The long, troubled story of athletes trying to rap began with the Chicago Bears' 1985 classic "The Super Bowl Shuffle," but it really took off in the NBA. Not every baller is bad at rapping – some serious offenders keep quiet about their dismal lyrical prowess, while others rep their bad raps at any opportunity. Here's a rundown of the ten worst rappers in the history of professional basketball. —Jon Dolan
Shaq started the NBA rapper crossover trend with the surprisingly successful 1993 album Shaq Diesel, which sold a million copies. Shaq's flow as a lot like his game; pretty agile for a guy who should've been a clumsy elephant, and his admittedly pretty-bad rhymes have a likeably mushy center: Didn't live in Bel Air like the Fresh Prince / Times are hard, times are rough / Didn't have Toys R Us toys, but I had enough love." The Big Aristotle's major crime against music comes mainly from planting the 'Hey, I could do that' seed in the heads of his fellow ballers.
Never afraid to stir up a little controversy, the irrepressible A.I. eschewed the usual I'm the greatest/let's party bromides of many rapping athletes to go full-on gangsta: "come to me with faggot tendencies you'll be sleeping where the maggots be," he advised in a bloodless monotone on "40 Bars," his debut single as Jewelz. Bowing to league pressure, Iverson changed up some of the song's lyrics, but a planned full-length album never saw the light of day and Iverson's hip-hop career ended up snoozing with the maggots.
The San Antonio Spurs super-star jumped into the hip-hop wading pool with Tony Parker, released in France in 2008. Its single "Balance-Toi," actually had a serviceably bouncy club track, but Parker severely handicapped his hip-hop potential by being French: "Check mon hip-hop/Toujour au top. . . Rap est mon job, Stop! / Jump et jump et jump hop!" Some of the English translations are even better. "What, you want to dance? No, it's not worth it. Me, I'll stay on the sofa, enjoying the vibe by raising my arms." Stay couch rockin', Mon Frere.
Kobe Bryant's rap dreams go back almost as far as his hoop dreams. He made his first attempts at recording in the late Nineties, just as his NBA career was taking off. And in 2000 he was set to release a debut album on Sony. Then "K.O.B.E." happened. "What I live for basketball, beats and broads from Italy to the U.S. / Yes, it is raw." But it wasn't raw. With Tyra Banks joining on the hook and Bryant mushily mumbling his lyrics it was, in fact, quite soft.
In the mid Nineties, the success of Shaq Diesel inspired a mini-boom for NBA guys trying out hip-hop. The 1994 compilation album B-Ball's Best Kept Secret may be the strangest product of that era, featuring funky dudes like Brian Shaw, Gary Payton and a young, bad-at-rapping Jason Kidd. J-Kidd flowed Snoopishly on "Look What the Kidd Did," which features this catchy reminiscence of high school glory, "St. Joes, the hos treated me different / Cuz I was good on the dribble like an infant."
The short, dreadlocked point guard's 2007 album Undrafted was a Southern rap affair that came out just as his NBA career was hitting the skids. Joined by Project Pat and Juicy on the album's single "Gangsta," he waves his "verbal 44" right up in your face with lines like, "I can teach it if you want it dog / I'm a gangsta and my only flaws really don't exist." Indeed, his flaws barely existed: Undrafted sold only 78 copies.
After being named the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2000, Steve "Franchise" bounced from Houston to Orlando to New York before landing in the Chinese Basketball Association. With his hoops career fading, he started his own record label, Mazerati Music, and released the 2012 single "Finer Things," a no-talent ode to his lavish lifestyle featuring flat vocals that make Ja Rule look like Kendrick Lamar. Francis' rap career isn't going anywhere, but his music-related bad luck has continued apace; recently, fellow NBA journeyman Stephen Jackson choked him during an altercation in a club.
There's a pathos to Delonte West's career that makes ridiculing his unlistenable music kind of depressing. West, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was traded off the LeBron-era Cleveland Cavaliers when rumors spread that he was having an affair with the King's mom, and off-court problems (including a 2009 gun possession charge) have marred his journeyman slide from Minnesota to Boston to Dallas to the D-League. In 2011, he recorded Lockout: The Album. You can preview it here, and if you can make it through the whole thing, we'll award you a purple heart for hip-hop soldiering.
While most jock-rap music careers seem like half-ass larks, Ron "Meta World Peace" Artest has always pursued music success with an embarrassing determination. He's tried his hand at artist management (the female R&B trio Allure) and record label ownership (his self-started imprint Tru Warrior) – he even applied for a job at Circuit City during his rookie season with the Bulls to take advantage of the employee discount. But if Artest's obsession often suggests a kind of rock-critic-y autism (upon joining the Lakers in 2009, he chose the #37 because it was the number of weeks Thriller stayed at number one), his actual music does not suggest talent. Check "Get Lo," the single from his 2006 album My World, where the Queensbridge, New York native presents his gangsta bona fides by bragging about how many technical fouls he's been hit with in his career, or "Haters," where he lashes out at the NBA commissioner himself: "David Stern! Damn, David Stern / I gotta teach you bout the ghetto there's some things you should learn." Ron Artest, edutainer extraordinaire.
Sir Charles was a dominating player, but as a rapper, he's so bad it's kind of incredible. The fact that his only attempt at rapping is a Taco Bell ad suggests he clearly didn't care about being good at it, which is gangsta. But, still, wow: Championing the Bell's Five Buck Box, he rhymes, "The 5 buck box, it rocks, it rocks, It rocks for a meal with locks and locks, It rocks for a jock, It rocks for a fox, It rocks blockin' shots on guys with dreadlocks. What comes in this box, this box that rocks," a dry joyless drone that sounds like he's reading his kid a Dr. Seuss book and trying to make it just unlyrical enough that the kid will finally fall the fuck to sleep so Charles can go downstairs and have a beer. Such realism is often hard to find in even the realest hip-hop.