From Ballin' to Shot Callin'
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Celebrate the start of NBA finals with this voice of bball.
By Keith Murphy
Haters don’t matter. Especially when the haters can be the malicious side of the media pool.
“I was always one of those kind of people that didn’t really mind what pundits had to say about me because that’s their job,” contends ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, who has dealt with the blaring media machine since his days as a brazen, sh*t- talking, swagger-fueled member of Michigan’s early 90s Fab Five college basketball team.
Rose has savvily carved out the kind of post-jock lifestyle that would impress Charles Barkley.The 41-year-old Detroit native and current lead host of ABC’s NBA Countdown and frequent ESPN analyst has always had a game plan to switch from balling to broadcasting. While he and his history making freshman cohorts were beating down opponents (and critics) with the type of counter-culture, F-U energy that epitomized hip-hop badassery, Rose studied as a mass communication major. But beyond the bald head, baggy shorts and black socks was a kid who’d been taught the saving grace of higher education from a mother who grinded away as a factory worker at Chrysler.
As a highly recruited 13th overall pick of the 1994 NBA draft, the 6’ 8” ball handling phenom drew early comparisons to hoops deity Magic Johnson (such talk would prove to be lofty thinking). Rose managed to average 14 points per game and have a more than respectable 14-year, 6 team career, followed by a savvily carved out post-jock lifestyle that would impress Charles Barkley.
The fan favorite commentator also kicks hoops knowledge on SportsCenter as well as schools the collegiate card on College Basketball Gameday. In addition, he headlines one of the web’s most entertaining and informative sports podcast – The Jalen Rose Report with David Jacoby. His passion for his 3-year-old Detroit-based charter high school, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, runs deep. But his effortless, and often times hilarious, on-air chemistry with Grantland mastermind Bill Simmons has taken his brand to unexpected heights.
OZY caught up with the gregarious Rose to discuss his rise to unavoidable talking head, his straight-no-chaser view on college athletes’ compensation and his love of the hip-hop DJ.
There’s an undeniable chemistry between yourself and Grantland’s Bill Simmons. How did a kid from the “D” hook up with a Boston head and hardcore Celtics lover to become the ultimate odd couple?
I see this Grantland website that’s gaining traction and it’s going to be an affiliate of ESPN with Bill Simmons as the editor. But while I knew Bill was an accomplished writer, I didn’t know him. And so I came to the ESPN ESPY’s and I knew the post party was going to be at the W Hotel. I just showed up and I’m champagning and campaigning with the ESPN suits until I ran into Bill Simmons. I pitched him my idea to do a podcast on Grantland. I told him I was going to call him the next day, Monday morning at 9 a.m.
Simmons probably thought, “Yeah right … this guy is full of sh-t…”
[Laughs] Right! But that’s what I did the following Monday. But I told him the only way I would do it is if David Jacoby hosted the show with me. He did all the postings and the day-to-day stuff. We hit it off and our show The Jalen Rose Report with David Jacoby has been a great look.
Do you have a favorite moment from any of the shows?
For last year’s NBA draft we brought all of the draft picks into a room and basically gave them a job interview. Another favorite is the Birdmester. That’s our love for Larry [Bird]; that’s our love for our fans to try to give them a quarterly update of the NBA. Today we were doing Bill & Jalen’s NBA Review. I also like the segment we did called Story Time With Jalen Rose on which I talk about stealing Patrick Ewing’s TV.
You have been known to break out into song or rhyme during ESPN broadcasts. Just what would inspire a tone-deaf man to drop a Keith Sweat verse in the middle of a discussion about the Oklahoma Thunder?
Ha! I gained an appreciation early on for music because I respect the DJ. In fact my hobby is DJing. My DJ name is Motown Clown. It actually started with a couple of things like break dancing movies growing up: Beatstreet , Breakin’ , and Wild Style. And it also started with a couple of records that had cuts and scratches like Dr. Dre and the World Class Wrecking Crew’s song Surgery. So I’m not spinning on any CD’s or programs. I need some Techniques [turntables], bro. I need a mixer.
Let’s get into the MVP discussion. LeBron James or Kevin Durant?
This year Kevin Durant has been and will be the MVP. LeBron’s like, “Oh, you’re going to just give this guy the MVP? OK, cool. I’m going after the real prize … a third championship.” They are the two best players in the league by a landslide. My preseason picks were the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma Thunder. And I’m going to stick with that as of right now – good, bad or indifferent.
Now with the players from Northwestern University forming a union and former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon’s class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, do you look back and think what would have happened if you had that platform when you were in college 20-plus years ago?
We need to have a seat at the table whether it relates to health and benefits or to scheduling. A lot of times when you have older people stuck in their ways, and they have their power and money, they don’t want to share. And when they give you a little piece of it it’s like, ”OK, we gave ya’ll affirmative action, a scholarship … that’s enough!” Well, no that’s not enough. As a matter of fact, [those in charge] are making more money than ever. [Duke University’s] Jabari Parker can’t go to Coach K and say, “Hey Coach … I got an exam tomorrow. Is it alright if I miss practice today?” If the answer isn’t yes, then he’s an employee…
… an employee that should get benefits and such. Now we’ll have to watch how the NCAA ante’s up.
- Keith MurphyContact Keith Murphy