2015 Offseason

The Smooth Rap Stylings of Andrew Wiggins

Over the weekend and thanks to NBA reddit, footage emerged of Andrew Wiggins rapping. Or, rather, being goaded into spitting maybe a third of a dozen bars in someone’s mom’s basement.

It’s a jarring slice of life, with Wiggins in a self-described “wifebeater” and dress pants, hanging out with some friends, a guy who made on the order of $5 million last year standing in front of an ironing board, next to a rolling desk chair, on some bad linoleum and underneath a drop ceiling.

We don’t, however, know the provenance of this video. Wiggins’ hair is in twisties, which it’s long enough for now, but it’s also been that long before — there’s just no guarantee this video comes from this past summer. Whether it does or not is immaterial, in any case: what we see, removed from sardonic questions about whether he’s better than countryman Drake and how much worse this is than Kobe’s brief dalliance with rap, is simple: a 20 year old messing around.

What it made me think of first was an interview I did with Damian Lillard last year around this time that never ended up running. It was mostly about his curation of the NBA Live 15 soundtrack, but we dipped into his rap career, which has been — by basketball player standards — terrifically successful.

“I heard Jason Kidd, I heard Kobe, I heard Shaq,” Lillard said at the time. “I think it was different back then. I think the style of rapping is different. They rap like basketball players instead of rapping like rappers. You know, Shaq was a huge success. I think that’s the advantage of being a famous athlete because your fanbase is going to support you.”

But it’s an advantage and it’s not. How many 20 year olds hang out with their friends in basements, cobbling together bars out of the signs and signifiers of rap — black SUVs, people crying — and recording them on cell phones? And no one ever sees or hears them because they’re not number one draft picks.

It’s easy to get sucked into a place where an athlete’s every action is a referendum on his or her game or work ethic or heart. When I wrote an article about the Wolves’ teamwide obsession with Flappy Bird a few seasons back, it drew the expected comments about, “Maybe if this team focused as much on defense as a video game, they’d be good.” But that’s dumb. We see everything through the lens of how they appear to us on the court or field. This, though, what Andrew Wiggins is doing, is just play.

Obviously it gets weird because if he decided to, he could probably get someone to make a rap album with and/or for him — that’s what fame does. If we can extrapolate anything from what we’ve seen on the court and in the way he handles himself publicly, it’s that Wiggins is even-keeled and savvy about his public image.

If that’s the case (and based on that video), I wouldn’t bet on a rap career breaking out.

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