A dozen of the best basketball songs

Funny how some of the best basketball songs have absolutely nothing to do with basketball.

The best basketball music comes in three basic flavors: songs (usually rap/hip-hop) that are about basketball, songs that aren't about basketball but are close enough that they've been adopted as team or league themes, and songs that don't relate in any remote way to basketball, but are guaranteed to get an arena/gym crowd into the game.

We'll start with the last category first: great basketball songs that aren't about basketball. (Click the titles to watch video.)

"Rock & Roll Part 2" - Gary Glitter (aka "The Hey Song")

How does a rock anthem with a few simple chords repeated over and over, and lyrics consisting solely of the word "Hey!" become a basketball arena standard? Lyrics would just get in the way. Without them, teams and fans can insert their own, and the never changing drum line encourages much clapping and taunting of the visiting team.

"We Will Rock You" - Queen

C'mon, I dare you. I'll bet you can't go to a basketball game, and when they crank it up to 11 and play this song, you just sit there and do nothing. It can't be done. The lyrics have nothing to do with basketball (unless you consider "we will rock you" to be a polite euphemism for "we will kick your butts into the middle of next week") but it will instantly fire up a crowd. Now, about that bet. Stomp stomp clap, stomp stomp clap …

"Jump" - Van Halen

Take out all the lyrics except the chorus, leave the keyboard and guitar riffs, and you've got one helluva basketball theme: "Might as well jump. Go ahead, jump!" It's especially effective on TV sports show highlight reels.

"Get Ready for This" - 2 Unfinished

Like "Jump" it has a catchy keyboard intro, and a single line ("Y'all ready for this?") that is all that's needed to get a crowd pumped. Nobody actually keeps stats on these things, but in the past 20 years it has probably been used to start games about as many times as the national anthem.

Our next stop, songs that aren't about basketball but have been co-opted as basketball themes anyway.

"Fighter"- Christina Aguilera

Not being about basketball didn't keep this song from being adopted as the official anthem of the NBA Playoffs in 2003. What is has (aside from the obvious hormonal appeal of the artist) is a highly adaptable lyrical theme that feels custom made with the addition of some carefully chosen game highlights.

"Remember the Name" - Fort Minor

You probably wouldn't think basketball when you hear this song, were it not for the fact that the NBA used it as the theme for the 2006 and 2007 Playoffs and the 2008 Draft. Edit around the "f" word and highlight lines like "This is 10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will, 5% pleasure, 50% pain, and 100% reason to remember the name" and snap!—instant jock anthem.

"Sirius" - Alan Parsons Project

No words and not much of a melody. But use it to intro the Chicago Bulls at the start of the game, and watch out for the goosebumps.

"Roundball Rock" - John Tesh

What, John Tesh and orchestral instrumentals don't immediately make you think of basketball? The NBA thought enough of this song to use it as the theme for NBA on NBC from the early '90s to the early '00s.

And finally, songs whose lyrics are about nothing but basketball.

"Above the Rim" - Bell Biv Devoe

As you could probably infer from the title, this song is about nothing but basketball. Little wonder, then, that it was featured in the 1993 NBA Jam video.

"Basketball" - Lil Bow Wow

I'll leave it to the sociologists to pontificate on the reasons that rap/hip-hop is the principal genre for songs with a basketball theme. The words and accompanying video suggest that "Basketball" may be a way to deliver something of a message of hope to urban youth.

"Shoot, Pass, Slam" - Shaquille O'Neal

Actual musical artists may not have much to fear from Shaq but his opponents on the court did, and that gives him sufficient cred to get away with exposing his inner Jeezy on the subject of basketball. This song goes especially well with vintage Shaq game footage.

"Basketball Jones" - Cheech & Chong

Nobody else could have successfully pulled off lines like "that basketball was like a basketball to me" and "I even put that basketball under my pillow, maybe that's why I can't sleep at night." If anybody could get away with mixing basketball and cannabis, these are the guys!





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Updated Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011