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A note to my younger self: Why I urge student-athletes to go back

If I could talk to my younger self…” is the way a lot of people start off a sentence before describing something they regret. It could be about life, love, or a number of other things but nine times out of ten, that sentence ends with some glass half empty-esque notion of a situation that was completely unforeseeable.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I share that regret too. Because if I could talk to my younger self, specifically last summer, I would’ve had a very simple message:

Stop bitching.

Now, this is generally my attitude towards any kind of adversity, not that everything can be solved by just toughening up…but it does expedite most healing processes.

And just to be fair, when I say “b*tching” I’m referring to complaining without a plan of action to actually fix the issue. Anyway, last summer I had a decision to make between accepting a coaching role at Villanova or going for another job.

These were my only options because about two weeks prior, I tore my ACL, LCL, PCL and hamstring in a workout at LaSalle. The position was on the table because my coach, Coach Wright, thought it would be a win-win for me to do my rehab at school while working with a team, in a year, that had mostly new faces.

The only thing that kept me from taking the job, which was the obvious choice was me, b*tching.

In my defense, my years at ‘Nova were some of my most uncomfortable in life and it wasn’t always due to growth. So I b*tched about what could go wrong, who I might not see eye to eye with, and the free time I’d be missing out on… Pretty much I honed in on everything that could go wrong.

One day I was going on and on about everything negative that was out of my control until somebody challenged me to simply look at what could positively go right. I accepted the job the next day and I don’t remember ever feeling like I made the wrong choice.

Being back on campus felt weird at first. It was kind of like pulling off my own version of 22 Jump Street. At the moment, I felt like if anyone questioned me what I was doing, the jig would be up.

This couldn’t have been further from the reality of the situation. In reality, people were happy to have me back on campus because of who I was as a student-athlete and how I played my role on the team.

I spent my time partially coaching the team and partially building my brand, Stay Tuned Network. There was only an abysmally small amount of time, getting closure on everything I left unsettled after I graduated.

It’s no secret that a lot of college athletes aren’t happy with their college experience and although I was happy with my choice in a school, I can’t say that I was completely fulfilled.

A year later the most FAQs are “how’s the media stuff doing” and “so what’s next?” I’m happy I can say the media work is growing every day and “next” involves me doing some freelance work, continuing my show Stay Tuned with D.Rey, writing for several sites like Kulture Hub and independently creating as much content as possible.

In a melodramatic sign off post on IG I said:

“I urge all student-athletes to return to their universities, even if it’s for a summer internship.”

Here’s why: College athletics is a touchy business, there’s a lot of good and just like anything else in this world, some bullshit sprinkled in.

Still, the only way to find peace within discord is to find out why things are the way they are. Furthermore, the only way to change it is to learn the who’s coaching, who’s playing, and who’s cheering.

Then playing your part to the fullest.

Social f*cking media: Is our generation doing way too much for stardom?

“Because when everyone’s super… No one will be”

This was like my favorite line from The Incredibles and it came from the antagonist, Syndrome. I’ve always rooted for the “villain” because when the audience sifts through their methods, their message usually has some validity.

The point he was making was, when everyone has superpowers, technically speaking, no one is really that super. Now, take that train of thought and apply it to the status of celebrities in today’s world and we realize is that term is more loose than ever.

The gap between celebrities and non-celebrities has shrunk so much that we’re at a point where we really can’t define the word “famous anymore.” And who’s to blame?

Social f*cking media.

To be fair, we didn’t arrive at this point strictly because of Friendster and Myspace, it actually started with the boom of reality television all the way back in the 99 and the 2000s (iykyk). Shows like American Idol, Real World, Making the Band and Flava of Love showed the world what could happen if you put a camera in front of “regular” people and let it run.

These shows gave their audience the live-action climb, fall, and timely aneurysms of the people we all would come to call celebrities, even if they weren’t the last contestant standing. The idea was to set the show up as a democracy and through a series of elimination, the audience would choose a single,polished candidate to hoist into stardom.

That shit failed like Fyre fest. What really happened was whoever was the most entertaining became the crowd’s favorite and TV companies quickly noticed what I call ‘The NWA Effect’ (just made that up btw): It really doesn’t matter if they’re for or against you, if they’re tuned in, the checks will clear.

The best example of this is New York from Flava of Love. She didn’t win the show’s prize which was a 40-plus-year-old Flava Flav. What she did win was the attention of anyone who watched, spoke on or made an inquiry about the show.

She did this so well that she was, not only brought back for several seasons, but ultimately got her own spin-off called ‘I Love New York’ where SHE was the prize. The real kicker of all of this madness was where people were going to discuss it: Myspace and Facebook.

These two sites effortlessly brought discussion like celebrity gossip, politics, music and really anything that people deemed conversation-worthy to a place where all of us could have input.

It essentially took the term “blogger” and applied it to anyone who had an email address and internet access. MySpace’s ‘Top Friends’ feature showed us who people(publicly)wanted to flaunt their relationships with, the same way tabloids would relay that info through frequent sightings of two celebrities together.

Facebook was quietly the most intimate things social media offered because it showed you people’s likes, dislikes, interests, and real-time life updates. It was a close as you could get to walking into someone’s bedroom, before Facetime.

A lot of people say one of the biggest reasons Barack Obama won his first election was his campaign’s use of social media, which allowed them to win over a younger audience. Myspace declined due to the growth of Facebook, then Twitter came and ironically enough, it wasn’t immediately accepted…because of the name.

It was deemed to be quirky and was too condensed to illustrate anyone’s entire point. Ain’t that some shit? A little over 10 years ago people were actually complaining that 140 characters weren’t enough.

But anyway, as time went on, the relaxed feel of Twitter began to win people over. The fast-paced, debate inviting platform did to “journalist” what Myspace and Facebook did to the term “blogger.”

It became a world where even religious opinions and political views were no longer taboo but more importantly, unilateral between the media and consumers. People used Twitter for every discussion and its limited characters piggybacked on people’s shrinking attention span, making it the go-to for real-time news.

And when Twitter and Facebook seemed to fight for the spotlight, the most digestible form of media made one of the fastest push for attention-dominance the world had ever seen.
Instagram seemed to be the last piece of the puzzle.

The platform that gave us pictures and 1000 words(if needed) at the same time made it the easiest addiction of the three for a younger, pace conscious generation. Instagram basically became as a self-publishing paparazzi firm that tabloid’s reach depended on how many followers a person has. But when the “story” concept from Snapchat got introduced on Instagram, it was over.

The ability to show pictures and video 24 hrs a day combined with the dopamine targeted like-button made any and everything FOMO worthy. But there’s always that lingering question: what’s going to be the long term effect of this influx of accessibility.

Nipsey Hussle was quoted saying, “this technology is empowering everybody, it’s like a gold rush. This is our generation’s version of the gold rush” and he’s absolutely right. Every generation leaves a positive and a negative footprint on its way out of the door.

The Baby Boomers, on one hand, gave us the industrial boom, and on the other we see the health effects of ripple through the latter part of Generation X and a huge portion of Millennials.

So with this new, seemingly connected, information-rich world growing smaller and smaller the two questions we got to ask ourselves is: what’s going to be the repercussions of a generation raised in stardom and most importantly, what’s next?

How pro basketball players are transcending sports to be more than athletes

“But who are you, really?”

I thought about opening this up by saying something cheesy like “the crossover was inevitable” or “the moment you step out of bounds.” With that being said, these recent times where the term “basketball player” encompasses everything from a 3-point specialist to a tech mogul was kind of foreseeable.

LeBron James and Steph Curry both effectively produce interactive game shows on major TV networks; Josh Hart and Miles Leonard are as deep in the gaming world as anybody with access to an Xbox and $40 to put towards Fortnite.

Andre Iguodala is currently on a book tour and the newest Golden State Warrior and Omari Spellman, is gaining national recognition for an undeniable gift for writing poetry. The list of ballers operating outside of their sport is as long as Pippen’s arms.

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Still, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in other sports but it’s obvious that pro basketball players are leading the charge in activities off the court. It’s as if we’re in a time where being a basketball player comes with the joke “how’s the air up there?” and an “alternative talent?”

As a retired player turned media personality I’m actually exercising mine right now. But how, why and when did the lines become so blurred and is it going to change back anytime soon?

*Jordan Belfort voice* Absolutely f*cking not.

Humble Beginnings

Although I didn’t use the cheesy opening, this crossover into entertainment was inevitable for today’s ballplayer. Basketball spent the bulk of the 60s, 70s, and 80s playing little brother to the already established MLB, NHL, and NFL. The three sports laid their bones during slower-paced times and the foundation for team sports.

Basketball was a fast-paced, almost wiry game that changed faces each play. Players like Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabar made names for themselves off the court by getting involved with cinematography and joining the civil rights movement.

But what truly made the sport takeoff was it’s separating factor from the other three major sports: sneakers.

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In the late 70s and early 80s, companies like Converse, Adidas, and Nike saw an opening to not only personalize the sneaker to the team/athlete wearing them but also use their new and rebellious attitude to catapult both entities into a national spotlight.
Year by year, the world watched as the NBA became the epitome of cool in pop culture.

This came about through them latching onto the concept of individualism. Sneaker companies promoted personalized fashion, commercialized collaborations with brands like McDonalds and Pepsi and made relationships with entertainers in music and movies public.

The biggest culprit was Air Jordan, a guy who went from almost taking a one size fits all deal with Adidas, to forcing Nike to give him his own branch of the company.

Jordan went from a guy who was usually quiet and withdrawn to squaring up with the King of Pop and playing the starring role in Space Jam. He’s the same guy whose name itself is a globally recognized brand.

“Shut up and Dribble”

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the NBA went to another level for all the wrong reasons. The influx of freedom and the post-Jordan era spotlight shined on a youthful, yet, ambitious cast of great players with a nose for marketing.

But not for decision making. Shaq starred in Kazaam, Kobe and A.I. dabbled in rap and other NBA players got involved with things like “D-Bands” which were essentially a jockstrap for your head. Not to mention the African diamond mining and real estate. It was just a dark time.

But over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the NBA player mature into a businessman as well as a top-notch athlete by doing things like demanding equity in fashion companies like Russell Westbrook or starting a Venture Capitalist firm like Carmelo Anthony. There’s even James Harden’s multi-million dollar investment in Houston’s MLS team.


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Coupled in with the success of basketball players in the boardroom has been a steady rise in political matters. But what separates today from the days of Bill Russell, being the only black player in the NBA?  The Lauren Ingrahams and the “shut up and dribble” monologue.

The controversial rebuttal to KD, LeBron and Cari Champion’s criticism of Donald Trump as the POTUS turned into a Showtime documentary, merchandise and a platform for not only NBA players but all athletes to stand on and voice their opinion.

Things aren’t going back to the way they were. The lines between basketball, business, and entertainment are now more blurred than ever and it’s making for some of the best content ever but also, the biggest cultural shift we’ve seen in a while.

*Ye Shrug* I’m a fan.

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