Brey takes photo with 'dawg' 2 Chainz

There has always been a strong connection between basketball and hip-hop. Both became popular outlets in the urban centers that birthed some of their greatest performers.

Rapper Kurtis Blow released the hit song “Basketball” in 1984. Blow wrote: “I used to go to dinner/and then take the girl/to see Tiny play against Earl The Pearl/And Wilt, Big O and Jerry West/To play basketball at its very best.”

On 1993’s “It was a Good Day,” Ice Cube said, “Called up the homies and I'm askin’ y'all/Which court are y'all playin’ basketball?/Get me on the court and I'm trouble/Last week [messed] around and got a triple double/Freaking brothers every way like M.J./I can't believe, today was a good day.”

Rappers have always admired ballers. And ballers have always admired rappers.

And decades later that bond remains.

Just ask Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, who tweeted this photo he took Sunday with rapper 2 Chainz. The caption? “Me and my dawg 2 Chainz.”

A few immediate questions and yes, there are many.

Is 2 Chainz, who drops his new album “Based on a T.R.U. Story” Tuesday, really Brey’s “dawg”? And if they’re tight, how’d they meet? Is Brey working on a new track for an upcoming album? Does 2 Chainz have remaining eligibility and an unstoppable crossover?

This offseason has proven that college basketball coaches and hip-hop stars have a serious alliance that will probably lead to a collaboration album and rap beefs that will be settled in the studio. Forget the court.

Platinum rap star Drake, a diehard Kentucky/John Calipari fan, received a championship ring from the Wildcats last month…even though he didn’t play or coach in the title game in New Orleans.

South Carolina’s Frank Martin recently tweeted his appreciation for dance rap (no other way to describe that stuff he does) star Pitbull. “On my way 2 Atlanta 2 c the best performer that’s our there @Pitbull . I want our players 2 play w the same passion w which he petforms.” (ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan spoke for all of us with this Pitbull-Martin post earlier this month.)

Last October, Rick Ross suffered a seizure on a flight from Florida to Memphis, where he was scheduled to perform. Early reports suggested that the concert had been cancelled. According the Commercial Appeal, however, Ross refuted those reports with a phone call to his favorite coach, Josh Pastner.

"He's coming. He's still coming. I don't know if it was (Ross) or one of his posse who got sick on the plane," Pastner said.

"He called us. Rick Ross personally called us. He called one of my staff members and told them, 'Don't listen to the media. I'm coming. I will be there tonight.' "

Pastner didn't have any details on the incident, but insisted that Ross still plans to perform at tonight's free event, which marks the official start of practice for the 2011-12 basketball season.

It doesn’t stop there.

Bo Ryan has been filmed dancing to Soulja Boy. Jay-Z, another Kentucky supporter, was so in love with the game that he bought an NBA franchise.

So Brey’s photo with his “dawg” 2 Chainz is not that abnormal given the current trend.

And it’s smart recruiting. The kids that these coaches covet listen to the rap stars that they’re tied to.

In the 1970s, they’d be doing disco (Bill Self still does, apparently) and linking up with the Bee Gees and Kool & the Gang. But it’s 2012, so photos with 2 Chainz make sense. Maybe. … None of this feels right.

One tip for Brey and his colleagues: “dawg” is so 2002.