By Sam Rubenstein

There is a place on 23rd street called Rub BBQ, where the waitresses wear t-shirts that say “The best butt in town.” I think that must be an inside BBQ joke I am not familiar with, but ha ha I get it. Anyways, Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Durant were there, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gil is the cover boy for NBA Live ’08, and it was just announced that Durant will be on the cover of March Madness ’08. EA Sports hosted the event, where the two superstars (yes Durant is a superstar before even playing a single NBA game. That’s just the world we live in) mingled with the media, played some video games, and so on.

Arash Markazi was in the building. That means it was officially a party. The fire marshall was double parked outside the whole time.

I probably should have gotten in line to sit down and play or at least talk to the men of the hour, but I was happy to watch. Lang had some conversations. One of our ad guys was there, elbowing people out of the way to get his shot at the game. That’s the kind of aggressiveness we like.

The hottest scoop I can give you is that when playing the game, Durant took on people in a customized mode where the two teams were the Blazers and Sonics, but instead of those teams’ players, it was all rookies or young guys and superstars. For example, the Blazers were made up of Horford, Julian Wright, Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge and others. The Sonics were Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Yi, Joakim Noah… and Kevin Durant. Everytime he played, he kept using that custom Sonics team with himself on it, forcing the ball with his character nearly every time. Greg Oden wasn’t even in the game, at least not when I was watching. DURANT IS GOING TO THE SONICS so it is written so it shall be done.

Gilbert played as the Wizards against the Suns. He used his character as a huge ball hog and kept shouting himself out. For example, he took a buzzer beater at the end of a quarter and said out loud “Oh this is going in cause it’s me.” It didn’t go in, but it was Deshawn Stevenson, not Gil. He recognized that and said “Oh, that’s not me.” Virtual Gilbert had a bananas triple double, but the Steve Nash character had I believe 60 points against him. It was a fun video game to watch, and the graphics are mind blowingly lifelike as always. Does it match the intuitive control and genius simplicity of the Sega Genesis era of Live ’95 to ’98? Remains to be seen.

Other than the waitresses, some EA Sports PR people, and television personalities from various video game networks, it was a total dudefest. But I guess that’s what video games + sports will do for you. Lang and I spent some time with Dan Steinberg of DC Sportsbog fame. He talked to Arenas and got him to invoke the name “Marvin” Brando because Gilbert wants to buy his own island, just like the beyond insane screen legend did. Funny, I’ve been wondering what Gil is going to buy after he opts out and signs a bigger contract next year. I thought maybe a whole hyperbaric city or maybe a real life tiger zoo to match his tattoo, but his own island sounds just about right. Well done, Mr. Arenas.

After sitting through who knows how many interviews, Gilbert and Kevin finally got the chance to play each other in NBA Live ’08, and I snapped this high quality camera phone shot. Durant appeared very relaxed for someone that has a glaring spotlight on him 24/7 these days. Then again, this was more of a fun event. Looking forward to the pre-draft media session, where there will be no video games, no free fried foods or alcohol, and… yeah, that’s not as much fun.

SLAM was extremely deep at this event, with Ben Collins there too, getting even more exclusive thoughts from the minds of basketball superstars. He gets bonus points for attending with a female friend. Ben and his friend were clearly in awe of my lecture on the history of Purple City Byrdgang’s Don Bishop Agallah, who produced a song for the Live ’08 soundtrack. I had to bring up the whole Crookie Monster thing. Classic.

And a final thought… there was a guy there interviewing Gilbert for TV who looked exactly like me, but with a slight beard derivation. Is it that easy to get on TV? All you have to do is shave your cheek area? Nice. I was actually planning on going to the AJ Soprano fake Puerto Rican look, but now I’m conflicted. This is a very momentus decision. I will be in deep concentration thinking this over for a while.

This post is done at 7:30 A.M. because my air conditioner died last night, and sleep is not possible.