Christmas is always one of the most special days on the NBA calendar: with five marquee match-ups taking place on Tuesday (Dec. 25), basketball fans are gifted a full day of high-grade hoops while sipping eggnog and unwrapping presents. The action starts at 12:00 ET with Boston at Brooklyn; continues in Los Angeles as the slumping Lakers take on the streaking Knicks; heads to Miami as the defending champs host a Finals re-match with the Thunder; stops by Chicago when the Rockets and Bulls square off; and ends in Lob City, when the Los Angeles Clippers welcome the high-energy Denver Nuggets at 10:30 ET.
Although some of the NBA’s best teams and biggest rivals will take the court on Christmas, even the staunchest opponents can be connected through personal music tastes. After Billboard examined the music preferences of Lakers players Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks before the season began, we chatted with three more NBA stars about what music they soak in during their personal time, as well as the bonds they share with their team mates.
In honor of the NBA Christmas extravaganza, check out our exclusive music-focused Q&As with New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, whose team has been one of the league’s best as he stays sidelined due to injury; Orlando’s J.J. Redick, one of the veteran presences on the new-look Magic; and Corey Brewer, a former NBA champ with the Dallas Mavericks and now a key contributor with the Denver Nuggets. Do any of their music choices surprise you? Give your take in the comments section.
IMAN SHUMPERT, NEW YORK KNICKS
Billboard: You had your own mixtape, “Th3 #Post90s,” come out on December 21. What were you trying to say with your latest music?
Shumpert: It’s called “Th3 #Post90s” because it’s a collection of a lot of the stuff that I’ve been through growing up. I’m a collection of everything after the 90s, so that’s what “Post-90s” stands for. A lot of times you hear about “80s babies,” but you never really hear about 90s kids, even though I feel like those were some of the most exciting times as far as hip-hop goes and growing up in Chicago when Michael Jordan won six rings. I love the 90s. It’s just a mixtape to stand on the fact that the 90s was a great time to be born.
I’ve been rapping since I was in sixth grade. Along with basketball, it was just something to keep me out of trouble. I’m a person that’s got a lot of energy, and it’s better for me to just do the things that I love to do than just walking around with plenty of time on my hands. [Rapping] was a great way for me to do some mental exercises, as far as writing goes, and to make some good music.
You’ve been rehabbing from a knee injury throughout the 2012-13 season. What music has helped you recuperate?
I’m the kind of guy who jumps around between R&B and hip-hop. I’ll play an Elle Varner [tracl] and bounce over to Lupe Fiasco. I’ll listen to Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye, Wale, Meek Mill. I’m just a hip-hop head, and I like to play albums all the way through. My favorite right now is Kendrick Lamar, who’s doing a great job and is so young.
The Knicks are such a diverse team in terms of ages and personalities. Do you guys ever talk about or listen to music together?
We crank a lot of music in the locker room before games, after games, during halftime. It’s usually either me or Melo [Carmelo Anthony] DJ’ing. Melo goes all over the place — he might play some rock and roll, he might play some Temptations. He goes everywhere and tries to touch every genre and every decade. I play more new-school stuff that will get guys hyped before the game. We play a lot of Young Jeezy, a lot of Chief Keef, more Jay-Z, some Talib Kweli, some Mos Def. We do a lot of soul music. They want to hear some stuff that will get them hyped, but soul music will get you in a mellowed-out mood that gets you focused.
I’m personally trying to picture Steve Novak listening to Chief Keef in the locker room.
Everybody thinks that about Novak, but Novak is one of the coolest cats! Novak listens to some smooth stuff, and for a white boy, he’s got a lot of rhythm! We don’t think of Novak as white — we call him “clear.”
But I think the whole team just rubs off on each other. I think a lot of times the guys don’t really like the songs, but because you see Raymond Felton dancing to it, you’re gonna dance to it. If Amar’e [Stoudemire]’s jamming, I’m jamming too.
When you’re on the bench at Madison Square Garden and hear a song you like come on in the arena, do you ever catch yourself jamming or mouthing along to the words?
All the time. Even when I’m watching Woody [coach Mike Woodson] draw up a play I’m bopping my head and my leg’s tapping.
J.J. REDICK, ORLANDO MAGIC
What musical genres do you usually listen to in your free time?
Alt-rock is kind of my thing, and all different sub-genres of that. A band I really like right now is Milo Greene — their first album came out in July and it’s just an album that grew on me. Initially I had heard their one single they released back in January, “1957,” that’s a really catchy tune. I listened to the Passion Pit CD throughout the summer. “Cry Like a Ghost” is my song right now that I’ve been jamming. And before a game, nothing gets me more excited than Silversun Pickups — they’re pretty much on every pre-game playlist I have on my iPod.
You got some “Lazy Eye” on there?
Yeah, “Lazy Eye” is on there, and I really like “The Royal We,” that’s pretty much my favorite song they’ve ever done. And on their last album, I really like “Out of Breath” and “Busy Bees.” They’re the typical Silversun songs — it’s slow to start, and then the tempo picks up and by the end you’re head-banging.
Does anyone on the Magic share your taste in music?
[Laughs] Not really. There’s some guys that can appreciate… I had a team mate for a couple years, Brandon Bass, who now plays with the Celtics, and he likes Southern rap music but I started showing him different things in the rock world. I actually got him into Kings of Leon, and he bought all of their albums. And then he started trying to make beats off some of their songs — he likes to do rap stuff — and I also got him into Coldplay. There’s certain team mates I’ve tried introducing my music to, but I’m definitely an anomaly for my music taste. When I try playing Milo Greene to the weight room, it doesn’t always go over well.
On the flip side, have you come to appreciate the other players’ music?
The funny thing about it is that I grew up around hip-hop, because basketball and hip-hop are so intertwined in pop culture. I was the only white kid on my teams growing up, and we used to travel all over the country, so I used to be really into hip-hop. I grew up listening to Tupac and Biggie and Nas, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, some independent rappers as well. I used to actually write lyrics and battle-rap in high school, so I can definitely appreciate it. I’m not a huge fan of what’s out right now — I think that’s partly why I don’t listen to it as much. I’ve been a huge Kanye fan and a huge Lil Wayne fan and a huge Rick Ross fan, so when they put an album out I usually get it that day, and I’ll listen to that for a while.
Who on your team is the biggest music fan?
It used to be Dwight [Howard]. Right now, I’d say Glen Davis. He spent some time this summer recording a song — and I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty catchy! And it’s not a rap song. It’s like a club song, almost house music, techno-ish. He played it over the system in the locker room, and somebody now will just be humming along to the song. It’s catchy.
COREY BREWER, DENVER NUGGETS
Who have you been listening to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to Trinidad James. He’s the man now. Also some A$AP Rocky, and Game just came out with a new album, “Jesus Piece.”
Are you liking the new A$AP single, “F–kin’ Problems”?
Yeah, that’s my song!
Do you have an all-time favorite MC?
I’d have to go with Jay-Z.
I’m curious about the Denver Nuggets locker room and what you guys play before games.
We blast everything. JaVale McGee has a boom box, and he plays everything — Trinidad James to Frank Ocean.
Do other people on the team have more offbeat music choices? Maybe Kosta Koufos?
Kosta Koufos listens to a lot of hip-hop! But Timo Mozgov — we have no idea what he’s listening to. We don’t understand it. He’s Russian.
Do you and [head coach] George Karl ever get to talk about music?
Not really. We really don’t have the time — so much traveling and practicing.
Last thing — do you have a favorite Christmas song?
My mom used to listen to a lot of the old-school Christmas singles, like Aretha Franklin, when I was a kid. When you get to listen to all the Motown artists singing Christmas songs, it’s pretty cool.