NBA Name-Drop: J. Cole Measures Up to LeBron James on ‘Middle Child’

The home stretch of 2019’s opening month saw at least two triumphant returns—one in the NBA, the other in hip-hop. On January 31, LeBron James came back from a groin injury to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 123-120 overtime win against the Clippers. About a week prior, J. Cole dropped his first track of the new year, “Middle Child.”

Fittingly, Cole’s latest release features a nod to the four-time MVP:

I roll with some fiends, I love 'em to death

I got a few mil' but not all of them rich

What good is the bread if my n---- is broke?

What good is first class if my n---- can't sit?

That's my next mission, that's why I can't quit

Just like LeBron, get my n---- more chips

Though the song as a whole is about Cole feeling like he’s stuck between two eras of rap, this particular verse is a nod to how he feels responsible for using his success to lift up those around him. To that end, Cole feels like LeBron, a superstar known for his desire to help his closest confidants, does both on and off the court.

Cole, whose real name is Jermaine, is another avowed NBA fan within the hip-hop community. His strongest connection to the game, though, isn’t LeBron, but rather fellow Fayetteville, North Carolina native Dennis Smith Jr. Naturally, then, Cole opted to announce his allegiance to the New York Knicks following the late January trade that brought Dennis to the Big Apple.

With Cole headlining the halftime show at the 2019 All-Star Game and LeBron set to captain his own squad in Charlotte, the two icons should have ample opportunity to connect again, beyond this particular shout-out.


Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.