountain Dew

The global supercomedian announces partnership at NBA All-Star 2018

5:27 PMKevin Hart is adding another credit to his already growing empire. Besides his hilarious new Cold Balls interview series …

The Jumanji star announced Thursday that he’s a new pitchman for Mountain Dew’s Kickstart drink. The campaign’s first video is a zany take on NBA courtside etiquette:

Hart told The Undefeated that he signed with the soft drink after receiving a co-sign from Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. “I’ve always been heavily involved with the NBA,” he said, “and I know what their involvement has been, and about the relationships they have with the other athletes. After … seeing how happy they were … and Russell said nothing but good things. It went a long way with me.”

Russell Wilson and Ciara’s baby girl Sienna makes her debut

The princess is here!

4:38 PMSienna Princess, the daughter of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and songstress Ciara has officially made her debut, and she is a stunner!

The world has been waiting to see the dynamic duo’s 9-month-old daughter for quite some time, and it was certainly worth the wait. Ciara tweeted photos on Twitter and Instagram announcing the princess’ debut on the TraceMe app. The app, which was founded by the Seahawks quarterback, aims to give fans a closer look at their favorite celebs.

Sienna is already serving up chic looks like her mom along with a full side of chubby cheeks and a winning smile. And if you weren’t already impressed that her proud papa is taking on the tech industry when he’s off the field, you will be when you find out who shot the photos. That’s right: Papa Russ.

https://twitter.com/mefeater/status/964186516267458560

Wilson and Ciara have become quite the power couple, and their family — along with 3-year-old Future Zahir, whose father is rapper Future — has stolen the hearts of music lovers and sports fans. Throughout the NFL season, Ciara and her son were in the stands rooting Wilson on. And Wilson exercised his photography skills on his wife before turning the camera to baby girl Sienna.

We’re hoping there are more pictures of the family to come!

It’s 25 years old: Tupac’s ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ is hip-hop’s definitive ode to black women

‘Tupac cares, if don’t nobody else care …’

3:35 PMTupac Shakur’s 1993 sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.-.-.-.A.Z., was his last “pure” album. The project predates the cultural controversies, his sexual assault case, his incarceration, the 1994 Quad Studio shooting and the Death Row era that became his life’s final chapter. Released Feb. 16, 1993, S4MN is a fluid, aggressive, emotional and erratic project immortalized mainly for three singles: the rebellious “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” the joy-in-promiscuity classic “I Get Around” and the evergreen “Keep Ya Head Up.” Grounded by a sample from The Five Stairsteps’ 1970 “O-o-h Child,” ‘Shakur’s sentimental remake — things are gonna get easier — remains rap’s hallmark ode to black women.

Raised by women, Shakur’s soul found solace in his mother, Afeni Shakur, and close friend Jada Pinkett. “Keep Ya Head Up,” written when he was 21, not only spoke to black women, it defended them from within a genre that was and still very much is a man’s game. As his legal troubles mounted, and his demeanor toward women came under fire, Shakur’s devotion to the song never wavered. “I think the s— that I say, no one else says,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “Who was writing about black women before ‘Keep Ya Head Up?’ Now everybody got a song about black women.”

Shakur was a classic Gemini — it’s no surprise “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up” are on the same album. But the latter resonates on a far deeper level. It’s a record made for black men to inherit, hence the dedication of the song to his “godson, Elijah.” Black women are so often stereotyped, and scapegoated in hip-hop and in pop culture in general, but Shakur embraced the strength and importance of black women. Strong women fueled him. He also dedicated “Keep Ya Head Up” to a “little girl name Corin” — the daughter of Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl “Salt” James.

“He had this long conversation with her and, I don’t know, I guess she just struck him somehow,” James said last year. “He called me this one time and said, ‘By the way, I dedicated a song to Corin’. I never really understood why.”

“Pac had a liking and admiration for us as women, as artists,” said James’ group mate, Sandra “Pepa” Denton.

Shakur’s life ended three years after the release of “Keep Ya Head Up.” And one of those years was spent in prison for a crime he was convicted of having committed against a black woman. He denied the charges until the day he died. “I have no patience for anybody that doubts me. None at all. It’s too hard out here,” he said in a 1994 interview. “If my people don’t stand up for me, who is? I understand these white folks looking at me like that because they don’t know me. They didn’t hear ‘Keep Ya Head Up.’ That ain’t no fluke. ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ ain’t no god damn come-up. I didn’t do that for m—–f—–s to be smiling in my face to say, ‘Oh, he’s cool.’ I did that from my heart, so if they do try to put a rape charge on me my sisters can say, ‘He ain’t ’bout that.’ Now if my sisters can’t say that, you won’t hear another m—–f—ing ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ out my mouth.” Chaos in the midst of unyielding love. There are many ways to describe Tupac Amaru Shakur. But those are definitely two of them.

Willy T. Ribbs: first black driver to qualify for Indy 500

He also was first to test a Formula One car

10:55 AMWilly T. Ribbs is the first African-American race car driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and the first to drive a Formula One car.

Born: Jan. 3, 1955

His story: Ribbs was born in San Jose, California. His father, William Ribbs Sr., was an amateur sports car racer. The younger Ribbs would drive his car at high speeds in the California mountains before moving to Europe after high school in 1975. He competed in the Formula Ford Series in England, winning the Dunlop Championship. In 1978, he came back to the United States and competed in the Formula Atlantic open-wheel series. He won the pole for the Formula Atlantic race in Long Beach, California, in 1982. He moved to the Trans-Am Series the next year and was named Pro Rookie of the Year after winning five races. He made his first attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1985 but ended up pulling out of the competition. He competed in three NASCAR races in 1986 and that same year became the first black racer to drive a Formula One car, testing for the Brabham team in Portugal. He joined the Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) series in 1990 in a car partially funded by comedian Bill Cosby. In 1991, he finally qualified for the Indy 500. Ribbs continued to race in CART, the Indy Racing League and Trans-Am series until retirement. Ribbs was criticized during his career for his strong personality and speaking out about his NASCAR experience, often referring to NASCAR as “neckcar.”

Fast fact: Ribbs was seriously injured when he was 8 years old after an out-of-control car hit him at a racetrack.

Quotable: “I feel the same way about them that they do about me,” Ribbs once said when asked why he hates NASCAR.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Tech, music, film + pure partying: 2018 NBA All-Star events *really* get started Thursday

As of now, the city of Los Angeles is NBA central

10:37 AMTech, music, film: There’s a bunch of stuff happening Thursday in Los Angeles. As the city gets set for NBA All-Star Weekend 2018, some events are for players and media only. Some are for everyone. Off top there’s a Q&A with Kobe Bryant brought to the world by Nike x Jordan Brand’s Global T32 Nike Summit, and also a TNT roundtable discussion about sports and society featuring Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. Apple Music is screening Before Anything: The Cash Money Story. The NBA’s Technology Summit Tip-Off Reception is Thursday evening, and there’s a Nipsey Hussle concert at the Hollywood Palladium. And it’s a busy day for Wade, as he’s also hosting a documentary screening and panel conversation about Chicago basketball, family and inequity in communities. Wade executive produced the doc, Shot In the Dark, with Chance the Rapper. We’re hearing about what’s going to be an amazing Allen Iverson “Experience,” and about a big bowling party at L.A. Live. The wave, though? Thursday night is The Uninterrupted’s dinner and drinks evening soiree.