“Pick-and-Pop” is a new pop culture-based column from TBJ correspondent Andrew Unterberger. It’ll be here every Thursday. Enjoy.
When it was announced that Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber would be participating in this year’s highly-anticipated Celebrity All-Star Game, it seemed the most natural of fits. A multi-million-selling teen idol with a much-imitated haircut and his very own swagger coach, The Bieb clearly possesses the natural balling instincts needed to thrive in such a cutthroat competition. What’s more, as demonstrated in his face-offs with hoop greats Shaquille O’Neal and Usher, the pipsqueak is not without some moves (though his mid-range game appears to still be a little raw — give it time).
So naturally, this begs the question: What teen pop stars of years past might have made for similar no-brainer selections to the Celebrity All-Star Game?
Well, after giving the matter some thought, I’ve come up with a potential starting five. All Bird/Magic-era forward, of course — Leif Garrett and Donny Osmond might have been scoring dynamos in their days, but who knows how their stats would translate to modern times?
Lil’ Bow Wow
Team Role: Point guard, crowd-pleaser
Pro Equivalent: Allen Iverson, with Nate Robinson temperament
Game: Get the obvious one out of the way first, as LBW is the only member of Team Teen Pop (let’s call ‘em the Platinums — too bad there’s already a pro team in Orlando) with his own movie showcasing his arguably CGI-enhanced baller skills. Nonetheless, Bow Wow did show off some legit-looking chops in his star vehicle, with the speed, creativity, and high basketball IQ needed to lead the Platinums to success. A predilection towards showboating means that Bow Wow might occasionally need a strong coaching influence to keep him in check, but I believe the team-first instincts are there. Observe these lyrics from his ’02 revision of Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” — “My favorite play is the alley-oop / I like the pick-and-roll / I like the give-and-go / It’s basketball, Bow Wow, let’s go.” Clearly, a teen who knows that pro ball is more than just one-on-one showmanship.
“Marky” Mark Wahlberg
Team Role: Undersized power forward, enforcer
Pro Equivalent: DeJuan Blair with more technical fouls
Game: Relatively short (only 5-foot-7, who knew?) but impossibly hotheaded and juiced to the nines, honorary New Kid and eventual Funky Bunch ringleader Mark Wahlberg is probably the closest thing the Platinums could come up with to an on-court intimidator. Yeah, he’d probably drive his coach insane by gambling on defense and getting called for countless dumb fouls, but would you want to drive the lane against this guy? His game rep might be hurt a little by his team’s infamous meltdown in his final game for St. Vitus high school, but he was already 24 and rail-thin by that point (and also whacked out of his mind on downers), so we’ll try not to hold that against him.
Team Role: Shooting guard, unapologetic gunner
Pro Equivalent: Young Kobe Bryant, slightly more intelligible Nick Young
Game: They say he’s nasty, but he don’t give a damn — getting buckets is how he lives. Arguably the most egomaniacal and narcissistic star in a profession loaded with narcissists and egomaniacs, Bobby Brown’s tenure with New Edition and especially his subsequent breakout solo career show he would have been right at home with the wayward souls of the Dream Team II-era NBA. Still, when the shots were falling — as with the five straight top ten singles off of “Don’t Be Cruel” — no one could light it up quite like Bobby. However, the Platinums just might need to bring in Ronnie, Ricky and Mike in as assistant coaches to occasionally remind Bobby, to y’know, slow his roll once in a while.
Team Role: Post defender, general glue guy
Pro Equivalent: Socially awkward Chuck Hayes
Game: On a team so chock-full of stars, we need at least one guy willing to take a backseat and do the dirty work. Isaac Hanson, constantly overshadowed during his titular band’s success by their precocious drummer and hot-chick singer, knows that sometimes it’s the solid, underappreciated guitar work of a starting lineup that prevents the whole team from ultimately going off the rails. As the elder statesman of Hanson at 17 years young, Isaac also provides veteran leadership, and uses his pro savvy to do all the little things that don’t show up in the box score. Besides, our team is badly lacking in the height department, and at 5’10″, Isaac is basically the Shawn Bradley of the Platinums.
Team Role: Designated sharpshooter
Pro Equivalent: Kyle Korver (with breasts), Eddy Curry (without everything except the breasts)
Game: Given that the Celebrity All-Star Game is the one primary event of the NBA season to encourage inter-gendered team play, it would seem a shame not to include at least one female teen pop star on the Platinums. The choices are not great, I’ll give you, but I ended up with Britney for two reasons — her oft-reported Kobe-like work ethic when it comes to physical fitness (minus that two or three year period last decade where things got a little weird), and that shot of her furtively spinning the basketball in the “…Baby One More Time” video. I dunno, seems like she might have the jock gene in her somewhere. Run her off some hard screens four or five times a game, let her fire away and see what happens.
Did I miss anyone? Pissed off at my lack of Backstreet Boys or N Sync members? (Considered including JT, but figured that’d cause locker-room weirdness with Britney.) Lemme know.