It's been a beefy summer for Damian Lillard.
It wasn't much of a challenge for the player widely regarded as the NBA's best rapper. Now, Lillard has moved on to a literally bigger, arguably better opponent—or, at least, a guy most people have heard of before: Shaquille O'Neal.
Nineties kids will remember that Shaq was, if not the first NBA player to sideline into a rap career, then the first to achieve some level of success: His first album, 1993's Shaq Diesel, actually went platinum, and his résumé includes collabs with hip-hop legends like the Notorious B.I.G., Rakim, Mobb Deep and Phife of A Tribe Called Quest. And who can forget this classic?
Of course, it was always debatable whether Shaq was actually a passable rapper, or just a famous guy with good connections. And when asked his opinion on a recent episode of The Joe Budden Podcast, Lillard didn't hold back: "I think I rap better than Shaq. I've heard Shaq's stuff, I think people like him as 'Shaq.' People wasn't looking at it like, 'That's a real rapper,' it was 'Shaq rapping.'"
As one might expect from a dude who's held a decade-long grudge against Dwight Howard for stealing his Superman gimmick, he couldn't just let that slide. Last night, the Big Diesel came out of rap retirement to respond to Dame's comments…via puppet. It's mostly rich old-head bragging and questionable hot takes ("Talkin' like you're Bron/You ain't even Trevor Ariza"…really?), but shout out to the line, "Must be smoking Portland weed/That shit ain't really good for ya." (Guess Shaq's been keeping up with the vape crisis.)
Obviously, O'Neal's a lot less busy than Dame these days, but Lillard still had time to squeeze out a response this morning before practice. On "Reign Reign Go Away," Lillard dismantles Shaq's playing career with some hot takes of his own ("Kobe won you those rings"), disses his commercial endorsements ("Icy Hot poster boy"), acting career ("Space Jam not Blue Chips") and, of course, his free-throw shooting and turns one of O'Neal's lines against him: "Said yourself I'm a Tesla/No longer need Diesel gas." No reference to The General, unfortunately, but maybe he's saving that for Round 2.
We're biased, of course, but we have to say Dame won this one, which should prove cathartic for Blazer fans still smarting from that whole Western Conference Finals collapse 19 years later.
We eagerly await DJ Diesel's EDM-based response.