Much to the chagrin of the artist formally known as David Stern, the marriage of rap and the NBA has been engrained in pop culture for the past couple of decades. From the clothing statement of the Fab 5 breaking the Stockton threshold, one-upping M.J., to Stern having to institute a mandatory dress code due to too much F.U.B.U. and Phat Farm at the podium in the early aughts, hip-hop and basketball have been synonymous. Even though Jay-Z may not have been speaking literally when dropping, “if Jeezy’s paying Lebron, I’m paying Dwayne Wade,” in “Empire State of Mind,” his love for the game has led to him become a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets and subsequently use his influence to bring them across the Hudson to his native Brooklyn. Master P even had a forgettable appearance in some pre-season games with the Rockets and Hornets. The line between sports and entertainment, in regards to these two entities, has always been a little blurry, but never more so than during the recent lockout. If players weren’t popping up in music videos, like Jason Terry in Young Jeezy’s “Win,” rappers were appearing in Nike commercials, like J. Cole dapping up Kevin Durant in one of the memorable #BasketballNeverStops spots.
While all that’s fun, the inevitable blip on the radar is when a point guard grabs a pen and paper or a small forward steps behind a mic. The lockout gave these guys too much time to do nothing. The list includes the Warriors’ Monte Ellis convincing Bun-B to let him ruin a track, journeyman Jamario Moon unleashing his alias J-Lunar, the Celtics’ Brandon Bass waxing poetic about his “Billion Dollar Dream”, 76ers guard Lou Williams joining up with Meek Mill and Spurs big man Dujaun Blair joining up with some dudes named Chicken and Young Meez and becoming the first person to rap with no ACLs. Though none of these guys outdid Stephen Jackson, who dropped the aptly named mixtape What’s A Lockout
Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. NBA players trying to rhyme has been an epidemic in the league as far back as many can remember. In honor of the lockout cutting short a few of these rap dreams, here are the most memorable NBA Player forays into rap (memorable, not best).
The infamous ‘Kobe freestyle’: Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Diesel
For most, the hooper-turned-rapper scenario begins and ends with Shaq. Almost a bigger-than-life figure on and off the court, Shaq has had his hand in everything from acting to roasts, but never seem to put as much effort into anything non-basketball related as he did into rapping. For the most part, it was pretty laughable, but Shaq did have his moments on wax. Aside from the cheesiness of his Jive debut, Shaq Diesel, with songs like “Shoot, Pass, Slam” where Shaq literally asked the audience if they wanted him to shoot a basketball, pass a basketball or slam dunk a basketball, there were times when Shaq held his own, lyrically. “(I Know I Got) Skillz” actually landed as No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured a smooth, laid back Def Jef beat (alright, he did drop a “knick-knack-Shaq-attack, give a dog a bone,” but it wasn’t unlistenable). The last known rhymes from the Big Aristotle were from a freestyle where he asked Kobe Bryant to tell him how his hindquarters tasted shortly after Kobe came up short in the 2008 NBA Finals.
“40 Bars” – Allen Iverson a.k.a. Jewelz
Ok. As much as this piece is about how terrible it is when NBA players grab the mic, A.I. could spit. In 2000, “40 Bars” hit the air waves and people couldn’t really hate, except for David Stern. Alarmed by the growing influence of “thug culture” infiltrating his league and specifically the line “come to me with faggot tendencies, you’ll be sleeping where the maggots be,” as well as street tales from Iverson’s youth that included robbery and murder, Stern forced Iverson to shelve the subsequent album. But Iverson was able to flex his lyrical muscle with a grimy East Coast slang and confident flow that sold the listener on A.I.’s street cred with no problem, all without the aid of a hook, “just 40 f***ing bars from the mouth of a crook.”
Ron Artest/Meta World Peace – Everything
Ron Artest is just an amazing testament to this thing called life.
B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret
In 1994, someone at Epic Records decided the best course of action was to gather 16 tracks featuring NBA players and release them on one compilation CD and call it B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret. Jason Kidd sounds like someone forced him into the recording booth and he is almost inaudible. Malik Sealy tells everyone that “life’s just one big jump shot…don’t get lost in the sauce.” Warren G assists Cedric Ceballos with some awkward funk and Gary Payton lives legal and large. But Isaiah “Don’t call me J.R.” Rider takes the lead, for better or worse, on this work of art with the East Bay Funk that is “Funk in the Trunk.”
“Premier Love” – Tony Parker
Tony Parker is huge in France, and that’s what language he chooses to rap in. And he gets really emotional.
“KOBE” – Kobe Bryant featuring Tyra Banks
In what has to be one of the most embarrassing moments in human existence, Kobe Bryant—who of course went to Tyra Banks for backing vocals—debuted his single “KOBE” at the NBA’s All-Star weekend where he chose to start his verse awkwardly sitting in the crowd, with his head down, after being introduced by Kenan and Kel. Kobe haters will forever have this video evidence to silence any Bryant versus Jordan debates.