National Basketball Association

What off-season? J. Cole makes pro basketball debut in Africa after album release

May 16

It's been a busy few days for rapper/pro basketball player J. Cole.

The artist-turned-hooper dropped his new album on Friday, then made his professional basketball debut on Sunday.

Cole released "The Off-Season" on Friday, the sixth studio album of the 36-year-old's career, before suiting up for Patriots BC of the Basketball Africa League. 

He was subbed in during the first period of the game against the Rivers Hoopers at Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda, officially making his debut as a professional basketball player.

It was more than a token cameo, though, as Cole found his way onto the stat sheet with a rebound and putback for his first points as a pro. He also drained a free-throw later in the second period to finish with three points in the first half.

The second half wasn't quite as productive for Cole, as he failed to add to his points total in an 83-60 blowout win for the Patriots.

In the end, his final stat line for his professional debut read like this: three points on 1-of-3 shooting, 1-of-1 three-throws made, three rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 17:51 played.

His plus/minus of +19 was second-best on the team, too.

Cole is signed on to play three to six games for the Patriots, according to Shams Charania of "The Athletic."

Growing up in North Carolina, Cole has a long history of playing the game.

A standout in his senior year at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole tried out as a walk-on sophomore when he attended St. John's University on an academic scholarship.

According to Cole, via Bleacher Report, he didn't attend the second day of the tryout after being one of 10 trialists offered a callback.

"In my mind, I'd have made the team. Who knows what would have really happened? But I knew I wasn't ready for that type of commitment and that lifestyle," Cole said in a 2013 interview with SI.

Throughout his extremely successful music career ⁠– Cole's previous five studio albums have all gone platinum ⁠– the basketball aficionado has been in and around the game.

Who could forget his alley-oop slam from Kevin Hart at the 2012 NBA Celebrity game?

Or the time he nearly threw down at the NBA Dunk Contest in 2019, held in Charlotte, North Carolina that year?

After Dennis Smith Jr. donned Cole's high-school jersey, the rapper came within a hair's breadth of blowing the roof off of the Spectrum Center.

With his latest studio work done, for the time being, Cole might have designs on trying to crack an NBA roster in the coming years.

Recently, Master P, another hip-hop artist with basketball chops, explained that it's something Cole is serious about, via TMZ Sports.

"When I talked to J. Cole, he was like, ‘You know, big dog, you did it. And what do you think I would have to do to make it happen?'"

As for whether or not Cole could make it in the NBA, he does have at least one potential believer in his corner: Tate Frazier of "Titus & Tate."

If Cole can carve out a hoops career that is even remotely comparable to his music career, he'll be in great shape.

Playing professionally for the first time is the first step in that long journey.

Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.

share story