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Basketball's Best Kept Secret: Revealed

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While cruising Amazon one day, I found something curious: a 1994 hip-hop album from Immortal Records called Basketball's Best-Kept Secret featuring the flows of ten of the day's brightest NBA stars. Needless to say, this seemed like a good way to spend four dollars.

I was wrong, though. Buying this record was an outstanding way to spend four dollars. In the Pantheon of Hilariously Bad Athlete Rap, it's the missing link between "The Super Bowl Shuffle" and Kobe Bryant's abysmal "Thug Poet." Is there anything musically redeeming about it? Not at all. Is it worth listening to if you're an NBA fan? Absolutely.

The record is so riveting that I combed through it track-by-track in an attempt to find out what basketball's best-kept secret really is.

Track 02: Dana Barros "“ "Check It"

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Barros levels with the listener up front: "I gots many, many things on my mind." These things include: staying strapped, his 850 BMW, and his need to "slam like Onyx, puffing on chronic." The track actually sounds a little like Onyx, so half of that rhyme's appropriate. It's also great to visualize NBA commissioner David Stern hearing the "puffing on chronic" line and then wondering how many times he could possibly drug test Barros the next year.

Does it reference jump shots? No, but there is a nice shout-out to Celtics forward Reggie Lewis, who had died of a heart defect the previous year.

Sample Dana Barros:

Track 03: Malik Sealy "“ "Lost in the Sauce"

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The late Sealy turns in one of the better tracks here. DJ Alamo of Brand Nubian crafts a beat that allows Sealy to rhyme about his upbringing and the importance of being a decent human being over a simple wah-guitar and hi-hat. Big Malik "conquered the concrete with my sweet inside-outside game" and will "dunk it on you from the dotted"¦if you act like you want it, you got it."

Does it reference jump shots? As the chorus tells us, "Life's just one big jumpshot." That's the kind of profound revelation you're not going to find in your fancy college philosophy classes.

Sample Malik Sealy:

Track 04: Shaquille O'Neal "“ "Mic Check 1-2"

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Shaq has one platinum and two gold records to his credit. Such credentials might lead one to believe he can rap. "Mic Check 1-2" clears up that misconception in its first 30 seconds. Teaming with Brooklyn's Ill Al Skratch, Shaq turns in what sounds like a deeper-voiced version of the worst song Ol' Dirty Bastard ever recorded. O'Neal manages to cleverly work in a great bit of product placement as part of his Reebok endorsement, though, when he claims that he can "inflate rhymes with his InstaPump."

Does it reference jump shots? Sadly, no. Most of the lyrics are just Shaq or Ill yelling "Mic Check 1-2."

Sample Shaquille O'Neal:

Track 06: Cedric Ceballos "“ "Flow On"

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You may remember Ceballos for his blindfolded jam to win the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. One listen to this song, though, and you will always think of him as a poor man's Nate Dogg. Or Nate Dogg with a cold. Here on "Flow On," Ceballos even enlists frequent Nate Dogg collaborator Warren G. to handle production duties and back up his rhymes. The result is what you'd expect: a bland G-funk beat with female backing vocals encouraging Ceballos to "flow on" while he lets us know how smooth he is while eating chicken wings.

Ceballos earns extra points by constantly referring to himself by his jersey number, 23, as if basketball fans immediately think "Ceballos" when hearing that number. Take that, Michael Jordan!

Does it reference jump shots? Yep. "I gets high up off my jumpers and my dunks, you see." Oh, how we see, Cedric.

Sample Cedric Ceballos:

Track 07: Brian Shaw "“ "Anything Can Happen"

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Journeyman combo guard Shaw turns in a contemplative track about his family's deaths the previous year. Interestingly, though, Ant Banks' G-funk production doesn't accentuate basketball: it likens life to a game of pool. Shaw's big name-checks on the track are his niece and his girlfriend, who's "soon to be my future wife." In other words, he's nowhere near boastful enough and way too likable to appear on this record. Shaw's slow flow is nothing to crow about, but anything better than "absolutely horrid" sounds pretty good in this context.

Does it reference jump shots? No, but Shaw's always "grabbin' a ball and dunkin' it."

Sample Brian Shaw:

Track 08: Chris Mills "“ "Sumptin' to Groove To"

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"Here's a little sumptin' to nod your head to, a funky little groove that you can move to." I guess Mills' chorus is somewhat accurate; I was shaking my head "no" while moving to turn off my stereo. That counts, right? His clumsy flow isn't as honest elsewhere, though. Mills claims to be a "big ballplayer, a nice rhymesayer, and as you all know I'm fly-girl layer." I haven't checked with any fly girls, but I know that at least two of those three statements are patently false.

Words can't do justice to this track's rottenness. It's the aural equivalent of simultaneously seeing a train crash, being kicked in the stomach by a mule, and having the flu.

Does it reference jump shots? "I'm up in the gym"¦I play every day"¦I work real hard so I got a cool J"¦a jump shot"¦" Appreciate the clarification.

Sample Chris Mills:

Track 10: Jason Kidd "“ "What the Kidd Didd"

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No, that's not a typo. That's really the song's clever title. Surprisingly, the track itself manages to build on that hilarity. Starting the basic premise of letting us know what the Kidd didd, the point guard delivers rhymes in pretty much the same flat voice he uses to answer postgame questions. Kidd didn't even write his own subpar rhymes. The Digital Underground's Money B. penned them and saved the most amusing rap for his own cameo: "Steady flossin' with cash earned from hittin' (Jamal) Mashburn."

So what did the Kidd do(o)? "Ain't nothing going on but cash and b-ballin'." The boasting is especially enjoyable since those sweet passes to Mashburn led Kidd's Dallas Mavericks to a stellar 13-69 record the previous season.

Does it reference jump shots? Sadly, no, but Kidd clears up the situation with the ladies. He's "got more chicks than Kentucky Fried."

Sample Jason Kidd:

Track 11: J.R. Rider "“ "Funk in the Trunk"

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This track alone is worth the price of admission. Musically, it's nothing much, basically just a little piano loop over Rider's stilted flow. However, it takes the listener inside the mind of one of basketball's most notorious madmen. The 1994 dunk champion was known for his erratic off-court behavior, including drug suspensions, a kidnapping charge, and throwing a milkshake at a drive-thru worker.

Who could have seen these behavioral problems coming? It's not like Rider rapped about his motto for life: "keep one in the chamber." Well, he only did it once, anyway. This track would doubtlessly be more terrifying if Rider's delivery could remain intelligible for more than a few words at a time. "I'm going to protect"¦my defense's a killa," doesn't sound like it's about basketball, especially when it's preceded by lines that seem to be about cutting people open.

Does it reference jump shots? There's no time; Rider spends most of the last minute giving shout-outs to everyone he's ever met.

Sample J.R. Rider:

Track 13: Dennis Scott "“ "All Night Party"

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Dennis Scott likes to party. All night. Forget whatever you thought you knew about the sharp-shooting small forward who helped the Orlando Magic make the NBA Finals. The man known as 3-D only wants to party. Wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, Chuck E. Cheese pizza bashes"¦it doesn't matter what kind of party. D. Scott will show up and bring the funk. He doesn't even care if there are women there, "all I wanna know is where the party at." Scott would prefer if the party goes "on and on and on and on until the break of dawn," but he's not picky. If there's a party over there, he'll rock it.

Does it reference jump shots? Scott's way too busy partying to worry about hoops.

Sample Dennis Scott:

Track 14: Gary Payton "“ "Livin' Legal and Large"

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The future Hall of Fame point guard's track isn't exactly good, but it's closer than anything else on this record. Payton acquits himself fairly well flowing over a bouncy West Coast funk beat. It turns out that the Glove's lifestyle is not just large; it's also legal. The rhymes are forced and feel even weaker when you find out that Payton didn't write them himself, despite his boast that "I can make my lyrics look better than a slam dunk." Apparently he threw home that jam on some other record.

Does it reference jump shots? Oh yeah. "Hit a three"¦talk a little junk" and then later "Who is that? G.P. is what they say as I hit my J in a vicious kind of way"¦" [Payton-as-Lego image courtesy of Supersonicsoul.com.]

Sample Gary Payton:

Conclusion: So what is the album's titular best-kept secret? After listening to the whole record several times, I can only draw three firm conclusions, none of which seem like particularly well-kept secrets:

1) Basketball players have very high opinions of themselves.
2) Despite this confidence, they can't rap.
3) You should never feel truly safe if you're in the same time zone as J.R. Rider.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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entertainment
5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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