“Being good is good, that’ll get you Drew Gooden. But me, I want Jordan numbers, LeBron footin,” is what J. Cole rapped on “Return of Simba. He’ll now have a chance to back that up. Cole World is heading to Africa.
And it’s not for a concert, but it’s for playing basketball.
At 36 years old, the rapper born Jermaine Cole will join the Rwanda Patriots BBC for the inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL). Per the BAL rules, each club can only have four foreign players on a roster. Along with that, two of those foreign players have to be from an African country. Cole will occupy one of the other two open spots, per this rule.
When the news surfaced on Monday morning, social media went into a frenzy. After all, it’s freaking J. Cole. Due to his background, his fanbase is probably curious to see him play professionally. Heck, who wouldn’t be?
Before becoming a Grammy Award-winning rapper, Cole was quite the hooper. He wasn’t only a standout prospect in high school, but he was also a walk-on at St. John’s University. So hearing his involvement in basketball isn’t too far-fetched.
However, that was nearly 18 years ago. And J. Cole won’t be playing against high schoolers. No, no, no. This time around, he’ll be playing against professional athletes. At first, I didn’t understand the signing. Like, why in the hell is J.Cole going over to Africa to hoop. There are tons of semi-pro/professional basketball leagues in the U.S.
There is no reason for him to hop on a flight to another continent to go hoop. Then something dawned on me, a theory that I didn’t even consider.
Cole heading to the BAL is simply for headlines and ratings.
Introducing this theory could seem like some pure “haterism” in my blood for the North Carolina native. Like, why couldn’t he want to play basketball in Africa because it’s his choice? Is it not possible that J. Cole had a dream of playing professional basketball in Africa? Yeah, it’s possible, but it isn’t very likely.
This week, on May 13th, the BAL will kick off its inaugural season. The league was supposed to kick off last year but had to postpone its season due to COVID-19. After a year of having its momentum halted, the BAL needed something to generate buzz. It needed a spark.
It needed J. Cole.
Think about this for one second. A rapper, who’s deemed “socially conscious” by many, will head to “the Motherland” to play ball. And he’s doing this at the same time as an album release. A day after the BAL kicks off, J. Cole will release his sixth studio album titled “The Off-Season.” Two days after that, he’ll suit up for his first professional basketball game.
All of that is just a tad bit too coincidental. The way those dates line up, both parties will benefit from the publicity this receives, with the BAL being the biggest recipient.
There is a downside to this, however. A few floating theories talked spoke on Cole using his status unfairly. Some basketball fans on social media feel he could be taking a role from a more deserving player. It’s loosely similar to Tim Tebow’s return to the NFL, with a guy using his cache to get what he wants. And there’s some truth to it, but the bigger picture is about this league getting off to a good start.
While basketball purists may know about the BAL, the casual fan was probably clueless until Monday’s news. Now all eyes will be on ESPN Africa to see how J. Cole performs in his first game. And for a league looking to make an excellent first impression, this is one hell of a way to generate some headlines.
The BAL is a partnership between FIBA and the NBA. Per its website, this also marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside North America.