All Time Greatest Starting Five NBA Stars in Rap Songs
Earlier this week, Fat Joe dropped a jewel on ESPN’s Highly Questionable, saying that the Notorious B.I.G. song “I’ve Got A Story To Tell” (one of the best storytelling raps of all-time) was about Knicks power forward Anthony Mason. That has been rumored for years, but never divulged on a national scale before. Puffy has confirmed it today, per Complex. One of hip-hop’s great mysteries was “solved,” right up there with figuring out the day that Ice Cube fucked around and got a triple-double in a game of pick-up basketball (rumored to be January 20, 1992). The relationship between hip-hop and sports (especially basketball) has always been strong. Some athletes even try to become rappers, but that usually goes about as well as Michael Jordan playing baseball.
With rappers name-checking famous and not so famous basketball players in seemingly every song, we decided to put together a starting five of name-checked NBA greats. We all know the best player in the league right now, Steph Curry, was famously referenced by Drake on “0 To 100” a couple years ago. A look through the other Curry references right now are less than stellar, but Asher Roth did say “Verses as hot as the mom of Steph Curry” which is a decent effort. Needless to say, though, the young shooter has a ways to go before he cracks this starting lineup.
PG Magic Johnson
In addition to being perhaps the greatest point guard of all-time, Earvin Johnson’s name has been dropped in countless songs for a few main reasons. First, he played in Los Angeles for the Lakers and was electric as a basketball player. His nickname is Magic, which you can play into a lot of creative scenarios. His last name, Johnson, is slang for the male reproductive organ. And lastly, he contracted HIV, which pushes the tempo of the rap metaphor game to another level. References to Johnson range from respectful to since this guy got HIV and is still alive, that means anything is possible. From Kanye West’s “You can live through anything if Magic made it” to Action Bronson’s “Magic Johnson of the game, these lames don’t want to play with me” it’s very evident that the Showtime Lakers leader got and still gets plenty of rap attention. While Allen Iverson might be the most hip-hop athlete ever, he takes a backseat to Magic here. The Answer would definitely play quality minutes off the bench however. I challenge you to not sing along to “White Iverson” by Post Malone.
SG Michael Jordan
The G.O.A.T.of the NBA is also the G.O.A.T. of being name-checked. It is no surprise that Michael Jordan is a first ballot rap reference Hall of Famer. Basically you are not a rapper unless you have some type of Michael Jordan wordplay in a song.With the Bobcats gig, the Jordan brand and countless sneaker releases, MJ has been able to stay relevant to today’s youth. He is still getting name-dropped by rappers regularly despite having not played in the NBA since 2003. Jay-Z, debatably the greatest rap artist of all-time, has often likened himself to Jordan. While certainly not the only artist to do it, he may be the closest thing to rap’s version of 23. “Every fourth quarter, I like to Mike Jordan ‘em” is one of the most memorable Jay-Z / MJ lyrics. There are also particularly strong NBA-related bars on his Joe Budden-dissing “Pump It Up Freestyle”: “Worry I'm not / the Mike Jordan of the mic recording / It's Hovi baby you Kobe, maybe Tracy McGrady / Matter fact you a Harold Miner, J.R. Rider, washed up on marijuana / Even worse you a Pervis Ellis, you worthless fella you ain't no athlete you Shawn Bradley.” There are too many to mention, but Big Pun’s reference on “Dream Shatterer” always stuck out as one of the best - “Ayo I shatter dreams like Jordan / Assault and batter your team…”
SF LeBron James
The only current NBA player on this list, BronBron has been in the rap vocabulary for over a decade. Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne and a slue of others have referenced King James, both favorably and not so much. Let’s face it; there is a lot of material to work with here. James was a young phenom that has developed into one of the greatest basketball players ever. He left Cleveland for Miami in prime time fashion. He won two championships there. Former teammate Delonte West reportedly slept with his mom. He has a receding hairline. And the list goes on and on. The Game, who may be the biggest name-dropper in history (not just athletes, but celebrities and other rappers too) has multiple lyrical references dedicated to LeBron James never winning a ring. Love the concept and the effort, but obviously those won’t stand the test of time. There have also been numerous Heat references (slang for a firearm) tied to James during his time in Miami as well. See Black Thought’s “I roll with the Heat like I’m Dwayne Wade, LeBron and Bosh” as one strong example.
PF Charles Barkley
With so many great power forwards in the league over the years, I thought this one would be a layup. Turned out to be the toughest position to fill. Sure, we had a few strong Karl Malone references due to the Mailman nickname and Dirk Nowitzki showed up in a number of songs. Chris Webber even produced a few Nas songs and is referenced occasionally for the infamous timeout in the NCAA Championship game back in 1993. Barkley’s influence was more far-reaching than all of them.The talented Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green duo called themselves Gnarls Barkley, an obvious tribute to the Round Mound of Rebound, even if they won’t admit to it. Migos released a song called “Charles Barkley,” where apparently they thought it was easier to rhyme broccoli with Bark-a-ley. With a no bullshit attitude both on and off the court, it is bit of a surprise that Chuck has not been name-dropped more. He classically said that he was not a role model and also never won a championship, two things you’d think a clever rapper could work with. He can however lay claim to a reference in one of the best hip-hop songs ever – Public Enemy’s Rebel Without A Pause. Chuck D immortalized the then Sixers baller with “Simple and plain - give me the lane / I'll throw it down your throat like Barkley.”
C Shaquille O’Neal
The man in the middle has to be Shaq Fu. It was no small feat to best Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo, among other deserving centers, but O’Neal is that dude. Not only was he a rapper (of sorts), but he has been name-dropped in a ton of rap songs from legends like Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, Ice Cube Kanye West, 50 Cent and Big Daddy Kane. Even Will Smith sprinkled a little Shaq on “Gettin’ Jiggy With It.” It didn’t hurt that he was an absolute monster of a human that dominated on the court like few others. The quality and quantity of rap references to Shaq are not on Jordan’s level, but they are not as far off as some may think.
Sixth Man: SG Kobe Bryant
Bryant unfortunately was left off the list because he plays the same position as the greatest player we’ve ever seen. Kobe was one of the brightest stars of his generation and got plenty of shine in rap songs for it. He also tried his hand briefly at a rap career, which worked out about as well as you could’ve guessed. The Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal feud became an extremely popular reference point for rappers. That led to maybe one of the most unforgettable moments in NBA rap history - the classic diss track by Shaq, “Tell Me How My Ass Tastes?”
Image via Getty
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