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The Best Rappers in the NBA- Ranked

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It’s like Drake said on Thank Me Later: “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous/ ‘Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.” Drake wasn’t the first one to say it, though, and he more than likely won’t be the last. It’s an age-old saying: “Rappers want to be ballers, and ballers want to be rappers” and it rings true now more than ever.

Travis $cott is copping a Harden jersey on the weekly, while Drake can be seen repping #WeTheNorth gear and trash talking the opposition at every chance he gets. Meanwhile, Quavo can be spotted sitting courtside at Hawks games dapping up Dennis Schroeder after career highs. While we may never see a rapper make the league, we’ve seen a fair share of rappers who can hold their own on the court. The Game plays in tournaments with ex-NBA players, and 2 Chainz even play Division 1 basketball for Alabama State, where he quit after a year to pursue a career in music.

But even if a hip-hop artist never does make it to the league, there are a handful of NBA players with enough talent to legitimately make it in the rap industry. We’ve seen superstars like Shaq, Kobe, and Allen Iverson pick up the mic, of course with varying levels of success. A myriad of ballers have put down a freestyle in their home studio, but just a handful of players have been presumptuous enough to release them to the public ears. Some are good, some are bad, and some are flat out unlistenable. But props to these guys for galvanizing a continuous movement to strengthen the bridge between hip-hop and basketball.

Note: This list will only include current NBA players

 

10.  Dwight Howard

 

 

It appears that Dwight did us all a favor by giving up on his rap career after just a few singles. I would say A for effort, but it sounds like Dwight is simply reading lyrics straight off the page. Its actually exceedingly difficult to decide whether or not this was put together as a joke, or if Howard actually believes he can spit game. Whatever his reason is behind dropping this God-awful number, lets hope and pray he doesn’t make the same mistake again. It is a good thing Superman is a double-double machine because it doesn’t look like he has much to fall back on in terms of a career in the music industry.

 

9. LeBron James

Hey LeBron… Stick to your day job. That is all.

 

8. Andre Drummond

While Drummond might have the least material out of anyone on this list, there is no denying his skill with the mic. While this verse was ghostwritten for him, he commands control of the beat with a distinct, fast-paced flow that for most emcees would take years to develop.

After dropping the verse and receiving a great deal of positive feedback, Drummond tweeted the following:

https://twitter.com/AndreDrummond/status/840310357574995969

He lets Pistons fans know that he is in fact “not a rapper”, and from the vibe of the tweet, it doesn’t seem like Drummond will be dropping material anytime soon. As Detroit sees the glory days of Eminem fade into oblivion, they could use a spitter like Drummond to put Motor City back on the map.

7. Lance Stephenson

Hailing from Coney Island, Stephenson was destined to end up in the rap game at some point. His Brooklyn roots undoubtedly bleed through his music, and his affiliation with Spike Lee may have allowed him to pull a few strings in the production department.

Going by the name “Born Ready”, Stephenson has dropped 3 tracks in his short-lived rap career, but none are more notable than his freestyle rendition of Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N***a”, in which he spits boastful bars mostly detailing him balling out on the court. The Brooklyn native stated in a recent interview with Bleacher Report that he has enough tracks to put out a full-length album, but said that he “doesn’t want to put it out and people just think I’m focusing on music.

For someone whose career has been filled with ups and downs, at least Stephenson has the mic to fall back on if the whole basketball thing doesn’t work out.

 

6. Lou Williams

Lou might be more intertwined with the hip-hop community than anyone else on this list.

Drake’s “6 man” off of the album “If You’re Reading This its Too Late” is practically dedicated to the Georgia native, putting out bars like, “Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will, 6 man like Lou Will, 2 girls and they get along like I’m… (Louuuu) Like I’m Lou Will, I just got the new deal.”

Lou has also developed a friendship with Meek Mill, who was rumored to encourage the 6th Man to hit the studio, where Lou was featured on Meek’s “I Want It All” that has over 2 million hits on YouTube. In addition to working with Meek Mill, Lou Williams has also popped up on a few 2 Chainz tracks over the years as well. While he hasn’t developed a style of his own and for the most part sounds like a Meek Mill clone, Lou Will is still light years ahead of most of the league. While his rap career might have peaked a few years ago, his recent 50 point outburst for the Clippers could be a sign that his best basketball is yet to come.

5. JaVale McGee

(Freestyle Starts at 9:50)

Often christened as a J.Cole look-a-like, it only makes sense that JaVale has a few bars up his sleeve. McGee gets extra credit here for this being a true freestyle off the top of the head, which is a feat no other baller on this list can claim. Flowing off the top is highly difficult, especially with the added pressure of being featured on a well-respected talk show like “Sway In The Morning”.

Although McGee has only dropped a few singles under the name “Pierre”, recent Instagram posts by both Javale and teammate Nick Young have started an influx of rumors concerning a possible album release in the future. This photo of the two in the studio was captioned “Album on the way” by Swaggy P, and although it could just be a hoax, it wouldn’t be shocking if the lifetime friends dropped a project on their downtime. McGee has done work as a DJ, a producer, and even runs an independent record label in the offseason. He cited his ambition to pursue a rap career in an interview with Complex where he stated, “I had my first single come out a week ago. I’ve been doing it since high school, about 10 years, but I’ve just got really serious this year to where I have artists on my songs and I’ve got five or six songs I’ve put out.”

 

In addition to working with Swaggy P, McGee has hinted at collaborating with Kevin Durant as well: “He actually has bars,” McGee said. “He raps like Nas. I’ve been in his home studio and listened. He’s got a lot of songs.” When asked if he would work with Durant, McGee answered, “I want to. He’s actually told me to send him some beats.”

It sounds like Oakland has a makeshift trifecta in the making, and Draymond Green is ecstatic about what the future holds for JaVale. Green recently talked up McGee’s producing talent in an interview with Complex: “I hear him on the plane all the time doing his stuff. He’s very smart and really good with computers. I don’t doubt he can do it.”

With JaVale becoming a free agent this summer, his basketball future is unknown, and could transition nicely into music if he doesn’t continue his basketball career.

4. Lonzo Ball

 

Under the alias “Zo”, the Lakers’ rookie has dropped a number of singles over the last 6 months, all chock-full of references to his signature shoe, Big Baller Brand, and braggadocios flows of him “stunting on his haters”.

Lonzo without a doubt has the most contemporary style of his counterparts, taking on the “Soundcloud Rap” wave with mellow, repetitive mumble bars over hard trap beats. Even though his sound is far from original at this point, Lonzo is racking up views on YouTube and Spotify, with all but one of his Spotify singles grabbing over a million listens.

Complex News

After wowing the internet with a freestyle over Drake’s “Free Smoke”, it seemed like Lonzo had gained some respect from his contemporaries. This respect was short lived however, when Ball went to social media to publicize his opinions regarding today’s rap music.

Zo has come under heat from the rap community in the last few months after an old tweet was dug up in which he stated his top rappers of all time in order: “Lil Wayne, Future, DMX, 50 Cent, and Tupac”. After this tweet resurfaced, he was given the social media trolling treatment as meme after meme of disapproval was sent in his direction. With no mention of Biggie, Nas, or Kendrick, it is not his rapping ability under question by critics, rather his questionable taste.

But Lonzo wasn’t done with the audacious comments. In July, Ball was castigated by social media for saying that 21 Savage’s album Issa trumped JAY-Z’s 4:44. But he didn’t stop there. He also took shots at rap legend Das by stating, “Y’all outdated, man. Don’t nobody listen to Nas anymore […] Real hip-hop is Migos, Future.” He followed up this statement by wearing a sweatshirt with his face photoshopped onto Nas’ Illmatic, one of the highest critically acclaimed hip-hop records of all time. While his father is taking shots at the basketball GOATs, Lonzo is making enemies everywhere in the hip-hop world. But do his rhymes live up to all the criticism he’s been handing out– you be the judge.

3. Iman Shumpert

Iman’s rap career started after an injury in the 2011 playoffs sidelined him for the rest of the year. Instead of feeling sorry for himself though, Shump hit the studio where he dropped his first mixtape “Th3 #Post90s”, which was fairly listenable front to back. Iman also has a Soundcloud featuring a half dozen tracks including a remix over Drake and Future’s “Jumpan” which he cleverly dubbed “Shumpman”

From his alluring high-fade haircut to appearing in Kanye’s “Fade” music video with his wife, his artistic imprint as an artist is unmatched in comparison to other rapper/ballers. On top of this, his Chiraq freestyle video (above) is arguably the most cinematically appealing video ever made by an NBA player.

This makes sense, as Shumpert takes his rap career pretty seriously, as stated in an interview with ESPN: “I’m influenced by guys like Kanye and Kendrick Lamar, people with a clear vision of themselves and what they want to do. I know people are going to say this and that about athletes who rap, but I know in my mind what I want to do, and I’m confident that it’ll work out in the end. I like people who want to be great, like Jay Z.”

2. Victor Oladipo

Vic is becoming a star on and off the court.

While he technically doesn’t fall under the “rap” genre, he is far too vocally talented to not be mentioned here. Drawing comparisons to Ne-Yo and Akon, Oladipo’s smooth, soulful vocals have wowed the R&B world.

According to former Duke Blue-Devil Quinn Cook, Oladipo’s singing career started as an elaborate plan to get girls. “When we were teenagers”, Cook said in an interview with SLAM, “We were at the movies and there was this girl and I told Victor that he couldn’t get her and Victor started singing to her. He proved me wrong—he got her. We would go to the movies every weekend and he would always sing to the girls and I haven’t seen a girl deny him yet. He’s probably 95 or 96 percent from the field.”

Vic’s humble beginnings as a lady-killer are in the past, but his path to superstardom as both an artist and a player are just beginning. As he looks to make his first appearance at All-Star weekend in just a few weeks, it wouldn’t come as surprise if served as halftime entertainment as well.

  1. Damian Lillard (Dame DOLLA)

(Freestyle Starts at 2:45)

Not only is Dame the best rapper on this list, he is also by far the most accomplished. He has managed to put out two full length projects at just 27, and his insane freestyle on “Sway In the Morning” (seen above) simply blew up the internet. Both of his albums have debuted on the Billboard 200, with his most recent project, Confirmed, apexing at 72 in late October. Lillard also appears on Billboards Emerging Artists list at 32.

He has also collaborated with numerous established artists, some of the most notable being Lil Wayne, Jamie Foxx, and 2 Chainz.

damedolla.com

In addition to creating lyricism that connect the bridge between ball and rap from a cultural standpoint, Dame covers a number of heavy topics like the struggles of growing up in Oakland and racial injustice in America. On Confirmed, he delivers a full hour of conscious, introspective bars while still utilizing his variety of flows, a natural gift that even seasoned rappers struggle with. In many ways, his rap style emulates how he plays on the court. He lets the beat breathe like he patiently slashes in and out of a blown rotation. He pauses before the next bar like he methodically exploits a defender for going underneath a screen before he delivers the dagger.

Don’t worry about Dame DOLLA stopping anytime soon, as he recently told KultureHub, “This is no longer an experiment. This is my second album. I’m putting out respectable music yearly. I’ve invested in that. I’m settled in. I don’t feel the need to answer questions or address concerns. This is who I am and what I do.”

As the somewhat cliche cover art depicts, Lillard holds the crown to the NBA rap game, and he is on the throne to stay.

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About Logan Collien

From Madison, WI Twitter: @lcollien

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