The adage patience is a virtue is extremely applicable to the state of Ohio. With years of inconsistencies and tragedies in sports, Ohio was a city in dire need of a miracle. Enter the year of 2014. It started with the colorful Johnny Manziel slipping into the hands of the Cleveland Browns in this year’s NFL Draft. Then, one letter from LeBron James injected hope and sheer madness into the city, after the King promised his return to “The Land.” Now Ohio is once again blissfully rejoicing after years of melancholy.
On the music front, Ohio has actually fared pretty well. They can smile at Kid Cudi‘s resume, which is pretty extensive, especially after he segued into acting. In addition, acts like King Chip and MGK have had moderate success. Now the city of Massillon can proudly say that one of their very own is living a storybook ending: Stalley.
After years of empty promises regarding his debut album, the doors have finally opened for Stalley. Today, Stalley’s long awaited dream becomes a reality as his album — aptly titled Ohio — is in stores. With two infectious singles called “Always Into Something” and “One More Shot,” Stalley is finally tapping into his potential and is bursting into an immediate presence in hip-hop.
The former hoops star sat down with us and spoke about Ohio’s resurgence in sports, his debut album, balling against LeBron James, his new-look Cavaliers, and his favorite basketball sneakers of all time.
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We have to congratulate you and the city of Cleveland. You guys have LeBron back. You guys brought in Kevin Love and some nice reserves. What are you expectations going into this this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Stalley: Man, you know, when you have the best player on the planet, mixed in with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and the new guys, I mean you know, we’re hoping for a championship. Nothing less. You know, I just liked those guys, even before LeBron returned. Now we can go to the playoffs and win championships. We can’t expect nothing less but championship-caliber seasons. That’s the world that we need to get to. I feel like we have all the pieces, especially with Kevin Love.
Do you think the Cavaliers could take the Eastern Conference away easily from the Chicago Bulls?
Stalley: Ah, come on man, without a question! I don’t know why everybody is hyping Chicago up. Are we seeing something different? I mean, they had the same team before. They weren’t getting out the first or second round before. I just don’t understand why? Because they got Pau Gasol? Pau Gasol is just as good as Carlos Boozer.
He is a better passer.
Stalley: Hmm. I’ll give him that. But he’s softer and Boozer was already soft. That’s just my opinion though. (Laughs) But, shoutout my man Taj Gibson. You know Taj is one of my real good friends. That’s like a brother to me, for real. So I’m always rooting for them. But, I just don’t see nothing crazy where’s it’s like “Oh, we gotta watch out for the Bulls.”
Ohio is looking pretty good, man. The future is looking great. You guys have Johnny Manziel. You have the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers. Talk about the outlook for Cleveland in contrast to a year ago.
Stalley: Ah man, it’s beautiful. Like you said, we got LeBron back. We got Johnny Manziel and the Browns are looking sharp, even with [Brian] Hoyer playing quarterback right now. They’re looking really good. We still have a few pieces and we’re still a young team and inexperienced with a new coach as far as the Browns go. But it’s coming together. Our defense is looking good. We just gotta finish out these games. You know what I mean? We lost, I think, two games. Those two games we lost by like a combined three points. We lost to Pittsburgh by a point and we lost to the Ravens by two points. So, if you think about it, we lost two games by a field goal. And then, we won against the Saints by a field goal. So it’s just about being young and learning how to close out these games and hold on to the lead when we have them.
But, besides that, I’m really excited about the Browns. And the Cavs, they’re ready to go right now. As long as everybody stays healthy, I definitely feel like we can win the East and possibly even a championship. The West is tough. The Spurs are still around. You could never count them out, especially with Gregg Pop.
You’re definitely making noise right now musically. You have the “Always Into Something” single with Ty Dolla $ign and you also have the “One More Shot” track out with August Alsina and Rick Ross. How does it feel knowing that your debut album is finally here?
Stalley: Man, it’s beautiful. It feels great for real. It’s a blessing. If you wanna equate it to sports, it’s like you’ve been playing all your life and waiting all your life to get to that moment to get drafted, or to get to that championship, and win that championship. That’s what it feels like. It feels like I’m on my way to winning a championship. This is a big victory for me and for Ohio. This is for my city Massillon, Ohio, where we never had anyone do what I’m doing right now on any scale. Whether it’s entertainment, sports, or whatever, we never had someone like myself. So I’m really the first of the first. It’s just a blessing. That’s just one of the reasons why I felt it was necessary to name my debut album Ohio because we’re really here now. You know what I mean? We’re known for sports. We’re known for the Browns, the Cavs, the Bengals, Ohio State, and whatever. But, we haven’t been known for music, especially hip-hop in a long time. So we’re here.
If you could compare yourself to any NBA player right now, who would you compare yourself to and why?
Stalley: Ah man! I would say I’m probably like a Tim Duncan.
I feel like I’m definitely very underrated and overlooked. Sometimes people don’t give Tim Duncan his props because he doesn’t really carry that flash. You know what I’m saying? He just gets the job done. I feel like that’s what I do. I feel like whenever I’m on a track, or when I make music or put out projects, it’s very consistent, very great, well-thought out, and constantly filled with head nods for those who enjoy. But, I think that sometimes you listen for flash. People sometimes want you to stick out your tongue or grab your nuts, or whatever the case may be. But I’m just here because I love it. I love the game. I love what I do. I do it consistently, I do it at a high level, and I do it with grace.
You are a former hooper. How would you describe your game overall dating back to playing days?
Stalley: Man, people always compared me to Rip Hamilton. A lot of people compared me to Richard Hamilton. I was someone who was a shooter, came off screens, and moved without the ball. I was also high energy-ed and I slashed to the basket.
We need you to clarify this story for us. We always heard about you and LeBron in the same vein back in high school going head-to-head. Was that true?
Stalley: You know my high school played his high school. People take things out of context. It wasn’t like me and him matching up like Jordan versus Bird. It wasn’t nothing like that. It was just my school always played his high school. It just so happened that we were in high school at the same time and we played against each other. He was on the court. I was on the court. But it wasn’t nothing crazy. He was definitely a [great] player. They got the victory. They killed us. He did his thing. That all it was to it. A lot of people I think was taking it the wrong way like it was a big showdown.
I played with a lot of great players in high school other than LeBron. I played against Tony Stockman when I was in high school. I played against J.J. Sullinger, who’s Jared Sullinger‘s big brother. I played against guys like that. But, you know, it was just always my high school played their high school, and it was always good competitive games. We had good programs at our schools. It was fun going through high school and getting to see that talent. To be able to see LeBron as a freshman and a sophomore, to witnessing him now live on the court, it’s just like “Wow.”
If you had to pick your top three basketball sneakers of all time, which three would you choose and why?
Stalley: Oooohweeeee! I can’t remember the name. They’re actually about to come back out though. The David Robinsons. Remember they had the pump on the side? They’re about to come out. They called them the “White Man Can’t Jump.” I’d also have to go with the Jordan IIIs. Then, I’d probably say the Air Uptempos. The Chris Webber joints.
That’s a solid three right there. (Laughs)
Stalley: Yeahhh! Come on baby! (Laughs)
What are your top three favorite sports movies of all time?
Stalley: Ooh, Ooh. Lemme see. That’s a good question. This is the first time this has ever been asked. So give me a second and let me think. (Laughs) Let me think. I like Hoosiers a lot. That was one of those movies that brought back memories for when I was in high school. When we traveled, the coach would play that on the way to the games sometimes or on the way back or whatever. Hoosiers is definitely one. Man, I liked Blue Chips. Then, you know, He Got Game. That was such a classic.
If you can compare Maybach Music Group to any sports team, which sports team would you guys be and why?
Stalley: Man, what are we? Like the ’98 Bulls.
You’re taking it there? Why the ’98 Bulls?
Stalley: (Laughs) Man, we’re action-packed. We’ve been winning consistently for a few years now. We got the pieces. From [Rick] Ross, to myself, to Meek [Mill], to Wale, to Rockie [Fresh], to [Fat] Trel, to Omarion. We stacked. That’s like the Bulls. We’re like eight to nine deep. You know what I’m saying? We got everybody. We got the Kukocs, the Dennis Rodmans, like come on man! (Laughs)
Follow Carl on Twitter at @TheRealCL24