by Lang Whitaker

Getting back to the hotel after the Rookie/Sophomore Game was considerably easier than leaving the hotel. But once we were back at our hotel and had weighed our options for the evening, we decided the best bet was Michael Jordan’s party. First of all, it was Michael Jordan’s party. Secondly, it was in a tent outside the MGM Grand, which was within walking distance. We had invites and were on the list for a few other parties, including the T-Mac/Diddy party at Caesar’s Palace, but thanks to our previous All-Star experiences, I knew better than to plan on hitting more than one party that night. And who better to bet on than Air Jordan?

(One of the other big parties was the ESPN party. But I knew we made the proper call in not attending after I ran into four ESPN employees at the Jordan party, and also after I was told that ESPN was paying athletes to make appearances at their party. Is that how the ESPY’s work, too? Amazing. Classy, too.)

Before we hit the Jordan party, Sam and I had to kill some time waiting for Khalid and Ben to turn up. So we hit the casino. It wasn’t that crowded, and we both were hitting blackjacks. And then Ben and Khalid showed up. Damn them.

The Jordan party invitations were ridiculous little artistic works, which we had to hand over to get in (wouldn’t that have been a cool keepsake?) We found the entrance and got in line, behind two black guys wearing white guy throwback jerseys (a Larry Bird Celtics and a Luke Ridnour Oregon joint). That takes some careful planning. Nicely executed.

Once we went through the metal detectors and got inside the tent, there was a long, darkened runway we had to walk down, with flashing lights illuminating our steps. We popped out of the tunnel into a cavernous space. The middle of the room was dominated by a huge stage that looked kind of like a parade float. It was decorated in the camouflage theme that features on the Jordan XXII, and featured several windows cut into it revealing several wildly dancing (and scantily clad) women. Around the other side of the middle element, DJ D-Nice spun tunes. Toward the back of the room, a huge bar was set up, with about 20 bartenders pouring free drinks. And behind that, an elevated area was built to hold the VIPs (i.e.: Michael Jordan).

We entered with Chris Paul and his wingman, Trailblazers point guard Jarrett Jack. Following is a list of noteworthy people I spotted at the party: Toccara from “America’s Next Top Model,” golf prodigy Michelle Wie (who is friggin’ huge — at least 6-3), Jordan designer D’Wayne Edwards, Darryl McDaniels, Damon Stoudamire, Monta Ellis, Mitch Richmond, Dominique Wilkins, Steven Hunter, Armon Gilliam, Clinton Portis, Michael Jordan…to name a few. There were also a lot of women there who were very, er, talented. Didn’t get any of their names (holla!).

We’d been there about ten minutes and were hanging out at the bar when a big guy came running through the crowd, pretending to thug people out of his way. It was Carmelo Anthony. It was the first time I’d talked to him since he punched Mardy Collins a few days before the release of his SLAM cover. I told him he’s got a heckuva sense of timing. He smiled. I also convinced Carmelo his first round of drinks were on me. Hopefully he didn’t notice it was open bar.

D-Nice was fantastic, mixing in Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Jim Jones, everything you could think of. I didn’t dance — I stood in the back and pulled up my pants and did the Rockaway. But we were all having a great time. You know who was having a really good time? The dude in the bathroom smoking something that smelled a lot like potpourri. I mean, he really seemed to be enjoying himself.

At one point, I ran into one of the NBA’s most prominent agents, and we had a long discussion (shouting in each other’s ears over the music) about the Durant/Oden debate. I was told that the Celts have to take Oden first because of the Bill Russell comparisons, but he said any other team could probably make a case for Durant. But which player would he take? Oden. No question. I’m not talking, I’m just saying…

By 2:00 a.m. — 5:00 a.m. by my body’s clock — I was dragging. Sam and I were standing by a side door that opened and admitted Tony Parker, Eva Longoria and a small crew. Ciara was on the dance floor. Khalid and his wifey left to try and hit the T-Mac party. Rumors were swirling of a shooting on the strip….it was time to call it a night.

But we soldiered on. At 2:30 a.m., Sam and I went back to the tables, and 15 minutes later, Sam fell asleep while sitting up at the blackjack table, which was pretty amusing and hilarious.

I stumbled up to my room and crashed. A few hours later, my phone rang, waking me up. It was light outside. Saturday was beginning.

And it would all start all over again.