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

With Steve Wilks hire, the top three football teams in Arizona are headed by black men, and more to know

The former Panthers defensive coordinator got his coaching start at HBCUs

10:17 PMSteve Wilks has not been a head coach in almost 20 years since he took the helm at Savannah State in 1999. But early Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Josina Anderson broke the news that Wilks is getting a second chance to lead a football team.

With Bruce Arians’ retirement, the Arizona Cardinals concluded their coaching search by naming Wilks as his successor. The former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator agreed to a four-year contract with the Cardinals, which includes a fifth-year option, bringing the number of black coaches in the NFL back to seven and coaches of color to eight, which ties the largest number the league has had (2017).

Wilks will be formally introduced as the team’s head coach during a news conference on Tuesday. Here’s a quick introduction of Arizona’s new lead man.

1. Wilks completes the black head coaches trifecta in Arizona

It’s been a good year for black coaches landing head coaching gigs in the Grand Canyon State. First, former ESPN analyst Herm Edwards secured the Arizona State job. Then former Texas A&M head honcho Kevin Sumlin took over at Arizona.

Bingo if you had Wilks winning the Cardinals job for Arizona’s three largest football teams going three-for-three with black coaching hires. Wilks also interviewed for the Tennessee Titans’ and New York Giants’ head coaching vacancies.

The Cardinals’ three-week coaching search took the longest of any team this offseason. This is the first minority hire, as the four other new coaches have been white. The Fritz Pollard Alliance recommended Wilks, 48, as one of the minority coaches whom NFL teams should consider.

2. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

On the eve of Super Bowl 50, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s international headquarters released a statement congratulating seven of its members for reaching the marquee game. Wilks (a 1994 initiate) was one of five on the Carolina Panthers team. At the time, he was Ron Rivera’s assistant head coach and secondary coach.

3. HBCUs provided Wilks his first opportunities

After playing a year with the Arena Football League’s Charlotte Rage as a defensive back/wide receiver (1993), Wilks’ first job in coaching was as defensive coordinator for Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1995. Two years later, he took over as Savannah State’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming the program’s head coach in 1999. As a coach with the Tigers, his 1998 defense led the nation in total defense (166.3 yards per game) in Division II. American Football Quarterly named him the Division II defensive coordinator of the year. Four players earned All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, including linebacker Reginald Jackson, who was named Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

4. Of the seven black head coaches in the NFL, Wilks is the fifth with a defensive background

When black coaches become head coaches, they overwhelmingly come from a defensive background. There have been 18 black head coaches in the NFL’s modern era, and only four of those — Art Shell, Dennis Green, Hue Jackson and Anthony Lynn — have been promoted after coaching the offensive side of the ball. Wilks continues the trend of defensive coaches moving up at a much higher rate than their offensive counterparts.

Live from Sundance: Tonya Lewis Lee on why she created a ‘Monster’ 

The producer — and wife of the iconic Spike Lee — has the hottest film at the nation’s largest film festival

6:34 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Tomorrow is a big day for Tonya Lewis Lee and her team: The Jan. 22 premiere of Monster happens at the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s one of the most anticipated films in Park City. That makes her nervous — “It’s like [people] haven’t seen the movie yet! How do [they] know?!” — but it most certainly also makes her feel good.

Monster is a film that she’s been hoping to get made for a dozen years. There have been a bunch of starts and stops, and finally, here we are. The cast is stellar: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, A$AP Rocky, Nas and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are all part of the film, and it’s helmed by Anthony Mandler in his directorial debut. Mandler is best known for his frequent video collaborations with Rihanna, and he has also collaborated on video projects with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Usher and Lana Del Rey, among many others. The script is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers and was written for the screen by Hampton University’s own Colen C. Wiley and award-winning playwright Janece Shaffer.

And the film’s concept feels very ripped from today’s headlines.

“Maybe we can change the way kids are locked up. Maybe we can change the over-sentencing of juveniles. We had to stay with it and make it happen.”

“It’s about a 17-year-old black boy who makes one bad decision and is looking at, potentially, his life being thrown away forever,” Lewis Lee says while sitting in a Park City gallery, one of the many spaces that brands have taken over for the duration of the festival. “For me, I have children and I have a boy, and when I read the book I was so moved. It’s so creatively written … I fell in love with it. This was a chance to tell a story that we don’t often see on film.

Monster is an opportunity to contribute a dramatic story about a brown boy coming of age that could impact not only the way people look at brown boys but potentially our criminal justice system,” says Lee. “Maybe we can change the way kids are locked up. Maybe we can change the over-sentencing of juveniles. We had to stay with it and make it happen.”

This project — her Tonik Productions teamed with John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. and Bron Studios to produce this drama — is in line with the mission-driven work she adores. “And I’m unapologetic about that,” Lewis Lee says. “I am blessed to be in a position to create content and media. I feel a real responsibility to create something that moves the human condition forward in a positive way. I hope in the work that I do it’s entertaining, but that we’re getting messages out there to impact our world and make it better.”

Toward the back of the gallery space is a makeshift photo studio, and people like director Anthony Hemingway are coming in for portraits. This year, the festival has a record 39 projects that either feature black people as the first, second or third lead, or has a black director, black producers or black writers. This is a moment, and everyone here is buzzing about it.

“When Spike started making movies … he was like if I’m getting through the door, I’m bringing a whole lot of people with me. And he’s done that. And those people have brought people.”

Lewis Lee, who is married to iconic director Spike Lee, is happy that there’s much to celebrate in Black Hollywood these days. But, she cautions, there’s still so much more work to do. “When Spike started making movies, there weren’t that many people out there doing it. To his credit, he was like if I’m getting through the door, I’m bringing a whole lot of people with me,” she says. “And he’s done that. And those people have brought people. So here we are now in a moment where young people can look to my husband and his colleagues and say, Oh My God! If they can do that, I can do that.” She says that people are seeing now that there is a path.

“I look at people like Issa Rae. … Going back to Spike, Issa will tell you the ’90s formed who she is … to how she can be here. I look at Justin Simien (creator of Dear White People) — that’s a direct line. In terms of women and black people, we have come a long way. We have a long way to go, but it’s exciting to get our voices out there and tell our stories.”

And the stories are robust. Many of the black projects being shown at Sundance this season tap into racism, however nuanced or overt, and the current political climate. “I think we’re trying to grapple with the issues of our time,” says Lewis Lee, who next is working on a film about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. “John Legend said, ‘Preparation meets opportunity.’ And we are prepared. And we’re getting a chance to talk about the issues of our time in a really wonderful way.”

Live from Sundance: From ‘Compton’ to ‘Mudbound’ and ‘The Chi’ — actor Jason Mitchell is the next superstar

Next up? A ‘Get Out’-like film called ‘Tyrel,’ and he’s in the remake of ‘Super Fly’

6:33 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Come Tuesday morning, Jason Mitchell is hoping that he hears at least two familiar names called when the Academy Award nominations are announced. The Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, are the biggest honor in Hollywood, and Mitchell, who starred in both Detroit and Mudbound, is hopeful that the two women who directed him in those films get their due.

You likely know Mitchell’s work from his excellent turn as rap icon Eazy-E in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. Since then, he’s upped the ante by turning in impressive work in 2017’s Mudbound, 2017’s Detroit and most recently in Showtime’s The Chi. It also was announced last week that he’ll be in the Super Fly remake as Eddie; the film will be directed by Director X and also will star Grown-ish actor Trevor Jackson as Youngblood Priest.

“I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of really dope women,” Mitchell said at the Sundance Film Festival. “And Dee Rees and Kathryn Bigelow are two of those people who are being talked about. It would be good … to see them do their thing [at the Oscars]. It’s not my vision. I just came and did my job — they just told me exactly what to do, and I went over the top. [But] I think it would be nice to see women defy something.”

Mitchell is at the festival promoting his latest, Tyrel, a dramatic film about being the only black guy on a dude’s trip the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration that is being called “2018’s answer to Get Out.” It premiered Saturday night to a crowd that included Emmy winner/The Chi creator Lena Waithe. Mitchell said he’s inspired by the #TimesUp movement and is ready to see the progression for women in the industry take place.

“Women know how to … fight for it,” he said, sitting on a couch in the Grey Goose Door Lounge off the city’s Main Street, where actors such as Jeffrey Wright, Debra Messing and John Cho are milling about. “I would just like for female directors to get what they deserve. Not just directors, females in the business in general. It’d be nice to see them on those stages.”

Sundance previews ‘Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’

Will it have the same vibe as FX’s award-winning ‘People v. O.J. Simpson’?

8:15 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Before the start of the panel about Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., a limited series coming to USA Networks on Feb. 27, a DJ blasted tracks that made both of the legendary rappers household names. More than 20 years after the genre-lifting rappers were killed, people are still celebrating, dancing and rapping along to the music that soundtracked much of the 1990s. “We get to see what we’ve rarely gotten to see, which is the friendship between Biggie and Tupac,” said director and executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who shared Emmy victories for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Also on the panel was showrunner Kyle Long, co-producer/music supervisor Lyah Leflore, Josh Duhamel (L.A. to Vegas, Call of Duty WWII) Marcc Rose (Tupac) and Wavyy Jonez (Big).

Before the start of the conversation, guests viewed an amazing never-before-seen trailer. “We get to see them from a young age,” said Hemingway. “We deal with Biggie before he was a celebrity. We get to learn who they were as artists and get to see their pain.”

Actor Duhamel said his series is done very much in the vein of People v. OJ. While in college, he rushed home daily to watch the real-life courtroom drama, and because of that he thought he knew everything about O.J. — but was blown away by the FX because he realized how much he didn’t know. “Even those who grew up on the rappers’ music,” said Duhamel, “and were around during the times of their deaths will be astounded at all that they discover [in this series].”

John Legend at Sundance: ‘We need to humanize the young people’

‘Even when they make mistakes,’ he says of the new film, ‘Monster,’ ‘they’re worthy of our grace.’

6:35 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — At a Saturday afternoon panel discussion, Blackhouse Foundation leader Brickson Diamond touted the record 39 black projects being featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Behind him, John Legend, Tonya Lewis Lee and moderator Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy; chair of SAG-AFTRA’s Diversity Advisory Committee) applauded along with the standing-room-only crowd — which included black-ish creator and Girls Trip co-writer Kenya Barris. This was a moment. Never have so many black projects been a part of the film festival.

This specific panel was set to discuss the hotly anticipated film Monster. Based on Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel of the same name, the film is about a creatively gifted black teen who is accused of a crime he says he did not commit — and who endures an unrelenting criminal justice system. Lewis Lee and Nikki Silver produced. “We were looking for partners who were invested in social justice issues. … [That] led us to John Legend,” Lewis Lee said of the Grammy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning Legend.

Legend, an executive producer of Monster, said from the stage that the project is in line with a mission close to his heart. “Once I read the script, I was on the edge of my seat,” he said. “I was super into what was happening on the page. I spend a lot of time thinking about mass incarceration, and how we end mass incarceration, in America. We’re the only country in the world that puts our kids in solitary confinement. … We need to humanize the young people. We need to … even when they make mistakes, they’re worthy of our grace, our consideration and our love. We failed to protect them from trauma. This film is about … is a kid allowed to make mistakes? Is a kid allowed to be a kid?

Monster’s ensemble cast includes Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of A Nation), Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), John David Washington (Ballers), Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), A$AP Rocky (Dope), Nas (The Get Down) and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four). Other panelists included director Anthony Mandler, writer Cole Wiley, Silver, Mike Jackson, Aaron L. Gilbert and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the film’s star.

Paul George debuts his second signature sneaker — the Nike PG2

The OKC Thunder star broke them out on Saturday vs. the Cavs

3:29 PMNike just delivered a PG-13 sequel.

Nearly a year after presenting Paul George with his first signature sneaker — the PG1, which he donned on the court for the first time on Jan. 12, 2017 — the brand is back with the Nike PG2. On Saturday, George, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 27-year-old star swingman, unveiled his new kicks in a matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“The thing I can do is go after the best players in our league and shut them down in the shoes. That’s the goal. That’s going to be the best way to highlight the PG2 and show all what they can do performance-wise,” George says in a Nike press release. “I got my hands full, but I got the right shoes for the job.”

Nike’s Tony Hardman, the designer behind the PG1, returned to craft the second installment of George’s shoe. Together, they came up with five rules to ensure that the PG2 influenced both basketball and sneaker culture:

  • Take it Beyond Basketball
  • Give it an Edge
  • Fine Tune, Then Fine Tune Again
  • Design for the Next Generation
  • Let Performance Do The Talking

The PG2 features an improved overall fit through a more traditional tongue construction than what was used on the PG1, as well as new technology developed by Hardman in the form of “dynamic wings” on the shoe’s forefront. The launch color highlights George’s persona as an avid video gamer, with specific design elements nodding to Playstation, his favorite console, reflected throughout the shoe, including a light-up tongue.

“We worked directly with the PlayStation team on every aspect of this shoe,” says Hardman. “One thing that they provided, which was really cool, was the starry graphic from the dynamic theme that will be available for your PlayStation 4 with a code from the shoe. It’s a beautiful graphic, so we made it the sock liner.”

The limited-edition PlayStation colorway of the Nike PG2 will be available at retail on Feb. 10.

With new songs, Drake says his ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is all in ‘God’s Plan’

Drake’s sabbatical appears to be officially over

11:58 PM

2010 was when I lost my halo/ 2017, I lost a J-Lo / A-Rod a damn trip, had me on front page though/ I had to lay low.

Drake, “Diplomatic Immunity”

Call Drake a man of his word. The final lyrics on 2017’s More Life set the stage for this very moment. Maybe getting back to my regular life will humble me, Drake rhymes on “Do Not Disturb.” I’ll be back 2018 to give you the summary … More Life.

And that’s exactly what happened. With the pre-midnight drop of two new songs, “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity,” Drake’s musical sabbatical is coming to a close. The two-song project is dubbed Scary Hours, and the records are, in fact, his first official solo releases since last year’s Life. The lone exception is “Signs,” which even then was a record created specifically for Louis Vuitton’s Spring-Summer ’18 collection.

What these records signify, only Drake and the OVO conglomerate truly know. But in the near decade since his third mixtape, So Far Gone, made him a household name, one reality has always remained steady: The guy does nothing without a purpose. And with the Grammys set for next weekend in New York City, best believe the timing isn’t a coincidence. Drake’s been musically quiet for a while now — it could be that he wants his spot back.

Allen Greene to serve as Auburn’s first black athletic director

The former Buffalo AD will be the third black AD in SEC history

3:31 PMAuburn on Friday introduced Allen Greene as the university’s 15th athletic director, making him the first African-American AD in school history and the third ever in the Southeastern Conference.

Greene, 40, served in the same role at the University at Buffalo since 2015 and worked in the athletic department at Ole Miss from 2009-12. He joins Vanderbilt’s David Williams II and former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans as the only black ADs in SEC history.

This hiring brings the number of black athletic directors in the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) to 12, including 11 men and one woman:

  • Boston College: Martin Jarmond
  • Florida State: Stan Wilcox
  • Virginia: Carla Williams (the lone black woman)
  • Maryland: Damon Evans (interim)
  • Michigan: Warde Manuel
  • Ohio State: Gene Smith
  • Arizona State: Ray Anderson
  • California: H. Michael Williams
  • USC: Lynn Swann
  • Stanford: Bernard Muir
  • Auburn: Allen Greene
  • Vanderbilt: David Williams II

Outside of the Big 12, which has zero, each Power 5 conference has at least two black athletic directors. These 12 men and women represent 18.4 percent of the 65 athletic director jobs in the Power 5.

The numbers are not set in stone. California’s H. Michael Williams plans to step down from his position in May. Evans, serving on an interim basis at Maryland since October, may replace an outgoing black athletic director (Kevin Anderson), much like Carla Williams did at Virginia (Craig Littlepage).

Auburn president Steven Leath said Greene had “the right combination of leadership, enthusiasm, experience and management to lead Auburn Athletics to success well into the future.”

N.C. A&T football team didn’t get White House invitation

so there’s nothing to decline, according to the school

11:33 AMContrary to what the internet said in a Thursday night Instagram post, the North Carolina A&T football team didn’t turn down an invitation to visit the White House.

The school and the team never got an invitation to turn down in the first place.

“I am not aware of an official invite from the White House to the football team,” according to N.C. A&T sports information director Brian Holloway.

Just-retired football coach Rod Broadway also told The Undefeated that he knows nothing of an invitation and has nothing further to say on the matter.

S0me folks might have thought an invitation was issued after the undefeated Aggies’ 12-0 season and Celebration Bowl win over Grambling State in December.

In November, 18 different NCAA championship teams visited the White House. Both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball champions, the North Carolina men’s team and South Carolina’s women’s squad, declined.

Ready for a ‘Swaecation’? Rae Sremmurd star Swae Lee confirms solo debut

Fresh off the duo’s gig narrating the NFL Playoffs, Swae preps a spring soundtrack

9:26 AMSwae Lee, one half of the award-winning duo Rae Sremmurd, let the cat out the bag on Twitter shortly after midnight. His solo album, Swaecation, is on the way and will be arriving very soon.

Swae Lee’s announcement winds up a very productive 2017 for both him and his partner-in-rhyme, Slim Jxmmi. They are currently the official narrators of the NFL playoffs, with 12 different ads airing nationally on TV and the web. Swae continues to reap the benefits of well-placed musical drops too. His standout appearance on Jhene Aiko’s “Sativa” only whet fans’ appetites for more. His definitive moment came with a feature on French Montana’s international hit “Unforgettable“—undeniably one of last year’s best songs, with over half a billion YouTube views.

With a catalog that includes his own hit records and songs he’s written for other artists — like Beyoncé’s “Formation,” for example — this is a hugely anticipated project. But Swaecation doesn’t spell the end of Rae Sremmurd. SremmLife3 is in production, as Swae confirms. He’s releasing his album just ahead of festival season, though, and with Migos’ Culture II on the way, fests, day parties, cookouts and kickbacks are already heating up.

‘Grown-ish’ gets early renewal for expanded second season of 20 episodes

Yara Shahidi got the news Thursday night in Los Angeles

6:35 AMIt’s back-to-school time already. After only four episodes, the Grown-ish cast and crew finds out that next semester, so to speak, is a done deal. Grown-ish creator Kenya Barris surprised Yara Shahidi with the news at the Freeform Summit in Los Angeles. And the second season? Twenty episodes, up from its freshman 13. Per The Hollywood Reporter, “the show’s Jan. 3 … premiere ranked as the younger-skewing cable network’s best comedy launch in five and a half years.”


NBA All-Stars will have plenty in reserve

We project how the rosters will fill out

7:03 PMNow that you know the NBA All-Star starters, who else will be joining them in Los Angeles?

There are seven reserve roster spots each in the Western and Eastern Conference, which include three frontcourt players, two guards and two wild cards. The NBA head coaches will vote for the reserves in their respective conferences next week.

The reserves will be announced on Jan. 23 to applause and criticism. It’s inevitable, especially in the deep-in-talent West, that some deserving players won’t make the cut.

For the first time in NBA All-Star Game history, the leading fan vote-getters from each conference (Cleveland’s LeBron James in the East and Golden State’s Stephen Curry in the West) will serve as captains and draft players for their teams, regardless of conference. Each captain’s first four selections must come from the pool of remaining starters. As the top overall finisher in fan voting, James will make the first pick, then Curry. The All-Star Game takes place Feb. 18 at Staples Center.

The West starters announced Thursday: Curry and his Golden State teammate Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

The East starters: James, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

This is how we project the coaches, who have a history of leaning toward winning teams, will fill out the reserves:

Western Conference


Draymond Green’s excited outbursts have drawn two technical fouls this season.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stats: 11.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks

Comment: The 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is still playing at a top level. Green does much more than score for the team with the NBA’s best record.

Forward: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Nov. 22, 2017, in Oklahoma City.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Stats: 20.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists

Comment: George’s scoring numbers have taken a dip playing alongside feared scorers Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. But P.G. is widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top players, so he’ll make it.

Forward: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Stats: 20.1 points per game, 12.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Comment: Towns lands the first All-Star selection of his career in his third season. The 7-footer’s versatile game is too much to deny now.

GUARD: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks at Houston fans after making a 3-point shot during Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on April 25, 2017, at Toyota Center in Houston.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Stats: 24.8 points per game, 9.7 rebounds, 9.9 assists

Comment: A little surprising that the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player doesn’t get voted in as a starter. Perhaps it’s market. Here’s to hoping that Westbrook and his former teammate Kevin Durant play against each other under the new All-Star format.

Guard: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota TimberwolveS

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Stats: 21.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists

Comment: Butler has played on an MVP level in his first season with the Wolves. Kudos to Butler for landing a hard-to-get West All-Star guard spot in his first season in the conference.

Wild card: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, guard

Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors in action against the Houston Rockets at ORACLE Arena on Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stats: 20.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists

Comment: Thompson may be quiet, but he also is the most feared shooter in the game behind his teammate Stephen Curry. The Warriors get four All-Stars for the second straight year.

Wild card: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs, forward

LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 17 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Stats: 22.7 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

Comment: Aldridge is the main reason why the Spurs had one of the NBA’s top records in the first half of the season with star Kawhi Leonard primarily sidelined.

Snubs include Damian Lillard, DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Blake Griffin, C.J. McCollum and Marc Gasol.

Eastern Conference

FORWARD: Kristaps Porzingis, New York KnickS

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 23.6 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks

Comment: Porzingis gets the first All-Star nod of his young career and gives the New York market a representative. The Latvian is the lone European in the All-Star Game.

FORWARD: Al horford, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics’ Jonas Jerebko celebrates with teammate Al Horford during the second half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 21, 2017, in Cleveland. The Celtics won 111-108.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Stats: 13.4 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

Comment: Horford beats out Cleveland forward Kevin Love based on Boston’s record. This would be Gordon Hayward’s spot if he were healthy.

Forward: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons looks downcourt during a game against the Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena on Jan. 15 in Detroit.

Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Stats: 14.0 points per game, 15 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

Comment: Drummond lands his second All-Star nod after being snubbed last year. It would be fun to see East center rivals Drummond and Embiid playing against each other.

Guard: John Wall, Washington Wizards

John Wall of the Washington Wizards waits to defend against the Boston Celtics in the second half of their game on April 16, 2014, at TD Garden in Boston.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Stats: 19.6 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists

Comment: Wall’s biggest challenge appears to be staying healthy. While the Wizards are disappointing, he is a top-15 NBA player.

Guard: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers brings the ball upcourt during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Jan. 15 in Salt Lake City. The Indiana Pacers won 109-94.

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Stats: 24.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists

Comment: Oladipo has been singing well off the court and on it. This will be his first All-Star nod.

Wild card: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, guard

Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors warms up before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 30, 2017, at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Stats: 16.2 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists

Comment: Lowry’s statistics aren’t gaudy, but they’re respectable and the Raptors are winning. He will make his fourth All-Star appearance.

Wild card: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, guard

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards looks on in the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 25, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Stats: 23.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists

Comment: Beal lands his first All-Star nod with the last East spot, but does disappointing Washington deserve two?

Snubs include Dwight Howard, Ben Simmons, Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, Jaylen Brown, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker.

Broccoli City Festival 2018 to feature the Migos, Cardi B, Miguel, Daniel Caesar, H.E.R., Nipsey Hussle

Start looking for Airbnbs and plane tickets now

12:18 PMMaking this as clear, and as concise, as possible. The Undefeated will be there. We hope you will too.

A Storm is coming — in Ava DuVernay’s ‘Wrinkle in Time’

‘Essence’ cover features the director and her superstar cast

11:37 AMSoon, we’ll all get to see 13-year-old Storm Reid in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming A Wrinkle In Time. And she’ll be glorious — word to the icon that is Oprah Winfrey. Reid, Winfrey and DuVernay all cover Essence’s February issue, where they talk about the power of imagination.

One big dream DuVernay dared to imagine when she was first taking meetings about directing the film? Seeing a brown girl as the protagonist in this epic, fanciful story, which hits theaters March 9. “Sometimes I’d be watching her on set and would really tear up at her performance because she will become for this generation what Judy Garland’s Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was for previous generations,” Winfrey shares in the Essence story. “She gets to be that. This little Stormy, our little Stormy, gets to carry that on for generations to come. She gets to be that light for girls like herself …”

Damian Lillard ends strict vegan diet

Trail Blazers guard says he was losing too much weight

10:47 AM

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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is no longer on a strict vegan diet after it became counterproductive.

Lillard, a guest on the ESPN Hoop Collective’s RUN A.M.C. podcast recorded Wednesday, said his five-month run as a vegan has ended because he was losing too much weight. Lillard announced on his Instagram account on Sept. 5 that he had become a vegan with hopes of “getting my life right.” The two-time NBA All-Star reached his goal of getting back to his rookie weight of 190 pounds, but Lillard ended his vegan diet about a month ago because he lost 17 pounds.

“I did it, but I started to lose a little bit too much weight with all the games and practices and all that,” Lillard said on the podcast. “I had to balance it out, so now I’ve been mixing it up a little bit more, having vegan meals, still mixing it up with other stuff.”

Lillard told OregonLive Sports on Sept. 25 that he had been vegan for a month and it allowed him to eat cleaner, create better habits, take more weight off his feet and feel much better. Portland-based newspaper/website Willamette Week also tweeted on Sept. 25 that Lillard loved vegan sloppy Joes and missed eating at Wendy’s fast food restaurants. After the 27-year-old struggled with his shooting the first six games this season, he dismissed a question from Comcast Sports Northwest in late October about whether his vegan diet was affecting his play.

The 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year said he has added beef and chicken back into his diet. Lillard said he has stayed away from Wendy’s and he still eats vegan meals regularly. Other NBA players who have professed being vegan include Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler and Jahlil Okafor.

“I did it to lose some weight and be easier on my feet, knees and ankles,” said Lillard, who is averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds this season. “I had a few injuries, so I was trying to get lighter and trying to get healthier and put better stuff in my body. It helped a lot as far as my energy and how I felt.”

National Association of Black Journalists receives huge grant for jobs, mission

EBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s bipartisan Democracy Fund donates $200,000

6:21 PMOn the day Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “We cannot allow this regimen of fake news, and alternative facts … to diminish our commitment to the basic constitutional protection of freedom of the press … it is essential to the future of our democracy,” the Democracy Fund awarded $200,000 to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The two-year restricted grant is to be utilized for staffing, and it allows NABJ to continue the execution of its mission to support journalists of color. The association’s priorities include jobs for journalists of color, professional development, social justice and advocacy. NABJ’s current strategic plan can be seen here.

“It’s a true honor to be partnering with the Democracy Fund,” NABJ president Sarah Glover said Wednesday. “The media industry faces threats, [and] organizations like NABJ are needed to give a voice to black journalists and minority communities too often overlooked. This … grant … helps NABJ meet challenges head-on, empowers our work, and strengthens our organizational capacity and trajectory for growth.”

The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar. It exists to “invest in organizations working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.”

The Plug, ‘Fight Night: Francis Ngannou’ (Episode 6): The UFC star opens up

UFC’s No. 1 Contender talks all things Stipe Miocic, Trump and the love for his people

3:17 PM

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How do you prepare for a fight with a man who broke the world record for the hardest punch ever thrown just last month? Thankfully, The Plug doesn’t have to find out first hand from Francis Ngannou. That’s for his opponent—UFC champion Stipe Miocic. The two square off in the highly anticipated UFC 220 this weekend in Boston.

Ngannou is one of the fastest rising names in mixed martial arts and a win over Miocic would make him the first Cameroonian and African to lift the UFC title. But he’s far more than just a guy with one helluva punch. Ngannou opens up to The Plug about his journey to present day fame and President Donald Trump’s recent comments about “sh*thole countries.” From leaving his native Cameroon to pursue a life he knew was possible—a huge risk given the way of life and lines of thought there—to being homeless in Paris and how fighting became not only his life story, but now his life’s work, no stone is left unturned.

From there, the Squad discuss last weekend’s “Minnesota Miracle,” the future of Saints rookie Marcus Williams who missed the tackle, the NBA on MLK Day, and more. Tell everyone you know to subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app!

Previously: The Plug, ‘To All The Ladies In The Place’ (Episode 5): Shakyla Hill and Stephania Bell get right at home

Colin Kaepernick to donate $100,000 over next 10 days

The former NFL quarterback will give away $10,000 a day to social justice organizations

3:12 PMFormer NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced on Jan. 17 that over the following 10 days he will donate the final $100,000 of his initial $1 million pledge to 10 organizations that are working to combat racial and social injustice across the country.

Dubbed the “Million Dollar Pledge” in October 2016, Kaepernick has donated $900,000 of his own funds over the past year to 31 organizations “working in oppressed communities” and will end his financial commitment next week by giving away $10,000 a day to the remaining 10 groups. Some famous friends will match his daily donations.

On Jan. 29, the ninth day of the pledge, Kaepernick and rapper Meek Mill donated a combined $20,000 to Youth Service Inc., a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to offering “accessible, quality services to at-risk children and families” and “strengthening the family unit, helping at-risk teens and promoting child safety.” In November, Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native, was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. The judge in that case, Genece Brinkley, is currently under FBI investigation for partial treatment of the rapper.

The Undefeated will keep a running list of the final organizations to which Kaepernick decides to donate to complete his Million Dollar Pledge.

Day 1

Organization: Silicon Valley De-Bug
Celebrity: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors forward

Day 2

Organization: Advancement Project
Celebrity: Jesse Williams, actor

Day 3

Organization: United Playaz
Celebrity: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors guard

Day 4

Organization: Mothers Against Police Brutality
Celebrity: Snoop Dogg, rapper

Day 5

Organization: Imagine LA
Celebrity: Serena Williams, tennis player

Day 6

Organization: Angel by Nature
Celebrity: T.I., rapper

Day 7

Organization: School on Wheels
Celebrity: Jhene Aiko, singer; Chris Brown, singer

Day 8

Organization: Communities United for Police Reform
Celebrity: Nick Cannon, entertainer; Joey Badass, rapper

Day 9

Organization: Youth Service Inc.
Celebrity: Meek Mill, rapper

Day 10

Organization: H.O.M.E.
Celebrity: Usher, singer