by Lang Whitaker

The first year I went to All-Star, in D.C. back in 2001, I wasn’t sure how to cover it. Blogs hadn’t been invented then, and most websites were creaky and updated once a day. So I took notes the entire weekend and when I returned to the office I posted a massive 6,000-word manifesto. Some of it was surely boring, but I also tried to fit a lot of minutae in there; what it’s like to run into Rasheed Wallace in a hotel bar in the middle of the night, stuff like that. The next year, a few weeks before the game, people starting asking when my All-Star report was going to drop. Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy covering All-Star, because it really is the NBA’s biggest weekend. And this year will be no different.

With the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to resurrect some of our previous All-Star reports. Each day this week I’m bringing out the archives. (Which I’ve condensed to make things easier for all of us.)

Today, we begin with All-Star 2001 in Washington D.C., which doesn’t actually include notes from the game because I had to catch a train back to NYC on Sunday morning for a story. But who cares? The fun stuff is off the floor…

NBA All-Star Weekend 2001

Washington D.C.

With nothing to do upon arrival, Russ, Ryan and I went out and walked a lap around the White House, since it was virtually across the street from our hotel. One day before, a man had been shot outside the White House after firing a gun toward the building, so we were extra careful not to make any of our usual snide comments, for fear of getting capped. Also, we noticed how the Washington Monument has two glowing red lights at the top of each side. Sure, they’re supposed to ward off planes, but they made it look a lot like Nets back-up center Soumalia Soumake. We went back and changed into our party wear — putting on throwback jerseys over our t-shirts — then went to a party And 1 was throwing for Kevin Garnett. The party was at Angelo and Maxie’s Steakhouse, which we assumed to be a good sign. Sure enough, the joint was filled with free meats, and we all know it doesn’t get any better than free meats.

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Around 1:00 a.m., we left the And 1 party and walked over by the Grand Hyatt, where the players were staying, to hook up with our friend Chris Palmer from ESPN the Magazine. Palmer was late, so Russ, Ryan and I grabbed a seat in the lobby and were hanging there, when Rasheed Wallace came strolling down the escalator with his posse; they quickly ducked into the lobby bathroom.

I wrote the cover story on Sheed in the previous issus of SLAM, calling him out on his mad scientist behavior while pointing out that he’s allowed to act however he’d like to. I hadn’t seen him since that issue dropped, and I was a little concerned with how he’d react. When they emerged, I bumrushed Sheed.

“The story was cool,” said Sheed, giving us the official thumbs up.

We were then introduced to one of Rasheed’s friends named “Perv,” who also claimed to like the article. We didn’t get a chance to ask him what his nickname was short for, though we had an idea.

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Breakfast on Friday. We noticed one of our main men, an NBA exec, eating alone in the hotel restaurant. We went and sat down with him, and he told us about how he’d been up all night just to make it to D.C. Right about then, Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo came striding into the hotel, all arms and legs and impossible angles. Signature hounds immediately swarmed him, and he brayed, in his amazingly low voice, “Ahhhh! Not right now! I just get here! I need to relax first!” And he made a beeline for our table. A few days earlier, we’d had fun with Dikembe in New Jersey, joking with him about the time Michael Jordan dunked on him in the playoffs, which we have a picture of in our latest magazine. So when he saw us sitting there, Mutombo went into a riff on that picture and how embarrassing it was. He then left to attend a meeting of the Player’s Association. We decided that someone needs to walk around interpreting Dikembe’s voice for those of us who speak English.

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By 2:00 p.m., they’d cleared all the rookies and sophomores out of the interview room and the All-Stars began straggling in. As they did, we found an envelope on a table with all of Stephen Jackson’s All-Star tickets. Despite the urge to sell them, we turned them over to the proper authorities from the Nets.

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SLAM was sponsoring a party this night at a club called Zanzibar, so Ryan and I headed over there to rep for SLAM, while Russ had to go to a Nike party in the slums of D.C. At Zanzibar, Ryan and I chilled for about 2 hours before the club became over-crunked, and we made our escape around midnight. On the way out, we bumped into Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, who was unsuccessfully trying to get in through the out door. We had to tell him we had no pull, either.

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At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, the players started practicing, so we walked about eight blocks to the Sheraton, where adidas was having a reception. As soon as we entered the lobby, we discovered Dominique Wilkins sitting on a couch, talking to two of his friends, one of whom was sporting a disturbing tattoo on his neck. I approached Nique and he stood, then announced to his friends, “This guy right here knew me when I was a young man and he was an old…young man. I mean, I was a young old man.” I don’t know what he was talking about. He later pointed out the number 21 on Ryan’s Roberto Clemente jersey and noted, “I like that number,” then stuck out his tongue. The reception itself was sparsely populated (there were about ten people there), so they gave each of us a free pair of the new yellow Kobe’s, which look like either bananas or taxi cabs, you choose.

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We ran back to the hotel to drop off our stuff, then went back to the MCI Center for the Rookie/Sophomore Game. The streets were packed with pedestrians, people trying to sell or buy tickets for the All-Star game. Then, about a block from the arena, Rasheed Wallace came wading through the thick crowds, surging his way toward his hotel all by himself, a gym bag thrown over his shoulder. And, like with the media, no one was bothering him. At all.

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Following the rookie game, all the players were in fine spirits, except Kenyon Martin, who told Darius Miles that he was looking forward to “getting the f*ck out of here.” Miles, undaunted, told Stephen Jackson that the rookies would have won if there weren’t two Nets on their team. Hey Darius: You play for the Clippers. End of story.

The excitement that is 2Ball was scheduled to kick off around 8:00 p.m., so we went up and grabbed dinner in the press dining area. As Ryan and I walked back down to the court, we turned a corner in time to catch a glimpse of Michael Jordan himself, walking through a tunnel under the stadium. But just like that, he was gone. A lot like his Wizards franchise, come to think of it.

The high point of 2Ball was Craig Sager’s suit, which appeared to be made from either the Matrix or liquid mercury. We couldn’t be sure, because staring at it for more than ten seconds at a time could cause blindness. Despite the utter blandness of the evening, there were tons of celebs in the joint. Here’s our unofficial list (and I’m leaving out NBA players unless there is some compelling reason to mention them): Eddie George; Jerome Bettis; Jason Sehorn; a gaunt Ralph Sampson; Dave Winfield; Mark Eaton, who was bounced from his seat to make room for Stephon; Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, looking for all the world like two pimps; Ice Cube; Brian Litrell; Bill Bellamy, wearing a patchwork leather jacket; Carson Daly; Evander Holyfield, with no chicks around, at least not publicly; R. Kelly; Jason Biggs, with his penis in an apple pie; Star Jones; Eriq LaSalle, who was later eaten by Star Jones; Harry Connick and Jill Goodacre, who’s acre’s are indeed good; and Savion Glover, apparently in costume as a homeless bum.

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Finally, it was time for the dunk contest. My man, Stromile, choked, and everyone else seemed to be confused by the rules. How many dunks do you get? How many replacements do you have? What the hell is going on here? No rules were ever explained to the crowd, and the players all looked bamboozled as well. The most perplexing moment came when Baron Davis blindfolded himself with a headband, then proceeded to miss a windmill dunk attempt by a good three feet, which seemed to suggest that he was going to get another crack at it. Then he was informed that he didn’t have another chance, sending him into a funk. After Desmond Mason finally won the thing, we bumrushed the court, where Stromile admitted that no one had any idea of the rules. I also got Baron to pony up his headband, which had two tiny eyeholes poked in it.