Wrestlers, baseball players, and boxers strut and saunter out to handpicked theme songs, sometimes to roaring ovations. Would the first Major League movie be as good without “Wild Thing” blaring as Charlie Sheen’s character Rick Vaughn takes the field?
The music a WWE-er selects can be as important in defining his image as headlocks and kicks to the face. You don’t see any tough guys storming the cage to Celine Dion, do you?
If the Undertaker ever waltzed out to Bryan Adams “Everything I Do,” could you or the other fighter take him seriously?
Pro basketball is a different animal. The closest things most ballers get to their own songs are name chants and the starting introductions. In one of several exceptions, a Houston group wrote a tribute to Houston Rockets Chinese star Yao Ming. If you can say his name, you know all of the composition’s repetitive lyrics.
If we could pick intro songs for other players, coaches, basketball executives, owners and fans, what tunes and polarizing figures would make the list?
Read my answers below.
1. Stephen Jackson—New Radicals “You Get What You Give”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t the only guy who still lists Jackson as a favorite son. I love the guy and would stick up for him in most tiffs. Even I cannot excuse his misbehavior in Oakland.
First, Jackson crybabied his way into an undeserved three-year extension, going straight to the owner to bypass expected front office hurdles. He begged the Warriors to make him a franchise star and then bristled when management lived up to its worthless track record.
What, the Warriors fell to the lottery? That’s never happened before! They picked the wrong players in the draft? That’s never happened before!
Hapless, uninspired coach Don Nelson erred in handing Jackson the esteemed title of team captain, but the guard took the bait.
Then, he summoned the gall to demand that Larry Riley trade him to one of three Texas teams or the Cleveland Cavaliers, arrogantly assuming all of those franchises wanted him.
News flash: Only the Cavs expressed interest, and GM Danny Ferry was not about to offer any key pieces from his title contender to Riley for the disgruntled guard.
Jackson’s comeuppance—an exile to the playoff-less Charlotte Bobcats—could go two ways. If he focuses, he will become one of Larry Brown’s favorite players. Jackson gives Charlotte enough talent on the perimeter to qualify for one of the final postseason slots in the East.
Or he could quickly become the disease that renders the ‘Cats clawless again.
Either way, he will get what he deserves. Even NBA players must sleep in the beds they make.
2. LeBron James—Jay-Z (with Rihanna and Kanye West) “Run This Town”
An appropriate choice, since Bron-Bron runs Cleveland and counts Jay-Z as a close friend. Stop building him castles in New York, Brooklyn/New Jersey and everywhere else. Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert has already given James a throne. No one dares step on the toes of Ohio’s self-proclaimed King, easily the best and most talented player in his franchise’s miserable history—and that’s without him winning any championship rings.
No one has the gumption to tell him “no” or the bravery to question his loyalty. James is free to wear a New York Yankees hat anytime he pleases without comment, free not to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after a playoff loss, and free to make the Cavaliers brass suffer through every minute that leads up to July 1, 2010.
Even if he tried to convince the world he’s done talking about his pending free agency next summer, James should fool no one. He loves it that several franchises have already not-so-privately enlisted him as their savior. He knows that a handful of teams that fail to land him will be screwed for years, and he loves that, too.
Cleveland is chief among them.
A spectacular talent who puts on otherworldly shows 82 times a year, even opposing fans must obey his commands. James gets what he wants, when he wants it. He runs this town and then some.
3. Don Nelson—Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”
What beloved thing has Don Nelson given away? His passion for coaching left the building several years ago, and his penchant for producing Picasso-like offenses has become a farce.
His paintings look more like stick figures than works of art. In his world, everything should be about him. He’s so vain, he looks at passing Lenny Wilkens’ regular-season wins mark as a worthy goal.
4. NBA Fans and the New No-standing Rule—Bob Marley “Get Up, Stand Up”
Houstonians, this one goes out to those of you determined to make Toyota Center a library.
Why would anyone spend the money to attend a sporting event and not watch it? Didn’t you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on those season tickets so you could cheer on a hometown team?
The new league-wide rule that forbids players from standing in front of the bench is a joke.
If you want to chat it up with a business client or a long lost friend, go to a bar or a restaurant. You go to a sporting event to watch sports. Your job as an NBA fan is to stand up and yell, not to sit and dissect tomorrow’s weather forecast.
If someone in front of you is up making a lot of noise, maybe your keester shouldn’t be parked in a seat. This does not apply, of course, in a fourth quarter when your team has a 20-point lead on the Memphis Grizzlies.
I dedicate this classic Marley ditty to any die-hard fan a “jewelry rattler” has ever told to sit down. The people in the latter group arrive late, leave early, spend most of the contest up at the arena bar and then complain when someone alters those stupefying plans.
The league re-enforced this rule—and owners gladly accepted it—because those wealthy folks give the association the bulk of its non-advertising income. The NBA makes a boatload of money off courtside seats, suites and prime lower-level locations. How many dedicated fans can afford to sit in any of those spots, even for a preseason tilt?
When a game matters, jewelry rattlers act worse than a grocery store where grocery shopping is not allowed.
I understand the rule’s intention, but that will not quell this rebellion. Get up, stand up—for your right to cheer at a basketball game.
5. Shelden Williams and Sasha Vujacic—Joe Jackson “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”
This one’s self-explanatory and also mean-spirited. Admit it. The first time you heard Shelden had landed Candace Parker, this song popped in your head. I may be uglier than the baller in question, but that doesn’t mean I cannot have some fun at his expense.
I would bet you my life savings Kobe Bryant wants to sing this to Vujacic. If shooting 26 percent in the 2009 playoffs and being a listless scrub on the bench gets him Maria Sharapova, what am I doing wrong?
6. Memphis Grizzlies Owner, Michael Heisley—Britney Spears “Oops! I did it Again”
To Michael Heisley, the owner with an affinity for cost cutting, black holes, and stupidity, this dreadful pop garbage should blare every time you mosey down Beale Street. First it was Zach Randolph. Then, you chased Allen Iverson to sell a few tickets at the expense of building a future winner.
I’m surprised the marriage lasted longer than Britney and K-Fed’s crony union. Now you’ve forced GM Chris Wallace to sign malcontent extraordinaire Jamaal Tinsley?
What is it about a player banned by his previous team that tantalizes you so? Tinsley represents another risky proposition—the last thing youngsters O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay need. Instead of hoping this boneheaded signing works, why not relocate, step down, or at least feign honesty?
Tinsley can fill it up, but so can Iverson and Randolph. There must be one team in the league where each of these three could fit and produce. Memphis ain’t it.
Spears can’t sing. You can’t run a franchise. Perfect match.
7. Bennett Salvatore, Joey Crawford, Dick Bavetta, Jack Nies—Ray Charles “Hit the Road, Jack”
Conveniently, one of the NBA’s tenured refs who should take a hike is named Jack. The others might be Joey, Bennett, and a Dick, but the song’s sentiment applies to all of them.
Ref-turned-convict Tim Donaghy lacks the credibility to bring down the league’s officiating system. For the most part, officials do a terrific job of deciphering tough call after tough call. Notice how I spared Mark Wunderlich and Bernie Fryer from humiliation.
Still, these offenders put the "bad" in bad officiating.
What have the above fellas done to deserve the axe from David Stern? Um, everything.
Bavetta was a sterling ref when Michael Jackson released “Thriller.” Welcome to 2009.
Like the team formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics, his work went south. Way south.
Crawford has too many vendettas against players to do a credible job. His rage can still get the best of him, and he routinely gives road teams suspicious and undeserved free throw trips.
Steve Javie does the same, but he makes tough calls that are often correct after thorough review. Crawford’s are just bogus.
How Salvatore still works so many series-turning games remains a mystery. Yes, you could argue that someone fouled Dwyane Wade at the end of that controversial Game Five Heat win, but if you’re not going to give free throws to Brent Barry after Derek Fisher’s bump or freebies to LeBron James after Bruce Bowen’s intentional hack, there’s no way in hell you can whistle such minimal contact.
So, hit the road gentlemen, and make it fast.
8. The Boston Celtics Defense—Metallica “Seek and Destroy”
The Celtics of late look more like a crowd at an usher’s convention. Come April, though, I expect the league’s stingiest defense from a season ago (when Kevin Garnett played) to return to form. And the Celtics’ form is bloody murder.
With Garnett serving as lead assassin, Boston seeks out high-powered offenses and destroys them. In the team’s 2008 championship year, the Celtics surrendered a league-low 89 points in the regular season.
9. The Jump Hook—MC Hammer “Can’t Touch This”
How many times have you seen a defender reject a jump hook? Hook shots do not wear Hammer pants, but they cannot be touched.
Dear interior defender: you might as well turn up this jam when Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan spins in the post and fires up one of these. You might alter it enough to force a miss, but you won’t block it.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves GM, David Kahn—Aretha Franklin “I Say a Little Prayer”
When he gets up in the morning, he says a little prayer for the franchise because he doesn’t have one. He drafted two point guards back-to-back in June, still a questionable move, and he missed on the best of the lot—Brandon Jennings.
Kahn could not have known Jennings would explode the way he has, so he gets credit for that blind spot. However, his team stinks, and it can’t get drastically better when Kevin Love returns.
No defense, at times scary bad offense, and little hope this year.