The relationship between the NBA and music has been steadily growing in the past 20 years, but it’s always basketball players who step over to a music career, and not the other way around, of course.
It’s Canadian rapper Drake who said that sports and music are synonymous because athletes want to be rappers, and rappers want to play basketball. There hasn’t been a lot of movement since the ’90s, but since then, more and more NBA players have tested themselves in the music industry.
Some results have been beyond laughable, but others have actually been quite good. Here is a list with the 10 best efforts made by NBA players through the years:
10. Lance Stephenson
Best Song: “Hot N***a”
The mercurial guard has gone through a lot of ups-and-downs in his career, but this season he returned to Indiana. Moreover, he recently released the song called “Better Believe it”, which is actually his second track, after “Poppin”, and a freestyle rendition of Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N***a”.
Stephenson’s affiliations with Spike Lee and the hip-hop haven of Brooklyn undoubtedly influenced him, and he is not a bad rapper at all. Well, we might not rush to listen his newly released track, but we don’t mind listening to his music.
9. Metta World Peace
Albums: My World
Best Song: “Champions”
You probably know him by his other names (Ron Artest, Panda’s Friend), or from the famous Malice in the Palace incident between the Pacers and the Pistons. However, despite his colorful career inside the court, he has actually been very active in his rap career.
He has spent a ton of money in his own endeavors, but also for others, as the late rapper Prodigy stated in his biography. Metta dropped his first album in 2006, that featured song like “Hennessey at Halftime” and “Champions.” However, he also paid tribute to oppressed women in Afghanistan with his song “Afghan Women”.
8. Stephen Jackson
Albums: Jack of All Trades
Best Song: “Lonely At The Top” ft. Kevin Durant
He was quite the emotional player, and even though he’s had quite a lot of troubles throughout his life, his teammates and coaches always speak highly of him. In December 2001, Jackson released a rap mixtape called “What’s a Lockout”, that featured guest appearances by various artists.
Hip-hop legend Scarface was one of the most recognizable of the lot, while Jackson also made a collaboration with Kevin Durant. He was quite the character on and off the courts, but his music career was actually quite respectable.
7. Lou Williams
Best Song: “Problem”
While he hasn’t actually published an album as of yet, Lou Williams has made numerous attempts alongside established rappers. He has actually made numerous attempts, from freestyling over Meek Mill’s “I’ma Boss”, to popping up in 2 Chainz’ songs.
However, even though he sounds comfortable and stylish, a closer hearing will reveal his copying of the style from whoever he works with. He also made his own take of Designer’s hit “Panda”, and even though he is still searching for his individual style, he is much better than most.
6. Cedric Ceballos
Albums: B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret
Best Song: “Flow On” ft. Warren G
Known for winning the 1992 Slam Dunk contest with a blindfold on, he played just 10 years in the NBA, and six more roaming around numerous leagues. He was an explosive dunker, but he gave us a great surprise in the B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret album.
In a compilation that featured both laughable attempts, but also a couple of hidden gems, Cedric Ceballos was surely the surprise package with his song Flow On. The music video is dope, but Ceballos’ talent in rapping is a really unexpected surprise.
5. Iman Shumpert
Albums: Th3 #Post90s
Best Song: “Promised”
Unlike most NBA players who turned into rapping, Iman Shumpert was actually one of the best. A devastating injury in the first day of the 2011 NBA Playoffs forced him into some time on the sidelines, but Iman didn’t waste a moment.
He used his time off to hit the studio and came out with his mixtape “Th3 #Post90s”, which was a real gem. Iman is very comfortable with the mic, and he has also shown mad free-styling skills on multiple radio shows. His NBA career has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, so it’s nice to see him having a pillow to fall onto.
4. Dana Barros
Albums: B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret
Best Song: “Check It”
During his college days, Dana Barros was honing his rapping and DJing skills in his dorm room. He tried to make a living by creating and trying to sell mix-tapes, but his biggest success came with his participation in the album “B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret”.
It was a compilation album created by producers Warren G, Ant Banks and QD III among others, and featured NBA players performing songs with hip-hop artists. His single “Check It”, is among the best of that album, and it feels like it didn’t even belong there. It could have easily been a stand-alone track, as the future Sixers/Celtics point guard was so much better than most rappers these days.
3. Chris Webber
Albums: 2 Much Drama (Unreleased)
Best Song: “Gangsta, Gangsta (How U Do It)”
C-Webb was a dominant presence in his Sacramento Kings days, where he regularly posted 21-10 lines. However, he also has a nice taste in music, as not only has he recorded an own personal album 1999, but his best quality so far must be his production skills.
His song “Gangsta, Gangsta (How U Do It)” actually made it to the number 10 of the Hot Rap Singles Chart. He has already collaborated with one of the best rappers of all-time, Nas, and Webber’s biggest success so far is having placed two of his songs on Nas’ albums.
2. Damian Lillard
Albums: The Letter O, Confirmed
Best Song: “Bigger Than Us” feat. Paul Rey
Damian Lillard has already established himself as a good rapper so far, having already published two records under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. His first try came in his rookie season, when his first album “The Letter O” was released. It featured artists like Lil Wayne and Jamie Foxx, but Lillard himself felt that it wasn’t as personified as he would like it to be.
It was still a pretty good effort by Dame, who showed us that he is serious about rapping with an amazing freestyle for Sway In The Morning. His latest album just dropped, named “Confirmed”. Lillard refrains from using curse words and offensive language altogether – a level of maturity that is hard to find among NBA players and/or rappers. He is the most promising of athlete-rappers, and we will surely hear more from him.
1. Shaquille O’Neal
Albums: Shaq Diesel, Shaq Fu: Da Return, You Can’t Stop The Reign, Respect
Best Song: “(I Know I Got) Skillz”
By far the player with the most successful career in music, his discography consists of four studio albums, two soundtracks, two compilation albums, nine singles, and an unreleased album. His debut album “Shaq Diesel” went platinum, and peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200, and number 10 in the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
It was the first time a rapping-athlete has achieved such an honor, while is a second album, “Shaq Fu: Da Return” went gold. He collaborated with a lot of respected rappers like Method Man, Jay-Z, RZA, Mobb Deep and even Biggie. It’s safe to say that the Big Aristotle is the most influential rapper-athlete in the game.