Basketball and rap have always been intertwined. Hoopers want to rap and rappers want to hoop. In the case of Grammy-winning artist J. Cole, he’s been linked with the basketball community since he stepped on the scene, whether it’s playing pickup in the summer with NBA players or name-dropping a superstar in his work. Just listen to his last album, The Off-Season, where he referenced Ja Morant, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Dennis Smith Jr., and LeBron James. J. Cole has always had a love for the game of basketball, and on Sunday the sideline stories became reality as he suited up professionally in the Basketball Africa League.
People forget J. Cole is 36 years old. Do you think if this was 10 years ago, he’d have a chance at a real pro basketball career from what you saw?
Potentially. Why not? I think he would’ve had more time to maximize his opportunities. Obviously, you don’t know where things will fall, but when you try to pursue something at a younger age, you just have more time on your hands to put effort into that.
How big is it for the African league to get attention like this? You’ve been a part of bringing Nigeria basketball to relevance on a global scale, but how big is this for everyone to be watching, even if it’s for J. Cole?
I think it’s huge, man. I think this is like the way the NBA and Toronto Raptors got together and they assigned Master P sign a preseason deal, knowing he had a basketball background and he gave up his [basketball] career to pursue entertainment and his successful rap career. It was an opportunity to continue to build the business side in Toronto. This African league is sponsored by FIBA and the NBA, so it’s a business opportunity for them to push the game forward. I don’t think there was a better name to have than J. Cole.
Are you a J. Cole fan?
Absolutely. Me and one of my sisters went to a concert of his. I definitely respect his humility and storytelling. He’s one of my favorite rappers. He’s just a different guy. He’s really woke on a lot of issues that take place in the world.
You listened to his new album?
It’s something I still gotta dissect, but just hearing the songs I heard, the Twitter reviews, and my group chats, it’s something that he took his time and energy with. I’ve seen various documentaries that he’s put together on the side as well to build momentum toward release, so it’s amazing. Any project he drops, you gotta be all ears.
You say what’s up to him after the game?
Nah, but he’s around. For the most part, I keep it professional. He’s in the hotel, he’s in the bubble, he’s on campus. We get to say wassup in passing, but it’s nothing over the top.
Ain’t no shame in that. That’s still a legend.
Absolutely, but he got bodyguards and all that, but he’s a real down-to-earth guy, so I’m sure we’ll connect here in the next couple days.