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Malee: Imagining what would happen if sports’ greatest duos broke up



If you’re the music-listening type, you might know that one Jack White has a new solo album, “Blunderbuss”, that comes out today. The guitar virtuoso, most famously known as the frontman of the now defunct blues-rock duo The White Stripes, has dabbled in other projects for quite some time now, but this is his debut as a solo artist. @@http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jack-white-to-release-solo-debut-blunderbuss-i[email protected]@

The album started streaming for free about a week before today’s release, so I had a chance to give it a few listens before finally dropping ten digital dollars on it. Predictably, it’s great — somehow managing to feel both fresh and true to White’s roots. So, if nothing else, White has proven that he’ll do just fine without his sister/wife/drummer Meg White in the picture. Where some might have foreseen his downfall when the Stripes broke up last year, this fine new album proves exactly the opposite.

With that in mind, I got to thinking about the dynamic duos in sports, and how each member would fare without the other. Jordan and Pippen, Jeter and A-Rod, Durant and Westbrook, Latrell Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo (just kidding). We spend much of our time these days debating how players fit alongside each other, whether they can “co-exist” on the playing field and join hands to reach the promised land of a championship berth (and with that, I’ve managed to fit about 20 sports cliches into one sentence. One of my proudest moments as a sports writer). @@http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1011658/[email protected]@

Within all of this debate, we rarely stop to wonder what would happen if these duos were to be broken up. In some cases, the question was answered for us — when Jordan retired for the first time, Pippen didn’t react well to being the top dog and eventually benched himself at the end of a playoff game (true story). Donovan McNabb was never the same after Terrell Owens left the Eagles (although that may have had more to do with post-traumatic stress disorder than anything else). Sometimes the splits are good for both parties, but the “Jack White” effect is still rare. With that in mind, let’s look at a few current examples: @@http://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/14/sports/pro-b[email protected]@

Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James: 

We’ll start locally here, with the spring game approaching and all. Technically, James and Barner weren’t exactly a “duo,” since they rarely played at the same time, but they were so close off the field and dominant on it that you could feasibly term them a “pair.”

James is off to the NFL now, and though Barner apparently flirted with the idea of joining him, he instead returns for his senior year as Oregon’s new top dog at running back. While his talent has always been apparent, some wonder whether Barner can stay healthy and productive while carrying the ball 20 to 25 times a game. We won’t know until the fall, but there’s little reason to doubt him. His impression during spring practices has been calm and collected, a quiet leader who remains entirely assured of his abilities. Oregon will miss James, for sure (though at least we have his amazing Twitter account), but Barner is ready to carry the load. If we’re continuing the Jack White comparison, 2012 will be Barner’s “Blunderbuss”and maybe even more than that. @@https://twitter.com/#!/LaMichaelJames/status/[email protected]@

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: 

With both signed to long-term contracts, there’s little to no chance of this duo pulling a White Stripes any time soon. And yet, that still hasn’t kept the pundits from endlessly debating the merits of this explosive pairing, with the implicit notion that it can’t work if the Thunder are to win an NBA title. @@http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/[email protected]@ @@http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/19/sports/[email protected]@

Personally, I think this is ludicrous. Yes, their music at times resembles a startup garage punk band more than anything else, but when they’re truly in sync, it’s singularly terrifying. Considering that their combined age of 46 is just a few years older than Juwan Howard, I think it’s safe to say there’s room to grow. When you have two guys with that much pure talent, you don’t mess with it unless they’ve truly reached Kobe-Shaq levels of hatred. I don’t see that happening with these two, so we can go ahead and assume their shelf-life might be even longer than the White Stripes’ 14 years. And if not, both are certainly capable of some Jack White solo magic of their own. @@http://www.youtube.com/[email protected]@ @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kevin_durant/@@ @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/russell_westbrook/@@ @@http://www.nba.com/playerfile/juwan_howard/@@ @@http://www.allmusic.com/artist/[email protected]@

ESPN and headline writing: 

Here, we have a case of two parties that would be best suited to go their separate ways. Between the Jeremy Lin fiasco, a very questionable “happy endings” header for Korean-American Hines Ward’s retirement, and the unintentionally hilarious “Ozzie considers Castro a future MVP” (he meant Starlin Castro, of the Chicago Cubs) right after his controversial Fidel Castro comments, I think it’s safe to say that ESPN sets headline writing back about 10 years with every fault. Just this past weekend, the best they could come up with after White Sox pitcher Philip Humber threw a perfect game was, “Perfectly Perfect.” If that doesn’t read, “I give up,” then I don’t know what does.

Sometimes, it’s just time to move on. The partnership has reached its wits end, ESPN. Unfortunately, you might become the Meg White of this relationship. Because, as we all know, great headline writing will live forever. @@http://deadspin.com/5889679/espns-hines-ward-happy-endin[email protected]@ @@http://deadspin.com/5903410/ozzie-guil[email protected]@ @@http://jimromenesko.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/[email protected]@


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