Athletics in Music 

When Athletes Sing, We All Lose

Michael Jordan—easily the greatest athlete in his respective sport, and the most marketable name in sports history—is often used as the case study for athletes being addicted to the rush of winning. Jordan's chronic gambling, obsession with golf, and wild notion that he could play professional baseball (didn't he look so awkward in that White Sox uniform?) show a man who thinks he can win at everything he does in life. From slam dunks to slinging Ball Park Franks hot dogs, Jordan thought he was the best at it all. Thankfully, the one thing Jordan didn't do is sing. But his contemporaries on the court—and in other sports—weren't as wise. To find success in life by virtue of your athletic prowess has never meant you can find success in a recording studio. Sadly, this is a realization lost on far too many athletes.

Athlete: Mary Lou Retton

Profession: Former Gymnast

Musical description: Peppy calisthenics for tykes

Album: ABC Fun Fit Featuring Mary Lou Retton

Best track: "Rock-Easy, No-Bounce, Floor Stretch"

Description: As much as I want to tear down Retton's kid-rock dreams—like a cruel Romanian coach ridiculing a gymnast to the point of verbally induced eating disorders, due to lack of skill on the pommel horse—I just can't do it. Like her perky personality, Retton's musical foray was brief and sort of harmless. It's like a Kathy Lee Gifford children's album, as done by a more flexible woman. That is all.

Athlete: Deion Sanders

Profession: Baseball and football player

Musical description: A less appealing MC Hammer

Album: Prime Time

Best track: "Y U NV Me?"

Description: Much like Jordan, there isn't a venture Deion won't try, and usually fail at. In addition to being the best—post-Bo Jackson—two-sports star, Deion has been a football commentator, award show host, preacher, Arena Football League team owner, actor, coach for the WNBA's Dallas Fury—oh, and he raps too. Well, sort of. Sanders' pal MC Hammer released Prime Time on his Bust-It Records imprint. So now you all finally know where MC Hammer's money went. Neon Deion's flow is cumbersome as he struggles to find his rhymes a home between wack hiphop and labored new jack swing.

Athlete: Various

Profession: Baseball players

Musical description: Bad Music in Various Genres

Album: Oh Say Can You Sing?

Best track: None

Description: This CD manages to ruin everything about this issue of the Mercury, as it's a solid argument that maybe sports and music should never be mixed. This bland compilation takes various not-too-known modern baseball players and has them perform songs ranging from country to rap. The only unifying factor, other than the singers' day jobs, is that every track is terrible. Only Bertha Franklin caused more harm to Sam Cooke than Ozzie Smith does with his dreadful cover of "Cupid." Also, I never thought I'd say it, but after hearing Jeff Conine's version of Stone Temple Pilot's "Plush," I missed the original.

Athlete: Raghib "Rocket" Ismail

Profession: Football player

Musical description: Jesus rap

Album: The Reign Cometh

Best track: "The Reign Cometh"

Description: Never living up to his dual Sports Illustrated covers at Notre Dame, Ismail will forever be known for bypassing the NFL to sign to the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. That is insane. Why not just sign to a Pop Warner team? In Canada. For girls. Anyway, after his career fizzled out, The Rocket clutched the mic and spit the gospel alongside "Christian hiphop veterans Robbie and Noel Arthurton." Oh god. The only thing worse than an ex-athlete rapping is one rapping for Christ. Poorly.

Athlete: Chris Webber

Profession: Basketball player

Musical description: Rap

Album: 2 Much Drama

Best Track: "Need Somebody"

Description: Always misunderstood, poor Chris Webber will forever be known as the player who called a phantom time out, thus costing Michigan a national championship in 1993. It's a tough legacy to shake, and maybe it's the motivation for pushing C-Web into the studio to explain why there is just 2 Much Drama in his life. Yes, getting paid millions to play hoops, date (a pre-crazy) Tyra Banks, and smoke blunts definitely seems like the source of 2 much drama. Let's all be thankful we're not saddled with such an existence.

Athlete: Various

Profession: Basketball players

Musical Description: Bad hiphop

Album: Basketball's Best Kept Secret

Best Track: "What the Kidd Didd," Jason Kidd

Description: Oh man, where to start? The precursor to the baseball version of this concept, Basketball's Best Kept Secret takes a bunch of mid-'90s NBA players and allows them to enter a recording studio without proper supervision. Gary "The Glove" Payton raps about "Livin' Legal and Large" while Malik Sealy is "Lost in the Sauce." And before you ask, yes, of course, Shaq is on this. Gee, wonder if Amazon carries any of these? "122 used & new available from $0.01." Eh, seems like too much to pay.

Athlete: Ron Artest

Profession: Basketball player

Musical description: Rap

Album: My World

Best track: "Haterz"

Description: Artest's finest moment came when he lost his shit and attacked a fan in the crowd during the infamous Pistons vs. Pacers 2004 brawl. In addition to going after fans and never living up to his god-given talent, Artest places the crosshairs on the greatest enemy to all basketball playing rappers: Matt Lauer. "Matt Lauer on NBC/You look like a girl, don't talk to me/We did the interview you automatically hated me/Talked about the brawl but didn't ask about family." What about Katie Couric? Why does she get off so easy? And why does Lauer need to talk about your family? "You tried to beat down a few basketball fans—in the freaking stands—so how's your mom? She cool?" My World was released by his own label, TruWarier (the name of which he had cut into the back of his hair), and made some news when it sold a pathetic 343 copies its opening week. Ouch.

Athlete: Alan Iverson

Profession: Basketball Player

Musical Description: Rap

Album: None

Best Track: "40 Barz"

Description: Recorded in 2001 under the moniker Jewelz (why not Jewel? Is that name taken?), Iverson's "40 Barz" was considered a bit too controversial to see proper release. Maybe a look at his lyrics will explain why that was? "Come to me wit faggot tendencies/You'll be sleepin where the maggots be." Oh, I see. Looks like Iverson and Tim Hardaway have more in common than crossover dribbles.

Athlete: Shaquille O'Neal

Profession: Basketball player

Musical description: Rap

Album: Shaq Diesel

Best track: "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)"

Description: Shaq Daddy wasn't the first basketball player to start rapping, but he sure has the deepest catalog. In fact, he even has a greatest hits compilation. One might argue that logic states you need actual hits to achieve this status, but Shaq Daddy cares not for your "logic." Also, you can't mention Shaq without paying attention to his greatest contribution to music, Aaron Carter's "That's How I Beat Shaq." From the pop tart's NAMBLA-ish debut album, Aaron's Party (Come Get It), the song features a tiny, frosted-tipped Carter schooling Shaq in one-on-one, and eventually causing the big man to cry. I cried upon listening, but for totally different reasons.

Athlete: Jack McDowell

Profession: Former baseball player

Musical description: Grunge lite

Album: Ape of the Kings

Best Track: "Hey Man"

Description: McDowell's pseudo-grunge rock band, Stickfigure, was able to stay active during his eleven-year career pitching in the big leagues. The band toured with likes of the Smithereens, and McDowell achieved grunge nirvana (get it?) by chilling with pal Eddie Vedder and sporting that edgy goatee on the mound. Musically, Stickfigure is like a kinder Seven Mary Three, but with a baseball player for a singer.

Athlete: Denny McClain

Profession: Former baseball player

Musical Description: Lounge

Album: At the Organ

Best Track: "Hurdy Gurdy Man"

Description: The one time, and last, 30-game winner in baseball, McClain has lived one seriously fucked-up life. After his brief success on the baseball diamond—but before getting locked up for drug trafficking, embezzlement, and racketeering—McClain convinced Capitol Records to release At the Organ. The album, made up of lounged-up covers, features McClain behind a stadium Hammond X-77 organ, the very same instrument used during Detroit Tigers games. Nice move Capitol, I'm assuming you discovered that untapped market of music fans dying for a shady baseball pitcher to organ up yesteryear's hits. What, major labels aren't doing well? You don't say?

Athlete: Terry Bradshaw

Profession: Former football player

Musical description: Country/Gospel

Album: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

Best track: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"

Description: Thankfully Hank Williams was long buried before Bradshaw's hokey cover became a top 20 country hit in 1976. Bradshaw recorded four albums, including the holiday-themed trainwreck Terry Bradshaw Sings Christmas Songs for the Whole World. Because, you know, the whole world celebrates Christmas. The Radio Shack pitchman also teamed with gospel singer Jake Hess for the playfully titled Terry&Jake, a spiritual duet record. Since its release Hess has unfortunately passed on; sadly, Bradshaw remains alive and well, his gleaming bald dome haunting us every football season.

Athlete: Cedric Ceballos

Profession: Former basketball player

Musical description: Rap

Album: Nuff Ced

Best track: None

Description: The one time slam dunk champion actually has pretty decent flow—too bad his Nuff Ced album is long out of print, only resurfacing for the purpose of gag gifts for early '90s Phoenix Suns fans. Don't worry Cedric, you still have acting as a fallback career. You were great in Space Jam.

Athlete: Bronson Arroyo

Profession: Baseball player

Musical Description: Grunge

Album: Covering the Bases

Best Track: None

Description: Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo is not known for making good decisions. There were those leaked photos online of him and a few NYU coeds, and rocking those white dude corn rows is just plain unacceptable. They make him look like a baseball-playing Juggalo. But the biggest mistake Arroyo ever made was his grunge cover album, Covering the Bases. Arroyo somehow thinks that people (fans?) want to hear his take on songs by Toad the Wet Sprocket, Foo Fighters, and The Goo Goo Dolls. Also, the pun-riddled title is more painful than any Alice in Chains cover could ever be, although it's pretty close.

Athlete: Kyle Turley

Profession: Former football player

Musical description: Death Metal

Album: Crush All Foes

Best track: None

Description: Like Artest, former New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Turley will forever be remembered for losing his temper, as he decapitated an opposing player of his helmet and hurled it down field mid-game (the helmet... not the head). When not taking out his rage against opposing teams' heads, Turley plays drums part-time in Arizona death metal band, Perpetual Death Mode. Their music is basically fat dude death metal, like a collection of ex-bouncers tossing back Keystone Lights and talking about how they miss Dimebag Darrell. He also co-owns Gridiron Records (ugh, what is with all the sports puns?), which releases records by Invitro, a band that wears tinfoil on their heads and tours with Sevendust. I have nothing to add to that—sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

Honorable Mentions: Scott Radinsky (Baseball Player), Kobe Bryant (Basketball Player), Jacques Villeneuve (Race Car Driver), Scott Spiezio (Baseball Player), Roy Jones Jr (Boxer), Bernie Williams (Baseball Player), Wayman Tisdale (Basketball Player), Oscar de la Hoya (Boxer), and Mike Reid (Football Player)

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