Thanks to some repeated hints throughout the last six months, speculation about J. Cole possibly attempting to make an NBA roster has reached a fever pitch, with former NBA recruit Master P even claiming that Cole came to him for advice. While Cole may be a tad outside the usual range for NBA scouts at 35 years old, he’s made a habit of posting basketball workout videos to his Instagram and even talked about nearly quitting rap to pursue professional hoops, making the possibility that someone would at least invite him to training camp seem a little less far-fetched.
Here’s the thing: Cole is far from the only rapper to use social media to boast of his skills in two games like Peewee Kirkland (Pussssh). As far back as the birth of hip-hop, the sport and the music have been inextricably tied together, as hoopers tried their hands at rapping and vice versa. While basketball players have typically had an easier time crossing over — see: Damian Lillard, Shaq, and Kobe Bryant — for rappers to compete on the hardwood, they have to develop a set of skills that are harder to counterfeit.
So even if Cole can’t make it all the way to the big leagues — Big 3, maybe, G-League at best — here are some of the other rappers who could give him a run for his money should he ever decide to pull an Ice Cube and start up his own, rappers-only basketball league.
Of course, the most well-known of these rappers-turned-hoopers is none other than Mr. “Most No. 1s” himself. Drake is pretty much a fixture of the NBA’s courtside contingent and can be seen interacting with players and refs and generally going viral at a moment’s notice because everything Drake does is accidentally hilarious — including his basketball workout videos. The video of Drake’s all-star run featuring Quavo, Justin Bieber, and other music stars seems almost calculated to make us all forget about his Kentucky warm-up airball, as he completely loses a defender off the dribble and aces a three with a Paul Pierce-ish, ultra-slow crossover dribble.
If Drake’s love for hoops is evident throughout his art (the stage on his Drake and the Three Amigos Tour was designed to occasionally become a court floor), then Quavo is following in his big bro’s footsteps. Not only does his “How Bout That” video focus on an outdoor hoops tournament, Quavo has been a perennial floor general at the NBA’s All-Star Celebrity Game, dishing assists to the likes of Win Butler and swatting Common layups. Qua even crowed about the latter on his Instagram, apparently miffed by Common’s selection as game MVP in his hometown of Chicago. Qua’s workouts often show off his speed, agility, handles, and jumper — all tools the 5’10 guard needs to be effective against taller competition.
Durk is an interesting case among rapper-hoopers because there’s no evidence he ever played organized ball of any kind. While Drake and Quavo played at their respective high schools or in travel ball teams, Durk seems entirely self-taught. That doesn’t stop him from showing off one of the smoothest jumpers out of all the rappers here save one (Drake’s got that weird hitch at the top of his shot, while Quavo’s footwork is all over the place). A video of Durk shooting jumpers went viral among NBA players, who shared the clips with compliments for his shooting form. Durk also expressed his confidence by directly challenging the above three rappers in a video clip posted after the death of Kobe Bryant. He once tweeted he’d “bust [J. Cole’s] ass,” so he’s definitely accepting any and all smoke.
Dicky’s lethal outside jumper is the highlight of his game, even making a cameo appearance in the season finale of his show Dave in an extended fantasy sequence that had him earning the respect of some incarcerated hoopers behind his sniper-esque shooting. Having witnessed Dicky’s game in real life with my own four eyes, I can attest that the depiction wasn’t too far off from the truth. Dicky tends to pop up at celebrity games all over LA and is one of the more respected players among those who actually hoop for a living. He even had a tongue-in-cheek appearance in a comedy clip as the “fourth Ball brother,” clowning around with Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo and their dad Lavar — and outshooting them all (this was before Lonzo fixed his form).
One of the newer rappers to arrive on the scene, Detroit’s Sada Baby is swiftly making a name for himself. His handful of mixtapes have already made him an in-demand rapper among fans in the know, who eagerly await each new release with ears tuned for his witty NBA references (“Big ass shotgun look like Lauri Markkanen”). Sada Baby apparently wants fans to respect him on the hardwood as much as they do on the mic, posting almost as many pickup videos to his Instagram as he does rap promotion. It’s only a matter of time before his predecessors are clamoring to meet up with him — but many of them might be looking for the pickup fade as much as a feature verse.