The Entertainment Issue

ESPN The Magazine's star-studded cavalcade features Leslie Jones & Kristaps Porzingis and Chance the Rapper & Jimmy Butler!

Leslie Jones &
Kristaps Porzingis

The Saturday Night star and courtside regular at Madison Square Garden reveals how she would turn around the Knicks. Then, she steps in for a little one-on-one coaching with the Knicks young star. Here's what she has to say:

I watch the Knicks a lot. In 2014, I got tickets to my first Knicks game. They played so awful, I swore I would never, ever come to another game. I've been playing basketball since the sixth grade, so I really do know the sport. I was like: They f---ing suck.

But I gave them another chance. I saw some good ball being played. When I'm out, I find myself talking about what it is that the Knicks need to do.

First of all: Leave Carmelo alone! Carmelo is doing his f---ing job. I understand that Melo takes s---, but I don't know why. He gets the f---ing points. I would love him to play a little more defense, but I understand why he doesn't. If he was younger, then I'd say, yeah, yeah, we need to have a little more come from Carmelo. If Carmelo stops shooting, y'all are going to be pissed. Carmelo needs to shoot as much as f---ing possible.

The Knicks are not going to be a championship team with that drama bulls---. They need to find a solid leader. I don't mean no harm, but I don't think they got one now. Someone needs to be in charge and lead. I need to have a meeting with the coach.

Who is the damn coach? Because every time I go, I see a person who looks like the coach, but he ain't coaching. Am I wrong? I don't think he's looking at the team that he has, because if he did, there would be a different lineup.

Derrick Rose -- I just love him to death, and I want to trust him. But I don't. I always think when he goes in for that drive, there's like a 50-50 chance: Is he going to get his ass knocked out, or is he going to make the shot?

I want him to get a little stronger, as far as being captain. He can't be having his little trips. Like, flying home type of s--- and you don't tell a m-----f-----. Not cool. If you're going to be the captain of the team, be the captain of the team.

And then there's Kristaps Porzingis. He already knows how I feel about him. I mean, it's great that you are over 7-feet tall and can shoot a 3-pointer and all. But I would really love to see him in the bottom banging on the boards too.

They are a good team. What they lack is f---ing defense. That's my biggest problem with the Knicks. In other words, they win games by like 10 to 15 points, when they should be winning by like 30 to 40 points.

Lee! Lee! Lee! Courtney Lee is one of my favorite players. He knows how to shoot the 3-pointer, and he knows how to follow his shot too. He's always where you never think he's going to be. He's a good hustler.

To me, Brandon Jennings, he's the top guard. When Jennings gets in there, he makes s--- happen. That's just what I think.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas? Boy, he gives me a heart attack every time he touches the ball. Because either he's hot or he's not. And I don't think he knows what the f--- the difference is.

They lack fundamentals. Like blocking out. You know, that can cost you a championship. They have good defensive players; Joakim Noah is a great defensive player, but Noah only lasts so long because he's injured. And Kyle O'Quinn is great at banging the boards and stuff, but he's young. They're young. They haven't developed a real defensive backup.

Now, I know how good a coach Phil Jackson is, but I'm wondering what philosophy he had and what is he trying to pass on to the team? Or is he just not advising the team? He should be the main person who knows that Carmelo is doing, what he's supposed to be doing. They shouldn't be in some b---- fight. Of all people, he should know Carmelo really only has a good three years left, maybe.

So shut the f--- up, let him play his years, and just be recruiting other people on the side. Carmelo is going to retire in New York. Don't let that not happen. Let's not do another Shaquille O-f---ing-Neal.

This year, I've gone and really enjoyed the game. The trades seem to be kind of working. I try to go to as many home games as I can during the season.

Yeah, they need improvement, but if this is where I'm going to live, if this is going to be my home team, then I can represent.


Live From New York

Porzingis was the first 7-foot rookie to average 14 points per game, seven rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game and shoot 33 percent from 3. This year he's only gotten better. No wonder he's called a "unicorn." But how well will he do with Jones' coaching?

Do you guys read each other's tweets?

PORZINGIS: I have an account, but I'm not on it.

JONES: I handle my own account. I can't trust nobody to do it.

Leslie, you mentioned a few things on that account about how he could improve his game a little bit.

JONES: Oh damn. You just don't call me out like that.

PORZINGIS: Let me download Twitter real quick.

JONES: I tell him the same thing. I want him to get in the weight room so he can make his arms strong, and then you can help us out defensively.

Were you aware of this advice before?

PORZINGIS: I wasn't. Oh wow.

Wow. This is awkward.

JONES: Now you've got me in trouble with KP. What is wrong with you?

PORZINGIS: I understand the people here in New York. They always want to give advice and make you better. So I'll take that as criticism, and I'll get in the gym and work. That's what I do.

JONES: You know, I come from old-school basketball, so anybody who's taller than 7 feet, they not supposed to be above the free throw line.

PORZINGIS: That's old-school mentality. You gotta change your mindset a little bit. I get a lot of things from people. Like, "Oh, stop shooting 3s. You're 7-3." Kinda the same thing.

JONES: I want you to shoot the 3s 'cause you f---ing hit the 3s! I just want you to do some power moves too, 'cause they scared of you, you know what I'm sayin'? You come toward me? I'm gonna get the f--- outta the way.

PORZINGIS: Right, right. OK.

JONES: You have to know my first lesson in basketball was just get in the middle of the key and hold my hands up.

PORZINGIS: Exactly! That's because you're big and the coach tells you to go under the basket.

Leslie, what's your basketball background?

JONES: Oh, I played basketball since the sixth grade. College, high school. All that.

What position?

JONES: A forward/center, thank-you. I wasn't allowed to shoot jump shots 'cause I was over 6 feet tall.

KP, what's your comedy background?

PORZINGIS: Started since the sixth grade. (Laughs.)

JONES: He's funny as hell!

You guys seem to have, like, a little chemistry happening.

JONES: That's my boy. I yell at him enough. I know he hear me on the side. "Shoot the ball, KP!"

PORZINGIS: When I play, I don't really hear too much stuff. I try to focus. But I see her on the side, like, jumpin' up and down, tryin' to help us on defense. I'm like, "Wow."

That's what you want in a fan, though, right? That kind of passion?


JONES: It's a lie. I'm like the female Spike Lee.

Chance The Rapper
& Jimmy Butler

No Labels: Chance the Rapper and Jimmy Butler. Building a legacy of hoops, hip-hop and hope in Chicago

C hance the Rapper and Jimmy Butler are quickly becoming friends.

It's a cold January morning on a soundstage in Chicago, and Chance, the Chi-Town native, is waiting for his alley-oop during a photo shoot. Butler, the 6-foot-7 Chicago transplant by way of Texas, delivers the ball off the (slightly lowered) backboard with ease, allowing Chance to flush it two-handed. Later, it's Butler who's looking for an assist after an impromptu lip-sync session breaks out. On cue, Chance channels New Edition, leading the two as they sync up their dance moves to "Candy Girl."

The union between music and sports is nothing new, especially in a city like Chicago, where the fabric of both are so often used to heal, to inform and to explain. But these two also share unorthodox paths to success: Butler, now in his sixth year with the Bulls, went unnoticed out of high school, his ascension to NBA superstardom making him an anomaly in a league full of long-established stars; Chance, whose first mixtape was the product of a 10-day high school suspension, is now a record-label-shunning cultural tour de force.

Neither expected to become a leader in his craft-and neither expected that would mean representing a city and its future. But with three Grammy Awards on top of a stirring and electrifying performance Sunday night and All-Star Game starting nods on their résumés, it's tough for them to travel around Chicago-a city scarred by police brutality, gun crime and inequality in housing and education-and not hear their names mentioned as signs of hope.

Neither Chance, 23, nor Butler, 27, takes his new status lightly. Both are inspired by the task of being young, gifted and black in a place that has produced icons like Chaka Khan, Kanye West, Walter Payton and Ernie Banks. Oh, and some guy named Jordan. Not to mention, it's the adopted home of newly former President Barack Obama.

Now both want to leave an impact on the community that has embraced them. They know they owe the Windy City that much. And they seem uniquely suited to the task.

There's a line from Chance's 2016 opus, Coloring Book: "You ready, big fella?" Trading shots and lyrics on set, it looks like they're both ready. In fact, their power positions suit them.

More From The Undefeated

The Undefeated is the premiere platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture. Not conventional. Never boring. Undefeated home »

Eric Ray Davidson for ESPN

TINSLEY: How'd y'all come to know each other?

BUTLER: I came to Magnificent Coloring Day [Chance's music festival held in Chicago last September] with Lil Wayne, and that was the first time I had bumped into him and talked to him. I followed his career and his music, and I love what he was doin' for the city of Chicago. Another former teammate of mine, Joakim Noah, had met him and spoke extremely highly of him. I did a deal with a group that I do, BAM [Becoming a Man, a youth counseling group], here in Chicago, and all of these young kids wanted to be rappers. And I'm like, "Who's your favorite rapper?" "Oh, Chance, from Chicago." The hope that he puts in these kids' hearts around this city is why he's gonna be successful for a very long time, why his name is gonna be ringing for a very long time. This is his city.

CHANCE: Thanks, man. I'm really good friends with Joakim Noah and with D-Rose, and really good friends with D-Wade now too since he got back. Since Jimmy started playing, there's, like, a very excited feel about going to United Center and going to see the Bulls play. I think Jimmy adds character to the game. I got the jersey, I think, three years ago, and I always wear it to the games. I just always been a fan.

TINSLEY: What is it about sports and music, specifically basketball and hip-hop, that's always brought them together?

CHANCE: To me, I feel like basketball and hip-hop have always been kinda conjoined because they're very similar in their competitive nature, you know what I'm sayin'? It's about technical skill, and then there's just God-given talent.

BUTLER: I think it has a lot to do with the competitive nature of everything and the respect that you have for somebody else's craft. You always want to see if you can really do what they do on a daily basis. It's not always as easy as it looks or sounds.

TINSLEY: How fulfilling is it to know that you found success by doing it your way?

BUTLER: It's important. The way you live may change, but what's in your heart-that can never change. You know, I keep the same people around me, as I'm sure he does. It's all to keep you grounded, to remind you each and every day that you still are a kid from Tomball [Texas]. He still is a kid from Chicago. You can never lose sight of that.

CHANCE: Definitely. I've grown up in this city a certain type of way that wasn't necessarily orthodox for everybody else. I grew up durin' the time that Chicago's YOUmedia space at the library downtown was comin' up. So I was involved in a lot of open mics and a lot of s- that most people aren't exposed to. So when people say I do it my own way, I've just been doin' it the way I was raised.

TINSLEY: You've both been recognized in your crafts at the highest level. How does that feel?

BUTLER: It makes you smile. Because all your hard work is payin' off. But I try not to pay too much attention to what the outside world sees or thinks because they don't know what we go through every single day.

CHANCE: I feel the same way. I'm sure you wanted to play at the All-Star Game. I'm sure you been watchin' 'em since you was a shorty. I've been watching the Grammys. There's certain things I've just wanted to do my whole life. And when you get to those things, you just have to make sure that those are still checkpoints and not your end goal.

TINSLEY: Jimmy, now that you're the face of the franchise, how is dealing with team turmoil through the media different than in your rookie year?

BUTLER: A lot of it falls on my shoulders. So the camera, the microphone, it's always on me at all times. Everything you say now is always going to be blown out of proportion because you're supposed to be the face of the franchise. You're supposed to be the reason they win. You're supposed to be the reason you lose. It really gets confusin', the fact that it's a team game. With that being said, I take it, I love it, because I think that only makes me better.

TINSLEY: Whether you like it or not, you two are the new faces of Chicago. What's that responsibility like?

BUTLER: It's cool because every morning, you just have to continue to be who you are, do what you did to get you to this point. That's the way I look at it. And in this city, that's all anybody ever asks of you is to work hard. When you bring that, they love you.

CHANCE: I don't know how Jimmy does it 'cause he's not from here, but that's a lot of weight, right? Just carrying, like, the reality of it, the aggression and, like you said, the hardworking attitude. But also being a person of influence in a city that's so small, it's so communal, everybody knows each other here. I was raised here, and it's been kind of a fishbowl thing-I've swam around a bunch of times. But I feel very comfortable, and it's good to still live here.

TINSLEY: What is your comfort level in terms of social activism? Do you think it's fair that so much is placed on celebrities to speak out?

BUTLER: I don't think it's fair. But that's life in general. You have to use your platform to inspire. You have to use your face, your voice, because it's seen, it's heard everywhere. Just like you're there to entertain, to make great music, to score a basket. I think, at a certain point in time in your career, it's gonna be your time to speak up on social matters that are goin' on.

CHANCE: I totally agree. It's important to go against the grain. My favorite celebrity, across arts and sports and everything, is Muhammad Ali. And he was famous for speaking inflammatory things that were polarizing but also were important to building who he was as a man and his legacy. And in the end, he was right about most of the s- he was talkin' about.

TINSLEY: I don't know if you saw the tweet from President Trump where he said he was going to send the feds into Chicago, citing violence. What does that say about this country, that we still view Chicago under that violence lens?

CHANCE: I hope he's coming in to do some type of federal overturn of our state and city budgets in terms of schooling and housing. I'm tired of n--s talkin' about Chicago like it's a Third World country. Like, that it's not a place of booming business with a very successful downtown and all types of new development. It sounds like he was announcin' he was going to war with Chicago. I don't like to look at s- through that lens.

BUTLER: I just think it's hard to relate to the people here if you can't relate to them. If you keep throwin' 'em in a category that they're violent, no matter if they change or not, they're still going to be in that category. You go down there and you change people's lives. You make them want to do better for the next person. And that's when Chicago is going to be a beautiful place, and nobody's comin' here talkin' about how bad it is like he said, like a Third World country. 'Cause that's not it.

TINSLEY: How daunting is it knowing the perceptions that come with being young and black and male in Chicago?

CHANCE: It's heavy, you know what I'm sayin'? Like, I'm at the age where most of my friends have kids, and I've seen a lot of crazy s- happen, just in a Chicago fashion. To be a Chicago mainstay for a lot of people, you wanna give people familiarity, but you also want to give them something to look up to. So it is a hard balance.

BUTLER: It comes with the good and the bad. But with that being said, I think there's a lot more good that happens than bad. They look up to us. We give a lot of people hope. And I think that's all you can ask for. That's all you can want to do.

More Stories