J. Cole came back with a new album like Jordan wearing the 4-5

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J. Cole has had himself a week.

The Grammy Award-winning rapper not only released his sixth studio album, The Off-Season, but he also made his debut in the Basketball Africa League with the Rwanda Patriots. The Patriots are one of 12 teams from all over Africa that are competing in the inaugural season of the league.


The league itself is a product of the NBA and the International Basketball Federation in an attempt to bring a platform for players across the country to showcase their talents in hopes of making it to higher levels of competition across the globe including the NBA. Beginning in the late 1990s we began to see a slow trickle of international players making their way into the NBA, but not until players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker started making all star teams and winning championships did the flood gates open.

NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, has been a longtime proponent of bringing in the best talent from all over the world, and this is yet another step for the progressive league to provide as many avenues for the best to find their way to the league. With much of Europe having established professional basketball leagues, there was a huge void in the country of Africa in regard to opportunity.

Africa is still a very poor and under-industrialized country, so the resources and money simply aren't there to support such an endeavor. But with the support of the NBA, the league has a great chance to be successful and to produce NBA players.

But what's up with J. Cole?

Cole played some college ball with St. John's as a walk-on, and we've seen his ability on display at NBA All-Star weekend in the celebrity games and on his social media accounts. So we know that Cole can hoop, and we know he's always willing to put in the work. He's talked at length about his creative process while making his art, and one can only assume that he's taking that work ethic into this new realm of professional basketball.

Cole is expected to play in a handful of games for the Patriots over the course of the UEFA Champion's League style schedule of play. The BAL (Basketball Africa League) breaks the teams into a group phase, which is comprised of 18 games, and then the top eight teams from the group phase qualify for playoffs. The remaining teams will compete in a single elimination playoff season that will last three rounds. The BAL Final will be held on May 30.

Cole isn't expected to play every game; the team only anticipates he'll play in six games at most. In his debut with the Patriots he managed 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 17 minutes of play. Not exactly the start he was hoping for, but if he manages to catch up to the speed and start putting down shots, we could see him extend that limit a little.

The timing of Cole's debut, his album release, and the cross-over appeal he brings is a perfect cocktail for the BAL as they are attempting to get eyes on their product. Cole has always said he wanted to make it to the NBA, but at his age (36) it's unlikely he'll have the chance. So he instead gets to live out his pro basketball fantasy in the BAL while helping players in that country get looks.

Cole's desire to lift others up has long been part of who he is which can be seen in his non-profit organization Dreamville Foundation and their efforts to support underprivileged and under funded communities largely in his home state of North Carolina.

While you might not make money betting on J.Cole playing basketball. The Off-Season is primed to be a front-runner for Rap Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 2022. Much like the Academy Awards, the Grammy's have a history of awarding artists a few projects too late. Cole's new album sees him attempting to position himself at the top of the rap game as the best lyricist alive.

Cole has been revered as one of today's purest rappers since debuting in 2014 with 2014 Forest Hills Drive and putting an exclamation on that take with 2018's KOD, which wasn't even nominated for Best Rap album that year.

Cole's newest album features intricate beats produced by Timbaland and even sees the rapper work on the other side of the sound booth producing songs on the album himself. It appears that one of rap's poets is seeking even further control over the art he is putting out into the world. It's something that the Grammy voters will take into consideration.

While the album isn't a clear improvement over any of his previous releases, there is certainly no signs of regression. The album is representative of what we've seen from Cole throughout his illustrious career. His delivery is smooth, his messages are strong, and the album leaves you wanting more.

The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

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The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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Julio Jones is trying to force his way out of Atlanta

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The NFL's all-time leader in receiving yardage per game is looking for a new home.

Five time all-pro, Julio Jones, stated on FS1's Undisputed earlier this week that he was "out" of Atlanta and that his only focus on where he wants to play next year includes winning. This corroborates with reports back in April as Ian Rapoport indicated the Falcons were receiving calls for their star receiver prior to the NFL Draft.

It's no surprise that Jones wants out considering the Falcons have only made the playoffs once since their Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Jones is 32 now and coming off a season where nagging injuries kept him off the field for all but nine games in 2020. In those games Jones caught 51 balls for 771 yards while adding three touchdowns. Having only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career in 2012, the volume and yardage have always been Julio's strengths. A lack of availability would certainly hurt his chances to be a major contributor for any title-contender.

According to SportsLine, the teams with the best odds to land Jones are as follows as of May 28, 2021.

  • Patriots +200
  • 49ers +300
  • Titans +400
  • Raiders +600
  • Ravens +700
  • Chargers +900
  • Colts +1000
  • Packers +1200
  • Dolphins +1400
  • Jaguars +1500
  • Cowboys +2000

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The Nets big 3 are set for a finals run.

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The play-ins have been a short, but wild rollercoaster and the playoffs are getting ready to set off.

The seeds are finally set, and the first-round matchups are 76ers(1) vs Wizards(8), Nets(2) vs Celtics(7), Bucks(3) vs Heat(6), and Knicks(4) vs Hawks(5).



76ers vs Wizards:

The Russell Westbrook-Joel Embiid rivalry will continue during this year's playoffs and fans cannot wait. The Wizards finished the season with a 16-6 record, and after a lackluster start this season, they have made themselves a dangerous 8th seed. While the 76ers didn't finish the season hot, I'm sure with a team-full of veterans, rest was more of a priority. The 76ers beat the Wizards three times during the season, but two of those games were very close and came early in the season.

The Wizards can definitely make this series a challenging one for the 76ers. The Wizards have shooters all around with Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans. But the 76ers have a much deeper team with guys like Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Dwight Howard providing good veteran leadership. The Wizards are riding on the health of Bradley Beal, who has dealt with hamstring tightness in the past two weeks.



Nets vs Celtics:

The Nets finally seem to be healthy just in time for the playoffs, which is dangerous for Boston. Although the Nets big three only played eight games together, the Nets still finished with a 48-24. The Nets also have a great mix of reliable veterans like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris. These two teams meet three times during the regular season with Brooklyn taking all three games.

The Celtics have not lived up to expectations this year. After making a conference finals last year, it was expected to carry through the regular season, but they never found their stride. Jaylen Brown will continue to be sidelined with a broken wrist, so most of the load will be carried by Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. I see this series being an easy one for the Nets.



Bucks vs Heat:

A rematch of the heated second-round matchup last year, where the Heat upset Milwaukee, who had Giannis dealing with injuries. Interestingly enough, both of these come to the playoffs on the right side with an 8-2 record in their last 10 regular-season games. Giannis is back with more weapons on his sides like Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague, while also keeping their core from last year. Giannis had had another MVP-type season averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds.

The Miami Heat started the season off slow, probably because of the NBA finals hangover, but got hot after the all-star break. Miami also acquired many new weapons like Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. The Jimmy Butler-Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup will be the most important aspect of this series.

Knicks vs Hawks

After what seems like a lifetime drought, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs! We can all agree that when the Knicks are good, the league is in better spirits. Tom Thibodeau has turned this team around, and you can't forget about how Julius Randle has been playing this season. Possibly the most improved player, Julius Randle has proved all his doubters wrong and has taken the keys to this Knicks franchise. The Knicks have great veteran leadership with guys like Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson who are familiar with Thibodeau. They also have great young talent with guys like RJ Barret, and Obi Toppin.

The Hawks on the other hand have turned it around since firing Lloyd Pierce and having Nate McMillan made this team do a complete 180. Trae Young and John Collins are one of the best duos in the league. With guys like Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who can get hot at any point of the game. This series can definitely go to 7 games, with last-second shots determining the outcome.