Most basketball fans know that Michael Jordan frequently used slights or perceived disrespect from teammates, opponents, and the media to fuel some of his greatest performances. What most don’t know is that sometimes Jordan would just create imaginary challenges and be motivated all the same.
One day in 1993, an unknown Washington Bullets two guard named LaBradford Smith matched up with Jordan and the Bulls at the old Chicago Stadium. The Bullets were as hapless then as they are now, but something special happened that night. The former Louisville standout went off to the tune of 37 points, shooting 75% from the field, and a perfect 7 for 7 from the charity stripe.
The Bulls still won, because of course they did, but Jordan claimed Smith said sarcastically “Nice game, Mike” after the matchup was over. Jordan then vowed to score 37 points in the first half the next time the two teams met, which happened to be the next day.
The second matchup took place at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD. True to his word, Jordan came out guns blazing was one point away from fulfilling his vow, scoring 36 points in the first half, and finishing up with 47. Smith could only muster 15 points, and backcourt mate Michael Adams’ jump shot remained ugly. Many years and championships later, Jordan was asked about this game and is said to have admitted that Smith never made the mocking comment following his 37-point outburst. He just said that he did to motivate himself more, after being embarrassed on his home court.
Pusha T has a lot in common with Jordan. I’m not saying that the Virginia Beach cocaine cowboy is the greatest of all time, though you may get a different answer if you ask him. What he shares with number 23 is the fact that external motivation seems to coax the best performances out of him.
Feeling undervalued by the higher-ups, underrated by the streets, and uninspired by his peers, Pusha and his Re-Up Gang partners burned up the streets with some of the best street lyricism of the past decade on the We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series. When “them crackas wasn’t playin’ fair at Jive” Pusha Ton paired with his brother and dropped the classic album, Hell Hath No Fury. Questions about his recent G.O.O.D. Music affiliation produced Fear Of God. Don’t make him angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.
Now in the present day, we find Pusha annoyed by his peers and from time to time taking shots in the direction of certain Young Money affiliates. Why? It isn’t entirely clear. Push’s explanations range from the barbed lines just being in the spirit of competition, to responses in the face of subliminal missives. Be it paranoia or well-reasoned self-defense, the brazen, sharp-tongued dopeboy from VA is not playing around.
His latest release, Wrath Of Caine, will show exactly how motivated he is these days. With features from French Montana, Wale, and Ab-Liva and production from Kanye West, The Neptunes and Young Chop, he has all of the tools to lay claim to the spot at the top of the hill that he believes he deserves.
Download — Pusha T – Wrath Of Caine Mixtape