Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 1:56 am  |  51 responses

Links: Best and Worst of All-Star 2009

From bulimia to basketball…

by Lang Whitaker

Monday night, way after midnight. I’m back in NYC on my couch, catching up on “Eastbound and Down” and recovering from another fun All-Star Weekend. I’ve got a ton to catch up on at the office this week, and I have to write a cover story for the next issue of SLAM, like, today. I’ve also got a few people lined up for a podcast later this week to follow up last week’s blockbuster podcast debut. So, I thought I should put some finishing touches on my All-Star thoughts as soon as possible.

After the Finals last year I did a Best and Worst of the Finals column, and I thought I’d wrap up my All-Star experience with another Best and Worst column. Thanks for hanging with us online all weekend everyone and helping us set a commenting record with our liveblog of the game. As fun as it was to be out there covering the events, it was even more fun checking in and reading all your responses and getting to share the weekend with you guys.

And now, without further ado…

Phoenix, as it turns out, is actually a bunch of smaller cities (North Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe) which are wildly spread out. I spent over $100 in taxi fares within a three hour period on Saturday afternoon just going between the arena, the LRG suite in Scottsdale and our hotel in Tempe. It was like having the All-Star Game in New York, putting the media in Jersey and having all the parties in Brooklyn. I have a feeling we won’t be returning for an All-Star in Phoenix for a while.

On Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale, we were talking to a guy we’d bumped into the night before out in Scottsdale at the T-Mobile party. He said something like, “Man, where was that T-Mobile party last night?” Ben said, “It was in Scottsdale — you were there!” And he said, “Yeah, but I don’t know what city it was in.”

Phoenix. If Phoenix wasn’t more spread out than Europe, I would vote for having All-Star there every year if only because the weather was amazing — in the low 70s every day, sunny, clear…just gorgeous.

The NBA had all the media staying in Tempe at a place called the Marriott Buttes, which was great because we got to call it the Marriott Butts all weekend.

It was twilight on Saturday night, and Ben and I were leaving the hotel to go to All-Star Saturday Night. As the sun crashed into the desert behind us, I made my way to the media shuttle bus, where I came across a group of three or four NBA volunteers in identical white polyester jackets pointing furiously at the top of a butte rising high behind the media shuttle bus. I hustled outside, curious to see what was going on. Was it a UFO? A pot of gold?

“Look!” said one of the women, urgently. “It’s a black-tipped mountain sheep!”

I took a look and, sure enough, there was some sort of fluffy white animal atop the hill, sitting in the shade on a rock outcropping. There appeared to be some sort of upper body movement going on as well, but I couldn’t clearly discern what was happening.

The three older women in the volunteer jackets were totally engrossed. I asked if there were a lot of mountain sheep around the area.

“No, not really,” the ringleader volunteer said. “It must have escaped from the zoo.” She said this like it was her final answer. This was apparently not open for discussion.

“And the zoo, that’s about two or three miles away,” said one of the other volunteers. “It’s amazing it made it this far.”

Indeed, I thought, it’s amazing that a sheep escaped from the zoo and made it two or three miles and NOBODY SAW A SHEEP RUNNING AWAY FROM THE ZOO!

I still couldn’t get a good view of this alleged sheep, which was about 40 yards away from us high up on this hill. I started thinking about it — isn’t it goats and rams that can live in mountains? Sheep need grass and stuff, right?

“Do you have a camera?” The lead volunteer was desperate to document this. I lied and told her I didn’t have a camera and climbed onto the bus.

The bus driver was a man in his 40s with gray skin, wearing an ill-fitting NBA baseball hat. As I walked past him he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Hey buddy, you know that’s not a sheep, right?”

“I can’t even see it,” I said. “What is it then?”

“It’s a cat,” he said, disgust ringing in his voice.

I laughed and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he responded, smiling. “Sheep don’t lick themselves.”

So that’s what that sheep was doing! And from then on, we referred to the animal as The Sheep/Cat.

So why did Dwight Howard let Nate Robinson dunk on him? Good question. The explanation I came up with immediately was simple and, I think, plausible: They both have the same agent. And it wouldn’t hurt Dwight or their agent to make Nate more marketable, would it?

Soon after our flight took off this morning from Phoenix to Houston, a bunch of small screens dropped from the ceiling and a movie began showing. Which movie? “Flash of Genius,” starring Greg Kinnear as the man who invented windshield wipers. I swear. Someone in Hollywood decided this was a movie people would clamor to see in theaters. I lasted literally 10 seconds.

Then in Houston we changed planes and got on a 3 hour flight to New York City. And the movie on the second flight? “Flash of Genius.”

I am not judging this song by any means, but the song I heard about 200 times over the weekend — at parties, on the radio, coming from other cars — was Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Ne-Yo made a late run with “Closer,” but this was Lady Gaga’s weekend.

What was the deal in the dunk contest when Rudy Fernandez tried and missed that dunk for 2 minutes…and then they announced, “OK, now he has two more tries!”

During the 40 minutes all the All-Stars were doing media availability, I was sprinting around trying to find guys momentarily alone enough for me to get in for a few seconds with my video camera for this video.

While I was talking to Tony Parker, I felt my Sidekick start vibrating. I glanced down and saw that Ben was calling me. I knew Ben was on the court somewhere and couldn’t figure out why he was calling me, because he knew I was on deadline trying to get as much video as possible. I excused myself from Tony and answered the phone.

“AI cut off his hair,” Ben said. I looked around and saw Iverson just walking out onto the floor, so I ran over and followed him as he looked for a place to sit and talk to the media. As he found a seat and mentioned that he was sending his hair to his Mom, I used my Sidekick to throw up a post on my twitter page:

ai cut his braids off this morning. said he’s sending them to his mom.

After the media session ended, Ben googled “Allen Iverson braids” to see what was going on and saw that AOL had me breaking the news via twitter.

When Al Gore invented the internets, I’m pretty sure he never thought they’d be used like this.

The first leg of our ill-fated trip out to Phoenix was supposed to be a quick flight from New York City to Washington D.C. From D.C. we were going to connect on a flight out to Phoenix. The plane from NYC to DC was a small plane, one of those with about 40 seats. Ryne and I were assigned seats next to each other, but once they closed the door and we realized the plane was less than half-full, I moved up to an empty exit row seat so I could stretch out. I immediately fell asleep, as I often do on airplanes, and takeoff was delayed a little over 2 hours. We finally took off and landed, and I de-planed and waited for Ryne. A few minutes later, Ryne exited, chatting to a rather lovely young lady. I didn’t want to interrupt anything, until I heard the girl mention she was in high school. Whoa!

Flying out of the All-Star Game city is almost always a hassle, so Ryne and I got up early and got the Phoenix airport at 8:30 a.m. for our 11:20 a.m. flight. Of course, there was nobody in the airport and by about 8:32 a.m. we were through security with nothing to do. After we killed an hour with Hawks VP Arthur Triche at a café, we all headed off to our gates. I dropped my bags and went off to find a bathroom. A few minutes later I was walking back, and I noticed a really tall guy with only a backpack and a PlayStation 3 in a box just ahead of me. He turned and looked at me and I heard a dull roar. I looked up and it was Dikembe Mutombo.

He was on our flight to Houston and stuck in coach, which he wasn’t happy about. I was happy about it, however, because I got to hear Dikembe complain for about 15 minutes. Even better, I got Arthur to come over so I could say, in front of Dikembe, “Hey Triche, you still work for Hawk?”

Around 2 a.m. at the T-Mobile party, my man Arash Markazi from SI.com said, “Hey, it’s Matt Kemp from the Dodgers.” As one of the world’s biggest Dodgers fans, Ben nearly dropped his beer and immediately announced he was going to go and talk to him because he wanted to get Kemp in SLAM (he was a big-time basketball player in high school and played with Shelden Williams). I knew Ben was a little twisted by this point and tried to talk him out of it, or at least to let me go over talk to him, but Ben insisted. It all worked out well in the end, but Ben later said one of Kemp’s first lines was, “Are you OK?”

The Harlem Globetrotters. At All-Star media availability, when we all have a short amount of time to get as many interviews as possible, five players from the Harlem Globetrotters showed up in uniform and spent the entire time forcing their way into interacting with the real All-Stars. Why in the world were the Harlem Globetrotters around? Because they’re based in Phoenix, apparently. Of course. So now the economy’s so bad the Globetrotters were outsourced to Phoenix?

Late one night at one of the parties, I needed to hit the bathroom. I walked down a hallway and noticed the women’s restroom was closed off so the custodial staff could clean it. I turned the corner to the men’s room and saw two ladies entering the restroom. The men’s restroom. Hmm.

I wasn’t sure how to react. Should I wait patiently? Should I barge in and perhaps catch these two ladies in the midst of something?

Being a Southern gentleman at heart, I waited. So I stood there in the hall, alone, patiently wondering what in the world was happening, when two other guys came walking up.

“Is there a line?” one of them asked me.

“I guess,” I said. “Actually, two girls just went in there and, well, I thought I’d at least give them a few minutes before barging in.”

“F that,” one of these fine young men responded. He pushed open the door slightly and all three of us stuck our heads in the door. One of the girls was standing just inside the door, I guess on guard duty. The other girl was in the toilet stall, on her knees, facing the toilet.

“Hurry up,” yelled the girl on guard, noticing us. “Just go ahead and throw up. My house is only 15 minutes away. Throw up now and then we’ll be at my place in no time.”

One of my classier male counterparts then blurted out, “Just stick your finger down your throat.”

And from inside the toilet stall we heard, “I know how to throw up — I was bulimic for four years, b*tch!”

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  • Nak Attack

    if im not mistaken didnt kobe being #1 on the slam top fifty get like 1000+ comments?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    I would never have lent her my last stick of gum had I known what I now know…

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    OK, maybe it was liveblog record. I dunno, just work with me here.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Lang that was awesome!
    A few things:
    1. Ryne- cradle snatcher lol! But Ryne’s a good dude, she must’ve looked fine then haha.
    2. Dikembe mutumbo is bloody brilliant.
    3. Takeoff was delayed for 2 hours? how does that work? You were on the plane (asleep) for 2 hours before it took off? WTH!
    4. Gum? Dude….I’m getting a bad mental image here.
    The overall vibe I’m getting this year was that PHX just wasn’t as good as the last few (obviously Vegas), even N.O seemed more exciting and hectic.
    Great work slam fam!
    Was the 620 (or so) comments a record? I swear some of the Olympic games got more than that, especially the USA ones from the liveblog.

  • http://www.mauricegarland.com Maurice Garland

    wow. this sounds better than anything reggie miller said all weekend.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Now thats what i call a recap. Sheep/cat. Ryan the underage seducer (priceless), lang on the forefront of gossip news and Deke! Wow. Don’t think sports guy can top this in his recap… Not even scoop. Enjoy your night, Whitaker.

  • http://The4thQuarter.net Just10

    Hahaha! I thought my all star weekend was pretty crazy! You had some great memories from phoenix… The bulimic line was classic…

    My friends and I also stayed in Tempe at the Hilton. We went to the all star practice where saw AI’s buzzcut. Of course we all hopped on twitter and spread the word like you!

    But my craziest moment was inside Jam Session several hours after the practice. There was a contest to win Saturday Night & All Star game tix near the NBA Store! The winner had to make a half court shot. So one of my friends and I hopped in the huge line and waited. I went first! Palms sweaty, I shot the ball thinking it was nothing but net but the ball ended up behind the backboard… my friend went next. Considering the fact he hasn’t played bball in a year, I wasn’t too confident in his shot. He shoot. line drive. NOTHING BUT NET!

    So I ended my weekend going to the All star game for free! Hopefully next year I can be apart of the media and get paid to cover next year’s all star game!

  • Milan

    The “do you still work for Hawk?” past made me choke on my cereal, remdinded me of the story. Great recap.

  • matt the jazz fan

    great recap, thanks lang – always nice to get the local flavour, sights, sounds and taste!

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Ryne is living proof that young ladies in their latter years in HS are looking older and older. Hell, I’m in college & I can’t tell a difference between a HS senior and a College sophomore (at least physically… maturity is a different story).
    The bulimia line: classic. The Globetrotters thing was a bit weird.

  • Son of Shawn

    Why they invited four players to the Slam Dunk Contest?, it´s clear that NBA wanted that KryptoNate thing in the final

  • http://www.DreAllDay.com Dre Baldwin

    A “dull roar” to describe Deke’s laugh is a great description, haha.

    And I’m pretty sure the Harlem Globetrotters were based in Chicago before that, never actually in Harlem.

  • http://web.mac.com/roaringred bbaby

    Great piece, Lang. Cosign Maurice.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Nice. Too much good sh*t to run down 1-by-1. I’m going to go with the bulemia line as my favorite, barely edging the Ben interaction with Matt Kemp.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Son of Shawn: The NBA invited more than 4 players to be in the dunk contest — only 4 players agreed to be in the contest, though.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    “And from inside the toilet stall we heard, “I know how to throw up — I was bulimic for four years, b*tch!”

    When Al Gore invented the internets, I’m pretty sure he never thought they’d be used like THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    The last part killed me Lang! Good stuff.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Al Gore. He invented your internets…HE CAN TURN IT OFF. Just like in south park. F**K UP THE ROUTER AT AREA 51!

  • J

    Jamal Anderson wishes he had someone on guard duty when he was on his knees at a toilet, too.

  • Fat Lever

    Lang, good stuff. Got to say, this was possibly the worst All Star weekend from an entertainment standpoint that I’ve ever seen. I was thinking that the NBA should maybe have an 8-10 city rotation of NBA all star weekends(NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, Philly, Houston, NOLA, Miami, T Dot, and maybe San Fran/ATL/Dallas).

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne


  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Lang: wait a minute, that can’t be right?? They invited more than 4 to dunk but amongst the 400 players in the league and the 50+ (estimate) megadunkers only 4 said yes? So why did everyone have to vote for players like Jason Alexander (who was lobbying hard online to be in the thing) beforehand? I don’t get it.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    sniffing the goods off a public toilet seat…. if you don’t know how far gone you are doing THAT, then you are just lost. Gross

  • MeloMan13

    Tdot definately needs to be soon.
    And it’s all gud Ryne, age aint nuthin but a number…unless the difference is 6 yrs

  • Drew

    Great article. You are right about Phoenix. I spent a lot of time there over the last few years. Nice people, great weather (in the winter), but it is a city without a center, without a soul.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Darksaber: Well, they didn’t invite all 400. I know for sure of a few guys who turned down invites (including Josh Smith). I’m guessing maybe they went with 4 just because now they have so much other crap (including Shooting Stars or whatever) that 8 would take too long.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Hmm, ok. I guess it’s more fun to watch has beens squeeze their big bellies into jerseys and “shoot” from halfcourt. Or Pointguards nonchalantly shimmy through the parcours (although D-Rose finishing with that reverse…gosh!), than watching THE MAIN EVENT! Arrrghh. The Nba better get it’s braintrust in shape for next year.

  • http://www.nba.com/nets/NETS_2009_ALL_STAR_MEDIA_CENTRAL.html Ben Couch

    Lang, excellent comparison on the city layout (word to my reverse commute from BK, ugh). That bathroom story is hilarious. And nice job with the AI braids break. The Nets PR guy and I almost didn’t recognize dude on first look. Crazy.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Very funny. To me the bulimia line is more scary than funny, but reading these things always makes me envy ya’ll’s work. Thanks for letting us regular peepes in on some ASG magic. And for the record, I agree, Phoenix is a bitch to get around in. Got lost like 3 times just trying to get some food and get back on the Hwy during a Looong roadtrip.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Funniest post of the events.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Ben Couch: Can’t believe you’d throw Aaron under the bus like that.

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  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ BETCATS


  • http://double-technical.blogspot.com Zee!

    This sounds pretty bad, but hey after Vegas it was bound to happen right? At least it wasn’t Utah.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    This was the greatest Links EVER!

  • http://allanzuss@yahoo.com Mendel

    The Best Line Heard at Party had to be the best part of All star weekend minus Shaq in the All Star Game. It made me laugh out loud. Wish I was there to hear it. Pure funny stuff. Thank you Lang, that would have made a good twitter feed.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    i love how you refer to those guys in the bulimic story as “fine young men” and “classier male counterparts”. Farmer Jones would be proud.
    speaking of which, haven’t heard from him at all this weekend. where’s he? is he searching for Melanie Collins around campus?

  • Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo

    i want to thank my brother lang for allowing me to destroy him on my playstation3.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Ben Couch in the house. Ryan’s presence, or lack thereof, has been a mystery to us all.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Tyson Chandler just got traded to OKC for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @albie: If Ryan doesn’t do a cover story on Melanie Collins in that mag he should find a new line of work.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    Farmer Jones commented on his whereabout this weekend on the MVP post. but yes, i agree with you, Lang.

  • Prison Mike

    The worst part of Shaq and Kobe being co-MVP’s is that Kobe is gonna try real hard next ASG to prove he can win an MVP without Shaq. Thanks NBA.

  • http://myspace.com/arodakaroman and1ballermj2350

    Hey u guys suck, phoenix was tight! from the jam session to the outside nba thing across the us airways center, to ppl stalking the nba players ouside of the sheraton hotel, to jameer nelson declining to give autographs because his “shoulder” is hurt (he was in the dunk contest!). Watching allen iverson stumble already drunk out of an suv at 8pm was hillarious!

    @Lang, do did you end up doing what you do in that bathroom after seeing the chick ralph in there?

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    @ Hursty: They reached above 1,000 during the olympics. Something around there on the Kobe piece as well this SLAM Top 50.

  • BostonBaller

    Kobe trying hard next year to win the MVP on his own would look like LaBron every year in the ASG…shot happy. I know it’s an ASG but dang James there are other suprestars out there not your Cavs who have to sit back and get the scaraps. lol I love James’ game but slow down young fella….

  • http://www.nba.com/nets/NETS_2009_ALL_STAR_MEDIA_CENTRAL.html Ben Couch

    @Lang It was Patrick, ha.

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