NEW ORLEANS – At every major party at NBA All-Star Weekend you’re guaranteed to see NBA players and stars from the hip-hop community together. The NBA’s biggest stars find themselves geeking out at the opportunity to hang out with their favorite rappers and hip-hop artists, like LeBron James, who freaked out when he got to reunite Lil Wayne, Juvenile and the Hot Boys on stage at a Beats by Dre party.
James and Warriors All-Star Draymond Green also snapped pics with Atlanta rap star 2 Chainz at a private event, and NBA stars could be found taking the stage or appearing at events with their favorite artists all over New Orleans this weekend.
Basketball and hip-hop have deep ties, and as the saying goes, all basketball players want to rap and all rappers want to play basketball. As 2 Chainz explained to us after his performance at Bud Light Crew HQ on Sunday afternoon, the reason for that comes from a place of desperation and creates a bond between black athletes and rappers because rap and basketball were the ways out of poverty.
“I know for a lot of blacks we thought that was our only way to get out of the hood was either rappin’ or playing basketball,” 2 Chainz told DIME. “So it has a common denominator for me and people who have a low socioeconomic status for a background. It kind of feels like you have to have a sport or some kind of other skill set, you dig, to get your mama a house. So that’s why we all want to play basketball and that’s why all basketball players want to rap.”
There’s a sense of sameness that comes from making it out of similar circumstances that connects so much of the hip-hop community and basketball community. The dream of getting out of the hood and buying your mom a house and making a better life for your family was the same, and in a place where opportunity is so limited due to financial and societal restraints, sports (more specifically basketball) and music offer hope.
Of all the major sports, basketball requires the least amount of money to get into initially. A hoop at a public park and a basketball is all that’s needed to get a start. In music, rapping requires no formal lessons or training to start, just a lyrical skill set that can be crafted in freestyling with friends and penning lyrics.
As one moves up, there is certainly a need for money in both. There’s money needed for traveling to tournaments and paying team dues in basketball, and money needed for recording and editing equipment or studio time in rap. But at their heart, the access is there to all at the ground floor, which isn’t always true of other sports or artistic mediums, and is why kids that come from poverty look at those as legitimate opportunities.
Fame and fortune isn’t what connects basketball players and rap stars. It’s the fact that they made it out of similar circumstances and understand the same struggles that makes for such a strong bond between the two worlds.