Many NBA players use Jay Z’s verses for a pregame pump-up. But before a preseason game in 2000, Latrell Sprewell used one for intimidation.
Coming off a six-game ECF loss to the Pacers, Spree and the Knicks hosted the Chicago Bulls to kick off their eight-game exhibition schedule. For the Knickerbockers, this was just another game to cross off the list before re-embarking on a quest for an NBA championship. But for Jamal Crawford, the Bulls rookie shooting guard, this was the moment he had been preparing for since the first time he picked up a basketball.
As that wasn’t nerve-racking enough, Sprewell made sure to put some extra pressure on the 20-year-old.
I remember my first preseason game, and at the time, you guys know at the Garden both teams were at the opposite ends of the hallway, but you see each other. And I’ll never forget, Spree came out when his group got together and he said, ‘Okayyyy, I’m reloaded.’Jamal Crawford, Knuckleheads
Here’s the whole stanza from Jay Z’s Brooklyn’s Finest, proving it’s the ultimate pregame pump-up song:
Okay, I’m reloaded!
You motherfu*kers, think you big time?
Fu*kin with Jay-Z, you gon’ die, big time!
Here come the “Pain”
It’s also a perfect intimidation song, and that’s how Sprewell put it to use. According to Crawford, it worked.
First thing I’m thinking, ‘We’re professionals, you’re with your group, they’re with their group,‘ but he screamed loud enough so everybody could hear it. And Spree at the time, we was all 2000 Draft Class, so 1999, they just came off the Finals. So the first thing he said, ‘Okay, I’m reloaded,‘ I’m like, ‘Sh*t man, what you mean you’re reloaded?‘Jamal Crawford, Knuckleheads
It meant Spree was ready to go. After a Finals loss in 1999 and Eastern Conference Finals exit the year after, the 6-5 small forward returned recharged, eyeing another title run with the Knicks. The Bulls were the first obstacle in his way, and despite it being a preseason game, Latrell went all-in, rounding off Crawford’s “Welcome to the NBA” moment.
When I was guarding him in the game, I didn’t have a chance. He seized you up and then he gone. That first step and he’s out. I felt I was on an island, like all the way by myself. I already don’t play defense like that; I really felt like I was on an island.Jamal Crawford, Knuckleheads
There are no box scores available online, and JC didn’t reveal how many points Sprewell scored on him that night. But it must’ve been as ugly as a preseason game can get. It sure was as ugly as an NBA debut can get for a 20-year-old rookie.
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