There’s a popular belief—backed up by countless songs and YouTube videos—that all athletes want to be rappers and all rappers want to be athletes. It’s true: The worlds of sport and hip-hop often collide. And during the late ’90s and early ’00s, throwback football jerseys were the norm in urban fashion. You couldn’t turn on MTV or BET without seeing the biggest rap acts in the world smothering your television screen with classic Mitchell & Ness throwbacks or unis from the NFL’s most popular players of the era. With that in mind, TDdaily will break down one such video per week as part of our #ThrowbackJerseyThursday series.
Over a full season of Throwback Jersey Thursday posts, we’ve certainly warped the definition of “throwback,” but perhaps never has that sentiment been more pronounced than in this case. In 2002, when Mario donned a No. 52 Ray Lewis Ravens jersey for his feathery breakout hit “Just A Friend 2002,” it wasn’t necessarily a surprising choice, given that Ray was the biggest star out of Rio’s home city of Baltimore.
The surprise here is that more than a decade later, Ray Lewis is still playing in the NFL—meaning that this jersey is not only not really a throwback in the true sense, but it’s in fact as current as any uniform you’ll find at the Super Bowl down in New Orleans this year.
Mario was 16 years old when he released “Just A Friend,” which peaked at No. 1 on the charts. Ray Lewis was 27. Who had the better staying power? You be the judge.
The jersey selection was a gutsy one, given the controversy surrounding Ray’s involvement in a double-murder stemming from a fight at a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000. The following season, Lewis won Super Bowl MVP, but in the public eye, there were still doubts about his character. Which is why for a teenaged crooner to rock his uni for a sing-songy pop hit was, on the surface, confusing. But for Mario, a kid whose mom wasn’t in the picture long due to heroin addiction, the Lewis jersey represents (to him, I guess) his authenticity to the BMore streets, despite his soulful, for-the-ladies voice. Either that or he really, really likes purple.
Maybe most important of all is the obvious connection between the two—both great dancers. Take it away, Ray:
Oh, and special shouts out to my man with the No. 32 Rip Hamilton Wizards jerz. I see you!
Abe Schwadron is the Online Editor of TDdaily.com. Follow him on Twitter @abe_squad.