J. Cole Signs Pro Basketball Deal With Africa League's Rwanda Patriots


| LAST UPDATE 05/11/2021

By Mahlik Campbell
J. Cole
Scott Roth/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

When J. Cole's new album, 'The Off-Season,' drops this Friday, he won't be partying with his Dreamville partners. Instead, he'll be getting ready for his first game as a pro basketball player.

Cole is officially inking a deal with the Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League (BAL). At 36 years old, he's expected to make his debut against the Nigeria River Hoopers on Sunday, per NBA insider Shams Charania. He's reportedly going to appear in 3-6 games.

A total of 12 teams compete in the BAL, which is a brand new partnership between FIBA and the NBA. It's the league's inaugural season. Cole has been in Rwanda since the weekend.

Fans know his love for basketball runs deep, as he played at Sanford High School in North Carolina and made the cut for the Division I team at St. John's in New York as a walk-on, though he decided to pursue rapping instead.

"I came to school in New York on a different mission," he recalled in an essay for The Players' Tribune last July. Yet Cole also shared that when he first signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation, he was visualizing his career arc to budget himself enough time to train for the NBA.

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Cole alluded to trying to make it to the league once again in an ad for his Puma RS-Dreamer sneaker that same month. The narrator, Master P, who briefly played for the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors in the late '90s, confirmed with TMZ that Cole reached out to him for advice.

The Detroit Pistons even offered Cole a tryout, nodding to his shout-out of the franchise on 2018's "Friends." (As the second-worst team in the NBA, they need all the help they can get.) Behind the scenes, Cole probably needed some space to finish 'The Off-Season.'

But once 'The Off-Season' arrives, Cole could be done with hip-hop for good, according to this new documentary clip. He tells 21 Savage how this album is basically his final act.

Ever since his breakout mixtape, 'The Warm Up,' Cole's hoop dreams have been integral to his drive and overall brand. You can watch those dreams begin to come full-circle on ESPNews this Sunday, May 16th, at 7 am ET.