I’m not what you would call a music guy. I only have a small set of bands for which I have more than 10 songs. I’m into rock and easy listening mostly. However, I, like Scott, have a soft spot for a good amount of hip-hop and rap. The best example of this is the Cavalier warmup mixes I’ve made the past five seasons. First, a little background.
My buddy J.V. and I have known each other for a long time, but we became really good friends my freshman year at OSU. Two years my senior, J.V. showed me the college ropes, if you will, and he shares my intense Cleveland sports passion. I never would’ve had my own website without his nudging and writing contributions. Anyway, one thing we did even before we had the website was mess around with music to play before/during Cavaliers’ games. With a CD holding 18-20 songs, we got the idea of giving each of the 15 players their own song that fit their style of play or personality (at least, as far as we could tell from television interviews). Some songs fit perfect, while others we wedged into a player because we knew little about the player and just liked the song. Sometimes, it was just one line we keyed in on. Other times, it was like the song was written for the player.
With each season, the whole collection had a certain tone to it. In 2009, it was confidence and swagger. The next year, it was a more “now or never”, desperate approach. Last year, after all the summer fallout, it was a much more jaded and just trying to survive mix. This season, I’d like to think the mix (if there is a season, after all) will take on a “get up off the mat and start something special” quality to it.
I guess the first person to talk about is LeBron James. We gave him some pretty good songs, including “Hailie’s Song” by Eminem (’07-’08 season), “I Put On” by Young Jeezy (’08-’09, ironic now, ain’t it?), and finally, “Forever” by Drake, etc. (’09-’10). “Hailie’s Song” talks about the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, and at times, especially after the 2008 playoff exit where LeBron went man-up against Paul Pierce and came up short as no one else on the team could score in that Game 7, it felt like that. “Forever” was basically used as the main song in “More Than A Game”, so it was a no-brainer. We almost always filled the rest of the mix with a song or two at the start or the end, and last season’s mix had a certain Cee Lo Green song that involved “forgetting someone”, if you catch my drift.
My favorite Cavalier was and for a long time I expect it will be Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Z didn’t always get a hip-hop song. One year it was “Numb/Encore” by Jay Z and Linkin Park, when we thought it was going to be Z’s last meaningful season of basketball. (“Can I get an encore? Do you want more?… So for one last time I need y’all to roar”). The next season it was, “Time Is Running Out” by Papa Roach (Yea, I loved Z, but I saw the writing on the wall.) When Z came back from the Wizard buyout in the Jamison trade, it seemed fitting to give him “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” by Bon Jovi.
Mo Williams’s first song was “Live Your Life” by TI, simply because the lyrics were so uplifting, which fit Mo coming into a winning situation after not having played on successful teams. (“They say what goes up must come down but I ain’t reach my cruisin altitude/Take a look at what I did, but can you imagine what I’m about to do?/The places I’m ’bout to go and the money I’m ’bout to see/Gave Bill Gates some binoculars and said, “Look out for ME!”). That was a time of unbound optimism, where I saw no way that the Cavaliers weren’t going to get the job done very, very soon. After Mo’s playoff struggles in ’09, I went with another TI song, “Live Your Life”, which has a message about ignoring the haters and just trying to remain positive. (So keep on gettin’ your paper and keep on climbin’/Look in the mirror and keep on shinin/”Til the game ends, ’til the clock stop/We gon’ post up on the top spot). Post-LBJ, Mo’s song for last season was subdued, sobering, yet left opening for a light at the end of the tunnel, John Legend’s “Wake Up Everybody”.
They weren’t all flattering songs. Take for instance the last two we chose for Delonte West, “My Life” by The Game and Lil’ Wayne and “Family Business” by Kanye West. Both are a little bit darker and reflect what was going on with Delonte, including the Cavaliers trying to keep West’s demons private in the face of his time away from the team. (This is family business/And this is for the family that can’t be with us). Of course, this line reminded so much of the fun-loving photo-taking nature of that team, (Now, we gettin’ it and we gon’ make it/And y’all gon’ hate it and I’m his favorite/I can’t deny it, I’m a straight rider/But when we get together be electric slidin’/Grandma, get ’em shook up/Aw naw, don’t open the photo book up). Some others that were less than flattering: Sasha Pavlovic (“Bent” by Matchbox Twenty), the late Lorenzen Wright (“Get By” by Talib Kweli), Tarence Kinsey (“Wadsyaname” by Nelly), and Samardo Samuels (“U Don’t Know Me” by TI).
One of my favorite selections (credit goes to J.V.) was J.J. Hickson’s song for the ’08-’09 season, “Missed the Bus” by Kris Kross. If you recall, the rookie J.J. missed the bus to a preseason game and was in Mike Brown’s doghouse for a short period of time. This happened as we were compiling the mix, so it was a beautiful fit and made us laugh every time we listened to it.
We always liked to throw as much Cleveland flavor into the mix as we could, so a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony song was almost a requirement. It usually went to Cleveland native Jawad Williams, (“Notorious Thugs”, “C-Town”, and “Cleveland Is The City” were his songs) but another one of the more creative choices was for original 10-day contractor and Cleveland State point guard Cedric Jackson, who was slapped with “1st of Tha Month”, representing his day-to-day reality on the 10-day contract in the NBA.
Just for fun, here are some other noteworthy selections: Anderson Varejao (’10-’11 season, “I’m So Paid” by Akon), Boobie Gibson (“Warrior” by Nelly), Antawn Jamison after the trade in 2010 (“Throw It In The Bag” by Fabolous), Ramon Sessions (“All The Above” by Maino), and Ryan Hollins (“Always Strapped” by Birdman).
Part of me feels silly for writing this article, chronicling how obsessed I was with those Cavalier teams and how I spent hours upon hours over the course of a season creating and listening to these mixes. Then again, every time I hear one of these songs, it brings back memories of that player, that team, that era. It reminds me of how much fun my friends and I had watching those seasons of Cavalier basketball. It brings to mind why I started sports blogging and why I’m here with WFNY today.
Right now, it’s not the same… everyone knows that. But, there will still be a season (eventually… I think), there will still be players to root for, and when there are games to play, you can bet there will be a new mix for my listening pleasure.