Would Be Ballers


We’ve all seen it and it’s made most of us feel just a little like puking up an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Justin Bieber, that paragon of everything that’s wrong with music, celebrity, and the pop culture preferences of ‘tweens, was a special character in EA’s NBA13.

Back that up with a “The Situation” avatar and we’ve got ourselves a problem. But we’re not ones to give these clowns any credit at all, and when we see the Biebs check his phone when he’s courtside we’re convinced they only like basketball because it’s what they think legit artists should like.


But it’s not just flakes. It seems every single rapper out there fancies himself a Baller who just happened to take up music instead, and because they can afford courtside tickets and they’ve mastered the swagger attitude, they look the part more often than not. For a perfect example, look no further than the hardest of the hard, (Disney franchises notwithstanding) Ice Cube. 


From his earliest jams, Ice Cube made it pretty clear he was into basketball in a serious way. Exhibit A:

Get me on the court and I’m trouble,
Last week I #*$&%ed around and got a triple-double
Freakin n*%&s every way like MJ
I can’t believe today was a good day.

In Ice Cube’s case, it’s not all talk, he’s got mad skills, and the DVD for the 2001 “Up in Smoke” Tour shows Cube hitting three ball after three ball and claiming that if he was three inches taller he’d be in the pros. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s currently pitching a special with LeBron James about the latter’s life to ABC.

The obvious next example is of course Jay-Z. He may have got famous sporting a Yankee cap most of his waking life, but he loved the NBA so very much he opted to buy a piece of the Nets and dragged them all the way from Newark over to Brookyln, because gassing up the jet for games must have been a huge pain. From his seat Jay-Z looks tough enough to be throwing down dunks alongside his Nets, and on most nights the fans would probably be all for it.


The Game (nee Jayceon Terrell Taylor) was actually awarded a basketball scholarship to Washington State, but he got booted from the program over drug allegations, so he had to fall back on being a rich rapper.

Lil’ Romeo, on the other hand, actually tried out with the Hornets and Raptors, and was a point guard at USC (on the freshman squad, but still, pretty good right?). He got a scholarship – mainly thanks to his friendship with Demar DeRozan – but he’s still a better-then-average player by any measure.

R. Kelly thought he could fly, and that’s fine, but he was more than happy to throw down the jams for that weird, wholly unnatural spectacle that was Space Jam. We don’t know if that makes him legit or not, but any chance to bring up Space Jam….

And of course we’d be crazy if we didn’t bring up movies like “Above the Rim” and “He Got Game” which backed up by 2pac and Public Enemy were as much about the music as about anything Hollywood. And that’s maybe the most instructive aspect of the entire hip-hop/basketball relationship.


It’s no surprise why they appeal to each other, the two have so much in common culturally. More to the point the idealized versions are similar, like Biggie says:

Cause the streets is a short stop,
Either you slingin’ crack rock,
Or you got a wicked jump shot

You can argue whether or not that’s true, but we think the bigger attraction the game holds for these guys is a level and honest playing field. Despite what they’d have you believe, putting out a record that moves units requires a larger team of suits, DJs, videographers, producers et al in which a rapper is an depressingly small part of the equation, so it is, so it always has been in the music biz.

Combine that aspect with the autotune phenomenon and basically anybody, anybody with bravado can roll the dice and get a few hits if they’re lucky (we don’t want to take anything away from the greats, but that is the lay of the land as we see it).

Basketball is a horse of a different colour, particularly in the NBA, either you got it or you don’t and there’s no way yet invented to fake it. That’s why basketball is such a force, it’s a stage where pretenders are done away with. For all their swagger, rappers don’t have opportunity to “compete”, and basketball, a sport that has embraced their culture wholesale, is nothing but competition. It’s a marriage made in heaven.


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