Rap’s Basketballer Alter Egos: Russell Westbrook and ScHoolboy Q

Hip-hop and the NBA are inextricably linked: Rappers sit courtside, ballers come backstage after shows, and enough love is shown both ways for the two communities to be considered one big family. (It also helps when some rap stars are literally employed by NBA teams, or when players show up to freestyle on “Sway In The Morning.”)

As we traced the career arcs of some of the biggest stars in rap and basketball, we noticed that some guys appear to be two sides of the same famous coin. For example,

Russell Westbrook = ScHoolboy Q

Have you ever seen them in the same room together? They may not be the same person, per se, but consider the following.

Russell Westbrook is more than just a basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Kevin Durant is the face of the franchise, Westbrook is the pulse, propelling his teammates forwards with unending ferocity. His game is more brutal than beautiful, and he’s prone to jacking up shots and turning the ball over in search of the next big play. But few NBA players can go toe-to-toe with Westbrook’s intensity, and when he’s given the limelight he can make any court his own.

The same goes forScHoolboy Q, who occasionally resides in fellow TDE-er Kendrick’s shadow, but has broken out for star-studded turns despite his propensity for the darker side of things.

Westbrook is from Long Beach. He took a while to grow into his final form, arriving on the high school scene a modest 5’8’’, weighing only 140-pounds. He wasn’t seriously recruited until the summer before senior year. He attended UCLA, where he developed a pattern: he played behind Darren Collison; he was drafted after guys like O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley; he came into the NBA tagged as the second fiddle to Durant.

Q grew up in South Central L.A. He was also an athlete, playing football into his college years. He came to rap much later than most, after discovering it as an outlet for his frustration and energy. The last of the “Black Hippy” quartet to join Top Dog Entertainment, he had to work to become as confident in his rapping as Kendrick, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul.

Despite his early sidekick status, Westbrook isn’t the Robin type. He may be prone to jacking up shots and turning the ball over, but last year he outscored James Harden, out-dished Rajon Rondo and outrebounded Roy Hibbert. He also had nearly three times as many triple-doubles as anyone else in the NBA in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, with perseverance and surprising depth, Q rose from independent artist to one of the cornerstones of TDE, garnering his own recognition on big hits from his peers. When given the limelight, he steals the show, as with his major-label debut “Oxymoron” (which debuted at #1).

Also, both these guys are somehow fashion icons, despite some quirkybut always confidentchoices. Westbrook rocks some of the most eclectic styles off the court. Remember there was a time when baggy shirts were in vogue for NBA players; Westbrook is now at the vanguard of the sport’s fashion scene thanks to skinny jeans, cheetah-print jackets and backpack/glasses combinations that put prep-era Kanye to shame.

And did anybody wear a bucket hat with the intention of being stylish before ScHoolboy Q? Recently seen rocking a fedora, dashiki, and round sunglasses, Q looks like Bill Russell on the lam. He’s still possibly an unlikely fashion icon of rap.

Does Russell Westbrook leave Chesapeake Energy Arena to go spit bars? Does ScHoolboy Q throw on a Thunder jersey and scream in his engineer’s face on his way out of the booth? We may never know. All we can say for sure is that the drive from Long Beach to South Central is short enough that anything is possible.

Image: @bjbeatson

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