Published on November 7th, 2018 | by Guest Editor0
If Classic Hip-Hop Albums were Top 15 NBA Players…
Hoops and hip-hop. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, like a pair of Air Force 1s and a fresh fitted. If you’re like us, you’ve already fired up your NBA League Pass subscription and you’re eating up the early season action.
It made us think: If classic hip-hop albums (from the ‘90s and early ‘00s) were Top 15 NBA players, who would they be? Our list is below. And don’t forget to check out our Spotify playlist after the jump, featuring some of our favorite tracks from each album.
15) KLAY THOMPSON – Redman – Whut? Thee Album
Klay is clearly Redman, the Funk Doctor Spock, on Whut. He’s everyone’s favorite teammate. There should be a camera on him 24 hours a day. He’s not quite as well- regarded as his teammates (Method Man, Def Squad). However, when it’s Time for Sum Aksion, Klay can “take a whole crew, give ’em a punch of the funk, and knock all their gold tooth loose (POW!).” Plus, couldn’t you see Klay living in that MTV crib with the busted doorbell and his cousin sleeping on the floor?
14) CHRIS PAUL – Dr. Dre – Chronic 2001
Haters said CP3 fell off after Lob City, so he headed for Houston. Last season was his Chronic 2001. He engineered the Rockets’ historic run and on the biggest stage, the Western Conference Finals, he treated the competition like Cali weed, he smoked ‘til he slept.
13) VICTOR OLADIPO – Scarface – The Fix
Scarface’s early albums were a lot like Dipo’s play with the Magic: solid, but uninspiring. But after his move to Def Jam, Scarface finally found “The Fix” – mirroring Dipo’s trade to Indiana. In his first season with the new-look Pacers, Dipo was Cold Blooded, being named an All-Star and the league’s “Most Improved Player.”
12) JIMMY BUTLER – Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
A pair of stone-cold assassins from the PJs, Butler and Cube attack their craft with a coiled rage. In 1990, Cube used his beef with NWA to inspire his electrifying solo debut, Most Wanted. This year, I’d bet on Jimmy Buckets using his beef with the T-Wolves to “transform like a Decepticon, with his [jumper] as a bomb, in his right palm.”
11) JOEL EMBIID – Eminem – Slim Shady LP
A white kid from Detroit overcomes relentless criticism to drop one of the hottest debuts of all-time, cracking us all up, calling out every girl of our dreams, and immediately becoming our favorite new emcee. Sounds a bit like: a kid from Cameroon, Africa who picks up basketball at 15 (!) and overcomes relentless criticism to become a starter in the 2017 All-Star game, while cracking us all up, firing on Bad Girl Ri Ri, and immediately becoming our favorite new big man.
10) KYRIE IRVING – GZA – Liquid Swords
GZA was on top of the world with Wu-Tang after 36 Chambers. But he shared that championship with RZA. On Swords, GZA finally got a chance to run the offense…just like Kyrie in Boston. In Celtic green, Uncle Drew was a chessmaster, averaging 24 PPG and five dimes. Which, if you think about it, is basically GZA’s stats on this LP. He crosses you up (“the body dropper”), can hit you with a hesi jumper (“the heartbeat stopper”), or take it to the rack with either hand (“the child educator” and “head amputator”).
If Kyrie can stay healthy, he’s looking at a five-mic season/top-five ranking and a trip back to the Finals.
9) DAMIAN LILLARD – Big L – Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous
Dame Dollar is Big L, a mesmerizing talent doing major things under the radar. These two have a bit of NBA Jam in them – you can see these dudes starting to glow red as they get hot. If they had better marketing, they’d be household names, and H&M would be selling a t-shirt with this album cover featured on the front.
8) KAWHI LEONARD – Common – Like Water for Chocolate
Kawhi’s comparison is Common Sense, isn’t it? A conscious cat who lets his work do the talking. Common gave us a masterpiece with Chocolate; however, how much of the credit for that goes to his “coach”, J. Dilla? Dilla was a virtuoso, the rap version of Coach Pop. It begs the question: In a new city, with a new squad: Is Toronto Kawhi’s Electric Circus?
7) RUSSELL WESTBROOK – DMX – It’s Dark and Hell is Hot
Since entering the league, Russ has played as hard as DMX went in on the Intro of this album. The Intro! (Sidebar: Does anyone else remember when Mike Tyson came out to Intro for his fight against Botha? If you haven’t seen it, watch it right now. You will be ready to bench press your neighbor’s house).
Russ would also totally go shirtless on his album cover. If the NBA is a war and you can think of someone you’d rather go to battle with than a dude who’s averaged a triple-double the last two years: “Get at me, dog.”
6) GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPMPO – Andre 3000 on Outkast’s Aquemini
A 7-foot point guard from Greece who is the best shooter, defender, passer, rebounder, and Insta follow on his team. Or as Andre 3k puts it on Da Art of Storytellin’: “Silly mortals haven’t a clue as to what the funk is going on.” Giannis is an alien. It remains to be seen if Khris Middleton is his Big Boi.
5) ANTHONY DAVIS – Notorious BIG – Life After Death
Like Biggie, Anthony Davis would be a #1 pick in any era. In his first few seasons, AD was Ready to Die: raw, hard hitting. But last year, his play evolved, culminating in a first-round playoff beat-down of the Blazers. His Life After Death. Like the Brow’s game, this album has something for everyone. Party anthems. Bangers. Music to freak to. Music to fight to. Will 2019 end with Davis’ first MVP trophy? Or with him “Goin’, Goin’…to Cali, Cali” to join Lebron? If that’s the case, it’ll be the basketball version of an In-N-Out Double Double: one of the few things in life that lives up to the hype.
4) JAMES HARDEN – Bun B on UGK’s Underground Kingz
It took a few albums for the world to recognize the unique trappings of Bun B. Bun’s flow is unassuming, yet deadly. Sort of like a dude with a garden gnome beard casually breaking your ankles with a crossover and then draining a three in your face. Love him or hate him, the Beard is getting results and putting Houston on the map.
3) KEVIN DURANT – 2Pac – All Eyez On Me
After being released from the prison that was OKC, we find KD with the Outlaws and at the pinnacle of his powers. Picture [Him] Rollin’ with back-to-back championships and back-to-back Finals MVPs. By the time All Eyez dropped, Pac finally looked like he was having fun. Yet he could still unleash his Thug Passion when the moment called for it. Easy Money Sniper, indeed.
2) STEPHEN CURRY – Kanye West – Graduation
Kanye’s arrival on College Dropout took the world by storm. At the time, no one gave him a shot – he didn’t look (or sound) like any rapper we’d seen before. The same could be said about a scrawny, baby-faced guard from Davidson. Oh, how things have changed. These two have transcended their genres and become international icons.
In the ‘90s, when kids were counting down the clock for a game-winning shot in their driveways, they wanted to be like Mike. Today, they want to be like Steph. After multiple titles and accolades, we’ve arrived at SC’s apex, his Graduation. Yet if his nagging injuries flare up again this year, there’s a chance the Dubs could go down, inevitably leading to his 808s & Heartbreak. Say what you will, but I still ride for 808s.
1) LEBRON JAMES – Jay-Z – The Blueprint
The Blueprint was Jay-Z at his deepest and most complex. Working with a team of talented, yet temperamental young producers, he willed his album to heavenly results and became the most powerful force in music, maybe the media world. Likewise, Lebron’s first season in LA will not only shape the NBA, but also sports and culture for years to come. It’s clear: “Put [him] anywhere on God’s green Earth, [he’ll] triple [his] worth.”
As vanguards of their industries, The God MC and the King are notably at their best when challenged by rivals. The Warriors are clearly Lebron’s Ether. Can he use it as a spark to ignite his return to a 10th straight Finals? His place in the pantheon depends on it. But, hey: “If he ain’t better than [Jordan]…he’s the closest one.”
Check out the playlist on Spotify.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Duffett is a contributing author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles, originally from Boston, MA. He has recently collaborated on Film & TV projects with Sylvester Stallone and Stephen King. A lifelong hip-hop head and sports fan, this is his first article for The Hype. You can connect with him @mattduffett.Tweet