Bulls

'I'm sold on the Baby Bulls,' a conversation with The Basketball Analogy's Black Tray

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USA TODAY

'I'm sold on the Baby Bulls,' a conversation with The Basketball Analogy's Black Tray

You may have heard Black Tray - yes, he really does introduce himself like that - interject his patented "shouts to (fill in the blank)" one-liner before on ESPN's The Basketball Analogy podcast.

In recent episodes, he's chimed in with a facetious "shouts to bullying" and "shouts to gentrification." And just Monday, he fired a "shouts to the real MVP, Solange. Off of that elevator scene, we got three great albums."

Yes, this type of analysis can be found in an ESPN production.

The episodes he appears in - better known as Black Opinions Matter Monday - conflate NBA and pop culture to a degree where the audience knows Tray's unmistakable fandom for Tupac and the Bulls.   

He recently gave CSN Chicago a shout to discuss being sold on the rebuild, players he irrationally loved to watch play and, of course, Gar/Pax. 

You introduce yourself as Black Tray to people, right? 

Black Tray: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Why?

BT: “I mean if people are going to hear it, they’re going to be asking questions. And I kind of just eliminate the questions before you can even ask. If I say, ‘Hey, I’m Tray,’ and then my friends say, ‘Yo, Black Tray come here,’ I might as well just introduce myself from the jump. Women can sometimes get annoyed by it, but it’s not like I’m trying to talk in third person or anything like that. It’s just a nickname that just kind of carried through and you just kind of roll with it. It’s super funny because there’s always jokes about it. ‘Hey, you’re really not that black.’ I’m not like a darker skin tone. It’s pretty funny to go about it.

“There’s some symbolism behind it as far as my avatar, and I don’t really show my face and stuff that much. So I really want people to tune in just ‘cause of my opinion or what I have to say versus the image. You know what I mean? With Black Opinions Matter, it’s really everybody. We’re just getting our point across. It’s, ‘Oh, we’re talking about durags. White guys can’t wear durags.’ No that’s not true. I don’t care who wears a durag. If you wear it well, you wear it well. But at the end of the day, we’re just speaking like, ‘Hey, we wanna be heard, too.’ I mean obviously you wouldn’t want to hear White Opinions Matter Monday. That’s gonna sound crazy. Isn’t that kind of the default?”

How'd you first get on The Basketball Analogy? 

BT: “I really wasn’t high on doing podcasts. (ESPN's) Amin (Elhassan's) a good friend of mine. We’ve been following each other on Twitter for several years, and he reached out and said, ‘hey, I would like to have you on’ because at the time Brandon Jennings was playing for the Knicks. That’s one of my best friends. At the time, they wanted an inside opinion on it, like talking about the coaches. Black Opinions Matter hadn’t even had a name or anything. I was just coming on the show to do an episode, and we had a good episode. The next week I didn’t come back on. First of all, I wasn’t invited but then also I really just wasn’t sold on podcasts. Then he asked me to come back, and I had a guest and it was Chris Childs. It was more so just the feedback that got me back on the show. I was really receptive to it. I read every mention. I look at everything. I’m always open to giving my opinion on stuff that I actually have knowledge on and the stuff I don’t I won’t speak on.”

Are you surprised with how the pod took off? 

BT: “Pretty much so. I had never listened to a podcast before. I didn’t even listen to my own podcast after I did it. I just kind of let go. I just do it and then scroll through my mentions and if I had a cool one-liner, I’ll retweet it here or there.”

You're from California, so why'd you become a big Bulls fan? 

BT: “My fandom for the Bulls began in ’91. I was about 6 years old and at the time Magic (Johnson) had the HIV virus, but L.A. was still coming off the Showtime Lakers. I was always the person in my family that goes and chooses outside of what everybody else likes. So at the time Michael Jordan was like really fun to watch, and all I can remember is me sticking my tongue out and imitating him by doing reverse layups on my Fisher Price hoop. He was my idol – the only person I kind of admired. I was unaware, at the time, that Michael Jordan was 6’6 and I was like, ‘well I wanna be as tall as him.’"

So give me a Bulls player you irrationally like?

BT: "Larry Hughes. With the Bulls, he was not amazing, but he was okay. But I’m a Larry Hughes fan. I was like all for Larry Hughes. Huge Khalid El-Amin guy. I call the Bulls ‘Point Guard U’ for troll’s purpose. A.J. Guyton, El-Amin, Jamal Crawford going down the line Jay Williams. Tons of heartbreak. I tweeted out not too long ago about our under-20 win seasons. We’ve had multiple. It was during the time I was in high school so I really wasn’t watching at all. I was like ‘Oh, basketball doesn’t exist.’" 

What're you thoughts on now? What'd you think about the trade? 

BT: “I’m sold on the Baby Bulls. I’m bringing the Baby Bulls title back. I call Lauri (Markkanen) Lauri Kukoc. What can we really do? You just gotta be positive about everything. I can’t really wear a paper bag or anything. I like that they brought back (Cristiano) Felicio. I like the Justin Holiday signing. Justin’s a great guy and, honestly, I thought we got him for cheap for what he brings. He just knows how to play the game. High IQ guy, won’t hurt his team on the floor. So I’m praising the offseason right now just because I know what direction they’re going in, but I’m still kind of anti Gar/Pax."  

What about Hoiberg? 

BT: "Hoiberg is like a cool-ass stepdad to me. He’s like, ‘Hey I know you guys aren’t 21. You’re not supposed to be drinking, but hey you can drink inside the house.’ You know what I mean? He doesn’t have the full authority with it as I want him to be. That’s why I said I’m not mad at Jimmy trying to call him out sometimes because he doesn’t hold him accountable. You gotta check them, you can’t be a fan of them.”

Were you on board when they brought in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade last offseason? 

BT: “I wish what we were doing now happened last year. Now it’s the heartache and pain of we made the playoffs and we’re going to abandon everything.”

Are the Bulls winning that first-round series with the Celtics if Rondo doesn't go down, though? 

BT: “Absolutely. My thing was I think he just had intimidation. He basically played mind games with those guys like Avery Bradley. He still had that over them, he had those guys on the ropes. He was just leading the right way, he had everybody on board. Once he went down it’s like not so much because we had nobody at the point guard position.”

How do you think Zach LaVine will fit? 

BT: “Looking back at the trade, that trade should have happened last year. LaVine was rumored to come to the Bulls before. LaVine’s agent is my guy, that’s my friend, so I’m all for the LaVine trade and he’s looking good as far as recovery. He’s got tons of potential and was playing very well before he hurt his knee, so I’m on board. I don’t think he’s going to be an immediate All-Star, but he could be in the 17 to 20 points per game range. He’s not a slouch."

So how long for this rebuild then? 

BT: “Three years.”

Three Years? That's optimistic, don't you think? 

BT: “Hey, I trust it. Look at it like this: You can’t really lobby off, ‘Hey, Chicago’s a great city. Come here and play.' It has to be draft, teach, play. Throw in a couple veterans and go through that process.”

Come spend the winter in Chicago is probably not a good selling point.

BT: "I lived in Milwaukee for one year. I understand it.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.