Music and basketball have always come together hand in hand, whether that be NBA stars dabbling in music or performers using players as inspiration. It’s the best part of the game, music plays throughout the game in the arena, during timeouts singers, dancers and rappers perform; music is entrenched in what makes the game of basketball. Take rapper Big Sean, for instance, who has taken the role of Creative Director of Innovation for the Detroit Pistons to bring and provide creative strategy towards team initiatives including team apparel and in-game experience.
Kanye West’s Graduation album is highly influenced by the game of basketball with each track having a subtle or direct reference to the game. In ‘The Glory’ he mentions NBA all-star Dwayne Wade and basketball legend Charles Barkley; in rap basketball players have become figures of empowerment and idols for those to look up to. This can also be said for Kendrick Lamar who has a track titled ‘Michael Jordan’ and opens with “I used to wanna be like Michael Jordan”. It’s common practice for rappers to name drop basketball players in their tracks; this arguably adds to that basketball players legendary status. The minute a player is named dropped in a track is the moment they know they are legendary. Take 21-year-old Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro; in his first year in the NBA, Jack Harlow named an entire track after him. Though the popularity of Herro’s game amongst the basketball crowd varies, this track adds to his iconic status as a player. It’s also a fantastic track and shows how basketball is so entrenched in music.
Not only can a player’s legacy be built through music, but songs can influence end of season awards. In 2015, Drake released a tracked titled ‘6 Man’ to promote Lou Williams, former Toronto Raptors player for the 6th Man of the Year award; he eventually went on to win the award. Williams may have won the award without Drake’s support but it sure did help his campaign. Drake is also known to be a huge NBA supporter and many of his songs reference the NBA from name dropping names like Kyle Lowry to DeMarcus Cousins.
Many players have also dabbled in a rap career, with the most successful at the moment arguably being Dame D.O.L.L.A also known as Portland Trailblazers Damien Lillard. His music is featured on NBA 2K21 and his most popular track has to be ‘Kobe’, a track about the legendary Kobe Bryant. This song also features Snoop Dogg and Derrick Milano, it was released after the sudden death of the basketball legend and it gives a brief history of the amazing game Kobe used to play. In a way, if you really want to know the impact Kobe Bryant had on the game of basketball, you can learn it all from the multitude of songs dedicated to him.
Other players such as Aaron Gordon for the Denver Nuggets write music about popular moments within the NBA. For example, his track ‘9 Out Of 10’ is about Gordon not winning the NBA All-Star Dunking Championship despite jumping “over the biggest dude in the building”. Players speak their truth through music and is a new way to connect to players without the intervention of sports media.
Basketball culture is entrenched in music, it plays a major role in the way we understand and consume the game. Though, sports and music may seem so far apart its actually closer than we think; think Superbowl performances being the biggest event of the year, halftime shows, dances and music being specifically made for the FIFA World Cup. Sports and music go hand in hand.