The overlaps between basketball and hip-hop are well-documented by now, but the connection between the two cultures is even more pronounced in some places like South Central Los Angeles, which helped breed both legendary rappers and big-name NBA stars in close proximity. So, there is perhaps no sports talk personality better suited to pay tribute to fallen hometown hero Nipsey Hussle than TNT’s Baron Davis, who grew up in the area and played basketball at UCLA before going on to a productive NBA career that gave him the same folk hero status as Nipsey in LA. On Tuesday’s episode of Players Only, B. Diddy gave a heartfelt tribute to the late rapper from the unique perspective of someone who watched him grow up and could explain just how much he meant to the LA hoops community.
Baron broke down Nipsey’s “legendary, self-made progress” by telling his co-hosts about the unique, fly-on-the-wall perspective he had of Nipsey’s growth, saying: “We watched him grow up through the struggle that we all grew up in. But as a young man, he was sharp. As an adult, he became responsible. As a father and a husband, he became a leader and our leader in LA.”
That leadership, he explained, had a profound effect on the current crop of LA-bred NBA talent, who looked to Nipsey not just because of his position but how he used it. “When you see Russ (Westbrook), DeMar (DeRozan), Kawhi (Leonard), Trevor Ariza, James Harden honoring this man, it’s because he led by example. A lot of us come up in the Tupac generation and Tupac talked about all the things he wanted to do in the community. Nipsey Hussle did it. Nipsey Hussle was there.”
Westbrook himself may have made the splashiest tribute to Nipsey, delivering a history-making 20 point, 20 rebound, 20 assist game — the first in over 50 years — and declaring, “That was for my bro. That was for Nipsey. 20 plus 20 plus 20. They know what that means,” referring to Nipsey’s upbringing in the neighborhood called “The 60s” by locals, which Nipsey himself alluded to when he first introduced himself to rap fans over a decade ago.
Nipsey Hussle is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.