How Hip Hop has Influenced the NBA

The end of the NBA season is nigh and the Boston Celtics are the favourites in the current sport betting odds to go the whole distance and win the NBA finals. Whilst the current basketball discourse is concentrated on Joe Mazulla’s decision making, Nikola Jokic’s star quality and the Lakers ability to get over the line, we’re more interested in a different topic altogether.

The relationship between hip hop and the NBA. It’s a relationship that feels clear and obvious for all to see, but how much do you know about the ways in which the former has influenced the latter? Read on to find out.


The fashion of hip hop has long had an influence on the NBA, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s when baggy clothing and oversized jerseys were incredibly popular amongst the players. Brands such as FUBU and Sean John, popular in hip hop circles, began to filter their way onto the court, as did other traditional hip hop brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

In 2005, NBA commissioner David Stern rather bizarrely took the decision to crack down on hip hop fashion in the sport, demanding that when participating gin team or league activities players wore business casual attire.

The mandate also banned players from wearing headgear of any kind as well as chains, pendants and medallions. Allen Iverson, who was seen by many as the main target of the mandate said of it, “they’re targeting my generation – the hip hop generation.”


The most obvious link between hip hop and basketball comes in the form of music. There are notable crossovers between the two like Damian Lillard and Marvin Bagley but the links don’t just end there.

Basketball is undoubtedly the most referenced sport in hip hop songs and it is the number one choice of music genre by player and the majority of basketball fans. 

The majority of instantly recognisable arena anthems tend to come from the genre too, with songs such as Jump Around and House of Pain often being used to get fans out of their seats and behind their teams.


For two industries with overlapping demographics the marketing opportunities between hip hop and basketball are almost endless. Not only does the league itself use hip hop culture, fashion and icons to further promote the appeal of its brand, but individual teams get in on it too.

Drake, the world famous rapper is also a native of Toronto and a massive fan of the city’s basketball team The Raptors. Since 2013 he has served as global ambassador for the team and has been involved in numerous marketing campaigns since, included the release of a special edition Raptors jersey.

Social Campaigns

In terms of social responsibility there are very few sports leagues on the planet that can measure up to the NBA. The league has dozens of campaigns and schemes covering things as wide and varied as men’s mental health, help for heroes, climate change and social justice campaigns.

In addition to that, basketball has also provided a platform for players to highlight social injustice and like hip hop, has been used as a way to highlight a number of social issues such as police brutality and racial inequality.

During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, hip hop stars and basketball players were at the forefront of getting the campaigns message out there and encouraging people to throw their support behind it.

In Summary

One of the greatest things about the United States is the wide range of different cultures that are enjoyed and celebrated all throughout the country. Whether that be the garish green St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston, Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the various Oktoberfest celebrations, America truly is a melting pot of different cultures.

Hip hop and basketball two terrific representations of African American and working class culture in the United States. The crossovers between the two make them the perfect cultural partners and their importance on fashion as well as more influential things like societal change, cannot be overstated.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
Business And Features Writer


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