All-Star Weekend is the glammed out event of the NBA calendar, bringing together showmanship, music, branding and basketball. EA Sports took a page from the All-Star Weekend playbook for the launch of this year’s edition of the classic franchise, NBA Live 19.
Attendees at Goya in Hollywood crowded an indoor court on Friday Night for a dunk contest scored by judges Nick Young, Jadakiss and Lil Dickey, followed by a performance from LA hip-hop icon Nipsey Hussle, with a cameo from fellow west coaster, YG. Meanwhile, gamers got to try out NBA Live, which included an updated LeBron in Lakers purple and gold.
Seeing a video game version of themselves is a childhood fantasy come true — and way to further connect with fans — for NBA players.
“I used to be the kid looking up to other athletes,” says Devin Booker, the go-to guard the Phoenix Suns signed to a five-year, $158 million max contract in July.
“People know who you are now,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to be the face of a franchise.”
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While rappers want to be ballers and ballers want to be rappers, do rappers want to be gamers? The answer is yes.
“When I’m on tour, it’s the thing to do on the bus,” Lil Dickey told Variety. “It’s so addictive, you start playing and then two hours just passed.”
So, EA did something about it and put them in the game. With face scan image capturing technology, Nipsey and YG had their likenesses captured backstage and were put in the game on the spot.
As gaming has evolved, so has the attention to detail. From new haircuts to newly released signature sneakers, EA updates player attributes throughout the season, in real time. The game also incorporates aspects of backstory, character creation and a dominant soundtrack.
As video games evolve, so has hip hop. With a new wave of artists, veterans like Nipsey and Jadakiss are watching closely to see where they take genre.
“I think it’s always good to embrace the new,” said Jadakiss, who debuted in 1994 under Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy label. “This is a culture. This is an art form.”
“Myself and my brothers, the Lox, we always embraced the new cats,” he added, “because it’s good to give them that game, that wisdom, just to keep the culture going.”
“I think you can understand something without it being native to you,” said Nipsey, who came on the scene via his own mixtape in 2005.
“People like E-40, people like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, people that have been relevant so many different eras,” he said. “They have certain abilities to adapt without never sounding like they played themselves.”
Following a warm reception from the hometown crowd, Nipsey lit up in recognition of L.A.’s wealth of talent.
“I think Kendrick, myself, YG, Dom Kennedy, Jay 305, Ty Dolla, that’s all LA,” he said. “All those names built a new moment.”
“The culture is specific here,” he added. “It’s been years of growing an audience. So I think it’s an example of a slow cook. We put it all together organically.”
Also in Hollywood last night, Josh Groban, George Takei, musician Yoshiki and Mayor Eric Garcetti were on hand for the launch of Japan House Los Angeles, a new two-floor complex promoting Japanese culture at Hollywood & Highland.