1. “Playin’ The Game” - Lil’ Bow Wow
In an alternate universe, this song could be the unofficial basketball anthem, blasted from speakers at parks and arenas across the country. But in this universe, it’s merely a hidden gem on the Like Mike soundtrack. It’s probably better that way, since the song is barely about basketball at all - “playin’ the game” mostly refers to Lil’ Bow Wow’s vast experience with the ladies.
2. “Space Jam” - Quad City DJ’s
This song actually IS the basketball anthem IN an alternate universe. I’m pretty confident it’s the only song ever recorded specifically about basketball played in outer space.
3. “Roundball Rock” - NBA on NBC Theme
And here’s the legitimate basketball anthem in OUR universe. But since NBC doesn’t have the rights to NBA games anymore, we don’t get to hear it nearly as often as we should. So two minutes before the March Madness games tip-off on CBS, mute your TV and bump this.
4. “Heart of a Champion” - Nelly
Ever the opportunist, Nelly took the “Roundball Rock” hook and sampled it for this arena pump-up jam. He added a lot of heavy breathing.
5. “That’s How I Beat Shaq” - Aaron Carter
This is how Aaron Carter allegedly beat Shaquille O’Neal in a game of one-on-one:
1. Boom - he put in the hoop.
2. Slam - he heard the crowd screaming out.
He swears that he’s telling us the facts. But I’m not buying it.
6. “I Wish” - Skee-Lo
We all can’t be ballers like Aaron Carter. But we can dream.
7. “Basketball” - Kurtis Blow
The most literal, unironically enthusiastic profession of love for basketball ever recorded: “I like slam dunks, take me to the hoop, my favorite play is the alley-oop, I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go, cause it’s basketball, mister Kurtis Blow.” Kurtis just loves to play the game. And to rap his own name.
8. “Wings” - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
“Wings” might be primarily about brands, consumerism and how it all affects our culture and blah blah blah. But it’s also about what it feels like to dunk. Sung by a children’s choir. So if “Playin’ The Game” qualifies for the list, this one has to.
9. “What The Kidd Did” - Jason Kidd
This is a real rap song by the real 10-time All-Star point guard Jason Kidd called “What The Kidd Did” that actually exists in reality. Listen to it once, then never again.
10. “Winner” - Jamie Foxx (ft. Justin Timberlake and T.I.)
The official theme song of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, and soundtrack to endless montages of Kobe fadeaways and Derek Fisher fist-pumps.
11. “Sirius” - Alan Parsons Project (Chicago Bulls Theme Song)
It’s the ultimate intro. In a perfect world, every starting five would walk out to this. But it belongs to MJ and the Bulls. And it always will.