Around the Internet today, countless tributes to the late Christopher Wallace (better known as “The Notorious B.I.G.”) are running rampant. As it was six months ago with the anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death, realizing a decade and a half has passed since the hip-hop world lost Big is as tough a pill to swallow as it was March 9, 1997. This isn’t a piece speaking to his life, his music and why the crater he left in rap will never be filled. I’ve done that in years past.
We know who Biggie Smalls is. We love his music. We love the fact the dude never had a wack verse in his entire career. We love everything about him, so with that respect, play your favorite song or watch your favorite interview. Here at The Sports Fan Journal, however, we’re going to attempt to weave in a different approach. Frank White was an intense sports fan and once compared his own style to Mike Tyson in the boxing ring, Michael Jordan in the Finals (and Michael Jackson on stage). And who’s to stay Chris was anything different?
Let’s run through three – okay, two and a half (I guessed on the last one) – sports notes that often fall below the radar whenever the discussion of his life and times come up. One you may be aware of, another you’ve probably forgotten, and the last one will make you think and realize with the murder of Biggie Smalls, we missed out on some classic moments at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks Beat The Chicago Bulls
Here’s what I remember from the night Big died.
MTV cut in on an episode of Real World to announce he had been shot multiple times while leaving a party only to follow up 20 minutes later reporting he died. This was around 1:30 a.m. that Sunday morning, and when I awoke several hours later, everything just seemed different. The sky was blue like it was always, but there was a black cloud that would only fade over time. We knew hip-hop had changed forever, but the genre’s kinship with the NBA was something of note, too. Biggie was murdered in Los Angeles, the supposed “territory” of Tupac. And ironically, the Knicks played host to their “rival,” the Chicago Bulls that same day.
Coming into the contest, Chicago had only lost seven games in 60 tries. Maybe it was mandated from a higher power to ease the suffering NYC was experiencing, or maybe it was a mere case of a bad game. Michael Jordan dropped 36 points, but took 31 shots to get there, while Scottie Pippen had one of his most forgettable games of Chicago’s 1990’s dominance putting up 14 points on 4-18 from the field, including 1-8 from three. Meanwhile, Patrick Ewing’s performance – probably New York’s biggest athlete at the time with Derek Jeter charging for the title – of 32 points and 14 rebounds helped keep the Bulls at bay securing a 97-93 victory.
In the grand scheme of the season, careers and legacies, Chicago won out. They went on to finish with the best record. Michael Jordan, obviously upset with Karl Malone winning MVP that season, blitzed him in the finals with Pippen playing an integral part in the series victory. The now iconic “flu game” happened. And the Bulls would win their fifth title since 1991. The Knicks would continue to hold the image of a physically tough team whose basketball savviness was never enough to get them past the “Beast Of The East.” But, at least for one game and one day when Brooklyn needed it the most, the Knicks stood tall and brought home a victory only hours after the city lost its most recognizable voice.
Set this scene. Larger than life (both physically and in terms of influence), Biggie and Shaq had been cool for years, roughly since the time Big rapped, “I’m slammin’ n*ggas like Shaquille/Sh*t is real…” on Ready To Die’s “Gimme The Loot.” From there, their bond grew beyond music and they actually became really close friends with The Notorious One appearing on Shaq’s “Can’t Stop The Reign.” O’Neal turns 25 on March 6, 1997, and agrees to meet up and party with Big at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on March 8. Before the party, The Diesel decides to take a nap and only wakes up to a phone call from his mother saying his friend had been murdered.
Anyone who has ever lost a friend, especially to the unfair tag of street politics, this type of call is never easy. Shaq’s gone on record saying had he been with Biggie that night, he believes the shooter would have never pulled the trigger, mainly because of his impact over L.A. at that time. On one hand, it’s easy to look at it and say, “Here’s Shaq’s ego talking again.” Yet, he’s got a point, or at least we’d hope so. Knowing what I know about Biggie’s murder, it really wouldn’t have mattered who was around B.I.G. that night. It was a professional hit. You know that, because he was the only one whose body was ravaged with bullets that night, while Lil’ Cease sat directly behind him untouched. The scary factor in the equation is thinking about what if Shaq had been struck, too? And even worse, what if The Diesel died that night with Biggie? Not only does one of rap’s most tragic nights live in infamy, but O’Neal becomes arguably the greatest “what if?” scenario of all time.
Biggie And Spike Run Madison Square Garden
This is the “guess” I was talking about earlier. How dope would it have been to see Spike bouncing off the walls rooting on the 2012 New York Knicks in the Garden while Biggie sat right beside him acting the complete opposite? Or seeing Jay-Z and Biggie sit court side while Kobe and the Lakers come to town, or LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh and the Heat, or Kevin Durant and the Thunder, or…you get the point. We missed out. We’re always going to miss out.
That’s what sucks about these “commemoration” pieces.