There’s nothing that rappers like to compare themselves to more (other than maybe international drug lords) than NBA superstars. There are literally thousands of references to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James scattered throughout discographies from all over the country which won’t really make anyone stop and rewind the track, because in an art form as ego-driven and battle orientated as hip-hop we expect people to compare themselves to the best. As we hit NBA playoff season here are some of the best NBA player references that hit from a little left of court.
“And every time I’m jammed I always find a loophole/I got a crime record longer than Manute Bol” – Big L, “MVP”
Anyone who watched basketball in the 90’s know exactly what L was talking about when he said “long” instead of “tall”. “MVP” was the second single off the classic Big L album Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous so you know this line had people chuckling worldwide.
“Interscope feeling like Charlotte when they traded Kobe, you know?/But I let it go, Rozay finna re-up/He got himself a Kobe and they stuck with Vlade Divac” – Wale, “Barry Sanders”
Now, I’m not sure of the accuracy of the reference as Interscope definitely have more than a Vlade Divac on their roster but Wale gets full points for trying to draw a parallel between a 1996 NBA Draft trade and record label recording contract situations.
“While in New York, they say I’m crazy like Rodman was/In New Jersey, I’m what Petrovic, Drazan was” – Joe Budden, “Something To Ride To”
A little more sombre and morbid than any other NBA lyric that I can recall as Budden makes the connection to the late Croatian baller over an eerie and haunting backdrop. Reading between the lines, he’s touching on the fact that not everyone is as happy and carefree as they appear on the surface. In New York it was all parties and antics but when he got back to Jersey he was dead inside. All that glitters ain’t gold.
“Butcher me on the court/Too many elbows to report/Now you’re poking me in the eye/Bill Laimbeer mother*cker it’s time for you to die.” – Mike D, “Tough Guy”
This is an odd one from the Beastie Boys Ill Communication album. Although their contributions to hip-hop culture branch far and wide and are undisputed icons, this track was more punk rock than anything and that’s probably extremely fitting. You can feel the frustration of a Knicks fan that has had to endure the Bad Boy-era Pistons time and time again in the late 80’s. I guess Mike D really held that grudge.
“Nothing was f*cking awesome, trying to make it from the bottom of Syd’s/feeling as hard as Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is” – Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”
With over 20 seasons in the NBA and a reputation for highflying aerial moves that will naturally accumulate a lot of impact with the hardwood, it is a fair assumption that Vince Carter’s knee cartilage may differ from your average human’s. Earl casually compares the veteran’s joints to recording in Syd The Kid’s basement and grinding his way out along with the rest of Odd Future. We can only hope that Earl’s career stretches as long as Vince’s.
“See I used to pay Kobe but now I pay Lebron.” – Jeezy, “24-23”
No, Jeezy isn’t talking about hiring either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James for their services on any level. The Atlanta native is actually talking cocaine economics and how the price paid for a kilogram dropped from $24,000 to $23,000, which as you know 24 and 23 are Kobe and LeBron’s jersey numbers respectively. Although the two players mentioned aren’t obscure by any means I had to include this for the sheer creativity of the context in which they are included.
“They thinking I’m spelling Iverson when the beef all done, cause he’ll be on IV on the ER, son” – 40 Cal.
Best known for his work the Harlem group The Diplomats alongside Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and Cam’Ron, 40 Cal also had a reputation on the battle scene for his wordplay and hardened delivery. He dropped this burner in a battle against Cardi that was too good to not give a mention too. Probably one of the most creative Iverson lines, a shame it wasn’t said on a Dipset track.