He amassed 14,463 points, 7,987 assists, and 4,084 rebounds over 1,094 games; and yet somehow Rod Strickland’s most enduring legacy might have been penned by someone else.
Max mostly, undivided then slide in sickening
Guaranteed made 'em jump like Rod Strickland.
It’s Raekwon’s final two words on the track “Triumph,” the lead single and most recognizable track from their 1997 album Wu-Tang Forever. Beginning with the syncopated flows of Inspectah Deck’s opening bars, the posse cut sees nine members of the Clan take turns over a staggering RZA production. All in all, its one of Wu-Tang’s most popular anthems and thanks to Raekwon’s kicker, Rod Strickland, like Wu-Tang, is forever.
Let’s get this out of the way now; if you can remember watching Strickland play, or what it’s like to hear a Wu-Tang song on the radio, you’re probably an Old like me. You can also probably remember a time when getting name-dropped in a rap song was a big f-ing deal. It seems like every two-bit song with a couple million plays on YouTube has a throw away line about Steph Curry, but back then, a sports reference wasn’t just a hacky way to talk about how cold your wrist game is, or whatever -- it meant that you mattered.
Back then, before the internet fragmented everything, we all essentially listened to the same records, and for fans of the genre like myself, rap lyrics served as a de facto oral history; an ever-compounding collection of lyrics that signified what was culturally important. From Wallabees to Sidekicks, the rap co-sign had the power to elevate the innocuous into legend, instilling it with a layer of authenticity. After being name-checked by a rapper, you weren’t just cool, you were legit, and for athletes it was no different.
Much like the throwback jerseys of the early 2000s, the deep-cut sports reference was a clever way for a rapper to flex their sports knowledge, and for the relatively unheralded, this meant a level of credibility that many could never achieve, no matter how conventionally popular they might be. For the initiated, after “Triumph,” Rod Strickland was no longer measured by his statistical output. Thanks to Raekwon, he was real, and that was all that mattered.
While Strickland’s contributions to the game will likely be forgotten, his place in rap music lore will forever be cemented. Ironically enough however, the line that made him famous came as somewhat of an afterthought, as Raekwon told Slam Magazine’s Peter Walsh earlier this year.
“I wasn’t a big Rod Strickland fan back in the day,” admits Chef. “I knew about him but that rhyme came out because it needed to come out. It was a metaphor thing, but it was also a vibe I was in. It made sense in the rhyme at that time. The kid could play ball and he was getting busy and I just said his name. It just worked.”
If that’s not #SoWizards, I don’t know what is.