A History of Hip-Hop on the Hardwood

May 26, 2019 | Ian Stonebrook |

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Rappers wanna be ballers and ballers wanna be rappers.

As certain as death and taxes, the overlap between hoops and hip hop has been around since both were birthed in parks with cardboard boxes proving a common thread between the two career paths.

With LeBron James proving so much at this year’s All-Star Game by wearing the “Watch the Throne” version of his signature shoe, we take a look back at the many times rap-inspired footwear (and in one case a rapper) have found their way to the NBA hardwood.

Travis Scott

PJ Tucker in the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack” (photo via @brkicks)

Travis Scott has more hoop shoes to his namesake than most NBA players.

As expected, the NBA player with the most shoes — PJ Tucker — is responsible for lacing up two of his Air Jordan 4 collabs.

Tucker told us last summer that Travis personally gave him the blue pair to debut in the playoffs, with the purple pair probably landing on his feet the same way.

PJ Tucker in the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 “Purple Suede”

Could we see PJ lace up the third pair of Travis Jordan 4s next season or perhaps Scott’s recent Air Jordan 33 collab? PJ has plenty of pairs of La Flame favorites to pick from.

PJ Tucker in the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack”

Master P

Master P was more than a rapper and even much more than a mogul.

At two points in his career, he was a member of an NBA roster.

Suiting up in preseason for both the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors, Percy Miller lived his dream of pursuing pro hoops.

Master P in the Converse All Star He:01 (photo by Noren Trotman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The tank was strong as Converse gave him his own signature shoe and he even played in the brand’s He:01 crafted by LeBron designer Jason Petrie. Proving to have good DNA, his son Romeo also had a rap career in his youth before balling at USC with DeMar DeRozan.

Kanye West

Nate Robinson in the Nike Air Yeezy 2 Black/Solar Red (photo via Highsnobiety)

Kanye West always said he wanted to be a designer before he wanted to be a rapper. His résumé of sneakers suggests he wasn’t lying.

Dropping designs with both Nike and adidas – and let’s not forget Louis Vuitton, too – Yeezy has seen his footprints all over the NBA hardwood.

PJ Tucker in the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Pure Platinum” (photo via Sole Collector)

With his signature designs scoring wear from Kicks On Court champs like Nate Robinson, PJ Tucker and Nick Young, Kanye’s kicks are seen even more often by athletes arriving to the arena.

PJ Tucker in the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”
PJ Tucker in the Nike Air Yeezy 2 Black/Solar Red
Kicks On Court Champion Race
PJ Tucker in the Nike Air Yeezy 1 “Zen Grey”
Nick Young in the adidas Yeezy 500
Nick Young in the adidas Yeezy 750 “Black”
Nick Young in the adidas Yeezy Boost 750
Nick Young in the adidas Yeezy Boost 750

Fat Joe

PJ Tucker in the Air Jordan 8 Fred Jones “Terror Squad” PE (photo by Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports via Sole Collector)

Fat Joe is still a fixture of the sideline at NBA games, appearing at the 2019 All-Star Game.

A sneakerhead since way back, his relationship with the best ballers to bring out PEs in the 2000s saw JB athlete Fred Jones showing love to Terror Squad on an Air Jordan 8 exclusive.

To no surprise, PJ Tucker was able to get his hands on a pair.

Jay Z

Jamal Crawford in the Reebok S. Carter Basketball Mid (photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Not a business man, a business, man, Jay Z has been close enough to the game to trip a referee for well over a decade now.

Before RocNation Sports or bringing Brooklyn some Nets, Shawn Carter collaborated with Reebok on a line of basketball shoes of his own namesake.

Jalen Rose in the Reebok S. Carter BBall II Mid
Jalen Rose in the Reebok S. Carter Basketball Mid

Updating his homage to the Gucci Tennis as a midtop made to play in, the likes of Jamal Crawford, Jalen Rose and Kenyon Martin all laced up S Dots on the NBA hardwood.

PJ Tucker in the Air Jordan 3 “Legends of the Summer” (photo via SLAM)

Made for Justin Timberlake but tied to his tour with Jay Z, the Air Jordan 3 “Legends of the Summer” popped up on PJ Tucker last season. Tucker told us the ruby red 3s were his favorite wear of the whole 2017-18 season and the hardest shoe for him to get.

Kanye West & Jay Z

LeBron James in the Nike LeBron 16 “Watch the Throne” (photo by AP/Chuck Burton)

LeBron James and Jay Z have had a longstanding relationship since the King came into the league. Just the same, Kanye West was famously at “The Decision.”

Collectively, Hov and Ye are The Throne.

Stunting on a jumbotron at the All-Star Game, King James debuted the Nike LeBron 16 “Watch the Throne” after teasing the public with a PE pair of LeBron 9s inspired by the same album. Maybe LeBron’s love for Jigga will result in an updated take on the LeBron 7 “All Black Everything” releasing, too.

LeBron James in the Nike LeBron 16 “Watch the Throne” (photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pharrell

Lonnie Walker in the Pharrell x adidas Crazy BYW LVL X “Gratitude” (photo via Bleacher Report)

Pharrell famously worked with adidas on an array of tennis and running models over the course of the last few years.

He’s also got it in on the basketball tip, adding his message to the adidas Crazy BYW LVL X. Three Stripe rookies Trae Young and Lonnie Walker have wowed fans in said shoe.

Drake

Louis Williams in the OVO x Air Jordan 10

Super fan/superstar Drake has both feet firmly planted in the NBA.

On staff with his hometown team, Aubrey has laced many a Raptor with his Jordan Brand collabs and PEs. Most famously, song subject Louis Williams has rocked OVO Jordans that haven’t even released at retail.

Louis Williams in the OVO x Air Jordan 3 “6IX” PE
PJ Tucker in the unreleased Air Jordan 4 “OVO”
Taurean Prince in the Air Jordan 8 “OVO”
Amir Johnson Air Jordan 12 OVO (photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images via SLAM)
Eric Bledsoe in the Air Jordan 3 “Drake vs. Lil Wayne” PE (photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Notorious B.I.G.

D’Angelo Russell in the Nike PG 2.5 “Coogi” Custom by Jessie Kavana

Hello Brooklyn!

For the 2018-19 season, the Nike City Series of uniforms may have hit its height with the Notorious B.I.G.-inspired “Coogi” jerseys.

While the shorts, socks and arm sleeves all impress, first time All-Star D’Angelo Russell was blessed with a pair of custom kicks paying homage to Christopher Wallace.

Meek Mill

DeMarcus Cousins in the Meek Mill x PUMA Clyde Court “Reform” (photo via SLAM Kicks)

Pairing with PUMA on their re-introduction to basketball, Meek Mill made a statement with his “Reform” rendition on the Clyde Court Disrupt.

Donned by Boogie Cousins during his comeback campaign, will we see Meek work on the Uproar next?

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