Guest Post by Joey Burbs @JoeyBurbs
Every year around this time, an unexplainable madness simultaneously unites and divides the country. With the sound of mid-major crowds and Future songs in the air, basketball becomes the unofficial pastime of a nation searching for perfect brackets, Cinderella stories, and solid betting lines. However, once everyone realizes that the hours of “research” they invested in picking winners is equally as successful as the research I do when swiping on Tinder (you can try to decipher it, but you can never really tell if they are going to look like their pictures in real life), they disregard everything and start pulling for the underdogs.
Hip-hop as a culture has close ties to the hardwood, and everyone at one point in their life wants to either be a musician or an athlete. Despite numerous attempts by the likes of Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant, and Ron Artest/Meta World Peace, very few people possess the diversity to dabble in the areas of athletics and entertainment. Even fewer of those people have the ability to not just survive - but thrive - in both worlds.
As is demonstrated in the song “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” one of those people is Aaron Carter.
If you haven’t heard the song, congratulations, you played yourself. For those who just want a quick summary, the song is essentially about Aaron Carter (the child pop star of the time that I would compare sonically to a 2000s version of MattyB) just chilling with his friends rapping about how he defeated future NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal in a game of 1-on-1.
After hours of strenuous research, I have concluded that this is without question the largest upset in hip-hop history. The main reason the game needs to be considered one of historic proportions is because of the time period it takes place in. “That’s How I Beat Shaq” was first released in February 2001, so we can assume that the 1-on-1 game occurred sometime just before. That means this isn’t a game that took place today with Shaq 40 pounds overweight in a suit pretending to understand or care what Charles Barkley is rambling about on TNT, this is Shaquille O’Neal on the Los Angeles Lakers at the peak of his dominance. This is far more impressive than any other hip-hop basketball game. Many would argue that Ice Cube’s game on “Today Was A Good Day” where he messed around and got a triple-double was better, but that can’t be compared because we don’t even know the level of competition Cube was playing against. At just age 13, Aaron Carter faced Shaq as he was coming off of winning both the NBA regular season MVP and the Finals MVP.
Yet despite this clear deficit in size, talent, and skill, Aaron seems to have what all Cinderella stories in the NCAA tourney have: heart. One of the most shocking parts of Aaron’s game is the sheer confidence that exudes from his personality throughout the competition. Despite erroneously believing Shaq stands tall at “twelve foot three,” Aaron appears unfazed and continuously attacks the hoop throughout the game. However, that confidence borders upon cockiness, as Aaron begins to trash talk the All-Star center. With vicious hits to his psyche, Aaron attempts to puncture Shaq’s soul with each word, exclaiming phrases like “when I beat you real bad, try not to cry.” Clearly shaken, Shaq loses the tenacity that allowed him to make grown men look like little boys, as this little boy continued to pile on the insults and buckets.
Some experts attempt to dispute the legitimacy of Aaron’s victory, as neither he nor his friends have any real recollection of the event afterwards. The song abruptly changes scenes towards the end as Aaron suddenly wakes up in his bed, suggesting that the blood, sweat, and tears were simply the result of a restless imagination. However, as long as we keep the conversation PG, there is absolutely no explanation for the O’Neal jersey that is present in Aaron’s room, thus making any question of validity irrelevant. Scientists and non-believers can debate all they want, but they need only to look at the facts to realize what really happened that day.
And what happened isn’t just a moment in music and sports history, this is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated events in pop culture. This was David and Goliath reincarnated in the form of a tween sensation. The most dominant athlete of the time was struck down by the old “your shoes are untied” trick, and was denied victory by a miraculous last second heave. I expect an ESPN 30 For 30 to be created for it soon, but in the mean time, I invite you to take this time to truly appreciate the day that a young Aaron Carter slew the giant and showed us the true spirit of March Madness.
[Joey Burbs is a musician and former NCAA DI basketball player. You can listen to his music here HERE, and follow him on Twitter HERE]