Athletes Who Tried To Cross Over To Music, For Better Or For Worse
Many of the professional athletes on this list boast an impressive set of accolades, from national championships and gleaming trophies to MVP awards and their faces displayed in the Hall of Fame. But these athletes wanted to achieve fame on a whole other level—through music.
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Many learned the hard way that just because you’re at the top of the game in one career field, doesn’t necessarily mean you will be at the top (or even close to the middle!) in another. Here are athletes who tried to cross over to music, for better or for worse. You won’t believe which Heavyweight World Champion tried to be a rapper!
In 2000, Allen Iverson released his first rap single under the moniker “Jewelz.” The single, titled “40 Bars,” received a lot of backlash for its violent, misogynistic and homophobic lyrics. NBA commissioner, David Stern, threatened to fire Iverson for offensive conduct, so prior to the release his full album, Iverson agreed to change many of the lyrics.
The 11-time NBA All-Star issued an apology to women and the gay community, along with the statement, “If a kid thinks that I promote violence by the lyrics of my songs, I beg them not to buy it or listen to it.” But before it was released, the album was completely scrapped, and Iverson gave up on a career in music entirely.
After just one year in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal decided to try his hand at music. In 1993 he signed a record deal with Jive and released his debut rap album Shaq Diesel, filled with a number of party anthems. The album went platinum.
Method Man, RZA, and Redman produced and rapped on his second release, Shaq Fu: Da Return, which went gold. He continued to make four more albums, but all the rest flopped, even with appearances by Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls. But in 2010, before he left his rap career behind, he released a freestyle bashing his frenemy Kobe Bryant and actually shocked a lot of people with his skills. Not bad for an already-talented FIBA Hall of Fame inductee.
Oscar De La Hoya
Oscar De La Hoya amazed everyone with his professional debut in boxing when he scored a first-round TKO victory. His debut into music in 2000 had similar success, with his self-titled Latin pop album reaching No. 2 on Billboard‘s Top Latin Albums chart. It was even nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Latin Pop Album but didn’t win.
While his boxing career went on to flourish, his music career came to an end. Despite its initial success, the album, which featured a Bee Gee’s cover, was criticized by fans and critics for being much too “cheesy.”
After a shoulder injury, Bronson Arroyo left a 17-year career as a professional pitcher for the MLB behind. During that time, he also dabbled in music. In 2004, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Arroyo, along with teammates Johnny Damon and Lenny DiNardo, were recruited by Boston’s Dropkick Murphys to sing on their track “Tessie.”
Arroyo was inspired to record his own music, and the following year released his debut album Covering the Bases, which was simply a collection of acoustic covers of ’90s grunge hits. Despite the album reaching No. 2 on Heatseekers Albums, he never released new music. Arroyo wouldn’t be the last baseball pitcher to enjoy a successful career in music…
World Series Champion, Barry Zito, comes from a family of talented musicians. His father was a jazz conductor and arranger for Nat King Cole, his mother a backup singer for Cole, and his sister, Sally Zito, is a country singer. Playing the guitar since he was 21, Zito would often write songs while he was on the road in between games, and his teammates would poke fun at him for doing so.
He initially started playing in his sister’s band after his retirement, and then decided to go solo. He released his first EP No Secrets, a mix of folk music and country,in February 2017, and it debuted on the Billboard charts. He’s performed a number of sold-out shows since.
Macho Man Randy Savage
Macho Man Randy Savage was always an over-the-top character in professional wrestling but surprised even his fans when he decided to released a rap album at the age of 50, almost four years after he retired from the ring.
His one and only album, Be A Man, was released on 2003 by Big 3 Records. It was at a time when the music industry was booming, so they were willing to take major risks, which this album clearly was. Savage was a big fan of hip-hop, and took this new craft very seriously, expecting to sell millions. Despite his efforts, it flopped, and the album was bashed by his fans and critics alike.
Clint Dempsey A.K.A .“Deuce”
Clint Dempsey played a big part in the resurgence of the US Men’s National Soccer Team, and after joining the EPL became regarded as the best American playing in England. In 2006 Dempsey, using the name “Deuce,” teamed up with some rappers from his home state of Texas and recorded a rap song, “Don’t Tread” as a promotional campaign for the 2006 World Cup.
The song was well received and praised for its positive lyrics. Dempsey continued to further his rap career, dropping freestyles on demand. In 2014 he released a single called “It’s Poppin” from his first full-length album The Redux, which was praised by fans and critics. Buty yet, the proceeds went to Texas Food Bank, an organization that provides meals to underprivileged kids.
Bernie William boasts an impressive number of achievements, which includes four MLB World Champion wins. Since retiring, Bernie’s put all his energy into his other passion: jazz guitar. Playing guitar since the age of eight, music has always been a major aspect of Bernie’s life. He studied at Puerto Rico’s Escuela Libre de Musica, but put music on hold when he was recruited by the Yankees.
In 2003 he released his first album, a combination of jazz and rock, and it made #3 on the Contemporary Jazz Charts. His next album, released in 2009, was an even bigger hit, reaching #2. He went back to study music after retirement, receiving a Bachelor’s in Jazz Composition from MSM.
Deion Sanders was a certified star, conquering both football and baseball, but his attempt at music was short lived. In 1994 he released a rap album called Prime Time, which received tons of negative reviews but still sold moderately well.
The big hit on the album was the corny-yet-catchy “Must be the Money,” which was accompanied by a ridiculous video with Sanders rocking a hot pink suit, boasting about his wealth. In 2005, he released an album featuring a remix of all the songs on Prime Time, but this album didn’t do as well and wasn’t considered to be any better.
Though he initially achieved fame for playing in Major League Soccer, music had always been a part of Alexi Lalas’ life. He has played in a rock band since college called The Gypsies, which opened for Hootie and the Blowfish.
Lalas released three albums through CMC International: Ginger (1998), Far from Close (2008) and Infinity Spaces (2014). His most recent release received a great of deal praise, solidifying Lalas as a talented songwriter. In 2015 he put his music career on hold and joined Fox Sports as an analyst.
Cedric Benson A.K.A. DJ World Peace
When NFL’s Cedric Benson injured his foot in 2011, he found a way to keep busy by moonlighting as a DJ throughout Austin. Using the name DJ World Peace, Benson spun at a number of clubs around the city…mainly strip clubs. News of his nighttime escapades became known when a flyer for one such strip club event started circulating around the internet.
Benson never returned to football but continued to DJ at various events, expanding to rooftop parties and underground festivals. His last promoted event was in 2014, so whether or not he continues to DJ on the down low is a mystery. Surprisingly, Benson is not the only player with the name “World Peace” to take a stab at music.
Metta World Peace
In 2006 pro basketball player Metta World Peace (who was born Ronald William Artest Jr. but legally changed his name) released a rap album through Lightyear entitled My World.The album featured well-known artists, such as P. Diddy, Juvenile and his cousin Capone.
It didn’t sell all that well, but that didn’t stop him from continuing his music career. He created his own label called Tru Warier, which released both rap and R&B albums, including three albums from the group Allure, as well as several more of his own works. Though sales have only been mediocre, he is respected and considered a legitimate rap artist.
The 1985 Chicago Bears
In 1985 the Chicago Bears were having a near perfect season. Confident they’d win the upcoming Super Bowl, they released a rap song, complete with full brass band and saxophone solo, called “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” It was released three months before their win in Super Bowl XX and peaked at No. 41 on Billboard.
Almost the whole team participated, besides a few who thought releasing a song about a victory not yet achieved was too presumptuous. The music video for the “Shuffle” sold over a million copies and the proceeds were donated to local Chicago families in need. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal,” but lost to Prince.
Former NBA player Chris Webber had a short-lived rap career under the name of C. Webber. He released his only album in 1999 called 2 Much Drama. This single “Gangsta, Gangsta,” featuring Kurupt, landed on the Hot Rap Singles Chart’s #10 spot.
The album as a whole did not achieve any real success. Webber then had another short stint in music as a producer. After he played hip-hop artist Nas a beat that he made, Nas asked him to produce a track for his 2007 Greatest Hits album, titled “Surviving The Times.” However, that was the first and last released song that he produced.
WWE Heavyweight World Champion John Cena became known for his catchphrase “You can’t see me.” So when he released his debut rap album in 2005 through WWE Music Group and Colombia Records, he decided to use that phrase as its title.
The album debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200 charts and sold 40,000 copies in the first week of its release. The album peaked at 103 on the UK Album Charts and has since gone platinum. Despite its amazing sales, it was not liked by critics, and Cena was being compared to the failed rap artist, Vanilla Ice.
Iman Shumpert A.K.A. 2wo 1ne
Fans initially had a glimpse of Iman Shumpert’s music when he played for the Knicks and released the ‘Knicks Clique’ song. Then in 2015, Shumpert released a music video called “Promised” featuring his wife Teyana Taylor. “Promised” quickly got over 200k views and mostly positive ratings. Critics, however, were not impressed.
That didn’t stop Shumpert, who used the moniker 2wo 1ne, from releasing a number of singles, as well as a mixtape. His last release from 2016, “His Story,” received a lot of attention for a line in which Shumpert states that he will follow in Colin Kaepernick’s shoes and “take a knee for the anthem.”
In 1995, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, Wayman Tisdale released his first album, Power Forward, through the Motown Label. Though he had an array of musical talents, he primarily was a bass player with an affinity for jazz. In 1997 he retired from basketball to focus on music and released a total of eight albums.
He reached #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart for his 2010 album Face to Face. In 2002 he received the Legacy Tribute Award by the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. in 2007 he was diagnosed with bone cancer and lost half of his right leg, after which he released an album. He died from radiation complications a week prior to his planning to return to the studio.
NBA star Carlos Arroyo began pursuing a side career in music in 2009 with his first reggaeton release “Oculto Secreto” through his own independent record label called Arroyo Hit Music. The song went under the radar, and it wasn’t until he released his second single “Se Va Conmigo,” featuring fellow Puerto Rican artist and established reggaeton singer Yomo, that people took notice.
The song is overloaded with auto-tune, but catchy and radio-friendly. It peaked at #45 on the Billboard Latin Digital Songs chart. He soon released a remixed version, featuring the “Queen of Reggaeton”—Ivy Queen—which hit #13 on the Billboard Latin Rhythm Digital Songs chart. Aside from a collaboration with Probably Pablo on the song “Imaginarme,” Arroyo hasn’t released any other material.
Former NFL lineman Mike Reid achieved success in both football and music and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received a BA in music from Penn State and performed as a pianist for several professional orchestras.
He left football behind in 1974 following an injury and focused solely on his music. He wrote more than 30 chart-topping country and pop hits, including Ronnie Milsap’s “Stranger in My House,” which earned him a Grammy. In 1990 he had a #1 single which he sang on as well, “Walk on Faith.” He wrote the music for the musical The Ballad of Little Jo which opened in 2017.
During his NHL career, Darren McCarty had a side gig as the lead singer of the rock band Grinder. The band was named after the Detroit Red Wings’ “Grind Line,” on which right-wing McCarty played.
Grinder was pretty popular in the Midwest, playing in front of 12,000 at the Arts, Beats and Eats festival in Pontiac, Michigan. In 2003 they released their first album Gotta Keep Moving, which was recorded at McCarty’s good friend Kid Rock’s studio, and produced by Al Sutton of Rustbelt Studio. McCarty had long been battling alcoholism, and when he decided to get sober, he left his music career behind. These days he only sings at karaoke.