One of the questions I have been pondering lately is very simple. Who is the most Wu-Tang player in the NBA? The answer that came back to me immediately was Shaq. Now, I was suspicious of this gut reaction, because it seemed too easy. Surely, Ron Artest maybe partied with ODB or something? I could believe that maybe someone give AI a Wu-Gambino name. Hell, surely there's someone from Staten Island who knew them growing up? Any of these might be true, but I can't find a single definitive answer.
What I do know is that Shaq is thoroughly Wu-Tang. There is the historical fact of Shaq's rap career. There is the issue of Shaq-Fu. There are all the nicknames and made up stories. But all of these facts merely serves as evidence for Shaq's dedication to his own self-mythology. Self-mythology is a tricky business, especially in basketball, but it's par for the course in hip hop. Every rapper knows he's a superhero, one of the X-Men. They know they need special powers and an origin story. Not every basketball player is aware of these requirements, but they do exist, and are ruthlessly imposed by the fan and the media, desperate for tasty Epic Narratives to satiate their endless hunger.
The Wu narrative, for example, is irresistible. "Straight from the slums of Shaolin," RZA told the story of a lost, but now unstoppable ninja clan that would stop at nothing short of world domination. Shaq didn't just embrace a similar narrative for himself, but rather took that exact same narrative and modified it to fit the solo warrior instead of the clan. For Shaq, there was never a team narrative, but rather the individual heroic narrative with an inevitable ending: Shaq reaching the top and becoming the Big Shogun. He wanders the land from team to team, hoping to in the end to have distributed at least Five Rings. This is not a story that we invented for Shaq or imposed upon him from the outside. This is a story that Shaq told himself. Claiming to be the Big Shogun because you have killed all of the rival warlords is just about as Wu-Tang as it gets.
Then there is the pretty powerful credential of Shaq's actual, successful rap career. Granted, Shaq is not the greatest rapper in the world, but he's had his moments. Back in the 90's he had some serious guest spots with Biggie and Jay-Z appearing on his albums not to mention a dozen others. This was all before he appeared in Aaron Carter videos, but it did happen.
Speaking of which, this also happened: "No Hook" is off of Shaq's second album, "Shaq-Fu: Da Return." Featuring RZA and Method Man, this pretty much nails down the issue. What other player has his own Wu-Tang joint where he's sandwiched between RZA and Meth? Shaq might not be the most hip hop player in the NBA (well, I guess he might be), but he's definitely the most Wu-Tang.
Show me someone else's Wu-Tang joint with GZA and Ghostface and I might change my mind, but right now I'm considering this case fairly definitively solved.