The NBA is the best league in professional sports, and the start of the season has cemented their alpha-league status. Hip Hop is the best musical art form ever created, and the recent releases have once again distanced its excellence from the likes of country (NFL), indie music (NHL), EDM (MLS), and modern rock (MLB). What better time for PBM to cross-culturally compare the stars of the National Basketball Association with their Hip Hop equivalents? Each comparison is based on their musical success seemingly measuring up to their comparison’s on-court performance (sales/downloads and wins/per-game stats), their personalities aligning, and their flow / lyrical capabilities matching with on-court style and demeanor. The last measurable will be rooted in whether or not the two individuals are “battle-tested” (the great Joe Budden would consider this the most important measurable of all). Without further adieu, let’s get to the most obvious pairing first.
LeBron James is Drake.
LeBron’s regular season totals? They’re the equivalent of Drake’s sales and streams. LeBron’s continued stardom? Drake was also a child star / prodigy. LeBron’s “steadfast” loyalty to Akron and Ohio despite leaving the state for greener pastures multiple times? That would be Drake being the “biggest Raptors fan alive” while trying to celebrate titles with the Heat, rocking rival jerseys while performing in other cities to pander to the fans, and getting the stars of the Warriors names tattooed on his body.
Each man is the self-proclaimed “GOAT” when they’ve been bullied, disrespected, beaten, or outright ignored by their peers and their industry’s respective legends. Each man also has groups of diehard STANs that refuse to cite anything other than their individual numbers to fuel their arguments – this is where the “battle tested” component comes into play. How can both of these dudes think they’re the best of all-time when they both consistently lose to their peers (both young and old)?!? Think about it…
LeBron has consistently taken L’s to Kawhi, Steph, Durant, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, and Dirk in the playoffs. He’s lost MVPs to Steph, Durant, Harden, Giannis, and Westbrook! Right now, he’s not even the best player on his own team. He has one title that stands out as memorable and/or due to this contributions, and his overall NBA Finals record is 17-32.
Drake has been lyrically or conversationally DEMOLISHED in beefs with Common, Budden, Diddy, Pusha T, DMX, and Kendrick Lamar. His wins? Meek Mill and Tyga. Pusha T’s evisceration of him last summer stands out the most, as he even found a picture of Drake in blackface for the single’s artwork.
Wanna know what this makes this even better? LeBron and Drake talked about Drake’s defeat on LeBron’s shitty HBO show.
Listen to the language they use! Drake calls his non-response to Pusha’s brutality his “decision!” He said he didn’t want to let LeBron down by said decision! Who better to discuss how decisions can let people down other than LeBron James, right?
Lastly, each man has left behind no legacy in their respective professions. LeBron has nurtured ZERO young teammates in his career. In fact, he’s traded them all away for dudes who could help pad his stats in the moment. Drake has ZERO young men directly tied to his legacy in Hip Hop. There is no Roc Nation, there is no Death Row, there is no TDE, and there is no Dreamville for Aubrey. While each dude has their diehard admirers, their fellow professionals rarely stand tall for their skills. When they do, it is behind a microphone for clout and/or on a feature to get paid.
I nailed this one, people.
Kawhi Leonard is Pusha T.
Obviously, right? Both men ruthlessly slay the false prophets of their kingdoms in H2H competition. Each man was groomed for success by the legends of their respective fields. Each man has multiple styles to attack their crafts with, and both tend to be extremely enigmatic in their approach. They raise their levels when the stakes are highest, and are ruthless when they do it. What made this comparison fit the most for me was a defect that each man possesses – we don’t get enough content from either one. Kawhi’s “load management” routine is painfully detrimental to his legacy. King Push put out a slamming “album” last year – his first in a minute – but it wasn’t really an album. DAYTONA only had seven tracks and in actuality was more of an EP.
Ultimately, they’re both all-time legends of their craft. Unfortunately, we may remember each one for leaving too much on the table. Here’s their finest moments for posterity:
Stephen Curry is J. Cole.
Two Carolina-raised, soft spoken dudes. Two insanely intelligent dudes who cherish collaboration and love to foster the growth of their younger peers. Two men who don’t tout their individual accomplishments and whom don’t give any weight to individual awards – shit, Cole doesn’t even go to the Grammy’s. Lastly, two dudes who will be remembered as two of the most skilled individuals to ever hoop / rap – Steph is the GOAT shooter, and Cole just might be the most diverse / skilled lyricist to ever rock the mic.
The biggest connection for me is how they each make their fellow players / rappers better. Steph has brought up Klay, Draymond, Looney, and Quinn Cook. He saved or extended the careers of Livingston, Iggy, Bogut, JaVale, and David West. J. Cole’s Dreamville label made arguably the most complete album of 2019, and his labelmates carried the torch. Bas, Lute, J.I.D., EARTHGANG, and Cozz have flourished under J. Cole’s watch. All have ascertained individual success, respect, and relevance while consistently representing J. Cole’s standard for Hip Hop.
Here’s Klay on Steph and a collaboration from the Dreamville core MC’s:
Zion Williamson is DaBaby…I hope.
Nice Segway from that last video to this comparison. It’s actually more of a prediction, because Zion hasn’t shown us anything yet in the league. Stay tuned to see if he can match “Suge” on the floor.
Freddie Gibbs is Kemba Walker.
I really wanted to make Gibbs and Giannis work – especially because Freddie dropped a banger in the Greek Freak’s honor this summer.
Unfortunately, the styles and circumstances don’t quite fit. Freddie and Kemba though? Here’s why I went there:
- Both are proven winners with All Star stats – even when they are supported by dipshits. Kemba won titles in UCONN and is currently leading the league’s #1 offense in Boston + dominated individually for the hapless Bobcats / Hornets. Gibbs has made two of the best Hip Hop albums in my entire collection when partnered with the genius of Madlib. He also managed to churn out bangers despite being minimized and ignored while on Young Jeezy’s BMF label.
- Kemba is probably the best pure point guard in the NBA. He might even be the only one left in the mold of Zeke, young CP3, Deron Williams, Young Marbury, Nash, Kidd, and other 90’s-00’s legends. Gibbs is definitely the best rapper to be actively recording Hip Hop music. That isn’t saying he’s the biggest star, people. It’s saying NO ONE raps better than him when handed a microphone in 2019. Just like no other PG’s are leading the best offenses in the NBA like Kemba Walker.
- No one will ever fuck with either one of these dudes. Kemba is a real one from the Bronx. Gibbs is a real one and a native of Gary, IN. They’ll beat the shit out of their foes if necessary.
Time to enjoy the masters at work:
Other comparisons to come if I have the time later on today…
James Harden is Travis Scott.
Kevin Durant is Kendrick Lamar.
Lou Williams, Pat Beverly, and Montrezz Harrell are Westside Gunn, Conway, and Benny the Butcher.
Giannis is Dave East.
Kyrie Irving is Chance the Rapper.
Anthony Davis is Logic.
Jimmy Butler is Jay Rock.