The NBA and rap are both pieces of hip hop culture. You can’t watch a basketball game or commercial without some sort of rap song in the background. Basketball metaphors have always been a part of rap and hip hop too. Recently, Lil’ Pump broke onto the scene with a song titled D-Rose. Remember, when Lil’ Wayne dropped a song about Kobe Bryant?
Further, NBA players have tried to crossover into rapping by dropping singles, albums and appearing in music videos. Rappers are prevalent at NBA games and they’ve never been afraid to rep their favorite team or player gear.
Moreover, the two are connected due to their importance in urban youth culture. Basketball and Hip Hop are their own escapes for many people within inner cities.
Therefore, it is not surprising that we hear many metaphors comparing the two. Both athletes and musicians share crazy success stories, fast-paced industries and luxurious lifestyles. With the heat of the offseason winding down, here are 17 NBA superstar comparisons to current and relevant rap stars.
17. Lonzo Ball is Lil’ Pump
Pump started beef with J. Cole and all the old NBA players seem to have beef with Lonzo and his family. Pump opened a bidding war with major record labels while Zo could have done that with shoe companies if he didn’t start his own.
Oh yeah, both Pump and Ball became sensations before their 20th birthday. They’re both great talents that need further development too, especially if their play is gonna start living up to their social media brands and impress haters.
16. Ben Simmons is Lil’ Uzi Vert
Here is another young phenom comparison and this one has a regional connection. Ben Simmons plays in Philly and Uzi is from there. Beyond that, both have taken their crafts by storm at a young age.
Plus, is Uzi Vert a rapper, singer, performer or rock star? Is Simmons a point guard, small forward or power forward? Their versatility makes this comparison about more than just geography.
15. DeMarcus Cousins is Wale
Wale and Boogie are too of the most disrespected people in their crafts but times are getting better. Wale caught a bad rep after he went off on Complex when they left his album off their albums of the year review.
Cousins has his own bad narrative circling the NBA, despite the fact that it may or may not be deserved. Boogie was buried in the shadow of California’s teams when he started his career with the Kings. Wale started his career in the shadow of J.Cole back in the day. Wale was also one of the first rappers to talk about his battles with mental illness. Cousins on the other hand, is looking to be the first All-Star big man to recover from a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Added, Cousins took the mid-level exception with the Warriors because there wasn’t a lot of interest for him on the open market this offseason. Boogie will wear the third different uniform in his career. Wale has a similar story of being undervalued. First, Wale was dropped by Interscope and he recently left Atlantic. Now, he is with Warner Bros. after his own brief free agency. Wale’s latest deal is working out because he gets freedom and he is an executive. Boogie’s might work out too since he has a great chance to win a ring.
14. Blake Griffin is Future
Disclosure, Griffin is one of my favorite players as Future is one of my favorite hit makers. There are some parallels here though.
On the surface, Griffin is known for his highlight dunks and alley-oops the same way Future is know for his trap bangers. However, you look further and understand that Griffin is quietly one of the best passing big men ever. His jump shot is coming around nicely too.
On the other Future’s music is deeper and more vulnerable than the explicit lyrics and repetitive-hooks might suggest. Further, Griffin shares a baby momma with Matt Leinart. Future shares his own baby momma situation with a notable QB as his former love Ciara has a child with and is married to Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.
13. Derrick Rose is Kid Cudi
We go deeper in the tragic and misunderstood category here with Cudi and Rose. Kid Cudi changed Hip Hop forever with his debut album Man on the Moon: The End of the Day much of the same way Rose changed point guard play forever. Cudi made rap and hip hop far more electronic, melodic and vulnerable while Rose proved you could win with an explosive hybrid point guard and scorer. Thanks to Cudi we got much more emotional rap today while scoring point guards are everywhere in the NBA at the moment. Both are iconic largely due to early success.
Added, Cudi battled substance abuse and mental illness while Rose has had countless injuries that have made tragically hindered his own career projections. Cudi left GOOD Music and was average at best, the same way Derek Rose wasn’t the same in Cleveland in Minnesota. Both became legends because they did things their peers couldn’t do at an early age, even if they aren’t at the same level of greatness these days.
12. Damian Lillard is Vince Staples
Next is a few of the realist people in basketball and hip hop. Few players are as comfortable in their own skin as Damian Lillard, the same way few people are as comfortable being themselves as Vince Staples. Both these people keep it 100 in the media and make headlines almost every time they speak.
Lillard also doesn’t hide his pride for his hometown, Oakland. He has a Raiders tattoo and wears zero for the City. At the same time, Vince Staples always reps North-side Long Beach in his songs and interviews. Neither person forgets where they came from and that’s one of the many reasons they resonate with fans. Both are super lit live and they see like the type of people you want to have a real conversation with.
11. Russell Westbrook is Tyler the Creator
Further on the West Coast, we have two people from the greater Los Angeles area who are known for their unique fashion sense. Also, remember when Tyler the Creator was calling out everyone from Steve Harvey to Bruno Mars? Russell Westbrook has a similar assassins mentality as his game backs down to no one.
Tyler is also one of the most talented rappers in the game. He stuffs the stat sheet with tracks, tv shows and clothing lines. Russ is all-around dominate too since he is the king of the Triple Double. Both of these guys can do whatever they want in their own crafts because they are that talented.
10. Anthony Davis is Young Thug
Speaking of different, A.D. is infamous for his brow. Thugga is infamous for his own style choices including clutches, dresses and more. The point is both aren’t afraid to make their own kind of statement.
Musically, Young Thug has a wide range. He has done ballads, country songs, trap music and worked with many of music’s elite. Davis is also one of the most versatile people in the game too. Both of these stars are changing the game and they have the best of their careers in front of them.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo is A$AP Rocky
Milwaukee is a historic basketball market and Harlem was once the center of hip hop culture. Rocky helped bring Harlem back to the four front the same way Giannis made the Bucks relevant in the East again.
Rocky is also a trend setter. He has pushed fashion forward in Hip Hop as well as influenced the culture with his unique flow and electronic elements. Giannis is a trend setter in his own right. The slept on player is paving way for big wings operating as point guards.
8. Kyrie Irving is J. Cole
Great talents no doubt. They’re both franchise players as Irving was a No. 1 pick for the Cavs after LeBron and Cole was a No. 1 pick for Roc Nation once Jay-Z created the off-shoot label.
Cole is arguably one of the best rappers in the game but he comes with his fair share of haters, including me. Regardless, Irving has also proven his greatness but has his own criticisms. Irving left the Cavs because he wanted to be his own star. We saw the same selfishness whenever Cole forgets features and saves his album’s rapping, singing and producing credits all for himself.
7. Kawhi Leonard is Big Sean
Underrated is defined in this comparison.Name an NBA player more underrated than Kawhi Leonard. Name a rapper more underrated than Big Sean. The strength of the GOOD Music and Spurs teams makes us all take these men’s individual talent for granted.
Moreover, the same way we haven’t heard Leonard say anything during this entire drama with the Spurs, we haven’t heard much from Sean in a minute. Leonard is probably hurt from his last season in San Antonio as well getting traded to Toronto when he wanted to go to Los Angeles. If anyone knows about this sort of heartbreak. It seems like Sean is always getting his heartbroken and singing about it. Sean gave us IDFWU, Way Out and many other songs about him losing whatever girl at the time of his life.
6. James Harden is Travis Scott
This isn’t only a Houston connection as Scott is from Houston and Harden plays there. Travis Scott is one of the best performers you will ever see and James Harden is that too. Both men have flash and highlights to beat anyone in their craft.
Harden has his signature Beard look the same way Scott is known for his braids. Scott is known for his skills both as an artist and producer, the same way Harden is one of the league’s best scorers and secretly a great playmaker. Scott also broke out as a great producer with Kanye West the same way Harden came up as a bench player on the Thunder roster with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Now, both acts are as powerful as the ones they left behind for a solo career. Scott continues to influence all of hip hop while Harden does the same in the NBA.
5. Carmelo Anthony is Nas
Carmelo Anthony can never get out of the shadow of other players in draft class, LeBron and Dwayne Wade. Nas can relate. He dropped his first album in years, Nasir, and it got buried as soon as Jay-Z dropped a joint project with his wife Beyonce that same weekend.
It seems like forever ago that we had debates between Melo and LeBron, the same way we had debates between Nas and Jay-Z. Lately, it really isn’t a competition as Melo and Nas haven’t been as great in their twilight.
Nas also had a public and tragic love with singer Kelis, who he married and had kids with. Now, Carmelo has been going through his own things with wife LaLa.
4. Dwayne Wade is Jay-Z
Speaking of famous wifes, few have better than Jay-Z or Wade. Between Gabrielle Union and Beyonce, few men are winning consistently like these two. This celebrity combined with their production makes them polarizing figures.
Back in the day, we saw Wade buried behind notable All-Stars in his class like Melo and LeBron. Jay-Z experienced this same phenomenon as he is one of Brooklyn’s many great MCs. Further, we’ve seen Jay-Z re-invent himself many times the way Wade has gone from the Flash with Shaq to something else as LeBron’s Sidekick and again in the twilight of his career. Either way, Hov is one of the best of his generation the same way Wade is.
3. LeBron James is Drake
LeBron James is off his eighth straight finals. Drake is off have an entire album in the top 100 of Apple Music. Love them or hate them but you have to respect them. Few have the chart success or playoff reputation as either of these stars. Sure, both LeBron and Drake have been corny at times but their is no doubt that they are international stars. Don’t forget we knew about LeBron long before he was ever a No. 1 pick. Drake was a child phenom before he was a rapper too as he was a star in Degrassi.
Additionally, there is not much that Drake or LeBron can’t do. Drake can sing, rap, act, and perform. LeBron can rebound, shoot, pass and play defense with the best of them too. Plus, James is an entrepreneur with his own media company, sports agency and more. Both are great at their crafts and have strong brands outside of their primary craft. There isn’t much that this duo has left to accomplish.
2. Kevin Durant is Kanye West
According to Kanye in New God Flow, going from most love to hated is something only he and LeBron know. However, K.D. has his own journey from media darling to public enemy. Public opinion turned on Durant as soon as he joined the Warriors. West had a similar fall from favor when he joined the Kardashian clan. Durant has also been criticized for Twitter burner accounts and DMing trolls. Kanye has his own share of viral and controversial social media antics.
Still, few are as versatile and talented as both of these men. As much as they’re hated, they’re loved because they have the MVPs and rings to not care what anyone thinks. Their influence on the culture is well documented, no matter how much you don’t like them.
1. Steph Curry is Kendrick Lamar
Dominate, humble, transcending and ahead of their time describes this duo. Steph Curry and Kendrick Lamar are both at the top of their games yet somehow are underrated. Steph can pass, play defense and shoot like the best of them. Kendrick can battle rap, put together an album and make a commercial song better than anyone else.
What else do they have in common? Both Lamar and Curry went from limited success to major success seemingly overnight. Kendrick Lamar was K-Dot well before he broke out onto the scene with a Dr. Dre co-sign. Curry dealt with ankle injuries before he and the Warriors put it all together. Now, These two continue changing their collective sports and they’re hard to hate due to their smaller stature and humble personas.
Comparing rappers and athletes isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a ton of parallels between the two industries.
Klay Thompson, J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Chris Paul, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George were some of the NBA superstars I wanted to compare but I couldn’t think of any good rapper comparisons. I’m tempted to compare Thompson to one of the Migos since he is a part of a group that makes hits but he could easily demand his own show.
I also want to compare Crawford to a rap veteran like Gucci Mane since both prove they can adapt to the times and keep doing their crafts forever. Paul needs to be compared to a rap veteran who is consistently among the best even if he doesn’t have a ring. Wall should be compared to a rapper who always seems on the brink of greatness but hasn’t put it all together. Are there any legends still playing who deserve a comparison to Lil’ Wayne or Eminem?
What are some of your favorite NBA and rap comparisons? Which ones did I forget, overlook or get wrong? This is all something to think about as we enter the slow portion of the NBA offseason.