Love for This Club: Usher’s Confounding Run as Cavaliers Part-Owner

Prolific urban crooner Usher Raymond IV achieved marginal fame in the 1990s, but he reached prominence after releasing 2004 mega-hit Confessions. It sold over 10 million copies, especially strong considering the crop of releases from that year, which included laudatory albums from Ashlee Simpson, martial artist and current celebrity sheriff Steven Seagal, and slightly drunk hood-hopping teen J-Kwon. Netting the highest grossing first week in R&B history meant that we got to see Usher just about everywhere- cutting the dance floor/rug on MTV countdown bonanza Total Request Live, graciously accepting trophies from the seemingly endless barrage of awards shows, and (perhaps in a nod to Ludacris’ pledge to “milk the cow” in Yeah) endorsing calcium-fortified nectar from a cow’s teat.

But in 2005, Ur-sher brought “the voice to make the booty go” to Quicken Loans Arena, helping to usher in a new era of Cleveland prosperity. “I look for Cleveland to be my home away from home,” Raymond proclaimed. Usher’s business arrangement with majority owner Dan Gilbert brought the requisite sex appeal to Quicken Loans’ tax empire, a seminal marriage of business and pleasure. During the honeymoon, Usher was at many of the games, invigorating the city with an awesome new hand symbol that really got the crowd going.

C up, C-town…inverted?

It was an exciting time for Cavaliers basketball. Fans would play Where’s Waldo, searching for the man with the flat brimmed cap. We had an exciting new owner in Gilbert, who could see that the team needed to spend money and was willing to open the coffers. A local talent who had yet to trade his hairline for an outside jumper. Even the pregame pyrotechnics let it burn in Cleveland.

As for my confessions? Let’s just say that I could shine in a Confessions karaoke contest if the machine malfunctioned.

But ever since the early flames of excitement burned out, it seems like Usher has had trouble finding his seats. After being at many games in 2005, Usher has been MIA on a nightly basis. Rumors surfaced that Raymond wasn’t able to pony up the 50 million he pledged to join the ownership group, or that he had a falling out with the organization after former coach Paul Silas booted him and his entourage out of the dressing room. Both plausible, but unconfirmed.

In 2006, after Usher lost interest in his new toy, his publicist told AP’s Tom Withers that he is still a minority owner of the team. A US News article from 2009 pins the blame for Usher’s absence on a n uncustomary culprit: volunteering. It alleges that between campaigning for Obama in 2008, the birth of his son, and trying to halt malaria in Africa, Usher is simply too busy to show any sort of public support for silly endeavors like basketball. Charity is serious business that quarantines celebrities from the spotlight for years at a time, as we learn from other prolific humanitarians like Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah, difference-makers who shun the spotlight.

But for a definitive answer, we tun to America’s biggest talking head (literally), George Lopez.

During the 2010 playoffs, Lopez proposes a friendly wager pitting the fortunes of his Lakers against the success of Usher’s Cavs, and Usher is “wit it.” Lopez states in the clip that Usher is still a part owner, and Usher brags about the Cavs “being rewarded the Eastern Championship Conference” as a picture of him with LeBron appears on the screen. For what it’s worth, James appears annoyed and disinterested with Raymond’s presence. Furthermore, Usher pledges allegiance to his fandom by accepting some serious stakes: If the Lakers do better than the Cavs, Usher’s wax figure has to wear a Lakers jersey for ONE WHOLE DAY. That’s a gamblin’ man who loves his team right there. After a needless Facebook tie-in, the clip ends with Scrawl So Hard favorite Ron Artest coming out, presumably to intimidate Usher with his dual cred citizenship as a both basketball player and member of the rap game.

So Usher is still here in Cleveland, but in some sort of bizarro sideshow where he could care less about the actual games. Usher’s influence could have been pivotal, but has instead dissolved into a mutually useless relationship between himself and the Cavs.

At this point, Usher, life is reflecting art- yours.

It's been a long time comin
But we done been fell apart
I really wanna work this out
But I don't think it's gonna change
I do but you don't
Think it's best we go our separate ways

Burn by Usher

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YOLO of the Week 1

By Matt Lardner

By now, high school kids, Twitter, and high school kids on Twitter have ensured we all know that it isn’t possible to live twice. The “word” YOLO sounds like mutated frozen yogurt, but it’s mutated frozen yogurt that’s taking a generation by storm. That’s why I’ve decided, in the one life I’m allotted, to Scrawl ferociously. I’ll be spouting off on a myriad of subjects, but effective now, I’m instituting a shared column in which we profile recklessness, ignorance, and a general disregard for caution. Scrawlers, welcome to YOLO of the Week.

I was going to claim that this piece on The U guard Shenise Johnson would catapult her into celebrity, but she already seems like quite a hit in the mainstream realm of women’s college basketball. Shenise leads her team in points, rebounds, and assists, and projects as a lottery pick for the WNBA team with the most Nick Gilbert mojo. Coach Katie Meier even calls Shenise “the face of the program.”

Unfortunately for the lady Hurricanes, Shenise Johnson is a descendant of the Scot Pollard Tree of Terrible Advice. In the February 20th edition of ESPN the Magazine (which I guess makes this the YOLO of a couple weeks ago), Shenise was asked, “What’s the worst advice you’ve ever heard?”

It’s important to note that Shenise is a member of the YOLO generation. Her name sounds like it was pulled straight from Petey Pablo’s biggest hit (a song that I can’t wait to use when I breed a daughter– it’s like an auditory 21st-century baby name book). I hit the Twitter goldmine, where I verified the YOLO in Shenise within 10 days of recent tweets.

Also, The U doesn’t exactly have the reputation of an upstanding school with academics at their forefront.The Nevin Shapiro incidents, where players were spoiled by boosters and making bank on an NFL level, soiled the program’s name. The 7th Floor Crew dropped a track that traded the school’s reputation for an in-depth look at Greg Olsen’s ejaculatory tendencies. Googling “miami u scandal” yields close to 8 million results.

Not pictured - any of Olsen's three legs.

Now that the scene is set, we can move on to Shenise’s answer. What does the face of a program trying to rebuild its academic reputation consider the WORST ADVICE she has EVER received?

You know what I admire about Shenise Johnson? That in the face of adversity (adversity being literally every study ever conducted), Shenise sticks to her guns: “Who says school will help you have a better job at the end of the day?” Only The United States Government, wire service Reuters, and Georgetown, a school that apparently took time off from brawling with the Chinese to conduct a study with the most obvious conclusion of all time (next up: is Jared Lorenzen a bit too large to play quarterback?).

Shenise Johnson’s hatred of general statements must create problems on the court; imagine if one of the 16 fans shouts some passe encouragement, like “You can do it!” or “Defense!” Would Shenise turn the other cheek or would there be Malice in the BankUnited Center? Perhaps the reason why that advice is so general might just be because it makes sense.

Shenise is more than willing to believe in the Bible, yet dispels education as a myth. Ahh, yes. I was reading this super-prestigious science journal about making an entire new person out of someone’s lung and walking atop water for yards at a time (do you think Jesus’ watertop 40 time was wind-aided?), and then in my leisure time I read a fairy-tale about reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic.

Speaking of fairy-tales, 11 seed Gonzaga is the talk whisper of the NCAAW tournament, Cinderellas for knocking off 6th seeded Rutgers before defeating Johnson’s 3rd seeded Lady ‘Canes. I firmly believe that if Johnson wasn’t so busy thinking about petty distractions such as academics, they would have been focused enough to win. She lamented having to work on a book review in February (“who still does book reviews in college as a senior? Geeesh…”). Yet somehow, Johnson has navigated through that useless minefield called learning, and is set to graduate in the spring. Rumored destinations for her diploma are mixed, but the one spot ruled out so far is on her resume.

Shenise’s next question asks her who she doesn’t envy, and she replies Lebron James, because he is subjected to so much scrutiny. To that I say:
1. “scrutinized” wouldn’t be in Johnson’s vocabulary if she practiced what she preached.
2. Oops.

Matt Lardner lives vicariously through his Twitter followers. Join the fun @bigpoppalard. Promise I won’t make general statements.