NBA Stars, NFL Stars, & Mbappé Choose Between Kendrick Lamar, Drake, & J. Cole

Over the years, we've had star athletes including Zion Williamson, Kylian Mbappé, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Ant Edwards, Ja Morant, and more pick between Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole. Here are their responses.

Two performers on stage; one gesturing upwards, with audience silhouettes in the foreground
Astrida Valigorsky / WireImage

Kendrick Lamar set the internet ablaze last night when he dropped a verse dissing Drake and J. Cole on Future and Metro Boomin's new album We Don't Trust You.  Kendrick referenced "First Person Shooter", a collaboration by J. Cole and Drake and included a line that triggered Drake and J. Cole stans everywhere when he said "motherf**k the big three, n***a, it's just big me." The verse reignited the longtime debate of who is the best rapper alive between Drake, J. Cole, and K. Dot. While X, formerly known as Twitter, debates all night on morning on the topic, we thought it would be timely to dip into our archives. 

Over the past five years, the Complex Sports team has polled athletes ranging from NFL, NBA, and even soccer on the everlasting debate of who was the best rapper between the Big 3. We started this series in 2019 with the NBA rookies and have continued it up until last year's NBA All-Star Wekeend. While some polls were closer than others, all of them concluded that athletes rank Drake and J. Cole over Kendrick. It's worth noting that two polls happened when Kendrick hadn't released music close to the time period of filming but shockingly, we saw the largest disparity in votes in our 2022 poll with NBA rookies fresh off the Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers debut. 

Our polls feature some of the biggest names in sports including Zion Williamson (twice), Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, Nikola Jokic, and even Kylian Mbappé. We typically poll NBA players because the cultures of hip-hop and basketball have always been intertwined. 

With all that being said, here's how athletes rank Kendrick, J. Cole, and Drake. 

Two performers on stage; one gesturing upwards, with audience silhouettes in the foreground

Zion Williamson & NBA Rookies Kick Out Kendrick (2019)

ONE GOTTA GO: Kendrick | J. Cole | Drake

Zion and his fellow rookie class decided. IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE. 👀

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 12, 2019
Twitter: @ComplexSports
One Gotta Go Counter

Kendrick Lamar: 5 

Drake: 0 

J. Cole: 0 

Zion Williamson is probably the biggest rap fan of this group, which is why the decision was hardest for him. He's always been vocal about his love for his favorite rapper Jay-Z and can quote lyrics from songs that dropped when he wasn't even born yet. This was filmed two years after Kendrick's DAMN, so you have to wonder if that long gap of no music altered this vote.

NFL Stars Pick Drake and J. Cole over Kendrick (2020)

"Kendrick don't even make music no more!"

J. Cole

The NFL Pro Bowlers kicked out K-Dot. 😂

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) January 26, 2020
Twitter: @ComplexSports
One Gotta Go Counter

Kendrick Lamar: 9

Drake: 2

J. Cole: 2

As Ochocinco said, "this is harder than missionary."

That was apparent as there were several people who declined to answer. This one started out close with votes split between all three but eventually Kendrick became the overwhelming favorite to kick out. This was the oldest group of athletes we've interviewed but it still turned out to be a lopsided poll.

Paolo, Chet, NBA Rookies (& Mbappé) Kick Out Kendrick (2022)

Mbappe, NBA rookies, and @TaylorRooks choose between Drake, Kendrick, and J. Cole

WARNING: If you're a Kendrick fan, this does not go well. 😅

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) June 27, 2022
Twitter: @ComplexSports
One Gotta Go Counter

Kendrick Lamar:11 

Drake: 0

J. Cole: 2

It seems the younger generation will always side with Drake and J. Cole. This was a disturbingly large gap between votes and it featured Drake receiving zero tallies. Mbappé misunderstood the question but as you can tell if he had to pick his favorite from the three, it would be Drake. This was a surprising result considering Kendrick had just dropped an album a month before. Maybe Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers didn't resonate with the youth.

Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Ant Edwards, & NBA All-Stars Pick Drake over J. Cole and Kendrick (2023)

NBA All-Stars say Drake > Kendrick & J. Cole

Jokic 😭

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 22, 2023
Twitter: @ComplexSports
Pick One Counter

Kendrick Lamar: 3

Drake: 5 

J. Cole: 3

This was the closest poll of the four. Drake narrowly pulled out the victory while Kendrick and J. Cole had the same tally of votes. Nikola Jokic gave the exact answer you think he'd give while his coach Mike Malone shocked the world with his rap knowledge.

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