The NBA’s 10 Best Rappers

By: 08.24.11  •  11 Comments
Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

The only memories I have of Wayman Tisdale are from his final few years in the NBA when he was just a forgettable role player in Phoenix. I didn’t catch him in his prime during the late 1980s and early ’90s. I also never realized he was a spectacular musician until sometime around his death in 2009. If we are talking about great NBA musicians, then Tisdale has to be near the top. He had a No. 1 Billboard album, as crazy as that sounds. But if we did that – opened this list up to every ballplayer/artist – it would turn into an impossibility.

There’s Jerry Stackhouse. Grant Hill. There’s Carlos Arroyo (even though I don’t speak Spanish, I legitimately bump this song on the way to clubs). Walter McCarty (actually pretty good). There was Armen Gilliam too.

We could go on and on. Entertainers and athletes. Athletes and entertainers. They get along. They understand each other. Naturally, there will be collaborations. But perhaps no two groups are as close as hip-hop and basketball. The relationship between the blacktop and the mic will always be there. With DeJuan Blair recently making some buzz off his cover of Drake‘s “Trust Issues”, I figured I could shine a little light on some of the best ball-playing rappers.

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Honorable Mention: Tony Parker
I’ll admit it. He’s not close to being the 10th best rapper – there are a few others you can claim are better: Dennis Scott, Malik Sealy, Rashad McCants, Troy Hudson (who actually did a collab with Project Pat and Juicy J) – but I really wanted to get this song on the list. It’s a legit music video with Fabolous (can’t stand him) and “Tony P”. When he jumps on the mic, tell me you aren’t laughing.
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10. Ron Artest
Remember how I mentioned that every issue of 2K’s basketball game has two or three songs that end up becoming that game’s anthems? Ron Artest’s “Champion” from NBA 2K11 made the cut this year. It’s one of the songs that always seemed to get play as I was rummaging through my franchise or putting my player through shooting drills. It’s not terrible. I will give it that.

9. Marquis Daniels
Daniels has been a part of four mixtapes. I’ll keep it 100: this is not bad at all. Actually, as I’m listening to this now, this could’ve jumped another spot or two.

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8. Gary Payton
Doesn’t he sound just like Too $hort?

7. Brian Shaw
Are we sure this wasn’t on the Above the Rim soundtrack? Throw this in right next to the title track or “Loyal to the Game” and I wouldn’t even notice. Listening to this, I get images of Thomas Shephard playing ball without a ball and Birdie and Motaw messing with Flip. I wonder what “B-Shaw” would sound like today.

6. Allen Iverson
As far as an athlete appealing to the industry, AI was it. He had it all: the attitude, the game, the look, even his timing was perfect. I’ll remember the beat to “40 Bars” for as long as I live, and back in the day, I loved this song, thought the Answer killed it. Now I listen and realize the actual rapping was really mediocre (though AI showed in a few other instances – I’m thinking of a Reebok commercial – that he had some talent).

5. Cedric Ceballos
Ceballos wasn’t quite as good as the former Celtic he collaborated with (Dana Barros), but he deserves to be on this list. If we’re into the business of comparing rappers and NBA rappers, don’t you hear a little Big Daddy Kane in Ceballos? Similar voices. Similar style. But the swag? Not even Clyde Frazier could touch BDK’s smooth.

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4. Lou Williams
Since the dictator (David Stern) put his foot down and pretty much smashed any chance NBA players have of sounding “real” in the hip-hop community, our chances of someone creating another Basketball’s Best Kept Secret are slim. Williams is one of the few still rapping. Sweet Lou can spit, even though I can’t stand this beat. Can we get him on the radio instead of some of these other duds?

3. Chris Webber
If you can hold your own on a track with Kurupt, and also produce a song that isn’t complete trash on a Nas album (even though we have to admit Nasir’s beat selection is awful) then you have some talent. C-Webb can definitely play the part, and he’s done it behind the mic and on the boards. I remember hearing stories about how C-Webb used to beg ?uestlove to listen to his tape whenever he was in Philly. Turns out, he’s actually pretty good.

2. Dana Barros
The man not only sounded like he could’ve been thrown into the D.I.T.C. crew, he actually collaborated with a few of them. If you can get on a track (“Ya Don’t Stop”) with Grand Puba (Brand Nubian is mad underrated), Sadat X and A.G. (with Diamond D producing), you can count on sounding decent. Barros showed his skills on a few songs, and had the early ’90s sound and look. He’s one of the few guys on this list who could possibly pass for a rapper rather than a basketball player (although he did miraculously make one All-Star team).

1. Shaquille O’Neal
It is at all conceivable he isn’t No. 1? He made songs with legends. He did more than just one gimmicky album. He actually sold copies, and wasn’t looked at as a novelty. ‘Nuff respect due.

Who’s the best rapper to ever play in the NBA?

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