The World Needs More Role Players

Not everyone can be Jay-Z or Jordan, let alone Kanye or Pippen. But there is a place for Horace Grant and Memphis Bleek.

Memphis Bleek is the smartest man in music.

While the line of individuals that are mad at Jay-Z for not making them rich continues to grow — Foxy Brown, Beanie Sigel, State Property, even his mentor Jaz-O — Memphis Bleek continues to be Jigga’s right-hand man, acting as his hype man on stage and continuing to be a close member of his clique.

Long ago anointed as the heir to the throne, Bleek’s solo career has not had the success or impact that he or Jay expected, but Bleek has played his position, known his role and, unlike the others, continues to have a job. Memphis Bleek realizes that the world needs role players.

Everyone wants to be star and it’s never been easier to try to make yourself one. Before the Internet, a person needed to go to Hollywood to be seen on camera or needed a record deal to cut an album or a literary agent to get a book published. Now that all of those are readily available, it seems everyone has an album or a YouTube show or a book to sell. And I’m just as guilty, even explaining to people how to do it. We all want to be stars even if we don’t have star quality. Bleek has realized this. The rest of us have not.

In short, we’re all Horace Grant.

Horace Grant was a starting player on the Chicago Bulls’ first threepeat from 1991 — ‘93. He played alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but was not happy with being cast as a supporting member of the group. (At one point, they were dubbed the “Jordanaires.”) Grant felt that his contribution to the team’s success was minimized and Jordan’s was overstated. As a result, the two often did not get along.

When Jordan retired the first time in October, 1993, Grant became an All-Star for the only time in his career. The following season, he left the Bulls to join the Orlando Magic and was carried off the court by teammates when the Magic defeated the Bulls in the playoffs. When asked what Chicago needed to reclaim their spot atop the Eastern Conference, Jordan said, “We’re a Horace Grant away.”

Stars are nothing without their supporting players and Jordan knew that. That’s why he lobbied for the Bulls to acquire Dennis Rodman that offseason. Supporting pieces make the difference on championship teams. In 1993, it was John Paxson, not Jordan that hit the winning three-pointer for the Bulls. Three years later, it was Steve Kerr. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are terrific, but it was Mike Miller that came up huge in the 2013 NBA Finals to help the Heat win. Collections of stars rarely win (see the 1998 — ‘99 Houston Rockets, the 2003 — ‘04 Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2012 — ‘13 Lakers for examples).

While the world focuses on stars, history has proven that every Michael Jordan needs a Horace Grant and every Jay-Z needs a Memphis Bleek.

Christopher Pierznik is the author of nine books, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle. In addition to his own site, his work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.