Despite the dismal attempts made by so many, it’s been proven time and time again that athletes can't rap. Yet every year, brave hopefuls make the leap into the world of hip-hop — only to experience a few moments of fame (and sometimes internet hilarity) before inevitably being sent back to the locker room.
Because the majority of our sports idols spent their most impressionable years dribbling, kicking, or throwing balls (and elbows) instead of studying the flows of hip-hop legends, stories of success are few and far between. (We're looking at you, Shaq.) And we’re left with the remaining ridiculousness that some call “jock-rap.” However, we have to hand it to them: At least they had the cojones to go the distance and take a turn at the mic. From Kobe Bryant to John Cena, here are 10 examples of when athletic prowess just didn’t translate into a rap career.
Although we managed to enter Y2K relatively unscathed, civilization almost didn’t survive the Kobe Bryant rap era. Fresh out of high school and recently signed to the Lakers, Sony Music signed the young shooting guard and his group of hometown pals known as CHEIZAW with the intent of eliminating everyone but Bryant in order to take advantage of his growing celebrity status. Unfortunately, his desire to go toe-to-toe with the best in the industry didn't totally work out, as his 2000 single, “K.O.B.E.” — featuring Tyra Banks — wasn’t well-received. Deciding that the juice wasn't worth the squeeze, Sony scrapped the Visions album idea entirely. Bryant retired in 2016 as one of history’s greatest basketball players, but the same can’t be said for every endeavor that Kobe Bryant pursued during his 20-year career.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Pretty Boy Floyd has been known to run his mouth, so it should come as no surprised that he has dabbled in the art of rhyming. Back in 2007, the undefeated boxer sought out a new challenge: music. After befriending rapper-turned-ghostwriter 50 Cent and changing his nickname to Money, Mayweather ventured to the studio to lay down his deepest thoughts on existentialism and world hunger. Just kidding — his one and only track, called “Yep,” possesses the lyrical stylings of an awkward middle-schooler trying his absolute best to pass as cool. Since it was the only track Mayweather put out, it's safe to assume he wasn't offered a permanent position in G-Unit.
What does LeBron James do when he’s got free time on his hands? Why, rap over Jay Z and Rick Ross’ “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” from Magna Carta, Holy Grail with aspiring rapper Sian Cotton, of course. Allegedly all in fun, the NBA small forward raps some verses, including “Say what you want about the King/Got money, got cribs, got whips — and oh yeah — got two rings.” Though the 2014 foray into music seemed like an isolated event at the time, the Cavaliers' small forward has been toying around with Drake's recently released More Life album on his Instagram stories. Now that he’s got another championship ring to add to his lyrical bragging, perhaps the King will give rapping another go.
“The Way It’s Goin’ Down"
Shaq deserves more than just a suspended statue of himself outside of the Los Angeles Staples Center for all of his accomplishments. The ‘90s loved Shaq, and he reciprocated in the form of four studio albums, two compilation albums, two movie soundtracks, and nine singles. What separated O’Neal from the rest was his openness when it came to personal issues, such as his estranged relationship with his father, instead of the typical “boats and hoes” nursery rhymes his fellow athletes have been known to churn out. You know you’ve done well for yourself when you have Ice Cube, the Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and Method Man appearing on your tracks.
Once in a blue moon, an idea comes along that seems so great in theory that there’s no way you can let it go. If recording a French-language, crunk-genre album was that stroke of genius, then you and Tony Parker are two peas in a pod. The Spurs’ point guard released his 11-track compilation in 2007, just a few months before his wedding to actress Eva Longoria. Perhaps she unearthed a copy of TP and gave it a listen, ultimately forcing her to file for divorce only three years later.
Read on for the musical stylings of John Cena, Deion Sanders, and Metta World Piece.
“The Time Is Now”
Because you already knew his debut album would be titled You Can’t See Me, it would be generous of us to end this blurb here to prevent your eyes from rolling back into your skull any further, but we’ll continue on. Professional wrestler John Cena began marketing his tunes to the WWE community in 2005, producing five of the wrestling company's theme songs, and of course appearing on the collective soundtrack. Between features on tracks by T-Boz, E-40, and Wiz Khalifa, we want to assume there’s some sort of cool factor to Cena, but we’re too distracted by his hand-in-face waving antics to notice.
Twenty-one songs is a lot to feature on a debut album, especially one that people aren’t paying much attention to because they can’t get past how hilariously serious the art on the album cover is. Nonetheless, Chris Webber — or C. Webber as he was known in 1999 — pressed on with 2 Much Drama. The album chronicled his day-to-day life back then … you know, the typical money/haters/girls headaches. Luckily for Webber (and our ears), he moved past the scandals and the ill-fated rap career to focus on what he was best at: basketball.
“Must Be The Money”
Football, baseball ... what can’t Deion Sanders do? If you haven’t listened to the multifaceted athlete’s debut album, Prime Time, then do you're about to find out. Despite the record being flat-out panned by critics, it managed to chart on the Top 100 R&B/Hip-Hop albums. Sanders performed a slew of his songs for audience members while hosting a 1995 episode of Saturday Night Live, completely disregarding the fact that Bon Jovi was in attendance as the official musical guest. Despite it all, he did have a pretty stellar '90s album cover. Can we please bring back the suit vest with no undershirt look?
Post Malone might consider himself to be the “White Iverson,” but the original A.I. threw down a rhyme or two back in his heyday. Notice we said nothing about those rhymes being any good. Under the nickname Jewelz, Iverson released a song in 2000 called “40 Bars." It's riddled with homophobic, misogynistic, and violent lyrics. Although he tried releasing a cleaner version of the song, the damage had been done and the album never saw the light of day. Only a few years ago, Iverson admitted that his attempts at becoming a hardcore rapper were “embarrassing” and that he had no business trying to take on a art form or a lifestyle he knew nothing about. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Metta World Peace
Say what you want about Metta World Peace, f.k.a. Ron Artest, but you can't say he’s boring. His 2006 album My World follows suit. The Lakers’ small forward infamously put his basketball career on hold to pursue rap stardom, enlisting the help of Diddy and Mike Jones to help. Though the album wasn’t a slam dunk, World Peace continued to release music, including 2013’s “Michael Michael,” in memory of the King of Pop. The basketballer used the recording booth as a confessional. Not only can you hear his pain, but you might find yourself in agony trying to remember why you hit the play button in the first place.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.