From Ball to Beats: 5 NBA Players Who Also Posted Up in Hip-Hop Music

LeBron made his A&R debut with 2 Chainz's new album, but which other ballers made the jump from the court to the booth?

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Kevin Mazur/WireImage

2 Chainz’s latest album, Rap or Go to the League, has garnered impressive reviews and is an early contender for rap album of the year, but the most impressive part about this project is that LeBron James A&R’d it.

LeBron’s credited influence on an album is long overdue, considering the internet has already nicknamed him “A&R Bron” for being a music connoisseur on social media by sharing preview snippets of songs that big-name artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Big Sean often send him in advance. LeBron’s ear for recognizing a potential hit song before it actually becomes a hit has made him a coveted cosign by hip-hop artists and turned him into an enjoyable critic for the culture. 

Hoopers infiltrating rap music, though, has been occurring long before LeBron. As early as the 1990s, hip-hop and the NBA have been pop culture’s addictive one-two punch. Maybe one day LeBron will create an athletes-only type distribution deal with Def Jam or Roc Nation. This is something Jay-Z and LeBron should really consider; after all, Witness Records does have a nice ring to it. Until then, here are some hoopers who have lit up the booth over the past few decades, helping pave the way for LeBron to become an influential music gatekeeper.

1. Shaquille O'Neal

When Shaq wasn’t posterizing pretenders and winning championships for the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, he displayed some pretty impressive bars in the booth. “The Big Aristotle” was also able to win big off the court by going platinum with his debut album, Shaq Diesel. Need a track to see how elite the big fella’s bars were? Look no further than 1996’s “Can’t Stop the Reign,” which featured the legendary Notorious B.I.G. He later remixed it to send subliminal jabs to Kobe Bryant.

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was initially considered to be the poster child of the fusion of rap and basketball. He had the look, the swagger and the fans, but according to critics, he didn’t have the bars to help him become a household name in hip-hop. He made his debut by appearing on Brian McKnight’s remix of “Hold Me.” He even appeared on Destiny Child’s “Say My Name”remix. He attracted some attention with “K.O.B.E.” featuring Tyra Banks. That single debuted in 2000, and he performed it at NBA All-Star Weekend. Bryant was already signed by Sony Records, but the song was not well received, which led to his album never being released. Kobe had better luck in the film industry, winning an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short for his film Dear Basketball.

3. Chris Webber

When he wasn’t becoming a five-time NBA All-Star while averaging 20.7 points per game for one of the league’s best teams not to win an NBA title (the 1999–2000 Sacramento Kings), “C-Webb” decided to hop on the music scene by coming out with his 2 Much Drama album, appearing on Naughty by Nature’s Grammy-winning Poverty’sParadise and producing Nas’s “Blunt Ashes” and “Surviving the Times.”

4. Allen Iverson

Iverson became one of the NBA's greatest scorers of all-time as an undersized guard from Virginia, but he also became a trendsetter in bringing hip-hop culture to basketball in front of a mainstream audience. From appearing in hip-hop-infused commercials for Reebok and Jadakiss to being seen sporting the iced-out chains to the endless amount of jerseys, it was only fitting that AI tried his hand with hip-hop. The outcome? Let's just say it was the right thing to do for Iverson to let go of the mic and stick to basketball full time. Iverson even admitted he had no business trying to drop a rap album back in 2000 during the height of his NBA superstardom.

5. Stephen Jackson

Known for being a lockdown defender and clutch three-point shooter, Stephen Jackson had a solid 14-year career in the NBA. But what many fans may not know about him is that his pen game created a lane where he received some major validation from hip-hop greats such as T.I., Jeezy and Scarface. Rapping under the alias Stak5, Jackson has a mixtape, an album and a song with Kevin Durant (“Lonely at the Top”) on his résumé. 

Bonus: Who's Next?

As LeBron continues his legacy of becoming one of pop culture’s most influential figures, more young NBA talent may be on the verge of being remembered as hoopers who rap. LeBron’s Lakers teammates Lance Stephenson and Lonzo Ball showcased they can spit with their “Swerve” song (above).  In addition, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard also has witty wordplay (“Church,” below) to go along with his clutch performance attributes on the court

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