T.I. talks Vick, the Hawks & playing sports

The Atlanta rapper is bullish on the prospects of his hometown teams this season. Chris McKay/Getty Images

After 10 years in the game, T.I. will release his eighth LP on Dec. 18. T.I. says “Trouble Man” is his best body of work so far.

“It’s epic. And I’m not saying that because I made it,” he says. “I think it’s a perfect hybrid of old and new. I feel like, for everybody’s favorite T.I. song, I have something [on this record] that will definitely match it.”

An avid Atlanta sports fan, T.I. talked to ESPN Playbook about his friendship with Michael Vick, how the Hawks are a sleeper pick this season and what athlete he'd like to play in a movie.

What team would make you happiest if it won a championship?

The Falcons! The Hawks! The Braves! Just bring something back to Atlanta. I think the Falcons have the best chance right now, being 7-0. I think the Hawks have a good chance. I’ve seen their new squad; they got DeShawn Stevenson, who won a ring with Dallas -- he basically shut Kobe down. They have Louis Williams, one of the most dynamic, explosive players to come from the Philadelphia 76ers last year. And they have my friend and close family member -- I say family member, but I mean extended family member -- Josh Smith. Our kids play together, our old ladies know each other, we’re very close. I’m just as close with Josh as I am with [Michael] Vick. I really think they’re a young and hungry team, and I think they’re going to catch a lot of people sleeping. I think we’re better than where we were last year.

Your friend Michael Vick has had a rough season so far. What are your thoughts on Vick’s performance?

Man, I love him with all I got. He’s a stand-up cat. His heart, and his capabilities on the field, is immeasurable. I don't think anyone -- and I’m not speaking down on the coaching staff of Philadelphia or the coaching staff from Atlanta -- I just don't think any coach has found a way to truly highlight his strengths. In Atlanta, they just let him run wild and do things that he probably shouldn’t have been doing. And in Philadelphia, they have been trying to make him a “in the pocket” Peyton Manning-type quarterback —- which he is just not. I feel like they are suppressing his instinct to get out of there and make plays the best way he can after the snap. You have to give him the confidence to be able to do that. Plus he has to feel like the whole line is going to go hard for him.

What is your most prized piece of sports memorabilia?

I have an autographed Green Bay Brett Favre jersey No. 4. I have a Michael Vick helmet and an autographed Falcons team ball. They were all personalized, which kind of takes down the value of it. But it’s a fine piece of memorabilia, nonetheless.

What is your favorite sports memory as a fan or participant?

There’s so many ... seeing the Braves win the World Series in ’95, seeing John Elway win his Super Bowl ring, seeing the Falcons go to the Super Bowl and seeing the Miami Heat win. It was good seeing LeBron and Wade make good on their promise. I’m a LeBron James fan.

If your life depended on your performance in a competitive sport, which would you choose?

I’ll tell you what, if my life depended on a sport -- it’s going to have to be a one-man sport. I’m not going to put my life on a team game. I’m not going to play football where you have 11 guys out there that you have to depend on. I’m going to play tennis! Or golf -- something where I can train myself and at least have my destiny in my own hands. Bowling! Hey, I’ll take it. Pool! Pingpong!

Who was your childhood sports idol?

Michael Jordan. He’s the epitome of the word “champion.” The epitome!

Which modern athlete do you despise most?

You know, I feel like that’s a waste, because if you don’t like someone, then don’t waste energy on them. It’s a wasted effort. If you go out of your way to hate or despise someone -- just why? If you don't like someone, if they are as bad as you say they are, then don’t waste the time and energy to despise them.

You’ve done some acting with “Takers” and “ATL,” but if you could play the role of any sports icon throughout time, whom would you want to play?

I would have to aim for the people that I would be the most believable in playing. I find that I look the least like any person besides me. Like Jamie Foxx was perfect for “Ray.” Let me think ... David Justice? Hines Ward, maybe? [Laughs.] I got to go to way outside the lines ... Kenny Smith? [Laughs.] Despite the looks, I would love to play Sugar Ray Leonard. The fighters he was fighting, the way he won, the style he was fighting, the way he defended -- he’s dope. Those Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns fights, they were classic.