Best of Both Worlds: Rap and Pro Sports


Former NBA star Allen Iverson with rapper Nelly

Chris Samuel, the SCORE Co-Editor

Two things that are highly influential in society are sports and hip-hop.

Basketball and football in particular are heavily tied to rap music. From the athlete name drops in rap lyrics, the attempted mixtapes by athletes or the fashion trends, the relationship with hip-hop and sports is one of the most defining combinations of American culture. 

With all things in life, change happens. The early era of rap with sports had a far different culture than today. The trends or what most consider popular is far different or more advanced than it used to be.

Black athletes during the rise of hip-hop  were starting to share their favorite music publicly, which raised eyebrows throughout rural America. From 1991-1993, the University of Michigan men’s basketball starting lineup took America by storm. The “Fab Five” — as they are famously known — consisted of Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. As they received more attention from the media because of their flashiness, they revealed their favorite music to be hip-hop icons like those 80s artists who began to bridge the gap. Those artists included Ice Cube, EPMD, Tupac Shakur and others.

Over the years, athletes are quick to follow the fads of hip-hop. Jerseys from all sports leagues are worn now as fashion statements, but those in fashion can thank hip-hop for that. Since the 90s, rappers have consistently improved sales of jerseys, hats, hoodies, sweaters and anything with a team logo on it that could make them look fashionable and still rep their hoods. Even the less popular sports in Black America like hockey and soccer get represented through apparel.

 Former NBA superstar Allen Iverson started to “dress like a rapper” when he arrived at games. Iverson’s attire would include baseball caps, jewelry and baggy clothing. All of those articles of clothing are popular in the rap community, and Iverson is considered to be the biggest influence for the way of dressing for NBA players. The trend was so popular and common, the NBA made a “dress code” in 2005 that banned things such as chains, medallions, and baggy clothing.

Business in both realms can be very beneficial if it is done right. Legendary rapper Jay-Z along with Creative Artists Agency, founded Roc Nation Sports management group in 2013. Roc Nation is also the rap label that was founded by Jay-Z. Roc Nation’s management includes athletes such as Saquan Barkley, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and many more.

To promote their team , the Toronto Raptors named rapper Drake as their Global Ambassador in 2013 to promote their franchise campaign “We The North”. Since his arrival, the Raptors won their first title in franchise history in 2019.

The wave that hip-hop has caused has been nearly unmatched, and sports is the perfect partner. For 30-plus years, they have been tied with giving the world plenty of cultural shifts and trends. 

To many, rap will never die and it won’t be too many athletes that will not at least “attempt” to hop in the studio. For right now and in the near future, the two will continue to be a perfect pair.