While there are some notable athletes that have had success in the music industry, they are sometimes outweighed by those who flopped. Crossovers like this have been hit or miss for decades now, and it’s always interesting to see who will make the jump next. With that being said, let’s explore some chart-toppers and some flip-floppers from sports athletes that decided to pursue music.
Let’s start with Wayman Tisdale, a 12-year veteran of The NBA before retiring and entering the music genre. It wasn’t a publicity stunt though like others on this list, and Tisdale spent his childhood playing bass guitar at his dad’s church. He spent years honing his craft with the instrument and would eventually eight jazz albums. One even reached number one before his death in 2009.
And then there’s Deion Sanders. A two-time Super Bowl champion with The Atlanta Falcons. He was also named Defensive player of the year in 1984 and made The Pro Bowl eight times. That popularity and intensity transitioned well into music, where he would release an album called, Prime Time with MC Hammers record label. The critics were not kind to Mr. Sander’s music though. Despite this fact, it is still a favorite among sports fans. It brings you back to his prime days!
“Must be the money” Doesn’t really hold up when looking back on it. The track honestly sounds low budget. Has Sanders pretty much mumbling through his verses and features a choir of ladies repeating the title of the song. It honestly seemed like more of a flex than anything else, but there was nothing behind it to make it overly memorable.
Another athlete that tried their hand at music was Clint Dempsey, who was one of the best outfielders in all of soccer. While he never reached the level of success that Tisdale did, and didn’t have the same hype around him, the man did manage to put out some music under the name Deuce. He used a dirty south Texas style and even had one featured in a Nike ad for the 2006 World Cup.
Jacques Villanueva might have been a former Formula One Champion and one of the best drivers in the world, but his music career never got out of first gear. In fact, he released an album called Private Paradise” and only sold 233 copies of it. That’s downright embarrassing and one of the many examples of how difficult it can be to have any kind of cross-over appeal. It’s literally hit or miss.
Upon listening to his songs, there is some soulfulness in there, but it is far overruled by the bland display. There is nothing that separates him from every other guitar player playing a folk song. No flair, no excitement, just music that didn’t match his personality in any tangible way.
What about John Felix Anthony, who would later go on to become 16 times WWE Champion, John Cena? The future Champ would proclaim himself as The Doctor of Thuganomics and released his first album” You can’t see me” This featured his entrance theme, my time is now, which is still used to this day. The album didn’t see too much commercial success but was a favorite among WWE fans for decades. It even became a part of a popular meme at one point.
Believe it or not, there was a time in the late 1990s when Sony Entertainment wanted to work with none other than, Kobe Bryant, on a rap album. Unfortunately for those hoping to see The Black Mamba drop some sick beats, he had disagreements with the record label and ultimately pulled out of the project. The supposed reason for the deal falling through had to do with the label wanting a more bubble gum pop style while Kobe wanted something a little more underground.
Speaking of former Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Hall of Famers, Shaquille O’Neal released a rap album of his own. It didn’t turn out very good though and it is probably one of the most critically panned athlete albums of all time. He just never seemed to focus on the music and was more concerned with his star power. His rhymes weren’t exactly above a middle school level, and he looked awkward delivering lyrics.
Fast forward a bit, and another big name that comes to mind is Damian Lillard, who release Hip Hop music under the name DOLLA (Different on Levels The Lord Allows) He later went on to release his first full single,” Spiders in the game and now owns his own record label. His album” The Letter O, ranked 119th on the U.S Charts, but made it all the way to 7th on the U.S Hip Hop charts. He even released an off-record single entitled, Kobe, with Snoop Dogg and Derrick Milano, which was used for the NBA 2K21 soundtrack.
Finally, what about Antonio Brown? The man that literally ruined what was left of his NFL career by stripping off his jersey on the field during a live game against The New York Jets. That bizarre move came after him and Buccaneers head Coach, Bruce Arians got into over an injury. What is even more bizarre about this though is the fact that Brown released an album only hours after doing this. This begs the question of whether the incident was a publicity stunt and if he knew his football days were over.
Conspiracy theories aside, his first single was” Whole lot of money, which came a short time after Brown appeared in Drake’s music video, Gods plan. As for Pit not the Palace, he seemed to have some legitimate swagger in that one. His flow was rocking, and it had a nice beat in the backdrop. The only problem was that it didn’t seem to be very popular. It only amassed over a million views on YouTube. It seems like he has what it takes to be a star, he just needs some more relatable material or to work with someone that can reshape him a bit.
All in all, there have been quite a few athletes that have tried to make the jump over to music, but very few that landed. For every Wayman Tisdale or Deion Sanders, there is a Shaq rap album for Jacques Villanueva singing a folk song. Not bad, just something that never seemed to transition into mainstream success. The project was probably more for them than the audience in some cases and that might be why it failed so often.
Damian Lillard photo by Getty Images