This year, the NBA off-season was one of the most memorable in league history. Several star players were traded, an exciting summer league took place, the Ball family made countless headlines and the introduction of Nike's new uniform kits for the 2017-18 season were just a few of the notable occurrences. Just like basketball, the rap world also had a busy summer that included major album drops and project releases from newcomers and veteran rappers alike. Now that the new NBA season is here, and hip-hop's finest are prepping for their fourth quarter releases, XXL caught up with a few respected NBA players to find out which rap albums they were listening to during the off-season, their musical playlists and who they think is the best athlete-rapper they've heard.

During Nike's special launch event in Los Angeles for the latest NBA uniform. .kits, the hip-hop publication was present for the festivities and spoke with players—J.R. Smith (Cleveland Cavaliers), Maurice Harkless (Portland Trailblazers), Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) about a number of topics including the new NBA Nike jerseys. With each player providing a detailed look of their home team uniforms for the upcoming season, the launch event also introduced NBA fans to the new, innovative warm-up gear that'll be worn by players during pre-games.

Besides the basketball talk and uniform unveiling, the NBA players also shared with XXL a few of the tracks and albums that were in heavy rotation for them during their four-month break. With all four star players highlighting hip-hop as their music genre of choice, the answers for each player were eclectic and full of surprises. One answer, however, that every player agreed upon, was when asked about who they think was the best
athlete-rapper of all time. With every player name-dropping Damian Lillard, the NBA peers of the Portland Trail Blazer have been paying attention to the rhymes and skills of Dame Dolla.

Check XXL's full interviews with NBA players J.R. Smith, Maurice Harkless, Paul Millsap and Karl-Anthony Towns about the NBA's new uniforms, what they listen to during the off-season and more.

XXL: What are your thoughts on the new NBA Statement uniforms?

J.R. Smith: I really love the new look NBA uniforms. They fit good and feel great. They’re much lighter. I can say we can move much faster, but you know, they’re Nike so they’re going to bring the best of the best, but I love these new jerseys for real.

Paul Milsap: I really like these new Nike uniforms. The new uniform for me this year represent a new team, a new set of colors, a new uniform. So I’m really feeling the colors of this new kit and how Nike put the uniforms together.

Maurice Harkless: Man, I love these Statement uniforms. They're probably my favorite ones so far. They're a lot more lighter and they feel great. I actually got to practice with the new jerseys for a bit and they're very light.

Karl-Anthony Towns: I think it's very different and it's very cool. I mean, Nike wants to be pioneers of something special and they're definitely doing that with these Statement jerseys. As you can see, it's a different set up and now people will wonder what jerseys we're gonna wear during the games because no one knows until we step onto the court.

How do you feel about the NBA moving away from the traditional home and away jersey system?

JRS: I think it's dope that we’re moving away from the traditional system. It’s kind of like when the NFL did the white out uniforms. So it’s a dope concept. It's different and the NBA has been evolving a lot. So Nike is always one step ahead with their ideas.

MH: I think it's cool. It creates a new uniform system that's exciting for fans, so they'll get to see all of different uniforms throughout the upcoming season. I think Nike does a great job of keeping up with the culture and being able to appeal to their fans and NBA fans. So I think it's huge and the fact that we got four different jerseys, that's a win in itself.

In your opinion, what's the difference between these Nike uniforms and the ones from last year?

PM: Compared to the uniforms from last year, I think these Nike uniforms are way more modern looking and up-to-date. The style and look are refreshing and the feel, is great! It’s not as heavy as the jerseys form last year and they feel way more light and fit much better. It just fits right.

What albums were you listening to during the off-season that stood out to you?

JRS: Man, a lot of good albums dropped, but honestly I’m still listening to 21 Savage's last album, Issa Album. That Issa Album is a problem! The whole album is crazy. I stay pumping it everywhere I go. So it’s been on heavy rotation.

PM: Man, there’s been a lot of dope releases, but one album I’ve been playing a lot this off season has been Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. album. I love that project. But to be honest with you, I listen to everything. My playlist has a whole bunch of different types of music.

MH: I'm still listening to Jay-Z's 4:44. I'm a big fan of Jay and his music is always dope!

KT: Oh, man, I've been listening to a lot of music this off season. I truly been all over the place. One moment I'm listening to Nines from the U.K. and next minute I'm listening to something else. You name it, I listen to it. I'm a big fan of Brockhampton. An album I've played a lot this off season as well is Ace Hood's last project. I love his music. I've always loved it. Since I'm a music nerd I'm always listening to new stuff I really like this new G Herbo project and there's a lot of good albums on the way. People that know me know I love hip-hop and R&B and I just love music in general.

What songs are on your playlist before games and practices?

PM: No specific artists, but it just depends on how I feel that day. Some days I might be too amped up so I gotta slow it down and play some R&B, and other days I may need energy so I listen to some hip-hop, but it really depends on how I feel that day.

J.R., will Issa Album be the album your playing before games to get you amped up?

JRS: Nah, it won’t. To be honest with you, I listen to R&B before the games. I actually do, ’cause if I play that 21 album or anything that gets me too hype, that's not good for me because I can’t play like that, so I tend to have a smooth playlist before the games.

As you know, a lot of athletes have attempted to rap, with a few even putting out hip-hop albums. In your opinion, who do you think is best athlete you've heard rap and why?

JRS: I would probably have to say Damian Lillard. I mean lyrically, Dame says a lot of dope stuff. Like when I listen to his album he’s got some tracks on there. He’s like really rapping on there. It’s not like he’s talking to talk, you know what I’m saying? He’s really rapping out here and proving he got talent.

PM: I heard Damian Lillard. Man…he’s really good and talented. His style and his delivery are really good. Plus, he actually sounds great in the tracks I heard, so if I had to pick one—it would be Dame.

MH: Shaq had a song with Biggie and I like that song a lot just because of Biggie's lyrics, but I think overall, Dame is the best athlete-rapper I've heard.

Maurice, being that your teammates with Dame, does he tend to freestyle in the locker room a lot?

MH: Every once in a while. Not too often, but every now and then he does.

Have you seen him work on music during the NBA regular season?

MH: He actually listens to beats and writes music on the plane. So that's really cool to watch him work on his craft.

Have you ever tried your hand at rapping?

MH: I play around with it but I'm no good. I play around with it for fun.

See New Music Releases for November 2017

More From XXL