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Why do Basketball Players Like Rap Music?

Why do Basketball Players Like Rap Music?

Why do Basketball Players Like Rap Music?

You hear it often in rap and hip-hop songs, references to basketball and the basketball court.  And while no one music genre completely dominates the NBA or the basketball courts littered across America, it is safe to say that a majority of the music played and listened to by NBA and basketball players falls within the rap and hip-hop genre.

Below, we are going to look at and discuss just why basketball and rap and hip-hop are so intertwined.  That is, just why do basketball players like rap and hip-hop music so much? 

However, before we jump in, it’s important to understand that we will be making some assumptions in our analysis of the relationship between basketball players and rap music.  That is, we will be looking at anecdotal and personal stories in an attempt to better understand the relationship between basketball players and rappers and their music.

What is Rap Music?

Before we discuss just why basketball players like rap music, it is also important to step back and understand just what rap music both is and isn’t.  Rap music, also referred to as rhyming, spitting, emceeing, and MCing, is a form of music which heavily incorporates rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular, typically performed over a backing beat or musical accompaniment.

In rap music, there are certain components which help to elevate certain songs over other ones.  Most notably, these components include the content or what is being said, the flow of the rhyme or rhythm, and the delivery, which includes both the cadence and the tone in which the delivery is made.

And in regard to subject matter, rap music tends to cover a variety of topics, issues, and matters.  These can range from the topics of love and partying, to discussions surrounding urbanity and crime, to discussions regarding material wealth, including cars, houses, and vacations.

However, while rap and hip-hop are closely intertwined, there are distinct differences between the two musical genres.  Overall, the main difference between rap and hip-hop is that rap represents a more rhythmic style of vocal recitation that is popular in most hip-hop music.

Hip-hop, however, consists of not only rap vocals but also several other cultural and societal elements, including one’s lifestyle, experiences, fashion, dance, art, and a general outlook on life and one’s own attitude.  To sum it up, nearly anyone can rap but taking those skills and creating a hip-hop record is much more difficult.

Rap Mirrors the Flow of a Basketball Game

Perhaps the biggest and greatest reason as to why so many basketball players like rap music, is that rap music most closely mirrors the flow and tempo of a basketball game.  The rhyme, rhythm, and cadence of rap songs clearly lends itself to an up-tempo, fast-paced play and pace.

For basketball players, rap music most closely resembles their own game and how they approach the sport.  With heavy lyrics and an up-tempo spirit, rap music flows with the style of a basketball game and allows for players on the court to mimic the lyrics being played.

Rap Has a Freestyle Form

Similarly, rap in general has a very freestyle form and often encourages and celebrates rappers who have their own unique style and cadence.  The same can be said about basketball, where many famous and all-time great players played the game in their own style and one that allowed for their own artistic expression.

With the acceptance and encouragement of a freestyle form of play, many basketball players are attracted to the similar style found in rap music.

Rap and Basketball Both Have Strong African American Roots

Perhaps another obvious reason as to why basketball and rap are so intertwined is due to the strong African American roots that both segments hold.  In 2020, the percentage of NBA players who were African American or black was a whopping 74.2%.

And those percentages are even higher in the rap genre.  Both rap and basketball are genres and segments which are highly represented by African American and black individuals. 

As such, the discussions, experiences, and lyrics discussed often mirror one-another’s own life experiences, allowing for there to be a personal level of intimacy and shared experiences in the lyrics.  Basketball players are then more likely to listen to rap music which they feel they can most closely relate to.

Many NBA Players and Rappers Are Friends

Perhaps unsurprisingly, but a majority of NBA players and famous rappers are friends and close acquaintances.  As both an NBA player and a rapper climb up within their respective field, these two individuals are likely to meet and form a friendship and acquaintance.

Through this friendship, many NBA players will dive deeper into the world of rap, with some notable players, including Shaquille O’Neal, attempting to create their own rap album.  And as these NBA players dive deeper into the world of rap, they begin to find new and more unique flows which they begin to further appreciate.

Rap Music is Synonymous with Motivational Music

As compared to classic, country, jazz, and other musical genres, rap remains one of the most motivational musical genres.  Often littered with lyrics about overcoming adversity, making it to the top from the bottom, and defeating your enemies, these lyrics often resonate with an NBA and basketball player, particularly before the start of a game.

Fashion is Heavily Intertwined Between Both

And lastly, fashion is heavily intertwined between both rap and basketball.  From rappers donning famous basketball shoes and NBA signature shoes to NBA players donning Beats headphones, the two segments tend to borrow and influence one-another unlike any other sport and musical genre.

Famous Rap Lyrics with Basketball References

  • Drake – “Thank Me Now” – “I can relate to kids going straight to the league/When they recognize that you got what it takes to succeed/And that’s around the time that your idols become your rivals/You make friends with Mike but got to ‘A.I.’ him for your survival.”
  • Jay Z – “Encore” – “As fate would have it, Jay’s status appears/To be at an all-time high, perfect time to say goodbye/When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5/ It ain’t to play games with you, it’s to aim at you, probably maim you.”
  • Lloyd Banks – “Follow Me Gangster” – “My team in the cut, packing metal things/I’ve got more foreign shooters than the Sacramento Kings,”
  • Lil Wayne – “Show Me What You Got Freestyle” – “And when it comes down to this recording/I must be LeBron James if he’s Jordan/No, I want rings with my performance/I’m more Kobe Bryant up in all this/Same coat, same gang been starting/Same triangle offense/I come through the lane like a dargeant/Referee n***** is lame they call charging,”
  • Kanye West – “New God Flow” – “Went from most hated to the champion god flow/I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know”