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Kevin Durant finds the blackness beyond his own skin

His epiphany is one that many are forced to come to in adulthood

12:35 PM“I love my blackness. And yours.”

Those are the words that DeRay McKesson, the educator turned activist turned media personality, tweets regularly, a statement of self-affirmation that is as much an exercise of self-love as it is rebellion. Wednesday night at Staples Center, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors beat the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that could field a full starting five of biracial players if they so chose.

Two weeks before that, KD told the San Jose Mercury News‘ Logan Murdock that he had an epiphany. It had finally occurred to him what it meant to be black. It took moving to Oakland, California, to play for the Golden State Warriors, but he finally figured it out.

“If I find something that’s empowering to people that look like me, I just try to send a subtle message that I got your back and I hear you and I try to inspire you as much as I can from just being in this world as a black man coming up, even though I was looked at and viewed a little differently for it,” Durant told Murdock. “But I’m still a black man. I understand where you’re coming from.”

When Durant came into this world, the city he was born in was still three years away from becoming the murder capital of the U.S. The drug kingpin known as Rayful Edmond III was a little more than six months from being put in prison for being largely responsible for much of the drug culture that ravaged Washington, D.C., and Mayor Marion Barry was just over two years away from video of him smoking crack on an FBI video going viral. Those were in Durant’s distant surroundings.

“Because the streets is a short stop,” the Notorious B.I.G. rhymed on the 1993 classic “Things Done Changed,” on Bad Boy Records. “Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” Durant had the latter. But his immediate surroundings were different, although not necessarily a different world from the glaringly awful headlines of his youth in his hometown.

To most people, that’s what blackness is.

The question of when one wakes up is always fascinating. For some players, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker, whom I met at The Undefeated’s Chicago summit, activism through voice came naturally. As a millennial from the South Side of Chicago, the notion of “speaking up” was never one that required an awakening. It’s not the same for everyone, though.

Some players use their blackness as their primary swag in their quest for success. And God bless them for it. For others, it’s a by-product of their existence, at least until they get into a world in which they are forced to confront it. Point being, it’s certainly not the same for every single black athlete. It varies from background to background, upbringing to upbringing, sport to sport, no matter how often fans and others try to lump them all into the same mindset or understanding.

Yet, still, that question — what is your blackness? — remains a fascinating one for both athletes and the rest of us alike.

Jay-Z, the rap mogul who once was a part of the ownership group of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and, in many minds, a large part of the reason that they moved to Brooklyn, had an eye-opening experience at the highest level of sports. Sure, his Negro status mattered, but so did his star status.

“When I was doing the Nets, I was definitely the only black guy in the room,” he said, speaking to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet in a must-see, wide-ranging interview about being a black man in President Donald Trump’s America. “It was um, it’s strange, but at the same time I think that … I think that in that room, my celebrity allowed me a voice that probably would have been awkward for someone [else] in my position being the only black person in the room to break through.”

Meghan Markle, the American actress who recently got engaged to British royal Prince Harry, has the media falling all over themselves to make sure we know she’s mixed-race. Her Wikipedia page has an extended portion about her ancestry. You could say that she learned just how black she was not while growing up in Los Angeles or attending Northwestern University but when she decided to join the most exclusive white club in the world.

For comedian Elon James White, creator of the web platform “This Week in Blackness,” he found exactly how black he was when his then-girlfriend, now-wife (who is white) went to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner without him, because he wasn’t invited, for two years in a row. After telling the world about how he leaned on black women during these times of sorrow, he got quickly canceled by Twitter for what some felt was duplicitous nonsense.

April Ryan, the White House correspondent whose relationship with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is icy at best, was reminded of just how black she is when she wasn’t invited to the White House Christmas party. Petty knows no color.

Personally, I get reminded every single time I appear on television and another black person is telling me to brush my hair. I politely remind them that I do it for the kids out there who need to believe that succumbing to European standards of beauty isn’t the only way to live your dreams and work in public spaces. I love my nappiness. And yours.

Point is, we all have our reminders.

For Kevin Durant, the Bay Area, Colin Kaepernick, Tupac and Rick James are his reminders. He’s got tattoos of the latter two. In talking to Murdock, author of the piece in which KD revealed his realization, he noted how ready the reigning NBA Finals MVP was to talk about his identity. ” ‘Hell, yeah,’ he said. Just like that,” Murdock noted, regarding when he asked Durant’s team about getting the exclusive interview.

Maybe all we’re really seeing is a return to form from Durant. After all, he was born in the blackest major city in America.

Daily Dose: 11/29/17

Timbaland battled opioid addiction

5:37 PMWhat up, gang? Wednesday’s a TV day, so tune in to Around The Horn at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Also, if you missed #TheRightTime on Tuesday, you can check out the program here.

Matt Lauer is officially out the paint at NBC. The longtime Today anchor, who was reportedly being paid $28M a year, along with access to his own personal helicopter to fly from his home in the Hamptons to New York City, was let go after accusations of sexual misconduct were raised with his parent company. In addition, Minnesota Public Radio personality Garrison Keillor was also fired for similar reasons. You might know him from A Prairie Home Companion. Not to be forgotten, the accusers are adding up for Democratic congressman John Conyers of Michigan.

Now that we’ve decided sexual misconduct is an offense worthy of losing one’s job, there are other questions. Namely, how will this affect not only celebrities and politicians but also people who apparently make the apps we want to love yet haven’t come into fame or notoriety? Mainly, how will this affect upcoming elections in 2020 for both sides of the aisle? FiveThirtyEight has a chat.

Timbaland is a hip-hop legend. The Virginia producer and rapper who rose to fame alongside Missy Elliot has been around the music game for years, crafting hits for stars in different genres over the years. He hasn’t exactly been on the scene recently, and for good reason: He’s had a drug problem. And not like a “he’s been smoking too much fire weed” problem — an opioid addiction that was making his friends tell him to get out of the public eye. This new profile in Rolling Stone is quite revealing.

The NFL looks like it finally wants to engage in social justice. Mind you, this is the same league that went nearly haywire when Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand for the national anthem. It legitimately almost brought down the entire sanctity of the operation. Now they’ve offered a proposal to put $100M toward efforts in conjunction with players, but not everyone is feeling it. A few prominent players have said they’re not supporting this cause, as altruistic as it may seem on the surface.

Free Food

Coffee Break: You know what is one of the hardest parts about being a manager on any job? Managing people’s schedules. It many cases, it can be the most difficult task if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just ask American Airlines, which is now scrambling after a computer glitch basically let all their pilots take the holidays off.

Snack Time: Want a full sit-down with Jay-Z talking about life? The New York Times has you covered. He’s really looking to nail these Grammys.

Dessert: Click and listen. Thank me later.

Daily Dose: 11/28/17

The 2018 Grammy nominations are out

1:11 PMAll right, kiddos, Tuesday’s another radio day. I’ll be filling in for Bomani Jones on #TheRightTime on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. You can tune in here.

The Grammys are going back to New York. They’ll be hosted by James Corden again, which at this point feels like a job he’s just going to be doing for the rest of time. The controversy over nominees is always a big one, but there’s really only one thing that matters to me at this point. Cardi B is a Grammy-nominated artist. For me, it doesn’t even particularly matter if she wins at this point. What matters is that she’ll be there and I hope she’ll perform, and it’ll be a huge bonus if she wins. I am so actively excited about this.

Are you familiar with Cyntoia Brown? The hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown has been circulating on the internet quite a bit lately in an effort to call attention to her case. She’s been serving a life sentence since she was 16 years old for killing a man who had paid to have sex with her. She’d been trafficked as a child after running away from home and was put in prison because lawyers argued that her motive was robbery in the killing. Obviously, that’s foul. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities have come to her side, so we’ll see what comes of it.

Our level for the “wow” bar keeps getting higher. Just when you think the president can’t surprise us anymore, he manages to find a way. Monday was no different. At an event honoring Navajo code talkers, President Donald Trump couldn’t help but to make a very bigoted remark about Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He called her “Pocahontas,” a term that is absolutely an insult at best and definitely a racial slur at worst. The White House doesn’t seem to think so on that front. Unreal.

A year ago, the soccer world experienced an unthinkable tragedy. On their way to one of the biggest matches of their lives, the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense’s plane crashed, killing all but six of the 77 people on board. Nearly the entire team died. The team was eventually awarded the trophy for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final at the request of its opponent. But that community, never mind the franchise itself, is clearly still recovering from the devastation. This story is from earlier this year but has been resurfaced for this day.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you missed the 2017 Miss Universe pageant, then you missed Miss Jamaica. While pageants, as a matter of course, aren’t exactly the most progressive of events, it doesn’t mean they can’t have culturally noteworthy moments. Davina Bennett’s rocking an Afro on that stage was definitely one of them.

Snack Time: I’ve never been to Japan, but I hope to make it soon. There are a decent number of black folks there, and not just those from the United States. Check out this short documentary on what it’s like to be black in Tokyo.

Dessert: I enjoy Christmas music, so here are some new offerings from D.R.A.M. and, wait for it, Dru Hill. I know.

Daily Dose: 11/27/2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get engaged

4:18 PMLook, Monday is a tough day in my world. It’s the 10th anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death. He was my favorite football player of all time, and his death was a shock to so many people. It still hurts. I’ll have more on this later.

The royal family just got a lot blacker in England. Prince Harry has officially gotten engaged to Meghan Markle, whose identity has been the subject of much scrutiny over the years. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter, but the way that people talk about colorism these days makes this a matter of concern for some people, which is unfortunate. You’ll probably hear about how Buckingham Palace is about to look a whole lot more like the rest of the country, which is pretty trite. We’re happy for them.

President Donald Trump must think we’re stupid. For whatever reason, his latest bit is that the Access Hollywood audio with Billy Bush that we all heard, saw, digested and processed was somehow fake because his face wasn’t actually on camera when the most offensive of his words (if you even want to dignify that notion) were spoken. This is clearly a massive insult to our collective intelligence, but Trump has been trafficking in conspiracy theories for years, most notably the birther one about his predecessor in the White House.

Online dating is not something I’ve ever done. I’m just one of those people who was never really about that action, but it’s certainly a great way to meet people and a popular method. I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years that I can’t even imagine having to do it personally, but then again, those tales aren’t any worse than people who meet folks any other way. That said, Tinder did sort of disrupt the market in terms of immediacy, but not everyone uses it like that. One woman asked her old dates why they didn’t work out.

LeBron James is hilarious. The Akron, Ohio-born megastar is outwardly a Dallas Cowboys fan, something that over the years has offended many. I mean, who can blame him? If you were a guy his age, why on earth would you have ever rooted for the Cleveland Browns? They’ve been god-awful his whole life. That said, someone asked him Sunday about the NFL, and he said that his favorite player is Carson Wentz. That’s Wentz, of the Philadelphia Eagles, who are certainly not the Cowboys and most definitely not the Browns. Do you, Bron.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Now that Mase is back to beefin’ with Cam’ron, we’ve all gotten to revisit exactly how much we liked the former when he was really at his peak. Putting Biggie aside, Mase was basically the perfect Bad Boy Records artist in terms of his whole appeal. Check out this list of the best Bad Boy songs of all time.

Snack Time: Speaking of LeBron, he’s going to be in a new kids movie this summer. The premise of it is hilarious: There’s one Yeti in the whole world who’s actually seen a human being.

Dessert: How anyone thought they would get away with this is beyond me.