The NBA Countdown analyst is regarded as one of sports broadcasting’s most charismatic figures on television today. But the journey to greatness wasn’t just a simple “stutter step cross over” for the former 13-year NBA veteran.
You may see his bright smile on ESPN and on ABC as he brings a refreshing swagger to the way he preps fans for the NBA’s most intriguing match-ups. You may remember him having a successful hoops career as he was a part of what some may consider as the most important college basketball team in NCAA history. But Jalen Rose is no stranger to the journey of hard work, dedication and innovating the sport of basketball on, and off, the court. Other than being a part of the historical “Fab Five” lineup at the University of Michigan, which transcends the way we watch basketball today, Jalen was one of the rare breed of tall combo guards in the early 1990’s-2000’s. Being a huge asset as a playmaker and clutch scorer during crunch time, he was able to garner the NBA’s Most Improved Award in which he averaged roughly 18.2 PPG for an Indiana Pacers squad which went on to play in the NBA Finals.
With Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals match up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers debuting tonight on ABC, Source Sports was able to catch up with Jalen to talk hoops, Hip-Hop and his philanthropic commitment that will bring a new source of respect to the Motor City native.
Who do you have winning the rubber matchup between the Cavs and Warriors? And why?
I’m taking Golden State in 6 games. I believe that with the addition of Kevin Durant being on the roster is just too much firepower for Cleveland to handle. By the Warriors adding Durant, you have 4 NBA All Stars on one roster who compliment one another. Kevin is like the swiss army knife to Draymond Green and the complimentary firearm for Steph and Klay. Cleveland will have a lot on their plate compared to last year’s matchup.
Besides the typical players like Durant, Steph, LeBron and Kyrie, who do you think will be an X-factor throughout the series?
I think Tristan Thompson will be a huge asset if the Cavs repeat as champs. If he dominates the board and makes sure his presence is felt on the defense, then the Cavs will be in great shape. In addition, Kevin Love will have to continue to play the way he has been playing lately in order for them to win. I noticed last year that he struggled because he wanted to stand out rather than play with the system and tempo they were playing in. When he decided to adapt and gel with the playing style Cleveland is displaying in this year’s playoffs, the proof was in the pudding as he’s been able to knock down threes and take the scoring load off of LeBron and Kyrie.
To go a bit off topic, we all know you are an avid music fan. What’s your favorite type of music to listen to on and off the court?
Well growing up, I loved listening to R&B, Soul, Groove, Motown sound. You know, the “cleaning up” music (laugh). I fell in love with Marvin Gaye, The Four-Tops, The Temptations and The Commodores. Then you got the late 70s and the birth of Hip-Hop. I was big on Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, Sugar Hill Gang, and the Treacherous Three. I was really fortunate to see music evolve to where America sees this as our voice from the people. The NWA, Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature and even underrated lyricists such as Kool G. Rap. Then you have your icons like 2Pac, Biggie, Hov, Nas and Kendrick Lamar. The evolution of the music I listen to growing up, up until now has help me mold me to who I am today.
How do you feel about you and your fellow Fab Five teammates playing a role in how mainstream sports welcome the Hip-Hop culture to their locker rooms and arenas?
It’s crazy that you asked me that because all I remembered going into sports arenas were Tag Team’s “Whoomp There It Is.” But when I was in high school, we used to come out to KRS One’s “South Bronx” but we remixed it by saying “SOUTH WEST…SOUTH SOUTH WEST!” It was crazy how raw, genuine and authentic that song is. I just wanted to bring my hometown vibes and represent the best way possible. Shoot, I remembered when I used to wear my construction boots with my Naughty By Nature sweatshirt to a Final Four game. It was just a great moment because I wasn’t trying to gain more attention. I was just being an regular kid from Detroit. Hip-Hop was me and I was Hip-Hop on and off the court.
If there was any moment in your career you can get the opportunity to relive, what would it be?
I would have to say the Fab Five days and wishing that the situation with how mainstream Hip-Hop is now would be combined with the way we introduced the culture to America. When I got to the University Of Michigan, I remember reporters used to ask us in the locker rooms what music we were listening to, I used to love telling them Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre or Naughty By Nature. Nowadays, it’s normal to hear Future, Migos and Kendrick Lamar blasting in the background during post game interviews. I find it amazing and I’m truly proud of how welcome Hip-Hop is in mainstream sports.
Besides your successful teams you did play for like the 2000 Pacers who went as deep as the NBA finals, what team you felt could’ve been a major asset into helping them getting over that hump and making them contenders?
The Pacers squad I was on from 1996-2000 was huge for me. Out of the 5 and a half years I was there, we went to three straight Eastern Conference Finals. I remember times where we gave a 97′ Bulls team led by Jordan hell taking them to 7 games in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals. In addition, I know you remember the legendary 4-point play by Larry Johnson at the Madison Square Garden. I was the one that knocked the ball out of Charlie Ward’s hand which landed in LJ’s hand. Even tho we have came up short, there were memorable moments in my career that show fans that the future was bright in Indiana.
Combining all of the accolades you earned on and off the court, what song would best describe the influence you had in basketball and in sports broadcasting?
“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by Mcfadden & Whitehead. I’ve encountered so many people in life who try to hinder my transition from basketball into broadcasting. And there has been people who has helped me a lot into putting me in the position I am at now. I believe in the saying that people come into a life for 4 reasons: to add, to subtract, to divide or multiply. Which one you decide?
When Jalen is not in the studio or in arenas giving his in depth hoops input, he is making an huge impact on the community by creating his own charter school. In 2011, Jalen established the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The academy is an open enrollment, tuition free, public charter high school on the Northwest side of Detroit. The institution enrolls over 400 ninth through twelfth grade students and graduated its inaugural class in June 2015 . 100% of the academy’s graduates have gained college, trade/technical school or military acceptance. This amazing accomplishment continues as his school will be graduating over 300 students on June 10 and they are in position to double the number of enrollment ranging up to 800-900 students.
You can catch ESPN’s coverage of this year’s NBA Finals starting today as the network’s two signature NBA shows will be the road for on-site programming throughout the series. NBA Countdown host Michelle Beadle, working her first NBA Finals, will be joined by show’s longest tenured veteran analyst Jalen Rose and two former NBA Finals MVPs in Chauncey Billups and guest analyst Paul Pierce for pregame and halftime shows. NBA Countdown will start one hour before most games, with the first 30 minutes airing on ESPN and then 30 minutes airing on ABC leading into tipoff. Five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant will also unveil his latest short video presentation in his Canvas series during the pregame show.
Also, Jalen will continue to provide his expertise hoops analysis on his hit radio show called Jalen & Jacoby as him and his partner David Jacoby will air one-hour NBA Finals preview specials at 7 p.m. on each weeknight of the game broadcasts.