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Understanding Jay-Z And The Brooklyn Nets

Jay-Z went from hustler to rapper to icon to the face of the Nets in the span of 20 years. Let's take a look at how it happened and what it meant for the Nets, with some help from the New York Times.

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It's a slow sports week so that gives as good an excuse as any to talk about Jay-Z, minority Nets owner, rap mogul and all around ballerific icon. He's probably the most fascinating celebrity of the current generation, and his career and life story can probably be split into two halves.

There was the first half, when he began as a drug dealer up and down the east coast and eventually became a great rapper making great rapper movies and Usual Suspects music video parodies.

This version of Jay-Z was the greatest. Anecdote from The Atlantic:

Jay is going to kill it tonight, says Allison, a raven-haired Irish special-ed teacher from the Bronx who, like plenty of others here, has a Jay-Z story to tell, in this case about a 1990s nightclub called the Tunnel from which her friend was ejected one cold winter night, only to be rescued by none other than Jay-Z, who was driving by in a limo. “Don’t worry about it,” Jay told him. “I used to get thrown out of clubs all the time.” He took the kid out with him and then dropped him off back at the Tunnel at 4 a.m., just as his friends were coming out.

But then somewhere in the early 2000s, something changed. Now he's on a first name basis with the President of the United States, Vanity Fair puts together slideshows highlighting his fashion, he spends his summers in the Hamptons, and he's an icon to an entire generation. This version of Jay-Z is the greatest, too. He's turned himself into the male Oprah, basically, and it never stops being incredible.

So, when the ridiculous New York Times writes a feature-length profile of ridiculous Jay-Z and his ridiculous relationship with the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets, everybody wins.

Read the full article here, and let's savor it below.

1. He helped design the team logos and choose the team’s stark black-and-white color scheme, and personally appealed to National Basketball Association officials to drop their objections to it (the N.B.A., according to a person with knowledge of the discussion, thought that African-American athletes did not look good on TV in black, an assertion that a league spokesman adamantly denied).

Is it insane that Jay-Z has so much influence in 2012? Probably/definitely. Is it ridiculous that he can pontificate about something like fork selection and somehow avoid looking like a douchebag? Of course, and it's unbelievable how easily everyone falls for it. Reporters act like Jay-Z is Andy Warhol, and everyone's just lucky he deigned to address them.

But as ridiculous as everyone's Jay-Z obsession can seem sometime, anecdotes like the one above help explain why it's still totally awesome to have him in power. Because the black-and-white uniforms will be awesome, and because we still live in a world where marketing executives worry about how white audiences will see black players in all black. Jay-Z's power is a pretty awesome counterpoint to all that. Anyway, some quick highlights from elsewhere in the piece.

NBA coverage from SB Nation Studios.

2. He counseled arena executives on what kind of music to play during games. (“Less Jersey,” he urged, pushing niche artists like Santigold over old favorites like Bon Jovi.)

See? You can't argue with a guy who lobbies for less Bon Jovi.

3. Even the advertising agency used by the Nets, Translation, is half-owned by Mr. Carter.

Okay, on the other hand. He owns an advertising agency now? F*** off, Jay-Z.

4. His slender stake was enough for Mr. Carter to thump his chest in his lyrics, promising to “bring you some Nets.”

What a horrible lyric. Did he really even rap that?

How great!, a bunch of self-congratulating Times readers must think.

God forbid the NYT include a real rap lyric in this piece.

5. [Billionaire Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner] was introduced to Mr. Carter by Drew Katz, the son of one of the Nets’ principal owners, after Jason Kidd, then the Nets’ marquee point guard, suggested that Mr. Carter buy the team.

NOTE: So Jason Kidd changed the history of the Nets franchise because the franchise was so marginalized he just assumed Jay-Z had enough money to buy the team. The rest is history.

6. [Ratner] often says he overcame his concerns about Mr. Carter’s more offensive lyrics — celebrating gangster culture and denigrating women — only after learning there were cleaned-up “radio versions” of the songs, too.

Good to know that even conniving billionaires are as easy to fool as my mom.

7. Mr. Carter, he said, appeared nervous about having to meet with David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, who asked him to discuss his guilty plea to stabbing a record producer in 1999.

F**k Bo Jackson, someone make a 30 For 30 documentary on the phenomenal awkwardness of Jay-Z explaining the Un Rivera situation to a stone-faced David Stern in 2003.

8. "[The Nets] Bringing in someone who grew up in public housing, with a rags-to-riches story, who could identify with Brooklyn and African-Americans, that was slick,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James, a critic of the project.

... The obligatory reminder that on a basic level, Jay-Z was brought on board as a feel-good figurehead to help ratify a publicly-funded Brookylyn stadium proposal that many Brooklyn residents really never liked. THAT SHIT CRAY.

9. He also made himself useful to the basketball staff ... giving Vince Carter a pep talk after he played poorly in two playoff games in 2007 (he responded with 37 points in the next game).

Don't know whose mystique this enhances more: Jay, because a simple pep talk from Hov can turn a player into an All-Star, or Vince, because he needed a pep talk from Jay-Z before he decided to give a shit in an NBA playoff series. But of course he did.

10. But the rap star pulled back from the Nets as their fortunes faded and they failed to make the playoffs after the 2007-8 season. “He’s very brand-conscious,” a Nets official said.

Great example of a detail that would make literally anyone else on earth look like a douchebag. But Jay-Z does it and he's "very brand-conscious."

11. [Nets CEO Brett] Yormark received a call from Mr. Carter, who was following the team’s moves on television. “He said he was watching ESPN,” Mr. Yormark said, “and the size of our logo was too big, because the word Brooklyn was getting cut off on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. He said, ‘Call ESPN and get them to fix it.’ And he was right. And then they fixed it.”

So much brand consciousness!

12. Mr. Yormark next sat down for a meeting with Mr. Carter, he recalled, the rap star reminded him of this, saying: “Brett, I’m watching. And every detail matters.”

TO REVIEW: Jay-Z owns 1/15th of one percent of the Brooklyn Nets. And yet, there he is lecturing the team CEO about details like some intern, and the New York Times leaves it as the definitive quote in a feature-length profile, leaving Jay looking like some mysterious tycoon genius.

15 years ago, he was doing interviews with VIBE in Pizzeria Uno.



It's hard to say, but if we split Jay-Z's life into two sections, the line down the middle probably happens sometime in the early 2000s. You know when Jay-Z bought into the Nets? 2003. If there's any lesson from the Times piece and everything else that's happened the past few years, it might be this: as much Jay helped transform the Nets forever, the Nets helped transform Jay, too.

... But let's not make it too complicated, lest anyone overthink things. Really, all you need to know is this: Jay-Z's the man who lobbies against Bon Jovi at sporting events, whose power and profile with the Nets inspired this Mikhail Prokhorov freestyle:

Who doesn't love that?