The music world lost a visionary today. Adam Yauch—also known as MCA—of the Beastie Boys passed away Friday at the age of 47 after a three-year battle with cancer. This doesn't seem like a basketball story, but it is.
It is a basketball story, at least in part, because Yauch was a part of our basketball world. This game that extends across the globe and changes us from the instant that we connect with it links us to Yauch.
After the news of Yauch's death, emotions and words of remembrance overtook Twitter timelines of NBA fans everywhere. While musicians, artists and so many creative minds took the time to pay their respects in 140-character blurbs, the basketball fans—spanning a 20-plus-year age gap—also shared their own Beastie Boys memories.
Where they first heard the group, what nostalgic memory a specific song took them to, how the Beastie Boys performed at Madison Square Garden after the Knicks were blown out by the Celtics in the opening round last season—the tweets were endless.
Basketball references, basketball moments, a basketball documentary.
In addition to his own musical artistry, Yauch used his creativity to direct the basketball documentary Gunnin' for that #1 Spot. The film gave an inside look at the Elite 24 tournament in Rucker Park. Featured in that documentary were several current NBAers, including Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Kevin Love.
It's a must-see for any basketball fan. It's a favorite of mine.
After watching it, Yauch's love and appreciation of the game are obvious. He was a fan in the purest sense. He loved this beautiful game. He loved when it was being played under the bright lights of the biggest stage in the Garden and on the weathered courts of New York City.
He loved it regardless of whether he was watching NBA superstars or high-school kids who had yet to ink their first pro contracts.
There will always be an undeniable link between hip-hop and basketball. Ballers want to be rappers, and rappers want to be ballers. But deeper than that, hip-hop is the soundtrack to this game.
The beats, bass and rhythm can be found in the basketball pounding up and down the court, the player dancing toward the basket, weaving around defenders through the lane. It can be felt as it’s played in an arena after a thunderous dunk, acting as an exclamation point for the ballsy and brash throw-down.
Whether the Beastie Boys were your thing or not (and if they’re not, you should take some time to YouTube classics this weekend because there truly was something for everyone), the game you love has been immortalized in documentary form—thanks to Yauch.
With that project, he captured the essence of how youth, basketball, New York City and hip-hop mesh together effortlessly, beautifully, as they tend to do.
While the music world mourns the loss of a star—who will continue to shine bright even after death—those of us in the basketball world need to give thanks for what he’s given to us.
Yauch’s countless contributions to music will live on in all of those that he influenced. His basketball love will do the same every time one of us makes the decision to re-watch Gunnin' for That #1 Spot.
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