If there’s anything that Fox’s Empire knows best, it’s drawing massive ratings that have done nothing but rise in the past nine weeks. It also knows how to deliver some delightfully soapy drama, sometimes based on real life. According to NBA star Iman Shumpert, it’s a little too real, as the athlete claims two of the show’s characters are blatant ripoffs of him and his girlfriend Teyana Taylor.

Shumpert thinks that the youngest of the Lyon sons, Hakeem (played by Bryshere Y. Gray), hits a little too close to home, not only with his flat-top hairstyle, but also in his mannerisms. The fact that Shumpert also does some rapping off the court is yet another shared trait between the two. Considering Hakeem’s entire narrative drive involves his burgeoning rap career, there probably weren’t many places for that character to go otherwise. Here’s how the two men look side by side.

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But it’s Shumpert’s girlfriend who has the better case that the show is aping her life. Teyana Taylor is an R&B singer, dancer and actress who wears her hair in big puffy curls. The fictional Empire Entertainment artist Tiana Brown sings R&B, dances, and wears her hair in the exact same style. Plus, she started the series off dating Hakeem. Here’s a comparative look at the two women.

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Shumpert, who doesn’t watch the show, said he found out from their friends and fans that something might be amiss. Here’s how Shumpert put it to the Northeast Ohio Media Group, according to Cleveland.com.
They’re using my girl’s character, her style, her look and she’s not getting anything for it. They didn’t even change her name. They could have at least let my girl audition for the part instead of stealing her character completely…I don’t see how they can deny it. Everybody knows.

What makes things even stranger is that the Tiana is played by Serayah, who is a singer and model (and obviously an actress). It’s unclear whether or not she had any say in what her character looked like, but if this is all just coincidental, it’s a pretty random shot that seems worthy of parody.

And this might not be the last we hear about it either, as Shumpert leaves it open that Taylor could possibly cause a bigger stink about it in the weeks to come.
Her fans are more mad about it than I am. I’m a ball player, but that’s her field. That’s what she does. Me personally, I don’t plan on taking any action but I don’t know about her.

Empire will conclude its explosive Season 1 next Wednesday night with a two-part finale. Might we see a Kanye West carbon copy in Season 2? Let us know what you think about Shumpert’s claims.

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