Athletes flex muscles to score points. Rappers flex mental aptitudes for sonic effect. Sometimes athletes try and flex multitasking muscles to show that their mental runs parallel with their physical, leading to the athlete-turned-rapper and its typically hilarious consequences. It makes sense that people who spend their entire lives focused on a sport might not have developed the adequate acumen to perform an art as storied and complex as rap. We don’t have to get into why they try rapping in the public eye – whether it’s because, like Shaq, it had to be crossed off their bucket-list, or, like Ron Artest’s Artest Media Group, it helps serve a role in helping advance the careers of their close communities.
What we do have to get into is where John Cena ranks amongst the Top 15, the minuteness of Serena Williams’ discography, and why guys like Steve Francis and DeSean Jackson didn’t make the cut. Before we start, let’s look at some lyrics from certain omitted athletes to show why a “Worst 15” might have been easier and to help pump you up for (slightly) better hip hop. DeSean Jackson, eccentric wide receiver of the NFL’s Washington Professional Football Team, put out a song with Snoop Dogg and Yung Chris despite having less interesting lyrics than his first name: “Cause I’m paid and my money straight, West Coast first, but I’ve been ablaze – Yeah, that young boy on the go, that money stupid, that’s the overflow” Maybe 'money' is Desean "Desean Price" Kingston's rap alias. Before Larry Drew II disappointed Kobe (read:) he disappointed and then dissed former school UNC in his version of Drake's "Back to Back” – “Whack to Whack": "They tried to tell me just to play my role, but who’s really trying to stick to a script that’s filled with typos?" Then-teammate Kendall Marshall’s response was succinct, a tweeted “cute.” Finally, Steve "Franchise" Francis is no stranger to exceeding expectations. The lil' fella could yam with the best of them, and now, as a retiree, he's proved that a rich guy can still put out a trash 90s song (and video) past Y2K with his magnum opus, "Finer Things": "The seats was suede, her luggage was louie – her handbag was Prada, but the shoes was Gucci!” Thank you Stevie “French Fries” Francis for the gift catalog. And without further ado…
15 Kobe "Childish Gam-Beano" Bryant
Kobe, as he should be, is embarrassed of his song and video. The track, titled “K.O.B.E.” and featuring Tyra Banks, shows just how little the guy has committed to anything other than basketball. It starts with a self-portrait: “What I live for: basketball, beats, and broads – From Italy to the U.S., yes it’s raw,” but he soon explains his interest in said ‘broads’: “Top fashion, Adidas attire or Timbos, I don’t know, yo, these women come and go – Like the wind they blow, how do I know it’s you, fo sho?”
Kobe might literally be the worst rapper of all time, but he earned his distinction on this list with one magnificent line that any upcoming bachelor should reserve for his rejections: “Can’t get witcha? Let the door hitcha, where the Lord splitcha.” Thank you KoBiggie Smalls.
14 Deion "Bernie" Sanders
Deion Sanders, the only person to ever play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, was also a rapper with an album, “Prime Time,” that reached #70 on the US Hip Hop charts in 1994. While known as Prime Time, Deion’s rap career only lasted a short time – culminating in two main moments; a song, “Straight to My Feet,” with the legendary MC Hammer, and his anthem “Must Be the Money.”
Here’s a lyrical treat of Deion’s off of the latter track: “Limousines, in first class I fly – I’m livin’ large and you know I can’t deny – And my ride’s, a drop-top Benz, when I’m with my lady friends – My truck’s a 6-4 with my homies makin’ ends.”
13 Serena "Venus vs. Mars" Williams
SereNAS hasn’t even released an entire rap song, just one verse. While Deion boasts the more expansive discography, Serena must be practicing with her boo Drake because she’s got some bars herself and can’t even see her haters: “I ball hard, no tennis racket – I can’t see these haters through my Gucci glasses.”
I’m hoping that the better Williams’ placement on this list will incite her to at least drop a full song, but in the meantime we can appreciate this gem off of the leaked verse: “I win, I really mean it – Swag out this world, you should call me Venus – that’s my sister, my name is Serena – On the court I serve ‘em up, no subpoena.”
12 Clint "Deuce" Dempsey
It’s hard to know if U.S. soccer star is a really bad rapper who tries hard or an alright rapper who doesn’t try hard enough. After dropping a “Don’t Tread on Me” music video for Team USA. the guy put out an album titled “The ReDUX”. “Don’t Tread” features some super deep lyrics: “Best to give way, for the USA – Now we’re hot, you might think we’re a sun ray – In over your heads, Southside we fed – This is life and I’m grinding until I’m dead” Not to be outdone, his album’s track “It’s Poppin’” is also spicy: “Stomach bug, so vomit – Scramble haters, omelet – Got air miles, comet – Instagram, leave a comment.”
11 Tony "Montana" Parker
Tony Parker raps quickly and in French so his lyrical content is a mystery. However, his flow seems pretty good and he has a song with Fabolous so he’s earned the #11 position. He seems to have a basketball romance track called “Premier Love”, a French banger called “Balance-Toi,” and his Fabolous collabo “Top of the Game.” Before Khloe Kardashian’s ex went “haaan” I’m pretty sure Tony was the original French Montana.
10 Lance "Lonny Shmurda" Stephenson
“Y’all tryna make the next highlight on Sportscenter huh?” Lance “Lance the Rapper” Stephenson has only put out one song, but it was a fire redo of one of the decade’s greatest tracks – Hot N***a by Bobby Shmurda. New York’s finest even put out a video for the track, featuring Lance covering his ears with And-1 sneakers and having a conversation with undercover cops. Hottest line of the (so-called) freestyle: “I’ve been ballin’ hard since like the 5th grade – watchin’ AI getting 40 with the French braids!”
9 Iman "Shump-man Shump-man" Shumpert
There’s a lot of potential for Iman to raise higher on this list. While tethered by a mediocre Hot Line Bling remix and a lulsy GTA-themed music video, some lyrics give us hope: “Now I got bread I could stunt with, and every day’s a new outfit – the t-shirt longer than usual, a b***h could wear the shit to go out with.”
He’s even got lines about the infamous hairdo.
8 Ron "Metta World P-Diddy" Artest
Through the power of self-expression, an unforgiving Ron Artest transformed into Metta World Peace and Panda’s Friend. Ron’s self expression ranged from rapping alongside Mike Jones to tribute raps for the underserved citizenry of Afghanistan (appropriately titled, “Afghan Women”), his haters (appropriately titled, “Haterz”), and, last but not least, for the only singer to ever make Ron cry, Michael Jackson.
The Co-MVP of Ron’s self-expressive oeuvre (alongside the Christ’s role in baby teeth interview) is his song, a video-game Hall of Famer, “Champions.” One highlight: “I’m so Cassius Clay, I’m Tyson in his prime – Your own league wit’ em, I’m Barry Bonds with mine.”
7 Roy "Mike" Jones Jr.
In a controversial upset over Ron Artest, we find Roy Jones Jr. Despite seeming a little too angry the entire time, Roy’s old-school stylings and unfettered passion (“To yell, one must care” – Lao Tzu) gave him the edge to land at lucky number seven. “I Smoke, I drank” earns the banger distinction with some wondrous phonetics: “I’ma keep-a stack-a dat funny smellin’ tabaccah – heater in my hand, n***a ready to act up!”
But “Y’all Must Have Forgot” wears Roy’s lyrical title belt when he practically dismantles his entire hater-base while verbalizing the Roy Jones Jr. biopic: “Don’t get me mad, ‘cause I’m amped already – Took titles from fighters who were champs already.”
6 John "Joh-Rule" Cena
“My Time is Now” returned to stardom in 2015. “Word Life” and the amazingly videoed “Bad, Bad Man” with Freddie Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles are perennial anthems. And while John’s WWE background in scripted oration helps, the supposed freestyles and disses are still fantastic. Cena’s politically incorrect barbs have found their way to Rey Mysterio: “I’m a box office smash, I’m reloaded like the Matrix – How’m I gonna lose to… a midget dominatrix?”
And they’ve also found the People’s-Champ-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: “Rock wanted me to write his song tonight, but I would never be his mouthpiece – cause Rock’s like LeBron James, he took his talents straight down to South Beach – Keep making fun of this Fruity Pebble, Rock, ‘cause I ain’t even close to sick of it – I’m Mr. Kung Pow Chicken, you just Miami Fried Chicken s**t.”
5 Allen "Jewelz" Iverson
AI tried to drop a rap album in 2001, but advocacy groups and David Stern complained about the work’s profanity after hearing the infamous “40 Bars” track. Other songs from Post Malone’s icon include “Virginia Ain’t for Lovers” and “Jewelz”.
Iverson, like on the court, finishes strong: “S**t, when you wanna be Superman, who gonna be Clark Kent? Pour out my heart until I wind up heartless – Tryna become a father without having a father, they here when you ride then celebrate when you fall, but throughout it all, I just ball.” The song ends with the full clip of Allen’s infamous “Practice” interview.
4 Damian "Dame Dolla" Lillard
Dameo hasn’t put out many songs aside from a remix of Future’s “F***ed up Some Commas,” but his lyrical proficiency has been made obvious from the beaches of Hawaii (where he freestyled with a random lady) to the “Inside Stuff” TV show, Conan O’Brien’s show, and his Instagram account (@damianlillard) every Friday. Dame’s ‘freestyle’ on “Sway In the Morning” is a must-listen, causing Sway to agree that Dame is ‘better than these rappers’.
“I mean it when I say it bro, we started from the bottom – childhood friends dropping like leaves and it’s autumn – Don’t believe time is money, money is time – when you focus, man you look up and your money is fine – I’m from the city where your friend will put a gun to your mind, cause you eating and they envy all that glory and shine”
3 Chris "Hurricane Chris" Webber
Chris Webber’s 1999 album “2 Much Drama” is jam-packed with goodies inside-and-out. The album cover features a forlorn C. Webb socked and squatted with hands on a head wrought with concern and the tunes within the cover vary from the emotional “Need Somebody” to the also-emotional, Phil Collins-sampling, “Feel My Vibe.” Webbie’s hit was his track with Kurupt, “Gangsta, Gangsta” where he dropped the 90s equivalent of Drake buying his booty-calls ubers: “I said a couple words to ya’ broad and then I hit her – She got kids, but I pay for babysitters.”
A more substantial song, “Keepz Burnin,” seems to explain the drama that ChrisCross was concerned with: “It ain’t all good or straight. Won’t it be messed up? You get to Heaven’s gate, and all our sins accumulate. Huh. World is full of hate. We need to come together for our own sake.”
2 Stephen "Stak5" Jackson
Stephen Jackson actually has bars. On “Cars and Clothes” he explains: “N***as game too sloppy to copy, watch me there’ll never be another one poppin, no – too much weight, you could never pull mine, everything I spit is hot s**t and I ain’t full time.” A song, “America da Beautiful,” speaks social and racial in the post-Sterling era and Stak’s put out tracks with French Montana, Jeezy, Slim Thug, and TI.
Stak5 continued to cement his status as co-owner of the Best Rapping Athlete title: “Hundred K cash I can count it by hand… and I don’t need no help – Being broke ain’t in none of my plans, so you can keep it to yourself.”
1 Shaquille "Shaqqa Ranks" O'Neal
When he’s not a sheriff in Miami or coming up with new names for himself to accompany the Big Diesel and the Shaqtus, Shaq Galifanakis likes to get into some rapping. He might say it was just because his heart needed to put a little rap out, but the big fella wasn’t lying when he said that “You can’t stop it, block it, when I drop it, any time I go rhyme for rhyme on a topic.”
He’s freestyled with Nicki Minaj in recent times, but has had songs alongside legends like Ice Cube, KRS One, Nate Dogg, and Wu Tang. Shaq saved his best for his song “Can’t Stop the Reign” with the original Big Ticket, Notorious B.I.G.: “The new edition, this is the end of your last night – In the daytime you couldn’t see me with a flashlight – I crash flights on sites of my enemy, I’m coming through and then I bomb your whole vicinity – Why the acting, faking cats? You’re not a friend of me – I peeped your card, you’re not as hard as you pretend to be.”