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We interrupt this NBA Draft for a rap battle starring Damian Lillard and Marvin Bagley

We have that and more in Friday’s NBA newsletter.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Five Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

For 60 or so basketball players between the ages of 19 and 22, Thursday night’s NBA Draft represented an incredibly important moment in their lives, both a culmination of hard work to get to the best basketball league in the world and a first step in building a career to be proud of.

But I will remember this NBA Draft as the year Damian Lillard dropped a diss track on Marvin Bagley III in the middle of the first round.

Some quick background: Bagley, on ESPN’s First Take Thursday morning, declared himself the best rapper in the NBA when asked. Max Kellerman asked if he’d battle Lillard on First Take to settle it, and Bagley said yes. Lillard almost immediately tweeted that he won’t go on First Take but he’s in. (Sheesh. We should have known things were going down at that point. First Take catching a stray.) Bagley put out a track before the draft called “No Debate” — not so much a diss or battle song, but a boast vaguely tied to burgeoning battle.

So at 9:26 p.m. ET, when the NBA Draft was around pick No. 20, Dame dropped a song called “MARVINNNNNN???!!!” with incredible cover art. Incredible.

Dame wasn’t done, though: after midnight he dropped “BYE BYE” on Bagley (featuring the photo of Lillard waving goodbye to the Thunder in the playoffs as the cover art).

But we’re not done! At like 6 a.m. ET, Bagley dropped his response “Checkmate” ... and, while I’m not a rap critic, this is a good battle! Bagley has a line about buying a pair of Dame’s shoes and returning them that had me cackling.

Bagley, of course, was drafted just last year. Let this be a lesson to everyone who heard their name called by Adam Silver or Mark Tatum on Thursday: you too could find yourself in a rap battle an All-NBA point guard if you just work hard enough and believe in yourself.

Oh yeah, the draft

There were a lot of trades but the 2019 NBA Draft was ... kind of boring? The top of the first was ultra sweet with Zion Williamson (No. 1, Pelicans), Ja Morant (No. 2, Grizzlies), and R.J. Barrett (No. 3, Knicks) all being raw and emotional upon realizing their NBA dreams. The Hawks moved up to No. 4 for De’Andre Hunter. The Suns moved back for ... reasons, I suppose, and made a shocking lottery pick. The Celtics, Sixers, and Bucks dropped salary. Bol Bol broke the unofficial record for longest wait in the green room after falling all the way to No. 44, where the Nuggets traded for him.

Here are your instant draft grades from Ricky O’Donnell. Here are nine winners and five losers from the draft from Matt Ellentuck. And most importantly, here are the best fits from the draft class. I am absolutely rocking Darius Garland’s joint the next time I travel to Coruscant.


The Pacers picked up T.J. Warren for a song and that changes things for Indiana, writes Caitlin Cooper.

Zion merch is going to be very popular.

Pretty cold and nifty work by the Celtics: Danny Ainge convinced Aron Baynes to opt in to his contract, then apparently told him he’d trade him to a contender once it looked like Boston was slinking back into quasi-rebuild mode, then he traded him to the Suns of all teams. But the Suns are going to buy him out, so everything turned out OK. Free money for Baynes!

A lot of words have been spilled on whether the Lakers know what they are doing or not. I’m not sure any of it matters? We’ll know soon enough whether they are capable of putting a roster around two of the best players in the NBA.

By the way, the Lakers drafted a Klutch client. Of course.

Everyone was surprised that the Suns took Cam Johnson No. 11 overall. (He was projected to go much, much later.) But no one had a more hilarious reaction than Cam’s college teammate Coby White, who went two picks earlier and was actually doing his podium interview when Cam got picked. It was like the happy version of the infamous LeBron “wow” GIF.

Be excellent to each other.