We all know Chris Webber is one of our favorites here at The Starting Five, so I wanted to give you a brief explanation why. Webb gives back. We all go through things when we are in our twenties, but he still took the time out to establish the Chris Webber Foundation with solid support from his family. I’ve met his parents and I have to tell you they are amazing people. His Dad is like every father should be: strong, supportive, funny, experienced and hard working. His Mother is what society’s vision of a mother is not, but should be: very intelligent, reticent in public until respectfully addressed, while definitely being infallible to anything seeking to tear her family down.
Their children reflect what seems to be a congruent mix that equals one and have all been successful in their own right.
We all are attracted to athletes for whatever reason. I connected to the enigma in Chris more than anything, for I was definitely an enigma in my mid-twenties. I was a family man stuck in my comedy of errors and mad lazy to take the initiative and capitalize on talent God had given me in so many different ways.
So as Webb grew, so did I. I became repo man gate lock tough after my marriage dissolved. During this time, my sister became a Webber fan for life and the Kings run during that time became poetic inspiration for both of us because of our struggles. This helped to establish a hunger and priority in my early years as a writer to not let one of our brothas (who do the right things) be ran through the media mud and envious muck. It seemed ridiculous to criticize things their sons–as well as most of them–do on the regular for the sake of what?
Webb was getting praise, but he still had this on again, off again contentious relationship with the media difficult to understand. How many times did you hear Sacramento was better off without him when he was injured?
They ain’t been right since have they?
On the same vein, look at Golden State. It took them fifteen years to make the playoffs after Webber’s well publicized departure.
Don’t give me that Chris Webber is not a winner. If I’m not mistaken, his teams made the playoffs every year he played in the league.
That’s something that needed to be said…
When it comes to philanthropy, there are few athletes that rival Chris’ commitment to our youth. He makes sure kids understand the importance of developing a consistent intellectual mind state through his numerous book drives. When your Mom is a teacher, this tend to wear off positively in that regard because it’s expected. This is why we need strong parents people for the soul models they are affects their family’s future offspring though an established understanding of goal realization.
His African American art collection speaks for itself. In cultivating his very influential collection, Webber’s aim is to educate Black youth in particular on their existence–from the blood of the civil rights struggle, to the amazing talents and resolve of poet, Phyllis Wheatley, through the courageous confident voices of Malcolm X, MLK and Fredrick Douglas.
If you don’t know who Phyllis Wheatley is, here’s your chance to find out
Now to Bada Bling 2008. Landed in Vegas Thursday and caught up with some friends until everyone else arrived. I’ve attended this event for three years now and I never get used to how many friends Chris has who support his foundation year in and year out.
Man…Chris Webber sure does know how to throw a party. Gladys Knight killed it at the Soiree and Marc Curry is a very funny cat. That this was for a great cause makes it all the more live.
I should have gotten a little more rest…
I spoke to most in attendance here and at the other events throughout the weekend. While they were there to support Webb’s cause, I wanted you all to get a sense of what’s going on presently with each guest.
As I walked in, Ricky Davis was looking to the sky contemplating his strategy (he ended up in second place. A woman has won the tournament two out of the three years):
Michael Tillery: Sup Rick? Second year out…trying to win somebody money, take somebody’s money…what?
Ricky Davis: “Yeah, it should be fun to see who can win. Nice friendly game of poker.”
MT: What’s going on with next year? Where are you gonna play?
RD: “I might sign with the Clippers (He did). We’ll see what happens out there.”
MT: This past season was one of the greatest in recent history in terms of how the league was received world wide. Do the players get a sense of that as well?
RD: “Yeah of course. It was great. TV ratings were up and trouble was down, so that’s what we want. Regarding this event, Chris is my man and it’s great to be here.”
Next on the mic was Shawn Marion. This is his second year attending the event as well and dude earlier hit a rare straight flush:
MT: Having fun Shawn?
Shawn Marion: Definitely. I come out here to support Chris and his charity. Anytime you have a friend doing something big in the name of charity, it’s imperative to come out and show some love.
MT: How are you doing in the Poker Tournament?
Matrix: Just got beat Mike. I went all in but it just didn’t happen.
MT: I saw the straight flush earlier…besides that obvious gift, how were the cards?
Matrix: They were alright. They could have been better. They always can be better.
MT: How you like it in Miami? You adjusted? What’s your focus now?
Matrix: “Miami is cool. Things are different though. Just trying to take it one day at a time. I’m only focused on getting healthy and ultimately in shape for the upcoming season.”
Brian Shaw and his lovely wife Nikki are also a familiar sight at Webb’s event. Shaw is like the old school cat who can always get a run in any pickup game. He’s jazzy chill like that and has become a fixture here:
MT: Brian you here to relax? Long season for you this year.
BShaw: “Yeah, it’s nice to get away in a social setting after such a long season and engage a bunch of our colleagues for a worthy cause.”
MT: You guys getting Ron Artest or what (they didn’t)?
BShaw: “Man you know I have no idea. That’s the front office. I’m just a coach.”
MT: You won three championships with the Lakers. Since the team is playing on such a high level, what can your team take from the Finals loss to prepare for what should be an exciting upcoming season?
BShaw: “At the beginning of the season I don’t think anybody expected us to be there in the first place. We overachieved in my estimation. Obviously we are upset we lost because we let a few opportunities get away–Game 1 in Boston and the one where we were up by 24. Hopefully our guys learn from that. We are gonna get a healthy Andrew Bynum back next year. We feel like our future is great so we have to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
MT: Was it a blessing in disguise that Bynum had to watch from the sidelines? I spoke to him before Game 1 and he seemed pretty chill about the whole thing considering.
BShaw: (Smiling as if I just asked the craziest question) “No! I don’t think it was a blessing in disguise. I would have loved to have him there. It definitely will give him a different perspective watching the game from the sidelines. He’s able to have a little more time to strengthen up that knee and be back on the team at the start in full force.”
As the Poker Tournament concluded, I was looking forward to the Welcoming Party at Prive’. Everyone had the same thought, so obviously the place was jam packed. My group had to wait for Webber to walk up just to get in. After that ordeal (not really), it was all peace in the club. Too Short came on and rocked the house with a bunch of his classics. When he performed his recent hit, Blow the Whistle I slowed down the moment and fell mentally into the smiles crowd evident and appreciated the space I was currently in. While having drinks with Delinda Lombardo and Debbie Jones-Ohel, I noticed two more of my friends on the dance floor, Asya Shein, owner of fusicology.com and Shawna Lee, actress/model, fightin’ off all the fellas which gave me a good little chuckle.
I spoke with Too Short the next night before the Soiree on the state of the Hip Hop:
Too Short: “I feel like you. Hip Hop is something that can not be put in a box of the past or what will come in the future. Rappers are rhyming in every language, nationality and race. I feel like now you have some people who think they define Hip Hop. If I wanted to, I could be one of those people. I caught on in the early days–the early seventies. I picked up on it in the late seventies. I feel like people who know and love it know just as much as me. As a musician, I gotta have an open mind. Of course I remember and feel when the media bashes Hip Hop. I remember when other music genres bash Hip Hop in the early eighties when it started getting a lot of publicity. They thought it would go away like a fad. Look at it now. It’s become an industry. I think to myself that Hip Hop will never be stopped. There’s just no way now. If we think the Black night club version or the Black radio version of Hip Hop is what it is, then what about the skateboarders? They got it man. They got it in France. They got it in Japan…it’s going. So to put in a box would be destroying it and you are dead wrong because it would be like Rock N Roll before you know it. I personally don’t feel the Black community or the Latino community is ready to let Hip Hop go because hot songs keep coming out. Each song is our individual definition of what Hip Hop is. Somebody is on tour right now gettin’ money. Me too (chuckles).”
MT: Who raised you in the game? Did anyone raise you or did you come out of the womb spittin’ 16 ridiculous bars?
Too Short: “I give my credit to the streets of Oakland. I grew up in Los Angeles and when I was fourteen, I moved to Oakland, CA. My mind was thinking like a young adult and I started absorbing what was out there. Not just some ignorant criminal and pimp stuff because it was a very colorful place in the Bay area–from the hippies to the pimps. There was so much going on. You had actors and/or the Black Panthers running through the streets when something went wrong. People still do the same today. They will picket and protest anything at the drop of a pin. They Bay just molded me into this Too Short character who is just not about pimps, hoes, bitches or suck my dick. I’m about a lot of things.”
World famous DJ D-Nice walks up to continue the discussion on Hip Hop. You all know it’s an important topic of discussion here at TSF, so when legends speak, my mic is on:
MT: Could you speak on your travels in the game D?
D-Nice: Man, the game is still kind to me. I travel all over the world. I’m very very grateful for my career. It’s been twenty-one years man and I’m still around.
MT: In your mind–not the mainstream mind–what is a DJ?
D-Nice: “I look at it like this. I don’t know how to define to you what a DJ is because it means different things to different people. When I spin music, it’s about you giving your time to spend with me, so I owe it to you to give you good music and also to educate you. So I take a lot of the old stuff and the new stuff and mix it up. I treat it like they are all new records. It’s worked really well.”
MT: How did you get your start?
D-Nice: “I started out with KRS-One in the Bronx. We were just young kinds who wanted to be a part of the music industry. I got my break, so I slammed it.”
MT: Hypothetical question. What would music be if Scott LaRock survived?
D-Nice: “Scott was a businessman. He was Hip Hop. I don’t know how much Hip Hop would be different. Actually, I don’t know how to answer that because what happened to Scott caused KRS-One to write different. I don’t know if it would have been a negative thing or a positive thing. Unfortunately my teammate passed but what KRS-One has done for Hip Hop is big. He is always talking about Stopping the Violence. Then you had Public Enemy...what I thought was a more radical approach. Kris was more on the philosophical tip, so it happened for a reason.”
MT: Where do you see Hip Hop going?
D-Nice: “I can’t see past where it is now–at least I try not to. I’m in the moment. Lyrically, it’s not in an amazing place, but it’s not in a bad place. Some of the bigger records are not what I would profess, but I’m thirty-eight years old. I made records when I was younger where I was talking about Pimp of the Year. I don’t think I would do that now. I did records with Short (Check Yourself)…I toured with Short. I grew up man. I love Talib. He’s one of my good friends. You have the younger stuff. I’m not really a Souja Boy fan, but I respect the music because it takes a lot to go out there and do it.”
MT: That’s what I really wanted to ask you. There’s this notion where other rappers are called to criticize their peers in the game. Is that productive or counterproductive? There’s always going to be haters, but should the old school be criticizing the new school because primitively it used to be your view?
D-Nice: “Honestly man, I don’t think it’s a good thing. If it doesn’t appeal to you, then you don’t have to listen to it. I don’t knock anyone for what they do anymore. I’m a Hip Hop fan, so some of these records have kinda grew on me. I try not…they are still being creative. Would you rather Soulja Boy being out there hustlin’? Or would you rather he be productive? Hopefully, he’ll learn because we all have room to. I wish him all the best man. Never hate, never hate. I remember when we first came out…Melle Mel did not like us. None of the old school dudes from our time embraced us, so I never wanted to be that way. That’s why I was a little disappointed when KRS-One and Nelly had their issue because I thought what Kris was doing was similar to what Melle Mel was doing. You can’t crush the new kids on the block. Let them make their music and their money. Instead he did what you said earlier about screaming on him and that wasn’t necessary. If you don’t like someone’s music or you don’t like what they say, then lead by example (He’s not talking about Kris people, so don’t front). You can also pull a brotha aside and say “I don’t think you should do that.” That’s my own personal opinion. The problem is a lot of us are too afraid to show direction. Open your mouth and say something. Give them some knowledge. Me? I have nothing to lose. I have one thing to gain from it because I have a twelve year old daughter who has to live out in this world. I want to do all I can to make sure I contribute to a wealth of her understanding.”
I really can’t put into words how much D-Nice shocked rocked the after party at Koi. It was straight strato. I just remember screaming up to him in the booth and throwing the fist on practically every song. The smile he had on his face was indicative of the moment as he nodded his head to the beat knock. Like he said here, he mixed old and new and had a neat little crowd of say fifty dancing the entire time…I got some sleep that night. Thanks D.
As D finishes up, Shawna Lee walks past. Shawna is going to do something special for TSF real soon. I’ll keep you posted.
“Good gosh girl.”
“Good gosh girl?”
“Oh yes. How are you staying in that dress?”
“Not as bad as last year though right?”
“Oh no…that was just…(we crack up)…I now pronounce you supa stah for life!”
Fellas it was just crazy in there. I give it to Shawna, she has some class and it definitely showed. I see you J, I see you.
Speaking of class, the next lady on the mic epitomizes the word. She’s none other than Dr. Yamma Brown…yes the daughter of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
MT: Dr. Brown, what’s your specialty?
Dr. Brown: “Dr. of pharmacy.”
MT: Dr of pharmacy? Wow.
Dr. Brown: “Yes.”
MT: I know everyone is going to ask you this, but how would your father be at an event such as this?
Dr. Brown: “He’s always upbeat. He’s always great to be around. He had a great personality, so he would just bring life to it. If he was performing, he would bring a lot of energy–very charismatic, very classy. He would drop a lot of knowledge.”
MT: What are your short and long term goals?
Dr. Brown: “Short term, the family is going through a lot with the estate, so we are trying to get through that as best as we can. When it comes to him (her father), long term we want to do his home like a Graceland and to do a movie on his life’s story which I want to produce. I’ve always wanted to be a producer, so that’s a great way to get into the business.”
Scott Pollard was next on the scene. He’s one of the craziest cats in the league and has a great personality. He doesn’t try hard to crack you up either. As he stepped on the carpet, he shouted, “The champ is here!”
MT: Scott, we talk all the time here, what was it like winning it all?
SP: “It was a blast. Of course, I wish I was more of a part of it, but I’ll enjoy the ring and enjoy the ride. It’s been a blast to be a part of some great teams throughout my career. I’ve been very lucky to experience that. Winning a championship is one of the greatest things thats happened to me.”
MT: Describe your time with Chris Webber the teammate.
SP: “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He’s a winner. I definitely agree that we should have won a championship in Sacramento. That was one of the best teams I’ve been a part of–that was the best team I’ve been a part of. A game here and a game there….all of us feel that way. We ran into a Lakers team that was better prepared in the playoffs than we were.”
MT: You are an off color guy. Everyone loves your personality. Give me a short story about Webb.
SC: “Well my oldest daughter is in love with him. She’s gonna turn ten this fall and I told here I was coming out here to see her boyfriend. She started gigglin’ right out of the room. She’s had a crush on him her whole life. I hope that changes because he’s not good enough for her (we laugh).”
Finesse Mitchell, who came with his beautiful fiancee Jessica Santos, is also a three year vet of this event. The actor, comedian (SNL 2003-2006) and author is a great friend and supporter of Webb.
MT: Third year hear Finesse…
FM: “Third year. Me and CWebb are really good friends. We met in New York and we’ve been kickin’ it ever since. When I found out he was doing Bada Bling three years ago, I’ve been coming every year. Every year it gets better. This year I’m helping out with the auction.”
MT: You and Jessica are looking sharp tonight. Where did you meet in New York?
FM: “I met Chris at a fashion show actually in the city. I went up to him and told him I was a big fan of his. He turned and said I was funny. We started hanging out soon after. I do a lot of entertainment and host events like this so that’s how we hooked up.”
MT: What’s going on with you? How did you get your start in comedy?
FM: “I got my start on BET’s Comic View and literally went to Saturday Night Live. I went there and started writing for Essence Magazine giving relationship advice each month in my column. Wrote a book, Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much. Been in three movies–looking to write a new one–and just throwing stuff against the wall man. I just wanna have a bunch of kids, bunch of pets and be able to drive my SUV whenever I feel like it without worrying about gas.”
For all the old heads out there the next celebrity is a straight up icon. Some of us remember him from That’s My Momma and others from Amen. Irregardless, he’s a legend in Black households from way way back.
Clifton Davis: “Michael, this is my lovely wife Monica.”
MT: Nice to meet you Monica, you both are sharp tonight. What brings you here? This is your first year correct?
CD: “This is our first year here. The irony is that we live here in Henderson. When Chris invited me, I thought this would be kinda nice. I hope I’m in town…so here I am.”
MT: How do you know Chris?
CD: “I met him at a couple of galas we attended. In fact…interesting anecdote…he won’t forget me because I taught him to tie his bow tie. He was lookin’ like Maverick (laughs) and I had to hook him up.”
MT: I love what I do because you never know who are going to come across, so when I get to speak to someone like you, I get a little awestruck. Definitely honored to talk to you in the presence of your lovely wife.
CD: “Thank you Michael.”
MT: Your career…how was it for you?
CD: “It is a wonderful thing. I still host on Gospel Superfest Back Stage Pass. I’m also one of the hosts for Praise the Lord on Infinity Broadcasting Network and we’ve just had a film released called Cover. Bill Duke directed. It was just released on DVD. It is with me, Vivica Fox, Louis Gossett Jr., Leon, Patty Labelle and Oba Babatunde. Oba’s a good friend of mine. Great bunch of actors. I also just finished a show The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.”
“Mary comes home and tells her mother she’s pregnant–but not been with a man. So it’s the story of Mary and Joseph. Anna Marie Horsford, my co-star on Amen, is also in it. We had a great time.”
MT: What impact do you want to have on society as a man, a Christian and as an actor?
CD: “I want to make a difference in many lives as possible. On a spiritual level, on a human level enough to when it’s over…I get invited home to Heaven.”
I’ll have more forthcoming as the phone rings…thanks.