Let’s Make A Deal, the NBA Version

by Lang Whitaker

I’m back in the SLAM Dome, in body if not quite in spirit. Heck of a weekend. Spent Saturday at the Final Four and then all day yesterday with an NBA player for a cover story for SLAM 109. Four days, five airports, and very little sleep.

A few random thoughts…

• During the photo shoot I was at yesterday, I ended up acting as DJ and playing some songs off my iPod to kind of keep things moving. I knew what kind of stuff the NBA player we were shooting liked, and after I hit him with a few remixes he hadn’t heard before, he told me that he was going to buy my iPod. Not that he wanted to buy my iPod, but that he was definitely going to buy my iPod.

I told him no, he wasn’t going to buy my iPod not only because I hadn’t had a chance to back up my iPod on my newest laptop and I didn’t want to lose everything I had on there, but also because I had a three hour flight awaiting me later in the day, and I didn’t want to be iPod-less on the plane.

This didn’t stop him. He kept telling me he was going to buy my iPod, and that I could name my price. And he was serious.

We haggled back and forth for a while about my iPod. I told the guy that I really didn’t want to sell, but I’d be glad to burn him some CDs with the tracks he liked. Didn’t matter. He wanted my iPod. Right then. And I got a sense that he’s used to getting whatever he wants.

Then I had an idea: I could trade it for however much cash he happened to have in wallet at the moment, kind of like an audience game from Let’s Make A Deal. There could easily have been $10,000 in there. Then, after I thought about it more, I realized there could just as easily have been $3 in there — maybe he needed to go to the ATM or something. So I backed out of that plan.

Eventually we agreed upon me sending him some music, and I got to keep my iPod, so everyone was satisfied. I just can’t stop thinking about how much money I could have made. Or not made.

Even Monty Hall would’ve shown me what was in the wallet.

• Spending so much time in airports is really soul-crushing. They’re all antiseptic, identical hallways filled with people who don’t want to be there. Most of the airport employees don’t seem to want to be there. The only thing that makes traveling palatable for me is that I know when I reach my destination I’m going to do something I enjoy, like interviewing a guy or watching a game or whatever. Can’t imagine being one of these business people I see traveling who goes from place to place for meetings or conferences or whatever. More power to you people who have to do it every week.

• One other airport thought, for anyone looking for a sure-fire way to make a lot of money: They take so much stuff away from people who are getting on planes that around the security checkpoints you can find bins filled with goods: lighters, toothpaste, lotion, etc.

So here’s the million dollar idea: You hire a couple of young ladies and set them up with those trays like women in nightclubs used to carry. You station the women just outside the airport exits and fill their trays with sample-sized products: deodorant, toothpaste, hair gel, lighters, lotion, cologne, perfume, saline solution, whatever. Each item in the tray costs $1, cash only. And you call the company Contraband.

You’re telling me this isn’t a million dollar company? The airports might be against this idea, but you could cut them in on the profits or pay them a fee to have the salespeople out there. If someone wants to bankroll this idea, get at me.

• In regards to the monumental Phil Collins discussion from last week…I was on a flight the other day and had my iPod on shuffle and “Easy Lover,” the Phil Collins/Phillip Bailey duet, came on. (I honestly wasn’t aware that I owned a copy of the song, but apparently it was on one of the Grand Theft Auto compilations.)

So I gave it a few listens, and I think Phil Collins was an underrated drummer. It’s a weird song to begin with, because it starts with the chorus and then goes to a verse, but some of the fills Collins plays in the transitions are pretty impressive. Just saying.

• Finally, one night in Atlanta I was meeting up with a friend to watch a movie, so I stopped off at a local Blockbuster to pick up Borat. While I was in line to check out, I heard someone behind me calling my name.

Turned out it was a kid who’d played on a church league basketball team my friend Matt and I coached back in the late ’90s. I say kid because he was in high school then, but he’s a big-time lawyer in Atlanta now; must be that firm moral base we provided our players.

He and his identical twin brother were on our team, and we kept that team (The Parade Of Stars, named after the annual Lou Rawls telethon) together for about two years, playing in various leagues and always doing pretty well. (I’m not going to write their names here because I don’t want to blow up their spots, so I’ll call them John and Dave.) While we were catching up, Dave reminded me of perhaps the greatest moment of my coaching career. I’d actually written in down way back then, and I found it in my archives the other night…

The Parade of Stars enjoyed our finest moment Wednesday night. We played a team of kids from a local private school. They were a pretty good opponent, and they were giving us a run for our money. Luckily, we had our full compliment of players. Matt and I were expertly shuffling our line-up, using all of our 10 players to their full Parade of Stars potential.

With 5 minutes to go, we were down by 9 points. I called a time out and implemented the “lump lump” defense (named for the Sadat X song), which was our team’s code name for the full court trap. It worked like a charm. The crowd — which was about 25 or 30 strong, made up mostly of parents and school mates — was behind us all the way. Even the guys who weren’t in the game were yelling and hopping around.

We tied it up with about 30 seconds to play. The other team came down and missed a shot. After a scramble for the rebound, we recovered and ran the ball up to mid-court before calling our final time out with 4 ticks left on the clock.

We gathered the team around and started to draw up a final play. Before I could even get a word out, our center, Moosh, yelled out, “Let’s run the play where I get down and bark like a dog!” I quickly nixed that idea. Instead I drew up a play for our twins (John and Dave) to pick for each other. I told the guy throwing it in, Gene, that one of the twins would be wide open, because the defenders would almost certainly get confused by their identical looks and end up doubling one and leaving the other unguarded.

Sure enough, we ran the play and John sprang wide open. Gene was also apparently confused by the twins, because he inexplicably threw it in instead to Dave, who had two defenders on him. Calmly, Dave split the defenders and threw up an off balance three point shot. It hit the front of the rim, kissed off the top of the glass and dropped through the net as the final buzzer sounded. We won 56-53.