January 7, 2013 by NowhereButPop
by Andrew Doscas*
*Special thanks to Ian Goldstein
This time around, I will provide a correlation between a certain NBA star and his pop diva counterpart. It’s basically a cross medium’s who’s who. The comparisons are much more visible than you’d think.
This really doesn’t need that much of an explanation. Both are the best at what they do, and will forever be considered the best at what they do. Michael Jordan dominated the game, while Madonna dominated the charts. Even now, despite the fact that Jordan is doing everything within his power to run a franchise into the ground, and Madonna constantly seems to forget how old she is, they will always be remembered as being the greatest in their respected fields. The greatest player in the NBA will obviously be matched up with the biggest diva pop music has ever seen. Even if they manage to win more rings than Jordan, or play to his level, no one will ever transcend the game as Jordan did. And no one, no matter how many records sold or #1 singles will ever be as influential to pop music as Madonna was.
Kobe Bryant/Lady Gaga
C’mon now, the heir apparent to Jordan is Kobe, as Lady Gaga is to Madonna. They are the same person within their respected mediums. Kobe wants to be Michael Jordan, and would probably commit to a life of chastity in order to get a sixth and seventh ring, while Gaga covets the very ground that Madonna walks on. Kobe used to, and probably still does spend his nights on the computer watching old clips, and interviews of Michael Jordan. Gaga by the same token re-recorded “Express Yourself” but called it “Born This Way” instead, and copied the guitar solo in Madonna’s “Till Death do us Part” for her own “The Queen”. Both Kobe and Gaga are immensely talented at what they do, and will be forever remembered for what they have done, but they will always play second fiddle to their idols. No matter what, Kobe will never be Jordan, and Gaga will never be Madonna, but subconsciously both already know that and are content with being just below the greatest basketball player and the greatest pop diva.
Carmelo Anthony/Katy Perry
Both Carmelo and Katy Perry are chasers, they are constantly striving for something that is just out of their grasp. Anthony is one of the most prolific scorers of this generation and Katy Perry is the only other artist besides Michael Jackson to have a record that spouted out five #1 hit singles. However, they are consistently being one-upped by someone else. Melo has always been in Lebron James’s shadow, never more so since Lebron won a ring with the Heat. Carmelo’s Nuggets, a team that has been above average, had always been held back by the Lakers and the Spurs. Katy Perry has been held chasing Lady Gaga for the title of HBIC. The thing is though, that Perry is always playing catch-up to Gaga. Gaga puts out a single with Clarence Clemons on it, Perry has to reply with a single featuring Kenny G. on it. Gaga puts out a song titled “Starstruck”, Perry goes on to put out a song titled “Starstrukk”. With Melo playing like an MVP this year, and everyone waiting for Katy Perry’s follow up to Teenage Dream, it’ll be interesting to see if they can take the lead and set the standard for the first time in their careers.
Dennis Rodman/Whitney Houston
Although both Rodman and Houston were incredibly talented, they are more infamous for their offstage antics than they are for their actual skill. Both were upcoming and promising talent in the ’80s, who appeared to be (relatively) normal. By the ’90s however, the weirdness started to kick in. Houston with all the drugs, the whole Bobby Brown thing, and the Israel incident, and Rodman, with all the drugs, wacky hair, the whole Carmen Elektra thing, and the Wedding Dress incident, had both become jokes within their fields despite their great talent. No forward could rebound as spectacularly as the Worm could, and no other female singer of the time could hit the notes that Whitney could. While they certainly left their mark on their fields, there is still that underlying sense of them being a burnout, someone who let their personal life occlude their professional success.
Lebron James/Britney Spears
The career trajectories of Lebron James and Britney Spears are strikingly similar upon closer observation. Personally speaking, I think that the two of them have the most in common out of any of pairing on this list. Both were the highly touted talent discovered in high school and made the jump to professionalism at age 18. They were both supposed to be the next big thing, and in the beginning of their careers were on their way to being just that. Lebron was the perennial all-star who averaged 30 points per game at age 21. Spears, likewise, was the face of teen pop in the early ’00s, and had a sting of highly successful albums that all went to #1. On top of this both were seen as the genuinely nice people. However, mid-way through their careers they went off the rails and became villains. Lebron left the Cavs on national TV to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, while Spears married some douche bag, become a shitty mother and wound up in an insane asylum. There was a time when everyone hated the two of them. Lebron seemed to revel in his role of villain while Spears couldn’t get her shit together. Eventually they both learned from their mistakes and make successful comebacks to reclaim their place as a dominant force within their industries. Lebron did this by winning a championship, and by not acting like a prick anymore. Spears did this by divorcing said douche bag, not neglecting her children, being declared legally sane, and releasing her comeback album Circus to rave reviews. With Lebron and Britney back on top, all is well in the universe.
Bill Russell/Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul and Mr. Basketball, how could I not put them together? Aretha Franklin, the matriarch of soul and R&B is royalty. Bill Russell is one of the architects of the modern NBA. Without the two of them basketball and R&B would be: a) considerably different and b) much worse. Although they helped to redefine and expand on music and basketball, more influential players and artists have come about. Obviously though, this is because of the groundwork laid down by Russell and Franklin. Two highly respected and talented forces, Bill Russell and Aretha Franklin have gone a little underappreciated by the younger generations because of the likes of Kareem and Hakeem, and Tina Turner and Whitney Houston. For those who saw them though, at the time there was no one better at what they did than Bill Russell and Aretha Franklin. No one will ever replicate what they did, but because of the passing of time, and changes within the NBA and pop music, these early forces aren’t remembered as quickly as they probably should be.
Shaquille O’Neal/Christina Aguilera
Immensely talented? Yes. Exceedingly arrogant? Yes. More obsessed with their own fame, than they are dedicated to their profession. Abso-fucking-lutley! Shaq is a first ballot hall of famer, but according to Phil Jackson “the MVP trophy should be named after him when he retires”. The fact that it isn’t, nor will ever be named after Shaq is a testament to how he didn’t live up to what he should have been. The skill was there, the drive to win was there, but not the work ethic or the motivation. Aguilera, as well hasn’t lived up to the talent that she should have been. For both, even though they have had full careers, only briefly have we seen the true greatest that they could have achieved had they remained focus. With Shaq we get the 1999-2000 season as an indicator of how he could have, and should have dominated for his entire career. For Christina, this dominance manifests itself in the form of the album Back to Basics. Shaq could have been one of the greatest big men of all time, as the 1999-2000 season showed us, but instead he was merely content with being the greatest big man of his era. Aguilera, likewise, could have been the greatest female vocalist of the ’00s if she made more albums like Back to Basics instead of Stripped and Bionic. With the both of them, what we get is someone who was great, when instead they should have dominated.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar/Cher
When you think of both Cher and the basketball player formerly known as Lew Alcindor, one word comes to mind: longevity. Kareem played basketball for 20 years, while Cher seems to come back every ten years or so with a new hit single. Cher had hit singles in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. Kareem won six rings, a record high six MVP awards, and made 19 all-star game appearances. He won an MVP award and his first finals in 1971 and then won another MVP award ten years later, as well as five additional finals with the Showtime Lakers of the ’80s. For Kareem, not only did he dominate, he dominated in two very different eras of the game, first in the early ’70s, and then again in the ’80s when it became more fast-paced. Cher, also has proven to be an unstoppable force, able to either effortlessly fit into whatever is the musical style, or if need be change it so that it fits whatever she is doing. Cher has always claimed to be ahead of the game while everyone else was lagging behind, and Kareem said that it took too long for the Lakers to erect a bronze statue in his honor at the Staples Center. I’d expect nothing less from these two divas who’ve been at it for fifty years now.
Everyone knows how amazing they are at what they do. Beyonce is arguably THE diva of this generation, while Tim Duncan is considered to be the greatest power forward of all time. Everything Beyonce touches turns to gold; she could touch bird shit and it would turn into something valuable. Outside of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan has the most amount of rings of any active player. Here’s the commonality between the two of them though: they don’t brag about how kick-ass they are. In fact, they are pretty quiet about it all. Unlike Rihanna, Beyonce doesn’t talk about how much of a bad bitch she is, and unlike Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan doesn’t drone on about how great he is. There’s a cool confidence that both Beyonce and Duncan possess, and therein lies the truth behind their success. No matter how many records she sells, or how many rings he wins they’re still always going to be the same people they’ve always been.
Scottie Pippen/Stevie Nicks
Scottie Pippen will always be linked to Michael Jordan, and Stevie Nicks will always be remembered for Fleetwood Mac; there’s just no way around it. With that being said, they are both extremely talented individuals who had successful solo careers, just not as successful as when they were with Jordan or Fleetwood Mac. With Jordan, Pippen won six rings, and had the opportunity to play with the greatest of all time. With Fleetwood Mac, Nicks scored three #1 albums and was a part of one of the trendiest bands of the ’70s. During his “solo years” from 1993-1995, Pippen put up some of the best numbers of his career, but couldn’t win a ring without Jordan. Stevie Nicks (who is not a witch) had a few #1 hit singles, but obviously wasn’t as successful as Fleetwood Mac was. Pippen couldn’t get it done without Jordan, and Nicks always goes back to Fleetwood Mac. The point is, for all their solo accomplishments, they will always be remembered as being part of a larger whole, wherein they were more successful than when they were on their own.
 I don’t think he is, that honor goes to Sir Charles Barkley. Maybe I can squeeze Duncan in at #2.