The NBA All-Star Game is coming up in a couple of weeks. There may not be any Rockets on the roster - even ex-Rocket/Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin didn't blow up in time to be added as a reserve - but musical names such as Kanye West, Rihanna (the halftime entertainment), Lenny Kravitz, Josh Groban, Cee-Lo Green, Melanie Fiona, and Cali Swag District are all either scheduled or rumored to be participating in the festivities surrounding Orlando's Amway Center.
Like anyone else with millions of dollars and a shortage of people around to tell them when something is a bad idea, many professional basketball players have also fancied themselves recording artists. Most of them should have just bought another Bentley, but a handful of roundballers actually proved to have some talent in the studio as well as on the hardwood.
Ron Artest World Peace: The Queens-raised man infamous for brawling with a Detroit Pistons fan at a 2004 game also won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year that season and became a crucial part of the Rockets' most recent playoff run in 2009. Not surprisingly, perhaps, he also fancied himself something of a gangsta rapper and released the album My World ("Haterz," "Bad Karma," "La La Ladies") in 2006. "There's enough thug-life bounce to Artest's me-against-the world narratives to earn him a spot, if not on the G-Unit roster, at least on the practice squad," CD Universe said. He's since retired and released another album and EP, and Artest's Sept. 2011 name change to World Peace suggests a collaboration with Cee-Lo could be right around the corner.
4. David Robinson: The highly religious 7' 1" center preached the gospel of the alto saxophone and piano to Sports Illustrated in April 1991, a few years before becoming NBA MVP with the San Antonio Spurs and eventually retiring as an NBA champion in 2003. SI's Bruce Newman said there was "something sweet and uninhibited" about Admiral's version of Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile." ""I'm better on the piano, but with the sax I feel so much more creative, so much freer," Robinson said.
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3. Shaquille O'Neal: The gigantic, goofy LSU alum and current TNT analyst moonlighted as a rapper whose charisma, if not lyrical skills, propelled him through several albums up until Shaquille O'Neal Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1. (The Superfriends included Trina, Snoop and Nate Doggs, Ludacris, Mos Def and George Clinton.) Despite its title - and the single with Common and the Roots' Black Thought, "In the Sun," which gained some legitimate radio play - that 2001 album also coincided with Shaq's three straight NBA titles, and he hasn't released an album since.
2. Allen Iverson: The pint-sized former point guard, a perennial All-Star with the Sixers, Nuggets and Grizzlies, is also a half-decent MC. Although his lyrical content is chiefly limited to how much of a badass he is, Iverson is no worse than Master P, whom he resembles a little.
1. Wayman Tisdale: The former Oklahoma Sooner and NBA forward, who had a 12-year career among three teams, also had a rather unusual hobby - as a jazz bassist. Then he retired from basketball and had an equally successful, if abbreviated, musical career. His album Face to Face topped Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart in 2001, and Toby Keith was nominated for a Grammy for "Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song)" after his hoopster pal died from cancer in 2009 at just age 44.
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Track list from 1994 CD B-Ball's Best-Kept Secret (Epic, 1994)
1. "Hip Hop Basketball Genie" (skit) 2. Dana Barros, "Check It" 3. Malik Sealy, "Lost In the Sauce" 4. Shaquille O'Neal & Ill Al Skratch, "Mic Check 1-2" 5. "Earl the Goat" (skit) 6. Brian Shaw, "Anything Can Happen" 7. Chris Mills, "Sumptin' To Groove To" 8. Sway & King Tech, "From the Bay to L.A." 9. Jason Kidd & Money-B, "What the Kidd Did" 10. J.R. Rider, "Funk In the Trunk" 11. "Phat Swoosh" (skit) 12. Dennis Scott, "All Night Party" 13. Gary Payton, "Livin' Legal and Large" 14. "DJ S and S Represents" (skit) 15. Dana Barros, Cedric Ceballos, Grand Puba, Sadat X, AG & Diamond D, "Ya Don't Stop"