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Jalen Rose: True Grit, Pt 1

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Dubbed “The Natural” for his well-rounded talents and abilities, superstar basketball pro Jalen Rose has made an undeniable impact on the game. From his early days with the Fab 5 at Michigan to his stints with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, Jalen continues to dominate the court with his Toronto Raptors team.

We ran into Jalen at the Las Vegas MAGIC Convention in August, where he spoke to us at the Mad Soul booth about his passion for all things Hip-Hop. Now, the 6’8” trend setter shares his thoughts with AllHipHop.com Alternatives about music, philanthropy, and his amazing career thus far in basketball.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Let’s start with your early years and work our way up. How do you feel about the games at Michigan during your tenure being forfeited because of alleged NCAA violations?

Jalen Rose: Being a fan of sports, in particular college sports and pro sports, I’ve seen a lot of scandals go on, and in that I’ve never seen that happen to any other team, whether what was alleged actually happened or not. To make that more personal, for the allegations to come about 10 years later after we had already gotten out of school, but yet nothing still to this day has technically been proven. I just think it was unwarranted. I think if you want to punish certain individuals who you think have wrong doings, that probably is more just than to try and punish the fans who rooted for the Fab 5, the coaching staff, the team, the University of Michigan, and the Fab 5 legacy. I just think it was unfair and I just think that a lot of people is waiting to pile on the Fab 5 because a lot of people [were] pissed off at us about our swagger and what we brought to the game anyway.

AHHA: The Fab 5 took the look of a basketball team to the next level with the baggy shorts, black socks, bald heads etc. When all of this was going down, did you think you were making such a long lasting impact on the look and the feel of the game?

Jalen: What a lot of people don’t know is, growing up a fan of the game I was a Syracuse Orangemen fan. Derrick Coleman went to Syracuse, he’s from my home town, that’s my big homie. UNLV Running Rebel player Anderson Hunt went to my high school Detroit Southwestern. I was individually plugged into those situations. I took visits to both of those schools before I signed with Michigan. I was already tied into what they had done. For us to take it to another level meant something to me to try to emulate what those guys had done for me personally.

I did know at the time that we were laying down and establishing a legacy because it hadn’t been done. No team had the fortitude and the opportunity to have five brothers out there on national TV being what everybody considered in the early ‘90s, and still to this day, brash and cocky. We were being rebels with a cause – or without a cause, depending on who you ask.

A lot of times when you’re a pioneer you gotta take the brunt to kick down the door and lay it down for everybody else. We allowed players to have their own personality, their own swagger, the attitude that, ‘No I don’t have to wait for success, I want success now’. That came with out look, our big shorts, our black shoes, our black socks that nobody had done. Whether you’re on a streetball court, whether you’re in a NBA arena, or whether you’re at a football game, when you look down and you see somebody with the black shoes and the black socks, that’s a direct influence. That’s something that means just as much as anything, because everybody wanna have an impact on the game. That’s why you train, that’s why you play, that’s why you love it. For us to have a impact that will never go away, that’s going to continue to grow stronger means that much more.

AHHA: How was it for you handling the enormous hype of the Fab 5?

Jalen: I loved it, I embraced it and I wanted more. I was excited about it, I felt like we deserved it and since it was all happening for the first time nobody could really prepare. It wasn’t anything scripted, everything we said and did was raw. It was live and uncut, it was just like Hip-Hop. That’s why I was sitting at the Final Four forum with a Naughty By Nature hoodie on that I got from them, or a EPMD hat that I got from them, because Hip-Hop was in me just like it was in the Fab 5. We listened to all of that. Our motto was “Gotta let your nuts hang” because we got that from Geto Boys, or NWA whoever was crankin’ at that time.

I got lucky because right after our freshman year I got a chance to KMEL Summer Jam in San Francisco, back in the day it was legends out there. I named a couple of people I saw to Hammer, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Too Short, up in a freestyle session with 2Pac and Redman, Treach, Latifah, Digital Underground. For me going from being on that college stage, to being backstage with them and recognizing, ‘Damn they know who I am’ is really large. That was amazing to me being a kid from Detroit. I follow and love Hip-Hop just like basketball, so when I see somebody like Scarface or NWA or EPMD I’m admiring them, I ain’t giving a damn about basketball. It ain’t because I wanna rap – it’s because I’m a big time fan.

AHHA: How do you feel about the old Fab 5 jerseys being worn by current players?

Jalen: A lot of people that follow college basketball will know this, no disrespect to any college player that gets his number retired, because anybody that gets his number retired done put in some work. I can’t say anything negative or compare the two, but let’s just be real. If you’re talking about retiring numbers and you’re going to retire a legacy, you gotta retire a legacy and the numbers of a situation that’s never going to get duplicated, first and foremost. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the Fab 5. There’s no way those numbers shouldn’t go up in the banners and in the rafters for everybody to appreciate and enjoy, and understand why they’re hanging up there. I think at this point it hasn’t happened, but I think with due time it may happen. I think time heals all wounds, and I think over the course of time the relationship of us having our banners snatched down and the numbers not being retired, and things of that nature will eventually hopefully go away.

AHHA: Are you in contact with any of your old Fab 5 teammates?

Jalen: We’re all still brothers, within the last week I’ve talked to all of them literally. That’s the one thing I love about being a point guard, finding a way to keep everybody connected has always been one of my niches.

AHHA: Indiana is a state that’s crazy about basketball. How was playing there different from any other place that you’ve played?

Jalen: The grand thing about me playing in Indiana is the five and a half years that I was there, we had the best record in the NBA. Couple that with the fact that I consider Indiana to probably have the most basketball crazed fans of anywhere. Their motto is: “In 49 states there’s basketball, but this is Indiana”. When you play there you understand that. I also got a chance to play for my favorite mentor, a guy who I rooted against my whole life as a Pistons fan, Larry Bird, who ended up being a mentor, a big homie, a coach, an administrator, for me in my career. Here’s Jalen Rose, this brash guy with these big shorts trash talking with this bravado that we hate, standing next to Larry Bird who is a favorite son. For him to embrace me, that situation did a lot for me as a player on and off the floor. That’s my guy.

AHHA: Who is the most talented player you’ve ever played against, or the most difficult to defend?

Jalen: The most talented player I ever played against was a guy I call the “Black Cat” who’s my homie. He wears a certain number 23, named Michael Jordan. I got a chance to play against him in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals. The Pacers were the only team in the Bulls six championship run to take them to seven games. A lot of people consider him the greatest to ever do it and he was my responsibility. I was guarding him, and he was guarding me. It wasn’t like I was sittin’ on the end of the bench watching. It’s hands down Michael Jordan.

AHHA: Who do you feel defends you the best in the NBA?

Jalen: Nobody. The great thing about my game is that I’m versatile. I’m one of the only guys who can brag about being able to start at point guard, shooting guard, small forward and still go out and get you numbers and eat a position. I always find a way to make my versatility in my favor. Now if I’m off, I’m off. Anybody can be off, but I can’t say that I’ve played against a guy where I was like, ‘Oh, his defense is so good. I hate when he comes to town.’ A lot of times you concentrate even more against those guys, and you actually end up having good games.

AHHA: Are you proud to be among the handful of people who have dunked on Shaq?

Jalen: Anytime you talk about Shaq you’re talking about legendary status. Whether it’s scoring a basket or scoring a dunk or hitting a jumper in his face, as a player it all feels the same. But for trash talk it does feel good. It feels just the same to me when I run a pick and roll and he’s standing in front of me and I do a dribble move between my legs and I pop that jumper in his face. That feels exactly the same.

AHHA: A Philly fan wanted me to ask you, were you nervous the first time you played against Allen Iverson?

Jalen: Iverson is like my brother to this day, that’s my boy first off. When I was in Indiana we played against Philadelphia three years in the playoffs and we beat ‘em every time. In one of those series me and Reggie Miller had 40 points in the same game, only five times in NBA playoff history have two guys on the same team done that. We did that against the Sixers. So I wasn’t scared at all.

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