Comparing Iso Joe’s NBA Reboot To 90’s Era LL Cool J’s Return To Rap

BIG3 leading scorer and MVP Joe Johnson’s return to the NBA with the Detroit Pistons reminds me of when LL Cool J dropped the classic Mama Said Knock You Out.  

In 1990, LL  re-established himself as a force in rap, evolving from being a gentleman needing love to a brother who played no games. Iso Joe’s return to the league could do the same for his career.

Joe Cool made the most of his one season on Ice Cube’s 3-0n-3 league’s growing stage and made enough noise to get NBA workouts with several teams.

He turned into Killer Joe and took it back to the parks, just like LL on his debut hit “I’m Bad” back in 85.’

Once he got that opportunity to work out for several teams, he showed enough skills and ate enough defenders to position himself to get back to the top for one last NBA run.  

When LL Cool J dropped Walk with a Panther back in 1989, it didn’t match the critical acclaim of his first two classic albums Radio and Bigger and Deffer, which went double plat.

As a blossoming celebrity, he ventured into new areas of self-expression and created the album in California, bringing some of that laid back west coast funk to his delivery. This also translated into his music videos.

He wasn’t the wild man, straight from Farmers Blvd ripping the mic stand down. He was a cocky kid, rich and successful. A bad boy immersed in women and Hollywood lights, chilling out in Cali with Rick Rubin doing yoga and shit. Was LL washing out? 

After averaging more than 18 points per game for five consecutive seasons from ages 24-30, including four seasons averaging 20 or more, Johnson’s NBA career began to decline and from 2015 to his retirement after the 2017-18 season,

He also lost critical acclaim and found himself jobless at age 36 after 17 boss seasons as one of the NBA’s premier players. The seven-time All-Star’s NBA career appeared to be over.  

Just as LL humbled himself, regrouped, returned to his Queens roots and teamed with Queensbridge legend Marley Marl for a classic album for the ages, Johnson — knowing he could still ball at the NBA level — went back to the essence. Iso Joe joined the BIG3, and totally embraced the challenge with a reinvigorated, schoolyard hunger. 

“Serve the curves, I never swerve I’m superb;

Every word you heard played tricks on your nerves.”

LL Cool J, “Jinglin’ Baby (Remixed But Still Jinglin’),” Mama Said Knock You Out, 1990.

After the sales decline from Walking with a Panther (which still eventually went platinum) Mama Said Knock You Out went double platinum and from there LL was able to drop another double platinum album in 1995 (Mr. Smith) and then two more platinum albums in 1996 (All World: Greatest Hits) and 1997 (Phenomenon) as he was aging and evolving in a changing musical landscape. He was an OG, comfortable in his skin and quick to put disrespectful newbies in their place. 

LL’s career second wind was our introduction to “Uncle L.” He was legendary to most young heads and current superstars and respected by his contemporaries. That describes Johnson’s place in the current NBA hierarchy.  


LL dropped seven more albums between 2000 and 2013, mostly to fulfill contractual obligations while his TV and movie deals became his bread and butter —  and three of those went Gold.

The BIG3 performance was Joe Johnson’s Mama Said Knock You Out moment.


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