The Fab Five, Hip Hop,
and College 'Ball
By the late 1980s professional basketball had most defiantly embraced the urban aesthetic. With the physical decline of Larry Bird, the league's last truly great White American player, the streetball style that had been detested by so many had come to define the game itself. Though Utah's John Stockton would gain a great deal of attention and support, he was in no way the player that Bird was, and playing in Utah made him even less visible. Certainly the league's best player, Michael Jordan, was a guy capable of doing it fundamentally, fusing what I have always called “the formal and the vernacular,” and this is what gave him his unique edge. More often than not, though, Jordan's street game took over.
When the Chicago Bulls went up against the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA finals, Michael's biggest challenge was supposed to come from the Blazers' Clyde Drexler. Clyde “The Glide” had been a star in college at the University of Houston and an integral part of the Phi Slamma Jamma crew that also included Hakeem Olajuwan. Many people at the time suggested that Clyde was as good as Jordan. But by being in a small market like Portland, he did not get the proper media attention. Thus few people knew how good he really was.