This week on my podcast, I interviewed my old friend Cedric the Entertainer. We go way back. Decades, in fact. When I was drafted in 1994, I was still a little rough-around-the-edges Detroit kid. That summer, I was at the State Theatre during Soul Night in my hometown when there was an altercation. I wasn’t involved, but even being there was a liability for someone like me. Then, the next week, I hurt my shoulder in a summer league game, so my agent at the time, Norm Nixon, who is married to Debbie Allen, convinced me that I should move to Los Angeles to rehab my shoulder.
Out there, they provided a family atmosphere: Norm was like a father to me, and, along with giving me my very first facial, Debbie convinced me to make LA my permanent summer home to keep my nose clean. It was sage advice, and living there helped me meet powerful people in all industries and develop a sense of the things I wanted beyond basketball.
My friend Cino and I were always out on the town, shaking hands and kissing babies, and we started frequenting the Comedy Store in West Hollywood. I love comedy, and I got to see all of these up-and-coming performers onstage, and Ced was one of them.
We became close friends. I would travel all over the country to see the Kings of Comedy. I was at his bachelor party in Philly. We were even in music videos together, including Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” and Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It.” When I was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2002, I was cast in “Barbershop” and had a hilarious scene opposite Cedric where he kept saying, “Michael who?,” referring to Jordan. It was quite a Hollywood-style introduction to my new team. When I started doing a charity celebrity weekend with a comedy night and basketball game, he would always show up for me.
His personality is infectious. He’s always cooking the food, making the drinks and keeping everyone laughing. But he is also so full of wisdom. He provided an example of how to constantly reinvent yourself. We’ve always exchanged ideas on how to break down barriers in sports and comedy.
He is a couple of years older than me but we essentially grew up in the industry together. He always gave me great advice, including this nugget. He said that it’s OK to grow up and mature and divorce yourself from a lot things that get in the way of your goals.
For the podcast, I chatted with Cedric while he was on the golf course with Joe Pesci, and we talked about how he got the nickname “The Entertainer.” It happened early in his career during a performance at a St. Louis comedy club where the MC referred to everyone as a comedian. “But I sang when I got onstage, I did poems. I would do anything to fill up my time,” Cedric told me. “I said, ‘Don’t call me a comedian, call me an entertainer.’ [The MC] called me Cedric the Entertainer. I had a killer show and got a standing ovation. When I came off, he called me Cedric the Entertainer again, and I just kept it.”
He shared memories about Bernie Mac’s nonsensical catchphrases, and talked about his drinking buddy DL Hughley being the Keith Richards to his Mick Jagger. And since Ced, like Steve Harvey, is known for his old-school style, like hats and loud suits, we talked about why he would never perform in jeans and T-shirt like comedians do now. At the moment, Ced is doing “The Neighborhood” on CBS and helping younger talent get their breaks in the industry. He is a natural mentor, a loyal friend, and it’s a bit surreal to think of where we’ve gone in life since meeting at the Comedy Store in the ’90s.
After Game 5 of the NBA Finals, I will wake up early on Saturday and fly to Detroit, where my family and I will gather for my grammie’s funeral. Everyone is coming into town, including my daughters, Mariah and Gracie, who live in Georgia, and their brother Dee, whom I’ve raised since he was 7. My nieces and nephew are also flying in. It will be the first time we’ve all been together since the pandemic, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone. I also hope the series ends on Friday, and I don’t have to race right back for a Game 6. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I see myself at my mom’s pool wearing swim trunks, slides, maybe a shirt, maybe not. I’ll be drinking a Truly seltzer or hard lemonade and grilling lobster tails and the St. Louis ribs with Jamaican jerk seasoning that I started making during the quarantine. I’ve been in the lab perfecting them, so I want to debut these spicy ribs for everyone. But more than anything, I want some extra time celebrating Grammie, to be with my extended family and recalibrate after this wild ride of a season.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.