Every once in a while, our PodKasts don't center entirely around Laker basketball. In most cases, Brian and I simply went off the grid while babbling about trivial and ridiculous nonsense, but this particular time it was by design. I was fortunate enough last week to land a generous amount of phone time with hyphenate extraordinaire Ice Cube, whose new documentary "Straight Outta L.A." debuts on May 11 at 8pm ET as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series.
30 for 30 has featured an outstanding string of films --I'm not saying this as a company man. They've been consistently fantastic-- and Cube's is no exception. The movie documents the Raiders' time in Los Angeles, what they meant to the community (particularly South Central L.A.) and how the team's profile was linked to the rise of N.W.A. and gangsta rap. As one would correctly guess, it's a movie about way more than just sports.
Our discussion naturally centered mostly around matters like football, rap music and race, but Cube's lifelong stint as a Laker fanatic made a few purple and gold questions a must.
Given his bankable presence in mainstream and often family-oriented films (Are We There Yet, The Longshots), it's easy to forget how Cube's career began in a much grittier, more controversial fashion. To say the least, Cube's perception has evolved since N.W.A. Similarly, Kobe Bryant's career has often been steeped in polarizing controversy, but these days the guy's marketed heavily by the NBA and a perennial king-of-all-jersey-sales. There are obviously some who don't and never will like Kobe, but all in all the man is considerably more popular than divisive these days.
I asked Cube about if he could relate to Kobe's image reinvention. His response was quite insightful:
"What we all gotta realize is, when we see these young stars or these young entertainers or athletes, you usually see someone that's going from a boy to a man. If anybody really thinks about what they've done to go from a boy to a man and all the mistakes they've made, and if they was under that spotlight, they wouldn't be so critical of a person like Kobe. For what you really want him for, to me, he's the ultimate. You want him on the court. All you should care about is what he does in between the lines when it comes to being a Laker fan.
"But if you really want to get into the man's life, all the way in there, of course you're not gonna like everything he does. You know what I mean? Of course you're not gonna like everything he says. Of course you're not gonna like every opinion he has. But if somebody makes a mistake or two and you go for the venom or go for the throat at the first mistake, you never really had love and respect for this person, anyway. You don't give them the room to be human. You don't give them the leeway to be human. He's a great basketball player, but he was speeding down the highway. He's irresponsible and he's this, and that, and the names. And people pile on.
"I think people like Kobe knew the job was dangerous once he took it and kind of prepared for it mentally and is stronger, really, than what all of us can dish out on him. And that's good. That's something that hopefully all stars develop, that power to overcome the criticism and overcome the disappointment in your life."
(FYI, I interviewed Cube after Game 5 of the Lakers-Thunder series, but his praise for the Laker bigs could just as easily apply to the current series against Utah.)