Shots Fired (with Bomani Jones & Shamira Ibrahim) | Crooked Media
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February 23, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Shots Fired (with Bomani Jones & Shamira Ibrahim)

In This Episode

The first weeks of 2023 have been rife with gun violence. In response, Bomani Jones, host of Game Theory on HBO Max, comes onto Stuck with Damon Young for a conversation about the relationship between guns and the black community.


Then, cultural critic Shamira Ibrahim and Damon team up for an advice segment reacting to whether Mac McClung’s NBA Dunk Contest victory is a black eye on black history month.


Send your questions, confessions and/or conundrums in for consideration to be responded to on the podcast at






Bomani Jones: Like I was I was out with one of my partners in Atlanta not too long ago. One of my favorite people in the world. He’s like family. And we’re about to go to the Buffalo Wild Wings. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: And right before we leave, he’s like, I got to get my package. And he pulls out the case, pops it open, he explains, has got a cop killer at the top. Cop killer at bottom. Hollow points in between in a magazine, puts it in, locks it up in accordance with all local ordinances. And we ride out. And I could’ve swore we were just going to. Buffalo Wild Wings. [laughter] 


Damon Young: So. Welcome back, everybody. To Stuck with Damon Young, the show where we packed up things too. And if you come around our way, you will get clapped. Seriously, though, the official show stance here towards gun ownership is ambivalence. I mean, I don’t own one myself, but I get why people do. And it’s been on my mind quite a bit recently because, I mean, why wouldn’t it be? Gun violence is pervasive. Mass shootings, ubiquitous. Michigan State, New Orleans over Presidents Day weekend. I mean, shit did you know that four Pittsburgh high school kids were shot last week? During school let out? Probably not because it wasn’t national news. I mean said it was a local news story for maybe two days and then we moved on to something else because that’s just what we do. So joining me today to unpack my feelings about gun culture, and my ambivalence about gun ownership will be sports journalist Bomani Jones, who, along with being the host of Game Theory on HBO and The Right Time with Bomani Jones on ESPN. He’s just one of my favorite thinkers, and he understands America and is able to articulate that understanding in a way that few people do. And also, he’s a Texan, which means guns are like God, to people where he’s from. And then the homie cultural critic Shamira Ibrahim and I answer a question about a very, very, very unfortunate thing that the NBA allowed to happen on its watch. During Black History Month. All right. Let’s get it. [music plays] Do you own a gun? 


Bomani Jones: No. 


Damon Young: Have you ever? 


Bomani Jones: Nah. 


Damon Young: Why not? 


Bomani Jones: You mean, why? I think it’s a better question. I’ve never lived a moment in my life that I thought I needed a gun to be safe. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Bomani Jones: And generally speaking, for me, if I am in a situation or in a place where I feel like I need a gun to be safe, I should probably leave. And I say this as a Texan, I have understanding of everybody else’s gun fascination. However, I, it just never come up. 


Damon Young: Because I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. I do not own one. I’ve never owned one. Never even held one, shot one. Right. And it’s crazy because, like, I grew up in an environment. Guns everywhere. Drive by shootings. My house even got shot up once before. And in that circumstance, I never thought, like, you know what? I need a gun to protect myself. I need to go out and get this. I just wanted to remove myself from certain situations where it was more safe. So two years ago, I got doxed, home address, phone numbers, all that shit on Stormfront. And from that point on, I had been thinking about getting a gun to, you know, protect my family or whatever. And it’s just I don’t feel unsafe. But I am, I guess, cognizant of that potential danger, even though I grew up in a much more dangerous environment. And when I did, I didn’t think about that at all. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah, like I’ve never gotten the doxed thing. I have had people like playing on my phone, calling my parents house, like stuff like that. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: And it was typically, obviously, very young clowns, right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: I also don’t have a wife. I don’t have children. I don’t really have much of anything like to protect. And for the last ten years, I’ve lived in buildings with doormen. [laughter] Like, if you get past the doorman, I really ain’t got that much of a chance. By the time you get upstairs, you, someone has already been smoked by the time you have arrived at my doorstep. If it comes down to it. Like I get the impulse and desire that people have of, like, staying safe. For me, I think there’s a couple levels. One, particularly if you are a person that has other people in your house, there are the obvious dangers of having a firearm around, right? Like, I don’t need to finger wag people about what the dangers are that you incur. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: But I also think the other part of it is ain’t everybody built like mentally to be a person who owns a gun. And the only way to really find that out is once you own a gun. Like some people like that way, way, way too much. And the idea and the feeling of power that indisputably comes from like I think no matter who you are, you’re going to be able to grasp and appreciate the power of being able to end somebody’s life just by squeezing a finger. Now, whether or not you go respect it, that becomes its own discussion. You only find out if somebody is truly equipped to handle that responsibility once they got it. And that’s a little bit too late. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And to your point, too, about the doormen. Like, if someone really wanted to get to me, like, they could. And that’s the thing. Like, even as I think about whether or not I should go ahead and pursue this, it’s like if someone really had a vendetta and wanted to, you know, do whatever, then having a gun in the house, I don’t know if that would really stop them. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You know what I mean? Unless I just kept it on me at all times. I don’t know how preventative  that would be. It would feel more like performance than a protection. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah. Your best bet is that that gun goes scare somebody away. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: Like one bright side of the whole Texas thing for me is I operate on the assumption that everybody has a gun. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: Like, it’s a pretty safe, null hypothesis from where I grew up. You know, where I grew up? The burbs. [laughs] Like, it’s not a matter in Texas of hey, man, in a tough neighborhood, you might need a gun to keep yourself safe. Nah, it’s range culture. Like, when you think about it, the origins of the culture of Texas are somebody might steal your cows and the only way that you could really stop them stealing your cows and your house is all the way over there is if they fear that you’re going to give them a hot one. Right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: I assume everybody has a gun. The counterpoint is everybody assumes I got a gun, too, because we’re operating on the assumption that everybody, or at least somebody involved in this discussion has a gun. I don’t really know how that works in other places. It doesn’t really work the same way, but I know that’s the presumption that I operate on. But if somebody decides that they want to do something to me, not because like randomly you’re breaking into my house, but because you were coming to do something to me, maybe I got it in me like them dudes in the movies and I’m a go in the top drawer and I’m immediately gonna get my piece out and I’m just going to be ready, just sitting there. [laughter] But I’m not that confident that I have the steely demeanor that will immediately turn into Charles Bronson when the time comes. 


Damon Young: So I grew up again and bit of a different environment. I’m in Pittsburgh on one of the worst streets in the city at the time, and there was also this presumption that everyone’s packin, that everyone has a gun. And so. I feel like one of the fallacies of growing up in the hood is that everyone in the hood knows how to fight. But the thing is, no one fights for real because you don’t know who has a gun. And also the fact that I hooped, I was always bigger, faster, stronger than most of the people that I knew that gave me like another layer of protection, right. Where I didn’t necessarily have to be in any sort of physical confrontation because people knew oh yeah Damon’s a hooper. And also if Damon wasn’t a hooper, they might not be carrying, but he has these boys who might be. But to your point, the temperament that is necessary in order to own a firearm is something that is under-discussed. And my fear right now is my son. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. Because, okay, I have a seven year old daughter, four year old son, and my wife and I have raised them like with the expectation of not raising them with any expectations of gender behavior, like it could be whatever you want to if your girl, your boy, whatever. But. The seven year old girl is a girly girl and my son, every stick he picks up, he shoots me with it. Right. [laughs] He thinks he’s I think he’s He-Man, G.I. Joe, Optimus Prime. And so if we had a firearm in the house, I guarantee that he if he found it, he would shoot me. I guarantee he would shoot me with it. And so I guess I’m trying to think through the environment of factors that are leaving me to decide whether or not I want to do this thing. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah, I mean, that feels like the discussion is over. [laughter] This doesn’t feel like a dilemma or a quandary at all when you put it in those terms. 


Damon Young: I mean, I could just do a good job of hiding it. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah, but I think there’s another level to consider, especially when people start talking about, like, people coming into your home at this point, which is—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: —we are rapidly evolving toward a society where you can get away with nothing. Right. Like we are about to be a society that will induce honesty because don’t you worry, there is something that is tracking, something that will tell on you that will be available no matter what. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: And what we have at this point is all these cameras in all these places. Right. And that people have decided that they need to have these cameras and particularly looking out their front doors. Right. We are a more frightened people now than we have ever been, though there seems to be no statistical data to indicate that there’s any reason for us to be more afraid. We just take in more information. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: That makes us more acutely aware of worst case scenario. And so we operate from there. Like I was talking to somebody about this one time. Is there anything that you put more faith in that gets tested less than the deadbolt on your front door? Right. Like now that you know that everybody has a deadbolt, they had a whole lot of like, I’m just going to go kick somebody’s door in right now, situation like we all have a deadbolt for this worst case scenario that never comes up. It’s not a thing right. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Bomani Jones: Of course it’s safe. There’s nothing really wrong with it. There’s no reason not to have your deadbolt. Okay, cool. But when you think about it, that thing rarely gets tested. But we got all these cameras, and we got everything else to get a look at. So, like somebody like you, I guess they can decide to run up in your house, but it won’t be long before they’re found. Right? There is a chain of devices all over the place. Now, the question is, are you dealing with a person who cares about getting caught? And the answer, in all likelihood, is yes. I guess I look at all these external factors that surround and it’s like people got guns because they want to have guns. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: Like they like the idea of having a gun or they shot a gun and they like that adrenaline that comes with it. They like that feeling like there’s a reason why there are that many dates that are guaranteed where you can just pretty much predict the outcome, shall we say. But taking her to a gun range is way up there. It’s an intoxicating feeling for people to shoot guns. And I think people need to be a little more honest about the fact that they just want to shoot their guns. [laughter]


Damon Young: Well, it’s funny you’re saying that. And you being from Texas. So what happened with you where you grew up in this culture of guns, right. You grew up around them. People have them. Everyone’s packin. So what stops you from being as attracted to that as everyone else was? 


Bomani Jones: Well, a couple things. I think my parents aren’t from Texas. That becomes a big part, and I just ain’t ever really been our bag. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: I mean, I don’t think there’s really any other way around it. Like I look at guns is the thing you use to kill people. Like, I think one thing that is interesting about, like the way that people mentally conceive of firearms is there’s a philosophical level on which guns definitely serve as defense. Like I am a I would not say a big Second Amendment person because that has different connotations than what I intend. But I do recognize that the government can’t be the only people that’s got guns. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: And that’s a really, really bad recipe right there. Right? So once you introduce the gun into things, everybody’s got to have access to them, of course, with obvious contingencies. But if you look at a gun as self-defense, it is according to the principle that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. [laughter] It’s not like it’s not like you shoot the good at a shield, then surrounds you, no—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: It is defense in the sense that I will kill you before you do something to me. Or best case scenario, I will buck this thing off in the air and that lets you know what time it is and you will scurry away. But the idea that a gun makes you feel more safe is the idea that I feel safer knowing that if I have to, I can kill somebody, which is truly a statistically improbable event. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Bomani Jones: [laughs] Like, that’s the thing. I think I have a hard time getting past. Like, I think about the time that I got robbed and it didn’t take long for me to realize if I had had a gun, he would have stole that too. [laughter] Now, that’s a little different than the idea of the homestead robbery. But like when people talk about, they got to carry they gun to go places like I was out one of my partners in Atlanta not too long ago, one of my favorite people in the world. He’s like family. And we’re about to go to the Buffalo Wild Wings at Cumberland Mall. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: And right before we leave, he’s like, I got to give him my package and he pulls out the case, pops it open got his nine millimeter that, he explains, has got a cop killer at the top. Cop killer at bottom. Hollow points in between in the magazine puts it in, locks it up in accordance with all local ordinances and we ride out. And I could’ve swore we were just going to Buffalo Wild Wings. [laughs] And I’m trying to figure out that if you need this for us to go there, why are we going there? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Bomani Jones: Like, I mean, and Atlanta, Atlanta’s like the Wild, Wild West shit right now, like, I don’t want to pretend as though I can’t understand why somebody might feel like that. I just feel like I don’t want to go nowhere where I got to do all of that. That’s just me. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And that. And I feel like that last part, you know, is the most important part where it’s it’s not necessarily about preparing yourself for a gun battle, but avoiding that circumstance. Much of my adult life, particularly growing up the way I grew up, has been not necessarily conflict avoidance, but violence avoidance, like gunfire avoidance, you know what I mean? And so that’s I think that’s what made the doxing so disconcerting for me it’s like I know how to defend myself outside. Like I’ve lived 44 years doing it. I’m fine with that. But these niggas know where I live. You know what I mean, and again, the chances of anything actually popping off are minuscule. But just that 1%, that 1% of that 1%, it’s been fucking with me and it’s been two years since this happened. It’s been two years and I haven’t you know, I haven’t done anything yet, but it’s still like a present thought. And it goes against basically everything that I’ve taught myself, everything that I’ve learned, you know, about guns, about gun violence. And I’m going to keep it a buck too, it’s like there is a part of me that thinks it’s a lil sexy. 


Bomani Jones: I mean, this America. 


Damon Young: Not completely. 


Bomani Jones: Nah, nah, it’s okay to admit it. This America, Jack, like the gun is the thing here. And like, if we wanted to, like, simply be objective, if we could, like, separate the fact that a gun is just a pocket sized killing machine, I mean, they are like really fascinating pieces of engineering. Like when you think about what is capable within a gun. Like I understand the people who are fascinated by by the engineering, if nothing else, like if you can just look at it purely as a piece of machinery, I can see why people really, really, really like get into it. But when people go to the gun range. They could just be shooting like a bull’s eye. No, no, no. Them pieces of paper got people on them, right? We watch these movies, and the heroes are the ones that got the guns and shoot bad guys and everything else. And no matter how, like, intellectually cognizant you are of what those images represent, there’s still something latent there, right? There’s still something underlined. And we all we all grew up in this same thing, like the notion of power, the idea that you can flex on somebody and make them a little bit scared of you. Man, there’s a rush that come from that, right? [laughs] Like, like, I don’t think there’s any shame in acknowledging that part. 


Damon Young: And to your point too, about just how the culture is to this point is almost atmospheric. Like I grew up listening to Wu, Mobb Deep, Biggie, obviously, you know, whatever. All the New York, Philly and I still listen to not necessarily that music, although I still do, but music that reminds me of that era. And when I try to listen to the G-rated version, or if I try to listen to rap, that’s a little bit more conscious. I feel like I’m eating an Impossible burger, right? [laughter] Even though, again, it goes, that’s not my life. That’s never been my life. But the music that I want to listen to, yeah, I want to hear niggas get shot [laughter] I want to hear about I want to hear about stories about robberies, and larceny and murder. And and again, that’s what I grew up on. And that’s what I’m still attracted to. That’s what I’m still drawn to. Even if, again, it goes counter to at least my out loud public politics. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah. Well see it’s interesting because like hearing you say that is interesting to me because the thing that I’m drawn to with rap in particular, music generally, but rap in particular, no matter where it ultimately ends, is the sincerity of it. Right. And I can listen to the Fresh Prince, be the Fresh Prince, because he is sincerely the Fresh Prince. If the Fresh Prince came out here, started talk about shooting people now all of a sudden we might have a problem. Like it was funny where Hammer came out and started talk about packing his gun which he certainly was doing in his baggy pants, too. 


Damon Young: Definitely. 


Bomani Jones: We rejected the idea because we deemed it to be insincere. Like, I don’t know how many new gangsters you can produce that I’m willing to hear. Like, I think I’ve heard every incarnation of the gangster that you could come up with. And I have like, like those old commercials about getting to the end of the Internet. [laughter] Like, you got to have to be a grandfathered in gangster right now for me to really rock with it. 


Damon Young: Yeah. So I fuck with Pusha T. I like I like King Push and Pusha, he’s been a professional rapper for 15, what, 15, 17, 20 years at this point. And he raps about the drugs that he’s sold for four years. 


Bomani Jones: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. 


Bomani Jones: And that’s why I, I’ve been bored with him for who knows how long. Like he’s really, really, really talented, but he’s not. Like Ghostface did that Fishscale album, which is really like 20 different ways to talk about cocaine. But there were 20 ways to talk about cocaine and I could rock with it. Pusha’s really got a way to talk about cocaine. He’s just really, really good at it. He’s like the too short of cocaine rap. 


Damon Young: Thank you for joining us today Bomani Jones. Where can people find you?


Bomani Jones: Hey man, Friday nights, 11 p.m. Eastern on HBO and HBO Max got a show called Game Theory with Bomani Jones. It’s a whole new look at sports, also The Right Time with Bomani Jones is a podcast on ESPN’s network. Find us wherever you get your podcasts. 


Damon Young: All right man. Appreciate it. 


Bomani Jones: Hey, man, I appreciate you. [music plays]


Damon Young: Up next, Damon hates. So this is Damon hates, the time in the show where I talk about things that I hate because I hate a whole lot of things. So I was at the bar a couple of days ago, maybe last week. I’m not sure exactly when. And at the other end of the bar, there were some people there that we know they had some drinks, they were having a good time, whatever. It might have been Valentine’s Day, in fact. Yeah, I think it was Valentine’s Day. And they were white. Right. And they were having a conversation with the bartender. And one of the women said that the burger on the menu was like crack. And she proceeded to compare other things in the menu to crack. This drink is like crack, these fries are like crack, these brussel sprouts are like crack. And I’m going to need white people to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever use crack in a positive manner. Don’t use crack as a comparison. Don’t use it in an analogy. Don’t ever, ever say anything, it’s like the only time I want you to talk about crack is if you’re referencing a window cracked open or an ass crack, or you crack somebody upside the head because you caught them using crack in a metaphor. But don’t use this term, this reference, this thing that has devastated Black communities for decades as like a good thing, as like a thing that is admirable, a thing that is obtainable, a thing that is aspirational. Now fuck y’all. Seriously fuck y’all. Fuck people who say crack [laughter] or who use crack in a positive manner. That word should be banned from the lexicon forever. Now if I catch you saying it while we’re out, we’re going to have problems. I didn’t have problems with the woman that night because it was Valentine’s Day and I tried to be happy. But if I catch y’all saying it again. And this goes for anybody, not just white people. Just stop using crack in a positive manner, but especially white people. [music plays] Up next, I talk to the homie Shamira Ibrahim. Cultural critic. She’s written for so many publications, like I could list some of them New York Magazine, Essence, The Atlantic, New York Times. She is a byline, mercenary. Right. And we talk about. How the fuck did the NBA allow a white man named Mac [laughs] to win a dunk contest, during Black History Month. 


Listener Question: Dear Damon, I know you’re for the culture and a basketball fan, so please answer this for me. In the NBA, Black athletes transform the game from a two hand set shot into a peach basket, into the wonderful and creative sport that now includes the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest. The dunk contest is where we see the influence, the artistry, the athleticism. You know, Black people have brought to this game and it’s beautiful. And if I’m being honest, it’s pretty much the only draw to watching All-Star Weekend from home. So how did we end up with a virtually unknown white man named Mac McClung? That’s a fake name. Winning the dunk contest. I thought they had an amateur portion of dunk contest for the first 15 minutes when I saw Mac. The association isn’t even 10% white, and we can name them. I have to give my man his credit. You know, he won that thing fair and square. But during Black History Month, Mac McClung won the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest. His name is on the list with Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, and a man named Anfernee. There’s been a lot of weird shit going on with UFOs, do you think Mac McClung is an alien planted here by the government, or is this a sign that the game is changing? Who the fuck is Mac McClung? 


Damon Young: So Shamira, was Mac McClung dropped off in the hood just like crack and podcast mikes are right now. Or is he a plant to distract us during Black History Month? Or is this an actual real person? 


Shamira Ibrahim: You know, I really do feel like we were violated during Black History Month. Like, I really do feel real distressed about this [laughter] like on a personal level. I’m not going to lie about it. Like, I remember watching the dunk contest and watching those 50s come across and being like, oh, no, we took some points back. Like we took five steps back right now, like this young boy from the G League like [laughter] from the 6ers, G League is bodying [indistinct] right out. And let’s be clear, this is all happening while me, a New Yorker is getting embarrassed by our Knicks representative who decided to do repeated tributes [laughter] to the mailman dunk, which is already like [laughs] a shame in and of itself. Right? Like.


Damon Young: Yeah. He kept trying to do the Vince thing with the elbow and it’s like, yo, so let’s say if he would have gotten to the final round, would he, would he have try to put his whole shoulder in the rim. Would he try to put a leg in the rim? [laughter] And the fucked up part too wasn’t even necessarily the dunks, but like this nigga, it’s like he was getting a colonoscopy. Like, I have never seen a more expressionless, emotionless dunker in my life. Like Kawhi has that emotionless, expressionless thing going too but that’s his bag, right? We know that about him. But this nigga, it’s like, yo, you’re in front of millions of people, crack a smile, open your mouth. 


Shamira Ibrahim: And it’s funny because if I recall correctly that nigga’s Dominican and I’m like, I’ve never seen a sauceless Dominican ever in life, right? [laughter] Like, and I’m sitting here like, wow, we’re getting showed out by a guy who literally sounds like his name sounds like he has been in a Stonewall Jackson parade, right? Like, I’m just upset about it on [laughter] multiple levels. 


Damon Young: Well, okay, I’ll say this. I always get this name wrong, but I’ve been familiar with him [laughter] for I don’t know, like the last like four or five years because I watch all the like there’s two there were two main websites that would do like clips and mixtapes of like high school players and dunk contests, and it was Hoopmixtape and Ballislife. And now there are other ones, you know, that are popular too, but those were too main and Ballislife is kind of separated from Hoopmixtape but I remember seeing clips of him back when he was like a sophomore junior in high school, like this little white boy from Virginia doing all these crazy dunks and it’s like, okay, I mean, can he hoop? 


Shamira Ibrahim: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You know, and he played D1, he played at Georgetown. I think he went somewhere after Georgetown. I forgot where. Now he’s in the D-League, so he has, you know, he has some game, like everyone who plays professional basketball has game, so I’ll give him that. But yeah, I. I’m wondering and you could maybe answer this question for me. Do you think he would have gotten a call up to perform in this dunk contest if he were Black, like a D-League player with that type of with that type of resume known as The Dunker, but has not really played more than 7 minutes in an NBA game. Do you think he would have gotten that call up if he was Black? 


Shamira Ibrahim: Well, I think that the dunk contest is in a really weird place in general. Right. Once Bron opted out right like you know, he’s like, listen, I’m I live in my cryogenic chamber [laughter] I’m not risking this body for nobody. Right. [laughter] Now, everybody could kind of opt out, right? Because, you know, every single play that you make outside of a game is a risk, right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: You know, and so now it’s kind of a place for, I guess, mid-tier athletes. Right. But I’m not going to pretend to have been as been paying as much attention to the high school ballers like that. Right. Like, that’s not really my bag. I usually pay attention to them, like as they’re getting buzz to like, oh, are they NBA worthy? Right? Like, are, do they have like a path to the NBA? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: So I’m not really as speculative on like the early ends of their career, right. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I will say that like, I definitely was like, okay, well, why is this nigga here, right, you know [laughter] and then and then what he, like, actually pulled off that. Like, I could definitely say that when I saw him here, I was like a nigga like that is here. And he knows he has to show out cause this is his one moment to show out, right? Like. You don’t come here and do like a couple cute dunks, right? And that’s exactly what he did, right. You know, he knew he had to do big flashy dunks because this is your only platform to do that, right? 


Damon Young: Yeah, he did his thing and he made all of us dunk, he, first time. Every dunk. Yeah. Mm hmm.


Shamira Ibrahim: First try. You know, Kenyon Martin Jr. was out here giving us two, three tops, right? You know. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. And so the wow factor, plus the fact that he just was like, first time straight out the gate, you know, that makes it impressive in and of itself, because all the gimmicks these days, you know, I mean, last season was the NFT disaster, right? [laughter] You know, like that gave it the extra wow factor. [laughter] Also, I think the reality outside of like the stars versus the non stars is that, you know, there’s a distinction between in-game dunks and trick dunks. Right. You know, and I think we’re we’ve rapidly hit that ceiling, right? So you have amazing in-game dunkers. But you know, the dunk contest is a trick of theater, right? You know what I mean? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: And so when we transition to, you know, highlight reels, Instagram, you know, where you watch people who are skilled at the actual theater of dunking, right. Where that’s what they do, right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: They’re doing these trick dunks constantly. Like. And that’s what they actually specialize in. And in-game dunking is a specific skill of actually, you know, playing off the defense, playing off the dribble. Right. Like that’s a specific other thing that’s amazing to watch in gameplay, right? 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Not so easy to watch like just on your own, right. [laughs] 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: You just coming up, going to the top of the key and you’re like, all right, I just hit an amazing dunk right [laughter] and it was impressive because, like, all right, that’s great, right? And that was the problem with the homie from the Knicks, right? He’s like, wow, that was a lot of power. [laughter] Niggas don’t want to see that right. That looks great mid-game when you’re literally going one on one against someone that’s a poster, right? 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: That’s not great like actually in a dunk contest. There’s no flourish in that, right? There’s no finesse in that. There’s no actual acrobatics, in the way that we see dunk specialists who are actually doing that shit on Instagram. 


Damon Young: Yeah, like Jericho Sims, first his name, Jericho Sims. He, like everything about him scream IG model, IG model with some hops. [laughter] Okay. Like overgrown IG model who someone just plucked off of some photoshoot and was like, yo, can you dunk? Yeah, I could get up. Do you want to be in a dunk contest? Aight. I feel like that was the actual process to get him there. 


Shamira Ibrahim: One thing that also had me saying we’ve stepped several steps back on Black History Month is when Mac McClung did a nod to Vince Carter’s It’s Over gesture. I was just like, you know, this feels racist. I don’t care. [laughter] I know he loves basketball. I was still mad about it. [laughter] Like.


Damon Young: What’s making the McClung thing even more disconcerting is that he literally looks like he was picked, like, he does not look like an athlete. 


Shamira Ibrahim: [laughs] Right. 


Damon Young: Like a top 1%, a top 1%, a top 1% athlete. And it’s not just because he’s white, like, you know, someone like Grayson Allen, for instance, like, you know, people talk shit about him because he looks like Ted Cruz, but he has a broad shoulders, long arms, big hands, he looks like an athlete. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right, right. 


Damon Young: Alex Caruso is another one that people talk about. Oh, he doesn’t look yes, he does look like a fucking athlete, he’s six foot seven. He’s like brolic. He jumps out the gym. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: So those people, even if I didn’t know they were NBA players if I saw them in person I was like, oh, this guy must play a sport. This guy must be an athlete. Mac McClung, [?], whatever his name is [laughter] I’m getting more and more convinced that they did drop him off in the hood during Black History Month with a whole bunch of podcast mikes to just distract us [laughter] right? 


Shamira Ibrahim: You know, if you have an office job, he looks like that white guy who’s like, oh, yeah, a bunch of us have this, like weekly, you know, pickup game that we do at the office. You know, we have a weekly league, you know, we do it yearly, three months, you know, and then whoever wins gets to go have a paid happy hour. You want to join? And you’re like, actually, no, I don’t want to play with my coworkers. Right? [laughter] Like, that’s what he looks like, right? 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: You know, and instead he’s likely going to have a ten day contract with the 6ers after this. Right. [laughs] 


Damon Young: Yeah. Like, he is not the sort of guy that you know, that you would that you would pick. And again, it’s not just because he’s white. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: It’s because he just doesn’t look like you know if you’ve never seen him hoop before and he walked up on LA Fitness and he wanted to get next game like, yo, what’s your name? My name is Mac McClung. It’s like nah nigga, you are a Confederate soldier. You are not a basketball player. 


Shamira Ibrahim: [laughs] Right? 


Damon Young: And then he goes out there and does like some some 540 without warming up and it’s like, holy shit, where the fuck did that come from? 


Shamira Ibrahim: It feels like this is guerilla marketing for the remake of White Men Can’t Jump. 


Damon Young: I mean, perfect timing, you know, because you got Jack Harlow in that in. I have my thoughts about basketball movies in general about this reboot of White Men Can’t Jump about Jack Harlow. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Well, I know how you feel about basketball movies, with niggas who can’t actually—


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Cause they look terrible because they can’t. They have no handles. Right? Like. [laughter]


Damon Young: The worst ever, Real World, all right, this is, you know, Real World. This was maybe like 2004, 2005. It was a season where Karamo, what’s his name? Karamo. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Yeah. Karamo Brown. Yeah. 


Damon Young: Karamo Brown was on the show and, you know, they introduced the characters and had a little montage of like, you know, this is what I like to do, I like to ski, and, you know, I’m a poet and etc.. And so Karamo’s montage was like, yeah, I like to play basketball. And then they showed this nigga [laughs] they showed a five second clip of him playing basketball and him just catching the basketball. And he caught the basketball like it was a watermelon that was being dropped from a 18th story building. It was like, this nigga has never played basketball before in his life. [laughter] Right? Okay, this clip has to be on YouTube. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I’m sure, I’m sure. 


Damon Young: This shit has to be on YouTube somewhere. The intro where they watch, they show him hoop and it’s like, yo, this, has never played basketball, ever. But he managed to make that a part of his montage. But I want to pivot just a little bit to, I guess, the idea of the positive stereotype, because, you know, we have our jokes about Black History Month. White men. White men can’t jump, white man wins a dunk contest. And so there’s this idea that a lot of people believe and that we are obviously joking about that Black people have exclusive provenance to hops. There might be a white person every once in a while that’s able to sneak in. You got your Rex Chapmans, you got your Alex Carusos you got your Mac McClungs or whatever. But. Jump leading ability is something that it’s it’s thought to be inherent to Black athletes. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And in again, that’s a quote unquote “positive stereotype.” But I feel like also the embrace of that is not a great thing, because if you’re embracing other positive stereotypes, then what about the not so positive stereotypes that exist, too, about particularly about Black men or Black people and like athletic prowess and brute strength and, you know, things of that nature? 


Shamira Ibrahim: Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of dangerous tropes about how the athleticism and the NBA plays out, right? You know, and I think we’re seeing kind of that play out in especially the last couple of seasons, right, how you’re supposed to perform athleticism in the NBA one specific way, if you don’t conform to that if you don’t conform to the specific bounds of that, you know, you get a lot of questions right, especially if you don’t meet certain bounds. One thing I’ve been seeing, for example, is, you know, a lot of right now the race for like the MVP race, right? Like consistently, right. You know who gets MVP year over year, right. Obviously Jokic like has consistently you know been the MVP for the last couple of seasons. You know I think this year is a heavy race for LeBron or whatever right. But you know one of the things that I think about with that is you know Jokic is like kind of positioned for that is he’s one of the most efficient players right you know like he’s just constantly banging it in right. Like he is a machine right you know [laughter] like as where his size and his frame. Right. Like he can look at the game, look at the court, he can size people up and doesn’t matter the fact that his team has not really made it that deep right as a team. He himself is efficient. Right. And when you think about like that expectation for other Black players, right. Like that doesn’t really translate right. You know, if another Black player on the other kind of contrary side, they would be expected, well, why aren’t you actually taking yourself that far? Right. You’re just a [?] right? You know what I mean? 


Damon Young: Mm hm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: You’re only actually getting yourself these numbers. Now, I’m not going to say I would compare Jokic to Westbrook because I don’t think that’s necessarily anywhere close to the same parallel. Right. But there are players that are known for being efficient players. Right. Known for understanding how to play their role very effectively. That if your team is not making that deep into the playoffs consistently or necessarily accelerating that well, that ultimately it’s okay. Well, okay, you’re athletic, but if you’re not actually effectively taking your team that well, then. That’s not really actually a productive use of your athleticism, right? Than you’re just actually just. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: A performer. Right. And so I think these limitations on what athleticism can be can really be an albatross for a lot of athletes, right. In a way that can sometimes be really useful on the counter for the kind of sneaky athleticism, right [laughs] that kind of benefits, white athletes in the NBA, right. It’s like, oh, well, we didn’t expect him to be able to bang it down like that or we didn’t expect him to be able to kind of draw the foul like that or really be able to read defenses like that. It’s like, why? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Shamira Ibrahim: That’s literally his job, right? Like, why did you not expect him to be able to do his fucking job? 


Damon Young: Yeah, I mean, and to your point, you could argue that the two best players in the NBA right now are, by NBA standards. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Unathletic. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: White players, white European players and Jokic and Luka Doncic. Now I think Giannis is still the best player in the league because he is also one of the most fearsome defensive players too and neither of those other two guys are that. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: But you know, just thinking of Luka specifically, you know, and to your point, Luka is essentially James Harden. In terms of they play a game where the entire offense and I’m talking about prime James Harden when he was in Houston and getting, you know, 50 points and then 60 and 50 points and 17 assists and 12 rebounds and people were like, yeah, these are great stats. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right, right. 


Damon Young: But they’re empty because, you know, we know that when you get to the playoffs, you’re going to fall off. And also because your game is is is predicated on manipulating the referees and getting all these fouls. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: Luka plays that same way. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: And Luka hasn’t necessarily had the same sort of criticism yet. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Or hasn’t had not necessarily criticism because there is some in NBA circles, but in terms of like the larger public perception of their game being, like, fraudulent because people will consider James Harden to be like—


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: —like these are fake stats to shit ain’t real. Whereas with Luka he doesn’t get that same sort of criticism yet. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: And I do think that there is there are other extenuating circumstances. There’s the age thing, I mean Luka’s younger. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I think it’s just a general interesting observation to make because, you know, I don’t think people notice as many as much of these double standards that we call out, especially as stats become more relevant and how we analyze players, right, as they just become the standard maker. Standard bearer. Right. Because people don’t necessarily know how to read basketball just by watching it. [laughter] Right? You know what I mean? So it goes, okay, let’s read the stats. But it’s like guys like sometimes you guys just like, give a precedence to things just because of like, oh, look at the sneaky athleticism or the like weird subtext of, well, these Serbian guys, they’re about their shit, right [laughs] you know what I mean? 


Damon Young: Yeah, that’s even weird, like, you know, like, oh, you don’t fuck with no Serbians—


Shamira Ibrahim: Right, Right. 


Damon Young: —because, you know, you know where they’re coming from. Like, nigga, half the players in the league come from places that you would say that about too, but you don’t say that in a positive way. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right, Right. 


Damon Young: You see that in a way that is like, oh, well, he’s from this environment and we need to take those parts of his environment out of him. For him to succeed is not connotated in a positive way. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 


Damon Young: You know, but let’s get back to Mac McClung, Matt [?] or whatever the fuck this nigga’s name is. Is it, like what needs to happen for the rest of this month for us to win back Black History Month? Because I feel like this is a loss. [laughter] For Black people. This is a loss. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Well, first of all, I think we need to give Lisa Leslie her flowers for being willing to take one point off just for the pure principle of being a hater. Right. I respect that. I respect hateration of holleration in the dancery.


Damon Young: And that’s the trope that Black women are going to save us, and we shouldn’t have to rely on that. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Like. [laughter]


Damon Young: We shouldn’t have to rely on that. They’re going to save us from like, the white supremist. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I know people were trying be mean about it and trying to hate on her for that. But you know what? Sometimes you got to commit. You got to commit. [laughter]


Damon Young: And again, talking about stereotypes and tropes. But again, what needs to happen for the rest of the month for us to win back win back the Black History Month points that Mac McClung [?], Confederate named ass motherfucker took away from us. [laughter]


Shamira Ibrahim: God, of all the things that Adam Silver could accomplish. I mean, they did give a bizarre afrobeats inspired set right [laughter] on the third day to try to make up for it. They did try. 


Damon Young: In Utah. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I don’t think Salt Lake City has ever seen anything like that ever in their lives. 


Damon Young: Is I. I mean, that was the Blackest halftime show ever. 


Shamira Ibrahim: You know, Salt Lake City, you probably will never see anything like that ever again. [laughter] 


Damon Young: Right. And it was in Salt Lake City. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Burna Boy In Utah. 


Damon Young: Burna Boy, Tems, like what?


Shamira Ibrahim: I was like damn, they could’ve waited for like the All-Star Weekend in Houston at least, you know, a little Nigeria, you know like. [laughter]


Damon Young: Somewhere. Yeah. Or Toronto. Toronto might even been better, you know, more international flavor, you know. But I don’t know what we have to do. I don’t know what can be done. You know, I woke up this morning just like in a cold sweat, just thinking about. [laughter]


Shamira Ibrahim: These images, that pig hand coming out, spinning around.. 


Damon Young: These images of just getting dunked on over and over again by Mac McClung and not being able to do anything about it, like Matt McClung, dunking on James Baldwin or some shit and, you know, being powerless to stop them. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Also maybe change, potentially change the actual trophy to just a Black fist. 


Damon Young: [laughter] Or afro pick. It could be it could be like a reverse inverted paper bag test where it’s like, if you can’t use this pick, you cannot compete. If you can’t use the trophy, you’re not allowed— [laughter] 


Shamira Ibrahim: Because the trophy’s wack anyway right now I was like, what is that like participation ass trophy, like might as well change it to something lit. 


Damon Young: Yeah. So there we go. There we go. That’s how you that’s how we prevent shit like this from happening again. We make the trophy an afro pick, and each player has to actually try to use that. Has to not just try to use it has to have very obviously used it before. [laughter] Right. And if you haven’t used an afro pick before, if you haven’t used the trophy before, you cannot compete. 


Shamira Ibrahim: I rock with it. 


Damon Young: Shamira, where can people find you who are, because I mean, you’re everywhere. [laughter] You know, you’re elusive. You’re in the wind, you’re in the weeds, you’re doing all the things. So where can people who really want to get a handle on your work, where can they find you right now? 


Shamira Ibrahim: Generally, you can find me on Twitter for as long as that’s functioning. Right. So that’s @_ShamGod. I’m also on Instagram @shamirathefirst. And I have a substack where I do occasional ramblings /


Damon Young: Shamira Ibrahim, thank you. Appreciate it. 


Shamira Ibrahim: Thank you for having me, Damon, as always. 


Damon Young: All right. [music plays] Again, I want to thank Bomani Jones and Shamira Ibrahim for coming through with the great conversations. Also, thank you all for coming for another episode of Stuck with Damon Young. Remember Stuck with Damon Young is exclusive to Spotify. Subscribe. Listen here for free. Also, if you have anything you need to know, any mess you need figured out, any takes on white dunkers. Hit me up at All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. Our executive producers are Kendra James and Sandy Girard. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering from Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Lauren Silverman and Neil Drumming. Gimlet’s managing director is Nicole Beemsterboer. Also special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Tap the follow button and hit the bell icon to be notified when a new episode drops.