Four basketball fans have a chokehold on the internet in the form of the Twitter account @NBABubbleLife similar to how Death Row Records dominated the rap game in the 1990s. The Twitter account has accumulated an astounding 100,000 followers in two weeks of existence for its curated content and clever commentary showing everyday life in the NBA Bubble. There is also a sister account @WNBABubbleLife covering behind the scenes at the WNBA "Wubble."
After remaining anonymous for much of their rapid growth, the creators — Drew Ruiz, Travonne Edwards, Nick DePaula and Wells Phillips — celebrated the reveal of their identities by recreating the iconic Vibe magazine cover photo of Death Row’s boss Suge Knight surrounded by Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
DePaula photoshopped the image together with each member of the group positioned according to their roles in the operation. He'd previously done a project reworking album covers for Edwards and they knew the Death Row cover would have to be done sooner or later. With @NBABubbleLife's quick rise in popularity, aided by a video of JJ Redick shotgunning a beer that got nearly 2 million views, the time was now.
In the photo, Edwards is seated as Knight, the label’s CEO and primary decision-maker.
“The frustrating process for us was taking the picture, the actual poses,” he said in a Zoom call. “Me personally, I don’t really take a lot of pictures. The anonymous thing is kind of me already. But my particular pose was the most difficult because I’m trying to figure out, ok, this cover was shot in like ‘96. How did they get Suge Knight, did they manipulate the photo? Me trying to take it and do it, I took that picture like 17 times. Where I was like no, the last one, that’s it!
“Maybe this is how women like do it with their friends where they like take the picture and keep trying to find the right angle? It ended up working out kind of fun.”
While Knight was notorious for bullying his way through the industry, this group of friends handles their business a bit differently.
“We’re extremely ego-less,” Ruiz said. “It was never, ‘Hey, I’m the founder of NBA Bubble Life. I’m gonna run with this.’ Especially with me, I like to share the sugar.”
With Tupac’s death in 1996 and Snoop Dogg's departure to No Limit, Death Row's reign — which included multi-platinum records like "All Eyez On Me" and "Doggystyle" — came to an end. Just like the NBA and WNBA seasons will eventually conclude when a champion is named and the Bubble is burst.
Plans with what to do regarding the NBA and WNBA Bubble Life accounts when the seasons are over aren't established, but the content will remain as a testament to something positive in what has been a historic year with the coronavirus pandemic and a rise in racial tensions.
NBA games start July 30, so there's plenty more content to come. It's just the beginning.
Welcome to the new Death Row.