A Look at J. Cole's Best Sports Rap References

To celebrate The Off-Season and the North Carolina native’s arrival in the BAL, here are J. Cole's best sports rap references and lyrics of all time.

J. Cole Charlotte All-Star Game Backbaord 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 17: J. Cole performs at halftime during the 68th NBA All-Star Game at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

J. Cole Charlotte All-Star Game Backbaord 2019

Cole’s love of basketball has been a source of inspiration throughout his music. He uses metaphors to bring the worlds of rap and ball together, portrayed in artworks for The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, Cole World: The Sideline Story, and his latest album The Off-Season. His progression from the sidelines to the spotlight proves he can sit at the intersection of sports and hip-hop. Confidence comes with repetition and Cole made this point clear during his Applying Pressure: The Off-Season documentary. 

“When I really, really fell in love with rap, it was a matter of sport,” he said. “I started realizing the parallels between the rapping for me and basketball. I gotta operate at a high skill level and the only way you’re going to operate at a high skill level is putting in the hours and the practice. So it’s like coming down to The Off-Season, it was the same mentality, it’s like, ‘Damn, this is the time to get better.’” 

Cole is no longer at a fork in the road. After years of hard work in the gym, Cole made his professional debut in the Basketball Africa League playing for the Rwanda Patriots BBC over the weekend, a mere two days after he released The Off-Season, which made headlines on NBA and basketball websites for his references to Russell Westbrook, Ja Morant, LeBron James, and others.

The thing is, Cole has been sneaking in sports references in his lyrics for a while. It comes pretty natural from someone who not only loves basketball, but football, wrestling, and even chess. (American chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer does get a shout on The Come Up.) Now as an official rookie, some of these lyrics where Cole is showing love to the players mean more. 

To celebrate The Off-Season and J. Cole’s arrival in the BAL, here are the North Carolina native’s best sports rap references.

J. Cole is really a pro hooper now.

The opposing team actually had a scouting report on J. Cole today.

Here’s what it was like playing against J. Cole during his debut: https://t.co/4hxgwqzYRS pic.twitter.com/JH3MZdTe1Q

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) May 16, 2021

“Cost Me a Lot”

Deion Sanders Falcons Seahawks 1991

“The Autograph”

Caron Butler Mavericks Kings 2010

“The London”

J. Cole Charlotte All-Star Game 2019


Michael Jordan Dikembe Mutombo Bulls Hawks Playoffs

“Green Ranger”

Mark Jackson Knicks Celtics 1988


Russell Westbrook Warumup Wizards Pistons 2020


Dennis Smith Jr. J. Cole Dunk Contest 2019

"My Life"

Ja Morant Dunk Pelicans Grizzlies 2020

“100, mil’”

LeBron James J. Cole NBA All-Star Party 2019


Usain Bolt 2016 Olympics Rio 200


Scottie Pippen Michael Jordan 1998 Getty Bench Overhead


Tonya Harding Nancy Kerrigan

“Rich N****z”

Michael Jordan 1992

“Rise and Shine”

Shane Battier Duke UNC 1998

“Sideline Story”

LeBron James Lakers Blazers 2018

“Til’ Infinity”

Karl Malone John Stockton Jazz 1997

“Dead Presidents II”

LeBron James Pistons Cavaliers 2007

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