Ranking Iman Shumpert's Mixtape with Best NBA Side Projects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2012

Ranking Iman Shumpert's Mixtape with Best NBA Side Projects

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    NBA players want to be rappers, rappers want to play in the league and movie stars portray both on the big screen.

    As for us 'average Joes' we'd take any of their careers in a heartbeat.

    So when injured New York Knicks sophomore Iman Shumpert released his mixtape "The #Post90s" at 12:21 on December 21, it sounded like he was just another player with too much time on his hands.

    It took literally seconds of listening, though, to change that perception.

    Don't believe me? Go check it out for yourself. Shumpert made the mixtape available for streaming and downloading at his website.

    So that got me thinking: How many players have successfully ventured away from the hardwood?

    And where does Shumpert's effort rank among them?

Before the Rankings Begin...

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    It bears noting that the success rate for basketball stars is somewhere near the success rate for basketball players hopeful of joining the league.

    For every hot mixtape, or funny, engaging or just impressive movie performance, there are hundreds of others that have failed.

    Plenty of NBA bigs have looked awkward in maneuvering their immense frames (think Shawn Bradley).

    But few have approached the awkwardness of the 7'7" Gheorghe Muresan. Yet, somehow someone decided it'd be a good idea to have him co-star alongside Billy Crystal in the 1998 disaster My Giant. It wasn't a good idea.

    Shaquille O'Neal played basketball with astounding fluidity given his 7'1", 325 pounds. But even his grace couldn't save the 1996 flick Kazaam.

    And athletes haven't just saved their failures for the silver screen.

    Some have dabbled in the cringe-worthy realm of reality T.V. (Kris Humphries and Lamar Odom with their Kardashian partners).

    And there have been far too many terrible wanna-be rappers to even list.

5. Wayman Tisdale Makes Sweet Jazz

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    Tisdale simply had the Midas touch.

    He starred on the basketball floor, etching his name into the University of Oklahoma record books and becoming the second overall pick of the 1985 draft. He was such a dominant player in college that the NCAA now awards its most outstanding freshman with the Wayman Tisdale Award.

    He won Olympic Gold at the 1984 games and enjoyed a successful 12-year career in the NBA (averaging better than 15 points and six rebounds).

    But he walked away from the league to pursue his musical interests.

    Primarily a bass player, he released eight albums. His 2001 work "Face to Face" climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart.

    Do yourself a favor and check out his musical talents here.

    Tragically, his life was cut far too short. Tisdale passed away on May 15, 2009 at the age of 44.

4. "My Name Is Roger Murdock"

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    In the 1980 satirical comedy Airplane, there may have been no bigger star than co-captain Roger Murdock.

    Literally.

    Murdock was hilariously portrayed by none other than the NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    In a moment that may have stolen the movie, a child wandered up to the cockpit and recognized the basketball star.

    The two shared a colorful dialogue that has to be witnessed to be truly appreciated. (The first 30 seconds of the clip get a little weird, so feel free to skip ahead to Abdul-Jabbar's brilliance).

    When illness runs rampant through the plane later in the movie, Abdul-Jabbar is carried out in his full Lakers splendor (trademark goggles and all).

3. Neon Boudeaux and Butch McRae

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    Then Orlando Magic teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway teamed up for the 1994 film Blue Chips.

    Boudeaux (O'Neal) and McRae (Hardaway) were among the big-time prospects lured to Western University by head head coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte).

    Under pressure to turn his program around, Bell succumbs to the shady dealings of an overenthusiastic booster and the blue chippers are all too eager to accept the illegal benefits thrown their way.

    Nolte stole the performance. He was Bob Knight active on the sideline, but his battles with his conscience highlighted the kind of unrelenting strain forced on collegiate coaches.

    But credit O'Neal and Hardaway for holding their own on the big stage.

2. 2wo 1ne's Debut

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    Shumpert's mixtape was unlike anything I'd ever heard from a baller-turned-rapper.

    His melodic beats shined, but anyone collecting NBA paychecks can afford some nice production.

    And unlike a lot of the mainstream artists of today, he wasn't a sidekick to the music.

    When the 22-year-old dipped into the 90s catalogue with a sample of the Arrested Development hit "Tennessee," that was all I needed to hear.

    His songs had punchlines to complement the substance of his lyrics. 

    Perhaps the biggest compliment I could pay to Shumpert would be the fact that I can't think of another artist that he reminds me of. The hip-hop game has been saturated by faceless artists that record labels hope can produce a sound close to what's being played on the radio.

    Knicks fans might want him out of the booth and onto the floor, but even they'd appreciate 2wo 1ne's debut effort.

1. Jesus Shuttlesworth

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    What could be better than having hoops fanatic Spike Lee at the helm of the greatest basketball movie ever made?

    How about Academy Award-winning Denzel Washington giving us yet another polished performance? I don't want to give away any spoilers for those of you who haven't seen it (if you're one, please watch it as soon as you're finished with this piece), but Washington is a character that you'd love to hate, but can't help but respect.

    Or Ray Allen, Jesus Shuttlesworth here, in a role he was born to play—a high school basketball prodigy?

    But he was more then just a basketball player. He was someone who demanded your attention, someone you could emotionally connect with. His performance was so powerful that you'll still see a smattering of Shuttlesworth signs or even jerseys at Allen's NBA games.

    Here's how to make it better—cast Rosario Dawson as Allen's love interest.

    Dawson's not my top actress in a basketball movie (Sanaa Lathan in "Love & Basketball" takes the honor), but she's certainly 1a.