Professional basketball players have a long and sordid history with rap music. Shaquille O’Neal has had something resembling a rap career for twelve years, releasing four albums and a best-of, collaborating with Fu-Schnickens and Wu-Tang and Common, getting into an inexplicable mini-beef with Mad Skillz last year. Allen Iverson recorded some songs a few years ago, but NBA Commissioner David Stern prevented him from releasing them because he talked homophobic stuff on them. The mainstream press used Ron Artest’s essentially nonexistent rap career to bolster their portrayal of Artest as a loose-cannon psycho after last year’s Pistons/Pacers brawl. Kobe Bryant rapped on the Trackmasters remix of Brian McKnight’s “Hold Me” (“Your love’s a sword slicing gently through my body”). Master P has been trying out for pro teams for years.
But the NBA’s relationship with rap reached its weirdest-ever point yesterday when Allhiphop.com reported that San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker will be releasing a French rap album and that he’s already recorded a song called “Top of the Game” with some French rapper named Booba and (of all people) Fabolous. I don’t want to invade Chris Ryan‘s turf, but this story demands attention. Parker is not the first NBA player anyone would expect to make rap music. In fact, he’s hanging out with Yao Ming, Andrei Kirilenko, and the recently-retired Shawn Bradley down at the bottom of the list. In last night’s season opener against the Denver Nuggets, Parker was probably the last dude on the floor you’d expect to start rapping, especially now that Tim Duncan is growing his Afro out. The Nuggets, despite being in Denver and everything, are the most rap-friendly team in the league. Carmelo Anthony is engaged to La La and was in the Stop Snitching DVD, and Kenyon Martin looked like Cappadonna or some shit, encouraging boos from all the San Antonio haters. By contrast, the Spurs are a team of dour technicians like Duncan, Bruce Bowen, and new arrival Michael Finley. And then there’s Parker, who comes off like a bitchily effeminate French hotel clerk. More specifically, Parker comes off exactly like Michel, the bitchily effeminate French hotel clerk from Gilmore Girls. It’s not hard to imagine him doting over lhasa apsos or eating bonbons or throwing tantrums when his bedsheet thread-counts aren’t up to snuff. He dates Eva Longoria. He’s a good player, though he tends to fall apart in high-pressure situations like last year’s championship series against the Pistons. And he scored 26 points last night, even if many of them were over Earl Boykins, a guy ten inches shorter than him. He can play, anyway. But he’s not exactly Freddie Foxxx.
Now, to be fair, the French have long made a habit of accepting wack rappers. And Parker’s NBA.com bio warned us: “Likes rap, listing Jay-Z and Ruff Ryders as his favorites.” I can’t find a working link to the MP3 of “Top of the Game,” but Free Darko says that Parker actually sounds good on it. Parker’s website sheds a little more light on the subject. Besides bewildering statements like “The philistines ignore the fact, but no amateur basketball player can forget: William Tony parker has the same name as his father (and his grandfather),” the site offers information that Parker’s friend Mamoutou Diarra introduced him to the world of beats and rhymes. “It is thanks to him that I discovered French rap and, today we continue talking on the phone,” Parker writes. So you’re to blame, Mamoutou Diarra!
The most intriguing part of this whole story comes with the news that the video for “Top of the Game” will feature Parker’s teammates Duncan, Robert Horry, Nazr Mohammed, and Brent Barry. Brent Barry? In a rap video? What will Brent Barry do in a rap video? Will he be driving a limo? Raising the roof? Playing the cop who busts up the party at the end of the video? BET is about to become even weirder.
Exclusive! Check out Tony Parker raps at Riff Raff.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 2, 2005