Ray Lewis delivers Stanford’s pregame locker room speech

By Jeff Eisenberg | The Dagger

In addition to his status as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, Baltimore Ravens veteran Ray Lewis also may be the league's top motivational speaker.

Lewis showed off his ability to coax every ounce of effort from fellow players again on Tuesday evening when he delivered a pregame locker room speech to Stanford's basketball team in advance of its NIT semifinal against UMass. Then Lewis watched from one row behind the Stanford bench as the Cardinal beat the Minutemen 74-64 to advance to their first NIT title game since they won the event in 1991.

The speech from Lewis had Stanford players transfixed in a way that would be difficult for Johnny Dawkins or anyone on his staff to duplicate.

"Wins and losses come a dime a dozen," Lewis said. "But effort? Nobody can judge effort. Because effort is between you and you.

"I'm pissed off for greatness. Because if you ain't pissed off for greatness, that means you're OK with being mediocre."

Stanford's revitalization in the NIT has been a pleasant surprise from a program that was underwhelming in Pac-12 play after a strong nonleague performance this season. Outside shooting has improved, senior big man Josh Owens hasn't faced as many double teams and the stingy defense that was Stanford's trademark in November and December has returned to its previous level.

Aside from Owens, Stanford has a young nucleus consisting of freshman point guard Chasson Randle and a bevy of sophomores who were part of a strong 2010 recruiting class. The Cardinal could take a lot of momentum into the offseason if it beats Minnesota in the title game, which means perhaps Dawkins should invite Lewis back for one more pep talk.

NeNe Lands 'New Normal' Gig on NBC

It's got to be really nice being NeNe Leakes. She has made no bones about the fact that she wants to be a Hollywood star. Well, what NeNe wants; NeNe gets!

The “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star who’s already on the current season of “Glee,” starring as cheer-leading coach Roz Washington, has just landed a big part on the NBC sitcom “The New Normal,” according to reports.

If you’re wondering what it’s about, the comedy centers around a mixed family of a gay couple and a woman who’s going to give birth to their child. Leaks will play the recurring role of Rocky, the girlfriend of Darrell Miller, an attorney for the Collective . Leakes was given the part by "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy, being that he’s also a co-creator of “The New Normal.”

Though NeNe has limited acting experience, but the bottom line is that she is a “star” already. In other words, millions of people know who she is. In Hollywood – and in business – being a brand like Leakes is more appealing and quite frankly trumps talent. Really??? I guess so.

Reality Star + No talent=Star Power (Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Jersey Shore Cast....)

Reality Star & Actress Tammy Roman Suffers Heart Attack

Life got scary and very real for "Basketball Wives" star Tami Roman on Monday when the 41-year-old suffered a mild heart attack. According to her publicist, Roman was admitted to Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that evening "for a medical emergency" immediately after an online chat she did with VH1 and her fans, during which she revealed she wasn't feeling well.

On Tuesday, Roman thanked her fans for their well-wishes. "Never thought I'd have a mild heart attack at 41," she tweeted. "God has a way of bringing things into perspective. Finally going home 2my kids-heart meds and all."

Roman who is known for her quick witt and fierce temper on "Basketball Wives" — also revealed she would be taking some time off Twitter in an effort to de-stress as part of her recovery. "I appreciate ALL the positive energy & the negative 1's-get a life," she added. "I sure appreciate mine."

Roman, who is divorced from NBA all-star Kenny Anderson has two daughters. Roman also has a movie soon to be released called Life, Love, Soul.

COMING SOON: The Samaritan

After twenty-five years in prison, Foley (Samuel Jackson) is finished with the grifter's life. When he meets an elusive young woman named Iris, the possibility of a new start looks real. But his past is proving to be a stubborn companion: Ethan, the son of his former partner, has an ingenious plan and he wants Foley in. The harder Foley tries to escape his past, the tighter he is ensnared in Ethan’s web of secrets, until it becomes all too clear to Foley that some wrongs can never be made right.

The Samaritan refers to a type of grift that Jackson runs, where the victim of the con thinks they are doing a favor for the con men.

Jackson can certainly afford to take a few risks and attempt to branch out. Not only is he an Oscar nominee and one of Hollywood’s most respected and prolific actors, but the Guinness Book of World Records recently named him the highest-earning actor ever.

The film’s other stars are relative unknowns in the US, with Luke Kirby (who has several starring roles in Canada) and Ruth Negga (a UK actress from the popular series Misfits). But Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson rounds out the cast.

The Samaritan will be released in theaters on May 4, 2012.

Melanie Fiona & J. Cole on Jay Leno

Out promoting her sophomore album "MF Life", Melanie Fiona and label mate J. Cole performed 'This Time' (track 1) on Jay Leno last night.
They rocked it!

New Music: 'Body Wine' by Ashton Kent

Be on the lookout for Ashton Kent as he delivers his "love" for the music on every track. A Georgia native, Ashton Kent is a ladies man who is dedicated to making music that is soulful and soothing.

Take a listen:

Coming Soon: Usher in Hands of Stone

Though he’s definitely a pretty boy, he has nowhere near the prowess of legendary Pretty Boy Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, so in order to get ready for his next big gig, Usher has a big pair of gloves to fill. Sugar Ray Leonards.

On the heels of the 2010 blockbuster "The Fighter", Gael Garcia Bernal and Al Pacino introduced "Hands of Stone," a biopic of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran. Many will remember him for his infamous bout with the then undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard and with the film’s anticipation growing, an unconventional yet intriguing choice has now been cast to play Leonard. Usher Raymond.

Usher will play Leonard, a boxing champion in five different weight divisions who only lost once in 38 fights before two straight defeats in the '90s. Usher hasn’t held a significant onscreen spot, let alone a pivotal role in quite some time. It'll be interesting to see Usher perform to task and embody not just a role, but portray a real life champion. He’ll have to bring it.

"I'm in preparation for a very incredible role. If you guys see me running around London that's what it is. If you see me in the corners boxing. I'm doing that while working on this album," Usher notes in an interview with BBC.

‘Hands of Stone’ will focus on the boxing champion Roberto Duran and will tell the inside story of the 'No Mas' fight." In the closing seconds of the fight's last round, Duran turned his back to Leonard and quit, saying "no mas" ("no more").

Meagan Good Lands The Lead In NBC Drama Pilot ‘Notorious’

If you've been having Megan Good withdrawals, here's a fix for you. Megan secured a ongoing LEAD role in the upcoming NBC drama pilot Notorious.

Written by Liz Heldens, Notorious is described as an opulent soap in which detective Joanna Locasto (Good) returns undercover to the wealthy and troubled Lawson family she grew up in — as the housekeeper’s daughter — to solve the murder of celebutante Vivian Lawson, who was once her closest friend.

Good, reppped by Gersh and Untitled, is also doing a season-long arc on Showtime’s Californication and is also featured in the much anticipated movie Think Like A Man coming out April 20.

Jada Pinkett Smith Debut's 'Burn'

In a raw and apparent display of affection, Jada Pinkett Smith introduces 'Burn' for whom she dedicates to her husband Will Smith.

To translate her introduction from Spanish to English, she says:
"This song that I am about to sing is important because this song is the beginning of the new love I have for my husband. After 17 years, I never thought I could love him even more."

Wanda Sykes Geneology Has Researches Going Yikes!

Wow. Wanda Sykes family history made history.

The comedian and actress was professionally researched for a segment of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and the pros discovered that she has the longest recorded history the franchise has ever uncovered.

Gates and his team of researchers found that her paternal ninth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Banks was a white woman who was punished with “thirty-nine lashes” for “fornication and bastardy with a negro slave” as is written on a June 20, 1683 court document from York County, Va.

Among the other celebrities to be featured on “Finding Your Roots” are Barbara Walters (who learns her original family surname), Harry Connick Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Margaret Cho, Kevin Bacon, Rep. John Lewis (of Georgia), Branford Marsalis, Robert Downey Jr. and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The Wanda Sykes episode will air in May.