You would think that succeeding in a competitive league like the NBA would be enough of an achievement for one lifetime. But, despite all evidence that it never turns out well, NBA players have a history of attempting to become famous rappers, too. This could be because they’re surrounded by yes-men all day who have no choice but to tell them they sound just as good as Nas. Or it could just be the result of the boredom that comes along with being unbelievably wealthy. Regardless of the inciting reason, the results are invariably mixed.
Back in 1993, Shaquille O’Neal’s single “(I Know I Got) Skillz” off his Def Jam debut album Shaq Diesel peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over a low-rent version of a beat from The Chronic, Shaq spit verses about how tall he is and how good he is at basketball—two things the public probably didn’t know until they heard it in a song. Over the next two decades, fellow NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, and even Jason Kidd would try their hand at rapping. None of these tracks would ever reach the same heights as “Skillz,” but they all covered similar lyrical ground of “balling hard” both on and off the court.
In recent years, perhaps due to the fact that you can now drop a mixtape on Soundcloud or just spit a few bars on Instagram, the number of basketball players turned rappers has only increased. Just this week, the most talked about rookie of the season, Lonzo Ball, dropped his aptly titled mixtape Born 2 Ball under the rap moniker Zo. So, even if technology has made the crossover from athlete to musician easier, the creative choices are no less embarrassing.