NBA will say farewell to a brother when Nipsey Hussle is laid to rest


NBA will say farewell to a brother when Nipsey Hussle is laid to rest

His face solemn and his eyes dark, Kevin Durant stands next to me, gesturing and squinting and shuddering, constantly repeating this process, as if trying to shake away unwelcome reality.

“I just wish I could have run into him again. Know what I’m saying?” Durant told me in a recent conversation. “I mean . . . I met him, but I know him mostly through his music and what he was doing in the community. He was just genuine. I wish I had the opportunity to just give him another hug or dap him up again. Anything. Because he was so real.”

This was a few days ago, and Durant is not alone. Not in the NBA. Not this month.

Plenty of grown millionaires are grieving the loss of influential rapper/entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.

“All the (expletive) he went through growing up and to come out and make the kind of impact he was making is . . . what could be bad about that?” Durant says.

Durant and many other American athletes, particularly those in the NBA, have spent much of the past 11 days trying to collect themselves in the wake of the senseless murder of Hussle (born Ermias Joseph Asghedom) that occurred March 31 in Los Angeles. He was 33.

When Nipsey is buried Thursday in Los Angeles, hundreds of NBA players will be there in spirit. A considerable number will be there in person. That’s how much he meant.

Nipsey’s death in Los Angeles took away a brother, a friend, someone universally admired. DJ Sharp, the turntable whiz at Oracle Arena, made sure to spin Nipsey’s beats that night. Upon recognizing it during a timeout, Warriors teammates Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Durant responded with a spontaneous dance as a way of paying respects.

The word spread, the reaction grew and players around the NBA did plenty to keep Nipsey in the news, express what he meant to them and how he had touched their lives.

Asked about Nipsey on the night of his death, Steph Curry, sitting at the podium, struggled to slide his response around the lump in his throat. They were friends. Brothers. Look it up.

The Los Angeles Clippers produced a pregame video tribute to Nipsey and played it at Staples Center just hours after his death. Moreover, they placed a pair of shoes next to a jersey – “Hussle” – in a stall between those of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell in their locker room.

Harrell said he wished he could have worn it on the court during the game.

Two nights after Nipsey was shot and killed, Russell Westbrook went out and posted the first 20-20-20 (points, rebounds, assists) game in the league in more than a half century. The last player to achieve the feat was Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Russ and Nip? Brothers.

Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith responded by adding a textured tattoo of Nipsey in profile. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie ordered a pair of customized shoes featuring Nipsey that are up for auction this week, with the revenue being donated to charity.

“He was everything to us,” former Warriors star Baron Davis said on TNT.

“He meant everything to me,” Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas told The Undefeated.

The bond between musicians and athletes is as strong as it has ever been. But the bond with Nipsey was more intense than that. His upbringing was like many of theirs. His evolution from at-risk teenager to successful corporation, from selling his own mixtapes to being nominated for a Grammy, is much like many of theirs.

Their quest to build better communities in an effort to serve people of color was Nipsey’s quest.

“Through his music and interviews, you hear where he came from,” says Warriors forward Alfonzo McKinnie. “You hear how he made it out and how he transformed from being that ‘hood person,' the gangbanger that he was back in the day, to a businessman and entrepreneur. He was uplifting the kids and the culture in general. That’s why (his death) hit so many people.”

[RELATED: Nipsey Hussle's death hits Warriors hard]

And now he’s gone. A celebration of Nipsey’s life will be held at Staples Center, with the funeral procession winding through the streets of South Central en route to a funeral home in his beloved Crenshaw neighborhood.

The NBA mourns and will for a while. And some will be compelled to step even further forward and take action in ways that would have made Nipsey Hussle proud.

Steve Kerr knows hard work just starting in fighting racial injustice

Steve Kerr knows hard work just starting in fighting racial injustice

The eyes of the world are on police brutality and institutional racism in the United States.

Protests have erupted around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody last Monday, with demonstrators taking to the streets across the country and all over the globe ever since.

Outspoken Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday that the hard work is just beginning.

"I think that that's our job, really, is to make sure that it's not just a press conference and a Zoom call, and then back to normal business," Kerr said on NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America: A Candid Conversation." "I think what David (West) was talking about earlier (on the panel) was working with the grassroots organizations. I think being committed -- if you're a corporation, taking on that commitment of building a relationship with these grassroots organizations.

"Not just, 'Hey, here's a check for [$5,000], we're proud of you.' Build a relationship with the grassroots organizations, build a relationship with city government and continue this work. That's the whole key, and that's what I'm going to try to do. That's what the (NBA) coaches association is doing. We're trying to build lasting relationships so that the work can continue, even beyond the emotion of the aftermath of something like this."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died last Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer who has since been fired, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Chauvin was arrested a week ago, and he has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three officers at the scene were arrested this week and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, and Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, also dying. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home, while two white men allegedly followed and murdered Arbery as he jogged in his Georgia neighborhood.

The NBA has the highest percentage of African American players of any of the four "major" professional sports in the United States, and it's also the closest to returning since the leagues paused their seasons in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA Players Association approved the league's plan to return to the court Friday, agreeing to resume the season beginning in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex with a 22-team format.

Former Warriors big man David West doesn't think the NBA season resuming to the court will stop players from speaking out.

"I think [commissioner Adam Silver] gives guys the space and the room to be people," West said Friday. "I would expect him to be, or the NBA to be in that same vein. I don't think they're gonna try to restrict guys. I think they'll talk it through with guys -- a lot of guys are flustered. They don't know what to say. They know what they feel, they know what they're seeing is not right, but they don't know what to say. The NBA does a good job of helping guys with their message, so I don't think that there's gonna be some restriction.

"I think that players, as they are compelled, will continue to lend their voice because ... [the] grassroots organizations have to do the work, the elected officials have to do the work. We have to do our part in terms of being citizens, but I just think that the players are too in-tune to just turn it off and go back to playing basketball. I think guys want to be a part of the narrative in terms of changing this society and pointing it in a different direction."

[RELATED: Kerr criticizes Trump for 'drawing battle lines' for election]

Protests will continue before the NBA season tips off again, and Kerr is encouraged by those who are leading the way on the ground. When Kerr looks at demonstrations, he sees a young, diverse coalition making their voices heard.

That gives him hope for the days ahead.

"I have great faith in the younger generation that's coming up behind us," Kerr said. "David mentioned this: They're more connected than any generation before them (because of social media). They're also more diverse. Just naturally, the demographics in this country are changing dramatically. What I've seen in my kids' lives, hearing their stories, watching the protests and seeing the diversity that's involved in these protests, I think the young generation is just ... looking at the older generation and they know that we're full of you know what.

"They just do. I mean, how could you not, right? And I think they want a different future, and I think they're gonna get it. I believe in the way they've educated themselves, how tolerant they are, how different they've been raised compared to us 30, 40 years ago. So, I have great faith in the young generation and in the coming decades, I think they're gonna get a lot more things done than we've ever been able to do."

Steve Kerr criticizes Trump 'drawing battle lines' for 2020 election

Steve Kerr criticizes Trump 'drawing battle lines' for 2020 election

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has not been shy about criticizing President Donald Trump.

Since Trump assumed office in 2017, the two have been at odds. Kerr has criticized countless Trump policies, and the President called Kerr "a little boy" after the NBA's suddenly contentious relationship with China following  Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting in support of protestors in Hong Kong. 

Trump recently caught the ire of Kerr is once again in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody. During a Tuesday protest near the White House, U.S. Park Police, the Secret Service, the National Guard and other federal law enforcement agencies cleared demonstrators from the area using tear gas as Trump walked to take a picture in front of the damaged St. John's Episcopal Church. Kerr called it a ploy for Trump's reelection campaign.

"Trump is drawing the battle lines for the election," Kerr said during NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America: A Candid Conversation" on Friday. "He's now just paving the way for, 'I'm the law and order president, and you've got to vote for me unless you want the chaos to ensue.' Which is ironic because chaos has ensued under his own administration. But clearly, this is the beginning of what's going to be a chaotic campaign. Trump, as he's been doing for not only his presidency, but for much of his adult life, he's just trying to divide people and stir up the pot. And as I said, he's drawing the lines and trying to bring his supporters to the side."

Floyd -- a 46-year-old African American man -- died after fired police officer Derek Chauvin -- a white man -- pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Floyd was detained after a store owner alleged he used a suspicious $20 bill, and police initially alleged he resisted arrest. Nearby surveillance footage disputed those claims.

Bystanders filmed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as three others looked on, and the video sparked protests around the globe. Some demonstrations in the United States have drawn the presence of the National Guard, escalating tensions between protestors and law enforcement.

Trump has criticized the demonstrations, calling protesters "thugs" in a tweet on May 28. The president tweeted "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" a day later, and Trump faced additional criticism from Kerr.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted "[we] will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard."

Kerr immediately criticized Pence for hypocrisy on Twitter, as Pence staged a highly publicized walkout of a 2017 game between the 49ers and Indianapolis Colts due to San Francisco players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and institutional racism. At the time, Pence tweeted he wouldn't "dignify any event" disrespecting the flag and the national anthem.

"When you're incapable of being authentic, you're just throwing stuff at the wall and you don't even really care," Kerr said. "But this is the problem, that truth and facts have sort of gone out the window. So anybody who is paying attention knows full well that not only did the administration not accept peaceful protests, but they turned it around and turned it into an anti-American act.

"So, we all saw that and then to then fast forward four years and say, 'No, no, we actually definitely feel strongly that Americans should be allowed to peacefully protest.' It's just like an utter lack of concern or conviction for anything in terms of your truth. There is no truth. So, no character, no conviction and that's a big part of the issue right now, is that the people leading our country are just speaking from both sides of their mouth and just saying whatever they want to say."

For much of his Warriors tenure, Kerr has been outspoken on social issues and disagreed with Trump's policies. In 2017, he criticized Trump's executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim nations. Trump mocked Kerr last year after Morey send out a tweet in solidarity with Hong Kong.

“I watched this guy, Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy, he was so scared to be even answering the question,” Trump said in October. “He couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking. ‘Oh, oh, oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.’ He didn’t know how to answer the question, and he’ll talk about the United States very badly."

[RELATED: Ex-Warrior West explains his biggest fear as black father]

Kerr tried to curtail his comments towards the president during last season, privately declining to comment on Trump's impeachment hearings in January. Nonetheless, he continued criticizing Trump on Twitter after the NBA suspended its season due to the coronavirus in March.

Kerr said Friday he hopes for a change in leadership in the Oval Office.

"This is how it works in politics, it's just unfortunate that this is how people in power can think because we would like to," Kerr said. "Or at least hope to believe that we would have people who are in it for the right reasons, trying to actually lead us in a positive direction, but that hasn't been the case."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]