“Rappers wanna be ball players and ball players wanna be rappers”. It’s a saying that’s old and oft-repeated. It’s also a notion that’s not without supporting evidence. are just a few NBA players that have spit somethin’ on wax. …and we all remember (no matter how hard we try to forget) ’s attempt at playing in the league. Not to mention guys like , who both had hoop dreams before finding stardom in Hip Hop. From the hood, where many of these guys started, to celebrity parties and events, to music video cameos, you don’t have to look hard for instances where the two worlds collide. Having that in mind, we at FirstTeamFans thought it’d be fun to make a list NBA superstars and their Rap counterparts. With our love of both sports as well as hip hop we just thought it’d be cool to bring you an analysis of which ballers remind us of which artists. Now we have to admit that this list is somewhat based off our own personal opinions, but we do also try to support all our explanations with facts and statistics, along with observations that we, and others, have made. Also, though a few of the players and emcees we name are favorites of ours, there are also some named who we aren’t necessarily fans of, but who’s talent and skills we respect and don’t believe can be denied. Now please keep in mind that this is a very limited number of names and just because somebody was left off this list it doesn’t mean we that don’t consider them one of the greats. The one’s chosen for this were decided by how accurate of a comparison could be made between the two. Lastly before we start; outside of the first player-rapper breakdown the order of the list is not based on rank of greatness. It’s completely random. Okay! Now that we’ve got all that out the way let’s dive into this!
Michael Jordan and Jay-Z
Michael. Jeffery. Jordan. Come on. Where else would we start? The G.O.A.T.! six time NBA Champion and Finals MVP (the six MVP’s being a record). five time league Most Valuable Player. 10 scoring titles (also a record) plus the highest all-time scoring average (regular season and playoffs). Defensive Player of the Year. …and the only Defensive Player of the Year to lead the league in scoring in the same season. Nine time First Team All Defense. Top Five in steals in the regular season and playoffs. Top Ten in career triple-doubles, and the first player to record one in an All-Star game. Highest all-time Player Efficiency Rating. The list goes on-an-on. Now we don’t think there are too many who would argue that MJ isn’t the best ever (especially after all that) but even if that doesn’t convince you consider this. His Airness could do more things better than anybody else. It’s like Spike Lee said five Jordans could beat five of any other player in NBA history. Sure Bill Russell won more (in a less difficult field with a vastly superior team to the one’s he faced). …but he was nowhere near as skilled or as good a scorer as Michael. Wilt may have been a slightly more dominant scorer but he wasn’t close to being the winner Jordan turned out to be. Mike could shoot. He could drive. He could pass. He could rebound. He could dunk. He was skilled. He was athletic. He was smart. He was clutch. Simply put Michael Jordan checks all the boxes. He had no weaknesses. To us the closest comparison to this is Jay-Z. 14 # 1 albums. Multiple Grammys. Top five lyricist. He can drop knowledge. He can rap about hood life. He can rap about partying. He can rap about money. He can battle rap. He can spit about whatever kind of subject matter. He’s got punch-lines. He’s got metaphors. He has puns and clever wordplay. He can use intricate rhyme schemes and switch flows and styles. He has validity in the streets but can cross over to pop (similar to Jordan’s ability to exhibit super-human athletic prowess while at the same time still remaining relatable and appealing to average people). Also like to Mike; Jay just is better at more things than anybody else. There may be a few lyricists who are as good or slightly better, but how many of them have sold and been as consistently on top as Hov? …and there may be some who move as many units as he does but you’d be hard-pressed to find many of those that could touch his emcee skills. Jigga said it best, “MJ. Him Jay. Fadeaway. Perfect.”.
Magic Johnson and 2Pac
Next we go with Earvin Magic Johnson, who in our opinion correlates to Tupac Amaru Shakur. This may seem odd at first, but only if you’re basing it off of personalities, and that is not how we’re looking at things between these two. Magic (along with Larry Bird) is widely considered responsible for the modern NBA and its popularity. He preceded Jordan as did Pac with Hova. Now obviously the contributions of plenty of other rappers can’t be ignored, but there’s no denying Pac’s impact on the culture. He set the stage for guys like Jay-Z to take rap to even greater levels the same way Michael took what Magic built and launched it out of the stratosphere. Magic’s skill level was dominant to the tune of being a top five all time great, yet if you look at his jump shot it wasn’t the prettiest or most orthodox, and he wasn’t regarded as a supreme 1-on-1 player. Yet he was effectively unstoppable, holding many awards and statistical records when he retired. …and he won. A lot. 5 NBA titles in 9 appearances. This is just like Don Killuminati. No reasonable person would say that he’s not a Top Five rapper and poet, but his lyricism is often underrated and undervalued, though it did lack some of the more complex rhyme-schemes that other artists employ. Regardless his words and subject matter were so deep that even the best rhymers rarely come close to being as impactful and thought-provoking as he was. He also had sensational flow, delivery, and presence. Oh, and not to mention his record sales. Between 1994 – 1996 alone, he sold over 12 million records. To add a little more to it; Magic was born in MI but is mostly identified with Los Angeles. 2Pac was born in NY but will largely be remembered as affiliated with the West Coast. …and just like the Lakers legend, the man who brought us T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. has remained just as relevant to the game today even though both their careers ended over 20 years ago. The Magic-Makaveli connection just fits.
Isaiah Thomas and The Notorious B.I.G.
This next one we had to get a little creative with. It’s also probably going to be our most controversial. If we had to guess, most people would probably think we’d named Larry Bird as The Notorious B.I.G.’s analog since we had 2Pac as Magic’s. …but really, besides that, the similarity stops there. Instead we decided to go with Isaiah Thomas. He did have somewhat of a rivalry with Magic. They competed for the title of best point guard in the NBA and split two appearances in the Finals. …so this satisfies the 2Pac-Biggie beef requirement. In addition; the shortness of Isaiah’s Pistons reign (three Finals, two rings) coincides with BIG’s tragically short career. Though Big Poppa dominated the game when he was alive, his run was only for 2 albums. At the same time those 2 records were lyrically, artistically, and commercially superior to almost anything before or since. His contribution was so great that even that small sampling was enough to solidify his place among the very elite mic checkers. Just as Zeke is unquestionably one of the best to ever lace up a pair of kicks. Both also represented the East (whether it be the Conference or Coast). This may be the comparison that people you guys disagree with the most, but it was the one we felt lined up the closest.
Hakeem Olajuwon and Andre` 3000
From here we gon take it somewhere unexpected. Hakeem Olajuwon and Andre 3000. Did you see that coming?! For starters; they both repped the South. ‘Keem with H-town and ‘Dre holdin’ it down for the A. …but it doesn’t stop there. They both are so exceptionally talented and both have won or sold so much that an argument could be made that they are in fact the “best ever that history denied us the chance to find out”. Think about it. The Dream won all his titles when the Jumpman was retired for all or part of the season and he never met him in the Finals. Yet he actually had a pretty good regular season record against him. 3 Stacks has never been on a track with Jay but have you ever in your life heard him out rapped on a song? …and do you honestly see him being ripped, even by Jay? There were times during Hakeem’s run where he dominated in such a way that his moves left you shaking your head. …and that’s like just about any verse Ice Cold has ever dropped. Olajuwon has 2 rings a Finals and NBA MVP and numerous statistical records. 3000 has multiple platinum albums and Grammys. Both could make strong cases for the throne but we’ll never really know.
LeBron James and Lil Wayne
Our next breakdown is of LeBron James and his counterpart Lil Wayne. This should be easy. Both were young prodigies that actually lived up to the hype and became all-time greats. LBJ has stats, accolades, and three titles. Lil Wayne has bars for days and has sold millions. At the same time, despite Lebron’s talent and accomplishments there are many detractors of his game. His level of skill development relative to his talent can be questioned. As well as the fact that he has a losing record in the Finals (though he has been there seven straight seasons). Also he can sometimes appear to lack a killer instinct and there are some who wonder about his heart and competitive fire. He can play and put up #’s but there’s just something missing. Fair or not. Parallel that to Lil Wayne. Who often exhibits exceptional metaphors, punch-lines, and word-play. Yet he rarely has much depth and substance to his subject matter. He’s fun to listen to and his songs are catchy, but something’s shallow about it all. Regardless they are both all-time greats and nobody can take that away from them.
Larry Bird and Eminem
This next one may be a little too obvious but it was just too close to reject. Larry Bird and Eminem. We know, that based on our earlier analyses, the timelines don’t necessarily fit. However, other than that, there’s just too much that’s the same. We’ll keep it brief though. Both are white men in leagues dominated predominately by Black men. …but regardless of race, only a hater or a fool would say that they aren’t 2 of the BADDEST dudes to ever do it. ‘nough said.
Stephen Curry and Drake
Our last comparison is probably a little obvious as well. Steph. Curry and Drake. We know it seems like we’re taking the easy way out, but bear with us! Look at all the connections. On the surface they both appear to be nothing more than light-skin pretty boys. …but those perceived veneers mask the true persona of two guys who deep down are stone cold assassins. Curry with a basketball and Drizzy with his words. They may come off cute and nice but they will slit an opponent’s throat just to see the blood drip. Don’t believe us? Ask the rest of the NBA during the last few seasons and check out what happened to Meek Mill. Not only that, but they both are highly skilled and accomplished. Steph. is a career 50-40-90 player and has 2 rings and 2 MVP’s (and the only unanimous). While Drake is an above-average lyricist, with clever word-play, punch-lines and metaphors, as well as being a regular at the top of the charts. They also both have appeal and popularity that transcends their industries. Plus they both have wholesome images relative to the lifestyles they lead. Steph. is a family man, and Drake raps more about love and feelings than violence and drugs. We can take it even further and point out that Curry is the son of an NBA player so didn’t really have the impoverished background a lot of athletes have. While Drake had a successful acting career before turning to the mic so has a different origin story than the hood narratives most rappers tell. They really are two of a kind.
…so that concludes our list of NBA Superstars and their Hip Hop doppelgangers! We hope that if nothing else, you found it interesting. We’re sure many of you will disagree either with the comparisons or the evaluations but we think they are compelling and should be fun to debate. Share your thoughts in the comments. Also check back for more sports related discussions. You can follow us on Facebook.com/FirstTeamFans , Twitter.com/FirstTeamFans , InstaGram.com/FirstTeamFans , and YouTube.com/FirstTeamFans . Also be on the lookout for our website and app. coming soon! Remember the name! FirstTeamFans! We’re your Online Locker Room! Come Join the Worldwide Clubhouse!