On today’s (Dec. 10) episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with Nigel Sylvester, Ben Baller, J.R. Smith, Steelo Brim, and a handful of other guests to discuss the current state of hip hop, sports, endorsements, and much more.
Born in Queens, New York, Sylvester is a competitive BMX cyclist, businessman, filmmaker, and philanthropist with an extensive resume. His career has gone well beyond the confines of conventional BMX bicycling thanks to his forward-thinking riding style, groundbreaking content development, and distinctive visual expression and technique. Sylvester’s “GO” video series provides viewers with a first-person perspective of his rides throughout many of the world’s most renowned locations, including Los Angeles, Tokyo, and London. His meteoric ascent has garnered the attention of fans all over the world, as well as the mainstream media, large global companies such as Nike and Jordan, and athletes alike.
Meanwhile, J.R. Smith, who takes over the latter part of this week’s episode, is a renowned basketball player, entrepreneur, and, as of 2021, college golfer. After graduating from high school in 2004, he made his professional basketball debut with the New Orleans Hornets. He entered the league as the 18th overall selection and has since played for the Denver Nuggets, Zhejiang Golden Bulls, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers. After joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015, he picked up his first NBA championship in 2016. Smith transferred from Cleveland to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, where he won his second NBA title against the Miami Heat.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the D’USSE golf “Drink Champs” conversation. Continue scrolling to read them and watch the full episode here.
1. Nigel Sylvester on getting endorsed by Jordan Brand
Sylvester has been sponsored by Nike since he was 18 years old with their partnership arriving on the heels of him signing to David Mirra just months prior. In 2018, he was given his very own pair of Air Jordan 1’s, and last year, the former BMX athlete was officially endorsed by the footwear giant. While discussing the switch over to Jordan Brand, he talked about what it felt like to work with the team.
“Dave Mirra signed me when I was 18, and I got signed to Nike a couple of months later,” he shared. “I recently switched from Nike to Jordan Brand about a year ago. It’s been amazing to go across categories with a brand like that.”
2. On JAY-Z and Nas not being relevant, according to Boosie Badazz
Boosie sparked a commotion this past week when he addressed 21 Savage’s controversial comments about Nas. During an interview with VladTV, Boosie remarked, “JAY-Z’s not relevant these days for music… If you’re gonna say JAY-Z is relevant and Nas ain’t relevant? No.” Regarding his statement, Steelo Brim chimed in on the situation, noting that everyone has their own definition of relevancy.
“The words ‘JAY-Z’ and ‘relevance’ are always going to be hand in hand. He’s definitely relevant for what he does for the culture. Nas is definitely relevant to me,” Brim shared. Sylvester chimed in with, “I mean, we’re sitting here drinking Ace of Spades, right?”
3. On Black and Brown representation in the BMX and skating industries
With the rise of social media, the BMX and skating industries have grown increasingly diverse and inclusive of people across all races, genders, and backgrounds. While speaking on representation and how it’s advanced since he first began his career, Sylvester cited social media as one reason there are more Black BMX athletes
“100 percent. You got so many kids from the hood now looking at it like, ‘OK, I can do this too,’” Sylvester stated. “Nowadays, with social media, everyone has access to it. There’s way more skate parks. People can put their content out, and they’re not confined to having to wait for the big brand to come and find [them].”
4. J.R. Smith on going back to school after his career ended
Smith returned to school after a successful professional basketball career, proving that it is never too late to pursue higher education. He enrolled at North Carolina A&T in 2021, where he was later named Academic Athlete of the Year, in addition to getting a 4.0 GPA while pursuing a degree in liberal studies. Smith talked about why it was so important for him to go back to college, stating that Ray Allen convinced him.
“After year six or seven, I’m like, ‘Oh, that s**t dead, I’m not going back to school.’ Even my mom was like, ‘Boy, don’t worry about it. I ain’t tripping on that degree.’ So, after my career and after s**t started getting slow as a hooper, I was trying to figure it out,” he stated. “My man Ray Allen hooked me up with some knowledge of self and after that, it was over.”
5. J.R. on his favorite NBA team to play for
The Knicks and the Oklahoma City Thunder were a part of a three-team deal that sent Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. On the topic of his favorite team to play on during his career, Smith listed the Cavaliers due to winning their first NBA Championship and the star lineup, which included Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
“My favorite team was my Cleveland team. My chip team. We were thick as thieves. Me, Kyrie, Bron, Kevin [Love], Channing [Frye], RJ, Shump, and Tristan [Thompson]. I mean we had a crew. The bond we had as a team was crazy,” Smith explained. “Every time we moved around, it was always 13, 14, 15 people. For us, that was saying something.”
6. J.R. on his least favorite NBA team to play for
Pivoting from the topic of his favorite team to play for, Smith named the New Orleans Hornets as his least favorite. Although he joined the NBA straight out of high school after being picked in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft, it certainly wasn’t his top choice.
Responding to the question about his least favorite team, he shared, “New Orleans, my first year. We won 18 games in my first year… We get the lottery pick, Hurricane Katrina happened, we moved to Oklahoma, and we drafted [Chris Paul]. CP comes, ball out Rookie of the Year. The next year after that, my third year comes, and I get traded to Denver.” He continued, “I said, ‘Oh, I got traded to Chicago for a cup of coffee.’”
7. Ben Baller on making $5 million from playing golf
If you’re familiar with hip hop, you know Ben Baller as the jeweler who outfitted some of the genre’s greatest stars, including JAY-Z, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, and more. However, as of late, the renowned jeweler and executive is making his way into golf, even suggesting that he might give up his work in the business to play the sport. Later in the interview, he talked about how much he made from playing golf.
“Golf is lit. Golf is crazy. Bro, I’m about to sell my jewelry business and play golf full-time. I made $5 million playing golf last year,” he shared. “Sponsorships, tournaments, I got my own clubs. Me and J.R. are in the same agency, so we connected, and we got a TV show dropping in two months about golf.”
8. On Moses Malone introducing J.R. to golf
Two-time NBA champion J.R. Smith is now 35 years old and receiving his first taste of collegiate athletics after going directly from high school to the NBA. Since he is prohibited from participating in the sport he played professionally, according to the NCAA, he is playing golf at North Carolina A&T. As for who first piqued his interest in golf, he said it was Moses Malone.
“I was playing at Rashad Lewis’ golf house in Houston. His first foundation event was a golf outing and I was just riding around messing with people, drinking and smoking, messing with the cart girls, and [Malone] was like, ‘Come hit this ball, you talking all this s**t.’ I get there, then he showed me how to hold the s**t. I hit that s**t 300 yards down the fairway,” he stated. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”
9. On Jim Jones’ beef with Ben being escalated by DJ Akademiks
In 2020, both Ben Baller and Jim Jones held their ground throughout their vicious Instagram exchange, which included personal attacks and threats. However, according to the jeweler, it was all for play, and DJ Akademiks blew it out of proportion when reporting on the situation. On the topic, he shared, “That was bulls**t from Akademiks. Me and Jim are good. I love Jim, bro. That’s my dog, bro… Akademiks made it seem like it was some drama, or some beef, or some bulls**t.”