Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Odds on Favorite for 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year

My Odds on Favorite for 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year

What one heck of a draft! Personally, I didn't see as many surprises as I expected, like the big-name trades and what have you but the depth of this draft kept me interested all the way through pick 60 (as my Brooklyn Nets traded for Baylor forward Cory Jefferson). Teams really did a great job of taking advantage of one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. The parity between the worst teams and the best is slowly but surely disappearing, especially with a class like this one. Only time will tell if this draft will live up to the hype like the 2003 NBA Draft did, or even older like the '84 and '96 draft. All I can say is, i'm excited for more NBA basketball already!

I had to take this opportunity to pick my favorite for Rookie of the Year. Yes, I know it may be too early to know anything, but how could I not? Wouldn't be me if I didn't!

Sorry, I had to pick the obvious favorite Andrew Wiggins. This guy not only will be a problem for opposing teams next season, but for years to come. The Cavs really found a gem in Wiggins. A combo of him and Kyrie Irving should be one that will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future. I'm really excited to see how good Wiggins is against NBA competition. Here's why I think he'll trump the efforts of every rookie this upcoming season.

He'll get a chance to do what he does best from day one: Score

Andrew Wiggins completely dominated college competition. He is one heck of a scorer and that trait is one that I think always translates well to the NBA. If you know how to put the ball in the basket, chances are you can have a fruitful career in the league. He was a nightmare to guard, hey, remember this game versus the West Virginia Mountaineers?

Though the Jayhawks were on the losing end, Andrew Wiggins showed many NBA scouts his impressive takeover ability. Wiggins put up 41 points on 12-of-18 shooting while sinking 15-of-19 from the charity stripe to go along with 8 rebounds. This was a completely dominant effort by Wiggins. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins couldn't help but to credit Wiggins by saying "I've never seen him play like that," Huggins said. "When he makes shots he's really difficult to defend." Couldn't have said it any better, coach. Wiggins will have plenty of nights like this in the NBA.

Defense, defense, defense

It's a blessing when your rookie draftee makes it his business to let everyone know that one of his goals is to make the NBA All-Defensive Team from day one. Wiggins said "I want to come in and create an impact off the bat, offensively and defensively," Wiggins said. "Be a good teammate, be a good part of the organization. I want to be on the All-Defensive team, be Rookie of the Year, make the All-Star team." Very lofty goals for someone who hasn't suited up yet, but you've GOT to appreciate that. As a coach, GM, or owner, you relish these words from the young guy that you chose to take first overall in the draft. Wiggins also continued to say "I try to set goals with the person I'm guarding," Wiggins said. "I don't like when my man scores -- even when I'm on the bench and he scores, it makes me mad." Here's some of his Cavaliers introduction interview right here:

Defense is what set Wiggins apart from other top prospect Jabari Parker. Though they both possess a scorer's mentality, Wiggins is definitely the better 2-way player, and obviously the Cavaliers agree, especially GM David Griffin. "Andrew's a player we couldn't be happier to have here for many, many reasons," Griffin said. "Primarily because he's a two-way player." New coach David Blatt chimed in as well,  "One of Andrew's greatest qualities is that he can play both ends of the court, and there's always minutes for a guy who does that." Strong words, strong words.

Momma's Athleticism=His Athleticism

For anyone who doesn't know, Andrew Wiggins' mom is former Olympic silver medalist Marita Payne-Wiggins. Though his dad is a former NBA player, Andrew attributes his freakish athleticism to his mom. Wiggins said he got his legs, speed, and his jumping ability from his mom. He possesses an explosive first step & crazy vertical leap will help him blow past defenders and finish at the rim among the trees. His lateral quickness and length is what will make him a hellacious perimeter defender, and even better, he'll be able to defend both wing positions. Many people question his passion for the game and if that will hinder him in using his physical gifts to destroy the league from day one. I think not. I feel as though Andrew felt as though college was just a waste of a year for him, he probably felt as though this should be his sophomore year in the league. Mom's genes did Andrew tons of justice.

Overall, Wiggins will get a chance to play early and often. He and Kyrie will mesh off the bat, and as said, it will be a wonder to watch. He's an easy 16-20 point scorer from day one and that's not going to be his ceiling. Improvement on his ball handling, assertiveness, and consistency will make him nearly unstoppable. In my opinion, Andrew Wiggins has the chance to be the league's best player down the road (don't shoot me!). He will run away with next year's Rookie of The Year Award. Cavalier fans should be licking their chops to see this guy take the court.

The Cavaliers will definitely get more love from me in the next NBA 2k!

Who could steal the show?

Jabari Parker (Bucks, Forward), Julius Randle (Lakers, Forward), Marcus Smart (Celtics, Guard), Nerlens Noel (76ers, Center), Aaron Gordon (Magic, Forward)

Friday, June 27, 2014

13 for 13: 13 Classic Hip-Hop/Rap Albums with 13 songs or less

"Are you not entertained?", well not enough that is.

I sometimes find myself listening to whole albums and once the last song is over, I feel like there should be more tracks.

I dug in my iTunes and found a few albums that I of course love, feel as though they are brilliant works, but also feel as though the artists could've left us with an extra track or two. Okay well, maybe I just needed an excuse for this, ha.

In any case, I narrowed the track limit to 13 and surprisingly there are some classic albums that fit the description!

Here they are! Disclaimer: These aren't listed in a "best-to-worst order". I thought I'd list them by the year they were released.

Run-D.M.C.- Raising Hell (1986)

The Hollis, Queens trio of gangster rappers produced one of the most classic albums of all time. Raising Hell was the album that brought Run-D.M.C. into the mainstream with a vengeance. Producer Rick Rubin perfectly meshed his love for metal rock and rap together and gave producers ideas of what can be made with a little creativity. The hooks, samples, drum loops, scratching, riffs and other sounds and ideas along with Run-D.M.C.'s witty and quick deliveries made Raising Hell into the multi-million selling album that it is today. Raising Hell is a very fun, exciting, unpredictable work of art for anyone to listen to.

BDP- Criminal Minded (1987) 

Criminal Minded is the highly influential debut album from the trio of KRS-One, D-Nice and the late DJ Scott La Rock, better known as Boogie Down Productions. La Rock was murdered just months after the release of the album. This album was one of the first gangster rap albums, and though their message couldn't be explicitly found, their content opened the door for other future gangster rap albums. It was like a gateway into expansion upon future rappers'  subject matter. KRS-One's witty, booming delivery tangled with DJ Scott La Rock's retro, and hard beats came together to deliver two of the biggest dis songs of the 80s (South Bronx & The Bridge is over). These dis records were a product of BDPs beef with a familiar Queens, New York rap group by the name of the Juice Crew, explicitly MC Shan. The consistency, the lyrics that lived up to the namesake, and KRS-One's undeniable talent launched an all-time classic. 

Eric B. & Rakim- Paid In Full (1987) 

One of the most influential DJ/MC combos rap has ever known, Eric B. and Rakim came together to make one of the most influential albums of all-time that ushered in the age of Modern Rap. The complex, and internal rhymer Rakim along with his literate imagery and unpredictable and smooth flow is one that may never be duplicated. Paid In Full the track is probably the most sampled rap song ever. To gain an understanding of the origins of modern rap, immersing yourself in the key cuts, and Rakim's internal rhyming that were cleverly off rhythm, Paid In Full is the track to listen to. 

BDP- By Any Means Necessary (1988)

When DJ Scott La Rock was murdered during the production of this album, KRS-One looked for change. The murder of La Rock prompted a more conscious style of rapping for KRS-One. Within the first 10 seconds of the album, KRS-One's profound change had came into fruition with the dialogue between two speakers in My Philosophy. KRS-One ends the intro by referring to himself as the Teacher. The album cover mimics a famous Malcolm X picture as the album name was an oft-quoted statement by him as well. With the 1980s being one of the worst post-Civil Rights era decades for the black community and America's image as a whole, KRS-One did not shy away from addressing these issues. By Any Means Necessary talks much about government and police corruption, the corruption of the 80s drug trade, safe sex due to the outbreak of AIDS, and KRS-One's main goal in my opinion, to help stop the violence in the hip-hop community due to the death of his DJ and longtime friend. A true politically-conscious rap album that sampled by many artists is often placed in the shadow of another popular 1980s album, Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. By Any Means Necessary however is a classic album and probably KRS-One's most constant and oft-understood effort.

NWA- Straight Outta Compton (1988)

The infamous NWA, probably one of the more famous groups in all of rap history. Their hard hitting beats, brutally conscious lyrics, and nonchalant attitudes towards whoever they offended made them a public enemy among many Americans, especially police. Straight Outta Compton kicked off West Coast rap. This album goes all out and though it happens to not be among the first gangster rap albums, it surely garnered more public attention than many albums it came after and before. Consisting of Dr. Dre, Arabian Prince, MC Ren, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and the late Eazy E, every member of NWA brought their own flavor to the group and the way they meshed made it devastating to see them split.  Ice Cube's brash delivery and Eazy E's arrogant delivery along with MC Ren's laid-back but brash delivery coupled with the beats and production of the legendary Dr. Dre and DJ Yella this album is way too strong to be looked at as anything less than a classic. 

Wu-Tang Clan- Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

The 90s ushered in a new wave of influential rappers. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) became a favorite of many rap fans' hearts. RZA's production style allowed for the Wu's MC's to deliver an album that is often emulated by many other rap groups. Enter the Wu-Tang paved the way for later NY-born rappers such as Jay-Z, Biggie, and Mobb Deep, it picked up the hardcore rap age of the 80s right where it left off. The Wu contained many colorful and talented MC's that made their work even more interesting to listen to. Some had their theatrical personalities, such as Ol' Dirty Bastard and Ghostface Killah, others were lyrical, cerebral storytellers such as Method Man, Raekwon and the GZA. Every track on this album contains it's own mix of martial arts cuts and metaphors with inventive rhymes, references to pop culture, threats of bizarre violence tangled with a bizarre sense of humor. By far my favorite album by the Wu. 

Nas- Illmatic (1994)

Well, well, well. Nasir Jones' most legendary project, and often labeled as the greatest album in hip-hop/rap history. Listening to this album one time will not give you the full gist of everything Nas tried to get through to listener. It takes mature and attentive ears to fully understand the lyrical masterpiece of Illmatic. Illmatic is the album that Nas' reputation rests upon and he never would make another album that could surpass Illmatic. Nas' complex vocabulary made him one of the greatest street poets ever and it was heightened over Illmatic's Jazz-like beats (Illmatic was produced by a plethora of Jazz-rap producers). My take from Illmatic is Nas' view of everything he sees around him, how he tries to survive in the streets of New York while being ambitious, trying to live his life the best way he can. Known as one of the greatest, if not the greatest storyteller in rap history, "Life's A B*tch" and "One Love" accurately flexes his storytelling muscles. Nas in his prime + great production came together to create an album that still remains a favorite among many true hip-hop fans. 

GZA/Genius- Liquid Swords (1995)

Most of the Wu's members solo endeavors proved to be beneficial, but neither of them were the owners of an album like the GZA's Liquid Swords. GZA was probably the best lyricist in the group! Images of the GZA's subject matter along with his easy-flowing, smooth, cerebral delivery aided by the production of the RZA in his prime makes this album even the more better. Every member of the Wu makes an appearance on the album and the GZA takes no prisoners when showing off his lyrical prowess throughout every track on this album. His group mates would succumb to his abilities every time. His nickname, "The Genius" was well earned and fitting for a rapper with his talent. The GZA continued to put East Coast rap on his back with a few other artists. 

UGK- Ridin' Dirty (1996)

Southern rappers can do it too. The gritty duo of the late Pimp C and Bun B were mainstays in the game, and Ridin' Dirty cemented their place among some of the heavyweights of 90s rap albums. UGK went from their namesake to mainstream in their third album in four years. UGK stood at the top for a while in the Southern rap scene, they continuously put out reckless but lyrical music that fused a style of many West Coast rappers with their own taste of Southern funk while celebrating gangster-like possessions such as money, drugs and women. Ridin' Dirty was a turning point in UGK's career with their "punch you in the face, take your girl, smoke some weed with her, then laugh at you" attitude. 

Black Star- Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)

The old school sounding album by Black Star brought Mos Def and Talib Kweli out of the depths of the underground into the mainstream. The tight rhymes and wordplay by two very talented lyricists, that displayed their own distinct style. They complemented each other so well. Their goal was to get the teachings of Marcus Garvey out to modern America (hence the name of their group and album, named after Marcus Garvey's Black Star Line), they also seeked to remove violence and negativity from the rap game though it only worked for their album. Seems like negativity and violence sells, the injection of it into most rap music is inevitable. But, Mos Def and Kweli are two street poets who definitely did themselves and Garvey some justice in this album.  

Jay-Z- The Blueprint (2001)

When 2001 rolled around, Sean "Jay-Z" Carter was already 5 years into the game. When Reasonable Doubt was released, many laughed when Hov claimed that the city was his. Then, 2001 hit and no one was laughing anymore. Jay-Z was in his prime, and believed by most if not all except the rappers in the game with him to be at the top of the rap world. The believed arrogance in "The Ruler's Back" is more fact than anything. Jay-Z claiming that he was running this rap sh*t was more fact than anything. The Takeover track also ignited the beef between Jay-Z and Nas, probably would be the most prolific rap beef of all time if not for 2Pac and Biggie. Jay-Z also took the time out in the Takeover track to humiliate Mobb Deep, explicitly Prodigy. Released on September 11, 2001, it was little doubt that Jay-Z was running the game. There isn't a skippable track on this album, and they all could be the best song on anyone else's album. With Jay-Z killing the rap game with minimal features, while shedding light on some of the game's emerging producers like Kanye West and Just Blaze with their extravagant and arrogant beats, the Blueprint is flawless all the way through. 

Kanye West- Graduation (2007)

After being the man behind the scenes of his "big brother" Jay-Z, Kanye West embarked on a pretty successful solo career of his own. Graduation was his third studio album, and this was proof Kanye was steady growing. His thematically distanced songs helped to keep the clumsy humor alive, a staple of Kanye's style. Kanye tries to pick up the pieces or work on what his first two albums were missing in Graduation, and he does a great job with that, in my opinion.

Kanye West- Yeezus (2013)

Bizarre beats, bizarre lyrics coupled with social, political and musical contradictions is what made Yeezus come together. If you are a first time listener, you'll be stuck with a WTF look on your face after the first minute of the opening track On Sight. As you peruse through the album, you'll find more outlandish beats but lyrical mastery. The person that Kanye West has become is a damn-near untouchable one, and Yeezus confirms such. "New Slaves" is a lyrical masterpiece, while "Hold My Liquor" is the perfect song for a Chief Keef feature. Nina Symone takes over in "Blood on the Leaves" as the hard-driving beat aids Kanye in telling a story of ex-girlfriends, groupies, and date rape drugs. Ha. If you scale back to track number three, "I Am A God", you'll hear Kanye's arrogant manifesto, I love it. Yeezus is extravagant all the way through, offering an eccentric, audacious and gripping experience unlike anyone has ever done before. 

13 for 13: 13 Classic Hip-Hop/Rap Albums with 13 songs or less

To Pay or Not to Pay

Nets are being cut down, trophies are being hoisted, and at the end of the day the NCAA is walking away as the real winners. Many say that college athletes should be afforded a small stipend that would serve as spending money, others say that it wouldn’t work, nor do they deserve benefits. Here’s my take from both sides:

Isn’t Education the most important aspect of college?

First and foremost, the main purpose of college to most is to have an opportunity to receive a chance at getting higher-leveled education. College sports have no mercy on that. Sometimes, college athletes are required to miss class due to tournament games or bowl games.  Take the NCAA Men’s Division-I tournament for example. Sure, it seems very hard to schedule games around typical class times and still finish out tournaments quickly and efficiently but missing up to a quarter of classes for “March Madness” doesn’t seem like a great trade off. Most of that money made from tournaments and players doesn’t go back into the classroom, not directly anyway.

Hi, my name is. . .

Six billion. Take that number into consideration. According to, that’s just about how much the NCAA makes annually. Players are the ones paying the bills. They keep the seats filled. They generate the revenue. The money made off of them brings their amateur status into question. Money is being made off of their names and jerseys, just as if they were professional athletes. Of course, they never see any of that money. Players aren’t allowed to use their names as moneymaking resources, instead the NCAA can milk their names as they see fit. Players can however make money, just not for the sake of their names (if that makes sense). It is a NCAA rules violation if players use their names, photograph, or appearance to generate revenue for themselves. Adequate health benefits for players going out and risking their bodies for the sake of the business that is the NCAA isn’t even provided. It however isn’t illegal for the NCAA to use those same things to make jerseys, video games, commercials and other various types of promotions to generate revenue for a “non-profit organization”, which the NCAA says it is. Research the Ed O’Bannon case, then you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Team & Player success serves as a marketing tool

 Player success also serves as a lure for prospective students.  Ask a high school senior what’s one of the things they look for when application time rolls around. Most times it will be a school with a great, polarized player or a school that possesses a team who is usually good. For example, even with their historically low acceptance rate (16.6% in 2014), Georgetown superstar center Patrick Ewing increased the application rate by 47% during their glory days of the early 1980s according to TV exposure and other media avenues served as an aid to the allure of what being a Georgetown student was all about, getting a world class education, while being able to watch some of the best basketball the country had to offer against many other goliaths of the time. Why can’t the players be the ones to thank for making schools that much more attractive?

Share the wealth, Coach.

  Nowadays, most coaches in the major college sports are being paid at least $100,000 a year to guide players and not actually execute on the court or field. Does that make coaches irrelevant? No, they are very important to a team’s success, but their worth is being overblown by the gaudy contracts they sign year to year. Take the University of Kentucky’s Head Coach John Calipari for example, a very well known, successful, championship winning college coach known for his masterful recruiting prowess. He just inked a 7-year $52 million dollar contract. Nick Saban, championship winning Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide is the highest paid college football coach at over $5.5 million a year. Not to take anything away from these coaches again, but you cannot attribute revenue to their respective schools to the performance of the coach. Out of 50 states, 40 of them have college coaches (basketball or football) as their highest paid employee. All of the revenue is being sucked up by those in authority (coaches, athletic directors and other administrators), not a dime is being placed back in the hands of the players they have to witness struggle off of the field or court. You don’t have to shell out millions of dollars to the coach to make your sport profitable. Share some of that wealth coach!

Impermissible Benefits

Outside of their scholarships, college athletes don’t have the luxury to live a balanced life outside of athletic activities. Sure their scholarships cover meals, housing and other things most other scholarships will cover, but for all of the hard work, dedication and time (most athletes are performing over 40 hours a week) players put in, a token of appreciation should be handed out. Players don’t have access to unlimited funds, or funds period; that would allow them to enjoy the world outside of athletics. Players then are tempted to take things that are handed to them, in most cases free by agents or boosters. They then run the risk of getting caught (though the odds are low), punished due to NCAA regulations against it, and left with their reputations tainted. In my opinion, they aren’t the real criminals. The people who offer these fortunes to vulnerable, young athletes, many of whom come from low-income families are the ones to blame. The issue of impermissible benefits doesn’t seem like one that may ever exit the NCAA as a whole, but it can be curbed in many ways, one is of course allowing players to get paid. Maybe that will reduce a player’s interest, as pay from the NCAA will allow them to do some of what the benefits would’ve allowed.
Paying athletes upwards of $2,000-$3,000 would be almost impossible and it would make Title IX irrelevant (because of low-revenue earning sports such as volleyball and wrestling), but the thought of providing players with a little extra spending money would help stop the smaller illegal benefits. Completely putting an end to it? Almost impossible, the big-money violators will always be lurking, waiting for it’s next gullible victim.

But, I mean…

Look at it this way, some may argue that players are already well paid; they receive a FREE education they otherwise cannot afford in most cases. Of course, in today’s world, most athletes do not take full advantage of the education they are awarded. This leaves graduation rates for athletes very low, and many never come back to finish up their schooling. It’s all about the money; it makes the world go around. But, without athletes, there wouldn’t be TV contracts, jersey sales, and seat fillers. Let me reiterate an earlier point, athletes are the revenue makers, they are the real breadwinners, some type of shared revenue deal should be in place correct?
To make things work, paying players in general cannot be based on worth. Naismith Player of the Year Doug McDermott cannot be the LeBron James of moneymakers while his bench warming teammate receives little to anything. You also cannot decide to only pay male athletes and leave females hanging out to dry. That defeats the purpose of equality and Title IX. No, I don’t think athletes should receive pay that would give them workforce like salaries, but a reasonable spending stipend would be sufficient. However, many will say that athlete pay will most likely never happen because some athletic programs are struggling to survive just paying coaches and other administrators while other universities are making killings off of their strong programs, usually basketball and football. What about those same schools and their volleyball programs or other low-revenue generating sports? Do those athletes deserve the same amount of money? Under law, most definitely, but if you put the law aside, the answer is no. That’s where things get tricky. The real question is how much is enough? Should there be a scale based on how much revenue the school generates analogous with how much is shelled out players? Would the financial burden be too huge for many schools to efficiently overcome? If different amounts of money were offered across universities due to financial ability, wouldn’t this taint the recruiting process and make it less genuine than it already is? This then would widen the parity between teams in college athletics.

Who knows if pay for play for amateur athletes will ever come close to being a reality?  Who’s to say if it will really work or not? Who’s to say it will increase graduation rates, decrease recruiting battles, or curb impermissible benefits, among other things? All that can be inferred is that something needs to be done to finally quiet some of the questions and worries surrounding the issue.

To Pay or Not to Pay