Outside of obsessive sports radio callers from Temecula, you won’t find more diehard Lakers fans than Lil Wayne. Since Kobe Bryant entered the league, the Louisiana rapper has repped the Lake Show in times of good and bad. He even made a tribute song to the Black Mamba, which somehow ranks as only the second best Kobe-centric anthem. (Yet far superior to “K.O.B.E.”)
In return, the Lakers star announced news of Wayne’s still-delayed Carter V via Twitter. Over the years, the pair formed a friendship based on bonds shared by few others. Stars as teenagers, they matured into dynastic forces with multiple peaks. They’re worshipped by millions, frequently misunderstood, and boast indefatigable work ethics usually only found in Fortune 500 CEOs.
Late last fall, I spoke to Wayne about his love of basketball and the Lakers at his waterfront Miami mansion. Over a midnight dinner of spaghetti and corn, we watched the Dallas Mavericks play the Portland Trail Blazers in a space that resembled a man-cave built by the world’s coolest 14-year old: graffiti on the walls, 100 skateboards hanging over our heads, LEGO men, lots of weed. The TV never left ESPN. It probably hasn’t since.
When made you a Lakers fan?
I’ve been a Lakers fans since Kobe Bryant came into the league straight from high school. Back when he did it, it was so rare. I know Moses Malone had done it back in the days but in my era, Kobe was the one in high school and about to compete on the highest stage. I was drawn in from there. Before that, I’d been a Bulls fan because of Michael Jordan.
Beyond competitiveness, what do you think bonds rappers and athletes?
Youth. Nine times out of 10, we both accomplish big things at a young age. They’re young. We’re young.
What do you and Kobe share in common?
The drive and will and determination. And through our success, we still maintain that drive and will and determination.
Who do you think is going to win the championship?
I still like — well, I don’t like — but I think it’s going to be the Spurs. You always gotta’ say, ‘Who’s going to take the champs down?’ And I don’t see nobody who can. They’re just too good.
It doesn’t even matter how old Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are, it’s the system that they play. That’s why they’re so good. They play basketball. Other niggas just playing a game.
What do you think about the evolution of the game from one-on-one isolation basketball to the more fluid, three-point heavy and analytics-influenced offenses of today?
Obviously, there ain’t no more one-on-ones no more. And from the era we come from, we want to see that. But I like to see the game evolving and see people going through the zone and breaking that shit up. Because there’s plenty of teams where nigga's will tear up that zone quick and the coach will shift back to man defense,
Do you think the Cavaliers will ever get it together?
They better because they’re having some real problems.
Which NBA players are you closest with?
Kobe. [Clippers guard] Chris Paul is like a brother — if anyone, I’m closest to him. We got really close when he was on the New Orleans Hornets. He carries himself with class on and off the court.
J.R. Smith is like a little brother. I’m cool with Shabazz Napier and [Clippers forward] Matt Barnes.
Do you think the Clippers have a chance to the make it to the Western Conference Finals?
They gotta get past the Warriors and that’s gonna be tough. The Warriors have the best team this year. They’re so much tougher and deeper. Kerr’s got them playing like beasts. The Clippers are eventually going to be all right; it’s a long season.
But I like Golden State, they got that swag.
What about the Lakers future? Do you think they should just openly tank and dump players before the deadline?
I think they’re just banking on signing players in the off-season and coming back strong next year.
What did you think about the ESPN article that alleged that no one wants to come to the Lakers as long as Kobe’s still here?
I saw that, but I side with Jeanie Buss’ response: Show me the player who wouldn’t want to come play with Kobe Bryant? That’s all you have to say.
Well, there’s Dwight Howard. If you were him, would you have re-signed with L.A. or gone to Houston?
If I was Dwight, I’d do what’s best with Dwight. Every man has to do what’s best for him. It’s definitely not what I would’ve liked to see him do. I wanted him to stay with the Lakers.
Despite all the headaches, he’s still one of the best centers in a league that lacks good true centers.
That’s true, but the good centers that there are in the league play a little more passionately than him. He likes to play around. He likes to play jokes and shit.
He’s known for farting in the locker room.
You know Kobe, can you imagine him dealing with that? Nah, Kobe can’t deal with that shit. Dwight’s talented but other centers play their position rough. Nene plays so tough. Kenneth Faried plays tough. They hold it down. They go a little harder than Dwight Howard.
Were you disappointed when the Lakers didn’t sign Carmelo Anthony last summer?
I would’ve loved to have seen him play in L.A. But Melo’s humble. I’m not sure if he’s a big fan of the limelight that switching to L.A. would’ve brought. I can say one thing: If Dr. Buss was still living, [Anthony] would’ve come here. If Dr. Buss was still living, LeBron might be here, too.