Athletes thrive on competition. Yet in the case of NBA players, that friction can find its way onto wax.
Dating back more than a decade, NBA ballers have asserted their dominance by using their words. It's a not-so-storied tradition that's given rap fans today's most talked-about clash: the hip-hop duel between Shaquille O'Neal and Damian Lillard. The beef sprung from comments Lillard made in an appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast, on which the 29-year-old suggested he was a better MC than Shaq-Fu.
"I think I rap better than Shaq," he said. "I think he was viewed as Shaq. People [weren't] looking at him like he was a real rapper. They was like, 'That's Shaq rapping,' so of course, it was a big deal."
Shaq quickly retaliated last Thursday (Sept. 26), firing off a quick-witted freestyle over an old-school beat. Lillard hit back today with "Reign Reign Go Away (Shaq Diss)," shooting at the retired basketball star with bars like "Nursery rhymes-spittin', small car-sitting, oh, Icy Hot poster boy, TNT snitchin'/You big man-hating, mad at my existence/Had a song with Bad Boy, and I'm Jordan to the Pistons."
However, Damian and Shaq are no stranger to rap beef; both have engaged in warfare prior to their recent square-off. In Shaq's lifetime, the 47-year-old has aimed shots at Kobe Bryant and Big Shaq, while Lillard has fired at current NBA players like Marvin Bagley III. Lonzo Ball and Stephen Jackson have also served vitriol over instrumentals.
XXL compiles nine diss tracks that have been delivered by NBA ballers. Check out the list below.
"Kobe, Tell Me How My Ass Tastes (Freestyle)"Shaquille O'Neal
The long, drawn-out feud between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant—both ballers who rapped—spilled over onto wax in 2008. Shaq took the stage to freestyle in a nightclub, slipping in some sharp nudges at his former teammate.
“America Da Beautiful” (Letter to Mr. Sterling)"Stephen Jackson
Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling became one of the biggest storylines of the 2014 NBA Playoffs after audio leaked in which he makes racist statements. NBA journeyman Stephen Jackson aired out the disgraced Sterling with a rhyme that likened him to a slave owner and Klansman.
"Mans Not Hot"Shaquille O'Neal
In 2017, the battle of the Shaqs commenced. NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal took offense to British comedian Michael Dapaah—also known as Big Shaq of "Mans Not Hot" fame—lifting his name. So he linked with Toronto's ShaqIsDope to record this spicy takedown over Big Shaq's viral hit.
In one of the NBA's greatest trolls, Lakers baller Lonzo Ball took aim at his teammate Kyle Kuzma, playfully clowning the then-fellow rookie's lack of a shoe deal and penchant for posting his own workouts on social media.
After telling ESPN First Take hosts that he was a better rapper than Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during a June 2019 interview, Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III decided to make his case with his Dame diss track "No Debate." With a hard-hitting beat and nimble rhymes, Bagley quickly made it clear he was playing no games.
"Marvinnnnnn!!!???" Dame D.O.L.L.A.
Hours after Bagley dropped off his Dame diss, the Trail Blazers superstar struck back with "Marvinnnnnn???" a diss track that finds Big Game Dame getting bars off over Drake's "Duppy Freestyle." On the track, Dame uses a dismissive approach and alludes to Bagley sending groupie-like DMs on social.
"End of Summer 19"Dame D.O.L.L.A.
Sandwiched between some Drizzy-like reflection over a mellow beat, Dame fired some shots at Bagley once more with his September 2019 track, "End of Summer '19 Freestyle." After mentioning the person he came for "over the Duppy beat" he ends the sequence with a flex: "We up, but never uppity/Your idol's idol, in a way you still look up to me."
"The Originator"Shaquille O'Neal
Although Shaquille 'O Neal is known primarily for being one of the 10 or so best NBA players ever—and to younger heads, maybe the guy from the Icy Hot ads—he's actually the most commercially successful NBA player-rapper ever. So, when Dame told The Joe Budden Podcast hosts that he was a better rapper than him last month, Shaq Diesel unloaded a diss track filled with some extremely factual and some not-so-truthful shots directed at the Trail Blazers guard.
"Reign Reign Go Away (Shaq Diss)" Dame D.O.L.L.A.
A little under a week after Shaq unleashed his Dame diss, the point guard struck back with "Reign Reign Go Away," a song title that cleverly references Shaq's 1996 album, Can't Stop the Reign. Although he had some very questionable claims about Shaq's hardwood credentials—the part about Kobe winning Shaq his championships is pretty dubious—it was no worse than Shaq saying Dame wasn't even as good as Trevor Ariza. It's beef, and petty is the name of the song.