2016 is quickly coming to a close and with the exiting of this year, the basketball world saw the departure of four of the games greatest players. Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan each retired from the NBA, nearly closing a gap of the era of active basketball players that were apart of the spectrum which actually played against Michael Jordan (Bulls Era) and Magic Johnson. Stephon Marbury (another link to this era and Class of 1996) has been continuing his professional basketball career abroad in China and has continued to achieve greatness on and off the basketball court. ESHE has put together a photo essay of unique images from the careers of Duncan, Garnett, Bryant and Allen.
” $50.00 Sneakers And I GOT.NO.JOB” – Mars Blackmon, 1986.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Spike Lee’s first feature length film “She’s Gotta Have It.” This movie was Lee’s introduction to the cinematic world on the world stage. The significance and importance of this film is not measured by sheer results in the box office; this film, released on August 8th 1986, spearheaded a new direction for black cinema and it also planted roots for growth within the black community and black culture in regard to discussions about love, sex and relationships. “She’s Gotta Have It” is a story based around the lead character Nola Darling (played by Tracy Camilla Johns) and her journey of self through her relationships with three different men. Jamie Overstreet ( played by Redmond Hicks), Greer Childs ( played by John Canada Terrell) and Mars Blackmon (played by writer and producer Spike Lee) are the three men that all make up the complex love life of Nola Darling. In the eyes of each of these men, Nola Darling is the ultimate catch. Eloquent, beautiful, sexy, independent and bold, Nola’s aura is a magnet for all men; her magnetic pull allowed her to have the options that in a sense completed her yet kept her wanting more. One of the most intriguing aspects of this film is how essentially the tables are turned in relationship roles; in most cases it is the man, not the woman that uses a plethora of women as his objects of love, support and sexual fulfillment. Lee showed the other side of the coin in “She’s Gotta Have It” as Nola Darling maximized her options to determine what she wanted and did not want in a man. In 1986, this was a big thing to be portrayed on the screen, especially in black cinema. Considered taboo at the time of the release, Lee also delves in to lesbianism with the interactions between Nola and her lesbian friend Opal (played by Raye Dowell) which also offered another potential option for Nola to introduce to her complex love triangle. Sexual freedom creates situations that eventually allow the opportunity for emotional attachment as well as emotional confusion. The film allows us all to see each character experience the aforementioned attachment and confusion at different times.
Fast forward thirty years later and if you look around, society will still tell you that SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT. Both men and women interact with each in the same manner as Nola, Greer, Jamie, Mars and Opal; remnants of seeking love, affection, acceptance and emotional stability outline many relationships today. The beauty of Nola Darling was that in her spirit of being a free woman, she was honest and open with each man that she was involved with, essentially allowing them to proceed at their own risk. Can women and men both learn from “She’s Gotta Have It” in 2016? Absolutely. A true understanding of self in all areas will provide you a foundation for anything that you want when it comes to relationships. Denying yourself in any area of your life could ultimately lead to self destruction in the same way that over indulgence destroys oneself.
“She’s Gotta Have It” forever changed pop culture with the introduction of one person; Mars Blackmon. Michael Jordan’s “Air Jordan” sneaker created in 1984, was available to the public in 1985. The buzz surrounding the shoe was magnified by the NBA’s essential ban of the sneaker due to it’s color scheme not adhering to the leagues team uniform standards. Enter Mars Blackmon. The love Mars Blackmon had for his Air Jordans may actually have been stronger than his love for Nola Darling, considering his refusal to take off his Js when he had sex with her. “$50.00 sneakers and I got no job” sums up Mars and not only his affections for his shoes, but his priorities as well. Today millions of people across the world (both men and women) feel the same way about their Air Jordans, centering their life around everything Jordan shoe related. The fictitious character of the Brooklyn B-Boy Mars Blackmon was loved by Nike and created the avenue for the “Mars & Money (Michael Jordan)” Nike commercials that became instant classics in not only the world of shoe culture, but pop culture as well. Spike Lee was asked by Nike to direct a series of commercials for Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan shoe collection and the rest is history.
The everlasting beauty of “She’s Gotta Have It” is the fact that each of us can identify with any of the characters in the film in some capacity. Whether you are the hunter, the option or the prey, you have been Nola, Greer, Mars or Jamie at some point in your life. The lesson we can all learn from the film is that how we allow relationships to build can define what they essentially become. Spike Lee’s masterful debut project not only opened up dialogue about love and sex in the black community, but the film also paved the way for more black producers and directors to enter the world of cinema with their own thoughts, creativity and story lines. An investment of $175,000 (the cost to make “She’s Gotta Have It”) on the part of Spike Lee and 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks created a new platform for black directors, producers, actors and actresses, that until 1986 was relatively obscure. For this contribution we are forever appreciative of Spike Lee and “She’s Gotta Have It.”
4.13.16. Today will officially mark the last time one of the last pillars from the official “Jordan Era” laces up a pair of sneaks to take the basketball court. Kobe Bean Bryant will play his last game for the Los Angles Lakers at Staples Center. 20 years filled with every aspect of emotion, glory, victory, defeat, adversity and resilience will end tonight in Downtown Los Angeles. There is a perfect irony in this final game of Kobe Bryant’s career. The Utah Jazz. The Lakers will face the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, which will be the last game of Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career. It was against the Utah Jazz on May 12, 1997 that Kobe Bryant encountered the worst personal defeat of his career. As a rookie, Bryant showed the courage and poise to take 4 potential game winning/tying shots to help the Lakers to victory in that playoff series against the Jazz that would eventually become the staple of his career. However on that day in 1997 Kobe would shoot 4 air balls that would lead to a Lakers loss and would ultimately assist in the Lakers losing that series. The truest measure of person’s character is how he or she reacts to adversity. Some players never recover from horrible defeats or bad personal performances; but that non perfect moment spearheaded an even more determined drive in Bryant to become not only a better player, but one of the best players ever. Another factor aided in the development of Kobe Bryant; Michael Jordan. 1997 and 1998 allowed Kobe Bryant to compete against the “Chicago Bulls” Michael Jordan; Air Jordan, Black Cat, Champion Jordan. This Jordan was the ultimate measure of greatness (the Washington Wizards Jordan which Bryant and many others would play against was mentally the same, but physically limited as a result of age and injury) and this Jordan presented the vision of greatness that Bryant was able to compete against and learn from. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are the other two pillars still in the league from the “Chicago Bulls” era Michael Jordan. The tenacity, heart and ferociousness with which these three players STILL play with is what has not only enabled them all to be great, but has also allowed them to still be competitive in a league that is younger than they are. No friends, no buddy buddy, only results is what defines these three which remain from the Jordan Era. Each of these three players have won NBA Championships and all three are first ballot Hall Of Famers. Greatness enables greatness and this is what playing against Michael Jordan at his best did for Bryant, Duncan and Garnett. This is an appreciation for the last tie to MJ and a salute to not only Kobe Bryant as he closes out his 20 year NBA career but also to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan; the Alpha Dogs, Omega Players.