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Last weekend, stars from all over the country flew into a frigid Chicago for the 69th annual NBA All-Star Weekend, where they celebrated their accomplishments, promoted their projects, and rubbed elbows with other industry leaders.
The NBA All-Star Weekend often serves as a fun spectacle with slam dunk competitions, brand-sponsored parties, and big music showcases. But on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 15), adidas gathered professional athletes, media personalities, musicians, filmmakers, and other creatives to participate in a more impactful endeavor – making connections with the youth and giving them the exposure and resources to chase their dreams.
adidas hosted 240 student-athletes from eight Chicago public high schools at its “World’s Best Career Day” event in downtown Chicago during the highly-anticipated weekend. The event gave the kids an opportunity to get some hands-on learning experience using professional equipment and face-to-face time with celebrities, including Jonah Hill, James Harden, Candace Parker, and others.
Rappers Pusha T, Rapsody, and WNBA star Liz Cambage ran the “Sound Lab,” which served as the music portion of the seven interactive workshops during the career day. The “Sound Lab” consisted of professional recording equipment, including a vocal booth, turntables, mixing consoles, and drum machines. After a brief panel discussion, the students broke up into three groups, where they could work more closely with one of the stars.
“A lot of people don’t have these opportunities, I didn’t have these opportunities,” Pusha T told VIBE after the workshop. “People weren’t really pushing you to go toward your dreams if they were in the music business. To see all of this put together like such, to have makeshift recording studios, engineers, people of quality, who can really explain the game to you. To me, it just sort of reinforces the idea of pushing kids toward their dreams and goals. I think that’s what it’s about.”
Pusha’s workshop mostly focused on the technical aspect of working in a studio and emphasized the importance of the vocalist and recording engineer relationship. He referred to engineers as “the cornerstone of making music” and explained that while it’s an overlooked job in the music business, it’s an important and lucrative one.
After he spoke with a group of about 13 students, a couple of them went into the vocal booth to spit a verse. The G.O.O.D. Music President gave them tips on recording vocals and explained that having a trusted engineer is crucial.
“When the kids did get in the booth, sometimes there’s a bit of anxiety and feeling like, ‘oh man I gotta rush and hurry up,’” Pusha said. “The engineer is the reason you don’t have to rush and hurry up. You can take your time. You can do four bars at a time, get it perfect. And get another four bars, put it all together, and make it sound seamless. You know just being new to the recording structure, I was trying to share those tips with them.”
Rapsody also shared how she hopes the kids in attendance will learn to “think outside of the box” after the career day event. She said the “Sound Lab” workshop will show them there are many different avenues to pursuing a career in music.
“There are so many ways to inject yourself into the music business, outside of just being an emcee, or just being a producer,” Rapsody told VIBE. “Just opening their minds creatively and interacting with them one on one. It’s always dope to look at people who are doing things that are successful and be able to reach them and talk to them because it gives you an aspiration.”
During her section of the workshop, she and her producers, Khrysis and Eric G, showed the young athletes how to use drum machines and samplers while using her song “Aaliyah,” from her 2019 album Eve, as a reference of how to chop up samples.
“Exposure is the biggest thing for kids,” Rapsody said. “Once you expose them to something, it’s endless, like their mind goes. But if you don’t expose them to it, it’s sometimes* they think that it’s not for them and they put themselves in a fishbowl. So it’s dope to be able to have these kids touch machines and talk to myself.”
After the workshop, Rapsody was approached by a few of the student-athletes, including a young, teenage girl who sang for her.
“I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and for music and creativity, all I really had was TV. I watched videos,” she said. “If I had something like this, I would’ve started following my heart, my passion a lot sooner. Just to have the knowledge, for somebody to teach, to show me that it is available to me. Whatever I want to do is available to me, that I can do it.”
Cambage, who is a house DJ in addition to playing for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, spoke to the teens about being an athlete who also has a passion for music and other creative outlets.
The three-time All-Star center spoke to them about her love of house music and referenced Canadian DJ/producer KAYTRANADA as one of her favorite current artists because he often takes “old ‘90s hip-hop and (puts) a house beat with it.” During her interactive workshop, she showed them different mixing and beatmatching techniques.
“You don’t know how talented someone can be at something until they try it,” said Cambage, who won a 2012 bronze medal as a member of the Australian women’s basketball team. “We could have the next Mozart in the building today, and I think that’s the really exciting thing. Kids are putting themselves out there, being like, ‘yeah I really am interested in this, and I do want to learn about it.’ And adidas is giving them that platform to go chase another dream.”
Since all of the students that attended the career day event are basketball players, Cambage told VIBE she wanted to show them that they can “break that mold of just being an athlete.”
“We do it all, it doesn’t have to be just one thing,” she said. “There are so many things I love and things that inspire me... So I think it’s really important that we’re not just one thing, we can keep learning, we can keep evolving, we can keep finding things that inspire us.”
Fellow WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike, who moonlights as full-time basketball analyst at ESPN, also emphasized to the kids at her workshop they can be a successful athlete with other interests. Ogwumike worked on the broadcasting workshop, alongside Tracy McGrady, Candace Parker, and Maria Taylor.
She viewed the event as a great way to show the teens, particularly the girls and young women, that they can achieve so much when they have opportunities and the infrastructure to succeed.
“Visibility matters, especially for those who feel invisible in society,” she said. “It’s on us as women to uplift others. For so long, we’ve been so competitive, because like a seat at the table, there’s only one for a woman. Now there are more seats at the table, so instead of being competitive, we’re now being collaborative. We’re harnessing our collective power to lift each other up.”
The “World’s Best Career Day” coincided with the launch of adidas Legacy’s expansion to Chicago. The high school basketball program, Legacy, partnered with eight underserved Chicago public high schools, providing their boys and girls basketball teams with fresh adidas gear and opportunities to connect with peers, learn from mentors, and gain exposure to different career paths. The program was founded in Los Angeles in 2017, later expanded to New York City in 2018, and now serves a total of 28 schools and 840 student-athletes within those cities.
Brandon Walker, adidas’ head of North America Sports Marketing - Basketball, highlighted how Legacy equally serves the boys and girls basketball programs and is made up of 98 percent of students of color.
“I just hope it’s an opportunity for these young men and women to reimagine their future,” Walker told VIBE. “It’s very difficult to dream it if they’ve never seen it. And for them to be in these workshops and see people that look like them, it gives them a chance to realize their potential long-term. Them having a chance to sit across from somebody and get hands-on learning, and say, ‘you know what? Broadcasting isn’t all that difficult, I might be able to do it myself. I’m a real good sketch artist or I can draw, I could be a designer for a major brand.’ Those types of moments are what we hope these young men and women leave with, just opening up their ideas of what’s possible in the future.”
If you were to list the major events of Kobe Bryant’s life, it would read like one of those cheesy, unbelievable movies on Netflix that you scroll right past every night. Born to an NBA player, grew up in Italy, made it to the NBA at 17 years old, won five championships, won an Oscar, won an Emmy, died in a helicopter crash.
The abruptness of the ending of the list is matched only by the totality of the list itself. As fellow NBA superstar Kevin Durant put it, “You’ve seen Kobe in every situation… he lived life to the fullest.”
Ultimately it was that all-encompassing nature of Kobe Bryant’s life that made his death so tragic and so painful. Kobe was the rare entity that made the entire world feel something about him. Whether it was love, hate, admiration, fear, respect or whatever other emotion he could elicit out of you as a spectator, you felt it. As such, everybody felt something when the news broke that he’d perished in a helicopter crash, even his most feverish haters.
Perhaps you were attached to Kobe the basketball deity, with his insatiable competitiveness that became its own mantra for life: Mamba Mentality. Or maybe you loved Kobe the artist and storyteller, who found new ways to express himself and succeed after leaving the sport most thought he would be miserable without. But the most wide-ranging side of Kobe is surely the father and the family man. That was the most “normal” of his superpowers.
There was a side of Kobe for everybody, and as such he may have lived as the most revered and celebrated athlete in the world. There are others more popular by standard metrics, but the adulation Kobe received in every pocket of the world is the type of devotion that only existed in eras past, before the internet opened up niches for every single interest and gave platforms for every single counterargument.
In the sports world, Kobe may be Patient 0 for that sort of internet native life, as we’ve been privy to almost his entire life since the moment he arrived, arm and arm with Brandy at his high school prom. His entire career exists on camera somewhere, and most of his adult life is Google-able and available at the click of a button, in HD.
As such, we get the feeling we know Kobe, a sentiment that became amplified when he allowed us to get even closer to him with the intimacy of his social media profiles. His random thoughts were strewn across his Twitter account. His adorable family life is plastered on both his and his wife’s Instagram accounts. Plus, there were documentaries, stories, books, Oscar-winning shorts and every other sort of content for all the rest of his life and the arbitrary contemplations that exist between those two worlds.
Kobe was as transparent as any superstar on Earth, and that made him as endearing as any superhero can possibly be. We felt we came to know Kobe, a jarring turn of events after he existed for two decades as the most sinister, malicious and villainous athlete since Michael Jordan, a man so feverishly and obsessively devoted to winning it left him with strained relationships, but five championship rings to warm his bed at night.
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Suddenly he was approachable, an aloof basketball dad, now fully devoted to family life in a way that somehow seemed even more dedicated than he ever was to his previous profession. It made for a few comical pictures and stories, but it resonated, and the supernatural had become normal. After two decades of Kobe doing things no other human could hope to do, he was doing the things every other human does on a daily basis and it made him even more lovable.
But that turn is what made his sudden death even that much more painful. Kobe was doing something every parent of an athlete has done hundreds of times, taking their child to a game and sharing that intimate ride and alone time that may not exist if the sport had not brought them together for that moment. That’s the innocuous moment that led to the death of Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his own 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
For many, that made the tragedy hit unbearably close to home. Whether as a parent, a coach, someone who was once that kid riding to the game with their parents or any other cog in the village that raises a child. Everybody has been within that equation somewhere, and now the reality of how fleeting those moments can be is staring the entire world in the face, forcing them to come to grips with the fragility of life. Not only your own life, but those closest to you who could be doing something as ordinary as driving to a game on a Sunday morning.
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Had a great trip to @uconnwbb for senior night and the retirement of basketball legend @promise50 with my baby Gigi. Thank you Gampel, Thank you Coach Geno and Cd for the warm welcome. Good luck the rest of the way 💪🏾 #mambamentality #wizenard
Once again, Kobe is making everybody feel something. Once again, he’s bringing people together, united by a common cause, and feeling ever so strongly about the topic at hand. Gone is the hate or even the fear for the man they call The Black Mamba. Now that’s been replaced by somber regret, sadness, reflection and perhaps most importantly, appreciation.
Rarely does the death of a complete stranger create ripples in someone’s life, but it seems Kobe’s has caused tidal waves for many. In stripping away the layers of mythology that once shrouded him from normalcy, Kobe was no longer a stranger. He’d become a big brother, an uncle, a friend to so many, even from afar. Kobe spent his entire basketball life as a peerless prodigy, a wonder of the world who was simply unmatched. From the moment he retired he became the exact opposite, he was a peer.
So, on January 26, the world didn’t lose a stranger who played basketball for a living, they lost a peer, a friend who they’d known for over 20 years. Even if you never met Kobe, you met him. You watched him grow, from an innocent, smiling child who dreamed of the impossible, to a hyper-focused brooding adult at work. And what did he become after achieving the impossible over and over? He went right back to smiling, as a gleeful father entering an entirely new and exciting stage of life.
There was a little bit of Kobe in all of us, and that’s why it hurts so bad to lose all of him.
After Alica Keys delivered a classical performance of "Moonlight Sonata," his basketball idol, Michael Jordan, stepped to the podium to deliver an emotional speech about the late, great Kobe Bryant. As tears fell from his eyes and down his face, Jordan shared his fondest memories of the legend, how close they were as friends, and talked about the late nights where Bryant would ask him questions about life while being that pestering "nuisance" of a little brother.
"At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a passion," he admitted. "This kid had a passion like you would ever know. It's an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand and to try and get it.
"As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant," he said tearfully. "That he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person."
"Now he's got me [crying]. I have to look at another crying meme for the next...I told my wife I wasn't going to do this, 'cause I didn't want to see this for the next 3 or 4 years," he said as the crowd broke out in laughter and applause. "That is what Kobe Bryant does to me."
Jordan went on to share another story about how Bryant sent him a late-night/early morning text sharing how he's trying to teach Gianna some moves and asked Jordan if he could remember what he was thinking about at Gianna's age as he was trying to work on his moves.
"I say, 'What age?' He says 12. I said, 'At 12, I was trying to play baseball," continued Jordan before a laughing audience."He sends me a text saying 'laughing-my-a**-off.' And this is at 2 o'clock in the morning."
Jordan went on to address Bryant's wife, Vaness, and their daughters, saying how he and his wife will be there for them, before sending condolences to the families of the other people who perished in the tragic accident. He went on to stress the importance of living in the moment when with "When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. And as I look in this arena, and across the globe, a piece of you died or else you wouldn't be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and learn from.
"I promise you from this day forward, I will live with memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please, rest in peace, little brother."