This past NBA season saw an absolute renaissance from the New York Knicks, as Amar'e Stoudemire took control and led the team to its first playoff appearance in seven years.
The team's new success obviously makes them more enticing and exciting to watch, so it's a given that more celebrities will come out and watch. Various ad campaigns saw celebrities from all different genres throw their support behind the Knicks during this big season.
Having said that, this season certainly meant the most to fans who have supported the Knicks through good and bad. Actor turned director Michael Rapaport and rapper Phife Dawg are absolutely not fair-weather fans. They love their hometown team. While Rapaport has been seen attending Knicks games throughout the years, Phife could probably beat just about anyone in Knicks (or even NBA) related trivia.
The two super fans have come together to promote "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest," the new documentary that Rapaport has directed about Phife's famous rap group. I caught up with the duo last week at the Apple Store in Soho, New York as they celebrated the film's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Though they haven't made a new record in thirteen years, Tribe was instrumental in molding just how influential rap music has become today. They also made their mark in pop culture as a whole. Rapaport, a lifelong fan of the group, explained,."When you think about Tribe, you just have to recognize what was the golden era of rap and hip hop. They all changed pop culture. For them, changing pop culture wasn't just all about the music. You look at the baggy shorts type look and all of the other different types of urban styles out today and almost all of them are all due to what Tribe did."
When the group reunited to headline the "Rock the Bells" tour in 2008, Rapaport knew it was time to follow the group and create the film he calls a dream come true. Though the entire group was behind the idea initially, it's been a tough journey for him to make the film and get the whole group to support and promote it.
Nevertheless, Rapaport pushed through and is now pleased with the result, having said, "The response to the film so far has been great. I've been overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised with the emotional response that has come from it."
Even through the difficulties, it's been none other than Phife Dawg who has been Rapaport's right hand man in the public eye when it comes to supporting the film. Phife relayed, "it's important to be here because I know how much time Mike put into his vision. I understand where my group comes from, but I just feel like we've missed out on so much already. I wasn't going to miss out on this no matter what. Whatever we needed at the time to get things right, or whatever we still need to do to get things right, we just have to get it done. I wanted to step up to the plate and say let me try and make things happen. I'm really enjoying the film and have been overwhelmed by the love it's gotten so far."
The film, Rapaport's love letter to his favorite group, aims to highlight just how great Tribe really was (with commentary from some of yesterday's as well as today's rap music greats), and begs the question whether or not they will ever make new music again.
Even with all of their time and effort devoted to the film, both Rapaport and Phife followed their hometown Knicks and had things to things to say when reflecting upon this season.
The two echoed how great it was to see the team on the rise again, but both felt the team's work isn't done just yet.
The MVP of the 2010 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, Rapaport said " I liked the first group's energy because they definitely felt more like a team. The new group just hasn't been cohesive enough because they got dumped together right after the all star break. When things are put into place correctly, this new group has an opportunity to go further. The old team needed help, but they have obviously gotten it with Carmelo Anthony."
Phife was a bit more critical of his favorite team, saying, ". I'm thankful for Amar'e Stoudemire and what he was able to do. I really liked Raymond Felton, Gallo, and all of them, but unfortunately they went to Denver. I was elated to hear that Carmelo Anthony was coming to the Knicks.The way the team ended the season left a sour taste in my mouth though."
Rapaport quickly came to the team's defense, saying, " Watching them lose four in a row in the playoffs was frustrating, but I know they had the injuries."
Both said that they felt the team's defense needs to improve by next season, but whether or not that type of change starts with a different coach or different players, they weren't sure. The Knicks' need for an inside presence was evident to both, though.
Carmelo Anthony just so happens to be one of Phife's favorite NBA players (next to Kobe Bryant), whereas Rapaport described Dr. J as not only one of his all-time favorites, but his hero.
As the two continue to promote the documentary, which opens nationwide this coming July, they can't but ponder working together again.
What could possibly be next for them, should they decide to team up once more? It's no surprise that some sort of sports-related documentary comes to their minds.
If their level of passion is anything like the passion Rapaport and company has put into "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest," you just know it's bound to be good.