In 2003, Shawn Carter completed his Marcy to Madison Square story arc. As fate would have it, despite The Black Album being his grand “retirement” sendoff, Jay’s status appeared to be at an all-time high. His (then) farewell album moved 463,000 first week units and would shortly go on to become the rapper’s most commercially successful record of the 2000’s. Jay-Z’s relationship with newly solo pop star Beyoncé Knowles went public and he became the first non-athlete to land a signature shoe deal with Reebok.
Fast-forward three years.
The afterglow of The Black Album is still strong and Hov caught the music bug again. In September of 2006, the Brooklyn-born MC announced plans to release his ninth studio album, Kingdom Come, ending “the worst retirement in history.” Though forgotten by many, a part of this album’s promotional rollout serves as one of the most unique in hip-hop (and sports gaming) history.
Jay-Z in NBA Live 07
Shortly after the announcement of Kingdom Come, a partnership formed between Reebok, EA, Champs Sports, and Jay-Z, marrying the passion points of footwear, sports, and gaming. In anticipation of the forthcoming album and release of the S. Carter Basketball IV October of that year, those who bought a pair of Hov’s latest Reebok offering at Champs received a unique code with their purchase.
The code unlocked the ability to play with or against a virtual Jay-Z, as a member of the S. Carter All-Stars. Hova’s character was cheese. Jay told NBA Live devs that he wanted his character modeled after some of his favorite NBA stars. Digital Jigga Man possessed the quickness of Allen Iverson, Baron Davis’ “ups,” and the three-point stroke of Peja Stojakovic. All of whom, not so coincidentally, were Reebok athletes at the time. (He’s not a businessman, he’s a business man!)
Hov’s S. Carter squad was made up of the types of players he admired most: skilled, playmaking bucket-getters who could D-up as well. Along with Jay and his team, the code also unlocked a special S. Carter/Reebok court. This gave them a true homecourt advantage. Additionally, the code made Jay-Z available as a free agent that could be picked up by any team in Season or Dynasty modes.
You had to be there
Now… you may be wondering why this is the first time you’re seeing this.
Well unfortunately for some, the code was exclusively for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. Unfortunately for all, NBA Live 07 was one of the worst games in the series’ history. Kingdom Come received a lukewarm critical response and Reebok’s shoe wasn’t as successful as the brand had hoped. So, not many people actually played the game. It didn’t generate much excitement. Pair all of that with the one-time usability of the unique codes and it’s hard to even find evidence that this actually happened; outside of a couple screenshots paired with its press release. You really had to be there.
“NBA Live has always been one of my favorite games and I’m excited to play the latest edition and to be a part of it.” – JAY-Z (2006)
Jay-Z’s success would continue well into the next decade. The same can’t be said for NBA Live. As most gamers know, Jay eventually went on to executive produce the soundtrack for, and appear in, NBA 2K13. However, Jay-Z and his forgotten S. Carter All-Stars are emblematic of a few things. They are not only a relic of the “Bling Era” and one of the rarest gems in sports gaming. But, they also point to a time when Jay-Z and NBA Live wore the same crown.