The spirit of the NBA and street culture has fully converged. The intoxicating energy of competition knows no bounds at its base, and it is the engine fueling both sports and culture.
Gambling, now a front-and-center cornerstone of both cultures, is at a point of convergence in real time, and now the players are pulling back the curtain more and more.
During this year’s NBA All-Star game, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, Zach LaVine and Trae Young were gambling during a quick perusal of Team Durant’s locker room before the All-Star Game.
NBA All-Star locker room gambling. 100s on the table playing cards. Legendary pic.twitter.com/4tHje6JRGY
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 21, 2022
House Of Cards
Embiid shuffled the deck while blue face hundreds lay on the table, and the players looked ready to start the competitive action early.
Ever the dealer, Embiid dealt the cards to his teammates, and when it was all said and done, no official winner of the quick card game was announced, but Embiid was seen flossing his nails with hundreds like they were dollars.
The card game, which is now being debated as a pre-game ritual for Team Durant, was a throwback to the legendary player poker games of Jordan, Barkley and Magic Johnson.
Good All-Star Game! Jordan is the goat lol my man flew from the Daytona 500 to the NBA game with no problem! I think he had a change of plans seeing the players playing cards in the locker room before tipoff 😅😅 🐐And had to make sure Scottie wasn't there 😎 pic.twitter.com/by3nPf7kQw
— Savon Knight (@coachknight405) February 21, 2022
As displayed prominently in Episode six of the “ESPN 30 For 30” documentary “The Last Dance,” Jordan’s gambling exploits were detailed.
Jordan had a compunction for competition in all forms, from gambling on the team plane for big stacks or a one-dollar-a-hand blackjack. That energy is reminiscent of the famous street game cee-lo.
An office or back alley can evolve into a cash-heavy shooting gallery with just three dice. However, rarely has a dice game been before LeBron James hits a game-winner to cinch the All-Star game in Cleveland as he closed it with a game-winner on Team Durant.
TNT just showed a live shot of the locker room at the NBA All Star game where some of the players were playing cards for money. Can’t wait to see what people have to say about that.
— Jonathan (@Local_JK) February 21, 2022
It’s In The Game
Despite a lackluster skills challenge and dunk contest, the game was a close contest. With a final box score of 163-160 for Team LeBron, the stars shone that night.
Stephen Curry was named the MVP of the All-Star Game, and Joel Embiid showed out. Joel showed up for Team Durant with 36 points, four assists and 10 rebounds.
Curry dropped 50 points for Team LeBron with a flurry of amazing shots from downtown. Now the world is speculating expanding the borders of the league cottage industries surrounding All-Star weekend.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 21, 2022
Where video games have become a part of the culture, so could poker games during All-Star weekend where the best of the two conferences could compete.
Would that ever extend into shooting dice? Of course not, but it opens the door to a cultural touchpoint of epic proportions. It’s a total 1990’s vibe that calls upon the spirit of natural competitiveness in the heat of celebration. That’s before even playing the game.
In the spirit of Michael Jordan, today’s stars are continuing a less-discussed tradition as Jordan-esque as cigars and golf. It is both a time-honored NBA rite of passage and cultural convergence that continues the NBA’s resonance with the collective streets.
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