Friday, June 25, 2010

Legend Begat Legend

Michael Jackson died this day last year, and I was stuck in an awful Richmond airport.

I'd just finished another interview for a job that couldn't even promise me I'd make rent, and I was wiped out. I sat at that dreadful Applebee's 2 go and ordered an appetizer sampler. Yup, I was ready to take my anger out on my body.

I sat at the barstool talking shop with the local vendor, a gal who kept her steady nod constant to improve her chances at a sweet tip. No dice. The NBA Draft was about to start and here I was, trapped in this airport pub, talking to some disinterested Virginia-hot bar girl.

What a life to live.

Suddenly, his face just flooded the screen. I mean, out of nowhere, I saw butchered angioplasty in my tater tots. I spun around in my swivel chair, only to feel sweaty palms and huge melons on my back. Apparently, I wasn't the only one interested in the news.

The King of Pop was dead. And I had saggy breasts pressed on my back. MJ always had a way with the ladies.

To honor Michael on his one-year, I'm going to invoke his memory in this draft analysis. Each draftee can vibe with one of the King's songs. Now it's my job to rip that Michael Jackson love right out of their chest. Literally. I'm all about spilling blood on the dance floor.

I thought about going through the entire lottery, but why bother? This draft is uglier than Mia Farrow's varicose veins. Or the Chimp Lady's face. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to skip Cole Aldrich.) So, here you go, from one to ten, for my massive celebration of the life of THE star.

(Also, shout out to Large Professor. For no reason, really.)
1. John Wall - "You Rock My World"
Michael's last #1 single and swan song goes out to the top pick in the draft, a guy who's already got the vacant Phone Booth in the District filed on potential alone. Wall's probably the only guy with legit superstar skill, and probably the only bright spot in this super dull draft. Hopefully, he'll move Gil over to the position he was born to play (SG) and run fast break hoops with Flip and Wale on deck.
2. Evan Turner - "Rock With You"
Not a bad consolation prize for the 76ers, who get a Renaissance player with more uses than a Swiss Army Knife. He makes me a tad nervous, only because of his disappearance in the NCAA's and his skill set that screams "BACKUP!" in a normal draft. He's got a lot of good skills, but he's not great at anything. He's a Renaissance Guy.

The Sixers need help. They need fans. They need something to propel them past the Iverson years. Maybe Evan Turner can help that. Maybe he turns into Marvin Williams. Eeesh.

3. Derrick Favors - "Billie Jean"
Damnit. I was thisclose to getting cheap tickets (got Rondo/Brook Lopez courtside for $40 last year!) to see the best player in the draft dance in the Death Dome (Newark, NJ). Now? Here comes the first of many project big men, a guy we couldn't see at optimum efficiency because his guards were so crappy at Georgia Tech.

Russian Mark New Jersey a favor and trade Favors. We are NOT in love with him, I promise. You can't goad me into season tickets with his picture on the cover. I don't wanna dream Derrick Coleman dreams tonight.

Couple him with Avery Johnson's annoying accent, and I might as well be dead.

4. Wes Johnson - "Dangerous"
Quick story: At every summer science camp dance, we used to always spot this girl who had these amazing twirking abilities. Nay, we didn't want her dance out of lust (OK, sometimes), but rather because her moves were like something out of a Darren's Dance Grooves infomercial. It was sultry, vivacious, and downright sensual. Dancing with her was like riding a mechanical bull. Fear gripped our teenage hearts, as we desperately tried to hang in for dear life. Because she always wore a fitted Yankee cap, that became her name. Fitted. It was primal, immature, and always a tad dangerous.

Then, the music would stop, the party would end...and we'd see her face. Always made us wish we'd left before the lights came on just to seal the illusion.

Wes Johnson's this draft's Fitted. Physically, he's a lab geek's dream...a fusion of the good parts of Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. He performs feats on the court that make you bite your lip. He's got the college pedigree (Syracuse). But he's an entirely different guy when the lights are on. The kid is sooooo dangerous. Which makes him perfect fodder for Kahn to destroy. Gulp.

5. DeMarcus Cousins - "Wanna Be Starting Something"

Even though MJ's words here were written as one of his many latent gestures, I can see Cousins spinning this phrase and using it to frighten opposing men. He seems so hungry, almost as if someone forced to eat Bush's Baked Beans for a week and he will no longer take the abuse. I could see him being addicted to coke; and in the same breath, swearing off drugs altogether. He'll curse you out in a heartbeat, but then shed bigger crocodile tears than Glenn Beck. He could emerge as one of the NBA's greatest hype men, but at the same time, totally dismiss the league.

One thing's for sure. If D.C. is hunting for a seat on a crowded train, mine's totally up for grabs. I'm not gonna even front.

6. Ekpe Udoh - "Who Is It?"
This mysterious, introspective song goes out to probably the most enigmatic lottery pick. Don't know what to expect from Udoh. I want to find more ways to reference him that quoting lines from The Air Up There. Make us proud son.

(Side Note: I always believed this song to be a self-examination of Michael Jackson's career, almost like a running commentary. It's a picture of his mental state, frantically hoping that he hasn't lost his edge and his skills to a now historic decade. While on the surface (and music video), we see Michael referencing a woman he once loved as a cold cheater, I feel this simple analysis sullies his vivid imagination. This is MJ, not Jagged Edge.

I've heard arguments that "Who Is It?" exists as a continuation of the "Billie Jean" diatribe, but why would The Gloved One waste words on a forgotten floozy? I mean, this song came out nine years later. Pulleaze. Why would Michael Jackson even bother to relive the "Billie Jean" scenario? What do you guys think? Do you even care?)

Something to think about. (On to the next one...)

7. Greg Monroe - "Liberian Girl"
Greg Monroe's game and career compare best to this music video for the song. Like the disjointed nature of the "Girl" video, Georgetown was probably a bad fit for him (stresses team game over individual talent). Like the video, there's some talent to be harvested from this eclectic but talented teen. Like the video, we need to see more from him than a highlight reel.

8. Al Farouq-Aminu - "Off the Wall"
I really don't know what to make of this dude. He's either a rotation player here or in Europe. And since he's on the Clippers, I'd bet the house on the latter. Good luck.

Coincidentally, this song describes Big Al's game (athletic, wiry finisher) and the entire Clippers franchise. Yup, those stories about owner Donald Sterling ordering Asian prostitutes and agreeing to continue housing discrimination are TRUE.

Plus, he's still too cheap to buy his team their own building. How someone can be a Clippers fan in 2010 is beyond me. Geez.

9. Gordon Heyward - Forever Michael (entire CD)
Hey, if you see a guy that become a marginal Matt Harpring, you've got to do it! Right? I already rue the day that I'll hear Jazz fans extend the vowel "E" in Heyward's name for dramatic effect. (Heeeeeeeeeeeeyward!)

This was Michael's last album before he fled for CBS Records. It screams disjointedness and chaos. Bringing up Forever, Michael in polite conversation might leave you cruising for a bruising. I'd buy an ice cream sandwich for anyone who can name a song from this album without using Wikipedia or AOL First Listen.

As for our Butler buddy...way to pander to your constituents, Jazz ownership. Gordon Heyward is as useless to the Jazz as their team nickname. (Really? They play Jazz music in Utah?) Heyward almost completely vindicates the stupid Eddy Curry trade. Almost. I actually might finally be able to relax like the guy from the ADT Home Security commercials.


10. Paul George - "Jam"
"Jam" was one of CBS Records' kooky inventions - a fusion of funk, new jack swing, and hip hop. The Michael-vs-Michael hoop battle was classic, and I could never hate on the guy that gave us this, but this song just seemed like a throw away to what was a superb album (Dangerous). The song sounds almost as if CBS wanted to capitalize on the new jack swing/jazz groove theme that was the early 90s standard (hence, the incorporation of Teddy Riley).

That's Paul George in a nutshell. He's pretty freaking athletic. He may or may not pan out. But he's a swing for the fences, an All-Star pitcher minus the off speed pitch, a mix tape rapper. He may become HUGE, or remain an urban legend from the rough Fresno State streets. Who knows. Might as well check him out...

Michael Jackson was the greatest artist of our time. He revolutionized the industry, made it cool to wear red leather jackets in the heat of summer, and still gets burn on the wheels of steel if a party's going South. He's the man. RIP.

Enough said. See me in the comments.
Mike Benjamin, II

1 comment:

  1. Pretty damn good. Sorry that Virginia was rough on you, but I like how you were able to mention both tater tots and saggy breasts almost at the beginning of the story. As usual, great analysis, like how you were able to juxtapose MJ songs to the top 10 players in last Th.'s draft. Man, you HAVE to be a writer for the NY Times in 5-10 yrs.! Or ESPN.