Issue 1: Pump Up the Jams

Basketball and music have always had a strong intersection. Your body naturally responds to that heavy synth in “The Final Countdown” or the stomp-stomp-clap in “We Will Rock You” with excitement, and for good reason. Those songs have been played at possibly every basketball game in existence.

Musicians are aware of this crossover, too. As a result, they’re constantly dropping references to basketball within their lyrics. Players, teams, arenas…even the salary cap has made an appearance in at least one song.

Some of these references are worthy of further examination. Let’s check out three:

Big L – “M.V.P.”

The line: “And every time I’m jammed, I always find a loophole/I got a crime record longer than Manute Bol”

Manute Bol was a pretty awesome guy. He was incredibly well-read and studious and gave up nearly all of his wealth to help support his native Sudan, including leading education efforts within the country. We’ll cover him a lot more in a future email, because there’s quite a bit of legend around him.

For the purposes of this lyric, however, all you need to know is Manute Bol was very tall—7’7″, to be exact. Here are two other NBA players pranking him in a delightfully innocent way, so you can get a sense of his height.

Bol’s wingspan was eight feet and six inches, which is more than half the distance from the free throw line to the basket. Remember that scene in Space Jam when Michael Jordan pulls all the Monstars on his back and Stretch Armstrongs his way to the hoop for the game-winning dunk?

That was essentially Manute Bol in real life. And Big L has a crime record even longer than that.

Lloyd Banks – “Follow Me Gangster”

The line: “My team in the cut, packing metal things/That’s more foreign shooters than the Sacramento Kings”

This song, which appeared in the Jet Li/DMX action movie Cradle 2 the Grave, is officially credited to 50 Cent featuring G-Unit, but it’s Lloyd Banks who delivers the ultimate…er, shot. “Follow Me Gangster” came out in 2003, though was likely recorded in 2002, so let’s take a quick history lesson down the Sacramento Kings roster during the 2002-03 season.

Vlade Divac? He’s Serbian. Peja Stojakovic? Croatian. And Hedo Turkoglu was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Stojakovic and Turkoglu shot 38.2% and 37.2% from the three-point line that season, both solid numbers. However, Divac only made 24% of his attempts.

To be fair, though, Lloyd Banks never specified anything about the shooters being good, just that he has more than the Kings do—at least four, for you math experts out there. So the claim still stands.

Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland – “Promiscuous”

The line: “Is it the truth or are you talking trash?/Is your game MVP like Steve Nash?”

For a brief stretch in the mid-2000s, Timbaland was at the top of the production game. The former one-half-of-Timbaland-and-Magoo star put his hands and vocal ad-libs on a number of hot tracks, from Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” to “Apologize” by OneRepublic.

But perhaps his best work was featured on Nelly Furtado’s song “Promiscuous.” Okay, it’s not really his best work, but let’s roll with it. The entire song is about two people that want to make love but are trying to be coy about it, and perhaps even do a little dancing first.

While Timbaland was dominating the airwaves with songs like this, Steve Nash was dominating the NBA. He won two MVP awards in a row, the second of which came in 2006, the same year “Promiscuous” entered our lives.

This song is also a great example of the power of music. Immediately after the track came out, there was plenty of hot gossip around the relationship between Nelly Furtado and Nash.

“Are they seeing each other?!” the tabloids asked. Nope—turns out Nelly Furtado just really wanted to give a fellow Canadian his props.

Woot! That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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