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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
8/19/2004 9:39:21 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

“If I wasn't in the rap game
I'd probably have a key knee
deep in the crack game
the streets is a short stop
either you slingin' crack rock
or you got a wicked jump shot “
-- "Things Done Changed," The Notorious B.I.G.

When hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow released his single "Basketball" in 1984, he verbalized a connection between hip-hop and basketball that is more real now than even Blow himself could have imagined when he originally spit the lyrics to the song.

Now, 20 years later, the combo of hip-hop and basketball is as common as Will Smith in a summer blockbuster, and the connection is only getting stronger.

When Blow's record first came out, hip-hop was still in diapers, and basketball was a lot different, too. The year 1984 was not only the infamous year invoked by that George Orwell novel, but it marked the beginning of the modern era in the NBA. For the first time that year, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced each other in the NBA finals, while Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were the 3rd and 5th picks in the draft that summer. All four of these figures helped, in their own way, transform the NBA from being perceived as a league of "overpaid black drug addicts" to its current status as a preeminent sport around the globe.

In my mind, the song "Basketball" marks the beginning of the hip-hop/hoop era, yet it's been only recently that we have seen the full evolution of this unique merger. I have always said that hip-hop and basketball go together because they have so much in common. Both endeavors start off as solitary pursuits, be it writing in your book of rhymes or shooting jumpers on an empty court. In the beginning it's a solo endeavor. It's all about the individual and his craft. There is something like a spiritual connection here, a oneness even, between the artist and the art form, between the baller and ball, between the rapper and rap. The two become as one. Like Nas says, "All I need is one mic."

ball for real
Y'all n----- is Sam Bowie
And with the 3rd pick
I made the earth sick
MJ, Him Jay
Fade away perfect
-- "Hola Hovito," Jay-Z

When Michael Jordan arrived at the 1985 NBA All-Star Game as a rookie, he didn't rock the traditional Eastern conference warm-up suit, he wore his own Nike Air Jordan warm-up. At the time, Jordan was also fond of wearing gold chains. When he debuted his new Air Jordan sneakers, the league not only fined him but they banned the shoe as well. Jordan, though, in defiance of the league continued to wear them. The notoriety surrounding the shoe, along with Jordan's funky fresh game, quickly propelled Jordan and his sneaks to legend status.

Jordan's defiance of convention early on in his career was not unlike what the trio Run-D.M.C. was doing in its music. The Air Jordans, along with the Adidas "Shell Toe" favored by D.M.C., went on to became staples of the hip-hop wardrobe. Jordan's shaved head and his long baggy shorts eventually became the style as well, both on and off the court. He was not only a trendsetter and style arbiter, but he was a young rebel intent on gettin' money and dominating the game. These things would become mantras in hip-hop, too, over time.

Like any pioneer who stays around long enough, Jordan would go from being independently rebellious in his early days to being a mainstream figure of the highest order. Over the course of his career he even managed to transcend all sorts of boundaries -- especially racial. But when Jordan retired for the third time in 2003, he left behind a Washington Wizards franchise with a lot of young players who were said to hate his very existence. He had gone from being a rebel in his own way to being

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