NBA Name-Drop: J. Cole, 21 Savage Support Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr.

Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr. have both experienced their fair share of tumult since they came into the NBA as lottery picks via the 2017 draft. The former has battled shoulder problems and questions about his jump shot with the Philadelphia 76ers. The latter suffered through 58 losses as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks, and is now learning to adjust to life in a supporting role alongside first-year phenom Luka Doncic.

Fortunately for those young playmakers, they still have the full support of the hip-hop community. J. Cole showed loved to Markelle and Dennis during his guest spot on “a lot,” the opening track of 21 Savage’s new album, i am > i was:

I pray for Markelle ‘cause they fucked up his shot

Just want you to know that you got it, my n–––a

Though I never met you, I know that you special

And that the lord blessed you, don’t doubt it, my n–––a

Dennis Smith Jr., stay solid, my n–––a

Markelle appreciated both the shout-out from J. Cole and the connection to Dennis, another highly-touted guard who’s faced mounting challenges on the court.

Cole has taken a big-brother-figure approach in the music and sports industry, often offering advice from his own experience and rapping in truth-telling form.

That’s especially true of his relationship with Dennis. The two natives of Fayetteville, North Carolina, have played pickup basketball against each other in the past and remain close to this day.

If the timing is right, you can catch J. Cole and Ibrahim Hamad, his co-founder and president of Dreamville Records, cheering for Dennis, be it at the American Airlines Center in Dallas or on the road with the Mavs.


Olivier Auguste is an NBA lifestyle writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.