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TECHNOLOGY

Exclusive: Jamal Crawford’s BlackBerry Eulogy

“BlackBerry seemed so much more sophisticated, so I got one and loved the keyboard. I was hooked after that,” the iconic hooper tells Boardroom. “Then, as time went by, it became a classic.”

There were more than a few who ended up feeling some mixture of sadness or nostalgia when Tuesday came along and marked the symbolic death of the BlackBerry.

Though users will still be able to run their devices over Android software, BlackBerry devices no longer run on the company’s operating systems, ending an era that saw Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM) not only create one of the most important technological innovations of the 21st century but a 1-of-1 cultural touchstone.

Few were hit harder by this news than NBA iconoclast and #NBAHooperVision co-host Jamal Crawford.

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The 41-year-old played 20 seasons in the NBA, winning the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award three times. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2000 draft out of Michigan, he came to the Chicago Bulls in a draft night trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And as the Seattle native told Boardroom, the Seattle native started his career with a two-way pager.

That’s how OG this man is.

“My friends in New York when I went to the Knicks was laughing at me when I went there with it,” Crawford said of the six-player blockbuster trade that sent him from Chicago to New York prior to the 2004-05 NBA season. “BlackBerry seemed so much more sophisticated, so I got one and loved the keyboard. I was hooked after that.”

Before the first iPhone rolled out in 2007, the BlackBerry had its time as the king of smart mobile devices as “CrackBerry” emerged as a go-to-term to describe how addicted people got to their device with the patented keyboard and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) text groups.

It became a status symbol on Wall Street, the US government — Barack Obama was famously unexcited about giving his up when he became president — fashion, and (of course) the NBA. It went from fewer than two million global users when Crawford first joined Team BlackBerry to a peak of 80 million in 2012.

“A lot of the league had it when it first dropped,” Crawford said. “At its peak, BlackBerry was the thing to have for everyone. “BBM was the most-used [messenger] in the league. You could see if someone read your message but was ignoring you.”

BlackBerry still dominated the NBA as the aughts moved to the 2010s. Drake and LeBron James used to regularly communicate through BBM, and Crawford used it as his go-to form of communication as he won the 2010 Sixth Man award with the Atlanta Hawks and the 2014 and 2016 awards with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“But as the years went by,” JCrossover said, “everyone mostly made the move to iPhone.”

Over time, Crawford became well known not only as a walking, breathing bucket on the court, but as one of the NBA family’s last remaining BlackBerry holdouts. Players like Derrick Rose and Tony Snell, league insider Marc Stein, and Toronto Raptors front office boss Masai Ujiri joined him in a fraternity of sorts who insisted on staying true to the brand.

“I know for a fact that people laughed at me when I would pull out my BlackBerry,” Crawford said. “They would say, ‘they still make those?’ or, ‘I remember I loved that phone 10 years ago.'”

“It’s still got the keyboard,” Crawford revealed to the NBA on TNT crew led by Candace Parker and Shaquille O’Neal back in March of 2021. “It shows my loyalty. With my teammates, I couldn’t be on the group text, so they just sent me the stuff on the side.”

After dropping and breaking his BlackBerry last year, however, Crawford reluctantly started dabbling in the iPhone — but his heart will always be with BlackBerry and its iconic keyboard and BBM.

Even if the world is trying to take it away from him.

“The legacy of Blackberry will always be a phone that was ahead of its time for a while,” Crawford said. “Then, as time went by, it became a classic.” 

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