It’s Great That Michael Jordan Spoke Up, But He Did Not Owe You That

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Celebrities don’t owe you anything past whatever made them famous. This weekend, when I go see the new Jason Bourne at the movies, lead actor Matt Damon will owe me a great performance. When I see the Saint Pablo tour this fall, Kanye West will owe me a dynamic concert. I invest time and money in you, you owe me a good job. That’s how it works.

That said, let’s talk about Michael Jordan, who recently released an impassioned statement about the rampant shootings of African Americans by police officers and the social unrest that comes with it.

“I can no longer stay silent,” he says before expressing disappointment about our nation’s inability to “find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.” He put a load of money behind his words and writes that he’s split $2 million and donated it to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

That “silent” part is arguably (and unfortunately) the most noteworthy of the statement, because, to many, Jordan has skipped several chances to talk about social issues during his more than 30 years in the limelight as a star athlete. Unlike other Black sports icons like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Jordan was quiet.

He’s infamous for allegedly responding, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” when asked to support North Carolina democrat Harvey Gantt for a seat on the Senate in the early ‘90s (his reps have denied this vehemently), thus beginning the storyline of a businessman so shrewd that he’d ignore issues bigger than basketball for the sake Air Jordan sales.

I get it: That’s a bad look. While Jordan paired with Gatorade and campaigned for us to be “Like Mike,” others bristled at the thought and wished he’d be like Ali.

Yes, it’d be nice if he was. However, the discussion ends there. It would have been nice and impactful. But Michael Jordan did not owe anyone that. There are arguments, sure, to be made about whether his moral compass should have guided Michael—a man that was easily one of the top five most famous people on Earth during his heyday—to use his platform to make the lives of people less fortunate (his people) better. Like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” True.

But understanding that being Spiderman means that you’ll likely get your ass kicked on a nightly basis, would you fault Peter Parker if he just said, “Fuck this shit” and quit the hero game? It’s both silly and easy to be an armchair general and say what you’d do if given the same opportunities as Michael Jordan or any marquee figure. Would you have had the balls to raise the Black Power fist at the podium like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico? Would you have refused to enlist in the army like Muhammad Ali did for the Vietnam War and lose years from your career to serve time in jail? Would you risk movie roles or mega advertising dollars to stand up with the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Maybe? Definitely? Hopefully. But I wouldn’t fault someone who answered “No.” That takes a unique type of courage. Even current NBA star Carmelo Anthony said “it’s about time” Michael spoke out.

 

Also, it’s terrible to diminish the philanthropic efforts of a man of means, because it doesn’t benefit the specific issue or cause you want them to support. What’s wrong with Jordan donating millions to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, like he has? What about him being the majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and the organization always having a Black president under his watch (currently Fred Whitfield)? And his Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament has raised millions for several charities. What about that? Still, social media timelines and sports pundits alike became cynics when Jordan broke his “silence.” Some said he’s too late. Others clowned and wondered if it was more of a business move than a show of humanity.

I’ll admit that I laughed at that one. But my point remains: Michael Jordan doesn’t owe us shit. He’s not a member of a government office or some pseudo freedom fighter. Those people are out there. Count on them in these moments of brutal racial injustice.

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When Michael Jordan was a player and we watched in hopes of being awed, he owed you savage dunks and artful fade-away jumpers. Lock-down defense. If your pockets are deep enough, he still owes you sneakers that are so gorgeous and heralded that they make you feel you’re as fly as His Airness himself was then.

Alton Sterling & The Talk

But to be an outspoken leader and political advocate for African Americans whose impact was as great as it was when he hooped on the court? No. He didn’t. Never did. He still doesn’t. So instead of criticizing him for responsibilities he never accepted, let’s just appreciate that he’s here now. He did something extra good.

Happy Birthday, ‘In My Mind’

I WAS 15 ATTENDING SUMMER SCHOOL AT HAWTHORNE HIGH, SPENDING MOST OF MY NIGHTS TRYING TO FIND ANY SNIPPETS OF THE ALBUM ON VARIOUS GERMAN SITES. THEN 7/25/06 CAME. IMM RANGES IN DIFFERENT STYLES AND SOUNDS AND I BELIEVE THATS WHY I GRAVITATED TO IT SO MUCH. THE UPRIGHT BASSLINE ON "CAN I HAVE IT LIKE THAT" OR THE BUCKETS ON "HOW DOES IT FEEL". OFF THE WALL MJ ON "NUMBER 1". I STILL TO THIS DAY DONT THINK I CAN MAKE A SONG BETTER THAN "THAT GIRL". AND "I REALLY LIKE YOU GIRL" IS EASILY THE BEST SONG ON THIS ALBUM WITH YOUR BEST TIMBERLAKE IMPERSONATION AND STEVIE HARMONICA. IMM ALSO INCLUDES "RASPY SHIT" WHICH IS THE WORST SONG IN YOUR DISCOGRAPHY I HATE THAT SONG SO MUCH YOU ARE SO GROSS FOR THAT. BUT THE ONE THAT STOOD OUT WAS "YOU CAN DO IT TOO". THE SADE BASSLINE, THE STRING PAD WITH CHORDS THAT YOU CLAIM ONLY Q-TIP, YOU AND I LIKE, THE JAMIE CULLUM OUTRO! BEING 15 BLACK NOT REALLY "INTERESTED" IN WHAT THE MAJORITY OF MY PEERS WERE INTO, IT MADE ME FEEL SAFE. I WAS OPTIMISTIC, ALWAYS DAYDREAMING AND SETTING GOALS SO I FELT YOU WERE DIRECTLY SPEAKING TO ME. I REMEMBER CLANCY TELLING ME HOW JIMMY IOVINE THOUGHT THIS ALBUM WAS A "COMPLETE FUCKING FAILURE IT DIDNT WORK". BUT SEE, IT DID, JUST NOT ON THE KIDS HE WAS LOOKING AT. THE ONES WHO JUST EXISTED;USED THE POPULAR SLANG;LISTENED TO WHAT WAS THROWN AT THEM;DRESSED IN CLOTHING THAT WAS TRENDING AT THE TIME. NOT SAYING THATS BAD BUT OF COURSE THIS WOULDNT WORK ON THEM. BUT IT WORKED ON ME AND I CREATED ODD FUTURE THAT SAME SUMMER. I WAS ACTUALLY NAIVE ENOUGH TO BELIEVE YOU AND THOUGHT I COULD DO ALL THESE AMAZING THINGS IF I REALLY TRIED. WHERE I GREW UP, NIGGAS GET STUCK AND NEVER MAKE IT OUT. JAIL, DEAD, SHIT JOBS, NOT REALLY GROWING. IT SEEMS LIKE AT A CERTAIN AGE, IDEAS; ORIGINAL THOUGHTS ARE NO LONGER A THING; I DIDNT FALL INTO THAT CYCLE. I'M NOW A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR ALL BECAUSE I BELIEVED YOU WHEN YOU SAID I COULD BE. YOU WERE THE FIRST PERSON I CONTACTED WHEN I PULLED OFF THAT MCLAREN DEALERSHIP! THIS IS GETTING LONG SO UHHH, HBD IMM. I NEVER HAD BROTHERS,UNCLES OR MY FATHER AROUND SO THANK YOU FOR BEING THE MALE FIGURE I GRAVITATED TO. ALLOWING ME TO EMBRACE BEING DIFFERENT AND TRUSTING MY IDEAS ❤️

A post shared by Tyler The Creator (@feliciathegoat) on

 

I remember riding around in my hand-me-down Saab with the windows down and bumping In My Mind before and after work at Target.

How sweet is this note Tyler, the Creator wrote? I’ve seen and read Pharrell talk about how much he doesn’t like IMM anymore, because it’s a version of himself he’s since grown out of. Still, though, this thing had some jammies. “That Girl” is kind of perfect.

 

Make Air Jordans Sexy Again

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On any given day, you might catch me in a pair of Air Jordans. I just bought my second pair of Flu Game XIIs. I wore black VIIs to work on Tuesday. I was wearing black VIs when my girl beat me twice at HORSE on Saturday. My shooting is currently ultra un-Mike-like, unfortunately. By the way, here she is draining a jumper in Nike FlyKnits:

All that is to say I’m a big fan of Air Jordans. But here’s the crusher: I haven’t truly loved any new pair that’s come out since the XVIs.

Yesterday Jordan Brand unveiled the XXXIs. They’re cool. But like each pair that’s dropped since 2001’s XVIs, I’m not planning on getting a pair. That’s 15 years of “Meh.” A decade and a half of, “Not really feeling their latest, but I’ll be looking out for the retros.”

Air Jordan 31

The Air Jordan XXXI

 

They’ve got “Banned” written on the soles, because  the original Jordan 1s (which the XXXIs are inspired by) were banned by the NBA due to their black and red color-way not properly matching Michael Jordan’s Bulls uniform. There’s more about that in this story here.

From the look and description of the XXXIs, they appear to be amazing performance sneakers. They probably are a delight to run and jump in. To make hard stops and defensive slides with. But they’re not sleek. And they damn sure aren’t sexy. Look at the XIs, the 1s. I can’t imagine Michael Jordan–whose one of several nicknames was “The Black Cat”–wearing these. They’re too chubby for a cat. Gone are the days, I suppose, of Jordans that you want to wear as much off the court as you do on. (Why is the Jumpman on the back heel so big?) I don’t want to wear the latest Js with my jeans. Nah.

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Air Jordan 5 Retro OG | Metallic Silver | Out July 23, 2016

 
And that’s a bummer. But hey, the retros are still booming. The 1s will have their umpteenth re-release this September. The OG Vs drop in a matter of days. I want both. So while I hope Jordan hires one of these lux designers that are jumping ship from couture houses to make Air Jordans street-style sexy again, I’ll settle for blasts from the past.

Now pardon me. I’m have to iCal sneaker release dates.

Wale Q&A for Fader

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Wale | photo by @LouieKnows c/o Atlantic Records

 

Always good to connect with my guy Wale. I’m looking forward to his next album, SHINE and from what I heard in the studio with him, it should be a goodie.

Wale Has Been Hated On And Idolized, And Now He Just Wants To Shine

Love that Fader kept the conversational style of the Q&A. And much appreciation to the photog @LouisKnows, who shot while we were jamming.

Francis Starlite’s ‘Friends,’ Bon Iver and Kanye West

I’ve been rooting for this guy Francis Starlite for a while. Sometimes when I’m asked who my favorite interview subjects have been, I recall this time I spent on the phone with him for Entertainment Weekly.

I’m guessing this is his new single. Looking forward to seeing what else he’s cooking up. This is fresh.

Alton Sterling and The Talk

Do white fathers or elders have “The Talk” with their younger ones? Not The Birds & The Bees.  The talk about how to handle yourself in a world designed to oppress you. The “You have to be twice as good as them and triply as humble” talk. The tutorial on how to act when you’re around them in close quarter situations. “The police might not always be on your side” talk.

Nah, right?

What’s it like to be a Black teen and grow up in a world where footage of real black men being wrongly shot and killed by policemen is sandwiched between sneaker release tweets and NBA highlights your Instagram timeline? I’ll have to ask my brother soon. He’s in high school now, months away from turning 16. Does he see how the police and justice system treats and conditions us?

I feel bad saying this, but nowadays I have an unfortunate thought when a Trayvon or Eric or Sandra or an Alton happens:

What did the victim do wrong? Not what did the criminal policeman do! The victim should have known better than to trifle with a white cop. Did they talk back? Did they resist? Didn’t they know the game’s rigged? Once they’ve got you in their sight, in their clutches, on their minds even, it’s time to get “Yes, Sir”-“No, Sir” respectful. Hands up, knees down subdued. You might make it out alive. Maybe. Did they know? I assume No.

That’s terrible.

When the odds aren’t in your favor, the goals shift. Instead of winning (being in a world where cops see more Wrong and Right than Black and White), you pray that you’ll simply survive (live through the grim reality that officers might kill you, so be subservient and hollow yourself of pride). It’s a shame.

I want to say something resolute. Something defiant. Uplifting. I’ll always be a proud Black man. I’d never trade places with another. But it’s not a fun day to be one of us.