The National Basketball Association begins its 68th season today. And well, that’s just great. Since this isn’t really the place for diagraming how defenses react to weak-side down screens, I’ll instead look at rap in the NBA. From the 1994 tape B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret, to Shaq’s songs with Biggie and Fu-Schnickens, to Master P trying out for the Hornets, to Allen Iverson’s “40 Bars,” to Kobe Bryant’s “K.O.B.E.,” to Ron Artest putting out an album after being suspended for the Palace brawl, the NBA and hip-hop have had a long and symbiotic relationship. (This isn’t even to mention throwback jerseys, Iverson’s cultural influence on David Stern changing the dress code, or basketball metaphors in like half of all rap songs ever)
Today, the NBA and rap are inseparable. It’s not merely a few players who have Run-DMC or Kool Moe Dee on their Walkmans anymore. Rookie Nerlens Noel was born after 2Pac had already starred in three feature films and was barely alive for Notorious B.I.G.’s first album. Some of these rookies most likely weren’t all that interested in music until after Jay-Z retired. Therefore the stigma that was attached to rap music before Nelly did a song with Tim McGraw is absent for these young fellas. Growing up with ringtone rap and banging out beats on a locker with a pencil has led to more than a few amateur rappers in the Association.
Portland Trailblazers second-year guard Damian Lillard decided to show off his rhymes last month on Instagram, and pleaded for others to join in with him. I’m pretty sure his agent had some influence on this social media strategy, but the results have been pretty remarkable nonetheless. Coming complete with a website, Twitter handle and hashtag, #4BarFriday was born:
Lillard is from Oakland, and there seems to be more Mistah F.A.B. in his raps than Too $hort. But with those four bars, the movement took off. Soon enough, Iman Shumpert (he of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! rap album fame) did his own, proving he’s better than pretty much all of the “Beast Coast” rappers:
Pacers guard/forward and kind of superstar Paul George also decided to join in:
C.J. McCollum, the Blazers’ rookie point guard due to be sidelined for at least the first month of the season with a fractured left foot, came through with some lyricism and absolutely no personality. He got overshadowed by his Nike Dunks:
Harrison Barnes, the Golden State Warriors forward who needs more minutes than David Lee, laced the internet with four of the better bars in the competition:
Finally, NBA rap god (no Eminem but really no Lil B) Stephen Jackson aka Stak5 showed these youngins what’s what:
Also of note, ‘NBA analyst’ and oblivious horse fly Ric Bucher tried his hand:
But a big part of this is for the fans. Hundreds, or at least dozens, of regular people have participated in the fun. After a cursory search, here is my favorite:
The bars, the attitude, the band-aid on the finger and the sunglasses as props push @flashief head and shoulders above the rest.
Damian Lillard did an interview with headache-inducing goatee’d blowhard Jim Rome about #4BarFriday where Lillard crowned Paul George the king for his frequent participation, and called for more NBA players and professional rappers to join in. For some reason Rome didn’t even ask Lillard who his favorite rappers are or if he writes his rhymes down.
This whole thing could just be a fad that ends when the regular season starts up, like referees calling three-in-the-key or delay of game. But even if this is the end of #4BarFriday, it’s one more beautiful piece in the history of the two contemporary ways to make it out of the hood.