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Common in front of basketball player on screen

Common Presents an Uncommon Introduction to NBA All-Star Players

Gettyimages | Kevin Mazur
By Robert Safir

You've probably heard sports figures being introduced by the announcer at sporting event such as basketball. But you've never heard the type of introduction that was dreamed up by poet, rapper, artist, and philosopher, Common. He added a whole new vibe to the ceremony at the NBA All-Star game that featured, among other things, a tribute to Kobe Bryant, who was one of the victims of a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.

Leading up to this presentation was a series of epic tributes to the city of Chicago, where the All-Star game returned for the first time since 1988.

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If a City Could Talk

Inside United Center, Chicago - site of All Star Game
Gettyimages | Stacy Revere

The ceremony opened up with a moving tribute to the City of Chicago. A series of camera dolly shots moved around a scale model of the city while luminaries such as Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, and Chance the Rapper spoke highly of the city as music played in the background. “Chicago is where I became a man,” Obama said. And then it was Common's turn for a tribute and it came in the form of a poem, "If City Could Talk." It honored not only the city of Chicago, but Kobe Bryant as well.

Poetry in Motion

Giphy | NBA

Common's introduction to the players was like no other. His unique writing and rapping style added another dimension to the festivities. “Going hard in the paint is his style / From the Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo." Another example: “Representing the bayou kingdom / First-time All-Star from the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram." And of course, the line-up could not omit a line about the major star, Lebron: “We continue to witness his reign, one of the greatest to play the game / From the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James”

Kobe and LeBron

Kobe Bryan and LeBron James
Gettyimages | John McCoy

LeBron talked about how he could feel Kobe's presence at the game. "Just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you see the 24. He was definitely here." In addition to praising Kobe as a player, LeBron addressed the other half, perhaps the greater half, of who Kobe was. "But we also saw the father he was as well to his beautiful daughters and to his wife. The things that he was doing, winning an Oscar...I think it's been amazing, and I’m happy to be a part of it this weekend."

For All We Know

Jennifer Huds, Cello Player, Kobe on Screen
Gettyimages | Kevin Mazur

In addition to athletics, artistry was on full display at the game. Jennifer Hudson did a rendition of "For All We Know." Emotions filled the room because of her intense version of the song. As images of Bryant and his daughter Gianna played on a screen behind her, Hudson performed an impeccable version of the song. It was after Hudson performed, that Chicago rapper Common began a spoken word tribute to his hometown, praising fellow Chicago natives such as Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade. Then he segued into a tribute to former President Barack Obama and Bryant.

Common Rapped 'Even in the darkest times, you'll feel Kobe's light'

Common in front of screen showing Kobe's image
Gettyimages | Kevin Mazur

There were many emotional highlights during the NBA All-Star game, but the opening by Common was like the glue that held the whole thing together. "A king named Kobe Bryant," Common rapped as the arena lights lit up in purple and gold. "Even in the darkest times, you'll feel Kobe's light."

It was a fitting tribute for sure. If the upcoming ceremony on February 24, 2020 is anything like this was, we will all have another chance to honor the player, the legend, and the man, Kobe Bryant.

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