In a time where the world stayed at home and baked pounds of banana bread to combat stagnation, Jermaine Lamarr Cole aka J.Cole took to the courts to work on his game to pass the time. This week, he celebrates the journey by signing a deal to play for the Rwanda Patriots BBC in the Basketball Africa League, a product of a shift in thinking which he covers extensively in the documentary dropping tomorrow as per his official Twitter account.
Cole, 36, is no stranger to the game. His performance on the court for Sanford High School in North Carolina was impressive, and while it did not lead to Cole being recruited, the rapper did make it to the team at St. John’s as a walk-on but then shifted his focus to music before his college career began.
“Are you okay with getting comfortable? Did you leave no stone unturned creatively? When I thought about that feeling, I said Nah, I’m not cool with that.”
You might ask, why is this important to the game? We have seen a rapper make a run at their hoop dream before in Master P, what is new here? For starters, the BAL is the product of a partnership between FIBA and the NBA to grow the game across Africa, a part of the world that has already produced elite NBA talent such as Pascal Siakam and league MVP candidate Joel Embiid. By developing the game and raising the standard of play in the region, both the BAL and perhaps even the NBA can benefit from the infusion of even more talent coming from Africa.
However, there is the brand and business side of operating a basketball league in order to keep things running, and no league in the world understands that better than the NBA. A league needs a face, and in its most successful year, the NBA had the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Steph Curry to take its brand to new heights. For the BAL, a global icon like J.Cole helping kick things off could spell the difference as to whether this league lives or dies. Whether he averages two points a game or twenty is immaterial; what matters is that he represents what we all truly believe, that it is never too late to go after our dreams. Especially when you can hold your own against NBA guys.