Recently, I had a chat with the boys from Milwaukee Banks, speaking to the hip-hop duo just hours before they went to play a game of basketball. Dyl and Edo really embrace their love of basketball: one of the songs off their first EP was titled Patty Mills, and even their name is a play on the NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks. Not only do they make great music, but they also tear it up on the courts of Melbourne.
Many basketball players are also successful rappers, and there has long been a link between the sport and its most closely associated music genre. With game one of the NBA final starting tomorrow, we’re taking a look at the top basketball player-slash-rappers, pitting them against each other to see which side would come out on top in a basketball rap play-off. The NBA is split into two divisions, called conferences, with players split between East Coast and West; I’ve also included an International Conference here.
There’s not much that Big Ceballos can’t do. He can drop 50 points in an NBA game, slam dunk the basketball blindfolded, and rap. His best song Flow On features Warren G and is a part of B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret, a compilation album released by Epic Records that featured NBA players performing songs with hip-hop artists.
Webber is a hip-hop-basketball all-rounder. He was ranked #72 on a list of the Top 96 NBA Players of all time in Bill Simmons‘ 2009 bestseller, The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy. Plus, he’s produced two tracks for Nas, Blunt Ashes and Surviving the Times, the latter of which event made it onto Nas’ Greatest Hits. Meanwhile, Webber’s own debut album 2 Much Drama also featured Redman and Kurupt.
Well, this one’s a no-brainer, and while emceeing may not be Kobe’s best talent, if his basketball skills count for anything you sure as shit want him carrying the rock. Kobe was part of a battle rap group with Broady Boy, Kevin “Sandman” Sanchez and Jester called CHEIZAW before he made it to the NBA. Unfortunately his music career wasn’t quite so successful off the field, and all we ever heard from him was K.O.B.E feat. Tyra Banks. His power and resect within the hip-hop world, however, is unquestionable; read the music world’s tributes to him here.
Ron Artest AKA Metta World Peace
I have a funny love for Metta. I never knew his name until November 2004 when he slapped my boy Ben Wallace in the back of the head as he went for a lay-up (should have dunked that shit). A brawl broke out, and once the players were separated, Wallace threw a towel at Metta, which was followed by a drink hurled from the crowd. Metta went into the stands and mistakenly punched the wrong fan, backed by teammate Stephen Jackson. Metta used his ‘rest of the season’ suspension to work on his rap career; his album My World came out in 2006. The album features guest artists P. Diddy, Juvenile, Mike Jones, Big Kap, Nature and Capone. Just this week, Metta dropped a new track called Q-Train, featuring South$ide Trey and Foul Monday.
Stephen Jackson AKA Stak5
Given Stak5 and Metta’s simultaneous suspension I am surprised the two didn’t collaborate lyrically. Stak5 is a swingman, meaning he can play any position on the basketball court, proven in every team he has played for. In 2011, Stak5 was traded to Milwaukee, but due to issues with his hamstring and the NBA Lockout he didn’t play a lot, instead using all his spare time to drop a mixtape called What’s A Lockout? hosted by DJ Scream of Maybach Music Group. The mixtape included a guest appearance by hip-hop legend Scarface. In 2012 he was matched up against Kevin Durant (the league’s scoring champion) during the Western Conference Play-Offs. The two must have bonded as they released a track called Lonely At The Top together.
Despite the internet ripping into Oklahoma for choking in the play-offs this year, Kevin Durant remains one of the NBA’s greatest players. He is currently a free agent and can basically pick what team he wants to play for – that is, if he can shake the curse of Lil-B ‘The BasedGod,’ a ridiculous tale which alone cements his role within the hip-hop-bball marriage. If he can’t, maybe Durant should quit basketball, pick the mic back up and keep rapping.
KEVIN DURANT WILL NEVER WIN THE TITLE AFTER HE SAID "LIL B" IS A WACK RAPPER,
"THE BASEDGODS CURSE"#THEBASEDGODSCURSE ON DURANT – Lil B
— Lil B THE BASEDGOD (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 26, 2011
And they said the curse was not real " The BasedGod" has never lied to me and like he told us.. The Warriors are going to the finals – Lil B
— Lil B THE BASEDGOD (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 31, 2016
Lou Williams AKA The Sixth Man
The Sixth Man is an interesting case of the basketballer-rapper slashie. He is called The Sixth Man because he was named NBA Sixth Man Of The Year, and is also the focus of Drake’s song 6 Man. Further to this, Drake considers himself the 6 god, and indeed his album was titled Views From The 6 until just days before its release. He doesn’t have any of his own songs, but features on Meek Mill’s track I Want It All and Mills and 2 Chainz’s Problem.
Every time Sway In The Morning features a fiery freestyle, the hip-hop media (ourselves included) jump for coverage – but who caught the dope appearance of Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard, whom the station titled the best rapper in the NBA? He’s also responsible for the long-running #4BarFriday, his own Instagram series, which features him rapping a short verse each Friday. Last year, he also released his first full length single, Soldier in the Game.
The man needs no introduction. Anyone who has ever looked at a basketball knows who Shaquille O’Neal is. Personally, I think he is the greatest basketballer-rapper, although I can appreciate the distinct bias of my opinion on the matter, as I idolised him growing up. All of his raps hit as hard as his slam dunks; his goal in life was to break the backboard and his track I Know I Got Skillz does just that.
Allen Iverson AKA Jewels
Iverson was the first NBA player to bring hip-hop culture to the NBA, and it is because of his attitude and the way he dressed that the NBA had to institute a dress code. Iverson might not be the NBA’s greatest rapper, but he was the first one to demonstrate the connection between basketball and hip-hop and is widely respected in the hip-hop community, including Post Malone honouring him on his breakout hit, White Iverson. And did you see Pusha T’s reaction to Iverson signing his jersey?
Jason Kidd AKA Mr Triple Double
For those of you that don’t know, a triple double is when a player has three stats (e.g. points, rebounds, assists) in double figures (10 or more). Kidd is also featured on the compilation album B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret. The song What The Kidd Didd features Money-B, from Digital Underground, and seems to be Kidd’s only existing rap song.
Shumpert started his basketball career with the New York Knicks in 2011, where he remained until relocating to Cleveland last year. While with the Knicks, he recorded the song Knicks Anthem and released the mixtape Th3 #Post90s. In 2013, he released the song Dear Kendrick in response to Kendrick Lamar‘s verse in Big Sean‘s Control. Also the music video for his single Chiraq is pretty damn eccentric. He hasn’t released new music since joining the Cavs – I guess he’s too busy being in the play-offs to write raps. Fair enough.
Although he plays for the San Antonio Spurs, he raps in French and was the Eurobasket 2013 MVP. Parker has released a French hip-hop album, TP, with producer Polygrafic, and featuring guests including Booba, Don Choa, Eloquence, Eddie B, Jamie Foxx, K-Reen, Rickwel and Soprano. He also released a single called Top of the Game, featuring Fabolous and French rapper Booba. The accompanying video features Spurs teammate Tim Duncan, as well as former teammates Robert Horry, Brent Barry, and Nazr Mohammed.
Monday nights at MSAC are no joke. Got to give respect to Dyl and Edo for juggling basketball and hip-hop. They are two of the most dedicated basketball musicians I know.
The Greek God of Melbourne played college basketball in the United States, and it was while he was over there that his Xeus persona came out. When he wasn’t winning games by slam dunking over McCloud College, he was writing raps in his dorm room. Now back in Melbourne, he is working on his first album Sail which features Ghostface, Lloyd, and Trinidad James.
There are many, many great basketballers-rappers out there, and this list only just scrapes the surface. The championship here goes to the Western Conference – apart from having an unfair advantage in terms of sheer numbers, they also happen to have the best rappers. League MVP goes to Big Ceballos, who’s been in the game longer than most, and Play-Off MVP to Iman Shumpert for Chiraq.