In the urban diaspora, two of the most popular routes to a life of success and riches are sports and music, particularly basketball and rap. It was The Notorious B.I.G. who once said, "The streets is a short stop/either you slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot," with his rap career being the only perceived alternative to a life of crime, given his marginal hoop skills.

The pride of Brooklyn may not have been able to play pro ball in the league, but he is only one of countless rappers who have transferred their love of the game into die-hard fandom. From the earliest rap recordings, rhyme slingers have infused their obsession with basketball into their artistry, with the top artists in the genre throwing props to the most electrifying players and teams and comparing their greatness to that of their own.

Popular NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and LeBron James are just a few of the iconic players that have gotten love from your favorite rap artists. And when you add in nods to collegiate standouts that wowed fans, but never made it to the league, and iconic squads like the UNLV Running Rebels, Michigan's Fab Five and the Georgetown Hoyas, it's clear that hip-hop's connection to basketball runs deep. With the NBA season capturing hip-hop's attention, we've dug deep in the crates to highlight 20 great rap lyrics referencing the game of hoops.

  • 1

    "It Ain't Hard to Tell"


    "Wisdom be leaking out my grapefruit, troop/I dominate break loops, giving mics men-e-strual cycles/Street's disciple, I rock beats that's mega trifle/And groove even smoother than moves by Villanova"

  • 2

    "Get Funky"

    The Beatnuts

    "Unleashing lyrical wrath to leave you open/Crew that choose to bite might find yourself toking/Dirty alone I never do what the pope says/I'm tryin' to get money like Felipe Lopez" - Juju

  • 3

    "Thank Me Now"


    "I can relate to kids going straight to the league/When they recognize that you got what it takes to succeed/And that's around the time that your idols become your rivals/You make friends with Mike, but got to A.I. him for your survival"

  • 4


    Joe Budden Featuring Wiz Khalifa and French Montana

    "Snakes in the trenches I peep those/Get injured,
    end up like Grant Hill on the bench in your street clothes/Talk about he real, how he quick with a Glock/But like Kurt Thomas he ain't good for shit on the block" - Joe Budden

  • 5



    "The jewels is flirting, be damned if I'm hurting/Legend in two games like I'm Pee Wee Kirkland/Platinum on the block with consistent hits/While Pharrell keep talking this music shit" - Pusha T

  • 6

    "Mama Told Me"


    "Nigga I'm a hundred miles far/I'm feelin' Chris Childs, you lookin' like Kobe Bryant jaw/It's lonely at the top so I waited, but ain't nobody take it/Now I'm playin' solitaire patient"

  • 7

    "Raw & Uncut"

    Beanie Sigel Featuring Jay Z

    "Me and Jay same track/You gotta be kiddin'/It's like that nigga Jordan, I'm Scottie Pippen/ It's like Magic, Worthy/Parish, Bird, B/Stockton, Malone shit/Who gonna stop and hold this?/Game like Doc and Moses/Full court press and the Roc controls this" - Beanie Sigel

  • 8

    "Banned From TV"

    N.O.R.E. Featuring Big Pun, Cam'ron, The LOX and Nature

    "Ayo, ayo, regardless of rain or snow, sleet or hail/I kick street tales, choking niggas like I'm Sprewell/Golden State, holding your fate in the palm of my hand/Blow you away like it's part of the plan" - Nature

  • 9

    "Iz He 4 Real"


    "Somebody light the fuse so I can bring bad news/To all these crews who can't NBA Jam with the shoes/That double shot Hennessy got my mind trippin'/Drunk enough to start a campaign on ass kickin'/With my nigga Keith who give assists like Scott Pippen/For MC derelict whippin, cap or cock twisting"

  • 10

    "Rebel Without a Pause"

    Public Enemy

    "Attitude when I'm on fire/Juice on the loose, electric wire/Simple and plain, give me the lane/I'll throw it down your throat like Barkley/You see my car keys, you'll never get these/They belong to the 98 posse" - Chuck D

  • 11

    "Get It Together"

    Beastie Boys

    "See, I've got heart like John Starks/Hitting mad sparks/Pass me the mic and I'll be rockin' the whole park" - Mike D

  • 12


    Puff Daddy Featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes

    “Excellence is my presence, never tense/Never hesitant, leave a nigga bent real quick/Real sick, raw nights, I perform like Mike/Anyone — Tyson, Jordan, Jackson/Action, pack guns, ridiculous/And I’m, quick to bust, if my ends you touch” – The Notorious B.I.G.

  • 13

    "The Dream Shatterer"

    Big Pun

    "Ayo, I shatter dreams like Jordan/Assault and batter your team/Your squadron will be barred from rap/Like Adam and Eve from the garden"

  • 14

    "Put Your Hands Up"


    "And y'all scared I can tell/That I'ma get Bucks like Milwaukee, cause like Sam, I ca' sell/I'm that nigga y'all know that/Bang you in tha yard then slide off on the early go-back/In the streets I flash the cannon like Kodak"

  • 15

    "Lyrics to Go"

    A Tribe Called Quest

    "Today's a hip-hop draft will I be top-seeded? (uhh)/Worked too frickin hard while all the rest were gettin weeded/Steady kickin' styles so I can reach that other level/Don't worry about gettin' gassed I push the pedal to the metal/Always wanted this cause it surely beats a scramble/I'm Jordan with the mic, huh, wanna gamble?" - Phife Dawg

  • 16


    Kurtis Blow

    "Basketball is my favorite sport/I like the way they dribble up and down the court/Just like I'm the king on the microphone/So is Dr. J and Moses Malone/I like slam dunks, take me to the hoop/My favorite play is the alley-oop"

  • 17

    "What Means the World to You"

    Cam'ron Featuring Keema

    "In Chi I'm Mike, Boston I'm Kenny/In Miami I'm Timmy, in Phoenix I'm Penny/Then, in Harlem I'm semi-auto, war so, what the hell you want/Got sons guns run run/Make them run run skate take one"

  • 18

    "It Was a Good Day"

    Ice Cube

    "Called up the homies and I'm askin' y'all/'Which park are y'all playing basketball?'/Get me on the court and I'm trouble/Last week, fucked around and got a triple double/Freaking niggas every way, like MJ/I can't believe today was a good day"

  • 19

    "I Got a Story to Tell"

    The Notorious B.I.G.

    "The shit she kicked, all the shit's legit/She get dick from a player off the New York Knicks/Nigga tricked ridiculous, the shit was plush/She's stressin me to fuck, like she was in a rush/We fucked in his bed, quite dangerous/I'm in his ass while he playin gainst the Utah Jazz"

  • 20

    "Hova Song (Intro)"

    Jay Z

    "Hova the God, I should be rapping with a turban/Haters can't disturb him, waiters can't serve him/Mike Jordan of rap, outside J working/Now watch how quickly I drop 50/I don't like playing, niggas can't stick me/Niggas can not jam me, niggas can't get me"

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