23 September 2020

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Basketball and Hip Hop: a long lasting relationship

It seems almost impossible to talk about basketball and completely and utterly avoid talking about hip hop and the same thing goes the other way around. Both worlds seem to have been intertwined since the beginning of times and the bond has only grown tighter and stronger as time has gone by. Whether it is in the locker rooms or in the outfits, hip hop seems to be a part of the players’ identities for the most part and within the culture you can identify some aspects of the game that have impacted some of hip hop’s biggest names. There has always been a saying surrounding this two crucial parts of society and it goes to say that ballers have always wanted to be rappers and rappers always have dreamt of becoming ballers. And this isn’t only a statement, it can even be considered a fact and there’s examples to back this theory.

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Let’s first look into the second part of that sentence, rappers that have involved themselves in the sport. One of the biggest names that probably comes to mind is Aubrey Graham, mostly known as Drake. Whether you know him from his antics on the sidelines of the formerly known Air Canada Center or his role as global ambassador for his city’s team, you know that the rapper and the Raptors go hand in hand. Drake has always been extremely proud of where he’s come from and some would go as far as to say that he put ‘the 6’ on the map. Whichever your opinion might be, you cannot deny that when you talk about Toronto your mind probably thinks of Drake and same the other way around. So it becomes understandable as to why he is so supportive of his hometown basketball team, specially if you consider their recent successes as a franchise.

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Another name that you can instantly relate to basketball is Snoop Dogg. Without counting the great Jack Nicholson, Snoop is one of the biggest Lakers’ fan around the globe and you can tell that from just following him on social media. The dude is in love with the team and sure has enjoyed how the team performed before the games stopped. We don’t need to go to far away from the city of Angels to find another of hip hop’s biggest figures who is also a huge basketball fan. He is that much of a fan that he has created his own league. We are obviously talking about the legendary Ice Cube, who first announced the famous Big3 back in 2017 and has seen lots of success ever since. The league is filled with some of basketball’s best known names, beginning with their commissioner, Clyde Drexler, and some of the players and coaches such as Gary Payton, Charles Oakley, Julius Erving or former number one pick, Greg Oden.

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Crossing over to the East Coast, one of rap’s greatest artists in recent times and also one of the richest artists in history, Jay-Z, is most definitely involved with the game of basketball as he was part of the Nets ownership until 2013 and is also owner and founder of Roc Nation Sports, a sports agencies who represents multiple athletes, including 6-time All Star and NBA champion, Kyrie Irving. But none of this guys compare to the level of implication with the game this last guy has. Percy Miller, a.k.a Master P, has been both a rapper and a professional player in his lifetime, having been part of both Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors preseason squads, although he never got to play a single minute of NBA basketball.

Chuck Barton/AP Photo

Switching over to players who have dipped their toes in the hip hop world and have dropped a few rap songs here, the list is extremely long. Let’s mention the obvious ones first. Five-time All Star and 2012 ROY Damian Lillard is probably one of the most known basketball figures who has released some singles as well as three studio albums. The Trail Blazers’ star is also notoriously famous for starting the ‘Four Bar Friday’ trend, which has allowed many people on Instagram to showcase their rap skills by dropping a quick verse and posting the video under the hashtag #4BarFriday.

Another remarkable name in this list is Lonzo Ball. The oldest of the Ball brothers has dropped a few tracks in the past as well as an album in 2018. But he isn’t even near to the level of success and respect Lillard has earned in the rap game. It would also be unfair to compare him to this next basketball phenom who also found great success in the music industry, even earning himself a platinum plaque for his debut album. We are obviously talking about none other than Shaquille O’Neal and his album ‘Shaq Diesel’. released back in 1993. The Hall of Famer is still involved in the music industry but in a different genre, as he is now producing electronic music and touring under the name ‘DIESEL’.

But a part from this names some of these next ones might surprise you and some may not. For starters we have Allen Iverson, who released the infamous song ’40 Bars’, which included violent, misogynistic and homophobic lyrics. He also intended to release an album afterwards but it never came to fruition, mainly due to the horrible reception from the public to this single.

Next up we have the late Kobe Bryant, who had a less controversial career than the former 76ers guard, both on and off the basketball court. Kobe signed a deal with Sony Records back in 1999 to release his own studio album and featured in singles like ‘Say My Name (Remix)’ by Destiny’s Child, Brian McKnight’s ‘Hold Me’ and ‘3X’s Dope’ alongside his teammate Shaq. He also released his own singles, ‘Thug Poet’, featuring 50 Cent, Nas and Broady Boy, and ‘K.O.B.E.’, which was released at the 2000 All Star game. He wasn’t very successful either, but at least he didn’t insult homosexuals and women in his songs, so I guess that makes him better than AI.

Another former All Star and NBA champion that also tried to find success in the rap game was none other than Tony Parker. He released an album called ‘TP’ and a few singles, with ‘Balance-toi’ being the most successful one, as it reached the number one spot in SNEP, the official French chart. To make things even more surprising, the music video for this hit features his now-former wife, Eva Longoria. And if you are now in shock after learning all this information about the Spurs legend, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Other basketball players who have released some projects are: Chris Webber, Steve Francis, Delonte West, Metta World Peace, Lou Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kevin Durant, Lance Stephenson, Stephen Jackson. The list goes on and on but this are some of the more noticeable names I came up across.

After looking at all of this and also taking into consideration how many times rappers name-drop basketball players in their songs, I think we can all agree that when talking about basketball we must talk about hip hop and same goes the other way around.

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