Here's a Rare Video of Prince Playing Basketball: Collaborator Breaks Down His Trash-Talkin' Game

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File
Prince performs during the 46th Annual Grammy Awards in a Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2004. 

On what would have been Prince's 58th birthday, onetime Paisley Park regular David Schwartz explores a forgotten side of his genius.

Around the same time Prince began work on Purple Rain, American psychologist Howard Gardner released a book that changed the way we look at genius. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences broke up the concept of extraordinary intelligence into eight distinct areas. We knew the chess masters always had a different sort of gift from those with perfect pitch, but this 1983 book divided geniuses into distinct groups the non-geniuses could understand. There’s a slot for musical geniuses, focused on sensitivity to rhythm and harmony, for which Prince is basically the poster child. But there’s another one: Bodily-Kinesthetic, common in both musicians and athletes since it demands otherworldly control over one’s body.

Chappelle’s Show introduced most of the world to Prince’s basketball acumen, and subsequent digging into Prince’s backstory verified that, yes, he was that good. In honor of his birthday, we’re excited to unearth a forgotten gem, which just might be the only video out there of Prince balling… Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories notwithstanding.

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The rare moment comes at the tail end of a rare music video -- one Prince shot in 2000 at Paisley Park with a couple of his then-regular collaborators: keyboardist Kip Blackshire and David “DVS” Schwartz, a hungry, up-and-coming songwriter-rapper-visual artist who spent time living out of his car and showering at a local gym for the chance to create art full-time in the days before social media. Of the deep cuts, this is one of the deepest. “The Daisy Chain” -- both its video and the album it appeared on -- were at first only available to Prince’s NPG Music Club, an exclusive fan club he pioneered in the Internet's younger days. Blackshire produced and Schwartz wrote the music. Both starred alongside the Purple One in the video, which, thanks to Schwartz, is no longer lost to history.

Now an art director at a digital creative agency in L.A., Schwartz’s résumé includes websites for Zoolander 2 and The Office and, back in his Atlanta days, album artwork for 2 Chainz (then Tity Boi), Paris Hilton and a slew of Gucci Mane covers. His career is rooted in the confidence Prince instilled in him a decade and a half ago; he took us back to his days spent in the presence of all sides of his genius.

So how did you come to play basketball with Prince? 

We would be at Paisley recording songs. I’d be watching them rehearse, or we’d be rehearsing for the tour. He had a basketball court right in the middle of Paisley next to the studio. Kip and I would just start playing. You kind of have to pass through the basketball court to get to the other rooms. He used it as a rehearsal space for dancers sometimes; it had mirrors on the wall. I didn’t really know he played -- this was before the whole Dave Chappelle thing. He just came through one day and just started picking up games with Kip and I. We used to play 21 almost every other day. We must have played over 100 games during that year or two out there. It became a thing with us three all the time. It was fun. He was good.

So the basketball was a way of burning off energy in between music? 

We’d go out there knowing we were probably gonna play. If we were gonna record, basketball was always implied. We always had extra gym clothes in the car. We would take a break after a few hours of recording and rehearsing and play for like an hour, then go back to work.

Tell me about his game. 

He was a trash talker. He would try to make you miss every time he would shoot. Obviously he wasn’t tall enough to swat you, so he would say weird things, make a weird noise, or he would run around you in a circle -- anything he could to distract you. It worked for a while; then I got used to it and ignored it.

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So I guess he was more of a shot specialist, a three-point guy, and not so much in the paint? 

Actually he was, though -- because he was so quick, he could shake you with a crossover, fake you out. He was good with layups, like a small point guard would be. He was pretty good in the paint, actually.

We played a couple games of two-on-two and three-on-three every now and then, with the other band members. I don’t think we ever ran a full court, because it was only a half-court.

How did the video come together that day? 

We shot this video for “The Daisy Chain,” and it was spontaneous. We didn’t even know we were gonna shoot a video up until the day of. … Kip and I were rooming together at that point, and he picked up the phone. [Prince] said, “We’re gonna shoot a video today, you want to come out?” We just drove out there not knowing if it was going to be some big film crew or just him and the Paisley employees making it happen. It turned out to be a really small project, with just Prince and three or four other people. When we got there, he already had a list of ideas we could do in the video. It was like he was directing. We just shot a bunch of stuff, and sometimes it was even Prince holding the camera.

Did you guys play any other sports?

We played Ping-Pong, and he kicked my ass. I was never a big Ping-Pong player, but he was like a ninja. I think we played two games; he beat me 11-0, 13-0, or whatever you play to. It was over before I could blink my eye. He said, “All right I’ll give you one more chance.” We played a third game, and I think I might’ve gotten one point. He said, “Can we get some real competition over here?” because there were a few other people in the room.

How much music did Prince release with you on it? 

I was on two albums -- on “The Daisy Chain” on the Slaughterhouse album; it’s actually on Tidal right now. And then another album called The Chocolate Invasion, there’s a song called “High” on there and I’m doing a chorus, chant-kinda breakdown on there. Those two songs were supposed to be on an album called High that he was putting out in 2000, but once he finished the album, he decided not to release it. This was big for me, because it would have been my most high-profile design job at the time and for a long time after that. He asked me to design the CD packaging for High because I came up with a transparent idea for my CD and he really liked it. He already had the cover designed, but he wanted me to do something really trippy with it. I was crushed it didn’t come out. … But at least he put those songs on two other albums later on. I didn’t even know they were released [on Tidal] until recently. 

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Do you think any more rarities will be released on Tidal?

No, I think he cut one deal and just gave them a certain selected amount of records, which he chose personally. I don’t know the details. I’m just guessing. 

What kind of rap were you into around this time? 

At that time, I liked the Beastie Boys, Mos Def and Common -- I liked Common a lot. I got to meet him through Prince a few times and it was really cool. 

Did you get to meet any other famous musicians this way? 

We did a show at Paisley Park -- a weeklong celebration -- where he invited Alicia Keys, Common, Erykah Badu and The Time to perform. … Alicia Keys hadn’t been out yet. Clive Davis gave Prince a couple songs to listen to, and I wound up hearing them like, “Wow, that girl’s gonna be big.” I didn’t know anything about her. Then a month or however long later, she just took off.

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What kind of hip-hop was Prince into? 

He liked Common, Q-Tip, Doug E. Fresh. He had Eve featured on a song once. He was into Public Enemy -- I think him and Chuck D were friends. Anything with a purpose politically -- he wanted the world to be a better place.

How aware do you think people were of this side of Prince?

I think people that were aware of it were aware, but I think the masses didn’t know how involved with fundraising concerts -- helping people get their messages out -- or supporting causes privately he was. It’s starting to come out now. A lot of people are learning he was more than just somebody trying to be famous or just weird.

He did it to promote change or to make people go, “Why is he doing that? Is he straight? Is he gay?” He just wanted to play the world like an instrument. It was a game. And he was always Prince. He never turned it off; even when we were playing basketball, he had a certain regal-ness to him.

--All photos courtesy of David Schwartz