The rise of the athletainers

Bilal Suleiman, Opinion Columnist

Running the fast break, he gets the ball on the left wing. After taking one hard dribble to the basket, he fakes to the left, steps to the right and goes up for the left-handed layup. The sharp sound of the whistle pierces the air as Quavo is fouled. “Quavo with a nice Eurostep, and one!” proclaimed the announcer, clearly impressed by the rapper’s moves. “Seventeen-five, same color t-shirt,” he said, in a reference to a song lyric by his rap group, the Migos.

After the all-star celebrity game, Quavo was awarded with MVP honors and as a result, the basketball community on Twitter went nuts. Praise rained down on his performance and Quavo promptly retweeted a photohopped image of himself on the cover of NBA 2K19, with the caption: “Should @QuavoStuntin be the first rapper on the cover @NBA2K?” On the internet, there was also a video clip of Quavo doing some fancy dribbling and pulling up for a three-pointer labeled the caption, “QUAVO TO THE CAVS.”

The lines between basketball and the music industry are becoming more blurred than ever. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Rappers and entertainers have always been trying their best to get spotted near the basketball court and basketball players have always been trying to make music. Nowadays, thanks to social media, the link between the two groups aimed at a young, urban demographic seem to be meshing together more than ever.

Our lord and savior Drake said it best in his song titled “Thank Me Now.” “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous/ ’Cause we want to be them and they want to be us,” he rapped in the 2010 song.

Drake himself can be found courtside at many Toronto Raptors games. He, along with the Migos and many other rappers are frequently spotted on NBA courtsides. It is happening with such regularity these days that it seems like no nationally broadcasted game would be quite complete without seeing a famous rapper on the sidelines.

It’s a shrewd marketing move on their part, with many of their listeners also being NBA basketball fans. Being spotted on national TV ensures that they will receive publicity for their latest latest album, mixtape, or concert tour. However, I believe that they are also just basketball fans at heart and are at the games simply to just enjoy themselves and their wealth.

In the opposite direction, NBA players can frequently be spotted in the rap studio. Since Shaquille O’Neal first made his attempt at rapping in 1993, there have been a litany of NBA players releasing music. From former stars like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson to young up-and-comers like Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball, basketball players of all levels are using a visible platform to promote their off-court talents. Some take it quite seriously, spending hours in the studio working on mixtapes during the offseason.

Damian Lillard has been receiving many kudos for his ability to spit bars. On the court, the 27-year-old point guard is averaging 26.4 points along with 6.5 assists per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. Off the court, his rapper alter ego Dame D.O.L.L.A. is averaging 149,679 monthly listeners on Spotify.

His sneaker sponsor, Adidas, seems to be embracing the point guard’s second talent. His signature basketball shoe, the Adidas Dame 4, is now also available in a Dame D.O.L.L.A version. It is, according to Hypebeast, a “court-ready lifestyle shoe with versatility that reflects Lillard and his alternate persona.” Lillard is an example of an athlete who successfully made it big as a musician, blurring the lines between music and sports.

It’s 2018 and I can’t tell the difference between basketball and music anymore. Rappers and basketball players are noticing the synergy between the two forms of entertainment and using it to their advantage. I think it’s only a matter of time before rappers start playing professional sports. One day we will hear announcers say, “And starting for the Cleveland Cavaliers, number 91, Quavo!”

Bilal Suleiman is an Opinion columnist for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].