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Music

Video Premiere: Cargo Qell’s “Parked Up”

As the old adage goes, what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. Cargo Qell, an emerging New York rapper, can attest to this. The 27-year old, who has navigated through the trials and tribulations of life, has allowed his life experiences to inspire his music. “I treat my craft like it’s the last day I’m gonna be here,” he says. “Everything I’ve dealt with pushed me to go harder rather than break me.”

Grinding all of his life, Cargo Qell started writing rhymes back in middle school. He credits his mother, —an aspiring singer, who would often sing around their home— with getting him into music.

He grew up not only listening to his mom, however. He was also listening to G.O.A.T.s such as Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Ye, Fabolous and Drake. Traces of his many influences can be found on his first project of 2022, Touchin Base (B.ased O.n A. T.rue S.oul).

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The 9-track project features noteworthy bangers from “Went Left Freestyle” to “Backdoor Hitter.” The independent release also features the bop “Parked Up,” which ONE37pm is premiering the video for.

“For the song the inspiration was from my point of view lately,” Quell says when discussing the inspiration behind his latest video. “In parts of my video, I got ideas from the 1985 video for The Cool Notes’ “In Your Car,” which is where the sample comes from. Other shots were chosen by me.”

Cargo Qell, who has more music on the way. “I got like four projects already done with some notable and talented producers, artists and creators featured,” he unveils. “In my visuals y’all gone see a lot of known faces. Stay tuned for more tunes.” Tap in with the emerging artist by following him on IG and Twitter and check out the video premiere for “Parked Up” below.

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Sports Strength

What We Learned From This Year’s NBA On Christmas Games

Amidst all the concerns about rising COVID cases and player entries in their health protocols, the NBA managed to have another star-studded and exciting day of Christmas Day games. Whether it was Kemba Walker achieving a first-time accomplishment to both of the last-minute thrillers that occurred in Phoenix and Los Angeles, here are our three biggest takeaways from this year’s NBA on Christmas games.

Kemba is making the most of his return to action
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There was an ongoing discussion regarding Kemba Walker and his career for three weeks due to his surprise benching by New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau— who attributed Walker’s benching to his lack of aggression. But over the past week, the former All-Star guard is not only playing again, but he’s making history in the process.

During the team’s 101-87 victory against their close rival Atlanta Hawks, Walker produced a triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists) and became the first Knick to accomplish that feat on Christmas. “It’s kind of hard to put it into words, to be honest,” Walker said after the game. “It was special, just to be home, with that New York on my chest … a New York City kid, born and raised. It felt amazing.”

Giannis proves why he’s the best player in the world
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Even though the conversation about who is the best player will always exist, there are times where there’s a clear answer. Last Saturday, Antetokounmpo presented an open and shut case for his claim as the best player in the league via his spectacular second-half performance against the Boston Celtics.

When looking beyond the reigning Finals MVP’s stat-line (36 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists), Antetokounmpo’s impact on both ends of the floor became a massive obstacle for the Celtics to overcome, despite leading by double digits throughout the game, including with five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Warriors and Nets proved their toughness in last-minute thrillers
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During primetime matchups such as the Golden State Warriors vs. the Phoenix Suns or the Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, the idea of a measuring test existing between either team comes to life. And while there was much to observe in both of those two games, one thing was for sure. The Warriors and the Nets are the best teams in their conferences.

Even with several key contributors and stars out of action and playing in challenging environments, the Nets and Warriors relied on their toughness and “next man up” mentality to secure a pair of big wins. At this point of the season, speculation could be created for a potential Finals matchup between these two teams.

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Sports Strength

Why R.J Barrett Has The Makeup Of A Potential MVP

One of the larger consensus around the NBA is that when the New York Knicks are competitive, the league is simply more fun to watch. The atmosphere at Madison Square Garden makes for arguably the most electric arena in the league, especially when it’s packed with joyful, raucous Knicks fans.

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Even after last night’s disappointing loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks are still among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference with a record of 5-2. Keyed by the second most prolific offense in the NBA, the Knicks seem to be a legitimate playoff contender, putting to rest the murmurs that last year’s surprising playoff run was a fluke, for now.

Off-season additions Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have injected some scoring punch into the offense, but RJ Barrett has been the primary catalyst for his team’s early success, and has as much upside as any young player in the league.

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Coming out of Duke University as a one-and-done player, Barrett was pegged as a slashing, primary-ball handler who was a spacey defender and an inconsistent shooter. Since his rookie year though, Barrett has made great strides as a shooter after only making a mere 32 percent of threes as a rookie.

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Similarly, he’s learned how to utilize his great positional size and strength to become an extremely physical and unsettling defender; in the Knicks’ season opener against the Boston Celtics, Barrett essentially clamped Jayson Tatum, holding him 20 points and 7/30 shooting from the field. Away from the ball, Barrett rotates extremely well too. Although Barrett doesn’t have Mikal Bridges or Matisse Thybulle instincts on defense, his footwork and strength make him an imposing presence.

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At only 21 years old, Barrett takes pride in his performance on both ends of the floor – a rare mindset amongst the young core of talent in the league. While Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Ja Morant, and Jayson Tatum are all far more dynamic on offense than Barrett, they definitely aren’t as solid as he is on the defensive end.

After a 36-point outing against the Pelicans and an efficient 27-point encore against the Raptors, it’s clear that he can take his offense to the next level in due time. He may never match the scoring peak of fellow elite shooting guards like James Harden and Bradley Beal, but has the ability to be a better two-way player than they could ever be.

If Barrett can fulfill his potential on both ends of the floor while the Knicks continue to climb the upper echelon of the Eastern conference standings, he could very well be in the MVP conversation in a few years. The trajectory of the Knicks franchise seems to be alike route with Barrett’s development, similar to the Milwaukee Bucks during the mid 2010’s, when Giannis Antetokounmpo was transforming into one of the league’s most dominant players.

While Barrett’s ceiling may not be Giannis-like, it’s high enough for him to become one of the best players in the NBA.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From the Season’s Opening Week

If there’s anything to accept about the NBA, it’s that there’ll never be a week without action or drama! As we’re officially one week into the 2021-2022 season, fans and media have been left with plenty to discuss. Between this year’s rookie class getting off to a good start, various games having exciting finishes, and the reigning world champion Milwaukee Bucks looking better than ever before, there is a lot to unpack from the NBA’s opening week. So down below are the four biggest takeaways from it! 

The Bucks are clearly favored to repeat

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Minus a rare blowout loss to the Miami Heat last Thursday night (They lost by 42 points!), the Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) have looked and played the part of a team that is becoming increasingly favored to repeat as NBA champion. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Averaging 22 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and 5 assists per game) is gearing up for another run at league MVP. Right now, the Bucks have six players who are averaging double-digit points, with George Hill or Brook Lopez are on the precipice of becoming the seveneth(both are averaging eight points per game).

And by the way? Don’t sleep on second-year forward Jordan Nwora (11 PPG and 5 RPG). The Louisville product put a lot of people on notice on opening night with his 15-point performance against the Brooklyn Nets. If he continues to find his groove, the reigning NBA champion will have the kind of depth that contenders need to endure the long regular season, especially when the currently-injured Donte DiVincenzo returns. 

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets won’t remain your League Pass Darlings anymore

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With more basketball fans watching games through NBA League Pass or other more illicit forms of streaming, there will always be specific players or teams that become must-watch TV despite their current lowly situation. Although that extra attention may be welcome, it’s often heaped upon teams as a kind of damning praise—the only reason they’re League Pass Darlings is because they aren’t good enough to merit many games on the NBA’s national broadcasts. But in the case of the Charlotte Hornets, this is a good thing. After fighting their way into the play-in tournament last season and being knocked out by the Indiana Pacers, the Hornets have returned wiser, stronger, and somehow more entertaining as they finished opening week with a 3-0 record.

Reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball (22/5/6) and the ultra-dynamic fourth-year forward Miles Bridges (25 PPG and 8 RPG) are taking the leap you want to witness from your team’s brightest stars. Veterans such as Gordon Haywood and Kelly Oubre are providing top-notch on and off the court support. And who would have thought Ish Smith becomes a feel-good story at any point of this season while still proving his ability to get a bucket at any moment? 

We have another stellar rookie class to watch this season

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Fewer things are more exciting than watching the league’s newest members thrive as pros, but when their impact is immediate? Priceless! As this year’s rookie class takes their first action in the NBA, it has become clear these guys will be game-changers for their franchises. Top picks Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes have kicked off the Rookie of the Year race. Davion Mitchell might become the Sacramento Kings’ best two-way player in due time. 

And it isn’t a complete rookie class without those mid-late first-round picks (Indiana’s Chris Duarte) who are surprising everyone with their production too!

Exciting games = near heart attacks but it’s worth it

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Of course, last-second games are expected throughout an NBA season, but what we watched during opening week? Chaotic! Between the double-overtime thriller between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics and what we experienced on Sunday night with the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, the league is witnessing teams sharpen each other’s iron and set the tone for what’s ahead in the following weeks.

As the season continues, we’re going to witness the immediate effect of close games on teams regarding their load management and handling of rotations. But to a further extent, that effect could be felt sooner than later. 

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Sports Strength

Warning to the Rest of the Knicks’ Schedule: The Knicks Are Back

After years of the Knicks’ schedule just representing a list of future losses, the New York Knicks are back and the haters are sick about it. During their season-opening 138-134 double-overtime win against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks asserted not only that they’re no longer the accursed rat-king of gloom of recent vintage, but that they’re a legitimately good team. 

In fact, it’s this legitimate goodness that defines them; the Knicks play within a remarkably constrained sliver of imagination that leaves no room for utopian, Golden State-style ball movement or a Lebron James-induced gravitational pull. Instead, the Knicks sturdily toggle through their four-ish plays on offense and try on defense. If there’s some kind of extra pressure or scrutiny or profundity that’s imparted by playing in New York, it’s seemingly been put on [extremely Tom Thibodeau voice] ice. All that extra stuff—the rapturous fanbase that’s permanently caught somewhere between crying, hugging and fighting; the bold-type tabloid headlines; the dead-eyed owner who sulks on the baseline like a water-logged Kendall Roy—is irrelevant once there’s serious basketball to be played. 

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On the court, the Knicks are the archetypal Tom Thibodeau team—which makes sense because they’re coached by Tom Thibodeau. Even if Mitchell Robinson is a stalwart shot-blocker (the Celtics effective field goal percentage was 13.4 percentage points lower when Robinson was in the game than when he was on the bench) and RJ Barrett held Jayson Tatum to 7-30 in the first game, the Knicks’ greatest strength is their schematic cohesion. While most modern NBA defenses avoid bringing help from the strong side of the court and labor to limit rotation as much as possible, the Knicks flout conventional wisdom. 

This is controlled burn defense—NBA offenses are so good that there’s always going to be a fire, so the key is to know and control where it’s going. To be fair, defense is often a futile endeavor (Jaylen Brown torched the Knicks for 46 points), but the Knicks scrabble to reclaim whatever bits of agency they can.  Accordingly, the Knicks intentionally bring help early—particularly from the wings—to discourage drives and force kick-out passes, trusting that they can rotate quick enough to cover perimeter shooters. By doing so, they practically script possessions for the other team, goading opponents into passes to shooters that the Knicks know they can defend. In this sense, the Knicks play almost defender-agnostic defense—per Cleaning the Glass, they held the Celtics to a mere 82.5 points per 100 possessions in the half-court despite relying heavily on bad defenders such as Kemba Walker, Obi Toppin and Evan Fournier. The athletic gifts or talents of any one player don’t matter as much as their ability to be in the right place. 

Offensively, the Knicks are competent and utterly uninspiring. They’re functional in a prosaic, workaday way—odes are written about fancy Grecian urns or intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood, not undelayed bus routes or mid-range jump shots. Still, Julius Randle has miraculously mutated into one of the world’s 20 best basketball players, scoring 35 points in the opener while adding nine assists and eight rebounds. Never mind that he moves awkwardly—he dribbles with chopped steps like he’s running down a steep hill—or that he lacks the elasticity or burst of other star players, he’s evolved into the unlikeliest primary ball-handler in the NBA all the same; no player has assisted on more corner threes than Randle since the start of last season. The reason for his rise is simple yet confounding: he’s stopped missing shots. During his breakout All-NBA Second Team campaign last year, he shot over 40 percent from three, after only topping 30 percent once in his previous five seasons. 

After last year’s offense was short-circuited by a Hawks team that made the radical and genius choice to, uh, guard Randle, the Knicks spent the summer revamping their backcourt by signing Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Although the same menu of pistol actions, double drags and Spain pick-and-rolls remains, the early returns point to a considerably more potent offense; Kemba Walker can presumably make good stuff happen out of a double drag, but Elfrid Payton was a drag. Notably, the Knicks can now play lineups in which every player is a threat to pass, dribble and shoot—against the Celtics, Fournier  (32 points) and Barrett (19 points) racked up the bulk of their points by attacking tilted defenses that were scrambling to rotate in time.  

All of this is to say that the New York Knicks are a real NBA basketball team. Whereas last year’s team felt like a bunch of veteran hardos hardo-ing their way into a rickety, joyous accident, these Knicks are serious. This isn’t to say they’re going to win a championship—the Bucks, Nets, and Lakers occupy some Secret Beef Room of eliteness that’s inaccessible to any team without multiple Hall-of-Famers in their prime. But there’s still virtue in being good and trying to be good. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Knicks offer a reason to care about them that isn’t masochism or being one of their moms. At the very least, if their first game is any indication, the Knicks will be fun and competitive. Histories and legacies are built on years, but happiness is built on days.