While driving in the car the other day, former club banger “Pop That” by French Montana and co. came on the radio. The Drake verse came to the part where he says: “Gettin’ cheddar packs like KD, OKC that’s player s**t,” and it made two thoughts come to mind: 1) Kevin Durant may get his ring(s), but he’ll be remembered for leaving OKC to join the team that beat him; and 2) What are some of the greatest athlete-inspired rap lyrics of the last 20 years?
Rather than delve into thought number one and write the same article that roughly a million people have written, how about we have some fun and do thought number two? We’re going to limit it to players, no team references. Sorry to the Ludacris fans out there who do it in the Georgia Dome on the 50-yard line while the Dirty Birds kick for three.
Also, in making this list, we’ve decided to opt for creativity over name recognition. In other words, Snoop’s “like Kobe to Shaq now take that” or Jay-Z’s “. . . Tyson, Jordan, Game 6” have big names, but probably didn’t take much thought. Also, one could argue that the Jigga Man stole that line from Biggie in “Victory.” The following lyrics, on the other hand, make any sports fan smile upon hearing them:
First, the ones that didn’t quite make the list:
Chamillionaire – Turn It Up
Hit and never miss, rep yo click, and throw ’em high, cause Chamillionaire’s the answer to the game like Allen I.
This would have made it, but it’s Chamillionaire, so nah.
Eminem – The Monster
But if one kid out of a hundred million who are going through a struggle feels it and relates, that’s great, it’s payback, Russell Wilson falling way back in the draft, turn nothing into something, still can make that straw into gold chump, I will spin Rumpelstiltskin in a haystack.
This one was penciled in, but you can’t have a Russell Wilson-inspired rap lyric make this list after that photo went up. Seriously though, what PR person signed off on that? Never mind, on to the crème de la crème.
No 7: Cal Ripken Jr.
Problem ft. Bad Lucc – Like Whaaat
“Get a weight lifters, reppin’ Cal like Ripken“
Cal Ripken Jr. in a rap lyric? Cal Ripken Jr. in a rap lyric! Street cred for the Iron Man! The bonus Ric Flair “Wooooo” earlier on the track doesn’t hurt either.
No 6: Manny Pacquiao
Eminem ft. Bruno Mars and Royce da 5’9 – Lighters
“Every hour, happy hour now
Life is wacky now
Used to have to eat the cat to get the p***y
Now I’m just the cats meow, ow
Classic cow, always down for the catch weight like Pacquiao“
This one gets bonus points because seven years ago when this came out, Manny was discussing the prospect of fighting Floyd before the fight got made. Manny had just said that title fights should not be fought at a catch weight when he had just fought Miguel Cotto at, wait for it, a catch weight! Plus, try rhyming something with Pacquiao. The diving judges started this one off with a 3.7 level of difficulty for Royce da 5’9.
No 5: Randy Moss
Outkast ft. Killer Mike – The Whole World
“Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss
I catch a beat runnin like Randy Moss“
Not the most intricate of lines, but Randy Moss makes everything 100x better. The fact that you immediately pictured Randy breaking loose like this definitely helps sell this lyric.
No 4: Jackie Robinson
Jay-Z – Brooklyn
“I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them
I Jack, I Rob, I sin
Aw man, I’m Jackie Robinson
Except when I run base, I dodge the pen
Lucky me, lucky we, they didn’t get me
Now when I bring the Nets I’m the Black Branch Ricky
From Brooklyn corners, burning branches of sticky”
We couldn’t shut Jay-Z out of this list entirely. Jay pulled off the seldom-seen deconstruction of the athlete’s name to make a drug dealing reference and then coupled it with a quick shout out to the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who had Robinson called up in 1947. Well played.
No 3: Too Many To Name
Kendrick Lamar – Blood Sport
Flow? Check. Multiple sports in one stanza? Check. Morton Anderson reference? Check. The whole track is basically one giant compilation of great sports references. Here’s a snippet:
“I am Dwyane Wade of recording
You more like Kobe Bryant with no endorsements
That’s like Shaq at the freethrow, pointless
I’m equivalent to a Earl Boykins, Spud Webb, Muggsy Bogues
I suppose I handle the rock well
I do hoes like Stockton and Malone make my pick then roll
The ugly ones go to Sam Cassell
You washed up like Nick Van Exel . . .
How ’bout football?
I run the game like Walter Payton back 1984
I’m pass you n****s like Peyton Manning
Play the field like Ray Buchanan
When I kick it like Morton Anderson it gets scary
Weight on my shoulder, refrigerator Perry
Hip-hop cops on me I dodge them like Barry
Sanders… John Madden hold your commentary
Keep the cameras on I’m primetime like the ’95 Deion“
No 2: Rod Strickland
Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon) – Triumph
“Guaranteed to make em’ jump like Rod Strickland“
Just the most famous of many references to (NYC legend) Rod Strickland by the Wu-Tang Clan. Every kid who grew up in the ’90s remembers this one.
No 1: George Gervin, Jayson Williams, Erick Dampier, and Bill Laimbeer
Lil Wayne – Swizzy (Remix)
Lil’ Wayne’s Da Drought 3 mixtape brought the fire and had sports references galore. We could have gone with “I’m a dog. I should rap wit a muzzle/Peyton Manning flow, I just go no huddle” from “Throw Some Keys on It” but this one has it all. Iceman George Gervin reference for the oldie lovers, Jayson Williams manslaughter reference for, who knows, manslaughter lovers? Throwing shade at Bill Laimbeer, because, who from anywhere other than Detroit didn’t hate that guy? And finally, the random but perfect shot at Erick Dampier, the big man for Dallas who was the epitome of mediocrity. Like an RKO, it comes out of nowhere.
“And we gon’ get the money, even if it kills y’all
And I’mma ride til the muthaf****n wheels off
George Gervin, I’mma get my chill on
I’m cold, yeah I get my Buffalo Bill on . . .
Keep a shotgun, yeah I get my Jayson Will on . . .
She don’t touch me, I got cashmere on
I ballin’, you just Erick Dampier, dawg
I’m dirty, I get my Bill Laimbeer on
Weezy the Beast
Swizzy the Monster
And we’re gone”
Done and done. Poor Erick Dampier. Never saw it coming.