Freddie Gibbs has come a long way from his hometown of Gary, Indiana. Specifically, the 2,032 miles from Indiana's ninth-largest city to Los Angeles, the city he's called home for the past decade. "I don't really fuck with cold weather," he deadpans.
He's just released Shadow of a Doubt, his third album in as many years, and it displays the same kind of gruff, serious-minded swagger Gibbs employs when discussing his pickup basketball game.
"I'm like LeBron, man," he says. "I'm like a smaller LeBron. That's why I'm not in the NBA. If I had about five, six more inches, I'd be in the league. I can play from the 1 to the 4."
Despite his height, basketball is still his favorite sport and he remains a loyal follower of his hometown team (which is definitely not the Pacers). Recently, Rolling Stone spoke with Gibbs about the past – in particular, Michael Jordan – and the present, including the continued dominance of the Golden State Warriors and his predictions for the NBA Finals.
When did you first get into basketball?
I've been interested in basketball since I was a little kid, like 3. The Bulls were my team. If you grew up in Gary, the Bulls were everybody's team. Michael Jordan, that was the era when they were popping. I watched 'em all on TV.
Were there any players other than Jordan you liked back then?
Charles Barkley. I admired how tenacious he was, you know?
So you're still a Bulls fan, right?
Oh yeah, definitely. Jimmy Butler's my favorite player. [Derrick Rose] and Jimmy Butler gotta learn how to play together at the same time. The East is usually weak, but teams are getting a little bit better, you know what I mean? Hopefully they'll be there in the end. They're definitely gonna go past the first round.
Are there any teams in the East that scare you in the postseason?
They're not gonna play the Cavs. The Cavs will probably have the number one seed, we'll probably have the number two. I dunno – teams like Detroit, they scare me. The Wizards got [John] Wall and he's young, so they're coming up. You never know what people will do in the playoffs.
Has living in Los Angeles gotten you to follow the Lakers at all?
Nah, not really. The Lakers suck right about now.
It's been kind of fun to follow Kobe Bryant on his retirement tour, though, right?
Yeah, it's kinda cool. It's like a victory lap for Kobe, going everywhere, going to every stadium and putting up 50 shots.
And the eternal question: Kobe vs. MJ
Jordan all day. You know, it's the sensei versus the student, know what I mean? Jordan all day.
Jimmy Butler aside, are there other current players you like watching?
Of course, Steph Curry. He's just a record-breaker, man. I'm just glad we get to see old records being broken. That's what sports is all about. All that shit can't stay the same forever, man.
So who do you think is going to be there at the end? Can the Bulls go all the way?
I think the Warriors are gonna repeat, because they're miles ahead of the next team. The only team that I can see stopping them would be the Spurs. They've always been the silent killers. But if [the Warriors] go to the Finals, they're going to beat anyone from the East for sure.
Even if it's the Cavaliers and LeBron?
Yeah, I don't think him and Kyrie [Irving] play good together. I think that LeBron can make it work. I think primarily when LeBron's on the floor, he's the one with the ball in his hands and likewise for Kyrie. It kinda throws things off a bit when you got three guys out there that all want to do their thing with the ball. But LeBron's a distributor anyway, so maybe it works. But Kyrie scores a lot off the dribble, you know what I mean? Kyrie creates his own offense. It's just different.