Now before I get too deep into my own judgment of Kiszla’s article let me first say that I am not from the inner city, nor have I experienced the hardships of poverty or racial prejudice. However, I will say that I have numerous dear friends who have overcome such hardships to make it to differing professional athletic ranks and I have played this game on some of the largest and most intimidating stages for the level of ball of which I could reach. A few of the best venues that I have had the honor of playing at have been the University of North Carolina’s high school invite camp and the inner city games of South Beach, Miami, Venice Beach, California, and Brooklyn, New York. I am a lover of hip-hop culture and ethnic cultures different than my own.
With that being said, Kiszla writes, “Born to a good home, raised by two loving parents and made rich as a teenager by the NBA, Smith was so desperate for the street cred glorified by hip-hop culture that he became a poseur, thinking if he wore baggy shorts half off his bum, then maybe Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and teammates who came up from mean streets would accept him. Smith is a gangsta wannabe who got lost in a dangerous game of make-believe.”
At first I laughed when I read that particular piece of the article, but then my humorous state was quickly replaced by disgust. Let’s get one thing straight right now: J.R. Smith does not need to wear a certain type or size of clothing to be accepted by fellow professionals. I believe that the unwritten rules of respect, on any level of athletics, imply that if a competitor is on the same stage as you then said competitor is there for a reason. And in J.R. Smith’s case… he is a teammate and fellow player in the National Basketball Association because of his physical gifts and his dedication to the game itself. Both of which have taken him to this level of basketball. Gangsta or not, the only fools would be Anthony, Martin, and teammates (none of which I think acutally do), and in this case, Kiszla for making such judgments based upon such meaningless parameters.
Moving on to the next asinine statements Kiszla makes brings us to these gems of journalism. Mark writes, “Anybody who knows Smith, however, is tempted to do the same as Anthony did when the 6-foot-6 guard arrived in town. Melo threw an arm around the newcomer and protected him like a little brother, because J.R. was a small-town kid born down the clean working-class street from where Bruce Springsteen grew up, rather than in the nasty urban jungle of Jay-Z. On the Nuggets, however, Smith was forever stuck being the li'l bro, trying to dunk louder or act crazier to prove he belonged. It was as if he needed to impress Melo, K-Mart and Allen Iverson, who all grew up earning scars from gritty existences that Smith only knew from watching "The Wire" on HBO. Although he flashed gang signs after making 3-point shots, Smith never really knew what he was doing. There is a song by 50 Cent in which the rapper warns the life is too dangerous for a wannabe gangsta. Smith was too busy drowning in a culture bigger than himself to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up.”
First of all, those aren’t gang signs J.R. tosses after connecting on a long range shot, but rather the same signal that the referees uses to alert the scorekeeper that the make was worth three points! Check the referee handbook if you don’t believe me.
Second, and more importantly, where do you get off relating a tragedy of this magnitude to mainstream hip-hop artists’ hyperbolic interpretation of a culture that is merely more than an over glorified money making front that a culture seemingly doesn’t realize reflects their true contributions to society in a negative manner?
Furthermore, I would be very surprised if Kiszla himself has ever listened to anything 50, Jay Z, or anyone else in the hip-hop community has produced since the Sugar Hill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight”, but unlike the man himself… I am not one for bestowing judgments that I can not be sure of!
So to answer your comment, Tymes, I am surprised that this article even made it past the final sports editor over at the Denver Post, (usually the best of the Denver Metro papers). I feel Kiszla is way off base in his assessments and to relate this tragic time to African-American popular culture is down right ridiculous. Just check the comments on the article itself if you don’t believe me!