Rap Battle Between Michael Jordan and Mohammed Ali

Subject: Art
Type: Evaluation Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1624
Topics: Music, Popular Culture

Table of Contents


In the 1990s, the sports industry was mostly concerned with two personalities who in their different fields, produced the all-time best. One focused on basketball while the other focused on boxing. Michael Jordan has won six consecutive titles while playing for the Chicago Bulls while Mohammed Ali had won world’s heavyweight champion for three consecutive years. Michael Jordan is arguably the best player in the NBA history. Before joining the Chicago Bulls, the team didn’t have so many fans. This was partly because the team performed averagely, but the entrance of Jordan in 1984 saw the team winning back to back championships. He received an individual most valuable NBA player award five times, and his high air jumping technique made him get a nickname of ‘air Jordan.’ Ali the self-proclaimed ‘the greatest.’ is regarded as the only boxer to get a three consecutive heavyweight title. Both Michael Jordan and Mohammed Ali are considered to be greatest athletes of all times, since the two in their own different sports focus can’t be compared, it is fair enough to use a rap battle to see who is better between the two. The rap battle between the two is a tight race, but Mohammed Ali takes the best chance of winning mainly because he has better wordplay, words articulation, message delivery, flow of words, as he plays more on the rhyming patterns projected with relevance to the battle. 

Ali’s wordplay and articulation of words and phrases are adorable. He starts his verse by saying, ‘Ooh, here comes Jordan, big tongue wobbling. Flying through the air like a big dumb goblin’ (“Epic Rap Battles of History”). He starts the verse by introducing who Jordan is and how he was famously known. In his basketball career, Jordan used to put his tongue out while scoring.

And hence the best way to introduce who you are talking about is to describe how best many people know him. Ali meant to say that he doesn’t care what Jordan says when he starts the rap because he feels like Jordan is just wobbling his tongue. He continues to the second line and finishes with a rhyming pattern of goblin, which is a mythical explanation of how dumb Jordan seems to be while flying to make a dunk in basketball. He also takes a jab at Jordan saying, ‘Your whole basketball career turned whack. When you came back a Wizard like Gandalf the Black!’ (“Epic Rap Battles of History”). We both understand that Michael Jordan had a very successful career in basketball. He achieved tremendous success and also made the sport famous in the 1980s and early 1990s. But all this Ali sees as a whack after Jordan tried to make a comeback in basketball back in 2003 but could not impress the way he did back in the days. He uses sarcasm by mentioning Gandalf the Black because, in a movie called Lord of the Rings, there is a fictional character of Gandalf the Grey who dies and later comes back stronger as Gandalf the White. Ali uses the black part probably because Jordan is black. The two lines end with two great rhymes of whack and black. This wordplay gives Mohammed Ali an upper hand in the rap battle. Such articulation can’t be compared to Jordan’s first two lines though they are also great regarding delivery of the message. He says ‘Why don’t you dodge this battle like you did Vietnam? Cause you’ve got as much chance of beating me as Lebron’ (“Epic Rap Battles of History”). Mohammed Ali was stripped of his titles because he refused to join the army in participating in the Vietnam War. He was arrested, and he pleaded to the Supreme Court saying that he was practicing his Muslim ministerial duties and hence he couldn’t go to war. Jordan asks him why he can’t avoid a rap battle with him the way he avoided the Vietnam War. He continues to talk to Lebron James who is considered as another great star in basketball. But it has also been noted that Jordan at his peak of play was much greater than Lebron in his peak of play. This is what Jordan relates to Ali saying that he can’t possibly be better than him in a rap battle.

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Ali tends to deliver his message better compared to Jordan. He tends to call his opponents ugly before a match mostly referring to Sonny Liston as too ugly to win the match. He uses the line, ‘you’re the only Bull that’s uglier than Rodman.’ Rodman was one of Jordan’s teammates, and he was considered ugly due to his piercings, too many tattoos, and dyed hair. So Ali accuses Jordan that in the whole Chicago Bulls team, he is uglier than Rodman. He also pokes into Jordan’s gambling addiction in 1993 before Jordan retired for the first time. He also retired because his father had been killed by thugs. He says, ‘Messing with me is gambling, you got a problem!’ He alludes that rapping against him is like gambling which he will lose just the way he lost when gambling. In the rap battle, Ali touches on Jordan’s life in every line, and he doesn’t leave anything especially things that Jordan did, and he regrets why he did such things. At one point Ali describes himself as pretty and fast? This describes his successful boxing career noting that being pretty and also being a boxer is not a common thing. His hands were fast, and he could smoothly dodge a hit from an opponent. He says, ‘I’m so pretty; my hands are so fast!’ The fast hand he describes above is what he uses to tell Jordan that, ‘I’ll whip your face back to your Hitler mustache!’ Here he reminds Jordan of his mustache which he had some time back, and it made him look like Adolf Hitler.  Michael Jordan says, ‘You can fight one man? I can drive a whole team!’ Basketball is usually played by ten people, five on both sides. Michael Jordan says that Ali only fights with one man in a boxing match while he fights with a whole five people thereby denoting that he is way stronger than Ali is. He also takes time to describe himself pointing to the fact that he is regarded as ‘Air Jordan.’ He says, ‘I’m a flying machine like the world has never seen!’ to describe how great his career was and how he was commonly known. Jordan was usually good at dunks where he would seem like he is flying and so he says the world has never seen such as a legend. 

Ali tends to a better flow of words as he remains relevant to the topic at hand. He ends the words in two lines, ‘You should have kept your ugly sneakers packed up on a shelf. Stick to golf; you can keep the ball to yourself’ (“Epic Rap Battles of History”). Shelf and yourself create the flow even as he lectures him on how his sneakers looked ugly. He also makes a low hit on Jordan saying, ‘I saw you slapping Reggie Miller, boy, what’s wrong with you? You fight like the little girls who make your Nike shoes!’ (“Epic Rap Battles of History”) not only does Ali hit out at Jordan but also to his main sponsors, Nike. He pokes them for using little girls as a source of labor. He also reminds Jordan of his fistfight with his opponent who was also a star in basketball, Reggie Miller. Being a boxer, he feels that it is girlish to hit someone with a slap because he feels a real man uses punches instead of slaps. Mohammed Ali’s choice of words is amazing, and his words perfectly rhyme considering another line, ‘McDonalds and underpants as corporate backers. You stay at the Ritz because you sold out to crackers!’ The words backers and crackers have been used appropriately. But there is more to this. ‘Crackers’ is a slang word for whites. Ali feels that Jordan sold himself to the whites to live a lavish life. The lavish life can be explained by Ritz which is a world class hotel famous for being too expensive. Michael Jordan in his career life was used in many advertisements especially Nike. But even in his later years he still used to feature as brand ambassador for McDonald’s and so the reason why Ali says that he uses such finances from advertisement as backers to living a lavish life. To sum the battle, Ali tells Jordan, ‘You need to bounce back to North Carolina, the kid. Cause you’re rapping sucks more than Space Jam did!’ Michael Jordan was brought up in North Carolina, and Ali wants to hit at him by telling him to go back to his hometown. He also thinks that Jordan’s rapping career is far much worse than the movie Jordan acted called Space Jam. The reason why he links the two lines together is that in Carolina, Jordan was a small boy, and the movie Space Jam was a hit with just small children, but adults saw it as whack.


Despite the fact that in the early 1990s, Ali was considered the third most celebrated black personality in sports behind second-placed Jackie Robinson and first place Michael Jordan, this war on rap is a different case between the two. Ali commands a greater sense of word articulation; he has good rhymes in his works and proper rhyming. He points out many facts about Michael Jordan while also creating awareness of how great he was in the boxing industry. Therefore between the two, Mohammed Ali won the rap battle.

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  8. “Judging Criteria.” Rapmusic.com, rapmusic.com/threads/judging-criteria.1203212/.
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