Rembert Explains the ’80s: The 1987 Lakers’ “Just Say No” Video

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our series, Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. The fourth installment was selected by our editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons: “Just Say No” by the L.A. Lakers Rap All-Stars. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s, e-mail us at

Up until yesterday, I considered 1987 an unparalleled year, mainly because of my Pride Rock/Simba-esque arrival on Earth. That was until Mr. Simmons went wildebeest stampede on my Gmail with a video I’m ashamed to say I had never seen. After watching it 10 times in one hour, I now think it’s the only important thing that happened in 1987.

Instructions on how to proceed with this post:

1. Watch the video.
2. Hug a stranger.
3. Watch the video again.
4. Watch “We Are the World“. Compare and contrast.
5. Take a walk.
6. Watch the video again.
7. Read the rest of this article.

The characters (in order of solo appearance):

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wes Matthews, Mike Smrek, Michael Cooper, A.C. Green, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis, Mychal Thompson, Billy Thompson, James Worthy, Adrian Branch, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Pat Riley.

Critique of The LA Rap All-Stars, as a group:

Imagine if the Wu-Tang Clan were abducted from Staten Island and sent to a Southern California boarding school with a strict dress code of the Baby Gap pastel Tropical Skittles persuasion. A month into school, they were put on a serious muscle milk regimen which, oddly enough, caused them to lose 95 percent of their musical talents. World, meet the LA Rap All-Stars.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Realest Lyric: “My skyhook makes the team look good, but there’s a hook we’ve got to shake from the neighborhood.”
Musical Doppelganger: Insane Clown Posse. Either one. It really doesn’t matter.
Looks Like: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Other Notes: Pretty disappointed that Kareem didn’t join his coach and twelve teammates in the making of this gem. I don’t know what it was about dressing up like a flamboyant drug trafficker that didn’t appeal to Sweet Lew. Too bad.

Wes Matthews
Realest Lyric: “Out here on the streets, we all got to get tough. Say no to drugs, call the drugs man’s bluff.”
Musical Doppelganger: Yung Berg
Looks Like: Michael Bivins, New Edition/Bell Biv DeVoe
Other Notes: His verse is three bars. This has never happened in rap history.

Mike Smrek
Realest Lyric: “Call me Smrek, I give my team my best.”
Musical Doppelganger: Rodney Dangerfield
Looks Like: The Terminator
Other Notes: Whoever told Mike Smrek that crossing your arms instantly made you a credible rapper was 100 percent correct, especially when your biceps are the size of my thighs.

Michael Cooper
Realest Lyric: “My name is Michael but they call me Coop. My main hangout is up around the hoop.”
Musical Doppelganger: Aaron Carter
Looks Like: Chris Rock, CB4
Other Notes: Michael Cooper teaches us that an extra-small tank top can make anyone look like Dwight Howard.

A.C. Green
Realest Lyric: “I’m A.C. Green, with the word.”
Musical Doppelganger: Bizarre, D12
Looks Like: Big Bird
Other Notes: In my eyes, this verse is only eclipsed by his book, a definite must-have for any romance-novel fan.

Byron Scott
Realest Lyric: “I’m Byron Scott, with the jump shot. I love the idea of being on top.”
Musical Doppelganger: Kurtis Blow
Looks Like: Lil B
Other Notes: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the pickup line of the ’80s.

Kurt Rambis
Realest Lyric: “I’m Kurt Rambis, they call me Superman.”
Musical Doppelganger: n/a
Looks Like: n/a
Other Notes: n/a

Mychal Thompson and Billy Thompson
Realest Lyric: “We’re the Thompsons but we’re no relation, and we stand together for a drug-free nation.”
Musical Doppelganger: Das EFX
Looks Like: Just two extra-regular-looking black dudes with bright clothes that enjoy speaking in unison.
Other Notes: I respect the fact that they did this in one take, instead of actually trying to clean it up and add some professionalism to it. Professionalism. That’s so ’90s.

James Worthy
Realest Lyric: Voice is in a register too low for my testosterone-lacking eardrums to comprehend.
Musical Doppelganger: Michael McCary (Mr. Deep Voice), Boyz II Men
Looks Like: Michael McCary (Mr. Deep Voice), Boyz II Men
Other Notes: Is James Worthy in Boyz II Men?

Adrian Branch
Realest Lyric: No clue. Completely unintelligible.
Musical Doppelganger: Kermit the Frog meets Pootie Tang meets Al Jarreau
Looks Like: Big Sean
Other Notes: Nope. Not trying to further escalate my new beef with Adrian Branch.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Realest Lyric: “I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m I’m the Magic Man with the Midas Touch”
Musical Doppelganger: Diddy
Looks Like: Fozzie Bear

Pat Riley
Realest Lyric: “Say no to drugs because life is a ball. B-B-B-Ball Ball, B-B-B-Ball Ball”
Musical Doppelganger: A lethal cocktail of 2Pac, Biggie, Rakim, and Dan Aykroyd.
Looks Like: Wealth
Other Notes: He makes “The Most Interesting Man in the World” look like Guy Fieri.

This video wins. I love the ’80s. God Bless Short Shorts and God Bless America.

Previously: Rembert Explains the ’80s: ALF
Rembert Explains the ’80s: Lionel Richie’s “Hello” Video
Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s: Too Close for Comfort’s Very Special Episode

Filed Under: Rembert Tries to Explain the Eighties

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert