“Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous,” Drake once rapped, “’cause we want to be them and they want to be us.”
For proof of this maxim, look no further than the Rock on the Range lineup, which boasts former Chelsea soccer trialist Gavin Rossdale of Bush and Resistance Pro Wrestling company founder Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.
Music and sports often literally share space, as is the case when the monolithic fest overtakes Crew Stadium every spring. But sometimes a major player from one sphere takes a stab at crossing over into the other — mostly athletes getting into music, but sometimes the other way around too. With Rock on the Range looming, let’s explore some of the more memorable rock/jock intersections.
(Shout out to Spinner, Bleacher Report, ESPN, Grantland, Complex and Total Pro Sports, whose research helped shape this timeline.)
Musicians playing sports
1962: A young Nick Drake enrolls at England’s Marlborough College, where he goes on to set the school record in the 100-yard dash, a record that stands for decades. He later becomes known for his somber folk music and tragic suicide.
1963: Julio Iglesias, a goalie with Real Madrid’s reserve squad Real Madrid Castilla, has his soccer career cut short by a car accident. Fortunately, he goes on to become an international Latin pop star.
1966: German soccer star Franz Beckenbauer releases a traditionalist song called “Gute Freunde Kann Niemand Trennen.”
1969: Pele, the most famous soccer player of all time, releases an album called Tabelinha with Brazilian singer Elis Regina.
1978: Future Guided By Voices singer Bob Pollard pitches the first no-hitter in Wright State baseball history.
1979: Montreal Canadiens star Guy LaFleur releases an album called LaFleur in which he reads hockey instructions over disco music.
1980: Singer Terence Trent D’Arby wins the Florida Golden Gloves lightweight boxing championship.
1980: Future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich moves from Denmark to California to pursue his burgeoning tennis career. Unfortunately for Napster fans, his love of battering drums soon overshadows his love of battering tennis balls.
1985: Three solid months before actually winning the Super Bowl, Mike Ditka’s dominant Chicago Bears squad records a rap single called “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Now that’s swagger. The downside of this glorious moment? It spawned the L.A. Rams’ “Ram It”(!), the L.A. Raiders’ “Silver and Black Attack,” the Seattle Seahawks’ “Cuz the Blue Wave Is On a Roll,” the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Buddy’s Watching You,” the Miami Dolphins’ “Can’t Touch Us” and San Francisco’s “49ers Rap.” Also: the New York Mets’ “Let’s Go,” the L.A. Dodgers’ “Baseball Boogie,” the Florida Seminoles’ “Florida Seminole Rap,” the Calgary Flames’ “Red Hot,” the L.A. Lakers’ “Just Say No” and the New York Knicks’ “Go NY Go.” Even Liverpool FC recorded something called “Anfield Rap” because of this!
1987: Dominant Olympic track star Carl Lewis releases the reggae-tinged single “Break It Up,” which wins a gold medal for comedy.
1993: Debut album Shaq Diesel becomes the first of five rap records by star NBA center Shaquille O’Neal.
1994: The compilation B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret features bricks from Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Cedric Ceballos.
1994: Multi-sport star Deion Sanders tries rapping on for size with the release of his debut album Prime Time. It flops.
1995: Nothing goes together like country and NASCAR, so Kyle Petty drapes “Oh King Richard,” his tribute to his father, in twang.
1998: To stump for his Teammates For Kids Foundation, country superstar Garth Brooks participates in spring training with the San Diego Padres. After a second year training with the Padres, Brooks later suits up with the New York Mets (2000) and Kansas City Royals (2004) as part of the same program.
1998: During the NBA offseason, young phenom Kobe Bryant moves in with record exec Steve Stoute in New Jersey to pursue a rap career. It never gets off the ground, but the lyrically prodigious Bryant does release one incredibly awkward single with Tyra Banks on the hook.
1998: At the height of his fame, rapper Master P signs a preseason deal with the Charlotte Hornets, but doesn’t crack the official roster. The following season, he signs with Toronto but again doesn’t make the cut. On the plus side, the No Limit Soldier eventually does stints in the CBA and ABA, and his son, the child rapper Lil Romeo, grows up to play point guard at USC.
1998: U.S. World Cup veteran/MLS mainstay Alexi Lalas takes his band Gypsies on the road with Hootie and the Blowfish, then releases a solo album called Ginger.
2000: The Bee Gees and Diane Warren contribute songs to boxer Oscar De La Hoya’s self-titled album. The set of Latin pop songs in English and Spanish goes on to garner a Grammy nomination.
2001: NBA star turned bassist Wayman Tisdale hits No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart with his album Face to Face. (His 1995 debut was called Power Forward.)
2003: Ten years after his appearance on Wrestlemania: The Album, wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage attacks rival Hulk Hogan in the single “Be a Man.”
2005: Grinder, the “pure Detroit punk infused rock” band fronted by Red Wings forward Darren McCarty, releases its album Out of Our Hands. Unfortunately, the band goes on hiatus shortly afterward when bassist Jim Anders dies of a heart attack.
2005: The Major League Baseball compilation Oh Say Can You Sing features Indians center fielder Coco Crisp’s single “We Got That Thang.” It includes the lyric, “I'm like Mike Tyson, on account of all the ears I bite.”
2005: Pro wrestler John Cena drops the single “My Time Is Now,” but he’s wrong.
2005: Red Sox pitcher (and future Red) Bronson Arroyo releases an alt-rock covers album called Covering the Bases featuring his renditions of songs by artists including Pearl Jam, Goo Goo Dolls and Stone Temple Pilots.
2006: In anticipation of the World Cup in Germany, budding U.S. soccer star Clint Dempsey records a rap single called “Don’t Tread” under the name Deuce. Unfortunately, given the Yanks’ performance in that tournament, opponents did a lot of treading indeed.
2006: Formula 1 driver Jacques Villeneuve tries his hand at Europop with a French-language single called “Accepterais-tu.”
2006: After instigating the Pacers/Pistons brawl but before changing his name to Metta World Peace, NBA hothead Ron Artest released debut album My World featuring guests Diddy, Juvenile and Mike Jones.
2007: Red Sox slugger David Ortiz collaborates with RUN DMC’s Darryl McDaniels on an unintelligible Reggaeton single called, of course, “Big Papi.”
2007: Spurs point guard, Eva Longoria ex-spouse and Frenchman Tony Parker releases “Premiere Love,” an emotional hip-hop ballad in his native tongue, and teamed with Fabolous and Booba (?) for a tougher track called “Top of the Game.”
2007: Filipino boxer/actor/politician Manny Pacquiao releases an English-language rap single called “Pac Man Punch,” the follow-up to his 2006 album Laban Nating Lahat Ito. It’s not exactly hard-hitting, but compared to his later cover of “Sometimes When We Touch,” it’s practically Freddie Gibbs.
2009: Former Yankees (and Clippers!) outfielder Bernie Williams releases his second Latin jazz album, Moving Forward, and nabs a Latin Grammy nomination.
2011: Golfers Ben Crane, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan — under the name Golf Boys — release a tremendously terrible “Oh, Oh, Oh,” a song that is as funny as they hoped, but not for the same reasons.
2011: During the NBA lockout, Artest’s former nutso sucker-punching teammate Stephen Jackson delivers “The Season,” a rap single ostensibly about the lockout but really not so much.
2012: After scoring viral success by freestyle rapping in the KFC drive-through and making headlines with his guitar case (OK, that was because he carried a gun in it), journeyman basketball player (and former Cavalier) Delonte West releases four songs intended for a mixtape called Cadillac Music: Come Ride Wit Me. The tape never comes out though, and the songs are wiped from the internet.
2013: With his mixtape Th3 #Post90s (under the equally garbled named 2WO 1NE), Knicks guard/forward Iman Shumpert contributes to the long history of basketball players trying their hand at rap, but actually kind of holds his own for once.