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Are NBA Mixtapes Secretly Coming Back?

TikTok accounts revived the NBA mixtape era over the past two years. The trend was much more prevalent in the late-2000`s and early-2010`s. Young NBA fans circled through YouTube as a guide and introduction to the league before NBA league pass, Twitter and Instagram highlight posts that now swarm a user`s feed the minute it happens. Traditionally, an NBA mixtape consists of nonstop team or player highlights that cut into the next one as soon as one finishes with music layered over the entirety.

No one can just simply forget Lebron James-Miami Heat highlights fitted with the classic Forever track by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem. Now the trend is making a comeback on TikTok, fueling a culture and community that feels like it never left.

The Shift

The mixtape era declined toward the middle of the 2010`s but slightly jumped up with a few sporadic outliers with notable names like the Ball brothers, Zion Williamson and Victor Wembanyama. During this time, one hypothesis for the reason for the decline of the mixtape is due to the fans themselves. Kids and young NBA fans felt accustomed and comfortable with their knowledge of the NBA, so they stopped searching for the content. The mixtape lost its novelty and value when the creators moved on with their lives. Afterall, producing a mixtape is not a viable way to sustain life. Thus, the creation of the mixtape was a dying art.

To support the hypothesis, the ingestion of mixtape content became less valuable when dozens of media outlets would post the same highlight of a freshman in high school performing a windmill dunk. If such a highlight occurred, it was posted immediately and then circulated on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Eventually, short-term, bite-sized content became the cultural norm for every kind of media format.

Digital content writer at, Victor Protel, insists that short-term content, "encourages participation, is free to access, breaks down barriers, and is tailored to the viewer." Which is all the more reason to create shorter videos like the once sprawling Vine and now TikTok, as opposed to longer videos that YouTube has to offer. Every social media platform now has short-term content features.

The Revival

But the mixtapes are coming back now. Avid TikTok users and NBA fans are aware of the returning trend even more now that Paul George story emerged. George once expressed his taste for Erykah Badu`s smooth tracks like Didn`t Cha Know, in which he compared his play style to. George`s fans edited a mixtape with the track layered on top and it fit perfectly.

Mixtapes and edits such as George`s have become synonymous with how players are identified and how basketball fans interact within the culture of the sport and music. One of the most fun past-times one can practice is thinking of a song then relating it to a player. Then, if within the realm of possibility, edit the song to play over cuts of that player`s highlights.

The reemergence of the mixtape, specifically on TikTok is greatly important for pop culture. It helps extend the longevity of a player`s and musician`s legacy. Hardcore basketball fans love having useless but fulfilling conversations about once forgotten role players or stars and the mixtape helps foster that.

The same ideology applies to the artists and their songs in the mixtape. For instance, it is not promised that anyone will remember how impactful Al Horford is after he retires. But if an editor throws together a montage of Horford hitting mid-range jumpers to Ciara`s Never, where Horford actually appears in the music video himself, the legacies of the two will remain preserved and remembered with great nostalgia.

That may seem slightly comical but in the grand scheme of the NBA and its culture, but the ripple is so important in remembering the history of the league. The TikTok NBA mixtapes are enjoyable watches when down-times are abundant. Some great examples are Sade tracks over beautiful Kyrie Irving dribble moves, gritty Memphis rap over tenacious Ja Morant dunks and classic dad-rock over Dirk Nowitzki fadeaways. NBA mixtapes now serve as artifacts of culture that need to be preserved.

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