LOS ANGELES — Eleven minutes. That’s how long it took Brandon “Stix” Salaam-Bailey to write “Clip City,” the Los Angeles Clippers’ anthem for this season, mere days after an invitation from DJ Dense, one of the team’s in-arena hosts at Staples Center.
Ten days. That’s how long it took Stix—a local rapper, producer, community activist and leader of the Think Watts organization—to get the Clippers and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), wrapped in red tape as it may be, to complete a revitalization project at the University Pathways Public Service Academy and Charles R. Drew Middle School in South LA.
“If you think Watts, you think of electricity,” Stix explains to CloseUp360. “If you think of electricity, that means you have a lightbulb. If you have a lightbulb, that means you have an idea. And if you have an idea, you can change the world.”
In the wake of Nipsey Hussle’s tragic murder this past weekend, the Clippers’ collaboration with Stix comes as a reminder that the uplifting of a community like Watts not only requires more than one person, but also can be led by many, especially with the support of an NBA team.
“It’s very uplifting and it’s really good to show that the Clippers really care about the community they’re a part of by coming back and doing this,” Clippers alum Craig Smith, who attended the event alongside NBA analyst Ryan Hollins, tells CloseUp360.
The concept of refurbishing recreational spaces at Drew Middle School sprang out of Stix’s creativity on behalf of the Clippers. After hearing “Clip City,” the team’s marketing department reached out about licensing the song to use as they pleased. Stix declined that initial request and insisted on an in-person meeting rather than a conference call. His demand: that the Clippers help to transform the school’s gym and field, which hadn’t been updated in 30 years.
Less than two weeks later, the Clippers, in conjunction with LAUSD and American Airlines, had renovated the indoor basketball court, nine-and-a-half outdoor courts, two volleyball courts, two tennis courts, two four square courts, four handball courts, a garden, a walking path and a fresh paint job on the school’s gymnasium.
“We need to clone you,” LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino tells Stix during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the latest unveiling of Clippers Community Courts on the first Tuesday of April.
Stix (center) cuts the ribbon to unveil the latest Clippers Community Courts in Watts as members of the organization—including alums Craig Smith and Ryan Hollins (right)—look on. (LA Clippers)
To celebrate the completion of the project, the Clippers conducted basketball clinics on the outdoor courts for Drew Middle School’s students, with Craig and Ryan offering encouragement—along with a picture-perfect alley-oop connection.
“Any time of giving back to the community, I’m all for it because I was once a Los Angeles kid, just trying to figure my way around life,” Craig says. “And to come back and obviously be a positive influence and inspire the kids, it’s always a great thing to do.”
The contribution comes at a particularly important time for the University Pathways Public Service Academy. “The U,” as it’s called, opened on the campus of Drew Middle School in August 2018, and aims to educate students who can then act as agents of change in the community.
As for the Clippers, this project is the latest in an ongoing partnership with LA’s Department of Recreation and Parks. Since October 2018, the organization has been busy fixing up 350 courts across the city as part of the Clippers Community Courts initiative, which was made possible by a gift from the team, owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.