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From Ballers To Ballin’: Hip-Hop And Basketball’s Uncanny Similarities

July 23, 2013
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Hip-hop and basketball are like two threads that have interwoven with each other to make a rope that many have used to climb out of abject poverty. So similar in characteristic and personality are the two that for almost every rapper his NBA player equivalent can be found.

Both have borrowed from each other whether it’s by rappers comparing themselves to basketball players or rhyming basketball metaphors or wearing their favourite teams’ shirt as a fashion statement – to basketball players shouting out their favourite rappers rhymes after team huddles. No sport can be as closely compared to a genre of music as basketball is to hip-hop so how and why are the two so closely linked?

Damn I swear sports and music are so synonymous, cause we wanna be them and they wanna be us.

- Drake

The fundamentals of both hip-hop and basketball are rooted in competition and beating the next man to be the very best. In hip-hop battles and rap beefs, the emcee is striving to outdo his opponent in order to be on top of the hip-hop food chain, so too with basketball is the player trying to one up his opponent through mesmerising moves that highlight his athleticism. The Dunk, just as the clever punchline, marks dominance over an opponent. A one-on-one game provides the same opportunity to outmatch your opponent with the same boldness as the rap battle.

I ball for real, y’all niggas is Sam Bowie

And with the 3rd pick, I made the earth sick

MJ him Jay, fade away perfect.

– Jay-Z

Both the craft of hip-hop and basketball start off as solitary endeavours, whether it’s an aspiring rapper writing in his rhyme book or a hopeful baller practicing shots on an empty court. Both baller and rapper are constantly honing their skills, trying to get a little bit better every day so that they too can one day be the best and be compared to either Michael Jordan or Jay-Z.

The only way out the ghetto, you know the stereotype

Shooting hoops or live on the stereo like top 40.

- Kendrick Lamar

Most importantly – if not the most unfortunate reason – most see rapping and playing basketball as their only way out of the hood. A majority of rappers and basketball players are those that ‘made it out of the ghetto’. The fact that most of these ballers and rappers come from similar backgrounds, and that both basketball and hip-hop use the same kind of mentality in order to achieve success in each craft, it’s no wonder then that hip-hop and basketball emulate and feed each other in a way that no other sport and music genre do. There are countless basketball metaphors that have been spit by avid basketball fan rappers to some basketball players even trying their hand at the game. There are numerous friendships between basketball players and rappers and their fashion tastes are similar. Basketball players have been recorded as saying they listen to their favourite rap songs before a game and rappers will tell you that they shoot hoops for fun in their spare time.

The connection between basketball and hip-hop has given rise to a unique culture of collaboration that has produced some beautiful relationships, and cultural trends that have both been rebellious and defiant in nature; in order to not conform to what society believes how men who play ball and rap should act and think. The symbiotic relationship between basketball and hip-hop is truly a wonderful thing considering that this relationship has for the most part had a positive impact on the communities they most influence.


Written By: Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)

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