The NBA Finals and the world of hip hop have a lot in common; friendly competition that can become heated in the heart of a battle, larger than life personalities, subtle flair that distinguishes each participant, meticulous strategy, and the realization that whatever looks great on paper does not necessarily equate to a winning product.
This is the reality many teams face each season, and even more so in the off-season. Yet somehow, here we are again, Lakers vs. Celtics, some new faces, but same colors, same history, same rivalry as always, it seems. Hip hop does not mirror basketball in this sense because the music is more about the individual than the team identity. Artists like Jay-Z and Nas, who were once considered the leaders of the movement, have passed on their batons to artists who speak louder to the younger generation like Kanye and Lil’ Wayne. Though Nas and Jay-Z can still be considered franchises that will always have relevance due to their historic contributions and established pedigree, their glory years are most likely in the past.
Besides the Lakers and the Celtics, the NBA has second-tier teams like the Pistons, Bulls and Spurs; teams that have had a few championships in the recent past, but are realistically nowhere near the elite level necessary to hoist the trophy again. These teams can be compared to MCs like Eminem and Nelly, who were once on top of the game, but have been reduced to second-tier artists who are constantly trying to get back to the level of success they once enjoyed.
The Pistons had a second coming in ’03-04, but appear to be far away from recapturing the magic any time soon. The Spurs have kept their nucleus intact after all these years, but may be a year or two away from facing the fact that their recipe has reached its expiration date. The Bulls are not the Jordan-led, triangle offense Bulls we once knew, but they are doing a nice job of establishing a new identity with Derrick Rose & Co. and forging a new path for the young players in their franchise. The question remains, though: Can these once-elite franchises rekindle the success they once enjoyed, or has their time come and gone?
In the NBA, it’s clearly easier for a franchise to revitalize and restore its relevance, but is that necessarily a good thing? Unfortunately, the NBA has very few teams that conjure the tradition and history of teams like the Lakers and Celtics. I think it’s time for some new rivalries and champions in the NBA. Teams like the Suns, Magic, Cavs and Nuggets need to step up and take the reins, but when your franchise history does not include any rings, does that make it harder to get over the hump?
No one expected the Celtics to be where they are this year after the regular season, but they have players who know what it takes to win the big game and younger players whose abilities have started to catch up to their potential. The Suns, Magic, Cavs and Nuggets clearly have a lot of talent, but none of the teams have a coach who has won an NBA Championship or numerous players who have done so. These teams can be compared to artists like Drake — a promising talent who is on the cusp, but just may need a tweak or two to really get to the next level.
The NBA also has several younger teams like the Bucks, Hawks, Thunder, Blazers and Bobcats that are starting to push to the top and develop their own identities despite not having any recent tradition of winning on their side. These teams can be compared to artists like me, who fans and experts are just starting to notice as having the potential to become a successor to the champions of the past and forge their own tradition.
Though nothing is constant in hip hop or the NBA, with hard work, a winning formula and a little bit of luck, potential can become reality. Like hip hop, the NBA needs this potential to be realized so that new life can be breathed in to the tradition and history.
Check out all things Stalley at myspace.com/madstalley and download his critically acclaimed project The Autobiography. Stalley also has a show on Creative Control called “The Milq” so come see what Stalley has been up to. And if you wanna get a little more friendly, say hello to Stalley on Facebook.
Stalley has upcoming shows in Columbus, OH at Skully’s June 18, in New Orleans at the 2010 NOLA Jam June 19 and in Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Bowl June 21.