Commentary

Rapper Budden reps New York

Updated: December 16, 2011, 4:23 PM ET
By Vincent Thomas | Special to ESPN.com

What Joe Budden, his Slaughterhouse crew, Eminem and Yelawolf did to their BET Hip Hop Awards cypher competition wasn't even remotely funny. It was mean, disrespectful. They ran up the score. They had dudes from the show's other cyphers slinking in their chairs, trying to hide from the onslaught of virtuoso MC-ing.

There were plenty of quotables -- Em's Posdnuos rant and Royce's "Hi, Rihanna," which turned into a Twitter hashtag -- but I loved this line from Budden: "The boy's Rodman with the trash talk, Magic or Walt with the black ball, way I bounce off the asphalt with cat paws."

If you're familiar with Joe Budden, you know it's rare for him to go 16 bars without some nod to his second love (or maybe first) -- sports.

He recently spent the day at ESPN, where he appeared on ESPN's "First Take" to debate Skip Bayless (see video above). It was a bucket-list item for him. While he was there, we managed to snag him for a conversation.

Joe Budden
Johnny Nunez/WireImageDon't let the cap fool you, Joe Budden is all about New York sports.

The Life: You always rep New Jersey, but you didn't move to Jersey until you where, what, 12, right?

Budden: I was about 13 when I moved to Jersey. People always get confused because I'm a die-hard Knicks fan. They're always like, "Aw man, aren't you supposed to rep the Nets?" But nah, I'm a New Yorker. I was raised on the Knicks.

The Life: Do You root for the Nets at all?

Budden: Nah. I have no vested interest in the Nets at all.

The Life: So even when your fellow Queens native Kenny Anderson was rocking with the Nets, you still didn't mess with them?

Budden: No, I rocked with the Nets back then. I supported them back then, but I wasn't a fan. It's like, I'm a Giants fan, I'm a Yankees fan, but if the Mets or Jets do well, I root for them, because it's New York. So back then, yeah, I rooted for the Nets to do well, but now I just don't really care for the Nets.

The Life: Do you care at all whether or not Dwight Howard comes to New Jersey … or Brooklyn?

Budden: See … I don't believe that he will.

The Life: Word? Why's that?

Budden: I just don't see it. I get every indication from Deron Williams that he's leaving as soon as he can, so I can't see Dwight coming.

The Life: Really? Deron's gone, huh?

Budden: Yeah, I think that being the second-tier team in New York is not appealing. I'm under the impression that that's what they'll always be. I don't know if that's my bias, but …

The Life: Oh, no, they will. But moving to Brooklyn, if they have Williams and Howard and they win 60 games every year and make it to the finals … you could see a rivalry.

Budden: I'd be inclined to agree with you. However, the Knicks have now locked up Melo [Carmelo Anthony], Amare [Stoudemire] and Tyson Chandler for the next four years. So they'll be able to compete for the next four years, so there will never be a period where the Nets are that far above the Knicks.

The Life: True. Is that the best front line in the NBA?

Budden: Oh, by far -- without a doubt.

The Life: I can't see anybody messing with them. What you guys needed last year was help on the boards and defense in the paint, and Chandler, other than Dwight, might be the best at that. So wassup? Where do you see them going?

Budden: Well I see us competing, pending production of a Landry Fields and a Toney Douglas. I'm anxious to see what plays out with Baron Davis. We need a 2 guard, though. We have a lot of firepower under what some say is a genius of an offensive coach.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are "by far -- without a doubt" the best front line in the NBA, says Joe Budden.

The Life: Ah, coach. But do you think Mike D'Antoni is a championship coach, though?

Budden: No. I don't. However, if you ask me if I think D'Antoni and Mike Woodson in combination can lead a team to a championship, then yes I do. Now you have the pieces. This is a pivotal year for D'Antoni. If he doesn't produce he's outta here.

The Life: Let's switch gears. Eli Manning -- is he one of the five or six best quarterbacks in the league?

Budden: I'm of the belief that Eli is one of the top six or seven QBs in the league. And I'd challenge anyone to name me seven better.

The Life: Do you think a lot of the negative feedback is because 1) he plays in New York and 2) because of his older brother?

Budden: Well, I agree with the Peyton theory. But 2) he's a goofball! I mean, just looking at Eli … no one is aspiring to be like Eli. He looks like a goofball.

The Life: Wow.

Budden: No disrespect to Eli because that's my dude and I'm a Giants fan. But he looks like a big doofus! But he's clutch. He's one of the more clutch QBs that we have in this league, and in NY we need that.

The Life: You know a lot of athletes. Who are some of favorite guys?

Budden: Ooh. That would be difficult to say without offending somebody. But Jamal Crawford, definitely. CC [Sabathia] is always fun. Me and him hung out in the club a few times, he's always fun. Amare is cool. Man that sounds like I have such a New York bias! But it's true! These are great guys!

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/US PresswireEli Manning is, in Joe Budden's words, a "doofus." But he's a clutch doofus.

The Life: Eh. You're a New Yorker, it makes sense. Coming up, what athlete did you idolize the most?

Budden: Hmmm. You know what? The cliché answer would be [Michael] Jordan.

The Life: Wait, what? How is that even possible, Joe?! You're a Knicks fan!

Budden: See … see, you're cutting me off. You're taking words out my mouth. But see, as a Knicks fan I hated Jordan's guts. So as a result, I didn't really have one. Jordan kind of robbed me of my childhood in that regard. This is a revelation …

The Life: Yeah, man. Epiphanies -- we have them sometimes. Let me ask you this, though. … I saw the BET cypher, and of course, you and your Slaughterhouse fam killed it. Now we're the same age and grew up on the same hip-hop. And I don't want to be one of the old heads that dump on younger generations because, for instance, I think today's ballplayer is advanced. We've never seen a LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose before. They're, like, new species. But as a rapper, do you feel like these newer MCs aren't cutting it, that they can't do it the way you do it or some of the older heads can?

Budden: I don't wanna say older guys, because I'm 31 and I feel like that's a nice, sexy age to be. With some of the newer guys that are a little less accomplished and experienced, I've seen it so many times: They come out, they're hot and they fall off.

The Life: Are you digging any of the new cats? Kendrick Lamar? Danny Brown?

Budden: Yeah, Kendrick Lamar is impressive. I guess there are a few guys out there that are impressive. But when I was coming up, I bumped into Jay-Z at the Def Jam offices and I was at the height of my success and he said, "You're doing great out there. Now go keep it up." And that stuck with me. Anybody can go out there and score 30 on any given night and never do it again. But the talent is being able to do it on a consistent basis. So that's what I'm trying to see from the younger guys. That's what I'm doing now.

Vincent Thomas is a SLAM magazine columnist and a frequent contributing columnist and commentator for ESPN. He can be reached at vincethomas79@gmail.com or @vincecathomas on Twitter.