For decades now, basketball and hip-hop have shared a close relationship.
Whether it’s rappers like Jay Z calling out star players like Nick Van Exel in the song “Crazy In Love” or wearing throwback jerseys in the music video or star athletes working on their rap game in the off-season, the two are inextricably linked.
But who are the best basketball players who rap? Who holds the title?
Here, in honor of the new NBA season beginning this week, we will dive in to find out. Here, we will go into who would be the “Starting Five” when it comes to emceeing in the NBA.
1. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq’s rapping career began in the early ’90s. He released five albums and one compilation record. His 1993 LP, Shaq Diesel, earned platinum status and he’s released songs with stalwarts in the game like the Notorious B.I.G. He was featured on Aaron Carter’s 2001 single, “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” and even got into a little hot water with a freestyle aimed at former teammate Kobe Bryant.
In 2017, the former Laker released a diss track aimed at LaVar Ball, father of NBA point guards Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, who said he and Lonzo would beat Shaq and his son Shareef in hoops. Shaq is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to ballers spittin’.
2. Damian Lillard
American Songwriter chatted with Portland Trailblazer guard Damian Lillard about his 2021 record, Different On Levels The Lord Allowed. Lillard is not a showboat when it comes to rhyming (not that it would be a problem if he was). Instead, he works brick-by-brick, building his craft and his career slowly but surely. Of late, he’s really taken off, releasing songs with famed artists like Lil Wayne and Snoop. Check out Dame’s skills below.
3. Allen Iverson
In 2000, the super popular former Philadelphia 76er point guard, Allen Iverson, recorded a rap album under the name “Jewelz.” According to lore, he planned to release it the next year in 2001 but that effort was nixed by then-NBA commissioner David Stern, who had heard the lyrics and thought they were bad for Iverson and the NBA’s image. What a stick in the mud. Iverson did release one track, though, called “40 Bars.” Check out that lone single below.
4. Ron Artest
In October of 2006, Ron Artist, who later came to be known as Metta World Peace, released a rap album called My World. The album by the former Laker forward came out on Lightyear Records under Artest’s own imprint, Tru Warier Records. It features big names like P. Diddy, Juvenile, and Capone. The record caused an uproar among NBA fans who thought Artest might not be doing all he could for his team. But the result is a catchy work, especially on the track, “Haterz.” Check it out below.
5. Lonzo Ball
While LaVar Ball challenged Shaq and his son to hoops, maybe it would have made more sense to challenge them in a rap battle, for Lonzo is good at that, too. The Chicago Bulls point guard has released two albums, Born 2 Ball in 2018 and BBA in 2020. He says he would be a rapper full-time if he was not in the NBA. His first single, “Melo Ball 1,” is an ode to his younger brother, Charlotte Hornet’s star guard, LaMelo Ball. Lonzo even appeared on the 8th season of The Masked Singer, that’s how dedicated he is.
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