by Lang Whitaker
Another long day today. I’ll tell you what: If they really want to cure Amy Winehouse, have her hang in the SLAM crew for a few days at All-Star. If she can survive one weekend, she’ll be running to rehab.
After going to bed Friday night/Saturday morning at 4:00 a.m., I woke up at 8:15 and met Ben in the lobby around 9:00 a.m. We strolled through the quiet morning streets to the Convention Center to check out the adidas/PeacePlayers event, and to see our senior writer (and PeacePlayers employee) Aggrey Sam in action. In general, I hate convention centers because they’re always the biggest buildings in any particular city, so you usually have to walk hundreds of miles to get from one end to the other. By the time we got the media entrance, I’m pretty sure we were in Arkansas.
Once inside we found the court and were escorted into the “green room,” which wasn’t green, to chill for a second with the adidas Brotherhood. Tim Duncan was sitting silently in a corner, while KG was huddled up with a couple of writers. I was still out of it and if I was an NBA player I would’ve been listed as suffering from “flu-like symptoms.”
After watching for a while, we realized we needed to get our credentials so we could go to practice, so Ben and I hopped a cab a few miles back to the hotel, got credentialed (where I found Ric Bucher’s credential on the floor by the table) and headed back to the Convention Center. This time we brought along Khalid and my main man Sekou Smith from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. All morning, Sekou was working on nailing down the details of the Mike Bibby trade, and I was giddy about the possibility of the Hawks bringing in Bibby. Plus they gave up…not a lot. As one NBA observer emailed me, “Name four Hawks you could live without…and there you go?” You better believe there I go. Love it, love it, love it.
We finally got back to the convention center, when I went to work with my camera and filmed the media day video (you can watch that here). From there we walked back to the hotel and then went by the SLAM/LRG gifting suite, which was set up all weekend for various celebs and ballers to come through and get kitted out. It was set up in a penthouse suite atop a building a few blocks from hotel, with a few flatscreens and 360s, a table full of G-Shock watches, a full open bar and a closet full of LRG gear. As officials partners, Sam, Khalid and I felt it was necessary to go by, check in on everything and, most importantly, sample all the giveaways. And so we did.
Khalid has a friend from college named Tino who lives in N’awlins, so Tino met up with us and took us to lunch in the Uptown district, where Tulane is located. I had shrimp etouffe that was pretty amazing. Sam and Khalid were so intoxicated by the food that they went on ‘head and ordered dessert, too. I was so full from the shrimp that I had to sit that one out.
We all busted back the to hotel and met up with Ben, and then we all swung by the adidas suite in the French Quarter and picked up personalized All-Star jerseys they’d made for each of us. I also inexplicably found a Dominique Wilkins t-shirt that lasted about three seconds before getting buried in my bag. By the way, if you’ve never been to New Orleans, it’s one of the most charming cities I’ve ever been to. More on that tomorrow, though.
The SLAM crew hustled back to our hotel, dodging a light rain, then hopped a bus over to the New Orleans Arena for All-Star Saturday Night. As usual, once we arrived at the arena there was much confusion, with nobody sure where the media entrance was. A few security guards pointed us up a ramp, and we got to the top in time to find a bottleneck, and we were in line behind Chris Paul’s parents. Yes, the king of All-Star Weekend’s parents were stuck in a long line just like everyone else.
No time for dinner, so we found our seats alongside SLAM senior writer (and New Orleans resident) Aggrey Sam, and we took in an all-in-all entertaining evening. At every All-Star dunk contest I’ve been to (well, except Houston) there’s been at least one dunk that got everyone geeked, but I thought Dwight’s entire performance was a tour de force. And the entire time I kept thinking about how far he’s come since this.
The night was over, but in a way it was just getting started. We ended up walking back from our the arena to our hotel, about a 20 minute hike. Dropped our bags, changed, cleaned up a little. Sam, Aggrey and Ben headed out for Bourbon Street, so I’ll reports of any debauchery they encountered to them.
Khalid and I met up with Tino, then hooked up with XXL mag’s (and SLAM contributor) Branden Peters and two of his friends to hit a highly anticipated event: The Playboy Party.
Earlier in the week, Branden had forwarded us a press release about the party, and Khalid and I immediately emailed and got our names on the list. It was sponsored by Crown Royal and somehow had a barber shop set up in this cavernous club. There were also stacks of Playboy magazine on every table, which was…interesting. The dance floor was stacked with stacked ladies, but I ended up standing to the side and talking with my main man Maurice from Atlanta about the Bibby trade. Fine, we’re basketball nerds. Sorry.
Meanwhile, Branden was getting text message from people at the LeBron/Jay-Z party saying that it was awesome. We figured out that it was going down just a few blocks from where we were, so we rolled out to check it out. We got to the club and found about 100 people milling about outside, unable to get in. We weren’t on the guest list as far as I knew, but we managed to get through the first level of security, and then found ourselves at the door. I’m not sure what Branden said to the people at the door, but before I knew it we were being handed wristbands and escorted inside.
It was a huge club, and while it was crowded it wasn’t overcrowded. I found my main man Arash Markazi and we camped out on the edge of the dance floor, exchanging stories and keeping an eye on things. And drinking. DJ Clark Kent was on the wheels of steel, and he expertly mixed and matched tunes by Jay-Z, Biggie, newer artists and more Jay-Z. Not to slight Clark Kent, but Dj’ing a Jay-Z party must be the easiest thing in the world, because by the time you play all of Jay’s hits that’s about 4 hours right there.
The usual suspects were in the house, from Warren Sapp to LeBron to a collection of New York Giants to Jay himself. Didn’t see many other NBA players, and I didn’t see Young B. I did speak for a hot minute to some guy named Wes. Mostly we all just kinda bounced to song after song on the edge of the floor, soaking in the music, enjoying a brief escape from reality. Next thing we knew it was nearly 4:00 a.m. We started hiking back to our hotel on Canal Street, and passing Harrah’s Casino found it packed, with lines of people still hoping to get in. We stopped to take in the sight and bumped into Damon “Basketball” Jones. I gave him a hard time for choosing a game against the Hawks two weeks ago to finally break out a little bit, and he said something about how they can no longer call Philips Arena “The Highlight Factory.” Funny, Jones, real funny.
Some of our crew wanted to hit Bourbon Street, but Arash and I were both dunzo, so we straggled back to our hotel.
Around 4:30 a.m., I entered the room, accidentally waking Sam.
“Where’d you guys end up?” he asked.
“Long story,” I explained, “but we ended up at LeBron and Jay-Z’s party. And yes, it was really dope.”
“I’ll tell you about it tomorrow,” I told Sam. I’d been awake about 20 hours, eaten one meal, seen a guy wearing a cape win a dunk contest and had plenty of drinks. I was tired. I set my alarm clock for 10 a.m. Because it’s never, ever over.
Even though the day was supposed to be about dunks and perimeter shots, for me it was about the Hawks, my Hawks, getting Mike Bibby and becoming a definite Playoff team. I don’t clearly remember this happening, but according to my Sidekick, at some point last night I got a text message from my buddy Jemele Hill asking, “Now that the Hawks have gotten rid of Shelden, does that clear cap space for Candace Parker?”
And it appears that I responded, “To remember Shelden’s career as a Hawk, tonight I did a shot…and missed it.”