The NBA has always had a strange, intertwined relationship with hip-hop. Although the two institutions have often converged and found inspiration and admiration in one another, the depth found in basketball and rap music’s shared history is much more sprawling and bizarre than it might seem on the surface.
We remember the biggest crossovers from both sides, like Shaq’s Shaq Diesel album, Master P’s brief but glorious stint in the NBA, and Damian Lillard’s recent full-length releases. We also remember the best and biggest NBA-rap moments, overlooking a much richer history of hilarity and insanity.
Despite the efforts of those like Lillard, Chris Webber, and, dare I say it, Iman Shumpert, few NBA players have been able to craft even one decent rap song. To take it a step further, most them have only managed to create endless laughs for late-night YouTube rabbit-hole expeditions, all too often failing to do anything more than straddling the lines of ridiculousness.
Yet, it isn’t enough to just discuss the worst players turned rappers. Comparing the failures of a rapping Gary Payton to that of a rapping Troy Hudson fails to find the beauty in their lyrical shortcomings. Also, basketball is a team sport, and hip-hop is typically an individual’s artform, so it is only right that the worst player-rappers formulate a team; an All-NBA First and Second Team, if you will.
It is important that such colossal career mistakes be appreciated in the context of a single, cohesive unit of suck so that when the scholars one day sit down and decide to commemorate these players for their terrible raps, they have this particular award to look back at for context.
All-NBA Second Team
There are a lot of Gary Payton-related topics that I wish I could discuss with you. I’d like to talk about Gary Payton taking his coaching duties in the BIG3 League way too seriously. I’d like to discuss the fact that he looks like Morris Chestnut’s older Mini-Me. I’d really like to talk about my childhood memory of watching Payton join the Lakers to win a ring only to lose in the Finals, and how I laughed and laughed and laughed and…(continued for 45 minutes).
However, it’s most important to talk about Gary Payton’s one, and only, rap single, “Livin’ Legal and Large,” which sounds like the name of a store that sells big and tall clothes to overweight lawyers. “Livin’ Legal and Large,” in a vacuum, isn’t actually THAT bad until you realize Payton is the one rapping like Kidz Bop Warren G. Riddled with lyrics like, “Now I’m livin’ legal and large / Got a fat bank account and a bunch of credit cards,” it’s clear right away that Gary has not only no clue that charging credit cards does not equal legitimate wealth, but that ripping off the easiest rap braggadocio traits has never sounded so awkward.
For the entirety of his career, I have often felt like Jason Kidd was never a cool guy. Between the infamous Kidd-Jamal Mashburn-Jim Jackson-Toni Braxton love diamond, and Kidd purposefully spilling sodas on himself to get timeouts called in real, live NBA games, he's always felt like that guy who would be awesome to play pickup basketball with until your team started losing and then all of a sudden everything is your fault. Yet, in 1994, Kidd eclipsed his own bizarreness during his rookie season when he released “What The Kidd Did,” a single from B’Ball’s Best Kept Secret (the player-rapper album that also contained Payton’s single).
“What The Kidd Did,” aside from sounding like the title of a fugazi copy of Honey, I Blew Up the Kid you didn’t mean to purchase, is another West Coast-inspired track that finds Kidd rapping about his hometown roots in Oakland. Its terribleness doesn’t necessarily reside only in the lyrics, but rather that Kidd’s delivery is as boring as his offensive schemes as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Coupled with nonsensical rhymes like, “But it ain’t no party, 'cause I can’t get started with all the player haters on my jock,” Kidd’s melancholic flow and energy are consistently outshined by guest Money-B of Digital Underground, which is by far the most 1990s sentence ever written.
It was actually very hard to choose which Kobe Bryant song encapsulated the hilarity of his rap career, as there was a lot to choose from. There was his debut single, “K.O.B.E.,” (acronym explanation sold separately) which featured Tyra Banks because of course it did. There was also his breakout feature on Bryan McKnight’s “Hold Me,” whose video accompaniment finds Kobe rapping alongside a motorcycle-riding McKnight wearing the same goggles Kel Mitchell wore in Mystery Men.
However, the only logical choice was Kobe’s diss track to Shaq, “L.O.S.E.R,” a freestyle over The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” It's a perfect example of Kobe’s self-image, especially when it comes to rap, as you can tell by his personality that he would one-hundred percent believe he and Shaq’s feud was the equivalent to Tupac and Biggie’s. Lyrics like, “I rock like my mom’s maiden name was cocaine,” show just how out of his element Kobe actually was, even though he was the last person on earth to figure it out.
Marquis Daniels makes this list simply because if there isn’t a more random NBA player in existence you could have told me that rapped than the most average journeyman of the 2000s. Daniels’ most notable song, “Ghetto Superstar,” which inexplicably features an appearance by Trina in the music video, isn’t an abomination by any means. Rather, its comedic elements lie in the fact that, if you were asked to describe Marquis Daniels’ lyricism to someone else, you would probably call him the Marquis Daniels of rap.
Lyrics like, “Cocaine days, and marijuana nights / So I made it my wife,” also seem problematic given Daniels’ career as a professional basketball player. This apparent lack of focus on basketball-related hobbies is probably an indicator for his career eventually falling apart.
LeBron’s brief, but bizarre, detour into rap seems to have opened and closed as fast as it should have. As we're left with only a “Fuck With Me You Know I Got It” freestyle, the damage was mostly contained. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that LeBron, one of the greatest players in the history of basketball, decided to walk into a recording studio and utter, “Crib sittin' tall like Costco’s.” That line is as bad as the two years Michael Jordan spent playing baseball, and it might actually be worse.
Also, for the record, Costco’s aren’t that tall. If anything, they’re too abnormally wide.
All-NBA First Team
Sometimes, bad things just happen. One of those things happened to be Tony Parker’s rap career. If I could honestly explain it to you, I would, but here I am trying to understand how something this tragic could possibly occur.
The hardest part of understanding Parker’s terribleness as a rapper is that his lyrics are completely in French, leaving someone like myself with nothing to go on but appearance and persona. Luckily for me and unfortunately for Tony Parker, those are the only things I needed.
The best example of Parker’s rap career is found in Booba's single "Top of the Game," also featuring none other than Fabolous. Yes, your eyes did not deceive you; Fabolous is on this song. Parker, dressed as what can best be described as “Alchemist and Andre Agassi record a joint album,” exudes the exact amount of swagger you would imagine the point guard of the San Antonio Spurs to have, while the music video cuts between clips of Parker rapping on a fire escape and he and Tim Duncan (!!!!!!) playing a game of one-on-one.
My first obvious thought was, “What are the chances Tim Duncan knows he’s in a rap video?” My second thought was, “How much was Fabolous paid to do this?” This is how little significance Tony Parker’s rapping actually carried in comparison to the rest of this shitshow.
Troy Hudson has, without a doubt, quite possibly the most tragically interesting rap career of anyone on this list, and for that, he remains one of the NBA’s most gifted bad rappers.
Here are all the things you need to know:
- Troy Hudson’s rap name was T-Hud, which also sounds like a missile defense system.
- Troy Hudson’s debut rap album, Undrafted, received most of its notoriety for selling a grand total of 78 copies upon its release.
- Troy Hudson’s most popular songs (for those 78 poor souls) are “Bang Out,” a Crime Mob rip-off song from the mid-2000’s, and “G.W.A.S. Out,” a play on the phrase “swag out” that stands for “God’s Work Against Satan”... (*stares directly at camera*)
- Now that he’s lost his dreads, T-Hud is still recording under a reinvented bald alias that makes songs titled, “Obama Did It,” and I’m telling you this so you never have to go search for them yourself.
- If you look up rap music by Troy Hudson, there is also another British rapper by the same name, who is already more popular, which only goes to show that Troy Hudson isn’t even the most famous Troy Hudson rapping anymore.
Stevie Francis, The Franchise, another lost point guard of the 2000s, only has one rap song to his name, but it’s terrible enough to boost him all the way into a First Team spot. “Finer Things,” Francis’ Ja Rule-esque attempt at a hit single, works to show its audience the lavish lifestyle someone like Steve Francis was living, yet it left us all sorely unconvinced.
There are only three genuine sets within the “Finer Things” music video that serve to distract us from Steve Francis’ singing: a scene of Francis and his presumed wife drinking Dom Perignon in an empty jet inside an airplane hangar, one of Francis and his family at a beach with no chairs, food, or blankets, and a final scene at an unnamed restaurant that looks suspiciously like The Cheesecake Factory (they were holding giant menus). It also remains confusing as to why Francis’ rap and singing voices sound almost completely different in pitch, leaving one to wonder if any of this is even him doing either. Seeing as how Francis turned 40 this year but looks around the age of 76, we might need to question him about this entire project sooner rather than later.
Delonte West, another addition to the guard-heavy First Team lineup, has two honest contributions to the world of hip-hop, both coming in drastically different forms. His first, and most notable song, “Livin’ Life Fast,” is quite possibly the least coherent music video in the history of mankind. Shot with, at best, a nearby person’s iPad, “Livin Life Fast” sounds like the worst rendition of Rick Ross’ “BMF” ever, and is filmed in what looks like a movie theater arcade.
Most of the video cuts between scenes of West (also known as Charlee Redz, because why not?), and guest feature KayeM, either jumping around in a parked car attempting to make it look like it’s moving or inexplicably playing an arcade version of Gran Turismo. West shouts out lyrics like, “Got my front end jumpin', criss-crossing lanes, stuntin' / You know that I’m frontin',” while also making his video game car’s front wheels jump, and I’m one-hundred percent certain that watching this video has the same effect that the video from The Ring does.
If you’re not in the mood for boast-rap talk at the local Cinemark, than maybe West’s “KFC Freestyle” is more in line with your tastes. Clocking in at eight minutes long, one starts to wonder just what the fuck is up with the drive-thru at KFC to where West must preoccupy himself with bars like, “I said baby girl, her name is Delontaaaa.” Yes, seriously, Delonte West likes to brag about picking up women with the same name. He might be the best player on this team.
Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest)
There was never anyone else that could have had this slot. Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace, recorded more music than most of the men on this list, and for that, he deserves an eternal spot on the All-NBA First Team ballot. Artest’s most notable album, My World, even features a heavy roster of guests including Capone, Mike Jones, Nature, and Juvenile.
One could even make the argument that Artest, in terms of flow, wasn’t the outright worst person on this list. However, his placement at the fulcrum of the First Team lies in the dedication you can clearly see in his music and the complete absence of quality that is crafted from his time and money spent. Songs like “Fever” and “Get Lo” aren’t just bad in a traditional sense. They’re bad because Artest’s full effort is so apparent, one can’t help but laugh at aspects like album-length (TWENTY-ONE SONGS?!!) and how he felt guest appearances from Jones and Capone were going to skyrocket his rap career.
For years, Ron Artest continued to rap, and for all of those years he continued to suck at it. As a person who hates the Lakers, I can definitively tell you there’s no better feeling on the planet than remembering that.