Iman Shumpert can’t help himself. In between rounds, with his new music pulsating through the basement boxing studio, he’s swaying back and forth, rhyming and dancing like nobody’s watching.
Except everyone taking the boxing class with him on a Tuesday afternoon, a few weeks before training camp starts, can’t look away. Most especially when his wife, Teyana Taylor, starts busting his chops about his dancing—or something else. We can’t quite tell. It’s too loud and we’re too tired to really care what the couple is playfully arguing about.
With training camp quickly approaching, you’d expect Shumpert to be in a different kind of gym, but the Cavs forward has always had an affinity for boxing dating back to his days growing up. And when he was playing in New York, he would tag along with Carmelo Anthony when the former Knicks superstar switched up his training to partake in some boxing.
So it’s fitting that we were lucky enough to throw hands with Shumpert and his crew at Rumble Boxing, the group fitness business the 7-year NBA vet invested in this off-season. After sweating like it’s Game 7 inside the studio frequented by models and other ridiculously good looking individuals, we chatted with Shumpert about the new music he's dropping, why he boxes, and how he processed the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who got you into boxing?
I was never into the actual sport of it. I’d get into a couple of squabbles as a kid and my uncles had taken classes and stuff and they could teach me basics like how to keep my balance, how to throw about three of them before I get out of there. I learned how to defend and not get hit because I used to come out here throwing stupid shit. As I got older and people started watching more and more Floyd [Mayweather], and watching his technique, I’m looking at that and realize if he gets in the ring if he loses it’s his fault. It’s not this guy set a screen or coach said…nah, it’s like you’re in the ring, it’s you and him, and if you don’t want to listen to coach, beat him. I enjoyed that about the sport.
So the individual aspect of the sport.
So when they opened this and we became investors in Rumble, it was more like right after the season I wanted a break from basketball to clear my head and let out my frustrations. We lost and it just made sense. I enjoyed it a lot. Came to a couple of classes. I get drenched. It’s fun. It was my first time working out with like a lot of people, but I’m going at my pace and I’m forgetting people are there. It was just dope. Being in that vibe was perfect for this summer.
Who hooked you up with Rumble?
My agent, Happy Walters. He was already invested in it. He was like, man, they still want people involved. I was like, hey man, I’ve got a couple of bucks. I think it’s dope. We’re opening up a couple of other gyms in San Francisco, LA, and hoping to bring one to Harlem.
How do you take some of the lessons and training from boxing to the basketball court?
Just hand speed. I think boxing is perfect for me in terms of hopping in and out, sliding, establishing a balance, and a tough core, to keep yourself engaged the whole time.
We heard some of your new music. When did you come up with the idea that it was time for new music? During the season? During the off-season?
I never stopped making music. I make music all the time. I bought my wife a studio she could bring on the road anywhere so a lot of times she has the set up at the house and we just lay ideas down. All day I think of words. I like putting words together and making them sound dope. I think sooner or later I’m going to end up writing a book and I don’t even like reading books. I’d rather write one. I have my own thoughts and experiences I think could help people out more than quoting somebody else.
What’s your favorite track? Does one mean more to you than the others?
“Critical” is the record. I feel like it’s what every dude wants to say to their woman. It’s that honesty—the song “Critical” is I think you’re too critical of me and you forget how much I love you. And my different ways of showing you I love you. I may not show you in a soft way, but you’d picked a soft dude if you wanted a soft way. You picked me so this is how I love you so don’t forget the ways I love you. I think figuring that out makes “Critical” the best, but rapping wise it’s either “Elevators” or “Hero.” “Elevators" is just speaking about progress. It’s a playoff of the Outkast shit and Hero is more the Dark Knight shit. It’s saying picture a basketball player and people say he’s their hero. But that basketball player go out and have a bad game, is it dope to be a hero now? Batman was the shit, helping everybody out. They gave you one story that said he was bad, ya’ll hated him, drove him out the city after he just fixed all ya’ll shit. That’s the idea of putting people out there, showing what the hero is, how they treat the hero and I’mma see if you want to be the hero. I think it’s going to surprise how lyrical the project is and how much you’re going to have to read into what I’m saying and how much people relate to Iman.
Training camp is about to start. Has it hit you yet how different the Cavs are going to look without Kyrie?
I’ve known Isaiah for a long time. I’ve played alongside Isaiah, I’ve played against Isaiah. Isaiah is a competitor. Whatever’s going on with his hip he’s going to be back, he’s going to get straight. [Jae] Crowder as well. I’ve been watching him since he’s been at Marquette. I’m not going mind playing with him. You hate him when he’s on the other team. Hate him. But they’re on our team now, all good.
Does the rivalry change at all with the Celtics?
It’s still a rivalry. It’s going to be great for the fans. It’s not going to be anything extra for us. For the fans it’s going to be a lot fun for them to talk shit.