A special group of athletes are going to have their hoop dreams come to fruition on Thursday night (June 21). The NBA draft kicks off at 7 p.m. EST at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is presumed to have his name called as the number one selection and begin his career with the Phoenix Suns. A draft class that was once thought to be weak now burdens high expectations to send the next batch of rising stars to the league.
Hip-hop and basketball have been synonymous for decades (Shaquille O’Neal’s 1993 debut Shaq Diesel to Iman Shumpert’s 2018 release Substance Abuse) and the two worlds that are deeply rooted together overlap more than ever today. VIBE was on hand for the pre-draft media availability and caught up with a plethora of highly touted prospects to find out which artists are booming through their headphones before games.
Ballers gave a wide range of fascinating answers as rap staples such as Drake and Future dominated playlist choices alongside burgeoning artists out of Atlanta like Lil Baby and Gunna. Some players looking for a different vibe enlisted musicians including Frank Sinatra and gospel singer Kirk Franklin.
Find out what your next favorite NBA player is listening to prior to hitting the court below. Make sure to tune into the draft when everything gets rolling at 7 p.m. EST Thursday evening (June 21) on ESPN.
DeAndre Ayton: “Most definitely Meek Mill, Gunna, Lil Baby, and Drake.”
Mohamed Bamba: “Sheck Wes. He’s one of my good friends from back home. People don’t know that before he was an artist we used to play basketball together. Then he modeled, and now he’s rapping. He’s a man of many masks. I told him to drop the song but I only told him to namedrop me in a verse and he ended up sending me this file that said ‘Mo Bamba’ as the name of the whole song. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It was pretty cool. The song kind of just blew up.”
Lonnie Walker IV: “It all depends, honestly. If you want to know about my ritual, I wake up around 6 a.m. and I’m listening to Frank Sinatra. He’s one of my favorite guys to really listen to and mellow out. When game time comes, you got Drake, Pusha T, Rich The Kid, and JAY-Z. Those are probably my top four. I was beyond conflicted about the Pusha T and Drake beef because I like them both. It was kind of hard because I would go back and forth every other minute.”
Marvin Bagley III: “J. Cole, Logic, Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Tupac Shakur and a little Biggie Smalls.”
Jaren Jackson: “If anyone knows me, then you know Lil Uzi Vert is going to be on there. It’s a lot of Uzi, Playboi Carti, A$AP Rocky, G Herbo, and Trippie Redd. XXXTentacion was probably the most versatile artist of this generation. Rest in peace. It’s truly sad. He was someone I definitely listened to.”
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Michael Porter Jr.: “I’ll listen to Future, 21 Savage and all of those type of dudes. Then about 30 minutes before the game, I start listening to some slow music. R&B and even some classical music to try to slow my mind down. It’s a little different approach. I meditate on the game and feel way calmer. I try to not worry about anything and be ready to play basketball.”
Collin Sexton: “Meek Mill, J. Cole, Gucci Mane, and some Atlanta artists like Lil Yachty.”
Trae Young: “You’d find some Drake, New Edition and some Ralph Tresvant.”
Wendell Carter Jr.: “Lil Baby and Gunna for sure. You gotta have some Drake in there and a little Tupac and Biggie Smalls.”
Kevin Knox: “Probably Future, Lil Baby, Gunna, and Drake. That’s what I like to listen to because it gets me going before games. 21 Savage is one of my favorite rappers. If it’s something I can sing and know the lyrics to, it gets me going before games.”
Aaron Holiday: “You’ll find Drake in there and Kirk Franklin. I listen to Frank Ocean a little bit and maybe some Michael Jackson. A little bit of everything.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: “I don’t listen to music before games.”