What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

UNCF sending 6 McKinley Tech High grads to Morehouse College on scholarships

UNCF president Michael Lomax, a Morehouse grad, surprised them with funding this week

2:27 PMIt all started with a tweet.

On June 9, Johnathan Hill, a 2017 graduate of Morehouse College, tweeted out a picture congratulating six McKinley Tech High School graduates dubbed the Sensational Six. They were all bound for his alma mater. Black Twitter erupted. Everyone from HBCU Buzz to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) were quick to repost the image of quintessential black excellence.

What happened next was unprecedented.

Not even a week after their graduation, two of the six visited the headquarters of the UNCF, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that provides scholarships to 37 private historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the country. They came to find more scholarship opportunities yet left having established a relationship with a very powerful man: UNCF president Michael Lomax, a 1968 graduate of Morehouse. The idiom, “It pays to have friends in high places,” couldn’t be more applicable.

Lomax ended up taking a liking to them and invited them back seven days later for what they thought was an “informal meeting.”

It wasn’t — the ’68 graduate surprised them each with $10,000 — $2,500 a year for four years — for taking ownership of their financial situation. One student, whose tuition was already paid, received a certificate.

“I’m feeling blessed,” said Malik Thornton, one of the six recipients, “I’m feeling a bit more relaxed — not relaxed, [because] I can’t take an official break — but it’s definitely a reliever.”

The award came as a surprise to the five students in attendance. Between them, they had applied for more than 200 scholarships, and nobody anticipated such generosity. Most attributed their success to teacher LaShunda Reynolds, who was present at this week’s meeting. They credited her with pushing them to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Reynolds, who teaches U.S. history at McKinley Tech, refused to accept the credit.

“They did a lot of work — they wrote essays, they did applications, they [stayed] up in the middle of the night — I harassed them when we had to get it done,” said Reynolds with a laugh. “It’s really them; they made it happen for themselves, and I could not be any more proud.”

The best part? Their areas of study reflect fields where people of color are most needed. Most of them — D’onte Batts, Zachary Greene, Donald Moore and Thornton — intend to major in computer science, bringing more color to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field. Damon Mance will major in business administration, eventually hoping to become a force in the world of finance by helping to shrink the racial wealth gap. Last but not least, E.J. Ellis, who was not in attendance, will undoubtedly help shift the narratives of people of color as a film major.

If these six students are representative of the Class of 2022, Mother Morehouse has a bright future ahead of her.

‘The Plug’ podcast: ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ feat. Alan Williams

Sage draft advice from the Phoenix Suns center, plus we give our own NBA awards, including the Carl Lewis Award for Bravery

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In the words of one of the borough’s most iconic names in Jay-Z, “Brooklyn we go hard, we go hard.” The Plug crew did just that in Brooklyn, New York, last week for the NBA draft (and since we all still have jobs, it must not have been terrible).

Upon our return, this episode features an exclusive interview live from the draft with Phoenix Suns center Alan Williams, who sheds some light on the implications of the Suns having the No. 1 overall pick. He also shared some advice for the incoming rookies: “Don’t let where you’re drafted (or not drafted) dictate who you are in this league.” We also put ourselves in the shoes of LeBron James during free agency and redo the NBA Awards – Plug Style. Trust me on this. You do not want to miss the recipient of the Carl Lewis Award for Bravery. Here’s a hint of who it might by using this all-time great disaster as your guide.

From there, we touch on Julian Edelman’s suspension, Stephen Curry’s knowledge of male strippers and why it may not be a smart idea to jump on the hood of a car when your girl catches you cheating. As always, you can subscribe to The Plug in the ESPN App, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kyrie Irving’s ‘Uncle Drew’ has no shortage of sneakers

Nike, Reebok, Converse: the complete lineup of kicks worn by the film’s ‘Harlem Buckets’ squad

7:52 AMHARLEM, NEW YORK — Outside the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9, two days ahead of the anticipated release of the summer basketball movie Uncle Drew, one parked vehicle stands out from the others. It’s a vibrant orange, yellow, red and tan 1970s-era van — the exact one driven by the movie’s lead character, a 70-something old-school hooper portrayed by Kyrie Irving, the 26-year-old point guard for the Boston Celtics.

Before an advance screening for local youth basketball teams, the suicide doors on the side of the van were cranked open, welcoming any passersby on Frederick Douglass Boulevard to take a peek inside. There, actual props were housed, from Uncle Drew’ 8-track tapes, to his coffeepot, packets of ramen noodles and dumbbells. Propped front and center in the mobile home: a fresh pair of Nike Kyrie 4s, the signature shoe Irving debuted while shooting the film last fall. The “Uncle Drew” edition of the Kyrie 4s, worn in the movie — are a primarily white shoe, with blue and orange accent and a gum-bottom sole — is set for a widespread online release on Friday, the day Uncle Drew hits theaters. Another pair of Kyrie 4s — the “Red Carpet” edition — also released as part of Nike’s Uncle Drew collection, aren’t featured in the movie.

In Uncle Drew, thought, there’s much more sneaker heat to go around. Each member of the protagonist’s Harlem Buckets squad — from Lights (Reggie Miller) to Boots (Nate Robinson) to Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal) to Preacher (Chris Webber) to Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie), and even to Coach Dax (Lil Rel Howery) — wears a different pair of sneakers on-screen. Here’s every shoe seen on the feet of the film’s main characters, starting with the man, the myth and legend himself.

Uncle Drew in the Nike Kyrie 4

As Uncle Drew travels the country getting his old squad back together, he dons Irving’s third signature sneaker, the Nike Kyrie 3, which was originally released in December 2016. But when the Harlem Buckets hit the blacktop for the 50-year anniversary tournament at Rucker Park, Drew wears Irving’s latest signature, the Kyrie 4, which didn’t hit retail until after the movie was filmed. Spoiler: Uncle Drew gets A LOT of buckets in the Kyrie 4s.

Lights in the Nike Kyrie 3

While Uncle Drew dazzles in new sneakers, Lights does his thing in an older model of the Kyries — a pair of obsidian and metallic gold 3s that dropped in July 2017, when Irving was in his final months as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. True to the trademark of his real, 18-year Hall of Fame NBA career, Miller brings a 3-point prowess to the appropriately named character of Lights. But off-camera, Miller showed he still has some bounce, by throwing down a windmill dunk in the Kyrie 4s.

Boots in the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star High

Boots trades in his orthopedics and wheelchair for a pair of white high-top Chuck Taylors that allow him to make a miraculous return to a basketball court after not even walking for years. The old-school shoes, which inspire the character’s name, give him life in the movie. And seeing the 5-foot-9-inch Robinson dunking in Chucks is pretty awesome.

Big Fella in the Reebok Shaq Attaq IV

Horace Grant (left), Shaquille O’Neal (center) and Anfernee Hardaway (right) of the Orlando Magic look on against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 14, 1994, at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

In 1994, Reebok released the fourth signature shoe of Shaquille O’Neal’s young NBA career — the Shaq Attaq IV. Twenty years later, in 2014, the shoe was retroed for the first time. And in Uncle Drew, the Shaq Attaq IVs returned again on the feet of O’Neal’s character, Big Fella.

Preacher in the Jumpman Pro Quick

Webber, who stars in Uncle Drew as the hooper-turned-holy man known as Preacher, runs up and down the court in a pair of retro Jumpman Pro Quicks. Fun fact: These were one of the first pairs of Team Jordan shoes to drop in 1997, when Nike officially launched the Jordan Brand. The Pro Quicks were re-released last fall, and you can still find the same white, black and royal colorway Webber wears in the film for sale online.

Betty Lou in the Air Jordan 1 Mid

She doesn’t hoop in the shoes, but Preacher’s wife, Betty Lou, pulls up her church dress to reveal a pair of all-white Air Jordan 1s, while she proclaims, “We gon’ ball!” They’re not the ultracoveted Off White 1s, but still swaggy on Leslie as she channels her inner Betty Lou.

Dax in the Jumpman Pro

The Jumpman Pro — which debuted on the feet of a young Ray Allen in 1996 — was the first-ever Team Jordan shoe to be released. More than two decades later, Howery laces up a retro version of the shoe as Dax in Uncle Drew. And, without saying too much, the Harlem Buckets coach is required to pull off some Allen-esque heroics in crunch time while sporting the kicks. Also, like the Pro Quicks, you can still cop the Jumpman Pros.