Hip hop and basketball have always had a unique relationship—both rose dramatically in popularity over the past three decades. But whether they like to admit it or not, NBA executives have never really been comfortable with the relationship. In 2005, the NBA implemented a strict player dress code prohibiting any chains, baggy clothing, Timberland boots, or other attire associated with hip hop culture.
Nevertheless, the game’s biggest stars have always been trendsetters both on and off the court—Michael Jordan (MJ) wore baggy shorts, Shaquille O’Neal recorded rap albums, and Allen Iverson (AI) rocked the tattoos and cornrows. They all influenced popular culture, just as rap culture influenced these iconic players. In more recent years, as rap became more mainstream and synonymous with pop music, the NBA has warmed to hip hop’s influence–Drake was recently named a “global ambassador” of the Toronto Raptors.
The differing perceptions of Jordan and Iverson in the 1990s was emblematic of the tension between the NBA and hip hop. Iverson had no regard for the rules and openly rebelled against the league’s dress code policy. MJ, on the other hand was always dressed in corporate clean-cut suits pre- and post-game. “His Airness” garnered a reputation as NBA royalty, despite privately clashing with the NBA about his gambling issues. Jordan could do no wrong, while Iverson was punished.
Despite the league’s dress code, Iverson and hip hop won, although in a more palatable form to the NBA. Today, Jay Z is a sports agent for Roc Nation, and Drake often patrols the Raptors’ sideline.
Love him or hate him, Drake has changed the game. Although rappers can’t directly influence what happens on the court–even though the 6ix God thinks he can with his incessant trash talk from the bleachers–they definitely shape the perception of the league. LeBron James dances to Future and legitimizes his music to a huge swathe of NBA fans. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green party with Travis Scott. Pop, rap, hip hop and basketball are intertwined and are elevating eachother to new heights of popularity.
We sat down with Redmen Basketball’s Michael Peterkin to talk about what hip hop means to him and the game of basketball.
What does hip hop mean to basketball?
Hip hop has become a significant cultural force for our generation. It’s seemingly become a lifestyle as opposed to just a musical genre. The hip hop culture has integrated itself into basketball and with both being interconnected.
Why have hip hop and basketball culture meshed together so well?
Basketball is popular among the urban youth, and these urbanized areas are seemingly the centres of hip hop culture. The relationship between the two has progressed in the sense that the two go hand-in-hand in this day and age.
Why was Allen Iverson such a big influence on the hip hop culture in basketball?
When Iverson blew up, he changed the way the league ‘appeared.’ He brought the hip hop look to the league through the tattoos, baggy pants, do-rags, the chains, etcetera. AI was a superstar in the league and therefore was in the spotlight. This ultimately helped merge the hip hop culture with basketball even more.
How has Drake’s role as an Ambassador for the Raptors gone so far?
Drake has done a great job putting the City of Toronto and the Toronto Raptors respectively in the spotlight and helped make being from the city and supporting the franchise seem ‘cool.’ Besides some fines the Raptors have incurred because of him, he has done a solid job in marketing the team.
Best rapper in the NBA?
I would say [Damian] Lillard
What is Redmen basketball’s go-to song before a big games?
It varies in terms of what’s popular at the time. Right now, probably Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd [….] We’ve been bumping songs from Travis Scott’s album consistently in the locker room.
Best dancer on the Redmen?
Dele [Ogundokun], Isaiah [Cummins], and Regis [Ivaniukas] are up there for sure.
Best singer on the Redmen?
I don’t think I’ve heard enough of the guys voices, but Daniel [Piper] is an unreal beat-boxer
Who has the best freestyle on the team?
I’ve heard Avery [Cadogan] freestyle and it was good, so we’ll go with Cadogan