Since around the time Baron Davis returned, J.R. Smith signed and Steve Novak sizzled in mid-February, the most consistent word that's described the Knicks' bench is "deep."
And the Knicks believe that depth will give them the best chance to compete for a championship this season, even now that Amare Stoudemire is out indefinitely with a bulging disk in his back.
That's why the Knicks' community has been going with "Mob Deep" as the nickname for the bench. It's a play on the Queens-based hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, featuring rappers Prodigy and Havoc, which became one of the most critically-acclaimed in the country in the 1990s.
The nickname was born on March 1 after Iman Shumpert, another big piece of the Knicks' bench, told fans on his Twitter account that he was searching for something new to call the second unit. He wrote, "Ok I'll think of a new since the Bulls have @benchmob." Almost immediately, a fan replied with "@I_Am_Iman how about #mobbdeep," and the rookie retweeted it to his 70,000-plus followers at the time (as of Tuesday afternoon, he had more than 78,000).
Shumpert, who is a huge hip-hop fan and raps on the side (his favorite Mobb Deep song is "Win or Lose"), caught the attention of Spike Lee via Twitter. The die-hard Knicks fans then retweeted the nickname to his hundreds of thousands of followers.
That's when Prodigy got wind of it, which has since gone by "Mob Deep" (Shumpert dropped the second "b"). Prodigy said that while the duo has used some sports references in their songs, they've never been associated with sports in this kind of manner.
"I've heard them play our music before at different games, maybe during the highlights on the news and certain things like that," he told ESPNNewYork.com. "But this is the first time where the team actually called something 'Mobb Deep.' That's the Knicks. That's what's up."
After hearing about the nickname, Prodigy told his sidekick Havoc, who couldn't believe how it stuck and got so big, even being mentioned on MSG Network broadcasts. That has led to numerous texts, tweets and phone calls whenever it's brought up in the news.
"I thought it was like a one-time thing," Havoc said, "but then I started hearing about it and people kept on telling me that they mentioned it on MSG every time they have a game."
Havoc said there is a lot of similarity between their name origin and the Knicks' bench.
"It was a saying that we used to use in Queensbridge, describing how many of us it would be when we all went out, or if we saw another crew that had a lot of people rolling with them," he said. "We would be like, 'Yo, we were mobb deep last night at the movie theater,' or whatever have you -- as in a mobb of us, that we were rolling deep."
While Prodigy doesn't follow the Knicks or sports in general -- "all I do is music; that's my sport," he said -- Havoc has been a Knicks loyalist since the 1980s and 1990s. He said the teams from those latter years remind him of the current Knicks because of defense. Overall, he calls Bernard King, Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson his favorite players.
Mobb Deep hasn't met Shumpert or any of the current Knicks yet, but they'd love to get in the studio with them to lay down a track. For now, they've been on their own remixing one of their latest records titled "Conquer" for the Knicks.
Prodigy, who's releasing his next solo album "H.N.I.C. 3" in June (Mobb Deep's comes out towards the end of the year), is also working on a song with longtime Queensbridge friend and Los Angeles Laker Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest). They've known each other since their teenage years. Their collaboration centers around Prodigy's son, Tchaka Jr., and World Peace's daughter, Diamond, who are both R&B singers.
Prodigy said that whenever hip-hop reaches the basketball court, it's never a surprise.
"Music and physical activity goes hand in hand," he said. "Music and basketball, man."
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