Loving Basketball Is Common Sense



“We used to hoop in my yard but now I dribble the rhyme” – “Nuthin’ to Do”, from Resurrection (1994)

The passion for basketball burns in all sorts of people, all walks of life. It’s part of the special nature of sports: whether you’re a professional basketball player, or a kid playing soccer in Ghana, or an accountant playing a pick-up game with his son, the love of sports is the great equalizer. Anyone can love basketball, even if you’re a legendary artist like Common.

The Grammy award winning entertainer loves the game. Known for his influential, intelligent hip hop, he has emerged in recent years as a successful actor, appearing in top-tier titles like Terminator: Salvation and Wanted.

He released his first album in 1992, the underground Can I Borrow A Dollar, which galvanized Chicago hip hop the way Nirvana put Seattle rock on the map the same year. He went on to create hugely influential albums like Resurrection and Electric Circus.

He has since transformed from a legendary MC into a successful actor, and, as of 2010, into leading man material.

He recently starred in 2010’s basketball film Just Wright, opposite leading lady Queen Latifah, who also produced. Common plays Scott McKnight, an NBA player on the New Jersey Nets. The movie also features NBA heavyweights like Dwayne Wade, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard, and Rajon Rondo.

This leading role allowed him to return to his first love: basketball. He trained for the role by working with Baron Davis and members of the New Jersey Nets’s staff.

It’s no secret that Common is a basketball fan. The son of former ABA basketball player Lonnie Lynn, the game is in his blood.

In an interview with ESPN, he discussed his tenure as a ball boy for the Bulls when he was twelve, and added, “In 1985, [Michael Jordan] gave me a pair of the first black, white and red Air Jordans and signed them. I gave them to my father and he wore them to one of my shows years later.”

Some think that playing for the NBA could have been an alternate career for Common. In an interview with Black Voices, director Sanaa Hamri said, “Common is 6 feet, and he plays a point guard. In basketball, point guards are not the tallest, and they are usually his size. From height to size, he fits the description.”

In an interview with Hip Hop Media Training’s Billy Johnson Jr., Common hints that his passion for basketball helped lead him into his career as an entertainer: “I loved basketball. My dream was to play in the NBA as a kid from probably like 7, 8 years old until I was too old to think I could play. When I was playing high school ball it was a year where I got injured and it took me away from being able to play ball for a little while. I was always into hip hop and that’s when I started making like demo tapes because I didn’t have that outlet of playing ball.”

Working on the set of Just Wright meant fulfilling the dream of being able to play ball with NBA players. In the ESPN interview, he said, “I got to play against Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard so I imagined what it would be like to play in the NBA close up…Honestly, D-Wade came up to me and said out of all the dudes he’s ever seen in basketball movies who’ve tried to portray a basketball player that I showed him the best skills.”

Leading lady and producer Queen Latifah is another basketball fan. In a 2010 interview with Examiner.com, she said she picked Common for the role because, “I thought Common could relate to that guy’s quest to decide which woman is real, and bring some real life experience to the role. Not to mention, he’s gorgeous. Ladies love him, guys respect him, and he can ball”.

Today Common is still one of the hardest working entertainers in hip hop. He’s also a dedicated Tweeter and activist. His songs often deal with political issues, and his actions show a political awareness, such as pledging to not use anti-gay phrases in his lyrics. He appeared in the 2008 Yes We Can song and on the PETA pamphlet Think Before You Eat.

His track “Changes” from 2008’s Universal Mind Control refers to Obama and lays out a positive view of the future: “What is change? Change is Marin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, Shakespeare, Tupac Shakur, Barack Obama, and you can’t forget Common. Changes gonna happen, change is hope.”

Common will continue to work hard in both music and acting. In a National Post interview, he said he wanted to one day be known as a great actor. “If they find I’m a great actor, people will go back at some point and find that I was a good musician, too.”

He’s also a a great basketball fan. He continues to support the Chicago Bulls and proves how the passion for the ball can transcend careers and art forms.


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