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Beats, Bars, & Basketball: Vol. 3 - Lebron and His Hip-Hop Goon Squad "Chase Bands: An Old Legacy"

In volume two of our "Beats, Bars, & Basketball" series the soundtrack for Lebron's 2009 documentary, "More Than a Game" clocked in at number four and I briefly got to pay homage to Lebron's unapologetic bond with Hip-Hop. In that same article, "Space Jam" claimed the top spot. Coincidentally, today Lebron's long awaited sequel, "Space Jam: A New Legacy" drops in theaters and premium streaming services. We'll see if this movie and the subsequent soundtrack can add to his entertainment legend. Understand that this man is clearly for "The Culture" every single day of his life, but we're gonna semi-chronologically go through some of the bigger storylines and highlights of Bron's journey in the world of Hip-Hop told mainly through his 3 best rapper friends.

Hummers & Throwbacks From the Go-Back

Other than the iconic "The Chosen One" 2002 Sports Illustrated Cover, the ESPN broadcasts of his games, and just a general buzz about his amazing talent, one of the first things you really heard on a national level about Lebron was the Ohio High School Athletic Association investigating him for impermissible benefits just in time for Saint Vincent Saint Mary's playoff run. Initially, they tried to pin him on his recently acquired Hummer H2, but it was ultimately allowed because it was actually purchased by his mother (on a loan granted with Lebron's NBA future all but secured.) Once the big fish was off the hook, the OHSAA had to resort to punishing him for accepting two throwbacks (at the time worth a ridiculous $845) from a local clothing store. Missing only two games, he was able to beat the rap and lead the Irish to their third state title in four years.

In 2002, a Hummer on rims was a showstopper and (extremely oversized) Mitchell & Ness throwback jerseys were the standard issue for anyone making big splashes in the Hip-Hop world. As an 18 year old kid, to not only have these things, but buck the system in a way to continue to have them let us know dude wasn't gonna be pushed around--- and that's always been Hip-Hop. In an ultimate flex, Lebron recently became a spokesman for the return of the Hummer. The bag has come full circle.

Michael Jordan as a personality was always associated with Hip-Hop vaguely and subliminally at best. While I don't agree that his "Republicans buy sneakers too" comment should define his entire relationship with The Culture, I think its quite fair to say that the shoes and the abstract motivation of his performance and branding is what really tied Mike to Hip-Hop.

When Kobe Bryant became the first real "Air" apparent out of high-school... Surprisingly, for the eclectic vino he turned out to be in his later years; he really embraced Hip-Hop culture and fashion in the beginning. He donned popular streetwear and throwbacks, and even pursued a brief rap career as highlighted in Volume One of our series. No disrespect to the god, but even Shaq implies in his autobiography that Kobe's embracing of Hip-Hop, while genuine, often felt a tad like overcompensation for his southpaw upbringing in Italy. He wasn't necessarily comfortable in Hip-Hop.

Lebron immediately looked, sounded, and felt like he was in complete control of his Hip-Hop image and ready to take it along with him on his incredible rise to the top.

Here is the freshly drafted #1 overall Lebron riding in his notorious Hummer, bumping Hova. Its quite clear he isn't just trying to look cool; he's in lock step with Jay-Z's motivational message. The energetic link between Bron's ascension from damn near being homeless in Akron, Ohio and Jay-Z's rise from Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to both becoming billionaires (Bron will eclipse that any day-- fact check me) has been strong from the start. It was always clear they would cross paths and undoubtedly make major moves.

Which brings us to our next obvious chapter...

King James & President Carter

Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z-- is a man that even by 2003, had Speed-Sticked a lot of BIG personalities. I mean, he wears the pants in relationships with Dame Dash and Kanye West. That should tell you a lot. Here though, is Hova-- already a legend-- seemingly just as happy to be hanging out with a 19 year old NBA rookie as Bron is to be with him. In this interview with Sway, Lebron and Jay both mention that Lebron is "a part of the Roc." Almost 20 years later and almost 10 years after Jay-Z planted his Roc Nation flag into the world of sports agency representing some of the biggest athletes across all sports--- this doesn't sound weird at all. But at the time, even for people like me who were excited about it--- there was still a "How can a basketball player that doesn't rap be part of the hottest rap label around?" element to it. It wasn't a question for long, because somehow it just worked. Turns out it was Jay-Z planting the seeds for his involvement in pro sports and Lebron was planting his in the entertainment industry. Boy, did those seeds grow.

One of the most memorable and fun chapters in the history of Hova-Bron was during Lebron's first stint in Cleveland, when right before the first round of the 2008 playoffs, the Washington Wizards' (who were eliminated by Bron's Cavs the 2 years prior) Deshawn Stevenson said Lebron was overrated. When asked to respond, Lebron basically stated that Stevenson wasn't worthy of a response and likened it to Soulja Boy calling Jay-Z overrated. The exchange was pretty randomly disrespectful towards Soulja, but it led to a fun "beef" between the foursome. When the series came to Washington, the Wizards made sure Soulja Boy was on hand in a Deshawn Stevenson jersey crankin' it all over the front row. As the Cavaliers were in the process of eliminating the Wiz in the first round for the third year in a row, Jay-Z threw his hat in the ring, coming to Lebron's defense on the Too $hort "Blow the Whistle" instrumental throwing jabs at Stevenson and Soulja. We knew they were tight but Jay actually went to wax with it!

Shawn and Bron definitely have both used each others images to boost their own all along, but there's a genuine, mutual admiration that always bleeds through. Their friendship felt so strong that if you were following Lebron's free agency saga in 2010, you probably at one point convinced yourself that Lebron would go from Cleveland to New Jersey (still 2 years from the Brooklyn move and god awful) just off the strength of Jay owning like 1% of the team. Thats a bond.

Also, no disrespect, but it takes a strong friendship to be comfortable with your homie's wife looking at you like this all the time...