It’s not easy to be unimpressed by Common. Over a sterling 30+ year career, the 51-year-old multi-hyphenate star has released classic albums, won an Oscar, and developed a reputable acting career that includes the quietest gunfight in John Wick history. He’s also been a frequent fixture in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, winning the MVP trophy in 2020. On the latest episode of Men’s Health’s The Rewind, the Chicago-bred MC, who graced the cover of the September 2023 issue, reflects on Michael Jordan humbling him.
“I just played in the  celebrity game and hit the last free throws to seal the game. In this picture, when I greeted him, he told me to stick to rapping,” Common remembers. “He grounded me in this picture, for sure.”
Maybe Jordan’s opinion changed a few months later when Common starred in the film Just Wright as Scott McKnight, an NBA player who returns from injury to help lead the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals. It probably didn’t. That moment of unwarranted criticism wasn’t the first time Jordan and Common met. The rapper was a ballboy for the Chicago Bulls as a kid, and his Airness attended one of his shows. Common being able to laugh off the slight is either a sign of maturity or a level of sorrow repression only achieved by skilled actors.
One person who has approved of Common’s talents, though, is Kanye West, a man he’s collaborated with on some of the best music in his career. He’s watched West take beats Common has rejected and turn them into works of art, such as West’s song “Heard Em Say” from his Grammy-winning album Late Registration. According to Common, not even a long night out partying could slow West’s genius as long as he can got some sleep first.
“He went to take a nap, and when he woke up, he put on this record. He chopped it up and created the beat for this song called ‘The Corner,’ which became one of my dopest songs,” he remembers. “How he woke up out of his slumber and went right to it, and created one of the best songs I’ve ever been a part of, was amazing.”
Common may never get Michael Jordan’s respect on the hardwood, but he’s halfway to an EGOT; he’s on one of the biggest covers celebrating Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary and got the best out of Kanye West before he became a public menace. He’s doing pretty OK in life.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.