“If I were not a basketball player, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music.” — Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion
OK, so maybe Bill Russell technically didn’t say that. Maybe it was Albert Einstein. And maybe he said it about being a physicist, not basketball. And maybe Einstein didn’t even say that, because this quote came from a suspect-at-best list of famous inspirational phrases.
But behind the completely Russell’s completely fake quote is a completely true idea. The NBA’s history runs deep with stories of athletes who tried—and sometimes succeeded—to branch out into the world of popular music: for example, there’s Shaquille O’Neal’s surprisingly profitable rap career, Kobe Bryant’s unsurprisingly disappointing rap career and also this video of Russell Westbrook having the actual time of his life at a Taylor Swift concert.
For most athletes, a music is nothing more than a fun side project or an excuse to shower with your girlfriend in a Kanye video—but for some, it’s a real passion. Although few and far between, there are some players out there who really know their stuff.
Last week, I put together an all-star team containing the greatest musician basketball players in the game today. This week, it’s the athletes’ turn to shine. Today’s goal is simple: we’re assembling a supergroup, and every member is a basketball player. First, some ground rules:
1. We’re only including players who have reached and logged at least one full season in the NBA.
2. We’re here to make a full, functional band, which means that—just like with last week’s all-star team—positions matter. Our goal is to fill out an entire roster that could headline Lollapalooza tomorrow if they had to.
3. As with any good basketball team, fit matters too. Personality clashes are just as big a factor in music as they are on the court, so we’re taking that into account too.
All right, let’s get on with it:
Lead Vocals: Victor Oladipo
This is an easy one. With his smooth, “I wanna introduce you to my parents” delivery and his impressive stylistic range, Oladipo makes the cut on skill alone. Still, the trait that interests me most is his fitness: the 2018 most improved player has adopted a life-changing diet over the past year, giving him the sort of longevity needed to withstand a demanding tour schedule.
Backup Vocals: Tony Parker
This spot could easily have gone to Damian Lillard, who is hands down the NBA’s best rapper and would have provided some lyrical fire to balance out Dipo’s ice-cold hooks. But remember, positions matter. We couldn’t have Dame outshining our frontman, and Tony Parker’s introspective, sad-rap style fits much better alongside the rest of our roster. Also, the future Hall of Famer’s knack for combining both English and French lyrics would help give our band a wider international appeal.
Sound Engineer/DJ: Chris Webber
This pick is all about experience. The former NBA all-star and Fab Five member has been a musician nearly as long as he’s been a basketball player, starting his own record label in 1997 and releasing his debut album in 1999. In 2006, Webber even produced a song for Nas’ Hip-Hop Is Dead album, which went on to be nominated for a Grammy. Besides, it’s really hard to tell a six-foot-ten Grammy nominee he can’t be in your supergroup.
Keyboards: Grant Hill
Grant Hill can do everything. He’s been a TV host, a front office executive and even the star of a completely insane McDonald’s commercial. The dude’s got range. And he can play at least a few chords on the piano, which is honestly all we’re going to need from this spot. For the sake of convenience, let’s assume Hill’s keyboard has a drum machine too.
Saxophone: Harrison Barnes
Just like his years with the Golden State Warriors, we’re asking Barnes to take a backseat here. The six-foot-eight forward is used to being the fourth or fifth most important man on a team of all-stars, and that’s exactly what we’re asking for here. Also, there’s a very strong possibility your 12-year-old brother is better at saxophone than him.
Bass: Wayman Tisdale
Who is Wayman Tisdale? That question isn’t really all that important when you know the answer to this one: did Wayman Tisdale, who played power forward, name his debut jazz-bass album Power Forward? Yes, yes he did. Tisdale, who actually played in the NBA for 12 years, may not be a marquee name, but he can definitely play bass and he is also definitely in charge of naming every single one of our band’s albums.
Photo: Ann-Dee Lamour/Flickr