Anonymous poll of NBA players has LeBron far behind Jordan in GOAT debate

Erik García Gundersen | USA TODAY SPORTS

The masses online will never agree when it comes to the debate on who the best basketball player to ever live is. But we do have insight on how a specific group of the population feels on the GOAT debate and, frankly, it’s not that close.

The Athletic released its answer to the NBA’s GM survey by doing an anonymous survey of current NBA players, touching on a wide range of questions, from who players would want to start a franchise with to who the greatest player ever is.

Here’s how 117 NBA players responded:

Who’s the best player of all time?
(117 votes)

  1. Michael Jordan (73%)
  2. LeBron James (11.9%)
  3. Kobe Bryant (10.6%)
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1.7%)
  5. Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant (1%)

Given the state of the Lakers and the doubts about whether they can attract another star player to join LeBron James and the Lakers’ young players, the possibility of James adding more championships to his legacy is in serious doubt. Some of you likely believe that LeBron is better than Jordan in a vacuum. But the answers from players in this poll make it clear the GOAT debate has a lot of external factors at play.


We Have A New Anonymous NBA Players Poll And The Results Are Juicy


I LOVE anonymous NBA player polls. Love em, can’t get enough of em. So when I saw that The Athletic put one out after polling 127 players , I couldn’t have clicked fast enough. Combing through the results there were some surprises, some choices that made me legit laugh out loud, and others went about as you expected. After combing through, here’s what stood out

We may as well get this one out of the way early. Who do players think is the MVP?

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that players respect the hell out of James Harden. Remember when he got robbed of an MVP during Westbrook’s year but then also won the player’s choice for MVP in that fake award show that happens every year? The media may hate James Harden and his game, but the players know what’s up. In fact, the surprising part to me was that it wasn’t as close as I thought. Everything you read/hear these days is that this is a neck and neck race, but according to players it’s pretty clear who the MVP is and I imagine Rockets fans whole heartedly agree.

This I find shocking for a couple reasons. Not because Kawhi was the overall choice, that’s expected. But how can Giannis be so low? The man legit should win the DPOY award this season, yet he got just 2.6% of the votes? I don’t know how he doesn’t finish this top 3 at the very least, like how does someone think Kris Dunn is every bit the defender that Giannis is? Also, a little low for Myles Turner and PJ Tucker too, one of which leads the NBA in blocks and the other may be the most underrated defender in the entire NBA.


This is hilarious for a number of reasons. First, I’m not convinced any of those 47 players actually knows who Semi is because he barely plays. Unless they are factoring in Celtics Twitter, I don’t know how anyone could consider him overrated. Is that because he’s a Giannis stopper? That’s not me talking, that’s science

Also, is KAT overrated? People really think he’s not one of the most devastating young bigs in the league? It’s not his fault his team forgets he’s actually on it for long stretches, he puts up monster numbers and is young as shit. I feel like that’s a stretch too.

This list is much more accurate in my opinion. All these guys are underrated as shit. Well, maybe Middleton is slightly overrated if only because he’s been so underrated if that makes any sense, but I think the players nailed this one.

I wonder if Kyrie was asked this question and what his answer was. Interesting that both New York teams come in 9th, considering it’s being reported that everyone and their mother wants to go to either BKN or the NYK. Also hilarious that Phil Jackson got a vote, who does he coach for again?

Hilarious. Everyone hates Tony Brothers and Scott Foster just like us fans do. Maybe it’s because they’re shady as shit and the NBA clearly uses them to push a certain outcome. Everyone knows it and while the more fitting answer is probably #4, I don’t know how you could be surprised by the top 2 answers. Those guys STINK.

You know what they say, players talk. That is an overwhelming percentage right there that Durant ends up in NYC, and maybe that’s why Dolan sounded so confident about their summer a few weeks ago. Where there’s smoke there’s often fire, and it would be the most Knicks thing ever for there to be this overwhelming assumption that KD ends up a Knick only for him to end up somewhere else. Knicks fans are used to being cock teased I’m sure, but we’re reaching dangerous levels here. Imagine he turns them down and stays with GS? That first game at MSG would absolutely be must watch.

There’s a couple other interesting poll results, (here) so go ahead and read through it, but to me these stood out the most.

47 YEARS: Warriors say goodbye to Oracle Arena with Oakland banner and ‘We Believe’ uniforms; Clinch top seed in west

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

The Golden State Warriors will say goodbye to Oracle Arena and the city of Oakland after this season, with a plan to open the new Chase Center in San Francisco next year.

That move is a very mixed bag for many fans, and an outright negative for the ones in Oakland, but the Warriors had plenty in store to honor their soon-to-be-old arena during their final home game of the regular season.

Warriors reveal Oakland banner

The team’s biggest gesture toward its time in Oakland was a banner reading “Oakland, California: 47 seasons” that will hang in the new Chase Center, commemorating the Warriors’ home for nearly the last five decades.

“Obviously this is the ceremonial final game at Oracle. We’ve got a few more to come,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said to the crowd. “Behind me, we’ve got a banner signifying 47 years here at Oracle Arena, and this banner will hang in the new Chase Center as well. So thank you to everybody, we love you and we’ll see you in the playoffs.”

Additionally, past Warriors favorites like Sleepy Floyd, Rick Barry, Adonal Foyle and Mo Speights were on hand and honored at halftime.

It’s a bittersweet moment for a team that was selling tickets even during the dark times between 1995 and 2012 in which the team the made the playoffs just once.

Once the team began winning titles in 2014-15, Oracle Arena morphed into a house of horrors for opponents, with the team losing a grand total of nine home games over the course of three years.

One of the most memorable teams during the Warriors’ 47 years in Oracle was the 2006-07 “We Believe” team, which pulled of one of the NBA’s greatest upsets against the 67-win Dallas Mavericks that featured league MVP Dirk Nowitzki.

The Warriors took a special step to remember that team…

Warriors surprise fans by wearing ‘We Believe’ throwback uniforms and they loved it


The Golden State Warriors were playing in their final regular season home game at classic Oracle Arena in Oakland and they broke out some classic uniforms to celebrate the night.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Co. wore the “We Believe” uniforms that the franchise last wore in the 2009-10 season.

And it must have worked because the Warriors blew out the Clippers to lock up the No. 1 seed in the West.

The phrase was adopted by the 2006-07 Warriors team as they went on a run in the final months of the season and made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They then stunned Dirk Nowitzki and the top-seed Mavericks in six games and had Oracle Arena rocking in the process.

Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, and the rest of the guys on that team must have loved seeing these jerseys Sunday night.

Because they looked pretty great. Making things even better, the team waited until the last second to surprise fans with them.


Steph Curry explains decision to honor Monta Ellis before Oracle finale

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS

Steph Curry made a lot of Warriors fans smile Sunday before he had even stepped on the court at Oracle Arena. 

Curry has been honoring past Warriors greats by wearing their jerseys to games, and he honored a player who is near and dear to Warriors fans’ hearts Sunday: former teammate Monta Ellis. 

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Crazy #onceuponatime

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Curry and Ellis played together for two and a half seasons before Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks midway through the 2011-12 season. The two guards had some history, with Ellis saying he “can’t play with” Curry when the Warriors drafted the sharpshooting guard with the No. 7 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

After the Warriors thumped the Los Angeles Clippers in the regular-season finale at Oracle Arena, Curry explained why he chose this game to honor his former backcourt mate.

“Obviously, a lot of history that Monta was able to be a part of with the ‘We Believe’ Warriors era, and when I got here my rookie year, he was that guy,” Curry told reporters after the game. “And I think for me, in terms of representing him on the last game, it meant a lot because we were in that backcourt together. 

“When he was traded it was a tough time in terms of the transition of the organization and things like that. I wanted to pay, obviously, honor to him in terms of his story, coming out of high school and doing what he was able to do. He was an Oakland fan, Warrior fan. Beloved guy. So it was only right to have him as the last night of the regular season.”

Well said, Steph.

Ellis, for his part, showed Curry love on Instagram for choosing to honor him Sunday.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Monta Ellis sends love to Steph Curry for rocking jersey to Oracle finale

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS

Steph Curry has been honoring Warriors legends by wearing their jerseys to the final games at Oracle Arena, and on Sunday he gave a nod to a player who holds a special place in hearts of Warriors fans — Monta Ellis.

Curry and Ellis played together for two and half seasons, with Ellis famously saying that he and Curry “can’t play together” after the Warriors drafted Curry with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. 

Regardless of their history, Curry arrived at Oracle Arena rocking an Ellis throwback jersey prior to the final regular-season game in Oakland.

Warriors fans weren’t the only ones who appreciated the gesture, as Ellis sent Curry some love on Instagram after the arrival.

Hatchet buried.

Ellis played six and a half seasons for the Warriors before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks midway through the 2011-12 season. During his Warriors tenure, Ellis averaged 19.6 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field.

Westbrook, Draymond Green voted most overrated by NBA players; do you agree?


Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green were voted as the most overrated players in the NBA in a poll conducted by The Athletic.

The poll used anonymous feedback from 127 players in total to conduct its research; the website’s 30 beat writers helped tally the results. However, not every player answered every question.

The players were asked a variety of questions, from choosing the MVP and best defender in the league to best ballhandler. For instance: Paul George was voted third in the MVP race.

While George placed pretty high on a few questions, Westbrook and Green garnered 17 percent of the votes from the 47 players polled as the most overrated in the NBA.

Who’s the most overrated? (47 votes)

  1. Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook (17%)
  2. Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns (6.3%)
  3. James Harden, Ben Simmons, LeBron James, Kyle Lowry (4.2%)
  4. Semi Ojeleye, Kyrie Irving, Brook Lopez, Myles Turner, Luka Doncic, Hassan Whiteside, John Collins, Lonzo Ball, C.J. McCollum, Nikola Jokic, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap, Klay Thompson, Jayson Tatum (2.1%)

The results from the 47 players polled appear to be mixed with James Harden and LeBron James — arguably two of the best in the NBA — receiving votes for being overrated.

Westbrook and Green have become two of the most polarizing players in the NBA over the years. They have each become fierce competitors in the NBA and have been known to talk trash to the opposition — Green was voted No. 1 in the biggest trash-talker category and Westbrook was third.

On the season, Westbrook is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game this season. He clinched a third consecutive season averaging a triple-double on Friday night.

While his shooting numbers have been historically bad this season, Westbrook has still been one of the best players in the league and is arguably a top-two point guard.

Meanwhile, Green is averaging 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, seven assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game this season for the Warriors. He has become an elite defender given his versatility and ability to guard multiple positions.

By being two of the most polarizing players in the league, Westbrook and Green likely haven’t made many friends around the NBA and that could have had a huge impact on them being named two of the most overrated in the league.

However, the two players probably don’t care either way …

ESPN Sports Center’s Top 10 plays of the 2018-19 NBA regular season

#10 (0:09) Chris Paul banks in a shot from the opponent’s 3-point line

#9 (0:24) D. J. Augustin fools Trae Young on a fade-away shot

#8 (0:47) Jayson Tatum hawks it in transition

#7 (1:05) Danuel House Jr. goes airborne on an impressive dunk

#6 (1:24) Malik Monk brings down a one-handed alley-oop from Devonte’ Graham

#5 (1:39) Malik Beasley slams it down with one hand over a defender

#4 (2:00) Reggie Jackson sends Myles Turner to the floor

#3 (2:20) Alex Caruso jumps over everybody for a loud slam

#2 (2:47) Steph Curry sends a full-court pass behind his back to Kevin Durant

#1 (3:05) Russell Westbrook gives a spin-around pass to Steven Adams who throws it down for the score

After years of misery, Nets clinch an improbable playoff berth

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

It was a long, painful road for the Brooklyn Nets and their fans, but the team is finally, improbably back in the NBA playoffs.

With a 108-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the 41-40 Nets clinched their first playoff berth since the 2014-15 season. It remains to be seen whether the team will get the sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the good news is already here for Brooklyn.

After spending years in NBA purgatory thanks to a bad mixture of lack of star talent and the inability to develop any thanks to a catastrophic trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013, the Nets have a young core again and a way forward.

As far as the Nets’ odds to make the playoffs went, both Las Vegas and the numbers didn’t seem to think highly of them entering the season.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gave the Nets a moneyline of +300 to make the postseason, while FiveThirtyEight had the team at around 30 percent. Those odds likely became even worse when the team’s leading scorer, Caris Levert, went down with a severe leg injury.

The Nets still persevered thanks to the breakout season of D’Angelo Russell, who has found new life since he was traded away from the Los Angeles Lakers to make room at point guard for Lonzo Ball. Russell made his first career All-Star appearance and is now averaging 21.2 points and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field.

Russell didn’t even know the team had just clinched a playoff spot as he stepped in for a postgame interview.

Between Russell, Levert and other players like rookie center Jarrett Allen, it might not be long before the Nets make the playoffs again.


Jazz’s Korver reflects on racism, white privilege


Utah Jazz guard Kyle Korver, in a first-person piece published Monday on The Players’ Tribune, reflected on race relations in America and pondered his position as a white man playing in the NBA.

In the piece titled “Privileged,” Korver touched on a variety of race-related topics and shared his own experiences, citing a 2015 arrest of a teammate and a racial incident last month involving Thunder star Russell Westbrook and a fan in Utah.

“There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks,” Korver wrote. “It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.”

Korver mentioned his “privilege” on multiple occasions in the piece, writing that, as a white man, he has the option to engage or disengage in the fight against racism.

“What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color … I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it,” he wrote. “Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.”

LeBron James, a former teammate of Korver, praised the piece on Twitter.

Korver, 38, is about to complete his 16th season in the NBA. He was a member of the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 when teammate Thabo Sefolosha was arrested in New York for allegedly interfering with a crime scene.

Sefolosha suffered season-ending leg injuries during his arrest and, later that year, was found not guilty on all three misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.

Korver wrote that he was “embarrassed” by his initial reaction in 2015 to learning about Sefolosha’s arrest, saying that his “first thought was: ‘What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back?'”

“Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo … I sort of blamed Thabo,” Korver wrote.

Korver also recounted his role in the Jazz’s team discussion about the March 11 incident at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, where Westbrook shouted, “I’ll f— you up” to Jazz fan Shane Keisel in response to Keisel telling him, “Get on your knees like you’re used to.”

Westbrook, who considered the comment “completely disrespectful” and “racial,” was fined $25,000 by the NBA. Keisel was permanently banned from the arena.

Korver said the “incident struck a nerve with our team,” prompting a closed-door meeting the next day with Jazz president Steve Starks.

“This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others,” Korver wrote. “And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.

“It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.

“It was about racism in America.”

Korver also discussed his own feelings of guilt and responsibility and listed several ways that he, as a white player in the NBA, can help deal with forms of racism.

“I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable,” Korver wrote. “We all have to hold each other accountable.

“And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a ‘safe’ space for toxic behavior.”

Kyle Korver confronts racism, white privilege in a must-read essay

Hemal Jhaveri | USA TODAY SPORTS

Racism in this country is a hard thing to talk about, a difficult topic that many people would like avoid, but Utah Jazz guard Kyle Korver confronted race and his own white privilege in a powerful essay for The Players’ Tribune.

Simply titled “Privileged“, the essay is a straightforward acknowledgement of the space Korver occupies not only in a league that’s over 75% black, but in a world where inequality seems to be woven into the fabric of the nation.  The statements are a bold, unflinching look into a mirror, that strips away performative inclusion to dig into the real work of being an ally…

He goes on to say that white people may not be guilty for the sins of their forefathers, but they certainly bare the responsibility.

“It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide,” he wrote.

There’s a tendency, among fans and in the media, to heap undue praise on white men for often doing the bare minimum, but Korver’s essay deserves to be acknowledged for what it is, an attempt to hold himself and other white athletes accountable for their behavior.

“I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America,” he wrote. “I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.”

You can read the entire essay here. It is very much worth your time.

PRINCE of the COURT • The basketball player formerly known as Prince remains Minnesota’s most famous hooper



The dance rehearsal hall where Prince once held his pickup basketball games at his Paisley Park estate is now a shrine to “Purple Rain,” the hoop removed and supplanted by one of the motorcycles from the movie and, among other things, an Oscar.

As with his music, the legend lives on.

The Final Four has arrived in Minnesota, and with apologies to Kevin McHale, the state’s most famous homegrown hooper is better known for something other than his basketball skills – but those were, as aficionados of Chappelle’s Show might already be guessing, formidable.

Prince, who died in 2016, was a big a star as any artist of his generation and as cool a human as ever walked the planet, but as Prince Rogers Nelson, he was also a basketball player of some renown.

Prince’s basketball skills were immortalized on Chappelle’s Show by one of Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories, in this case after Eddie Murphy and his crew ran into Prince and his crew at a club in 1985.

They ended up playing basketball, with Prince and the Revolution still wearing their club clothes – “shirts against the blouses,” Charlie Murphy quipped, to Prince’s apparent displeasure – and Prince dominating.

Prince later confirmed the basic elements of Murphy’s story in a later radio interview, although not quite exactly as Murphy described on the show.

“To be honest,” Prince said, “it ain’t that I’m so great, but he’s that bad.”

Even that is up for some debate, as USA Today’s FTW blog once examined. While Prince was far from a star at Bryant Junior High and Central High in Minneapolis, where he played football, basketball and baseball and his basketball coach described him, to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, as a “sixth or seventh man.” But the author Toure’ would later write approvingly of Prince’s skills after playing one-on-one against Prince.

“He moved like a player and played like one of those darting little guys you have to keep your eye on every second,” Toure’ wrote in his book I Would Die 4 U. “Blink and he’s somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Lose control of your dribble for a heartbeat and he’s relieved you of the ball. He jitterbugged around the court like a sleek little lightning bug, so fast he’d leave a defender stranded and looking stupid if he weren’t careful.”

That’s more the player Murphy describes in the skit: “This cat could ball, man. He was crossing cats like Iverson. Crossed me up, made my knees slam together. He was getting rebounds like Charles Barkley.”

The victorious Prince – “Game, blouses!” – after suggesting a cleansing dip in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, then offered the Murphy entourage pancakes, as the skit would have it, but there’s every reason to believe that’s how it ended.

He did the same when he hosted a celebration for the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at Paisley Park, the breakfast somehow becoming inextricably linked with his basketball exploits. (Prince used a photo of Dave Chappelle, dressed as him, holding a plate of pancakes for the cover of his 2013 single “Breakfast Can Wait.”)

The basket is gone, but the television in the lounge where Prince would watch his beloved Lynx and Timberwolves play was tuned to basketball on Saturday, which a tour guide noted approvingly, and a Prince-themed Final Four corporate party was being prepared for Sunday night.

And Paisley Park has a cafe that offers dishes from recipes left behind by Prince’s personal chefs. You may no longer be able to subject yourself to a purple rain of jumpers or play shirts against blouses on the court he once dominated, but you can still relax like Prince once did afterward.

With pancakes.


The real story behind the famous Chappelle skit about Prince’s late-night hoops challenge


As Micki Free checked into a Nashville, Tennessee, hotel earlier this month, the clerk, glancing at the name on the reservation, did a double take.

“Are you the Micki Free?” the clerk asked. “The guy who played basketball with Prince?”

Free laughed as he recalled the encounter. “Happens all the time when I check in,” Free said. “Been that way the last 12 years.”

It started on Feb. 18, 2004, when comedian Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central series aired a skit called Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories. In the segment, Murphy — comedian Eddie Murphy’s older brother — describes a late-night basketball outing that portrayed Prince as a shot-calling, trash-talking baller.

It was a made-up comedic masterpiece, right? A fictionalized account of a scrawny, 5-foot-2 musician as dominant athlete, right?

“Everything in that skit is true,” said Free, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter who was a member of Shalamar in the 1980s. “I played in that game. And Prince was Steph Curry all m—–f—— night!”

Prince wasn’t just some famous dude who was breaking ankles of other nonathletic famous dudes in late-night runs. Prince could actually play, a guy who might have been an impact high school basketball player under different circumstances while growing up in Minneapolis.

He played two years at Central High School in Minneapolis, and his high school coach, Albert Nuness, says he was extremely talented.

“His game was quickness. He wasn’t the best shooter, but he could split the seams and pass the ball and because of his size people loved to watch him,” Nuness said. “The player he reminds me of — Spud Webb. He didn’t have the leaping ability like Spud, but his quickness was very similar.”

One of the reasons Prince quit basketball was because he was unhappy with his playing time.

“At the time, that team was considered the greatest ever assembled in Minnesota,” Nuness said. “So it would have been hard for him to get time with us, and lot had to do with his size. But had he gone to any other school in the city — West or South — he would have played. A lot. No question.”

During 1975-76, Prince’s senior year, Central finished 25-1 and had four players receive Division I scholarships, including Prince’s half-brother, Duane Nelson, who played for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Although Prince’s basketball skills weren’t widely known at the time the Chappelle’s Show skit aired, there were signs that he had talent: He had a basketball court on the stage during his 1988 LoveSexy Tour, for instance, and during the concert he would shoot baskets and spin a basketball on his finger.

In his video for the song The Daisy Chain, which was recorded in 2000, Prince handles a basketball throughout. The closing seconds of the video, which was shot in his indoor court at the Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis and didn’t surface until after his death, show perhaps the only known footage of Prince playing basketball.

Going back to the basketball game made famous on Chappelle’s Show: Free said it happened sometime in the mid-1980s as he was hanging out with Prince, Eddie Murphy and Charlie Murphy at a private club, Tramps! at the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, California. When the club closed, Prince invited the group to his Beverly Hills home.

While playing music for his guests, Prince asked the group, “Do you want to play basketball?” The invite was met with laughter, but once the Murphy brothers saw Prince was serious, they geared up and took to the court at his house.

The TV skit portrayed the game as 5-on-5, half court. In reality, it was the Murphy brothers and their uncle, Ray, against Prince, his brother, Duane, and Free.

Murphy’s crew changed into athletic gear. And Prince’s crew?

“Yes, it’s true, we had on ‘blouses,’ and frilly shirts,” Free said. “The same clothes we had at the club. Prince played in 6-inch heels!”

Free remembered that Murphy’s crew didn’t take the game seriously at first.

“They checked the ball to me, I gave it to Prince and he went to work,” Free said. “You know that one move where Curry dribbles up and they got him covered, but he steps back behind the 3-point line and hits nothing but net? That was Prince.”

In the TV skit, Murphy described Prince as a combination of basketball greats Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley, a scoring and rebounding machine. Prince dominated the game, according to Murphy’s account, and capped off his game-winning shot with these oft-repeated words: “Game, Blouses.”

And after the game?

“It was just like they showed on TV,” Free said. “His chef served us blueberry pancakes, for real!”

Free first met Prince in the early 1980s and, over time, the two became friends. Prince offered to buy Free out of his contract with Shalamar and place him in his Minneapolis-based group, Mazarati. But the owner of Shalamar’s label declined and the two grew apart as Prince’s star began to shine brighter following the success of Purple Rain.

“What happened between us? He became Prince,” Free said. “He got huge and I was just one of many people he knew. I was just lucky to have my experiences with Prince, because anytime you got a chance to spend one-on-one with him, it was like a religious experience.”

Memories of their time together returned on Feb. 18, 2004, with an out-of-the-blue email from Charlie Murphy.

“I got you, m—–f—–,” the email read.

Free was still trying to figure out what he meant when he got a hysterical call from his mother.

“ ‘They’re talking about you on TV, son,’ ” he recalled her saying. “ ‘They’re calling you a girl.’ ”

She was watching the portion of skit where Charlie Murphy described her son: “And Micki Free was like the new cat in Shalamar, that when he joined the group I heard mad cats like, yo, Shalamar got a new girl, man, that b—- is fine like a m—–f—–.”

Free’s reaction was the total opposite of his mother’s.

“I was rolling,” Free said. “It was hilarious. And it was true.”

The skit captured the true competitiveness of Prince, which stretched beyond basketball.

David Z, a sound engineer, told the Minneapolis StarTribune that Prince once challenged Michael Jackson to a game of pingpong while the two were recording in the same studio.

Apparently, Jackson wasn’t a player. And it didn’t end well for the gloved one.

Prince asked Jackson, “You want me to slam it?” As Jackson cowered, Prince did just that, and Jackson was humiliated. “Did you see that?” Z recalled Prince saying. “He played like Helen Keller.”

After Prince’s death, Jimmy Fallon, the host of The Tonight Show, described being destroyed by Prince during a late-night game of pingpong. Prince delivered the beatdown while wearing a “double-breasted crushed blue velvet suit.”

That’s exactly how Free remembers Prince: a man who took everything seriously.


?STEPHEN CURRY says: “I know what my purpose is and who I play basketball for…” & Responds to Being Called “The Greatest Basketball Player of All Time”

NEW! • ☆☆☆☆☆ • Outstanding interview…

FULL INTERVIEW: NBA all-star Stephen Curry sits down with TODAY’s Craig Melvin to chat all things NBA including where he ranks in the best players of all time, being a dad and growing up in the shadow of his father who was also an NBA icon, the underrated influence of his mother on his competitive spirit, how his faith drives him and MUCH more.

Russell Westbrook Got His Revenge On Zaza Pachulia Two Years Later Just Like He Promised


On Friday night in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook made history once again. Going into the fourth quarter against the visiting Pistons, he’d already logged a stat line — 14 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds — that assures he’ll average a triple-double for the third straight season.

At this point, he’s made it seem so commonplace that it barely registers anymore, which is a shame given the colossal difficulty of such a feat, but here we are. What ended up being more impressive/horrifying was the flagrant foul he committed against Zaza Pachulia earlier in the contest.

It wasn’t the foul itself that was particularly memorable. It was more about the context with which it was delivered. See, Russell Westbrook apparently has a long memory. And like any good anti-hero, he ascribes to the mantra that revenge is a dish best served cold, which it why it’s so astounding that he waited more than two years to get his payback on Pachulia, just like he said he would.

Like other extremely competitive athletes who have gone before him, Russ apparently never forgets a slight, nor does he believe in any statue of limitations on when it can be paid in turn.

If you weren’t already a little bit afraid of Russ to begin with, this should be more than enough to make anyone else think twice before they decide to cross him.