Rappers as NBA Players
Kanye West – Lebron James:
Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday there was a phenom high school basketball player from Akron who was deemed ‘The Chosen One’, while the media placed the entire weight of saving Ohio on his shoulders? And it was only right before it that Kanye West released his triple-platinum debut album, The College Dropout. The album destroyed the notion that West was just a producer and established him as a star in the rap game. Similarly, over LeBron’s first three seasons as a pro, he averaged 26.5 points per game, 6.6 assists per game, and 6.6 rebounds per game confirming the hype that followed James into the NBA draft. Now he’s a veteran in the league and someone who rookies idolized as kids, with three championships and four MVP awards under his belt. Kanye has come a long way from a producer known for chipmunk soul. He’s sold over 32 million albums and has won 21 Grammys, all while mentoring and inspiring the next generation of musicians. Now the two find themselves as old heads in the game.
Drake – Stephen Curry:
No one will dispute who the commercial kings of rap and the NBA are. Curry has led the league in jersey sales the last two years, and you can’t turn a radio on these days without hearing a Drake song. Both Drake and Curry are incredibly popular right now, but it wasn’t too long ago they seemed like long shots to reach the pinnacle of their respective professions. Drake was a former cast member of Degrassi who was overlooked until his third mixtape So Far Gone. The success of the mixtape got him a deal with Young Money and began what would be a meteoric rise in the music industry. Curry was hardly recruited out of high school and decided to play at Davidson. He was mostly overlooked during his freshmen, despite being the second highest scoring freshmen in the country, behind only Kevin Durant of Texas. Curry’s breakout performance came during his sophomore year in the NCAA Tournament. He led the 10-seed Wildcats on a remarkable run to the Elite Eight, where they lost to the eventual champion Kansas Jayhawks. All eyes were on Steph during his junior season, and he earned himself a seventh overall selection in the 2009 NBA draft. Since then he has won two MVP awards and one NBA championship, and he looks primed to achieve much more moving forward. Similarly, Drake has won a Grammy for album of the year and has sold over 20 million digital songs in the United States. A couple of underdogs now considered some of the best of their generations.
Chance the Rapper – Jimmy Butler:
A couple of young kids in Chicago who are ready to claim their places as two of the best in their respective games. Butler was overlooked in high school and ended up attending Tyler Junior College in Texas. He was only rated a two-star recruit after his freshman season and, with interest from a few Division I programs, he decided to play for Marquette University the following year. Drafted at the end of the first round in the 2011 NBA draft, Butler didn’t see many minutes until recently, and he has since established himself as one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Also in 2011, Chance the Rapper was suspended from school during his senior year for ten days. Following the suspension, Chance recorded his first full-length project entitled #10Day. The project garnered some attention on the Chicago scene, but it wasn’t until the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap, that Chance became critically acclaimed. The mixtape has since been downloaded over one million times. Just this spring, Chance released his third mixtape, Coloring Book, which has changed the hip-hop landscape. He has capitalized on the prominence of music streaming, and at only 23, Chance looks to be the future of hip-hop. After many off-season moves, Butler looks to be the go-to guy on the Chicago Bulls. As one of the best two-way players in the NBA, he will certainly look to continue to improve as he has done every season and lead the Bulls to the playoffs once again. The future looks bright in Chicago.
J. Cole – Kevin Durant:
It seems like in all the shuffle and debates about who’s the greatest, both J. Cole and Kevin Durant get lost. It wasn’t too long ago where the conversations were Drake vs. J. Cole and Durant vs. Lebron James, but with the emergence of guys like Kendrick Lamar and Stephen Curry, Durant and Cole were put on the back burner. It’s been a couple years since Durant won the MVP award and J. Cole released his critically acclaimed album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, so the two seemed primed to return to the spotlight in the near future. Every NBA fan is anxious to see what KD can do with the Warriors, and maybe Cole has some crazy collabs of his own on the way.
Kendrick Lamar – Russell Westbrook:
Explosive guys from California, both Kendrick and Westbrook have enjoyed massive success as of late. Since the release of his major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Lamar has widely been considered one of the best rappers alive right now. Westbrook, playing alongside Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, has been one of the most dominant point guards in the NBA. Lamar once again achieved critical acclaim for his 2015 album, To Pimp A Butterfly, and even his collection of songs that didn’t make the previous project, untitled unmastered, was well received. Lamar capitalizes on his unique flow, while Russell is known for his unique style on and off the court. Westbrook has been in the running for MVP the last few years, even while sharing the floor with 2014 MVP Kevin Durant. Now the team is his and opponents should fear what that will mean for Westbrook’s game. No word on any new projects from K. Dot, but when new music comes he will certainly look to establish himself on top of the hip-hop industry once again.