How Producer and Professor 9th Wonder Influences Duke’s Basketball Stars 🔵😈

by March 20, 2019

Patrick Douthit is a professor at Duke, and he’s one of the biggest Blue Devil basketball fans on the school’s campus. But you know him by a different name: 9th Wonder.

The legendary hip-hop producer—he’s made beats for Jay-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and pretty much every other big rapper in the industry over the last 15 years—has also been a professor at Duke since 2010, teaching courses like “Hip-Hop History” and “Hip-Hop Cinema” in the African & African American Studies department.

Despite growing up in nearby Winston-Salem, 9th Wonder didn’t become a diehard Duke fan until the early ’90s, when the Blue Devils won back-to-back titles and reached the national championship game in three out of four years. Some 20 years later when 9th started teaching at Duke, he received a Twitter DM from the star of those Duke teams: Grant Hill. 9th invited Hill—a beatmaker in his own right—to come by his studio and kick it. Hill brought along his old friend and then-Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel, and through Capel, 9th eventually met Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“He talks about my Instagram a lot,” 9th says of Coach K, who is now a friend. “Like he’ll say, Man, you put a lot of stuff on your Instagram. Because he’s a lurker on the ’Gram. Nobody knows this guy’s IG. He’s on there.”

Coach K is right—9th is constantly posting about Duke hoops on social media, bragging about his Blue Devils. “Arguably, we’re the most watched team in basketball,” the professor explains. “Probably the only team that’s watched more than us is the Golden State Warriors. Whether you are a Duke hater or supporter, you are watching us.”

Over the years, 9th has built relationships with future pros who have passed through the Duke program, from Jabari Parker to Jayson Tatum, and they stay in touch. But it’s always in his capacity as a teacher first and a fan second. Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee were among his first students, and this year he’s spotted Tre Jones and Zion Williamson in his classes, too.

“I may swing by a practice or two, just to see what’s going on and just say what’s up. I definitely go to the games. But the majority of the time, my interaction with those players is in my classroom,” he explains. “You gotta do my work, bruh. Like, Where’s that paper? What’s up with that presentation, though?

The bravest Blue Devils have even shown up at 9th’s studio to rap for him. Marvin Bagley III could really rhyme, 9th says. There’s an unreleased track featuring Parker, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon all rapping stashed away somewhere in his studio. Grayson Allen stopped by once. And this past summer when 9th met high school stars Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot and Cassius Stanley at Nike EYBL’s Peach Jam, they all wanted to spit for him, too. “Everyone claims they got bars,” he laughs.

Bars or not, the door to his studio is always open. “I’m in academia, but I also care about the culture these guys receive. They’re already receiving an amazing basketball culture, but the other side of things, I’m very cognizant of giving them that.”

Abe Schwadron is the Managing Editor at numberFire and a former Senior Editor at SLAM.

Photo by Jon Lopez.