All-Star Weekend used to be a big thing for SLAM. Each year, in the issue that dropped after the contest, the mag would have all kinds of coverage, including photos, notes and articles. And then the internet happened. By the time the next issue of SLAM would drop, people would have perused all sorts of stories and looked at all kinds of photos online, making the coverage in the magazine rather moot.
I started going to All-Star in 2001 down in Washington D.C. I’ve been to All-Star games in D.C., Philly, Atlanta, Houston and Vegas, and I missed L.A. and Denver (well, I didn’t really miss them, I just didn’t go to them). Only on SLAMonline will you find our hard-hitting reportage, such as this passage from my 2003 Atlanta All-Star Weekend notes…
Inside the locker room of the 2Ball contestants, Ashton Kutcher dressed quietly while Danny Masterson, his co-star on “That ’70s Show,” sat nearby.
“Dude,” I said to Kutcher, “you should have been posting up Malcolm in the Middle all day.” Kutcher easily had a foot on Muniz.
“I felt bad,” Kutcher muttered. “I couldn’t do that to him.”
“I would have,” Masterson interjected. “All day, man, all day.”
We navigated the sea of SUVs on foot and made it back to the hotel pretty quickly, by around 11:30 p.m. We were supposed to go to the Reebok launch party for the new S.Carter (that’s Jay-Z to you) shoe, but we knew there was no way to make it on the street, thanks to the standstill traffic. Instead, we rode the subway (officially called MARTA, though we named it Mar-tuh in honor of Ja Rule.)
We stepped outside the Midtown Mar-tuh station and tried to figure out which direction Club Velvet was, but were quickly tipped off when we heard a marching band playing “Big Pimpin’” from our right. We walked up the street and came across the marching band from Khalid’s alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. While we tried to get in, the band also played through “Bonnie and Clyde,” “H to the Izzo” and “Hard Knock Life.” We were not mad.
Someone did a Rodney White impression later that evening on the hotel room rug. I’m not sure which is worse: No one being able to recall who did it, or the person who did not being able to recall doing it in the first place.
Or, this passage from Houston in 2006…
We then cabbed it back to our hotel, dropped off our bounty, then got back to the Toyota Center in time for the game, where I was nearly run over by the Knicks City Kids. The strange thing was as they passed us, I heard one of the adults with them say, “…well, that’s how you get bladder infections.” I’m not sure what part of the conversation I stumbled over, but that was pretty amazing.
For dinner they had some sort of unofficial tribute to Yao Ming, serving “dragon noodles” and “spicy Asian chicken.” I can’t wait for the tribute to Jeff Van Gundy tomorrow night: “balding tuna” and “sad-looking baked potatoes.”
I said, “Nocioni runs funny.”
Khalid responded, “He’s from another country.”
One mystery I was trying to uncover all weekend was what Chris Andersen was suspended for. I heard two different answers from people I trust and who might know. One story I heard involved the Birdman eating 20 bowls of ice cream immediately after a Hornets practice.
Due to a booking snafu from the NBA, Ryan, Khalid and I ended up with two hotel rooms in two different hotels (though they are across the street from each other). So, reprising our “Excellent Adventure” from Detroit last summer, Khalid and I once again shared a room. It’s like a WB sitcom — black guy and white guy living in a small space, getting into hijinks — except the Latina maid isn’t nearly as hot as she would be on TV.
I caught up with Tim Duncan at the adidas suite. The funniest story he told came after I asked him about the Spurs game in Jersey two weeks ago, when he had the runs and kept sprinting back and forth to the bathroom. When he was on the court, Russ and I saw him wipe his face with his jersey and noticed two weird things on his chest, white sticker-looking things that looked almost like battery cable connectors or something. Timmy didn’t know a lot about them, but he said they’re some kind of cutting edge “nanotechnology” things that put chemicals or vitamins or something like that into your system and, in theory, should help you play better and be healthier. Duncan said when the Spurs were in Philly, Chris Webber noticed them during the game and asked him if he was wearing nicotine patches.
But the best thing about All-Star are always the parties. For instance, from our Houston notes…
So when everyone else scattered, the SLAM crew and a couple of guys from SI.com (spearheaded by former SLAMonline correspondent Arash Markazi) headed over to a parking lot a few blocks from the Toyota Center. A tremendous tent had been erected, and when we got there there was a line from the entrance going down the street and around the corner. I got on the cell, and within five minutes we’d all been escorted through a back entrance inside the huge tent, which was all white inside: carpets, couches, walls, open bars, everything. Magenta lights made everything the color of a T-Mobile ad.
A few lovely ladies wearing NBA jerseys were scattered about inside, and waiters and waitresses passed around food and drinks. We got there around 10:00 p.m., and by 10:30, Travis Barker (from Blink-182) and this DJ AM character were on stage. AM, best known for being engaged to Nicole Ritchie, was playing every Biggie song ever recorded, and Barker was playing drums along with him. Not really that exciting, though many of the people in the audience seemed to be enjoying it.
At 11:30, Pharrell trotted out on stage. I’m not much of a Neptunes fan, but he put on a good show, working the crowd really well, and his songs sound much better in a small club (or tent) than they do on FM radio. The best thing about the party was that they were tight on the guest list. We all got in, and apparently every woman in Houston that looked like a stripper got in, but that was it. The tent would probably have held about 500 people, but it seemed like they were keeping it at a steady 300. It was open enough that when Pharrell came out, I was able to walk right up to the stage and take a picture.
Around midnight, Slim Thug came out and joined Pharrell, and together they ran through a bunch of Houston hits, capping it off with “Still Tippin’.”
Then Snoop Dogg walked on stage, and they did all of Snoop’s latest hits. When they got around to “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” I thought the roof was going to come off the place. While Snoop was performing, Bishop Don Magic Juan was making the rounds through the crowd. A Brazilian girl working at the party came over to me and Ryan and asked us who the Bishop was. I’d never had to explain what a pimp actually was or is before, and it’s pretty ridiculous to hear yourself saying, “He buys and sells, um, women. Or he used to, at least. But now he’s a reverend, so…”
And then there was Arash. In his SI.com story about that night, he mentions a bartender telling a girl that he was a director, then he claims that I helped perpetrate the whole thing. Let’s just say that if Arash embellished everything he writes as well as he embellished that story, we’ll be calling him Jayson Blair by now.
My actual contribution to the story was when Arash was telling her about how he often has actresses read for parts, and I said, “Yeah, didn’t you meet your wife at a reading?” (Arash isn’t married, by the way.)
We were still there just after 2:00 a.m., when the lights flicked on and the party closed down. Everyone stumbled outside, and a guy leaning against a plastic fence a few feet away from us went crashing through it. Two other guys got into a shoving match, came close to blows, then shook hands and made up.
Khalid said, “Why don’t white guys ever fight? I hate you guys.”
All in all, it was the best party of the weekend, and probably the closest I’ll ever come to being in a Girls Gone Wild video. And as a loyal T-Mobile Sidekick user, I once again give it my full endorsement.
Anyway, as you can tell, my All-Star Game experiences are thorough. And I’ve had a great time, every year. Sure, there were times where I wished I wasn’t stuck in a cab line or in traffic, but that’s the way it works.
Since the SLAM crew always seems to enjoy All-Star Weekend while everyone else complains about it, I thought I’d offer these tips to anyone else attending All-Star this year…
1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Understand that you will probably not find yourself rubbing shoulders with KG at Steve Nash’s All-Star party. You probably won’t have Michael Jordan buy you a drink. You may see an NBA player doing something completely mundane, like crossing a street or using a public toilet. Basically, don’t go into All-Star planning on having an incredible time. Keep your expectations low. That way, if anything cool actually does happen, you’ll be excited by it and have a story to tell for the ages. The best party I’ve ever been to at an All-Star Weekend came last year in Vegas on Saturday night, at an event I had no idea was even happening until Sam and I stumbled upon it. If I’d stuck to our original plans, I’d have spent the night in a casino losing money at the blackjack tables.
2. THERE WILL BE TRAFFIC
Every year, people complain about there being too much traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Well, too bad. It’s All-Star. There will be traffic. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!
3. EVEN IF YOU’RE ON “THE LIST” FOR A PARTY, YOU MAY NOT BE ALLOWED INSIDE. THIS IS TOO BAD.
I always try not to let my hubris get in the way of enjoying things. I think a lot of these writers and broadcasters and alleged VIPs go to All-Star with a sense of entitlement. “I’m important, so why do I have to wait in traffic? Why am I stuck standing in a line? Don’t you know who I am?” Yes, we all know who you are, but if one more person gets into this party the fire marshall is shutting it down. So you can wait right here until someone else leaves. (I will say this: the party I’ve managed to avoid attending for 7 years now has been the annual ESPN party, which sounds lame to begin with. But the most important thing I’ve learned about the ESPN party happened last year in Vegas. I was at the Jordan Brand party, talking to an NBA player, and he excused himself but said he’d be back in about an hour. I asked if he had to go meet a girl. No, he replied, he had to go to the ESPN party, because he was being paid to make an appearance at the the ESPN party. This year, I’m crashing the ESPN party and I’m bringing Dana Jacobson with me.)
4) BRING BATTERIES
Every year that I’ve been at All-Star, there has been at least one moment when my cell phone has come perilously close to dying. Last year it went completely out on Saturday night. At the very least maybe bring your charger with you, wherever you go. (GREAT FREE MARKETING IDEA: Energizer or Duracell or someone should set up “power stations” all around an All-Star city where people can stop and charge up their video cameras, phones, whatever.)
5) DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE GOOD BASKETBALL
Finally, remember that basketball is only a tertiary part of All-Star Weekend. The most exciting athletic contest you will see all weekend will probably be the three-point shootout, that or the bathroom lines at about 2:00 a.m. The only thing I remember from last year’s actual All-Star Game was Gilbert Arenas dunking off the trampoline during a timeout. For the most part, the last thing the players want to do is actually play basketball during All-Star Weekend. But who knows? Maybe a real game will actually break out one of these years…