The Golden State Warriors closed out the 2017 NBA Finals on Monday, June 12 with a Game 5 victory over the Cavs in Oakland. Roughly 72 hours later, after averaging a triple-double in the Finals, LeBron James was already back in the gym. LeBron posted a selfie video on Instagram from the weight room, rapping along as Tee Grizzley’s single “First Day Out” blasted through his speaker system at full volume.
“It felt like a real dream,” the Detroit rapper says of that moment. He first saw LeBron’s IG post when a flurry of fans bombarded his DMs with the link. “It’s one thing for someone like that to be listening to it, but for him to actually be rapping it, that’s what I’ve been working for—for it to get to everybody’s ears. It’s hard to get people to rap your music, to really feel it like that. So I was grateful for it. He did a lot for me, for my following.”
Later that day, Jay-Z mentioned the up-and-comer in a flurry of tweets where he named rappers who inspire him, even going so far as to call “First Day Out” the best song out. Yep, June 15 was a good day for Tee Grizzley.
Perhaps even better than the day a few months back when Miami center Hassan Whiteside invited him to hang out at his house on South Beach. “We had dinner and really kicked it,” Tee remembers. “Bro’s house was so cold. The food was cooked by a chef—that was the first time I had a personal chef cook for me. That house was crazy.”
Born Terry Wallace, the 23-year-old grew up rooting for the hometown Pistons teams led by Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace, but also for Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and the Celtics. And while Grizzley never played ball growing up (because, he jokes, “I was too good, I would never lose, so I just didn’t play”), these days he’ll never pass up a chance to shoot around while on the road, if the hotel has a court or there’s an LA Fitness nearby. He describes his game as a mix of Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird—“All three at once.”
In light of his new NBA fans, Tee’s added the Cavs and Heat to his list of favorites, and he considers LeBron the GOAT: “I think he is—him and Hassan Whiteside are the greatest players of all time. Because they rock with me, so I feel like they’re the greatest.”
His debut album, My Moment, picked up buzz during this year’s playoffs, with lyrical references to Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, among others. “Next NBA Finals,” he says, “I expect to perform at halftime.”
Abe Schwadron is the Managing Editor at numberFire and a former Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @abe_squad.
Photos via Bobbi Digital.