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Aux Cord Chronicles

Aux Cord Chronicles XVI: 28 times hip-hop hailed LeBron and Wade’s Miami Heat

Rick Ross, Big Sean, Drake, Jay-Z, Meek Mill — the rap that made the Heat a cultural powerhouse

Sunday night in South Beach will likely be an emotional one. Not only because, with stops in Miami and Cleveland, it’s the beginning of a flashback tour for LeBron James. But because it marks the first of the final two occasions he and Dwyane Wade will share the court — pending a Lifetime Achievement Award selection into this year’s NBA All-Star Game for Wade and the faint possibility (and that’s putting it respectfully) of the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat meeting in the 2019 Finals. Most importantly, Sunday is the last time James will play Wade in Miami.

The NBA has changed dramatically in the eight years since James, Wade and Chris Bosh formed the Heat’s “Big 3.” The trio went to four consecutive Finals from 2011 to 2014 and won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Deemed by some as tendentious, the triumvirate set off a chain reaction of player mobility and empowerment that is the norm today. There were actually cries of the Heat ruining basketball (before the current-day Warriors received the same criticism) — here was an alignment of black men taking control of their own destinies in an industry largely run by people who look nothing like them. This affected the broader culture as well.

“Miami’s a helluva team,” said then-Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah after the 2011 Eastern Conference finals — which the Heat won in five games. “They’re Hollywood as hell. But they’re still very good.” It was their charisma, the ambience and their dominance that made hip-hop’s creative energy merge with the Heat’s: The trio carried the swag with them to every city they visited.

The following entries are but an entry point. All of these songs were released between July 8, 2010, and July 11, 2014 — from when James announced he was “taking [his] talents to South Beach” to when he announced he was returning to Cleveland.

This means flattering lines such as Jay-Z’s If Jeezy’s paying LeBron, I’m paying Dwyane Wade (“Empire State of Mind”), or Drake’s Tell your girlfriend that I can pull some f—ing strings / So we’re courtside when LeBron get a f—ing ring (“You Know, You Know”) or Busta Rhymes’ Stayed with the Heat, they call me Chris Bosh (“Hot N—a (remix)”) are not included. Nor is this disparaging one from The Game: Got a million dollars say LeBron don’t win a ring (“Bulletproof Diaries”). Or Big Sean: All of them dropped outside the date range.


Kanye West feat. Beyoncé, Charlie Wilson and Big Sean — “See Me Now” (2010)

They say G.O.O.D. Music like the new Miami Heat, s—/ Comparin’ them to us, man they gotta add Kobe …

Originally on Kanye West’s successful and influential “G.O.O.D. Friday” series, these bars from Big Sean represent one of the first references, if not the first, to the new South Beach superpower. At the time, Kobe Bryant was riding high on the success of two consecutive titles and Finals MVPs — and that long-awaited Kobe vs. LeBron Finals matchup seemed a foregone conclusion.

Big Sean — “Too Fake” (2010)

“Yeah, I know Sean / I swear that n—a ain’t s—/ Known him for forever and he ain’t on the same s—”/ It breaks my heart when all the kids be yelling, ‘You the man, Big/ He ain’t no hometown hero, he on that LeBron James s—…’ ”

Yeah, back in the fall of 2010, let’s just say James wasn’t exactly the most beloved person in northeast Ohio.

Kanye West feat. Rick Ross — “Devil In A New Dress” (2010)

Hood phenomenon / The LeBron of rhyme / Hard to be humble when you stuntin’ on a Jumbotron …

On West’s last undeniably great solo album lies this gem housing lyrical buzz saw from Rick Ross. But in 2010, James and West held similar statutes in pop culture. Controversy surrounded both — James for “The Decision” (which West attended) and West for interrupting Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The bars not only made sense. They were soundly accurate too.

Lil Wayne feat. Gudda Gudda — “I Don’t Like The Look of It” (2010)

I ain’t worrying ’bout s—, everything paid out / You could catch me courtside in Dwyane Wade house …

Technically, this originally appeared on Gudda’s 2009 Guddaville under the title “Willy Wonka.” And to keep it a buck, it was the better version too. But Lil Wayne included this on his 2010 I Am Not a Human Being with a new title (and instrumental) because of clearance issues. This also serves as one of the better pure Wade shout-outs.

G.O.O.D. Music — “BET Awards Cypher” (2010)

My life’s prom night and guess who’s the prom king/ They having a kissing fight and I’m Don King/ Everybody know I’m comin’ soon like LeBron’s ring …

James’ career has included so many chapters, so many twists and turns and so many what-ifs that it’s wild to remember the fervent debate over whether he’d ever get a ring.

Rick Ross & Drake — “Made Men” (2011)

I’m in the condo just posted watching Miami kill/ I might just walk to the arena and watch it for real …

Now that Drake and MMG are back on cordial terms again, can we finally get that Drake and Ross project?

Jet Life — “1st Place” (2011)

So you better watch her or she mine man / Ain’t no ring on her finger like LeBron hand …

Is the line outdated now? Sure. But it’s also a great historical bookmark.

DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne — “I’m On One” (2011)

I walk around the club, f— everybody/ And all my n—as got that Heat, I feel like Pat Riley …

There’s no denying “I’m on One” is one of the definitive anthems of the 2010s.

Whether in Los Angeles, New York or Miami, Pat Riley’s always managed to reflect the style, swagger and ferociousness of the cities in which he cashes checks. It was also in this reference from Lil Wayne where the team’s cultural appeal, already astronomical by 2011, took an even deeper investment. Also, say what you will about Khaled’s approach to making music, but there’s no denying “I’m on One” is one of the definitive anthems of the 2010s.

MMG feat. J. Cole — “Fitted Cap” (2011)

Look, pine green Foams / They may never see the store / Got LeBron Entourages like Maverick and Richie Paul

Speaking of James and shoes, those South Beach 8s are still, to this day, my most sought-after shoe.

Wale — “Ambition” (2011)

But I’m limitless mentally / I’m lyrically ZMT/ LeBron s— / I was in that 6 after 23 …

**Puts on conspiracy theory tinfoil hat** In hindsight, we should’ve all seen a monumental move coming from James when he announced in November 2009 — after a victory over Wade and the Heat, in Miami at that! — that he’d be switching his jersey number from 23 to 6 for the 2010-11 season. League rules state that he would have to let the league know by March of the following year of his intention to switch. James said at the time that the decision was an homage to his idol Michael Jordan, who sat courtside that night. “I feel like no NBA player should wear 23,” he said. “I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.” There’s no reason to doubt that his love for Jordan factored into the seemingly impromptu announcement. But this is LeBron Raymone James we’re talking about. Everything is done with a purpose. “The Decision” was hiding in plain sight the entire time.

Common — “Blue Sky” (2011)

Open my eyes, yessir this is what I’m made for/ To go hard in the paint like D-Wade or D. Rose/ From the same streets we rose/ International heroes at world primos …

Common pays homage to the hometown heroes in a city as famous for basketball as any in America. Rose, the youngest MVP in league history, and Wade did have a history. The Heat and Bulls met in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, which Miami won in five games. The series was punctuated in the fourth quarter of Game 5 when Wade and James effectively smothered the Bulls via one of the all-time great two-man barrages. They’d close out the game with a personal 19-4 run, including a block by James on Rose on the last play. And while no one knew at the time, it’d be the last of what could’ve been a truly generational rivalry, as Rose would suffer the torn ACL a year later that’d forever alter his career moving forward.

Dom Kennedy — “Platinum Chanel” (2011)

I laugh on my way to the bank / The s— funny/ Don’t wear LeBrons to the club the s—’s ugly …

To be fair, even James got a kick out of the line:

Wale — “Miami Nights” (2011)

Catchin’ Heat, floor seats and we all fresh / From court seats to court seats is progress, of course / Tell them other n—as ‘man up’/ Tell LeBron drop 50 unless he playin’ us …

To say James has been a thorn in the side of Washington Wizards fans for years would be an understatement. For the record, too, James did drop 50 while playing the Wiz Kids — as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wale’s always been one of the better rappers for sports references. And this is one of his best.

Jay-Z & Kanye West — “Gotta Have It” (2011)

And the last party we had, they shut down Privé / Ain’t that where the Heat play? (Yeah)/ N—as hate ballers these days (Yeah)/ Ain’t that like LeBron James?/ Ain’t that just like D-Wade? …

Think of this reference as the continuation of Jay-Z’s homage to both future Hall of Famers on 2009’s “Empire State of Mind.” But remember that iconic photo of James and Wade on a fast break In Milwaukee? Aside from it being truly one of the greatest sports pictures ever taken, if any lyrics symbolized the flash, the dominance, the exclusivity and the utter coolness of that era in the 305, look no further than these.

Game feat. Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne — “Martians vs. Goblins” (2011)

Draggin’ all you f–s to the back of the log cabin / Fall back like LeBron’s hairline against the Mavericks/ He lost …

Where James ultimately ends up on the all-time list is subjective. What isn’t is his performance in the 2011 Finals — the lowest point of his professional career and a stage that proved too daunting even for a megastar used to public scrutiny since he was in high school. Overcoming that, James said recently on The Shop, was his “greatest achievement.” But seven years ago, talk of James folding under pressure was volatile. Take this song for instance. Quite possibly the most disrespectful song ever directed at James. These bars from Tyler only set the stage for Game to double down with truly incendiary things about The King and his family.

Game — “Basic B—-” (2011)

You b—-es’ll never get a ring, LeBron James …

This didn’t age well.

Rick Ross feat. Stalley & 2 Chainz — “Party Heart” (2012)

Me and LeBron got the same whips/ Me and Dwyane on the same strip …

Whenever Ross made Miami Heat references, his reaction while watching “The Decision” is forever ingrained in my head. You’re welcome.

Nicki Minaj feat. Lil Wayne — “Roman Reloaded” (2012)

I hear the slick s—, b—-, you washed/ All you hoes cryin’ — Christopher Bosh …

Bosh — and this can’t be stated enough — was important to every bit of Miami’s success. Plus, he was never one to hide his emotions: Following the Heat’s crushing 2011 Finals loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Bosh famously collapsed in tears shortly after the series-ending Game 6 defeat. While the intense display of public vulnerability made him a punchline for thousands (including Nicki Minaj), it also won him a very high-profile admirer in Oprah Winfrey.
“Nah. Absolutely not,” Bosh told Winfrey in 2012 when asked if he regretted showing his emotions. “This game … brings you so much joy and a lot of pain with that too. It just wasn’t how I thought it was gonna be last year.” Given how we’ve seen Bosh’s career play out since the end of the Big 3’s era, it’s a quote that hits home with far more emphasis than it already did six years ago.

Pusha T feat. Kanye West & Ghostface Killah — “New God Flow” (2012)

Hold up, I ain’t trying to stunt, man / But the Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman/ Went from the most hated to the champion god flow/ I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know …

Two truths about this record:

  1. West premiered this record a cappella at the BET Awards on July 1, 2012. James, who won the 2011-12 regular-season MVP award, had just captured his first title and Finals MVP less than two weeks before, when the Heat dispatched Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. James’ image had done a complete 180. Hopefully whoever wrote that line for West received a nice bag. Because they absolutely deserved it.
  2. Pusha’s I believe there’s a god above me /I’m just the god of everything else is still, to this day, one of his coldest exploits.

French Montana — “Devil Wants My Soul” (2012)

High school to the pros, ballin’ like LeBron / Hood got young n—as stressing, going bald …

Stress is absolutely a cause of hair loss. And who in basketball’s had to deal with more stress nightly than the guy with “CHOSEN 1” inked on his back?

Meek Mill feat. Rick Ross — “Believe It” (2012)

All we know is get paid n—a / I ball hard like ’Bron James/ And Rozay D-Wade n—a

Sticking with the theme of NBA players, Meek Mill also name-dropped Bryant and Yao Ming in the same verse. More than anything, though — and this has nothing to do with James, Wade or the Miami Heat — I still get a nice chuckle off Ross calling his cocaine so white that he named it Justin Bieber.

Kanye feat. Big Sean & Jay-Z — “Clique” (2012)

Your money too short/ You can’t be talking to me/ Yeah, I’m talkin’ LeBron, we ball in our family tree …

Jay-Z with another timely reference to one of his longest celebrity friendships.

Game — “Burn (Remix)” (2012)

Popping bottles like I’m D-Wade/ Tell them send me like three spades …

The only image that comes to mind is Wade and the Heat partying at club LIV after their 2012 Finals victory. And the greatest shooting guard ever not named Jordan or Bryant coming face-to-face with an Ace of Spades bottle the size of a baby dinosaur.

Rick Ross feat. Wale & Drake — “Diced Pineapples” (2012)

Sex all night, couple shots of CIROC / Crib on the water, got LeBron up the block …

Quite the not-so-humble stunt there from Ross.

Meek Mill — “Levels” (2013)

Rollin’ down Collins, call Rugs, hit the A with them / Compound n—as live now/ If it’s the Finals I’m ballin’ like I’m LeBron now …

This song officially dropped July 2, 2013. Just two weeks before that, the Heat won their second consecutive title in an emotional roller coaster of a series highlighted by Ray Allen’s game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation in Game 6.* Forty-eight hours later, Wade and James effectively closed out the series in Game 7 with 23 points and 10 rebounds and 37 points and 12 rebounds (including the elbow jumper over Kawhi Leonard to ice the game), respectively. Another fact about that game that constantly gets swept under the rug because of James’ insane fourth quarter once he lost his headband and Allen’s shot is Bosh having the single biggest rebound, assist and block in Miami Heat history. I just want history to remember how great and integral of a piece Bosh, who is undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer, was.

Curren$y feat. Wiz Khalifa & Rick Ross — “Choosin’” (2013)

I’m talking the facts of life/ Can I just have a slice?/ Best seats at the game, ’Bron having a night …

James’ career averages in Miami looked like this: 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 54.3 percent shooting. So which game Ross was talking about in particular is anybody’s guess. He had a lot of “nights” on South Beach.

MMG feat. Diddy — “Bout That Life” (2013)

Shut your mouth when you in the presence of kings/ I ball like LeBron but I got a couple more rings …

Puff’s rich. Puff is on the Mount Rushmore of hip-hop ballers. And no one parties quite like that guy. But forget all that. I’m using this pulpit for no other reason than to post this video of 2018’s funniest Halloween prank that, like this MMG song, features Puffy.

CyHi The Prynce — “Coretta” (2014)

Pick a team, it’s like I’m D-Wade and you LeBron/ I’m your partner, I just wanna see you get a ring …

G.O.O.D. Music’s perennially overlooked songwriter was looking for his soulmate on this cut from CyHi the Prynce’s Black Hystori Project. A good record on a good project. In terms of what Miami meant to James, it’s easy to say those four years “taught him how to win.” That’s not exactly accurate. He always knew how to win. Just look at Cleveland during the years he took his South Beach sabbatical. But there’s no doubt that joining up with Wade and Bosh (and David Fizdale, Udonis Haslem, etc.) made him a better basketball player, better teammate and better leader.

BONUS: Big Sean feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR — “Deserve It” (2014)

Some girls are the LeBron James of playing mind games/ And switch their home team up every single time their mind change …

This was technically released once James returned to Cleveland. But as the scripture from the Book of House Party once said, “It’s my party and I’ll rhyme if I want to.” You can’t front either. That was a cold line from Sean.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.