Culture & Sport

An American rapper debuts in pro basketball in Rwanda

The American rapper Jermaine Lamarr Cole, 36, known in the music industry as J. Cole, debuted a basketball professional career in Rwanda, 2 days after his latest album, “Off-season”, was released.

J. Cole, a recognized rapper with almost a billion audio streams on Spotify for the 2014-song No role Modelz, is now also a professional basketball player.

For his first game on May 16, 2021, the shooting forward modestly contributed to his team’s victory against the Rivers Hoopers from Nigeria with 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 17 minutes.

J. Cole, 36, plays for the Patriots Basketball Club, the 5th consecutive national champion of the 7-year-old professional basketball league of Rwanda. The Patriots BBC is also engaged in the Basketball Africa League, a young international African competition supported by the International Federation, the NBA, and sponsored by Nike, Air Jordan, Pepsi or Hennessy, the Cognac brand.

And while he was preparing for his first pro game in Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital city, his 6th album, Off-season, was released.

J. Cole, rapper and now professionnal basketball player
J. Cole, rapper, producer and now professionnal basketball player, scored 3 points for his first game in Rwanda | YouTube

Holding on the possibility to make his way to the NBA

Alongside a hip-hop career that provided him with 12 Grammy nominations, including an award for best rap song in 2019, J. Cole always had the dream of playing basketball in the NBA league one day. When he was in college at St John’s University he made some tests to join the College team engaged in the NCAA Division I. But he decided to stay focused on music. In fact, he had come to NY to become a “rap legend”, his objective since he ripped off the basketball posters of his wall to replace them for hip-hop greats at the age of 13.

He shared his ambition to become an NBA player last year in The Players’ Tribune, where he described his game and the unfilled desire he bore with him while reaching the highs of the rap industry. “I was a late bloomer. […] What I lacked in fundamentals (which was a lot), I made up for creativity, finesse, and will power.

The founder of the label Dreamville Records participated in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in 2012, an annual exhibition basketball game held by the NBA, along with the comedian Kevin Hart who was named MVP of the game. Another rapper before him, Master P, tried to go into the NBA. He actually signed contracts with NBA franchises in the late 90s during their pre-seasons. But neither for the Charlotte Hornets nor for the Toronto Raptors, did he play an official game.

Read more about Rwanda

Media sources and useful links:

  • The Audacity, The Players’ Tribune, June 2020, Free access

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