My friends and I love making tenuous connections between athletes and musicians, then making them into the veritable capstone theses they were meant to be. It's the perfect time for the first one, as Britney Spears' Blackout looks like it's actually going to do all right. That keeps the comparison between her and Juwan Howard going. Now she just needs to stagger on, declining in both relevance and ability. Oh, and then she needs to turn things around and turn out to be a decent old chick, mentoring a few young 'uns and starting philanthropic organizations.
The Early Years
Britney was a Mouseketeer, as we all know. (What a weird world.) She was a gymnast as a kid, grew up to Disney-fame, briefly joined a pop group, left it, and cut what was probably an incredible demo. SHe was never an outstanding singer, but had a breathy charisma that got her signed [snaps fingers] like that to Jive, which might as well have been the University of Michigan. Jive was also scooping up the Backstreet Boys and N' Sync, which in Howard's timeline would be...
Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. It's fun to think of Jalen as part of N'Sync. Or maybe his game was more finesse, like Backstreet. Anyway, Juwan was a hardworking, relatively quiet momma's boy who went from high school fame [and an appearance in the best sports documentary ever] to the greatest freshman class ever, the Fab Five. Yes, even better than Jive's class of '98.
Britney rubbed her then-modest bosom on the glass of America's consciousness with "...Baby One More Time," and its accompanying controversy of possible suggested domestic abuse in the lyrics. [How innocent we were.] Her album of the same name went freaking diamond, and she became, arguably, the biggest pop star in the world. And clearly, after she followed that up with Oops...I Did It Again and its puberty-inducing red latex video, she was caked up for life. Even after the later meltdown, she's clearly not running out of dough anytime soon.
Neither is Juwan. He and the other four Fabs almost won the NCAA championship twice, and Howard was many people's favorite for his All-American game, image, and goatee. Like Spears, he emitted a kind of uniquely American wholesomeness. Quiet and grimacing, he didn't have the overwhelming ebullience of Jalen or the thug-from-the-suburbs quandary of Webber, who joined him in the NBA with the Washington Bullets. Howard went from All-American to All-Rookie to All-NBA and All-Star in his first three seasons. Then he signed the then-richest contract in the history of basketball, becoming the sport's first $100 million dollar man. No exaggeration: the dude had a case for most popular player in the league. His '95-'96 season is his Oops...
The Decline and Fall
In his third year in the league, Howard looked on track for the Hall of Fame. After two diamond albums to begin her career, Britney looked like this:
But of course, that wouldn't last. While Juwan never made another All-Star team, Britney did have two more #1 debuts. Juwan never sniffed a championship due to a lot of unfortunate injuries and bounced from team to team. Britney never sniffed
coke critical acceptance, much less acclaim, due to her people letting her try to songwrite and less cohesive production. Juwan went from All-American dude to overpaid villain - when Sports Illustrated [whoo, there's a 'dead to me'] ran a feature on why college basketball was better than pro basketball, he was one of the reasons. Britney started being loopy and had a Vegas marriage, then copped some broad's man and had a reality show with him.
Sure, there were bright spots for both - Juwan got a few playoff runs, most notably with Dallas, Britney slipped a violently sexy song past the TRL crowd. Oh, and Britney went absolutely batshit insane, married a dude only slightly less so, popped out a few kids, and inspired plenty of debate about her fall from grace. And though she's making the worst music of her career, it looks like she'll still sell a few. Which is boggling, because I'd rather sleep with this dude than her:
It's the goatee. Beard game proper.
Britney apparently isn't even going to promote her album, so in terms of timeline she's headed right past Juwan downhill. He kept going at a good-but-not-great pace for a long time. You hear that, Brit? Don't eff up my crossover.
Who should be more embarassed?
Gotta be Juwan. No one forward this to him. But to be fair, Britney was more succesful in her field. It's just no one's actively hating on Juwan Howard, and he probably is banging his fine wife in a house the size of Delaware right now, while someone my age is paying off their loan by getting a crucial Britney crotch shot.