In sports, Shannon Sharpe has segued a Pro Football Hall of Fame career into being an astute analyst, currently debating Skip Bayless on Fox Sports 1's Undisputed.
As an elite wordsmith in hip-hop, Killer Mike speaks with precision, flair and honesty, whether pummeling instrumentals as one half of the group Run the Jewels or being a socially active staple in the community.
And the two Atlanta residents are never at a loss for words, always equipped to speak their piece.
That being said, and with Mike's beloved Atlanta Falcons playing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI this Sunday night in Houston, BET.com thought it would be a good idea to link the rap veteran with the three-time Super Bowl champion.
Here, Mike and Shannon talk about the big game, their common Georgia roots, Tom Brady's connection with Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick's social activism and who got the best of the Charles Barkley-LeBron James beef.
Mike also asks Shannon about whether it was harder to read top NFL defenders or debate against Bayless while getting the former tight end to break down his playlist as well.
Yeah...we'd call this conversation a touchdown with the extra point!
Killer Mike: First of all, I grew up watching you and [brother] Sterling Sharpe. As a boy from Georgia, you guys have been hugely influential. So, just thank you guys for all the positive work you’ve done in the state. I really appreciate you guys. My wife is from Savannah, Georgia.
Shannon Sharpe: I went to Savannah State and I grew up about 65 miles [away] in a small town called Glenville, Georgia.
I’m familiar. My daughter is down in Savannah State right now. Before we make it all about being country, I’m a Falcons fan. I’ve grown up a Falcons fan, which means my heart has been broken every year since 1983. I want to know what do we have to do to beat [Tom] Brady and the Patriots.
Well, you have to be who you were all year. You have to be explosive on offense and your defense has to get timely stops. Brady is going to score. They’re too good of an offense, they’re too well-coached, but you can’t get down because there’s going to be ebbs and flows in this game and, for the most part, the Falcons haven’t been behind a whole lot this year. So, if you get behind, don’t panic. Stay true to who you are, stay true to what got you here and you don’t have to do anything special. The way they played all year offensively and defensively, I believe they’re good enough to win the game.
You believe we have a better defense now than we had 18 years ago [when the Falcons appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999]?
Yeah. You have more team speed, but your offense is better. Your offense is really your best defense because you put so much pressure on your opposing team’s offense. You score so many points, you take the run game away from the opposing team. Knowing Coach [Bill] Belichick the way I know him and knowing the Patriots the way I know them, they’re going to try to run the football because the way to neutralize a high-powered offense is to not let them have the football. They’re going to run the football with [LeGarrette] Blount and those running backs, but when you get your opportunities, you have to put points on the board. No negative plays on first down and you can’t be good on third down — you need to be great. And when you get the ball into the red zone, no field goals — touchdowns.
I’m not a betting man, but … [laughs]. As well as being one of the premier athletes I ever seen play, both you and your brother have both been very eloquent spokesmen on the behalf of our community at different times. And not just the African-American community, but the working-class and the poor community. I can point to my son, who’s now a linebacker and wants to play ball in college, and say, "Hey, not only is [Shannon] an athlete, but he gets involved in the community and sees a bigger perspective." Recently Tom Brady got in trouble in our community because he had a friendship with Trump and then he started dodging questions about it. People were hot about it. How do you feel about him dodging questions about Trump’s presidency?
At this juncture of your career, we choose our friends. We don’t let the friends choose us. When you’re growing up, in elementary, high school or maybe even college, friends chose you, but once you get to a certain level in life, you choose your friends. His political [views], what he believes in and who he supports, I have no problem with that. But for me, my friendship comes with the issues. I can’t allow you to do certain things and you and I still be friends. [Brady’s] saying, "I don’t agree with everything he said." It would be interesting to know what you don’t agree with. What has [Trump] said, what has he done that makes you uncomfortable?
Tom Brady is too smart — he strategically placed that ‘Make America Great Again’ hat in his locker. He knew it would be seen because if he didn’t want it to be seen, he would have hid it. I’m sure there are certain things in his locker that he doesn’t want to be seen and they’re out of sight. So, he placed it in there and he wanted it to be seen. You vote for who you vote for, but the way I look at it, if the only reason I voted is because of my back pocket, then Mary Porter, my grandmother, did a terrible job of raising me. I look at the bigger picture. I have a very unique perspective because I grew up dirt poor and at 48 years of age, I’m well off now. So, I see both ends of the spectrum. But it’s not about me because I’m going to be OK. Whomever was going to be president wasn’t going to change Shannon Sharpe.
And it’s amazing to hear another guy from the South honor their grandmother. I think about the things they had to do and I see that it’s a moral obligation to be [politically active]. Do you think athletes — Black, White, Asian, gay, straight — have a duty to stand up or speak out publicly against this president or any politician in terms of social issues such as the #MuslimBan, Black men stopped and frisked, etc? Like a Jim Brown, like a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, like a Muhammad Ali.
If it’s not in you, don’t do it because you can’t fake that. It has to move you in order for you to do it. A lot of times people don’t feel comfortable because they’re not affected by it. People are affected by it are more apt to protest and speak out. Let’s take LeBron [for instance]. I think he might be the most socially-conscious [athlete] of this generation. I don’t know if there has ever been a more popular athlete that has ever been more outspoken. Muhammad Ali was very outspoken about the Vietnam War, he lost his credentials, but people said, "Well, maybe he was outspoken because he lost something." LeBron hasn’t lost anything. He’s powerful, but he’s saying, "There’s some things that I’m seeing that are not right and for me to just keep my mouth shut because I’m not directly affected is unacceptable on me."
When you say the most socially conscious, I agree — LeBron is an amazing change agent in the community. I saw you talk about Colin Kaepernick and you did it in such a dignified manner. I think Colin was very brave to do the things he did this past year. What are your thoughts on him?
I love Kaep. I had an opportunity to talk to him on several occasions and talk to him about what he was doing. He did something that was very unpopular and because the people didn’t like what he was doing, they never wanted to address why he was doing it and instead kept addressing what he did.
They never really wanted to talk about this police brutality, how communities were being oppressed. They wanted to make it about the flag, military and the national anthem. OK — he told you it wasn’t about the flag, military or national anthem. He has told you why he was doing what he was doing, but that wasn’t good enough. If you just looked around, it was abundantly clear that he had a very legitimate reason for doing what he was doing.
I thought what he did was to be commended, the stand that he took. It doesn’t matter when he came to this determination. The fact of the matter is he’s doing it. Not only is he talking about it, he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Everybody wants to condemn what he’s doing is for Facebook followers and likes. That’s not why he’s doing it. The man was moved because he saw something going on in our society that he didn’t think was right. Instead of sitting back and saying, "It didn’t happen to me," he said, "Let me call attention to it." He’s giving voices to people that can’t speak, he’s shining light on people who are in darkness.
Absolutely. As I said, I grew up a huge fan of you and your brother, so at some point if I meet you in person, I will be begging for a jersey [laughs]. You guys were heroes not just because you were amazing athletes, but because you represented African-American males. You guys did a fine job, but Atlanta was a hard place to grow up in. What was it like growing up in Glenville, because that’s even smaller than my wife’s hometown of Savannah? How did it help shape you?
Rural South Georgia in Glenville at the time had about 3,500 people. I grew up on a farm. My grandparents believed in hard work, they believed in discipline, being dedicated. I grew up respecting authority. I grew up understanding what it was like to be disciplined. So, when I left my grandmother’s house at 18 to go to Savannah State, she didn’t give me a 10- or 15-minute speech. My grandma had spent 18 years of her life trying to tell me what was right from wrong. Five more minutes wasn’t going to make a big deal in my life.
I also understood that no matter where I got, what I say or what I do, I’m a reflection of Mary Porter. The only way I could honor her is to be the best man I could possibly be. I’ve always tried to do the right thing. I understand what it’s like to be poor, I understand what it’s like to be well off, but that doesn’t change the person. Because I’m well off now doesn’t mean I look down on someone who isn’t as fortunate as me because I know what it’s like. I’ve been there.
You can’t tell me what it’s like to be Black because I’ve been Black for 48 years. You can’t tell me what it’s like to be poor because I’ve been poor for 20-plus years. So, I understand the dichotomy of both, but I also understand that there’s something going on that’s larger. What kind of person would I be — what kind of job did Mary Porter do raising me — to know something is wrong and not say anything about it?
My grandparents raised me. We’d go fishing and give it to the old people in the neighborhood. We’d grow food and give it out. I’d ask, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And my grandma would literally look at me and say, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do.’
Let me ask you about someone else — Skip Bayless. Was it harder for you to go against linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties in your career or win an argument against Skip? In my opinion, you’re doing a far better job debating with Skip than anyone else I’ve seen.
It’s harder to debate Skip because I have no idea what he’s going to say. With a certain defense, I already know what the linebacker or safety is going to do. I have a general idea. But when we get into a topic, I have no idea what he’s going to say. Not only do I want to get my point across, but I might want to poke holes in his argument. While I’m looking at Skip, I’m talking to the audience. Skip’s on the ledge; I’m not trying to get Skip off the ledge. I’m telling the audience, "If you want to help Skip off the ledge, feel free to do so."
So, the key to defeating Skip is to actually not even engage [laughs]?
The audience determines who wins the debate. I’m trying to get the audience at home to say, "Shannon won that one" or "Shannon just killed Skip." That’s what I’m trying to do. Skip has his point. I’m not trying to persuade Skip. I’m trying to persuade the audience.
That’s right. Now, I understand how you so masterfully debate Skip where others like me even would have failed. We’re Georgia boys and some of our cousins and friends are from Alabama. In particular, Charles Barkley. He and LeBron James seem to be publicly beefing. In the '90s, Charles was an iconic athlete for not being a role model. LeBron has it great being a role model — stellar athlete, hasn’t gotten in any trouble, married his high school sweetheart. Who are you siding with in this public beef?
Killer Mike, I believe you could be critical without being mean-spirited. When I tackle a topic or player, I’m going to say what I say and I’m done with it. I’m not going to keep bringing it up. Some of the older players are upset about how much power LeBron has. Michael Jordan didn’t have the kind of power he has, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson — nobody had the kind of power LeBron has. And it comes with resentment. How do you say a guy doesn’t want to compete and he’s been to six straight Finals?
Shannon, is this indicative of what goes on in the community amongst older and younger Black men?
I played in the '90s and early 2000s. It’s a different game — they changed a lot of the rules, they protect the players a lot more. I had to get out of that way of thinking, "Back in my day …" It’s a different era now. If someone said something about me, I wouldn’t have a chance to address them unless I saw them on the beat covering a game. Now, if you say something, a guy can run a diss track, he can go on Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram. He could get his point out without going to a newspaper or TV station. Now, guys aren’t biting their tongue anymore.
I would have preferred LeBron not to become personal. But it bothers Charles that LeBron is a better player than he was. It bothers him that at no point during his career was he thought of as the best player in the league. It bothers him that LeBron has won championships. See, he can say that LeBron is complaining [about the Cavs needing more playmakers], but he went and joined Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon [in 1997] trying to win a championship. He didn’t have any problems with that!
The way things are happening now, teams are not only putting teams together, players are doing that because they play AAU ball. These guys are closer than the older guys because they grew up playing against each other. Now, I’m not waiting for a team to trade me. When I become a free agent, I’m going to go and play with my buddy.
Lastly, I was entered into the game by OutKast, I found success of my own, but I have found the greatest success of my career after joining with a guy named El-P from Brooklyn. We are in a group called Run the Jewels.
Who are you listening to? Who was on your pre-game playlist?
You know what, Killer? People used to ask me that all the time about what I listened to before I got ready for a game. I was too hyper. I can’t listen to upbeat stuff because I’ll almost pass out. So, I had to slow it down. I had to listen to Lenny Williams, Meshell Ndegeocello.
Hold on now!
[Laughs]. Jill Scott. I needed something to slow me down. I would get so hyped.
Thank you so much for the conversation.
I appreciate your time.
Love and respect.
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