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Beats, Bars, and Basketball: Vol. 1 - "The Rapper Hoopers Vs. The Hooper Rappers"

WARNING: I’m about to be all in up in my feels on the beautiful relationship between Basketball and Hip-Hop and I’m gonna nerd tf out creating these “Rapper Hooper” and “Hooper Rapper”rosters. If you just want see the list of the best crossovers between the two, go ahead and skip to the vids, but for those who wanna really dive in…

Basketball and Hip-Hop have always shared a heartbeat. True fans of both can’t help but blend the imagery and mythos of the two. The rhythm necessary for greatness in both crafts binds them on a molecular level. College courses could be constructed on the symbiotic nature of their adjacent cultures and all of its societal implications. They share a Mecca in NYC. Hip-Hop was born there (conceived hundreds and thousands of years ago in the Motherland ofc) and Basketball; while officially born in Massachusetts, came of age stylistically and commercially both on the streets and in the Garden of the Big Apple. Coincidentally, these two things happened at about the same time in the late 70’s. Both of their respective rises in pop culture and commercialization for the next 4 decades almost mirror one another. Their own respective styles and fashion as well as their impact on the fashion world and style at large are enormous and intricately intertwined. Both grew from somewhat obscure niches to become ubiquitous worldwide influence and money machines.

Basketball and Hip-Hop are each other’s greatest inspirations, but they often experience the same lows. When Nipsey Hussle passed in 2019, it visibly rocked the NBA world. And when Kobe Bryant passed less than a year later, it devastated the Hip-Hop scene. At the highest level, they have shared similar public perception issues and questions around race, gender, sexuality, consumerism, politics, labor issues and so much more. Hip-Hop and Basketball have at one time or another been either blamed for or tasked with finding the solution (or at least a distraction) for all of the world’s ills. Major labels and the major leagues of Basketball have (for whatever credit they deserve) provided limited opportunities for many black and other marginalized men (and some women) to make generational wealth. False hope, bad breaks, and a misunderstanding of what it takes to reach the top, and what it means to sustain it --have gotten many striving for these summits in hoop and rap into a lot of trouble. But for millions of dreamers—even those rapping for fun or balling in rec leagues— Hip-Hop and Basketball have kept them focused and active in positive circles and give them hope. Hope that maybe, right around the corner, they can hit the buzzer beater or smash the cypher, go viral and shine for a moment. There's high stakes everywhere in both industries. Financially and societally-- billions of dollars and emotions that are strong enough to have people crying tears of joy or brawling over are invested in EVERY major release/NBA game. Its hard to even fathom the pressure of stepping to thee free throw line in an NBA Finals or headlining Coachella and shit. These guys are built different. They're superheroes. And as we've learned from the 25 Avenger movies and however many re-does they’ve done of the Justice League joint— superheroes love to link up to compare powers and solve problems on each others turf.

I mentioned “what it takes to reach the top” in rap/basketball… Well, what does it take? Talent. Competitive drive. Hard work. Confidence. You’re not gonna tell Allen Iverson or Master P they can’t do something. Before Kobe got his first ring, I’m sure it dominated his entire being. But it’s not like once he got the first one he was content with having mastered the profession— he kept going; Mamba Mentality. But while Kobe became notoriously tunnel visioned on basketball, some greats like Shaq are wired where once they master one craft, they move onto new challenges—Renaissance men if you will. So It stands to reason that in two cultures so woven together, people who have these peak traits would naturally be inclined to apply them to their beloved entertainment counterpart. Sometimes with the Rapper Hoopers and the Hooper Rappers it’s hard to tell which one is which in terms of first love or even priority. The list below consists of some brothers who REALLY blur that line.

Before we continue, its probably worth mentioning that aside from all this lofty language I’m using and deep connections I’m trying to make its also as simple as this…

NBA dudes and rappers both love to stunt.

And sometimes as a basketball player, the best way to flex your prowess is to put on a gang of jewelry and go in on a beat. And for rappers, often the dopest way to flex that you’re the hottest in the game is to join the layup line for the hottest team in the game (just make sure you hit rim).

These two lists aren’t necessarily rankings, they’re put together like actual rosters vaguely true to position and play-style. However, we do consider this to be the best 5 (6) in some order for both. The criteria we're using is measurable success in sanctioned basketball for the rappers, and the cultural and/or commecial impact for released songs and albums by the hoopers— but of course, talent, personality, and star power will factor in a bit. In the end, we will judge our two rosters against each other this way…

In their respective primes, would our Rapper Hooper team be better in a lower level professional league or would our Hooper Rapper team deliver a better compilation album?

Lets start with our starting 5 and 6th man roster of rappers that have made real waves in Basketball aka...


1. Cameron “Cam’Ron” Giles- PG- 6’1” Manhattan Center For Science and Mathematics

As documented in his semi-autobiographical DIY movie, “Killa Season,” Cam was a great high school basketball player on a great team. Alongside fellow guard and later Bad Boy mega-star Mason "Murda Ma$e" Betha, Manhattan Center defeated Stephon Marbury’s Lincoln High (Jesus Shuttlesworth wasn’t there yet) to reach the NYC Class A Championship losing on a last second shot from Killa. Allegedly he was recruited by NCAA powerhouses like Syracuse and Georgetown but his thirst for fast money kept him from ever reaching campus.

He makes the list because of his cosigns and the NYC gloss that gets put over his basketball legend. LoL, there's no highlights of this man on Youtube really-- I had to make the video you see above myself ( that's me on the bars ;D ). But you sure can find plenty of videos of OG's speaking in heavy Harlem tones about Cam's basketball acumen. Its just way too dope that his basketball story is all tied up with God Shamgodd, Ma$e, Stephon Marbury, etc.--all with parts in their fades, and shmedium shorts, with the black Nike bricks and slouch socks on-feet. Damn! Its just too cool not to be on here.

2. Percy “Master P” Miller- SG - 6’4” from New Orleans, LA - Charlotte Hornets/Toronto Raptors

Like I said, this list isn’t necessarily ranked, but there’s no debate Master P is the GOAT in this category. No other Rapper Hooper got actual buckets in NBA games. Initially somewhat of a publicity stunt by the Charlotte Hornets to regain fan interest following a labor stoppage in 1998, Percy Miller was added to the preseason roster. He showed enough promise in his lone game for the Hornets (scoring 6 points) to garner a second look from Toronto the following offseason. In his Raptors debut he scored 8 points and as you can see in the highlights, looked extremely competent as a shooter/crafty scorer. Unfortunately at 32 years old, the team brass felt he lacked the athleticism to make the final roster. P is still salty about this and he may be right! Regardless, his fearless stab at it lives in both rap and NBA lore forever.

3. David “Dave East” Brewster, Jr. - SF- 6’4” University of Richmond/ Towson University/ New York Nets (ABA)

Famously the Harlemite was AAU teammates with KD and other NBA’ers like Ty Lawson, Michael Beasley, Grievis Vasquez, Nolan Smith and even former 49er’s linebacker Navarro Bowman. After leading Springbrook HS (MD) in scoring with 19.5 ppg, Brewster committed to the University of Richmond. After failing to keep up in school, he took a hiatus and eventually ended up at Towson University balling alongside KD’s brother, Tony Durant. While a Towson Tiger, Dave East had multiple games scoring 20+ points but began to see his burgeoning rap career as a more viable option. After leaving Towson, he became disenchanted with basketball until he returned for an exhibition season with the ABA’s New York Nets. He’s now just someone who will embarrass you in a pickup game.

4. Jermaine “J. Cole” Cole - PF- 6’2” Terry Sanford High School/ Rawanda Patriots (Basketball Africa League)

I told y’all I’m trying to flesh these rosters out to actually play a game together and even though J. Cole is listed as 6 foot 2 inches, my own height leans towards 6’3,” and I’ve stood next to the brother and felt short. So between that and his above-the-rim capabilities, I’m listing him as a power forward here. His basketball prowess as a Sanford Bulldog was the stuff of anecdotal legend, propped up by his consistently basketball themed albums (“Friday Night Lights”, “The Warm Up,” “Sideline Story,” “The Offseason”) until he showed up at the 2012 NBA All-Star Celebrity game and showed out catching a beautiful oop from Kevin Hart. Since then the legend only grew with videos leaking of him working on his game, scoring a signature basketball sneaker line with Puma, rumors of interest from the Detroit Pistons, and of course his eventual 3 game stint in 2021 with the Basketball Africa League’s Rawanda Patriots where he scored a total of 5 points, 3 assists, and 5 rebounds in 45 minutes of action. Not exactly all-star numbers, but his basketball journey has meant a great deal to both respective cultures.