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Kobe, Shaq, and Dame Lillard all rapping
Photo Credit: Getty; Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer

The 15 Best Rap Songs From NBA Players

From hall-of-famers like LeBron James and Allen Iverson to bench players like Lance Stephenson and Lou Williams, here are the best rap songs created by NBA players.

On his 2010 song “Thank me Now” Drake raps the now famous line: “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous, 'Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.”

When it comes to professional sports — specifically the NBA — and hip-hop, there are many times when the two industries overlap each other. In recent years, NBA players have continuously been seen hanging around high-profile hip-hop artists. Furthermore, NBA superstars such as Damian Lillard have attempted to make waves in the rap industry in recent years, dropping multiple songs.

The latest NBA player seen to be experimenting in hip-hop is future hall-of-famer Stephen Curry. Curry is featured on Tobe Nwigwe’s track “Lil Fish, Big Pond,” where he raps lines like, “Daddy taught me how to flick my wrist, I'm my father's son... They should put the basket in the casket after I am done.”

This is far from the first time that an NBA player has attempted to rap on wax. Over the years, many pro basketball players have produced songs, with some even releasing entire albums. From hall-of-famers like LeBron James and Allen Iverson to bench players like Lance Stephenson and Lou Williams, here are the best rap songs created by NBA players.

15. Chris Webber & Kurupt —  "Gangsta! Gangsta! (How U Do It)"  (1999)

Two West Coast hall-of-farmers connect on "Gangsta! Gangsta! (How U Do It)." The song is the most successful single from Webber’s debut album 2 Much Drama. The song, which was produced by Lord Maji, features a sample of the ‘80s electronic song “Laid Back” by White Horse. There is some impressive lyrics from Webber here, but Kurupt, who is as charismatic and energetic as ever, carries the track (random fact about Webber: later on he would produce some songs for Nas).

14. Lance Stephenson — “Hot N****” (2014)

Born and raised in Brooklyn, it was fitting for Lance to remix a song that embodied New York City culture. Most of the lyrics are basketball related, which on the surface might seem corny. However, the diversity the NBA vet keeps throughout his lyrics makes it not seem overbearing.

For a professional basketball player, Lance’s flows seem natural, embracing a touch only a Brooklyn native would know about.

13.  Lou Williams — “Ima Boss” (Freestyle) (2013)

Lou Williams spent his first seven NBA seasons playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, and it seems that he took some of that Philly swagger with him.

His“ Ima Boss” flip is unexpectedly impressive. Unlike Lance, Williams keeps his mentions of basketball to a minimum, which really enhances the lyrics and the creativity behind them. The only thing holding this track back is that it comes in at just over 90 seconds, leaving more to be desired.

12. Gary Payton — “Livin' Legal and Large” (1994)

In 1994, Epic Records released a compilation album called B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret. The album featured 1990s basketball stars rapping with ‘90s hip-hop stars (we used to be a country).

One of the songs is “Livin’ Legal and Large,” which features hall-of-famer Gary Payton rapping over a track that just radiates chill vibes. The Oakland native does his best Too Short impersonation, trading in the vulgar content, making a mostly G-rated track.

11. LeBron James & Kevin Durant —  “It Ain’t Easy” (2011)

Rivals on the court, friends off. LeBron James and Kevin Durant, two generational superstars, teamed up during the 2011 NBA lockout season to produce “It Ain’t Easy.” Unlike most of the other songs on this list, both James and Durant get deep with their lyrics. The pair both rap about their individual struggles throughout their childhood, and what their path to the NBA was like. “No chance to make it out, that's what they said: “Well, look at me, I'm here, boss of the spread,” James raps.

Although they both provide solid lyrics throughout the track, there is something about it that feels off. It’s just odd to hear these well recognized voices rapping.

10. Aaron Gordon — “9 Out of 10”  (2020)

NBA champion Aaron Gordon is widely regarded as the greatest NBA dunk contest participant to have never actually won. This track is referring to when many believed he was “robbed” during the 2020 dunk contest, when judge and future hall-of-famer Dwyane Wade gave him a nine out of 10 — one point shy of a perfect score.

Gordon raps about everyone who has doubted him, with subtle disses to Wade throughout. Despite most of the lyrics sticking to basketball, Gordon makes them unique, rapping slick lines like: “Big chillin’ paint me as a villain… I jumped over the biggest dude in the building.”

9. Lonzo Ball & DC the Don — “Free Smoke” (2017)

When this was released, Lonzo Ball was one of the most polarizing players in the NBA, mainly because of his father, LaVar, who would continuously make headlines and steal the spotlight from his sons. Outside of basketball, Lonzo attempted to gain media attention in ways such as appearing on reality TV shows and making fun of Nas.

Remixing the 2017 song from Drake, Lonzo gives us some impressive flows throughout the track. The lyrics are simple, catchy, and not overdone. There’s some rap cliches here — “Diamond chain it match the Rollie / Whip the whip like it's stolen,” sounds like something you would here from a generic rapper — but the track mostly works.

7. Kyrie Irving & LunchMoney Lewis — “Ridiculous” (2018)

This track, by NBA champion Kyrie Irving, is perhaps the most unique from this entire list. Along with showing off some impressive lyrics, Irving displays his vocal range by singing his own hook throughout the song. The song is featured on the film Uncle Drew which also stars Kyrie, proving that he can pretty much do everything.

Despite being featured in a movie that is solely about basketball, the lyrics barely mention the sport. Kyrie just makes a song that is feel good and catchy. It also helps that there isn’t any, uh, questionable politics here.

6. Jason Kidd & Money-B — “What the Kidd Did” (1994)

Out of the 15 tracks included on this list, “What the Kidd Did” is definitely the most underrated. The song was released before the future hall-of-fame point guard was taken in the 1994 NBA draft. “What the Kidd Did” features Oakland legend Money B — who ghost wrote the song.

“What the Kidd Did” is just delightful, featuring an awesome G-Funk beat similar to Snoop Dogg’s “Ain't No Fun.” As for the lyrics, Kidd keeps it clean, rapping mostly about hooping.

5. Dame D.O.L.L.A. & Lil Wayne — “Sorry” (2019)

Widely regarded as the best current NBA rapper, five time all-star Damian Lillard has a solid discography of music. Compared to the others on this list, Lillard, known as Dame D.O.L.L.A musically, sounds the most natural on the mic.

For this track in particular, not only does he showcase impressive flows, legendary rapper Lil Wayne hops on at the end as a feature. The hard-hitting instrumental pairs nicely with the two rapper’s lyrics.

4. Dana Barros, Cedric Ceballos, A.G., Sadat X & Grand Puba — “Ya Don’t Stop”  (1994)

“Ya Don’t Stop,” from point guard Dana Barros and small forward Cedric Ceballos, is as ‘90s as it gets. The song, which was produced by Diamond D, is the standout from B-Ball's Best Kept Secret. And the professional rappers, A.G., Sadat X and Grand Puba, do the heavy-lifting, kicking NBA-inspired punchlines over the perfect mid ‘90s hip-hop beat.

3. Kobe Bryant, Broady Boy & 50 Cent — “Thug Poet” (2000)

One of the more surprising facets of Kobe Bryant’s legendary career was that he was signed to Columbia Records for a short period of time, and produced an unreleased album in the early 2000s. That album, called Visions, leaked in its entirety. And it’s understood that “Thug Poet,” which features 50 Cent and Broady Boy, a member of Kobe's CHEIZAW crew, is easily the standout.

The song hits hard with knocking Trackmasters beat, a pre nine shots 50, and playful Kobe rapping lines like, “My microphones and Glock nines, Black? I'm dipped in that.”

2. Allen Iverson Aka Jewels — “40 Bars” (2000)

“40 Bars” is easily the most controversial song on this list. To say that the lyrics are intense is an understatement. Unlike the rest of the tracks released by NBA players that appear fun and relaxed, Allen Iverson embraces a East coast-inspired gangsta rap image.

After “40 Bars” — which was supposed to be on AI’s rap debut — leaked in 2000, the song became front page news. Former NBA commissioner David Stern publicly spoke out against the song for its violent content (there are multiple lines referring to killing people, as well as homophobic and sexist lines throughout). Iverson told Stern he would change the offensive lyrics on the song and album. But the album, which was supposed to be called Non Fiction, was never released.

Years later, Iverson has detailed some regrets about the whole ordeal, referring to it as “that terrible rap album” in a past interview.

Nevertheless, the impact that this song has in regards to the culture throughout the NBA can not go unnoticed. And, despite some of the questionable language and content, the track isn’t bad, with AI showcasing some ability on the mic.

1. Shaquille O’Neal & The Notorious B.I.G. — "You Can't Stop the Reign” (1996)

Being able to even team up with arguably the greatest rapper of all time is a feat within itself, let alone somehow holding your own with him. Shaquille O’Neal is no stranger to music; he has released four albums that have appeared in the Billboard top 100. His debut album, Shaq Diesel, released in 1993, is a certified platinum record. With all of this into consideration, Shaq is easily the most accomplished artist on this list.

The track itself is nothing short of remarkable. Biggie is great, obviously, but Shaq holds his own. Shaq’s lyrics are easily the most impressive from any player on the list. This paired with the jazzy instrumental makes the track a truly amazing listen.