Paying homage! 17 rap lyrics that name-drop LeBron James

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The GOAT debate in the National Basketball Association seems never-ending. However, the number of bars that have been spit about LeBron James during the entirety of his NBA career displays his advantage in longevity. The high school phenom came on the scene and inspired rappers of every caliber, and his energy never faded -- not even slightly.

There are obvious ways to reference James in a rap; however, there are levels to paying homage. To execute a truly unique James bar, you have to make your delivery and cleverness distinct in comparison to the rest of the pack. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to sort out the best lyrics about the Akron-bred hoops legend.

This is easily one of the most well-known bars about James. What many may not have deduced is the depth that exists within these two lines. In the first, Hov references Brooklyn rapper Special Ed and his single “I Got It Made,” which is about the feeling of success.

Everything is cemented in the second line. Hov takes the “making it” energy and explores how he has done so in the streets. He references a Jeezy hook, “See I used to pay Kobe, but now I pay LeBron,” which uses the players’ jersey numbers, 24 and 23, to indicate how much he would pay for a kilogram of cocaine. In this line, Hov argues that he’s reached such levels of success that he only pays three — Dwyane Wade’s number — while Jeezy is still stuck on James’. It’s quite the flex.

While the actual use of James’ name in this Kanye West bar is a bit simple, its context in the rhyme scheme is not. In this classic lyric from “Devil In A New Dress,” West finesses a multi-syllabic rhyme with the words “phenomenon” and “LeBron of rhyme” and then propels that into a third rhyme of “jumbotron.”

These slick lyrics dance atop a Bink-produced canvas and display the ultimate comparison of James and West’s paralleled pressure to stay humble while at the top of the game.

This is a distinct use of James’ name in a rap lyric because he is a part of the narrative arc. Indiana-bred MC Freddie Gibbs uses this entire Madlib-produced track to parallel his weed sales in nickel bags with watching the New York Knicks. It’s a distinct way to spread out a story over a beat using wordplay.

The Game inserts James into a set of raps laced with social commentary. Within his track “Blood Diamonds,” he talks about the international cycle of exploitation of Black people. He goes from talking about blood diamond mining in Africa to the United States’ exploitation of free labor during slavery that is only paid back with things like liquor stores in the hood.

The line that mentions James is a triple entendre. The first interpretation is a reference to James and Kevin Durant facing off in the 2012 NBA Finals to get a gold trophy. However, the players have also competed together on Team USA for a gold medal, which could be the second understanding of the line. The third comes in when you think about how James and Durant showed Black youth in American hoods a path to top-tier success.

This bar from a standout Rick Ross track is a must-include on the list because it is so memorable. No one is better than Ricky Rozay at painting a lavish picture with his words. In this lyric, you can imagine him on his Miami porch with a beautiful woman overlooking the water as James steps out onto his own porch and waves at them.

North Carolina legend J. Cole has name-dropped James a few times in his raps over the years. However, this lyric has to be his most unique delivery. In the song “Cole Summer,” he uses James’ talent for swishing shots to set up a bar about how he must dominate the rap game as his mother commanded him to.

This bar may be the most slick “Heat” and “LeBron” usage ever. Nicki Minaj is a master at raps that seem simple until you look closer. Here, she uses the NBA icon to deftly preach about being able to handle life’s pressures.

Minaj uses the storm as a metaphor for life’s chaos and compares the Heat to the lightning from it. While many rappers crumble when lightning strikes, Minaj doesn’t back down and has maintained a legacy that is comparable to one of the greatest players to ever step on the court.

OJ Da Juiceman is the ultimate underrated Atlanta legend from the 2000s. “Make tha Trap Say Aye” is a defining song from the era, and within it lies an unforgettable bar about James. Juiceman refers to his “cooking” skills in this bar and compares them to how James “cooks” his opponents in games.

This is the only bar on the list that is literally from a song called “LeBron James.” Memphis rapper and mogul Yo Gotti was so inspired by King James that he had to go above and beyond.

The distinct reference had everything to do with his longevity. Yo Gotti has been in the rap game for a comparable number of years to James’ career. Thus, he feels an alignment with their consistency and impact.

Dom Kennedy used James’ gravitational pull to form a rap on his track “The 5 Year Theory (Real S**t Last).” The rapper compares his ability to attract women to that of one of the most famous basketball players in the world.

On this DJ Drama single also featuring Roscoe Dash and Wiz Khalifa, Fabolous had the standout verse. He is well-known as a bar smith and this lyric lived up to the hype.

Many rappers reference James’ time with the Miami Heat, but this is the only bar on our list that mentioned his announcement to play there. Fabolous slickly talked about a woman of intrigue who had what he desired in the same place where James won his first ring. This bar was classic Fab.

Miami’s own Gunplay might arguably have the most clever use of James’ name on any song. When you hear this line, you wonder why no other rapper has used the King James moniker as a double meaning for the Bible. Gunplay must’ve wondered the same exact thing.

On his freestyle over Drake and Lil Wayne’s “Miss Me,” the 305 veteran spewed impeccable flex raps. The first bar to set up the lyric about James was about his pristine car, which boasted a book of faith on its dashboard. Gunplay has always been a rapper of unique gems.

This line is a real contender for the funniest lyric about LeBron James. Gucci Mane is seemingly the only rapper to reference James’ questionable hairline in a bar. He compares it to the top of his convertible peeling back, which can only induce a cackle when you first hear it.

Young Buck came through with the most dynamic verse on this G-Unit group cut “Gangsta S**t.” He rhymed James’ full name with another classic moniker that no one else thought of, thus landing this bar on our list.

This Big Sean bar references the movement within James’ career to a few different teams whenever he was feeling unsatisfied where he was. This is a slick observation alone, but when Big Sean parallels it to women who aren’t loyal in their relationships, the rapper sticks the landing.

This is the only bar on our list that references James’ time with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. NBA YoungBoy refers to his victim by the same name as the team and his aggressive style works as a canvas for a unique bar about icon.

On this classic track, Young Thug muses about sexual activity that occurred on his private flight. In classic Thugger transition fashion, he takes his stream of consciousness into the amount he paid for said plane while comparing that to the famous player’s number.