Tag Archive: kobe bryant


 

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While my childhood was one of many defined by what came next, as an adult I can’t really argue with anyone who feels ‘Off the Wall’ is a superior album.  Spike’s documentary captures all the reasons why.

As the title suggests, the first half covers the journey and how (absurd as it sounds now), Michael Jackson was having a hard time figuring out how to be taken seriously.  He was the bubblegum kid singer, he was the novelty at the front of the novelty act the Jackson 5.  As (a nice interview choice here) Kobe Bryant explained, young Mike was a hardcore student of his craft.  Not just studying Sammy Davis Jr’s moves, and James Brown’s moves, but how the industry treated them as black stars.

After ‘the Jacksons’ became a success after leaving Motown, it was time.  The concert footage really captures why ‘Rock With You’ is one of my favorite videos.  No one (in all the good and bad ways) was more theatrical than Michael Jackson, but he could blow you away with nothing but the microphone in his hand.  A great vocalist.

The last third of the film is the track by track breakdown.  Everyone from Questlove to his brothers, to Stevie Wonder breaking down ‘the last great disco record.’ Rock With You. Off the Wall. She’s Out of My Life. I Can’t Help It. Turn this Disco Out.

Yep, that album still holds up.  So does this doc.

Was a Showtime exclusive for a long time, now you can rent it on iTunes and I assume your other digital channels.

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8/24.  Kobe Bryant Day in the City of Angels.

Whoever came up with this concept initially, Kobe Inc., the Lakers, the City Council, take a bow.  That’s a good marketing idea.

Enjoy!

 

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Don’t plan for this to be a weekly thing, but these past two causes are things I dig so…

On his way out the door, Kobe is using his goodbye game as a way to raise money for a few of the foundations he attaches his name to.  For a Lakers fan and a guy who’s attracted to the ‘historic’ nights, this is a pretty cool idea in my eyes.

Full details at the site below.

Good luck!

Kobe’s Last Game

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Soon to be retired Kobe Bryant said something once I liked. Paraphrasing here, ‘Before you get the ring, they’ll say you’re one of the guys who can’t win the ring.  You get one, they say you can’t get two.  And on and on, so the talk never stops.’ So just focus on the work, knowing people will find some reason to criticize you no matter what you do.

This year, more than any since I first moved to L.A., I really fell in love with ‘the Process’ again.  I wake up every morning with a smile on my face like I used to. Having a year plus of meditation under my belt helps.  I think to be truthful getting burned a few times around the block helped as well.  I don’t have ‘plans’ anymore.  To be clear, I have goals and strategies in place to accomplish the goals.  But we know what God does to plans.  So I always give myself enough flexibility to deal with whatever unexpectedly comes.  I’m more relaxed with this mindset and it shows.

‘Trojan War’ is the gift that keeps on giving.  Having some space now since when it came out, I can digest all the different lessons I took from that experience.  My personal biggest takeaway from that project?  If I can contribute to and be a major part of a ‘dream’ project, without crossing a line I don’t feel comfortable crossing, either as a black man, a Muslim or a generally ethical human being?  Why cross the line on projects that are straightforward jobs?  Why cross the line in life? So everything I’m building and everything that’s coming, you can thank Aaron and ESPN for raising the bar and proving I can do it my way.

Some of you ‘Scandal’ fans became familiar with a line a lot of grew up with: ‘You have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have.’  So with my double minority status, does that mean I have to work four times as hard?  Or, actually, to get everything I want and feel I deserve, eight times as hard to really finish the job?

Challenge accepted.

I’ve never really had a ‘perfect example’ of a single person who’s covered all the bases I try to cover in life (racial, spiritual, professional).  It’s been a huge blessing and a huge curse at times to see no one really filling what I feel is ‘my spot’.  What I have embraced the past year, especially in the climate we live in, is the impossible standard I have to hold myself to, to even have a chance.  I make a genuine mistake, it gets used as proof I ‘don’t deserve the opportunity.’  I get approached sideways, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a genuine competitive threat, or an attempt to pull me down and away from my goals, I always have to take the high road.  Even if human nature would make it obvious I’d be more than willing to handle it another way.  Can’t do it.  Nine times out of ten, I’ll have a lot more to lose by getting involved in every minor slight.  For all intents and purposes, it’s been the progressive removal of my ‘off switch’ in service of something bigger than myself.

So, thanks Obama, for giving me an example to shoot for.

Been a great year, but more to come.

Back next week.

Thanks, Bean…

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Now that it’s officially coming to an end, we can step back and appreciate the career of one of the best to ever lace them up.  As Adande and Durant noted, Kobe’s place will probably be best remembered as the bridge between Jordan and the current greats.

Everyone will have their own ‘favorite’ moments. As someone who definitely saw more of the day in day out regular season games than most NBA fans, today’s clip goes back to a game that, I’ll always remember watching live, and like many Laker fans screamed ‘THIS MUTHAF&&&A!’ at the top of my lungs. Twice. And yes, for those of us wired to enjoy the silence that comes from shutting people up as we enjoy the love of our supporters…this is one of the best.

The setting: Portland. Last game of the season. With a win, the Lakers secure the second seed and the Pacific Division.

Enjoy.

And thanks for the memories Kobe.

 

Griffith Observatory

I made my annual trip to Griffith Observatory this weekend.  I saw a show that wasn’t playing on my last trip, and as usual I marveled at how big the Universe is, and how small we are, and how much we still don’t know.

I walked outside; darkness had fallen.  I looked out over Los Angeles.  My city.  My home.  And I felt…frustrated.

At this point, I was supposed to be putting the finishing touches on my rise to the Crown.  Kobe would be closing in on ring 6, and I’d be courtside with Jack, who’d be grooming me to be the next ‘Laker Fan Number One’ when he’s eventually gone.  That was the plan anyway.

But the best laid plans…

As I’m thinking this, I feel his presence.  Dressed in a dark jacket not that much different my own.  He’s sharp, but in such a public, touristy place like this, nobody really notice us.  We look at most like two extras out of a Michael Mann film; maybe people glance for a second, but then they immediately go back to their own business.

The Devil’s voice is charming and playful.  Like the voice of VD in that Chappelle skit with the puppets:

‘Why hello Malik Aziz!  Haven’t seen you in a while!’

‘Nasty muthafu…’

‘It’s not too late for you, my old friend.’

‘Not too late for what?’

‘The courtside seats.  The customized black Maserati GranTurismo Sport with gold trim.  You know, the Devil is not one to spread gossip, but you give me a year to build up your profile and status, and Beyonce might be back on the market…’

‘Uh huh.  Yeah, well, I’m not Michael anymore.’

‘Oh please!  You were posting MJ songs on Facebook three days ago!’

‘How do you know that?’

‘I’m one of your Facebook stalkers.’

‘I guess.  Anyway, not MJ.  I’m not Michael Corleone anymore.  I don’t daydream about that kind of stuff like I used to.’

‘And what do you dream about?’

‘I have visions of my woman admiring me for making peace with climbing as high up this mountain as I can without completely selling out what I stand for and what I believe in.  I see my children looking at my actions and seeing all the major decisions I made: who I married, where I lived, what I prioritized; and appreciating that it all started with love.  And hopefully no matter what I try to teach them, when it’s their time to make those life choices, they’ll start from the same place.’

We’re quiet in each other’s presence for awhile.  The moon is out tonight.

‘The world is not kind to honest men, Malik.  And this thing you’re passionate about, even less so.’

‘Man, I learned all that before I left Kansas.  I guess now I’m just really starting to accept it.  I told you, my ego is content now with who and what I attract through my natural abilities and personality.  You have nothing else to offer me.’

‘So be it.  Jedi.’

The Devil slinks away to make a deal with some other insecure, tortured soul.  This is Hollywood.  I’m pretty sure he got that done before he got to the parking lot.

I take a deep breath, and I look out over my city.

My home.

I turn my phone on and send a sarcastic text to one of my aces.

I jump back in the Matrix and like my people’s posts and updates to let them know I’m thinking about them and I’m glad they’re doing well.

I walk back down the hill to my car and put on the Easy Star.

I feel at peace.  It’s been a good night.

 

 

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Well, we can already start looking back on this Lakers season as being one of those ‘Sedale Threatt’ type years.  Alas…

Even most (definitely not all) of the people who don’t care for Kobe personally felt a little empathy at seeing a fierce competitor almost literally go down swinging.

I have no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of #24 on an NBA court.  This one is for the current King of L.A: Get Well Kobe! Signed, Laker Nation.

 

Well, since we won’t get Vetoed out of a deal this time, we in the Laker Nation have started daydreaming again about getting back into the Finals next year.  I was in the minority apparently in the group who were Andrew Bynum fans, but I won’t deny the logic in trading the 2nd best center in the league for the best center in the league.  So Opening Night we’re trotting a starting lineup of Nash, Kobe, World Peace, Gasol and Howard.  Undeniably impressive but what could go wrong?  Well…

  1. He’s Dwight Howard.  That’s right, I haven’t so quickly forgotten the past 12 months.  Or the majority of his career for that matter.  Yes, he’s never had teammates this good, he’s a statistical giant.  As funny as his Kobe impression was, I’m still in a ‘wait and see’ mode on him when the going gets tough.  And from what I hear, he’s still going to test the free agent market (which I can’t knock him or any player for, it’s their right, but still…)
  2. His Hall of Fame teammates are past their prime.  In Nash’s case, way past his prime. In Kobe’s case, for those of you who don’t watch every game, last year’s series against the Thunder illustrated that even Kobe can’t turn it on at will the way he could have even a couple years ago.  On paper, I think this team is better, but I do remember going through a very similar dance the summer Gary Payton and Karl Malone came here to team with Shaq and Kobe.  That team was too talented to not be in the Finals, but they still lost.  (And to be honest, I wasn’t that upset about it since I couldn’t stand Karl Malone.)  One more…
  3. What if World Peace snaps at the worst possible time?  Look, I love the guy, but who among us is really saying, ‘No that would NEVER happen!’  Really?  Have you already forgotten when he tried to elbow James Harden’s teeth straight?

So all that aside, I’m hoping for the best obviously.  Just trying to temper the enthusiasm until they get on the court.  Bring on football for now.

 

 

One of my earliest memories as a sports fan was turning to the news and literally watching the Kings leave town on their way to Sacramento.  I had my Chiefs and Royals, but I was an NBA free agent.  Like so many other black folks of the early 80s though, it didn’t take long at all to find a team (and player) I naturally gravitated toward…

The first A I ever got in school, ever, was writing a book report on one of my heroes.  And that hero was Magic Johnson.  He was the centerpiece of the Showtime Lakers, he was a great player and he always had a smile for the camera.  My first memory of yelling at the TV in celebration was Magic’s baby hook over that punk Larry Bird and those damn Boston Celtics.  When I wasn’t practicing my moonwalk, I was down at the playground with my friends throwing weak ass behind the back passes.  Even today, whenever I hear Hall & Oates’ “One on One” I think of Magic running the break and throwing a no look to Big Game James.  I’m still debating how I feel about these pictures seeing the light of day at some point, but one of my best Christmas presents ever (at the time) was a hideous varsity jacket style purple and gold Magic Johnson sweater.  If you would have told me at that age that the hands of Fate would not only guide me to this city, but that I would see Magic on a fairly regular basis and even get to exchange pleasantries with him, I probably would have been the first 8 year old to die from cardiac arrest.  When he retired because of HIV, I was devastated as you can imagine.  But I kept following the team.  Even through the Nick Van Exel/Sedale Threatt/Cedric Ceballos years, the Lakers were still my team.  There has only been one time I openly rooted against them…

My second year out here was 2001, the year the Sixers made the Finals.  Magic is the player I grew up idolizing, but Iverson is my favorite player of my generation.   Initially I wasn’t looking for trouble when I wore my Iverson jersey in the week leading up to the Finals.  But boy you want to talk about hearing some noise!  Everywhere I went that week, ‘Sweep, Sweep, Sweep!’  And I knew the Sixers weren’t winning the Finals, but I wanted my boy to at least take one game.  The Lakers had won 19 in a row to that point; for those of you who hate the current version of the team, right now is NOTHING compared to the arrogance of those days trust me.  Iverson’s 48 that night probably put him in the Hall of Fame and I was probably the only cat in L.A. cheering; seeing Iverson with his chest out with a humbled Byron Allen in the background is still one of my top 5 sports fan moments ever. 

(And that wasn’t a joke, it’s at the 6:25 mark of this clip of the broadcast from that night:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKjmo3oiCd8)

That personal moment aside though, the Lakers represent everything people either love or hate about L.A.  They’re glamorous, star driven, and (even an objective sports fan has to admit) the owner wants to win championships.  I’ve heard stories of course, but to this point I’ve never crossed paths with Mr. Bryant.  To watch him now, where he realizes his best individual days are probably behind him, but he also realizes another ring (or two) puts him undeniably into The Conversation, I have to admit it’s fun to watch.  We’ll see how Tiger plays it, but once Kobe just said (essentially) “I’m a hyper-competitive basketball nerd and the more I get away from that, the less true to myself I’m being,” the better things have turned out for him.  And when Kobe’s time has come and gone, I have little doubt the Lakers will trade, draft or sign as a free agent another of the top 5 players in the Association at that time.  That’s just what the Lakers do.

While we all have different ‘favorite’ films in black cinema, it is my argument, using the criteria I’ve established (relevance to black culture, the legacy or shelf life of the project after the initial release, the actual craftmanship of the filmmaking, the degree to which the film was noticed/recognized by the mainstream, and the Apollo or ‘Wow’ moments that stand out from the project) one film stands as more important to black cinema than any other film made to this point.  It probably comes as little surprise that I feel the most important film has been made by black cinema’s most important filmmaker, Spike Lee.  After the production and response that came with the second most important black film, Do the Right Thing, Spike was well versed in the good and bad of controversy.

Because of that, there really wasn’t anyone more qualified than Spike to do a film about one of the most controversial and polarizing African-Americans in history.  For those of us who admire and respect him, the film is a fitting tribute to his greatness.  For those of you who ‘don’t get it’ or simply can’t stand him, you (as always) will find elements in Spike’s film to validate your point of view…

Kobe Doin’ Work is a 2009 Spike Lee documentary that shows us what a typical NBA game is like through the eyes of the best player of his generation, and one of the best ever, former MVP, four time NBA champion, and future first ballot Hall of Famer, Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bean Bryant.

Put down the cell phone.  Delete that hostile text message, email, or comment you were about to send me.  It’s called sarcasm people.  GOTCHA!!!

 OK, now I’ll ‘make it plain…’

Malcolm X is a 1992 Spike Lee film based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Anchored by an Oscar worthy performance by Denzel Washington, the film is a 210 minute epic that rode in on a new wave of black nationalism, and in large part it delivered on the hype that surrounded it.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: 

Fade in from the Warner Brothers logo.  The introductory speaker hypes the crowd and introduces Malcolm.  Malcolm (Denzel), also in voiceover, starts in with a vicous tirade, charging the white race with all the genocide that’s happened throughout history.  The visual over this is two-fold: footage of the Rodney King beating that sparked the Los Angeles riots, and an American flag burning, until it forms an “X.”

Any questions?

Legacy:

If you want one reason why this is the most important black film made to this point, here is my argument:  Spike always had it in mind to make a 3 hour epic.  Warner Brothers had the money, they wanted a 2 hour movie tops.  Spike shot everything he wanted to shoot, put most of his salary back in the movie, hoping WB would get on board after the film was nearly done.  Nope.  Spike ran out of money, the bond company (i.e. the insurance if you’re not familiar with film lingo) wasn’t chipping in.  This project was dead.  So Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Tracy Chapman, Prince, and Peggy Cooper-Cafritz gave Spike the money to finish the film.  Read that last sentence as many times as you need to.  Those were at the time, and continue to be some of the most wealthy and influential African-Americans of this or any other generation, and they all chipped in so Spike could finish his film.  Warner Brothers eventually manned up and provided the financing, but with the possible exception of the election of the last President of the U.S., there may never be a better example of a harmony between a philosophy (blacks supporting/investing in our own) and seeing that philosophy carried out.

Craft: 

“You see, Islam is the only religion that gives both husband and wife a true understanding of what love is.  The Western ‘love’ concept, you take it apart, it really is lust.  But love transcends just the physical.  Love is disposition, behavior, attitude, thoughts, likes, dislikes – these things make a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife.  This is the beauty that never fades.  You find in your Western civilization that when a man’s wife’s physical beauty fails, she loses her attraction.  But Islam teaches us to look into the woman, and teaches her to look into us.”

– From the Autobiography

I’ll be the first to admit it often gets lost in the shuffle of the politics and messages of this film, but on repeated viewings, it’s harder to ignore how well written and acted the relationship between Malcolm and Betty (Angela Bassett) is played out.  Although it’s obviously based on two real, high profile figures in black history, it still deserves to be mentioned among the best love stories in black film.  Their courtship is sweet and very high-school sweetheart-ish, she’s devoted to him and him to her.  When the people he’s representing stab him in the back, it’s his wife who calls him out on it and challenges him.  As played in the film, she is truly his best friend.  The revelation struck me so hard I asked a few of my happily married friends, “Is your wife your best friend?”, and they all answered without hesitation, “Absolutely.”  I have friends who are looking for their Claire Huxtable or Michelle Obama (the woman who can be bad by herself and together they will be a power couple).  And obviously, there is nothing wrong with that model in the least.  Personally though, I’m looking for my Betty Shabazz (as played by Angela Bassett):  loyal, nurturing, maternal, but who will challenge me without hesitation if I’m wrong or out of line.  A true ‘partner in crime’, or as the young people say, a woman who will ‘Make Me Better.’

Crossover: 

Absolutely; even today this might have been the most hyped black film made to date.  They were rocking X baseball caps in the suburbs; it wasn’t even politics, it was fashionable.  Denzel lost the Oscar to Pacino who won for ‘Scent of a Woman’.  Definitely a career Oscar, similar to when Denzel did finally win Best Actor…for ‘Training Day.’  Spike was still in his prime pissing Hollywood off in general, so no little golden men for him.  Still hasn’t gotten any; will be interesting to see if he gets the Scorsese treatment somewhere down the line.

Apollo:

The dead man walking sequence of Malcolm going to the Audobon.  It was the first time I remember hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,”;  in all of black cinema there may never be a more perfect use of music with images.  But that’s just the beginning.  You have the cross cutting of Betty and the kids, the assassins, and the ‘Agency’ all converging on the Ballroom.  You have the signature Spike Lee ‘shot’ of Malcolm floating down the sidewalk.  And the coup de gras is the nice bystander telling an exhausted Malcolm to keep ‘doing what he’s doing’, followed up with the line, “Jesus will protect you.”  And yes, I’ll admit personal bias here and say that line and Malcolm’s (Denzel’s) reaction is my single favorite shot/reverse shot in any film.

So there you have it.  Later this month, the most important black television show…