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Making the NBA and Postseason Music “Humble”

Is Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” the greatest postseason song in sports history? Yes

By Charles ManiegoPublished 7 years ago 3 min read

The NBA Playoffs are in full swing! Despite predictability in some matchups, postseason basketball has been delightful. There have been monstrous performances, quotable rants and thrilling games so far. And with every timeout, highlight video and pause in play, we hear the thumping tones of “Humble,” the lead single of Kendrick Lamar’s Gospel-like DAMN. The use of Lamar’s song is quite fitting, actually.

The NBA has risen as the most social media-relevant North American sport in the last few years. Last year’s most famous sports-related meme was arguably “The Warriors blew a 3–1 lead.” Unfortunately for the NFL, “The Falcons blew a 21–3 lead” hasn’t quite taken off yet. Not even the Chicago Cubs breaking the longest title drought in baseball history could match with the meme-power of the NBA Finals. Whether a basketball fan or not, the relevance of the NBA, and the knowledge of its best players is etched into America’s consciousness. Basketball, is essentially becoming a part of Internet and pop culture, rather than existing in its own sphere.

Basketball itself is rooted in hip-hop culture as well. Several NBA players grew up with rappers. Some even have part-time gigs as rappers (looking at you, Damian Lillard.) The swagger of a player like Dion Waiters is rooted in rapper machismo. And here’s a video of the Warriors rapping to O.T. Genasis’ “CoCo” after winning the NBA Finals in 2015.

So, the NBA should have a solid grasp of song choice, right? Well, the NBA has a, um, tumultuous history with playoff theme songs. In 2014, a special version of “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha was used. Mr. 305 himself said playoffs several times in the song over the Ke$ha lyrics. Here’s a sample…

“It’s going down (Playoffs.) I’m yelling Timber (Playoffs.) You better move (Turn up.) You better dance (playoffs.)”

In 2012, the NBA used “Burn it Down” by Linkin Park for the playoffs. I’m convinced that the Venn diagram of NBA players, fans and hardcore Linkin Park listeners is very small. (I think Linkin Park is kinda cool).

From 2013–2016, Pitbull and will.i.am were featured in the NBA’s playoff themes. Those are two of the most family friendly rappers in the game. So choosing Kendrick Lamar is a far cry from the (relatively) squeaky clean lyrics of the previous two. Rather than trying to appeal to a mainstream audience with another pop song (Maroon 5’s “Cold” comes to mind), the NBA, ESPN and ABC are embracing basketball’s hip-hop culture.

Other sports have chosen the amorphous, wide-appealing, bland route for their postseason songs. For the 2016 NFL Playoffs, ESPN used Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go.” It’s a low-key blues influenced song by a band with a niche audience. “Way Down We Go” honestly sounds like kind of a bummer, with “they will run you down, down ’til you go, yeah so you can’t crawl no more” one of the emo-est lyrics featured. It doesn’t exactly scream PLAYOFF FOOTBALL or evoke a sense of excitement for pro football’s most important games.

The MLB used Sia’s “Unstoppable” for the 2016 Postseason. Aside from it sounding essentially like a redux of “Chandelier,” Like the NBA and Linkin Park, there were likely few baseball fans familiar with the song prior to the postseason. It’s actually a decent song, although it isn’t memorable in the slightest. But culturally, the song barely made a splash, nor will it be remembered as the theme song of the entire postseason. MLB Broadcasts could have swapped “Unstoppable” for any other song and there would have been no outcry.

Using “Humble” seems like a no-brainer for the NBA. Lamar is well respected in NBA circles. LeBron James can’t stop listening to Lamar’s album, allegedly. Like DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Jennings, Lamar is a proud Compton native. Lamar even has history with the Kings’ Arron Afflalo (unfortunately, the Kings aren’t in the playoffs. It’s not DeMarcus’ fault.)

Yes, “Humble” is quite vulgar. But it’s memorable. NBA fans will know the song even without hearing Kendrick’s lyrics. Unlike a Sia or Kaleo or will.i.am song, NBA fans will have a connection to “Humble” outside of its use for the playoffs.

After quite a few hiccups in previous seasons, it seems like the NBA has finally accepted hip-hop culture in choosing their playoff theme. Unlike baseball and football’s postseason themes, “Humble” may become synonymous with this season’s playoff matchups. Lamar’s music and DAMN fits the NBA fanbase, its players, and basketball’s hip-hop intermingling. Aside from the killer matchups and pseudo beefs, the NBA playoffs will be “Humble.”


About the Creator

Charles Maniego

Basketball, Society, Science & Medicine. Unbalanced.🍦🔬🏀🤼 ✈🤷🤙🏽


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