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10 of My Favorite Recent NBA References in Hip-Hop

Carmelo Anthony by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

10 of My Favorite Recent NBA References in Hip-Hop

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

It’s almost September, which means it’s almost October, which means it’s almost time for the NBA to come back. Which means I’m hyped. Nothing gets me more hyped than the return of the NBA, except maybe hip-hop. Luckily for me, these two things intersect frequently. So today, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite NBA references in hip-hop. We all know the classic references (heeeey, It Was a Good Day by Ice Cube), so I wanted to stick to some newer tunes.

Make yourself a playlist and count down the days until the 2018-19 season with me.

1. Black Boy Fly – Kendrick Lamar

“I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo
I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo
He was the one to follow
He was the only leader foreseeing brighter tomorrows
He would live in the gym
We was living in sorrow
Total envy of him
He made a dream become a reality
Actually making it possible to swim
His way out of Compton with further more to accomplish
Graduate with honors, a sponsor of basketball scholars”

There is an entire verse on this bonus track about Arron Afflalo, who went to high school with Kendrick Lamar in Compton. Kendrick is one of my favorite artists, and I love how he shouts out his former classmate in this song. I’d say Kendrick’s done pretty well for himself now though, too.

2. Nikes – Frank Ocean

“These bitches want Nikes
They looking for a check
Tell em it ain’t likely 
Said she need a ring like Carmelo 
Must be on that white like Othello 
All you want is Nikes
But the real ones just like you
Just like me”

Frank Ocean is another one of my favorite artists – blending R&B, jazz, hip-hop, pop, electronica, and everything in between. I love this reference to Melo – the chances of him getting a ring might be a little higher this season than the last few.

3. Sports – Lil Dicky

“And then ma D Rose quicker than a bull at the garden
Dick like James from the way that it Harden

This one’s a little filthy (we’re all adults here – at least mostly), but unsurprising from Lil Dicky. I think he’s brilliant. 

4. Rise and Shine – J. Cole

“Get on your job lil man, this ain’t Saturday
We in two different lanes, you can’t navigate
We in two different games, you playin’ patty cake
Brother you’re lame, you’re Shane Battier

I think the reason I love this reference is that it’s about Shane Battier. Sure, anyone can reference LeBron or Jordan, but Shane Battier? Kudos, J. Cole. More than talking shit about Battier’s skills, I think J. Cole is talking about Battier’s game being more basic and fundamental – he’s not flashy or a star player, but a strong role player (and yeah, maybe a little boring).

5. White Iverson – Post Malone

“I’m ballin’, money jumpin’
Like I’m Davis from New Orleans
Or bitch I’m Harden, I don’t miss nothin’
Fuck practice, this shit just happens, know y’all can’t stand it
I have it, I’ll never pass it, I work my magic
High average, ball on these bastards, it makes me happy
It’s tragic, I make it happen, and all y’all Shaqtin

I mean, duh. Iverson is one of my favorite players of all-time and I so  appreciate an entire song dedicated to him.

6. Warning – Fat Joe

“My west coast shorty throw DUB with four fingers
Ma you a pleasant surprise like Porzingis

I remember feeling so bad for Porzingis during the draft. His parents were with him, hearing him get booed by Knicks fans. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?! Fat Joe and Porzingis, apparently. 

7. Jumpman – Future and Drake

“I just found my tempo like I’m DJ Mustard, woo
I hit the Ginobili with my left hand up like, woo”

Drake’s got a ton of great NBA references, but I went with this one to honor the great Manu Ginobili. I’m gonna miss seeing his crafty plays and bald spot grace my screen come October.

8. iSpy – Kyle

“Ayy, boy is good and he knows it, he don’t say it, he shows it
I’m just like DeRozan, if I shoot it, it goes in”

I feel like DeRozan definitely deserves a little more love in the hip-hop world. Kyle gets it, and this song is catchy as hell. I swear, my boyfriend could’ve killed me a few months ago when I played this song multiple times a day.

9. The Heart Part 4 – Kendrick Lamar

“Tables turned, lesson learned, my best look
You jumped sides on me, now you ’bout to meet Westbrook
Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you
Just know the next game played, I might slap the shit out you
Technical foul, I’m flagrant, I’m foul
They throwin’ me out, you throw in the towel”

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got Kendrick on here twice because I love him. The first time I heard this song I clapped after this Westbrook line. I’ve always been a fan of Westbrook – suuuure he’s a ball hog and a stat-stuffer, but he’s a firecracker and fun as hell to watch. And we allllll know how I feel about KD by now.

10. Clique – Kanye West (feat. Jay-Z, Big Sean)

“Yeah, I’m talkin’ bossy, I ain’t talkin’ Kelis
Your money too short, you can’t be talking to me
Yeah, I’m talkin’ LeBron, we ball in our family tree”

I mean, I had to include at least one LeBron James reference, right? I find it hilarious when rappers talk about how rich they are, but it becomes slightly more tolerable when basketball’s involved. James and Jay-Z are friends and mutual fans of the other, and I guess you can’t talk to them unless you have a shitload of money. 

There are tons more great references, but I’m going to stop at ten or else this list would be endless. Leave any of your favorites, old or new, in the comments so I can add to my playlist.

Jamie is an actress, bar manager (and frequenter), beauty blogger, INFP, and of course, NBA fanatic living in Los Angeles. She spends most of her free time curating her Spotify playlists, eating Korean BBQ with her boyfriend, and deciding what color lipstick to wear.

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