Different and Good Aren’t Mutually Exclusive Things



Things change, develop, and evolve. Look at humans. Nothing stays the same. Movies used to be shot on film in standard definition, and now they’re filmed digitally in 4K High Definition. As time goes by, the quality raises. It’s true for video resolution, and it’s true for athletic skills and for rap technical skills. Which leads me to what we’re here talking about right now. Basketball players are better now than they were in the 80’s and rappers are better now than they were in the 90’s.

I know what you’re thinking, Jordan “Mr. International” Paladino, what about Michael Jordan or Rakim? To which I respond: Malcolm Gladwell. There’s always going to be things from the past that supersede the present. Rakim is better than Chedda Da Connect (but I’ll be damned if “Flicka Da Wrist” isn’t more fun than “Microphone Fiend”). Yes Michael Jordan is better than Brandon Jennings. That’s irrelevant–just as much as you can’t compare LeBron James to Ozell Jones (some random player on the 1986 Los Angeles Clippers). The real meat and potatoes of the NBA in the aughts is performed at a higher level than in the 80’s and 90’s. The average rapper selling mix-tapes on Atlantic Avenue is better than Moozaliny, AKA “Big Syke” AKA “Little Psycho”.

If you think about it, there’s as much to admire about Magic Johnson as there is about Dwyane Wade. You can love A Tribe Called Quest and think Chance The Rapper is amazing. Dwyane Wade, through modern technology and human evolution, is arguably more athletically gifted than Magic Johnson, and as far as overall technical proficiency (flows, rhyming capacity, vocal capabilities, etc.) Chance The Rapper is better at rapitty rapping than Phife Dawg or Q Tip. Magic, Phife, and Tip are all legends and were great at what they did (you can call them the best ever), and to deny their skills is shortsighted. It’s reverse Matthew McConaughey in Dazed And Confused. We get older and they get younger. In 20 years some kid who is being born right now will have five NBA MVPs and I’ll be the old guy complaining about how Vince Carter could beat any of these dudes in one-on-one (I look forward to that day too).

I understand the unwillingness to let a shift happen. LeBron James is my favorite basketball player of all time, and over the last few years seeing Kawhi Leonard and Wardell “Steph” Curry II, the unanimous MVP, win NBA Finals over LeBron was tough to watch. I remember thinking to myself, Is this the end of LeBron James?

What am I supposed to do, have a new all time favorite player? Then it hit me that it doesn’t really even matter. When LeBron lost to Dallas in 2011, being only defined by careers of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan or Julius Erving didn’t make sense. LeBron shouldn’t be devalued because some guys 30 years ago won more championships. magic-johnson-best-nba-player-ever-21430910

In the 1980’s, the concept of a stretch 5 was unheard of, but it almost seems weird to think of teams drafting multiple 7-footers to dominate the paint and start a dynasty. In the 80’s, hardly anyone rapped in multi-syllabic rhymes, or did triplet or double time flows. Young Thug raps more on “Digits” off 2016’s excellent Slime Season 3 mix-tape than Big Daddy Kane did his whole career. Has AZ ever recorded anything without Nas?

My question to you Generation X-ers out there is why do I have to accept to that Illmatic is a classic and y’all can’t give Barter 6 by Young Thug ANY love? Who cares if its different? Different is the status quo. It’s boring when things don’t change, that’s why no one is buying anything Lil Wayne puts out anymore. Would you really want to watch a team play basketball like the Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s? Or do you want to see what we’re all hoping the 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors will play like? I think ball movement, five shooters, with a 6’7” center and a 6’11” power forward  is pretty exciting stuff.

Again, people who are just developing an eye for basketball, or an ear for rap music, are allowed to like Method Man just as much as Future. That doesn’t make them stupid or less knowledgeable. Future has melodies for days and Method Man’s catchiest chorus is basically a kindergarten spelling lesson . If I need to get off your lawn, then you need to get out of my dive bar.


Jordan Paladino is a Portland comedian, internet troll, rapper, and writer for the show “Who’s the Ross?” He is a staunch defender of all things Lebron James, Drake, and Kanye West. He is also a KD hater. We try not to hold these things against him.

Book Review: Boys Among Men

Don’t sleep on this guy just because he looks like Eli the Rapper’s older brother. Jonathan Abrams is one of the best NBA writers in the game right now. He asks the questions that somehow escape other writers; creating story angles that provide different player narratives than the ones most mainstream outlets whiff on. Also, did I mention that he is thorough?

Jonathan Abrams is a USC graduate (boo!) who worked at both the L.A. and New York Times. When he wrote for the now defunct Grantland, he would pop up with a feature on players like Harrison Barnes, Andre Miller, Zach Randolph, J.R. Smith, and Greg Oden, or write about random journeymen like former Jayhawk great Thomas Robinson, Paul Milsap, and other players who find a way to fly under the radar of the national media.

It was always exciting to see his columns pop up on the Grantland homepage because you were guaranteed a quality piece (not always a guarantee on that site) on a player that would make you reexamine the way you originally thought about them. Abrams even had me halfway considering not hating on Austin Rivers, a guy who was a perennial “Buster of the Week” nominee the past 2 NBA seasons. That’s how good of a writer Jonathan Abrams  is.

At least once a month I’d hit someone with the “Abrams has done it again” text after reading one of his “Oral History” columns; the most notable ones being the “Malice at the Palace” and Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals. Word on the street is that he is currently  working on an oral history of famed television show, The Wire.

“Abrams is the rare reporter who unearths new details about the most famous prep-to-pro stars, like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, and tells the complex stories of those who didn’t make it in the NBA. A must read for any basketball fan.

Earlier this year, Abrams blessed the game with his book, Boys Among Men, an examination about the “Prep-to-Pro” phenomenon that started in the 70’s and hit its apex  in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Abrams opens this examination with a chapter that reflects on players like Bill Willoughby, Darryl Dawkins, and Moses Malone; players from the 70’s who made the jump when the NBA was operating under a different financial landscape. Rookie contracts weren’t the financial windfall that the 90’s players landed (indirectly leading to an NBA lockout in 1999) and the risk was much greater for these prep pioneers who made the jump for various reasons.

Abrams goes into great detail about the situations that each Prep-to-Pro player faced when making their decision. Whereas Kobe Bryant (who people forget was a late lottery pick who had to prove himself) came from a privileged upbringing, guys like Amare Stoudemire and Lebron James came from impoverished backgrounds.

Abrams interviews general managers and other front office heads who were behind the scenes of these historic drafts. They detail the reasons why players like Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Kobe Bryant succeeded in contrast to players like Korleone Young, Kwame Brown, Leon Smith, and Lenny Cooke, who didn’t quite pan out. There are no what if’s in these books, because the why’s are all laid out for the reader.

One of the biggest questions that gets raised (but isn’t quite answered) is if the rules the NBA implemented to keep high school seniors from declaring for the draft are fair. For players experiencing economic hardships, these rules seem harsh–especially for those players who are equipped to handle the process as mature adults. Despite the cautionary tales of the players who should have gone to college (or overseas like Brandon Jennings), it seems to me like the rules were implemented to save the NBA owners from themselves.

After the success of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, the pressure to not miss again on young, but high level prospects,  was just as immense as taking a flyer on a high school player and blowing a year’s worth of draft picks. On the surface it seems like an unconstitutional rule that could be fought by the NBA players union (especially considering the league instituted a rookie cap after the first lockout in 1999).

Jonathan Abrams does extensive interviews throughout, with players’ family members, AAU coaches, friends, and agents and gives a behind the scenes look at what happens on draft day for these franchises and the young players they are taking. The book lends a better understanding of the various factors that go into a player’s successes and failures, and sometimes the only thing separating this outcome is a little bit of luck.

Sometimes it is a matter of landing on the right team and getting a support system that isn’t there for some players; whether that be coaches, other players, or “sponsors” who happen to work within the organization. While sometimes it is matter of performing in front of the right people at the right time.

If you’ve ever wondered why a guy like Tyson Chandler is still in the league as a veteran while Eddy Curry was not able to live up to his “potential” then this is the book  for you. Boys Among Men gets an A + . Hiring Jonathan Abrams was a HUGE get for The Bleacher Report .