Hip-hop and basketball have had a long-lasting love affair, dating back to the earliest incarnations the culture. Over the past few decades, countless basketball players have become favorite sons within hip-hop; their name, swagger and athletic flair has become synonymous with the cool that has played a big part in making hip-hop into the force that it is today. While past greats like Dr. J, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant serve as a few the more notable ballers to have influenced the culture, LeBron James is this generation’s NBA star to become an ambassador hip-hop.
Even prior to playing a single game in the NBA, the electrifying kid from Akron, Ohio with preternatural skills that had scouts referring to him as the chosen one was already making an impact within the borders hip-hop. A household name and a lock to be a future No. 1 NBA draft pick by the time he was a junior in high school, LeBron’s skills attracted some hip-hop’s elite to take notice, most famously the player’s favorite rapper Jay Z, who was in attendance to watch the King win MVP honors at the 2003 McDonald’s All-American Game.
As he entered the league and gradually grew into the King many had predicted he would be, LeBron always stayed true to his cultural roots, celebrating hip-hop at every turn he could, whether on the court or in his downtime. And hip-hop would embrace LeBron as well, with an innumerable amount rappers dropping his names in raps (Lil Wayne), inviting him to join them in their videos (Jay Z) or even gifting him with their unreleased music (Kendrick Lamar).
In celebration his illustrious history with the culture, XXL highlights LeBron James’ most memorable hip-hop-related moments.