It’s been said that basketball players often want to be rappers and vice versa. There’s plenty of evidence of this, but it’s rare when one is good at the other. Rappers who’ve proved to be decent with the rock include 2 Chainz, J. Cole, and Quavo, but when it comes to hoopers who rap, the positive examples are usually few and far between. There is, however, one who is a cut above the rest according to journalist/activist Jemele Hill. As she told the People’s Party With Talib Kweli, Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard is the best rapper in the NBA, after one other big name.
While Kweli admits that his athletic facilities are basically the opposite of his lyrical ones, he agrees with Hill regarding Dame’s mic skill and her pick as the best rapper. “I think it’s Shaq,” says Jemele, giggling at Talib’s impression of Shaq’s rumbling bass vocal. “Damian Lillard is another dude they say has legitimate skills.” Kweli corroborates this assessment, saying, “I did an event with him and he’s dope.” They discuss Shaq’s platinum albums and Allen Iverson’s, uh, interesting rap debut, which was eventually shelved by an intervention from the NBA’s administrators because of its controversial content. The infamous Kobe Bryant single “K.O.B.E.” is brought up and derided for being overproduced, although neither gives a fair assessment of Kobe’s rap skills, as far as I’m concerned.
One person who may not share Jemele and Talib’s high opinion of Lillard is the Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III. After Bagley’s recent appearance on ESPN’s First Take, where he issued a rap battle to challenge to Dame, the two ballplayers traded diss songs. Lillard struck first — within hours of the challenge being issued — and Bagley followed up with a track of his own. Both songs were okay, but neither was as scathing as Shaq’s infamous “How my ass taste?” at Kobe after their acrimonious breakup. Just the fact that Shaq has songs with The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Rakim (and, apparently, Kweli, on a song that “never came out”) makes him the basketball rap GOAT — although Dame is definitely the best NBA rapper right now.
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