KICKS 5: Illunatics
KICKS 12 is coming; remember when QRich and Darius Miles ruled the (sneaker) world?
Let’s recap what we’ve seen so far. KG was on the cover of KICKS 1; that’s held up well over time. Iverson was on KICKS 2; that was and is a perfect score. Both KICKS 3 and 4 were covered by Kobe Bryant; so that was money. Looking back, yeah, we batted 1000 over the first four versions of KICKS. And then KICKS 5 came along and ruined that. Don’t get me wrong, the Jordan XVIII’s were hot. The issue with this issue is the two dudes on the cover: Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. Let’s take Darius, who was (and still is) a personal favorite of mine. DMiles was up-and-coming when this issue came out in ’02, but he didn’t deserve to be on the cover of a magazine. His on-court accomplishments didn’t come close to the hype he was receiving. Same goes for QRich. Both were so good and so young, we couldn’t help but jump the gun a little bit. And we got shot. Usually for KICKS (and SLAM), placing the newest, youngest dude on the cover (when we do) usually works out. In the case of KICKS 5, it didn’t—even thought Scoop did his usual work with the verbals. Well….there’s always this year. Be sure to check out KICKS 12 in a few, short weeks. (I think we nailed it this time around!)—Tzvi Twersky
It’s the middle of July in Southern California, and the futures—yeah, that’s plural—of Michael Jordan’s most important business venture are acting as if N.O.R.E. (aka “Nothin’”) is about to C-B their shine. From the outside looking in, you’d swear that Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson are ruling L.A. as if they played for that other local team. Their attitude, arrogance, aura; their lives, so hood, so rich. Their presence is that of stars…not now, but right fuckin’ now. It’s just that crucial. It’s a beautiful thing.
A co-ed volleyball player walks by. Q backs up; he and I smile. DMiles freezes his grill for Atiba Jefferson’s camera. He’s focused, man. Brand Jordan marketing director Gentry Humphrey enters with two three-foot high bags (pause); he busts out the 2003 Jordan XVIIIs, (pause); we all gravitate like Sopranos to blood. The surrounding kids, most of whom are participating in the basketball camp being held here on Pepperdine University’s gorgeous Malibu campus, aren’t stunned as much by the newness of the footwear as they are by the sight of Miles and Richardson. Quentin lets one of them wear his personalized Los Angeles “QRich” jersey, while Darius lets another hold his 40-inch platinum Land of Lincoln neckpiece.
DQ. Those initials don’t stand for Dairy Queen or disqualification no more. Miles and Richardson are giving 416 (figure that out) an extra, much deeper meaning. You see, L.A. has had ball stars before: West and Baylor, Jabbar and Wilkes, Worthy and Johnson, O’Neal and Bryant. Even the Clippers have had their share: Ron Harper and Danny Manning, Pooh Richardson and Lamond Murray…but none quite like these two. The Illunatics are the new L.A., representing their culture unapologetically. They are more than hip-hop, they are more than black, they—right now—are more than basketball. They are We. Me and You. Your mama and your cousins, too. And they are conscious of it. Conscious of not only every move they make, but in every move that is about to be made by them. Individually or together, it doesn’t really matter, because the game now belongs to them. As they say in L.A., “Church!”
KICKS: Q, you look swole.
QR: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve really been in the weight room. I’m naturally big, so I never paid too much attention to hitting the weights, but this summer, this is the first time I’ve actually lifted.
KICKS: Yeah, it shows. You starting to look like Karl Malone 10 years ago.
QR: That’s Tim Grover. He’s doing a great job with that. There’s a difference that I’ve never felt before, from when I started lifting in May. I just feel stronger, and I’m jumping a whole lot better than I was before, I can do dunks now that I never could do before.
KICKS: What about D? Or should I not mention Darius and weights? (Darius comes in and sits down, oblivious to the conversation.)
DM: What? (Q and I start laughing.)
KICKS: So D, what about you?
QR: He was asking what have you been working on since the season ended?
DM: Just shooting. From anywhere (Everyone laughs.) And everywhere. That’s the biggest thing with me. I need to hit big shots in big games, and to get the confidence to take big shots in games.
KICKS: Yeah, Coach put you in some situations last season where you had the ball in your hands with the game on the line. So was that like the learning experience?
DM: Yeah, that’s why I feel like I’m a veteran now. I’m not going to crack under pressure. I don’t think Q’s going to crack under pressure. I know with games on the line this year we’re going to know what to do. We ain’t rookies no more. We’ve played over 150 games. We know what we are dealing with when we’re playing.
QR: Right, we know we’re not rookies anymore. We’re no longer coming into the situation blind. Last year was kind of up and down for us, but we played better than we did our first year. Now, this is about to be our third year and we’re looking for this to be our coming-out party, for both of us. We’re looking to be big time for the Clippers. We know that we both are integral parts of the team, and in order for the team to do well, we have to be successful.
DM: We’re both coming into camp looking forward to starting this season. We took the role last season of coming off of the bench, and we were the force. When we came off of the bench, we were always in the game when it was on the line. Now we feel we need to be on another level. Ain’t no more rookie All-Star Games. We want to play on Sunday, you know [giving Q dap]. We’re just trying to do big things.
KICKS: Are you all worried about being separated? I mean, this game is still a business first.
QR: Personally, yeah. We talk about it all the time. Look at it, the situation we’re in—it’s difficult to look at it any other way. Look at it now, guys not being re-signed, guys not being taken care of. I mean, while we’re L.A. Clippers we’re going to do the best that we can do for the L.A. Clippers and take this team as far as it can go. But in the same breath, we know that our situation can change just like that and we have no control over it.
DM: Q’s his own man, just like I’m my own man. I’m going to want all the success in the world for Q and I want to play with Q for the rest of my career…but, I don’t think…c’mon, with all of the players we already have on our team? Let’s say Q is about to make the All-Star team, but because we have so many players on our team he doesn’t make it and it’s holding his game back. What’s he supposed to do? If there was a situation or reason where he had to go to another team or that I had to go to another team to be the best players we could be—like Tracy and Vince did—then we wouldn’t have a problem with that.
KICKS: No hate?
QR:We’ll still be tight. Always be tight.
DM: We’ll just be kickin’ it in the summertime.
KICKS: Let’s talk about how you all rep the company. Do you two know the status you all hold, how important you are to this Brand Jordan as far as its future is concerned?
QR: Right now, we’re where everybody else in the League wants to be. They see us with the exclusive stuff, get-it-a-year-before-it-comes-out type stuff. And cats are always trying to holla at us—especially on the shoes. It’s like, “Can I get those in [size]15s?”
KICKS: So y’all have become pimps in the kicks game?
QR: Yeah, because we got everything. You see how we are up here with Gentry? We try to get everything! Anything we can get our hands on, we got to have ’em.
DM: For real, it’s an honor to represent that man like this. First off, to be hand-picked. There’s only a very select few that got picked.
QR: Yeah, ’cause if Mike picked you to rep, then you must be doing something right. He’s the one putting his name on the line. Jordan, this is all his legacy.
KICKS: Yeah, but do you all know the weight you are carrying? The power you got?
DM: Yeah, because cats with other companies—Nike, Reebok, whatever— they still try to holla at us on the sly.
QR: “Lemme get a pair of them.” That’s how they come at us. “Could you holla at Money for me?” “Hook you mans up.” All that, all the time. We know that we are—and that we represent—the youth of this brand, and the youth is the future. We are the hip-hop side of the company. We represent the nation, the 20-year-old kid that’s deep into rap music. We’re not like anyone else on the Brand. We know that. Most of the other guys on the Brand, they dress up when they go to games. Not us. We come just like this—Jordan’d out.
DM: Plus, they ask us for input. They show us designs and certain shoes and ask us if we like them. Or should there be changes made? Should they release this shoe in these colors? They know that if we’re feelin’ it, most of the audience they’re trying to reach will feel it. And as hot as we are right now, we need to be doing a bunch of commercials.
KICKS: Got any concepts?
QR: Yeah, something with Nelly. That’s what we keep talking about. We want to do one with Nelly for Jordan. That would kill ’em.
DM: Yeah, as long as we young and hot right now, they need to go ahead and, like, give us 30 commercials.
KICKS: I heard MJ is stingy sometimes?
QR: Naw, there’s just this thing where Mike doesn’t want everyone to have the exclusive things until he’s rocked it for a little bit. But you gotta respect that.
KICKS: Q, lemme ask you something. I read a few months ago where you said that Michael Olowokandi was the most important player on the Clippers. Do you still believe that?
QR: Yeah! If we don’t get him back…[He and Darius together] we don’t have a center.
DM: More [important] than me, more than Q, more than Elton…
QR: Like it or not, he’s really one of the only players that can legitimately guard Shaq and give us a shot.
DM: He’s big enough, and if you look at the games, he’s played well against Shaq, take away that 63-point night a couple of years ago.
QR: It’s not like he outplays him—nobody’s going to outplay Shaq—but Olo holds his own. He’s not scared of Shaq. And it’s not a lot of teams or people that can say that when they play against Shaq.
KICKS: Has it gotten to that point now, even though you all didn’t make the playoffs last season, that you start looking at the Lakers as the team you have to beat to stake your claim?
DM: Naw, we’re not looking at it like that.
QR: We don’t feel like we’ve made it that far yet.
DM: We can’t worry about trying to pass the Lakers. We have to crawl before we can walk. This year we’re just trying to make the playoffs.
QR: Me personally, I just feel like, if we had made the playoffs last year, we would have been that team that nobody wanted to face in the first round.
KICKS: Not even the Lakers?
QR:We’re such a crazy team—
DM: —suprise team—
QR: —that we may have messed around and swept somebody. If they had caught us on one of those swings where we’re just ballin’…Man, no tellin’ what would have happened. And that’s one of the things we have to change about our team, we have to be consistent. We’re too wishy-washy. It’s like, which Clipper team is going to show up today?
KICKS: But that’s youth. Or is that no longer a valid excuse?
DM: Youth stopped being an excuse after our first year. Last year it wasn’t about youth. We just lost a lot of games we should have won. One game we’d blow a team out, the next night they’ll luck around and beat us.
QR: People look at our team and see how many guys we have under 23. Those guys came in at 19. Do the math. I don’t care how you look at it, after three or four years in the League, your age is no longer an issue.
KICKS: Is there going to be enough playing time in a game to keep everyone happy, or are there about to be some mad muthafuckas in Clipper uniforms this season?
QR: Muthafuckas will be mad.
QR: I know for one thing, I plan on playing 30 to 35 minutes a game this year. And I know Darius is thinking the same thing for himself. Like we said, we’re trying to break into that starting lineup. This is about to be our coming-out party. And for that to happen, that means somebody ain’t going to be playing.
DM: It’s just like, everybody has something to prove this year. For Elton and Corey, it’s contract season, Eric Piatkowski’s gonna get his, and for LO…
QR: LO’s going to look at this season like this is going to be his year because he didn’t get a chance to do his thing last year.
DM: And he’s got something to prove. He’s going to come in to switch his life around, to show the people the kind of player he really is. Add to that the rookies, Ely and Wilcox…
QR: They don’t have a chance. They are going to wind up splitting, like, eight minutes a game between themselves.
DM: I don’t even think there’s eight minutes to give them with everyone fighting for the same positions and with the way I know everyone is going to come out and play this year.
QR: And I’m going to play like I got a chip on my shoulder.
DM: With all of us, I know there’s going to be problems, but I think it will work enough for us to make the playoffs.
KICKS: Sounds like [Coach Alvin] Gentry got issues. What would you do?
DM: If I was him? The only way this can work without anyone getting as mad is if Coach puts Lamar at the point. If I’m Alvin Gentry right now, my starting lineup would be: Lamar, Q, me, Elton and Mike.
QR: If I’m Alvin Gentry I’d throw all of these names and all of the politics out the window and put the ball in our—number three and number 21’s—hands.