If there’s any genre of music that relates directly to the sport of basketball, it’s hip-hop. Like hip-hop, basketball is predominantly ruled by African-Americans, its legends often come from having nothing before eventually reaching superstardom, and it’s most popular in the inner cities of America. And just like rappers, there are great NBA players, bad ones, overrated ones, underrated ones, controversial ones, and plenty of others.
So, let’s take a look at 15 NBA players and their hip-hop artist counterparts.
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KEVIN GARNETT is EMINEM
Since he burst onto the scene in 1999 with his first major album, The Slim Shady LP, Eminem has been about as polarizing a figure in the hip-hop community as there could be. He has often been the subject of criticism due to his perceived homophobic and misogynistic lyrics, but after becoming the best-selling artist of the 2000s and producing three critically-acclaimed albums, the Detroit rapper has also proven himself to be one of the greatest emcees in the history of the music.
Sharing Eminem’s combination of controversial-tendencies and pure greatness is Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Garnett. Over his 18-year career, Garnett has become recognized as one of basketball’s most notorious trash-talkers. In November of 2010, he was accused of calling Charlie Villanueva (who suffers from alopecia universalis) a cancer patient, and just last January in a game between his Celtics and the Knicks, rumor had it that Garnett told Carmelo Anthony that his wife, La La, “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.” This is also the guy who got down on all fours and barked like a dog at Jerryd Bayless before he made Glen Davis — his own teammate — cry during the same game.
But KG isn’t just a trash-talking punk; he’s also one of the best players of this generation. He’s a former MVP, an NBA champion, a 15-time All-Star, and one of the greatest defensive players to ever step foot on a basketball court, even winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008. It’s just another case proving that no matter how controversial or classless an athlete is at times, it can all be forgiven and forgotten with success on the field, or in this case, the hardwood.
CARMELO ANTHONY is JAY-Z
Right now, Carmelo Anthony is the king of New York basketball. Born in Brooklyn in May of 1984, the Knicks superstar takes plenty of pride in playing for his hometown city. But while he’s surely one of the sport’s current great players, there’s something that’s missing with Anthony, something that separates him from the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. He’s a six-time All-Star and captured the league’s scoring title last season, but he’s never made the All-NBA First Team and he’s never played in the NBA Finals. ‘Melo is one of the most talented players in the league, but at least in comparison to the other superstars, it feels like he’s somewhat overrated.
Like Carmelo, Jay-Z loves to make it known that he is one of New York’s own. He was born in Brooklyn in 1969, and in 2009 he released “Empire State of Mind” — a song about his love for the Big Apple. Jigga is also a lifelong Yankees fan and was influential in the Nets move from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn. Like Anthony, Jay is clearly one of the most gifted stars in his field, but most fans have a propensity to overrate him solely based on the fact that he is Jay-Z. From Reasonable Doubt to The Blueprint to The Black Album, Shawn Carter has several classic albums, but he’s also had his share of duds — see Kingdom Come and Dynasty.
KOBE BRYANT is 2Pac
There are so many parallels between Kobe and ‘Pac. They are two of the most renowned names in their respective fields; when you think rap, you think Tupac, and when you think of this generation of basketball, you think Kobe Bryant. Tupac, who resided in California, was the king of West Coast hip-hop and, obviously, Kobe has spent his entire professional career in the Golden State as a Los Angeles Laker.
Simply put: these two are legends. Bryant is a five-time champion, a former MVP, and one of the greatest players in the history of one of basketball’s greatest franchises. Tupac, meanwhile, has become widely-recognized as not only one of rap’s all-time greats, but also one of its most influential artists.