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Team Jay-Z vs. Team Fat Joe (Rucker Park 2003): Who Would Win This Legendary Game?

Team Jay-Z vs. Team Fat Joe (Rucker Park 2003): Who Would Win This Legendary Game?

It has been almost two decades since the greatest Rucker Park game never happened. Back in 2003, Hip-Hop legends Jay-Z and Fat Joe were engaged in a renowned “beef” that transcended rap and hip-hop music culture. Jay-Z and Fat Joe were battling for both their spot on the Billboard Top 100 and also their standing as the most influential rapper in the New York area. We heard a ton of music from both sides, but they were also going head-to-head in the sneaker game.

Jay-Z, fresh off his success from The Blueprint albums, had even more success through his S. Carter Reebok sneakers that went for $150 per pair. The pairs sold tremendously well, which is no surprise considering New York is a massive sneaker area. But Jay-Z and his team were also selling sneakers around the country. But Fat Joe was not going to be outdone by his rival, creating a sneaker situation of his own.

Fat Joe and his “Terror Squad” team were already famous for the Terror Squad exclusive Air Force 1s sent to Nike, but the infamous rapper was close to being the first artist to have a collaboration with the iconic Jordan Brand headlined by Michael Jordan. Obviously, this was a major power move at the time because Jay-Z and Fat Joe were battling on the charts and also in the sneaker game.

As Fat Joe claimed in an interview with radio personality Lord Sear:

“I was supposed to be the first artist ever to collaborate with Jordan. I met with him like six times, we were coming up with the design and everything. That’s when [my] 50 Cent beef was really, really on. We had went at it in the awards show. From Michael Jordan’s mouth himself, he was like, ‘I want to do it, but you know, I’m not into the rap beef and all these problems and this and that. That was it, that’s where it backed out of.”

But the beef did not even stop with the music and the sneaker game. Rather, it continued on the court as Jay-Z and Fat Joe were expected to select a team of big-name players, according to Boardroom.

Of course, the lines were starting to fill up, according to the report:

While Mike Bibby and Allen Iverson waited close by on a bus playing spades, Jay-Z had arranged travel for Shaquille O’Neal to arrive in time for the showdown as the city started to swarm the park.

“The game was at like 6:00,” recalls Jamal; others have recalled the start time being more like 8 p.m. “Jay rolled past the Rucker at 2, and there was already 10,000 people out there.”

The lines reportedly started at 10 a.m.

Back in Manhattan, Team S. Carter congregated at Baseline Studios. Jay-Z brought a stack of cash — said to be a quarter-million dollars — with no plans of losing or handing over the wager. He hopped on the team bus along with LeBron and Jamal, Shaq said to be waiting nearby and Joe’s team also on their way.

And then, the power went out.

With thousands of fans in attendance and thousands of dollars on the line, the teams arrived at Rucker Park with the city experiencing its biggest blackout since 1977. Downtown, the United Nations headquarters had gone dark.

The city’s most important sporting event of the summer was suddenly in the balance.

Attempting to save the day, Jay-Z reportedly lined up cars to light up the court so the game could happen, including his S. Carter van. The police weren’t having it, canceling the game that fateful night.

Check the starting lineups for Team Jay-Z and Team Fat Joe.

Starting Lineups

Team Jay-Z; Sebastian Telfair, Jamal Crawford, LeBron James, Lamar Odom, Shaquille O’Neal

Team Fat Joe: Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Jermaine O’Neal, Yao Ming

The game that everybody wanted to see had two fantastic lineups from both sides. On Team Jay-Z, Sebastian Telfair starts at the point while Jamal Crawford and LeBron James compete on the perimeter. In the paint, versatile forward Lamar Odom complements physical beast Shaquille O’Neal, perfectly well. For Fat Joe’s squad, Stephon Marbury starts across Telfair while superstars Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony complete the wings. Big men Jermaine O’Neal and Yao Ming form a twin-towers pairing down low.

Essentially, the game that everybody wanted to see never happened, thanks to a surprising power outage. Beef of this magnitude could have been better off that it didn’t happen because anything might have happened with so many people lining up to watch the game. But nearly two decades later, it is only natural to wonder how the game might have played out. Of course, we are taking that into our own hands and will go through which team would win the game in the infamous Ruckers Park.

Sebastian Telfair vs. Stephon Marbury

Sebastian Telfair vs. Stephon Marbury

Newer NBA fans might not be too familiar with Sebastian Telfair, but he is a streetball legend who had some of the best ball-handling moves in his day. Telfair never managed to accomplish NBA accolades due to a long injury history, but he was a solid point guard coming off the bench and also starting games when needed. At 6’0”, Telfair will need to play bigger to handle Stephon “Starbury” Marbury.

Marbury was a 2-time All-Star with the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns, but he made his name mainly in the country of China. Marbury is a massive star overseas, and his shoe brand was very popular during his day. But Stephon could play basketball at a high level, especially when motivated and focused, because he could have been a multiple-time All-Star. Marbury holds career averages of 19.3 PPG and 7.6 APG and has an edge over the smaller Telfair.

Jamal Crawford vs. Allen Iverson

Jamal Crawford vs. Allen Iverson

One of the greatest ball-handlers ever, Jamal Crawford, will use his height advantage to shoot over Allen Iverson as much as possible. Crawford loved to take shots, but he will not mind playing a backseat role to LeBron James in terms of ball-handling and also opt for spot-up jumpers. But Crawford was great off the dribble and will take the game to Iverson despite giving up a ton of points on the other end.

Allen Iverson is an unstoppable guard with the ball in his hands and will have no issues going head-to-head with Jamal Crawford. Every time Crawford manages to fool Iverson with the crossover, Iverson will proceed to break his opponent’s ankles. This matchup will be about oohs and aahs, although Iverson will have the edge because he is one of the greatest scorers of all time on and off the dribble.

LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony

LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony

LeBron James is a greater all-around player than Carmelo Anthony, and there isn’t any dispute about that. The King is a better playmaker and will use his IQ and also his physical gifts to control the pace of the game. Knowing Magic Johnson is the primary ball-handler across from him, James must be the point guard of his team.

Carmelo Anthony’s job is to score and put pressure on LeBron James, things he will do throughout the series. The presence of Magic Johnson will greatly benefit Anthony’s game because he will find space to shoot and find himself in a position to score in the post. A strong scorer, Anthony will have a very solid series.

Lamar Odom vs. Jermaine O’Neal

Lamar Odom vs. Jermaine O’Neal

Lamar Odom is one of the most versatile power forwards of his era because he could handle the ball, rebound, and pass despite standing 6’10” and having a very solid inside game. Not to mention, Odom could nail outside jumpers and could also defend multiple positions. Against a bigger player in Jermaine O’Neal, Odom will need to put pressure on him on offense while being crafty on defense.

Jermaine O’Neal is one of the most popular big men of the early 2000s because he was a capable inside scorer who could also defend the rim and rebound at an elite level. O’Neal was a 6-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA star over his career and will try to punish the more slender Odom down low while also being a factor on the defensive end inside the paint.

Shaquille O’Neal vs. Yao Ming

Shaquille O’Neal vs. Yao Ming

The Diesel is one of the most imposing players to ever play the game, and many think that he was not athletic. That is actually untrue because Shaq moved very well for a man of his size. He was great at running on the break, getting in position, and throwing defenders through the basket with force. He will use his supreme athleticism to score against a taller Yao Ming and also prove to be an intimidating force inside the paint.

Meanwhile, Yao was not a brute force in terms of strength, but he was incredibly tall at 7’6” and had superstar skills, including shooting the ball from mid-range and also using a baby hook shot. Yao will have no issues shooting over Shaq, who is at least 5” shorter, although he might struggle when he does not manage to block O’Neal’s shots inside the paint. Overall, this matchup will be exciting and surprisingly even.

Team Jay-Z Advantages

Team Jay-Z is stacked with superstar talent, mainly from LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal. There is simply an incredible amount of scoring talent and physical dominance on every level because the team has the two best players in the series. The King is the best passer on the court, and Shaq is the most imposing figure on the court, two massive advantages.

The team also has excellent shooters, and versatile players surrounded around the two stars, making it an awkward matchup when Team Fat Joe has to collapse on The King and the Diesel. Odom can space the floor a little bit and also be an awkward matchup for Jermaine O’Neal, while Crawford won’t have issues shooting over the smaller Iverson.

Team Fat Joe Advantages

Team Fat Joe brings a lot of skill on the court because Marbury is an elite ball-handler alongside a 4-time scoring star in Allen Iverson. Not to mention, Carmelo will put a ton of pressure on LeBron James with his inside and outside scoring ability and tends to have great performances against other elite small forward.

Jermaine and Yao Ming bring a ton of size in the paint to counter Shaq as well, which could lessen the blow of Diesel’s presence in the post. Iverson will lead his team in scoring from the perimeter, even more so than Carmelo, and will have no issue also feeding the bigs down low. Overall, Fat Joe brings a lot of skill and scoring to counter the athleticism of Team Jay-Z.

Who Wins The Game That Everyone Wants To See?

The game will start with an absolute bang. Allen Iverson makes his name known immediately (as if the fans did not know him already) by scoring the first 6 points of the game, with the score 6-0 for Team Fat Joe. Each bucket is nicer than the other, with a broken ankle proceeding with a jumper or layup each time. Not to be outdone, LeBron James starts attacking the rim and making things happen. No doubt, Iverson and King James are the stars of the show in the first quarter, as each player scores 12 apiece in the quarter with the score tied 30-30.

The second quarter is all about the big men. Shaq bullies Yao in the post, forcefully dunking the ball after pushing the Chinese superstar to the floor. Yao receives the ball on the other end, faking a hook, and drawing a foul before finishing the layup. On the other end, Shaq receives a lob, and despite getting slightly blocked, he still puts it in. Yao proceeds to nail a fadeaway jumper over Shaq. That is a tremendous start to the second because both teams combine for only 2 three-pointers in the quarter. LeBron, Carmelo, and Marbury also share duties attacking the basket. The half ends 64-60 in favor of Team Jay-Z.

The third quarter is an absolute offensive show. Carmelo Anthony leads all scorers in the third quarter, much to Fat Joe’s delight. Anthony scores an impressive 20 points in the quarter, including going 5-10 from three, including a buzzer-beating deep-range shot over LeBron James to give his side a 5-point lead. Jermaine O’Neal also has a big quarter by grabbing 7 rebounds in the quarter alone, along with going 4-5 from the floor against Lamar Odom. The third quarter finishes 104-100 thanks to Carmelo’s deep three over The King.

At the start of the 4th quarter, the top performers are as follows. Carmelo leads all scorers with 34 points, LeBron has 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, and Shaq has a 29-point, 11-rebound double-double. Iverson also has 30 points, while Yao has 25 of his own. Overall, this is a highly intense game with a ton of top performers. But the 4th quarter is the deciding 12 minutes of the game that everyone wants to see. With the score 104-100 in favor of Team Fat Joe, LeBron and Shaq take over. James scores 10 in the quarter but also has 5 assists, while Shaq goes 6-6 from the floor, all coming in lobs and dunks. Jamal Crawford also has key moments by nailing back-to-back three-pointers off James’ assists, and that ultimately changes the game. Lamar Odom manages Jermaine O’Neal well, forcing the big man out of the paint while giving his teammates space to attack the rim.

Jay-Z is off his feet with the performance of his guys because James and O’Neal lead a 16-4 run that ultimately changes the complexion of the game. LeBron has a monster triple-double and deservedly becomes the MVP of the game, and Shaq proceeds to pay homage to the legendary rapper and enjoy their success together. This is a game that everybody would have liked to see, but the size and presence of LeBron and Shaq would have ultimately proved to be the difference in Ruckers Park.

Result: Team Jay-Z vs. Team Fat Joe 134-122

Game MVP: LeBron James 


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