Commentary

Big dreams … but no crossover move

Updated: August 2, 2011, 12:56 AM ET
By Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott | Special to ESPN.com

It's fairly obvious to anybody reading a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. column on ESPN.com that sports and music intersect in many places -- even outside the Hootie and the Blowfish video "Only Wanna Be With You."

[+] EnlargeRod Stewart
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesRod Stewart's musical career has lasted far longer than his soccer career would have, no matter how much he drank.

In the past week, we have been filming a video for the song "Simple Girl." The video features a bunch of kids and ourselves playing pickup basketball -- so we've found ourselves out on the courts quite often the past few days.

While our skills might have diminished a bit since we played more regularly, playing so much recently has brought back a fire in us that might have been dormant since our middle school days. You see, we all have an inner Dikembe Mutombo waiting to shake the proverbial index finger after a rejection.

Just today, in fact, Josh blocked a 10-year-old's shot like only an insensitive, childless man could do and then bellowed, "NOT IN MY HOUSE," loud enough to make the kid cry. We can't help but feel this is emblematic of the fact that humans need to exercise a healthy dose of competitive energy and that many of society's norms frown upon being competitive.

Being on the set of a music video or film is really far different than the average person might expect. Every scene must be shot more than twice for safety, and the time in between takes is sometimes as much as an hour.

Having a basketball court in this scenario is like an answer to our prayers. We can play H-O-R-S-E and 21 or have 3-point contests. Making each other and the little kids we cast for paltry wages look silly has become our pastime, and it's made us jealous of the professional athletes who get to do it for a living.

While Josh looks like a regular Serge Ibaka playing against 10-year-olds, we realize we are not blessed with the athletic prowess and talent necessary to make it a career. We know a pickup game with elementary students is likely the best it will ever get for us.

The discussion we've been having this week, though, in light of all these revelations, is why on earth do so many athletes want to become musicians?

If you're a professional athlete in one of the four major North American professional sports leagues, you make more money as a league minimum player than 97 percent of all musicians. In fact, the massage therapists of professional football teams likely make more money than most musicians do.

This makes it all the more irritating to many struggling musicians that Shaquille O'Neal put out an album that went platinum.

Don't get us wrong; the collabo he did with the Fu-Schnickens was a jam. But there are only so many records that can go platinum, and Shaq didn't really need a hit record. The world needed Shaq, though, and on "(I Know I Got) Skillz," he left the world so captivated that he got cast in the film "Kazaam." (On a side note, we are eagerly awaiting the inevitable "Shaq as a police officer" reality show that is bound to come along with his retirement.)

"Kazaam" might not have been a hit, but Shaq's foray into the arts was a model that inspired many other athletes nonetheless.

Rick Fox retired from the Lakers, prematurely in the eyes of some, to focus on acting. He's proved us doubters all wrong, though, with his long list of credits from "Ugly Betty" to Spike Lee's "He Got Game" -- in which he played alongside fellow NBA star Ray Allen.

Other athletes who have ventured into music, however, have not fared quite as well as Shaq did.

Ron Artest put out a record during his suspension from the NBA that sold fewer copies than the number of technical fouls he's accumulated during his career. Allen Iverson also had a hugely unsuccessful release even though he was able to leverage his song "40 Bars" into a Reebok commercial.

Golfer John Daly released an album that sold a bit better than those of Artest and Iverson, but its proceeds still couldn't pay off a night's gambling debt in the Bahamas.

Conversely, far fewer professional musicians have tried to become pro athletes. Rod Stewart at one point wanted to be a professional soccer player but said, "I can … get drunk and make music, and I can't do that and play football."

Perhaps those types of vices prevent many musicians from athletic competition?

Since we are in a competitive head space this week and we are constantly playing basketball, we have done our best to come up with the "all-star" basketball team of musicians that we'd like to see compete somewhere … someday on behalf of all musicians.

[+] EnlargePercy Miller
Harry How/Getty ImagesPercy Miller, aka Master P, gave the NBA a good shot in 1999 but couldn't make it beyond exhibition games.

It goes as follows:

Center: Win Butler (Arcade Fire) -- He's tall, he's got unlimited intensity and he'll steal your basketball.

Power forward: Snoop Dogg -- Apparently, Snoop was attracting a lot of attention from college basketball scouts before opting to pursue hip-hop. He would, of course, be asked to lay off the chronic before game time.

Small forward: Master P -- He's the all-star here. Master P actually came the closest to crossing over into pro sports when he scored a non-guaranteed contract with the Toronto Raptors after playing in some NBA exhibition games with Charlotte. Plus his big, bellowing "uhhhhhhs" could be pretty intimidating.

Shooting guard: Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) -- The guys in Pearl Jam were combining sports and music before Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were out of elementary school when they named their band "Mookie Blaylock" after the former Oklahoma star and NBA player. The name was eventually changed to Pearl Jam, and the rest is history. We know some people who have played a pickup game with Ament, and he has game. He often mixes it up with former pros.

Point guard: Prince -- Nearly everyone has heard the tales of Prince playing basketball with late night guests at his residence, but what they don't know is that it's all true. Prince is actually, apparently, a monster on the court. We couldn't think of anyone better to run the point than "The Purple One."

If someday they come up with "competitive yoga," we believe the musicians might have an upper hand. Until that day, however, we all probably should stick to doing what it is we do best.

Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are contributing a bi-weekly sports blog for ESPN Music. The Detroit indie dance-pop -- or hip-hop folk -- duo just released "It's A Corporate World," and they might soon be making a pit stop in a town near you.

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