J. Cole’s love for the sport of basketball is well-documented. Not only has he been a feature at the NBA All-Star Game both as a performer and as a dunk contest prop, but he’s also used his journey in the sport as a parallel to his rap career in his albums, music videos, and business partnerships. Earlier this year, he used hoop dream home movies as an ad for his upcoming sneaker with Puma, and as the NBA prepares to return in its Orlando “bubble,” numerous players have been seen sporting the shoe.
However, a new essay from Cole for The Players’ Tribune reveals just how deeply that love goes: so deep, in fact, that he once considered quitting his day job to pursue a pro basketball career. In the wake of the release of his critically-hailed, fan favorite album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Cole reveals that he found himself with a lot of free time on his hands, a sense of complacency regarding rap, and the itch to get back onto the court: “Slowly, the dream of playing professionally began to make its way back to the front of my mind,” he recalls. “I was approaching 31, four years older than I thought I would be, but still possessing most of the athleticism I had in my 20’s.” He told himself, “‘If you’re gonna do this, now is the time.”'”
He freely admits that there were obstacles to that dream, though. “One of the biggest hurdles I would have to climb was my skill level, or lack thereof,” he self-owns. “I was, at best, a Lifetime Fitness All-Star.” His problems, he details, included “an inconsistent jumpshot due to a raggedy form, a weak left hand, and a lack of confidence.” He says the thing that drove him back to rap was the sense of missed potential he knew he’d feel if he didn’t push his Dreamville label to the next level. He also missed collaborating with other rappers, something that he did a lot more of in 2019.
Now, he proclaims that he’s put his hopp dream behind him — mostly — and rediscovered his hunger for hip-hop. Even so, he leaves the essay off with a cryptic line that makes it sound like he hasn’t completely given up on his other career aspiration. “At 35 years old, I know that sounds crazy when said out loud,” he confesses, “But I believe all of the best dreams do.”
Read the full essay here.