Barcelona footballer Dani Alves recently took time out from bombarding down his team’s right flank to record the sprightly single, ‘Eres Especial’ (‘You’re Special’). Performing alongside former teammate Jose Pinto and singer Mario Baro, the video sees the Brazilian unveiling his questionable rapping skills and, thus, instantly joining a long and mostly undistinguished list of sports stars who have attempted to make their way in the music industry.
In fairness to Alves, the song was recorded for charity, which more than justifies its silliness. But not all professional athletes can attribute their own forays into making music to such noble causes. Maybe it’s ego, or the misguided confidence that comes with having tens of thousands of people chanting your name every week. Whatever the motivations, there have been plenty of examples of recording artists who first made their name in sport, and they range from the credible to the downright cringy. For better or worse, here’s 10 of the most memorable.
Andy Cole: Former Manchester United striker Cole boasts an impressive Premier League goal scoring record. But there was no clouding the truth when it came to the striker’s one-song rap career. ‘Outstanding’ was anything but: Cole’s painfully awkward delivery and amateur lyrics (sample: “come on everybody let’s feel the beats/my bassline thumping in the streets") were straight up atrocious.
Carl Lewis: Ten-time Olympic medallist Carl Lewis was feeling pretty good about himself after picking up his first four golds at the 1984 games. The track star probably thought he could do no wrong. Well, Carl did do wrong: his ill-fated 1987 single ‘Break It Up’ was a forgettable piece of frothy reggae-fused pop backed by a video of him cavorting with middle-aged women in a sauna.
Roy Jones Jr: When Jones Jr was at his best in the late '90s, there wasn’t a boxer in the world who could trouble him. Unfortunately, his silky silks didn’t transfer to rap. Possessing a clunky, off-rhythm flow, the American's 2002 debut LP, ‘Round One: The Album’, included a track, ‘Ya’ll Must Have Forgot’, breaking down his in-ring achievements like someone barking their grocery list.
Shaquille O'Neal: NBA legend Shaq holds the distinction of being easily the greatest rapping athlete of all time. Over four albums released across the '90s, he collaborated with a ton of golden age hip-hop greats: Biggie, Jay Z and Warren G to name a few. Sure, he probably wasn’t penning most of his lyrics, but Shaq had the same magnetism on the mic that made him so popular on the court.
Caroline Wozniacki: Former world tennis number 1 Wozniacki might not have a Grand Slam to her name, but she does have an EDM single to boast about. Not that you’d know it was the Dane performing on ‘Oxygen’ from the amount of synthetic effects wrapped around her voice. Low rent Eurovision stuff, the song at least features an amusing nod to her day job: “Boy, you’re my match point”.
Peter Ebdon: Former World Snooker Champion Ebdon is notorious for his slow style of play, so it will come as no surprise that his favoured style of music is syrupy middle-of-the-road dreck. The Ebdonater has released two singles: a cover of David Cassidy’s ‘I Am A Clown’ in 1996, and the self-penned ‘Fall of Paradise’ in 2002, each totally monotonous and dreary.
Kobe Bryant: Having become a household name in the late '90s, future five-time NBA champ Bryant penned a record deal with Sony who hoped to cash in on the fashionable star’s interest in rap. However, label and artist had different ideas about the direction of his music: Sony insisted on a more marketable pop sound than the raw underground style Kobe favoured, and the Lakers man was dropped.
Clint Dempsey: Arguably the greatest US outfield player to ever grace English football, former Spurs man Clint also brought his love dirty south hip-hop to London. Rapping under the name Deuce, the US international has a handful of releases to his name, notably ‘Don’t Tread’, a perfectly decent slice of Texan-style hip-hop recorded as part of the a Nike ad campaign for the 2006 World Cup.
Jacques Villeneuve: Ex-F1 champ Villeneuve forged an incredibly successful career in high-octane motorsports. Away from the track though, the Canadian has cut some of the most placid, downright unlistenable music ever produced. "I hope the LP makes a great success,” Villeneuve told journalists when announcing his debut ‘Private Paradise’ in 2007. It sold only 233 copies upon release.
Petr Cech: Having lost his place in the team to Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea’s Cech hasn’t played much for the London club this season. Fortunately, the keeper always has his budding career as a drummer to fall back on. Having jammed with Queen’s Roger Taylor in the past, he's been releasing YouTube covers of Foo Fighters and Coldplay tracks of late. Always been good with his hands, our Pete.