In honor of hip-hop turning 50, ESPN tapped the culture's top voices to write about their favorite athlete name-drops in hip-hop history. Below is a collection of essays.
How Jay-Z and Jordan defined the blueprint for greatness
by Mychal Denzel Smith
There's Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, and everyone else. They will forever be considered GOATs and the stories we tell will always fuel their legends.
When Nicki Minaj crowned Lisa Leslie the baddest
by Lauren Michele Jackson
When "Barbie World" rapper Nicki Minaj crowned Lisa Leslie, the first woman to dunk in a women's professional game, the baddest.
How Ric Flair influenced a new generation of drip
by Morgan Jerkins
There's a reason so many rappers love Ric Flair. "The Nature Boy" embodies some of the best characteristics of hip-hop -- the flamboyance, the flashiness and the braggadocio.
E-40's unwavering dedication to Bay Area sports
by Branden J. Peters
Among the hip-hop contingent, there isn't anyone more synonymous with sports than Vallejo, California, native Earl "E-40" Stevens is with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, MLB's San Francisco Giants and the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
Kendrick Lamar on former NBA coach Phil Jackson
by Jayson Buford
Big Sean's "Control" (2013), which features Kendrick Lamar, raises the stakes of rap competition to the point of him sounding like a lecturer and has a lyric that made Phil Jackson publicly comment on rap, perhaps for the first time ever. Lamar, in the middle of his three-minute verse, name-drops the coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers dynasties: "If Phil Jackson came back, still no coaching me."
Common's Serena Williams name-drop demanded respect for the GOAT
by Katie Barnes
Serena Williams is an icon, the GOAT, a tennis legend and probably the most name-dropped woman athlete in hip-hop, yet her acknowledgment in pop culture was often varied.
How Ghostface Killah made Yankees great Graig Nettles cool again
by Alphonse Pierre
For a young baseball player who longed to play second base but ended up at third, a Ghostface Killah freestyle helped him embrace his new position.
The soul-stirring power of Jordan, J.Cole and 'The Lion King'
by Jada Gomez
Motivated by the career of Michael Jordan and an iconic Disney character, J.Cole dropped one of the most moving songs of his career.
Why Will Smith's comic jab at Mike Tyson never hit its mark
by Sean Malcolm
In 1989, it was inconceivable to think any sane human being could beat Michael Gerard Tyson in any kind of fight (cough, cough...Mitch Green), let alone a professional boxing match. Yet, in the delusional mind of Will Smith -- better known then as hip-hop wunderkind, The Fresh Prince -- he thought he could shoot a fair one with the best fighter on the plane.
Jadakiss reflects on NBA legend Sam Cassell
by Eric Rosenthal and Jeff Rosenthal
Hip-hop Hall of Famer Jadakiss on how NBA legend and Celtics assistant coach Sam Cassell made it into one of the rapper's most memorable lyrics.