Jay-Z and LeBron James, photographed at the after-party for the rapper’s “The Blueprint 3 Tour” at The 40/40 Club in Lower Manhattan on March 2, 2010.
Earlier that evening Hov had performed to a sold-out crowd of 21,000 at the nearby Madison Square Garden. James had attended the show, and hung in the VIP section with Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow. During the show Hov declared the MSG “The House that Hovi Built.” His opening acts were Trey Songz and Young Jeezy; the latter of which who brought out special guests Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake (who was the only artist to break the “all black everything” dress code by wearing all white), and Akon onstage during his set. Their group performances including “Dey Know,” “I’m Goin In,” “BedRock,” “Crazy World,” “Trap Star,” “Go Crazy,” and “Go Getta.“
LeBron and his “big brother” Jay met through their friend and influential consultant William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley in 2002, in a meeting organized after the young player had told Wes that Jay-Z was his idol. Jay had first connected with Wes back in 1999, and after many years of fruitful friendship they came together—via Wes’ power broking at the Creative Artists Agency—to launch Roc Nation Sports in 2013.
LeBron was just 15 when Wes started attending his games at Akron’s St. Vincent–St. Mary High School. Wes quickly befriended Eddie Jackson, LeBron’s surrogate father, then became acquainted with LeBron’s family. He had eventually won over LeBron himself after introducing him to Hov at one of his high school games. That first game had the rap mogul immediately understanding James’ potential, and he endeavored to attend as many of his games as possible. One game of note Hov attended was the March 26, 2003 McDonald’s All-American Game, where James gave a 27-point, seven-assist and seven-rebound MVP performance.
On connecting with James so quickly after their first meetings, Hov told Elliott Wilson in 2013 that, “we come from the same neighborhood. The same things [happened to us], like, ‘Your Dad left?’ ‘Mine did too!’ ‘Your Mom’s name is Gloria? Mines is too!’ Our story is so similar, it’s the same thing. And, you know, [like me], he’s pushing the culture forward in another way.”
In 2007 the two combined their skills and launched the “Two Kings” charity, which hosted an annual benefit dinner from 2007 to 2013 during All-Star Weekend. Before each dinner Jay and James would spend the day giving back to underprivileged children in the local community.
Since their first meeting in ‘02, Hov has shouted out LeBron many times over the years, and James has returned the favor by reciting his lyrical jewels in press conferences. However, some may not know that in 2008 Jay went to lyrical bat for his friend, after the Washington Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson called King James “overrated.” While LeBron said replying to Stevenson’s comments would be “like Jay-Z responding to Soulja Boy,” Hov was down to ride for his brother and dissed DeShawn on a remix of Too $hort’s “Blow the Whistle.” He personally rang Too $hort for the original instrumental files, and dropped this scathing verse within hours:
“Ask my nigga LeBron: We so big we ain’t gotta respond!
When you talking to a Don, please have respect like you’re talking to your mom
We let the money do the talking
As you see we be talking rather often
The Roc Boys in the building
Another $150 million, don’t it sound like we yelling?!
Who the fuck overrated? If anything they underpaid him
Hating, that’s only gon’ make him spend the night
Out of spite with the chick you’ve been dating
We the best of the best
We gon’ be here so the rest could take a rest
I gotta get this off my chest
No pause, none of that shit, get off my dick!”
In 2016 James revealed that it was listening to Hov’s 2009 track “A Star is Born” that helped him win his first championship ring with the Miami Heat, telling reporters: “I just always go back to the Jay-Z song ‘A Star is Born.’ You guys back in the studio go look it up, listen to it. I just always listen to that and I always stay true to the game. I know what I’m capable of, not only on the floor but also off the floor as well, with my leadership and what I bring to the table.”