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Chicago native Common's game is "Just Wright"

Rapper and actor Common discusses his time as a Bulls ballboy, his thoughts on fellow South Side native Derrick Rose, and who he would like to see the team sign this summer while promoting his new movie, “Just Wright,” opening in theaters on May 14.

Common with Dwyane Wade

“I have put in my vote and word, like, ‘Come on to Chicago,’ but obviously he has to make the best decision for himself and his family and the rest of his career,” Common said of his hope that Dwyane Wade will return to Chicago this summer. “I’ve been saying we need to have a party and get Oprah [Winfrey] and Barack Obama and everybody to call him and say, ‘Come to Chicago.’”
(David Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

It was Michael Jordan’s first professional exhibition game when rapper and actor Common was an 11-year old ballboy for the Chicago Bulls.

When Jordan played music in the locker room during pregame that night, then General Manager Rod Thorn didn’t approve and it was turned off. But three games later, Common recalled, “He could play whatever he wanted. By that point, they knew it was just the beginning of Michael Jordan.”

On Tuesday, Common talked about his Chicago experience, his thoughts on fellow South Side native Derrick Rose, and who he would like to see the Bulls sign this summer while promoting his new movie, “Just Wright,” which opens in theaters this Friday, May 14.

One of Common’s favorite memories from his time with the Bulls came during Jordan’s second year, when Jordan was sidelined with a broken left foot and missed the majority of the season.

During a shootaround at the old Chicago Stadium, which Common says is his favorite sports venue of all-time, Jordan was seated on the bench with a ball when the two struck up a conversation. A friendly wager as to who could hit a shot ensued, and Jordan promptly drained one from the sidelines without getting up.

“It was amazing, incredible,” said Common. “I’ll always remember that.”

Common said he keeps tabs on the Bulls and saw them play a few times this season. He’s known about All-Star Derrick Rose much longer than most fans, as he went to see him play when Rose was just a sophomore at Simeon Career Academy.

“A good friend of mine, his father was the principal there. He told me, ‘There’s this dude, Derrick Rose, and you better check him,’” Common said. “He was passing the ball a lot, but you could see how talented he was. I think he’s going to be one of the best guards ever—not only in Chicago history, but NBA history. I love Derrick Rose. His game is incredible.”

Common is well aware of the Bulls’ cap space this summer and he’s got some thoughts on which free agent the team should pursue.

Common

"When you go to it, you’ll feel good leaving the movie," said Common of his new movie, "Just Wright." "You’ll feel inspired.”
(David Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

“I believe Dwyane Wade would fit well with him,” said Common of Rose and Wade, who he has known for several years. “Some people say it is two guys who need the ball and they are both slashers, but I think it would be a good threat to have two guys like that. D-Rose is enough of a killer and a passer to be able to keep things smooth between him and D-Wade. I would like to see them get Dwyane Wade and Amar’e Stoudemire. The Bulls would be in the running, man.”

When asked if he had any plans to recruit Wade this offseason, he said he has already voiced his opinion.

“I have put in my vote and word, like, ‘Come on to Chicago,’ but obviously he has to make the best decision for himself and his family and the rest of his career,” said Common. “I’ve been saying we need to have a party and get Oprah [Winfrey] and Barack Obama and everybody to call him and say, ‘Come to Chicago.’”

Common also said Wade credited him for his basketball abilities, which he hopes will translate on the silver screen. If Common looks like a natural on the court, it’s in part because he grew up with a basketball in his crib—literally.

His father, Lonnie Lynn, played in the American Basketball Association and recently recalled a story in which a friend of his bought a ball and put it in the toddler’s crib. But Common said he never became too interested in the sport until he was seven or eight years of age, when he started playing “biddy basketball” and developed his game.

Common, who is 6-0, 180 pounds and a self-described point guard, began playing at local parks as soon as he found out he might get the role. A minor back injury early on let him know he better take it seriously if he was going to be a believable NBA All-Star.

Common credits Baron Davis for the most help as he readied himself for the role. He followed Davis to practice, workout sessions, even meetings with Davis’ agent. He also trained with a member of the New Jersey Nets staff. Some workouts would consist of 500 shots a day, while others would focus on defense.

“The only aspect I didn’t get to do was travel with a team,” said Common of his preparation for the movie.

Common hopes that the basketball scenes from “Just Wright” come across as authentic and sincere. He also drew some comparisons to this particular role and how he got started in the business.

“Being on the court and playing in front of a crowd, it actually made me feel like how we perform in shows,” said Common. “As much as you are competing—obviously it’s a competition and a game and a sport—but you’re still entertaining, too.”

“Just Wright” stars Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah as a physical therapist (Leslie Wright) who gets the dream job of working with NBA All-Star Scott McKnight, played by Common. Several NBA stars made cameos, including the aforementioned Wade, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Rajon Rondo.

In the movie, Leslie eventually falls for Scott, forcing her to choose between her career and love life. Oblivious to her romantic overtures, McKnight is instead drawn to the affections of Leslie’s gorgeous childhood friend Morgan, portrayed by Paula Patton, who has her sights set on being an NBA trophy wife.

“It’s a story about a guy who finds love in an unlikely place,” said Common. “But it still has the sports action that we enjoy as guys going to see a movie. I wanted to see some real basketball so I could believe the character is who he is and get sucked in to the story. When you go to it, you’ll feel good leaving the movie. You’ll feel inspired.”

Common with Paula Patton and Queen Latifah

“Just Wright,” which opens in theaters on Friday, stars Chicago native Common, along with Paula Patton and Queen Latifah.
(David Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)