Your NBA Finals listening party: 10 pro basketball players who also make music

Some of the most renowned athletes in the world share a surprising secondary talent: music creation.

As the NBA Finals heat up, we felt there was no better moment to spotlight some current and former pro players who navigate both the court and the studio, whether they’re passioned hobbyists or seasoned artists with multiple records under their belt.

1. Shaquille O’Neal

Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but some may not know that he’s also a world-touring rapper, DJ, and producer. Despite his extensive career as an athlete, the truth is that Shaq has always been passionate about music; struck with awe after seeing Public Enemy live for the first time at the age of 14, he did numerous odd jobs and scrapped together $200 to buy his first set of turntables at a local pawn shop.

A few decades later, he has a platinum-certified album in Shaq Diesel, collaborations with everyone from Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. to Method Man and Common, and main stage appearances (he’s also known as DJ Diesel) at Tomorrowland, Lollapalooza, Electric Zoo, and more. Check out his latest album GORILLA WARFARE to get a taste of his hard-hitting production chops:

2. Rony Seikaly

One of the first internationally-born players to make an outsized impact on American basketball, Rony Seikaly was one of the best centers in the NBA and even won gold on the United States national basketball team during the 1986 FIBA World Championship. Following his retirement, Seikaly became a prolific house producer and DJ—but like Shaq, his journey in music began long before his career in basketball took off.

“I finished my NBA career in 2000, but the music side of my life was never meant to happen,” Seikaly recalls in an interview with MusicTech. “It was strictly a passion, a private affair that I had with music, going back to when I was 14 years old. I started with disco and R&B and went into house and went through the whole journey of music while I was in the NBA.”

“Nothing has changed for me in that respect, but in 2002 or 2003, when I played music in my house for friends, Erick Morello came over once and asked, ‘Whose mix are you playing?’ I said, ‘It’s not a mix; it’s me.’ He said I should go out and play, but I didn’t want it to become a public thing—it was for me; it was for the love of music. But, here I am!”

Seikaly’s go-to tools include Ableton Live, Omnisphere, the Prophet, and our very own Splice Sounds. Most recently, Seikaly has released a single alongside French production powerhouse Nico de Andrea—check it out below:

3. Baron Davis

Baron Davis is a former professional basketball player who’s a studio analyst for the NBA on TNT. During his career as a player, he was a two-time NBA All-Star and a part of the ‘We Believe’ Warriors.

In the years that have followed, Davis has been involved in a wide array of endeavors including acting, gaming, and television, and most recently, he’s also been heavily active as a producer and rapper.

“If you’re an athlete who’s went as far as you can to play professionally, you gotta know there’s more to you than just what’s in your sport,” Davis comments as he reflects on his position as a role model for countless other players. “And you can use your sport to realize things that you love to do and make yourself even more successful.”

For a taste of his latest work, take a listen to his collaborative single with LaRussel, Tietta, Hokage Simon, and Bart Oatmeal that dropped this year:

4. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is a player for the Milwaukee Bucks with seven NBA All-Star selections, seven All-NBA Team selections, and a gold medal for the U.S. Olympic team under his belt. During off seasons, Lillard is also a rapper under the stage name Dame D.O.L.L.A., which stands for “Different on Levels the Lord Allows.”

With sharp freestyle chops and lyrical sensibilities, Dame D.O.L.L.A. has released numerous records with collaborations and co-signs from the likes of Raphael Saadiq, OG Parker, and Fuse of 808 MAFIA. His latest project, Don D.O.L.L.A., boasts big-name features from Ty Dolla $ign, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and others, while simultaneously being his most personal project yet.

“Creating Don D.O.L.L.A. has been a transformative journey for me as I deal with the obstacles in my life,” Lillard tells Hypebeast. “I wanted to make an album that not only showcased my growth as an artist but also conveyed the complexities of my life and responsibilities. This project allowed me to delve into my emotions and share my experiences in a way I’ve never done before. I usually record an album during the NBA offseason in a couple of weeks, but this album took over a year. I sat with this art and made sure I was saying exactly what I wanted to say in the best way I could. I know I became a better artist and storyteller with this album.”

5. Marvin Bagley

Marvin Bagley is a current player for the Washington Wizards who was selected for the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2019.

Also a rapper and hip hop artist on the side going by the moniker MB3FIVE, Bagley has released a slew of albums over the last few years and is reported to be constantly in and out of the studio. He also sparked a rap battle with Damian Lillard when he declared himself as the best rapper in the NBA, which lead to an exchange of tracks between the two.

Bagley’s latest release is a brooding single with RHOME titled “SHOWTIME”—take a listen below:

6. Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball is a point guard who currently plays for the Chicago Bulls. He formerly played college basketball for one season with the UCLA Bruins, earning consensus first-team All-American honors before the Los Angeles Lakers selected him in the 2017 NBA draft.

Off the court, Ball is an active rapper who has earned 2 Chainz’ stamp of approval. While his tracks are undeniably hard-hitting, his lyricism can be quite playful, filled with references to video games, anime (he compares himself to Goku in “Super Saiyan”), and even his own brand of shoes (see his hit “Zo2”). He also made an appearance in the fourth season of The Masked Singer.

For his latest work, check out his third album Ball-Star Pack:

7. Kyrie Irving

Regarded as one of the best ball handlers of all time, Kyrie Irving is a one-time NBA champion and eight-time All-Star who’s currently competing for a championship in the 2024 NBA Finals alongside Luka Dončić with the Dallas Mavericks. While he doesn’t have entire albums of original music like some of the other individuals on this list, he has hinted at his musicianship via clips of him singing on Snapchat, and in 2018 made a surprising feature on the Uncle Drew soundtrack—right alongside the likes of A$AP Rocky, G-Eazy, and Khalid.

While he might not be the most active as a musician (yet), he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

8. JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee is a three-time NBA champion with consecutive titles who currently plays for the Sacramento Kings. In his downtime, he produces music under the moniker Pierre, navigating a range of genres spanning hip hop, trap, techno, and R&B.

Despite amassing hundreds of thousands of streams on his own work and even co-producing on Justin Bieber’s Changes alongside Poo Bear and Sasha Sirota, McGee is still heavily underrated as a producer.

“I feel like people don’t really know that it’s me and they think that I just funded it or something,” he says in an interview with Billboard. “I don’t think people realize that I produce like 90 percent of all my music, except for the songs that I co-produce with people. That’s really me going to the studio with the artists and all that stuff. Once they realize that they’ll be a little bit more surprised—pleasantly surprised.”

Check out his latest single “Cowboy,” produced alongside Audio Chateau and Koh:

9. Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond is a center who plays for the Chicago Bulls alongside Lonzo Ball. In addition to making a mark on multiple teams throughout his career, he was also a member of the 2014 U.S. national team that won a gold medal in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

As Drummxnd, he has also delved into the world of rap, dropping a series of sharply-produced tracks alongside a range of collaborators via his full-length record Fyi. He has even done live performances of the record upon its release, as recounted by The New York Times.

Most recently, Drummxnd followed up Fyi with his single “Listen”—check it out below:

10. Victor Oladipo

Last but not least, despite currently navigating injuries, Victor Oladipo has had success as a two-time NBA All-Star, a member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2018, and an NBA Most Improved Player in 2018.

Many may be surprised to hear the smooth and at times virtuosic vocal performances he brings to his music, which incorporates influences from everything spanning R&B to Afrobeats.

“I started singing in the church around the second or third grade,” Oladipo tells Believer Magazine. “Before you knew it, I was leading the choir. Eight, nine years old. In high school, I tried out for the school chorus and I was so good that the teacher asked me to do that instead of basketball. I decided to quit chorus the next day because I didn’t want it to interfere with my basketball… My talent isn’t super unique, but maybe it’s unique to be able to do both at a high level.”

Oladipo also shouts out his many peers who are making music alongside him. “I love Damian Lillard’s music,” he continues. “He’s reaching the world on a much larger spectrum. He’s been so successful with both rapping and basketball. He’s really good. But there are a few others I listen to as well: Marvin Bagley, Lonzo Ball. There are lots of guys who have entered this space with talent. JaVale McGee produces. Lou Williams raps. There’s such a plethora. Shaq. A lot of us really love music and sports. Not just in the NBA either—there are upcoming artists who are athletes, like Flau’jae. We’re just showcasing our talents more than ever.”

And there you have it! Whose music is your favorite? Are there any other athletes who are musicians that should be highlighted? Start a conversation with us and an ever-growing community of music creators via the Splice Discord.

Join the Splice Discord to engage with a community of other music creators, participate in producer-led beat battles, and hear exclusive interviews:

June 11, 2024

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.