Meet Lil Noah James: The 11-Year Old Hip-Hop Artist with the Craziest Mitchell & Ness Jersey Collection

In honor of this weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities, this story appears in SLAM Presents All-Star Vol 2: The Land. Shop now.

He’s only 11 years old, but Lil Noah James already has more Mitchell & Ness jerseys than most of us have probably ever owned. The young hip-hop artist, originally from Bridgeport, CT, and currently residing in Atlanta, has a really impressive collection. When we hopped on a Zoom call in December, he confidently said that he’s owned over 500 in total, many of which he’s since grown out of. As of our call, he says he’s got about 150 that he keeps inside his closet and stored in bins. 

“I started collecting jerseys around the age of 5. My favorite Mitchell & Ness jerseys are the Kobe Bryant [number] 8, I don’t even have that. The Lakers purple and gold one, I like. The black and red MJ one, that’s another one I don’t have. I like the green Kevin Garnett, I have that one. T-Wolves KG, Miami Heat Shaq. A lot of them. LeBron when he played in Cleveland his first year. I like the Scottie Pippen ones.”

Just from listening to Lil Noah, it’s clear that he’s already so passionate about the game—from basketball to his music career. Even though he’s only in elementary school, he can hold his own in an interview—and on a track. He’s already dropped a handful of singles, including  “2K21 (Mamba Time),” a tribute to the late Lakers legend that has garnered over 73,261 streams on Spotify. In the music video, which has 13,000 views on his YouTube channel, James, who idolizes Bryant, rocks a purple Lakers Hardwood Classics satin raglan full-snap jacket while he’s rapping in the booth about Bryant’s dominance. 

“I have a lot of Nike jerseys, but I really like rocking the old ones,” he says. “I look up to my idols like Kobe, LeBron and Jordan, and other people…I like baggy jerseys, so that’s what Mitchell & Ness really brings for me.” 

James wears a jersey pretty much every day and says it’s become a part of everyday life. He’s rocked a few of them at NBA games and events, too, including 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend, where he appeared on an NBA TV broadcast wearing a purple and gold Mitchell & Ness Magic Johnson Lakers jersey. He also wore a black Mitchell & Ness Lakers jacket in the many selfies he took with stars, including LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Jayson Tatum and Diana Taurasi. 

James, who mostly listens to Lil Bow Wow, Drake, Lil Baby, Fetty Wap and Soulja Boy, started rapping when he was around 7 or 8 years old. While he often references basketball, he says he also wants to tell his own story through music. “I just write my raps off of how I’m feeling. I only write about my life, I don’t write about stuff that I haven’t done or am going to do. I just write about what’s in the present and about me.” 

On songs like “Thank You,” James opens up about being born prematurely at 25 weeks and 1.5 pounds, as well as about the loss of his twin sister, Nalah Jade. He gives her a shoutout on “Sometimes,” featuring Omar Wilson—“Rest in peace Nalah Jade, I’m always praying for sis”—and keeps it real about having to balance all the traveling he does with school and chores. 

James says that he’s been “working on stuff in the studio” and has about three or four songs that haven’t been released yet. All that hard work is starting to pay off, too, and a few people at his school, New Manchester Elementary, have even started coming up to him to compliment his music. “I was actually shocked that they knew who I was. Two people in school came up to me and asked for an autograph.” 

As he continues to build out his career, we bet Lil Noah James will continue building out his Mitchell & Ness collection. The question isn’t will he rock a throwback in a future video, but which one? 

Get your own Mitchell & Ness Youth NBA Jerseys here.

Portrait via Jamesy Codrington / Maziv Photography