A few days ago we gave you the first half of who we thought were the Top 20 Athletes That Defined The Hip Hop generation, now it’s time to give you the bottom half of the list. Again, note that this is not in strict numerical order, but rather a compilation of who we thought grabbed the hearts and attention of the Hip Hop populus. Whether due to skill, swagger, or a combination of both, these were our heroes. I also included a couple of honorable mentions who I felt had a case, but barely missed the cut. Now that the small talk is out of the way, lets see which athletes made up the rest of the list starting with….
11. Lebron James
Lebron is the poster child for Generation NEXT. After grabbing magazine covers and catching the eyes of Hip Hop superstars like Jay-Z as a high school phenom, Lebron exceeded high expectations to become to the 90′s babies what Kobe was to those born in the 80′s and what MJ meant to the generation prior. He also appeals to the long standing Hip Hop tradition of the youth getting theirs EARLY, with him skipping the traditional college route and taking the managing of his brand into his own hands as prime examples. Not to mention he is probably the most referenced athlete in Hip Hop since the turn of the century and down with a who’s who of the rap game. You can say what you want about his ring count, but you can’t deny the influence Lebron had/has on Hip Hop culture.
12. Barry Sanders
With Barry Sanders it wasn’t as much about the swagger or the influence Hip Hop had on him, but more about the love and respect he got from those apart of the culture. Barry just had that special “it” that made it hard not to keep your eyes glued to the screen whenever his games were televised. Even though his teams never had any real playoff success, year in and year out the homies pulled for Barry to finally get that coveted ring, knowing damn well with the team he had around him it wasn’t gonna happen. He is hands down revered as the best running back of the Hip Hop generation and had all of us practicing his moves in Pop Warner, kicking ass with him in Madden, or watching him shake n bake his way to the hall of fame and record books.
13. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is the sole reason we can even seriously question/debate whether Jordan is the greatest. Taking into account what he has meant to the culture, you would realize the impact Kobe has had on us, as most of the Hip Hop fans nowadays are majority 80′s and early 90′s babies and got to see him grow into a legend as we were growing into young men and women in our own right. Sure, he doesn’t have the street cred of an Allen Iverson, but Kobe gets points for his ruthless, win at all costs mindset and is Jay-Z like in his confident, I can not lose splendor. Year in and year out since ’96, we’ve been entertained and have held many debates concerning the baller formerly known as No. 8. We’ve cheered, booed, and all of the above, but one thing we sure did is pay attention, and that’s the most important part. You could argue the fact that his rapping effort was laughable, but he did manage to swing a certified R&B bitch to the Prom and how many rappers can even say that??
14. Roy Jones JR
Ya’ll must have forgot!! Back in the late 90′s and early 00′s, Roy Jones JR was THE biggest draw in the boxing world. Equal parts trash talk and technical skill, Roy Jones captivated the Hip Hop and Boxing worlds with his wit and punishing fighting style. And you know Hip Hop loves the middle weights lol. He was also open about his love for Hip Hop, even releasing an album and creating a record label of his own to cultivate talent. For a while we were ALL under the assumption that Roy Jones would probably never be defeated, let alone knocked out in the ring. Even though we lost that bet (thanks Antonio Tarver), Jones still retired as the only boxer in history to start his career at Middle Weight and win the Heavyweight title in his career. Other than Tyson (and another trash talking pugilist that we’ll talk about a lil bit later), Jones was probably the most entertaining boxer of this generation and will always be held in high regard in Hip Hop circles.
15. Ken Griffey JR
Me myself coming up in a neighborhood more partial to the blacktop, I wasn’t all that much into baseball as a teen. I for sure wasn’t alone, as kids from most urban environments don’t have a consistent means to partake in the sport, opting for the more managable pick-up games of basketball, which has and will always be king in the concrete jungle. But in the early 90′s a guy named Ken Griffey JR changed all of that with his exciting style of play. Equally as lethal in the outfield as he was with the bat, Griffey kept fans on the edge of their seats with his jaw dropping catches and out the park homers. It also didn’t hurt that his signature shoe line was one of the hottest on the market for ANY shoe, competing with the like of MJ, Barkley, Penny Hardway, and other top tier shoe endorsers. Even though injuries prevented him from breaking those Home Run records we were sure he would top, it’s safe to say he is the most popular baseball player of the modern era to the Hip Hop community, hands down.
16. Serena Williams
Serena Williams broke the mold for the African American female athlete of the Hip Hop generation. Emerging from the hard scrabble streets of Compton, Serena (as well as her sister Venus) was caught up in the struggle, but rose above her circumstances by using tennis as a way out. After struggling early in her professional career, Williams began to excell in the late 90′s and was largely regarded as the best female player in the game by 2002. But what places Serena on this list is her love for the Hip Hop culture, as she is probably the first African American athletic star to openly acknowledge her affinity for the music and fashion sense of the culture on such a widespread platform. She has been befriended and associated with a who’s who of Hip Hop’s elite, and is even occasionally name dropped and/or featured in a rap lyrics/music videos. She has also been romantically linked to Hip Hop artists like Common and Drake, and is considered a sex symbol within the Hip Hop community, which is virtually unheard of for a woman in athletics. All in all, Serena represents for the ladies of the Hip Hop generation, showing that the influence of the culture has influenced male AND female alike, and she represents for the culture as well and openly anyone.
17. Skip To My Lou
Circa the late 90′s when we got a majority of our basketball entertainment via the NBA or NCAA, a VHS tape (no blueraye here homie) circulated of a young Rafer Alston, known on the streets as Skip To My Lou, wowing numerous diehard b-ball fans with elaborate moves and flashy ball handling skills. While he did enjoy moderate success in the collegiate and professional ranks, most of his legend was built on the blacktop, where he hlped usher in the sub-culture that is streetball as we know it today. With his introductory tape inspiring more street ballers across the nation, we soon had an all out phenomenon of blacktop showmanship. Inspiring the hugely successful And 1 mixtape tour, which went on to be picked up by ESPN as a series and brought the long time urban past time of streetball to the masses. Even if he was just doing him and didn’t intend it, Skip To My Lou spawned a whole generation of flashy blacktop technicians, from the streets of his hometown NYC, to the average white boy in Middle America. And what’s more Hip Hop then dropping a mixtape??
18. Larry Johnson
Some of you early 80′s babies may remember the force of nature that was Larry Johnson circa 89-95. After a highly successful prep career and making history as one of the greatest players on one of the greatest collegiate teams ever, Johnson was already a household name with street cred to match. Anyone around in those times know that UNLV was Hip Hop’s unofficial college team, as they were revered like rock stars and were one of, if not the first team to truly bring the flair of the streets to the court, with Larry being the ring leader. Winning every accolade possible while at the collegiate level, “LJ” (as he was known by the more street savvy fans) entered the NBA draft and was the first overall pick by the upstart Charlotte Hornets. Coming off winning the Rookie Of The Year award and with street cred to match his high flying, awe inspiring game, Johnson was THE pitchman for ads directed more towards the street wise basketball fan (before a guy named Shaq came and kinda stole his thunder). With his dunking Grandmamma charachter gaining popularity and nabbing the cover of edgy sports publications like Slam Magazine, Johnson transitioned to the mainstream, while still keeping his respect within the urban community. Though injuries eventually limited his potential as a Hall Of Famer, LJ still holds a place in my heart as one of the first superstars claimed by the growing Hip Hop contingent as one of our heroes.
19. Jason Williams
I know some of you may be thinking “Jason Williams??” but trust assured that dude belongs on this list more than you think. Coming out of college, some NBA scouts questioned Williams charachter as a person, viewing his urban influences and a penchant for flashiness as red flag. The tattoos, the baldie, the foul mouth, you could say it was pinera bread america’s worst nightmare. The Hip Hop community embraced it tho. Slam, an urban driven sports magazine to say the least even gave him a cover, which is kind of rare for white ball players to be honest. And they weren’t just selling a gimmick either, homie could REALLY ball. After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 1998, Williams made the NBA All-Rookie Team and his jersey was a top 5 seller in the entire leauge that season. Still there were those knucklehead fuck ups reminiscent of some of your favorite rappers. After being kicked out of The University Of Florida for repeated drug use violations, Williams was suspended for the first 5 games of the 2000 season for again violating drug use policies, this time in the NBA. He did manage to get his act together however and enjoy a solid career, even going on to be a main contributer on a championship team. But if you really want to get to why I selected Jason Williams for this list is because it’s more than basketball. Hip Hop obviously played a major influence on Jason Williams and showed the sports world that being “Down” wasn’t a black or white thing, but a cultural thing, and that Hip Hop was a lifestyle people of all colors were claiming as their own and it wouldn’t be going anywhere soon.
20. Floyd Mayweather
Floyd Mayweather is undeniably the most prolific fighter of his generation (and I doubt that will change when he eventually faces Pac Man, but that’s another story). Having never loss a fight in his career, Floyd has created a captivating storybook career as the flashy antagonist, breaking down opponents with his sharp edged trash talk, as well as his hard hitting punches. The Hip Hop culture adores him for this, kind of how Muhammad Ali was revered for his showmanship and confident swagger. Also known as “Pretty Boy Floyd”, he is THE biggest draw in Boxing in years and flaunts his dollars as well as his victory’s in the ring, which is not a unusual trait in the Hip Hop community. As evidenced by his associations with 50 Cent and other artists, as well as atte,pting to venture into the rap biz with his own stable of artists, Flloyd is very much in touch with the current generation of Hip Hop and is beloved by most everyone in this thing of ours.
Honorable Mentions- Anthony Mason, Ron Artest, Chad Ochocinco, Pacman Jones, Terry Kennedy.
So there you have it. These are the athletes the PleaseDontStare family feel have represented and defined the Hip Hop generation the most. Respect to all that made the list and know that ya’ll will ALWAYS have a place in our hearts and in this thing of ours called Hip Hop. Thanks for the memories.