NBA Ballers’ Rap Game Is Never A Slam Dunk

Photo: Sean Gardner (Getty)

Sorry, Fox News, but basketball players aren’t going to just shut up and dribble. They’re going to speak up on socio-political issues, dance on reality TV shows, and release rap albums. Hip hop culture and basketball have always been intertwined so it’s no wonder that ballers dream of being rappers and vice-versa.

Yet, even the most successful hoops hyphenate, Shaquille O’Neal (whose debut album Shaq Diesel went Platinum) was considered more as the Big Gimmick than a real MC. For better or worse, this is a pop culture trend that will not go the way of the short shorts. As long as NBA players are pulling in cash stacks that can afford them studio time and legit music producers and there’s a fan-base that’s always thirsting for content, we will keep hearing lyrics like Kobe Bryant’s on K.O.B.E. (featuring Tyra Banks): “What I live for? Basketball, beats, and broads. From Italy to the US, yes, it’s raw.”

Damian Lilliard

Much like his NBA career, the “trailblazing” All-Star Portland guard came out of nowhere to establish himself as one of the best rapper-athletes of his era. Dame D.O.L.L.A.‘s debut album The Letter O had the skeptics swallowing their Hater-ade, as it made the rounds on hip hop blogs, racking up elite numbers on Soundcloud. The Letter O features all-pros like Lil Wayne, Raphael Saadiq, and Jamie Foxx, but its Dame’s smooth flow, jam-packed with left-handed similes, crossover metaphors and explosive rhymes that give him credibility.

Lonzo Ball

For every Damian Lillard there’s three Lonzo Balls, and I’m not referring to the Big Baller’s two siblings (LiAngelo and LaMelo). The Lakers phenom has lived a charmed life, winning state championships, being drafted #2 overall by his hometown team, and starring in his own Facebook reality TV show. Unfortunately, Lonzo’s luck ran out when he stepped into the music booth. You can’t knock the kid for his hip hop passion, but his debut mixtape Born 2 Ball released under the rap name Zo, is more of an air ball than a slam dunk. Unlike Lonzo’s dazzling open court game, his raps fall flat and the trap beats sound like a poor man’s versions of Migos’ songs. I could say something about how he would be wise fixing his broken jump shot before going back into the studio, but I’m a diehard Lakers fan so I’ll just… oops.

Marvin Bagley

The Duke star is a name to keep an eye on in the baller-rapper scene. The projected top five NBA lotto pick thrilled college basketball fans and hip hop heads by dropping a track on Soundcloud under the moniker, MB3Five (35 is his jersey number). Perhaps Coach K gave him sound advice by taking a classic Just Blaze beat and breathing new life to it on a single called, “Breathe”.

Victor Oladipo

The Indiana Pacers guard had a breakout season both on the court and on the mic. He not only made his first All-Star game appearance, but is a favorite for the Most Improved Player award in the NBA. On the music front, Oladipo garnered high-praise for his debut EP Songs For You. The Donny Hathaway-inspired artist shies away from the norm, with a soulful blend of R&B, hip-pop, and gospel a la Usher that might win him a Grammy before an NBA Championship.