Rap and basketball go together like peanut butter and jelly. Players are name-dropped in songs and rappers sit courtside. Players have become rappers (Iman Shumpert, Damian Lillard and Nick Young) and rappers have become owners (Jay-Z and Nelly). Getting name-dropped in a song shows that you’ve done enough as a player, for better or worse, to warrant the shoutout.
“Once I got referenced, that is when I felt like I had made it in pop culture” – Dwyane Wade
The better and more successful a player is, the more likely he is to be name-dropped more often in a song. Michael Jordan has been mentioned 194 times in a song and Brevin Knight has been mentioned once (back to Brevin later). Listed below are 16 of the best NBA player references in rap history and my breakdown of the lyrics.
“If Jeezy paying LeBron, I’m paying Dwyane Wade”
“Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys (2009)
Jeezy is “paying” LeBron because he had recently made a song titled 23,24 where he mentions LeBron and Kobe a bunch. Jay-Z hops aboard the Dwyane Wade bandwagon in Empire State of Mind instead.
D-Wade was at his peak in 2009 when he lead the NBA in scoring by averaging 30.2 points per game. He was the best shooting guard in the NBA at the time, and Jay-Z is stating that he would back Dwyane Wade since Jeezy already backed LeBron James.
“Pyrex, cook it up like Kyrie, trade you off (let’s go), green and white like Celtics, don’t play with me, play with a fork.”
“All da Smoke” – Future and Young Thug (2017)
In this song off the recently released collaborative album Super Slimey, Future talks about the Kyrie Irving trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets 2018 first-round pick.
Pyrex is a cookware brand, and he compares cooking in the kitchen to Kyrie cooking defenders on the court.
Green and white is in reference to the Celtics colorway and the color of money, which Future has a whole lot with his net worth being around $8 million.
“I been Steph Curry with the shot, been cookin’ with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot boy, 360 with the wrist boy.”
“0 to 100/The Catch Up” – Drake (2014)
Drake starts out the line by comparing himself to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. He is stating that he is a dead-eye shooter and doesn’t miss on tracks, like how Steph Curry seemingly doesn’t miss shots, especially from deep.
The two-time MVP is a career 43.6 percent 3-point shooter and has made over 2,000 threes already in his career. This puts him at eighth all time, and he is only 29 years old.
The second part of the lyric Drake refers to Ayesha Curry. Ayesha is Steph’s wife, and Drake mentions her ability to whip up feasts in the kitchen. It also refers to James Harden’s “stir the pot” celebration.
“And you can live through anything if Magic made it.”
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – Kanye West (2007)
Kanye references Lakers Hall of Fame point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s AIDS diagnosis in this lyric. On Nov. 7, 1991, Johnson held a press conference and shocked the world when he announced that he was retiring from the NBA because he was HIV-positive.
At the time, the disease was deadly as they were still in the early stages of developing drugs to manage the disease. Kanye refers to this by saying you can live through whatever you are suffering through because Magic was able to survive his dire diagnosis.
“I am just like DeRozan, if I shoot it, it goes in.”
“iSpy” – KYLE ft. Lil Yatchy (2016)
This is a questionable lyric at best. KYLE is comparing himself to Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan by saying any track he makes is a hit, just like any shot DeRozan shoots he hits.
This is just a factually incorrect statement. Although DeRozan has improved his 3-point shooting percentage to a more than respectable 35 percent, he is still a 29 percent career shooter from deep. He also shoots 44.9 percent in his career from the field, meaning he makes less than half of the shots he attempts.
To make his lyric even more incorrect, this is the only song he has ever had in the Billboard Top 100, when ‘iSpy” peaked at No. 4. Although KYLE may improve his numbers just like DeRozan has, next time he should choose a better shooter to compare himself too.
“I been ballin’ so hard I swear I think that I’m Kobe”
“Kobe” – Chief Keef (2012)
Chicago legend Chief Keef believes that he has put in so much work and made so much money that he is convinced that he is Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
Bryant averaged 25 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists over his career. He has earned over $770 million in his career from advertisements and contract money.
On the other hand, Chief Keef has a net worth of around $6 million. Chief Keef feels as if he is on the same level as Bryant because he is making hit after hit. His debut album Finally Rich was a superb success, debuting at No. 29 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Not bad at all for a 17-year-old rapper.
“I’m not from round these parts I’m Stojakovic”
“Pump It Up (Remix)” – Joe Budden ft. Jay Z (2003)
Joe Budden, a rap old head, joins forces with mogul Jay-Z for the song Pump It Up (Remix). There are plenty of references in the song, but the best is the one listed above. It is a remix to Joe Budden’s most successful and acclaimed song Pump It Up.
Budden exclaims that he is foreign to the neighborhood, just like former NBA sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. Stojakovic is from Serbia and averaged 17 points per game in his career and shot over 40 percent from three. He is one of the best international players of all time.
Just like Stojakovic is from Serbia and not familiar with his surroundings, neither is Joe Budden in this song.
“Klay Thomp’, corner shot (brrr), Eight-Ball, corner pocket(ayy)”
“Call Casting” – Migos (Quavo) (2017)
Migos gives a shoutout to Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson on the track “Call Casting” from the standout album Culture. Thompson is the second “Splash Brother” along with point guard Stephen Curry. They are two of the most accurate and deadly three-point shooters of all time. Thompson has hit many corner threes in his lifetime and will hit many more in the future.
In the second half of the lyric, Quavo talks about his Billiards knowledge by stating that he is calling the corner pocket of the table for the eight-ball when he is going for the win. An eight-ball may also refer to Quavo dealing with an eighth, or 3.5 grams, of a drug.
“James Harden, Swaggy P runnin’ up the budget”
“Facts (Charlie Heat Version)” – Kanye West (2016)
Kanye West is not only a rapper, but a clothing feign. He signed with Adidas after starting his clothing brand with Nike. Both of the athletes mentioned in this lyric also left Nike for Adidas as well. The Yeezy line is one of the most popular clothing and pop culture lines in the world.
West points to Adidas signing both Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden and then Los Angles Lakers shooting guard Nick “Swaggy P” Young. He states that their Adidas contracts are causing the budget to rise. Harden’s contract with Adidas is a reported $200 million over 13 years. That will certainly run up the budget.
“Got a thing for aesthetics, straight shooter like Redick”
“102” – Vince Staples (2011)
Vince Staples states that he enjoys beauty and the pretty things in life. Staples then compares his gun-toting abilities and accuracy with a glock to that of Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard J.J. Redick. Redick is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA. He is a career 41.4 percent shooter from deep and has made 1,369 threes in his career so far. Redick is someone you don’t wanna leave open from deep, otherwise you might as well chalk up three points for the other team.
“Back-to-back like I’m Jordan ’96, ’97”
“Back to Back” – Drake (2015)
This lyric is from the second of two diss tracks by Drake against Meek Mill. The beef started after Meek Mill called out Drake for allegedly using a ghost writer to write his verses.
Drake responded by dropping “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” taking shots at Meek Mill and his entourage the entire time. He compares him dropping back-to-back diss tracks with Chicago Bulls shooting guard and the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan winning back-to-back championships in 1996 and 1997.
“She said she need a ring like Carmelo”
“Nikes” – Frank Ocean (2016)
Frank Ocean talks about a woman in his life that he is with that wants to get married. The woman wants to solidify her relationship with Ocean by having the ring. He compares this to Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Carmelo Anthony not having won an NBA Championship, despite being one of the best players of the decade and one of the best individual scorers of all time.
He has averaged over 24.4 points per game over his 16-year NBA career. Therefore, he wants a ring that signifies being a champion. Many pundits and fans believe that’s the last thing Anthony needs to accomplish in his career, despite having one an NCAA Championship with Syracuse in 2003.
“I’ma beat they (butt) up like Ron Artest”
“Floyd Mayweather” – Young Thug ft. Gunna, Travis Scott and Gucci Mane (2016)
In the standout song off of Young Thug’s third major release mixtape Jeffery, Young Thug profusely states that he will beat the up the next person who tries to rob him, and make sure no one threatens him again.
He compares his fighting ability to Ron Artest’s (aka Metta World Peace). Artest is infamously known for his part in the Malace at The Palace fight. In a game between rival Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in Detroit, the two teams got into a heated brawl in the closing seconds. The fight spilled into the stands with Ron Artest fighting fans after they threw things onto the court at him. It is one of the most infamous moments in NBA history.
So yeah, don’t get into a fight with Young Thug or Ron Artest.
“I bring all my guns to work, Gilbert Arenas”
“Spend It” – 2 Chainz ft T.I. (2011)
2 Chainz states he is always strapped up with weapons in the workplace like Gilbert Arenas was in the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Arenas was the star point guard for the Wizards when he was suspended for the rest of 2010 season after getting in a locker room dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. They reportedly drew weapons on each other in the locker room after arguing over a gambling debt.
On a somewhat related note, Crittenton is currently serving 23 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter.
“Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will, 6 man like I’m Lou Will”
“6 Man” – Drake (2014)
Drake love the Raptors so much he dedicated a song off the album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to one of their players.
“6 Man” is dedicated to shooting guard Lou Williams, who at the time was a high-scoring guard for the Toronto Raptors. He had recently won the Sixth Man of the Year award for the Raptors in 2014-15. Drake also shouts out South Gwinnett, which is where Lou Williams went to high school in Georgia. He also shouts out producer Metro Boomin with the first word of the lyric.
Drake states he is the 6 man like Lou Will because he is the man of the 6, which is what Toronto is known as. A fun fact about Lou Williams is that he once had two girlfriends at the same time, and one of his girlfriends had a twin.
“I take my Glock and I point god/point guard like Brevin Knight”
“Put ‘Em in the Grave” – Jedi Mind Tricks (2006)
I told you we would get back to out mutual friend Brevin Knight. In one of the most obscure rap references of all time, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks talks about pointing his pistol and guarding himself and his homies, like point guard Brevin Knight guarding people on defense.
Brevin Knight was a journeyman backup point guard who played for nine teams in his career and averaged 7.3 points per game. While it is a very slick metaphor and lyric, it is still quite odd that he picked perhaps one of the most random NBA players in history.
The only reason I knew Brevin Knight existed was that I had his Utah Jazz basketball card as a kid. I’m sure 99.9 percent of people reading this don’t know who he is, which is quite fair because he did absolutely nothing notable in his career besides being known as a decent defender (I had to look that up).
Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing this.
Featured image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
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