Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal rap about their shoe contracts (Joe Llano/ WireImage).
About 15 years ago, before every superstar wanted to be a business mogul, the NBA was filled with players who tried their hand at rapping. Shaquille O'Neal was the best-known, but Allen Iverson, Chris Webber and others tried their hand at becoming recording artists.
Among that group, Kobe Bryant perhaps looked the most ridiculous. His lead single, "K.O.B.E.," features supermodel Tyra Banks singing the hook and includes rhymes such as "Think ya eyein' me, all along, I'm eyein' you/ The hunter becomes the hunted/ Girl, I'm preyin' on you." When Shaq and Kobe were teammates, it was a magical combination of terrible rappers.
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When asked who is a better rapper, Nas said, "Shaq got that."
"Shaq got a classic hip-hop album," Nas said. "I don't think Kobe got a chance to put out an album."
However, former Laker Cedric Ceballos said that at the beginning of the 1996-97 season, he, O'Neal, Bryant and Corie Blount used to have freestyle battles on the plane and Bryant often came out on top. "The stuff that he put out, he was real commercial," Ceballos said of Bryant's rapping. "It wasn't the real Kobe."
Ceballos said that behind the scenes, Bryant's rapping style is much different. "He's got a Wu-Tang Clan-like style," Ceballos said.
"Kobe's a nice guy; he doesn't like to let everbody know that, but he's got some mean lyrics."
I am not sure that Kobe has a reputation as a nice guy, but we should probably take Ceballos at his word. As Trey Kerby notes at The Basketball Jones, Kobe was probably not even at the level of U-God, but maybe RZA would have found some room for him because of their shared love of Chinese culture and martial arts. The Wu-Tang Clan is a lifestyle, not just a rap group.
The buried lede here, of course, isn't that Nas thinks Shaq is better than Kobe, but that he was willing to call "Shaq Diesel" a classic album. That is charitable by any stretch, especially for someone who really did record a legitimate classic around the same time Shaq's record was released.
So, congratulations, Shaq! The world is yours!
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