The NBA has to extend its hand a give a firm handshake to the hip-hop world.
The hip-hop world and world of rap music took NBA apparel and league as an entertainment industry and not just a sports industry.
The basketball and hip-hop cultures symbiosis was born in 1984 and became known now as The “Dunkadelic-Era” In America, Back in 1984 the basketball and hip-hop relationship was floating under the radar until a rap group from Queens, New York named RUN-D.M.C. released their incredible debut album named after the group (RUN-D.M.C.).
They would also be the first major rap went by “Hip-Hop.” This union of the two worlds had very long tentacles. The NBA world of apparel and the world of sneakers rode the coattails of this union. The hip-hop artist was a huge fan of basketball and it only made sense they would begin to show their allegiance in the artistry of song.
The wearing of NBA jerseys became a fashion statement. As the worlds began to entwine the young up and coming stars of the NBA further pushed this convergence.
Also in 1984 Curtis Blow released the infamous song “basketball” in which he sang about the connection between hip-hop and basketball that is more real now than even Blow himself could have imagined when he originally wrote the song.
Another important event in 1984 was the drafting of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. Michael Jordan is credited with many accolades in Basketball but not with being an integral part of the hip hop connection. When Michael Jordan arrived at the 1985 NBA All-Star Game as a rookie, he didn’t wear the Eastern Conference warm-up suit all the other players did, he wore his own Nike Air Jordan warm-up and also wore gold chains.
When he began wearing his new Air Jordan sneakers, the league not only fined him but also banned the shoe. Jordan still wore them and told Nike to pay the fine. The popularity surrounding the shoe and Jordan’s style of play, quickly lifted Jordan and his kicks to legendary status. MJ’s bucking of authority early in his career was not unlike what the trio Run-D.M.C. was doing with music.
The Air Jordan’s, along with the Adidas “Shell Toe” worn by D.M.C., went on to became standards of the rap wardrobe. Jordan’s baldhead and his baggy shorts eventually became the style as well, both on and off the court. He was young rebellious and intent on getting money and dominating the game. These things would become goal in hip-hop, too. Charles Barkley was more outspoken than Michael Jordan.
Charles let everyone know that he was not going to be controlled and spoke his mind. He became famous in the Nike commercial when he said he did not want to be a role model. Ultimately he was rebelling against the machine that said the successful black people must act and behave a certain way, well Barkley wanted nothing to do with that.
The rapper Chuck D also promoted Charles Barkley when he mentioned him in the song: “Rebel without a Pause” As the NBA and hip-hop continued their melding it began to trickle down to college.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of the late 1980”s seized the hip hop influence and played a style of “We Are Not Happy Unless We Destroy You” brand of basketball. But it was the University of Michigan Wolverines basketball team who really brought hip-hop and basketball together.
Two Detroiters, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, the led the “Fab Five”, the five teenagers with their black socks and baggy shorts and overall chippiness, were straight out of a hip-hop video. Because of the influence of the Fab Five, Michigan basketball jerseys and athletic gear in general started becoming quite common as the attire of a new and upcoming rap generation.
In the mid 1990’s hip-hop had become the popular music and many of the new NBA millionaires that had grown up with hip-hop as the soundtrack to their lives. A young Shaq appeared on “The Arsenio Hall Show” and sang a verse with the rap group Fu-Schnickens. The arrival of Allen Iverson marked the wedding of the two worlds. They courted each other for a decade and Allen Iverson became the groom and rap music the bride and the honeymoon is still going on.
Full of tats, cornrows, baggy close a huge sneaker deal and amazing skills he personified the rap culture. Defiant, selfishness, rebellious and streetwise sums up Iverson. He has a history of trouble with the law, management, teammates and society in general. He has spoken of rap as describing his life and how he feels.
The hip- hop fashion and music infiltration of the NBA and has elevated the NBA jersey to a fashion modicum and its own recognized style. The large jerseys, baggy shorts and sneakers are the urban style and the NBA is its motivation.