The NBA All-Star Weekend took me back to my freshman year in high school. When you arrive on campus, you think you're the man. You dominated junior high, you had a killer summer at camp, and you've officially come into your own. The braces are off, you've just started doing pushups at night, you held a girl's hand at the movies once, mom started letting you shop for yourself at Marshalls, and all signs point toward a growth spurt.
But much like the experience of being a freshman in high school, the reality of my serf-like position at the bottom of the All-Star Weekend feudal system became quite clear within minutes of settling in at my hotel in Orlando. By the end of my first week of high school, I understood that the rest of the year would entail athletes and older guys looking over me without acknowledging my presence, girls my age acting completely disinterested, and older girls sitting around, hating on the younger girls.
At first, I was bummed out, mainly because I'm an only child and used to getting at least some form of attention. But as the weekend progressed, I realized my insignificance could actually be a blessing in disguise. In this sea of NBA players, NBA insiders, wannabe NBA insiders, celebrities, and wannabe celebrities, here I was, almost invisible.
My various badges and passes got me close to most of the action but not too close. I could always see what was going on, but my invisibility cloak had its limits. Too close, and my cover is blown and next thing I know, Gym Class Heroes and Jesse Jackson are giving me swirlies in the bathroom between second and third period. There was always a buffer zone of lameness that separated me from the beautiful people, but at the same time, if they had the ability to actually notice me, they would have been thoroughly creeped out by me, staring at them, jotting down notes, always dying of laughter.
My beat for the weekend was to always be around, keeping my head on a swivel, noticing when hilarity ensued, watching as celebrities interacted, and most importantly, guessing what they were talking about, based on who they were and their mannerisms. This sounds like an easy task, but at an event like the NBA All-Star Weekend, it can cause a serious case of carpal tunnel. The observations are seemingly endless.
Friday Night: BBVA Rising Stars Challenge
9:10 p.m. Shaq high-fives everyone on #TeamShaq, and then gets to Jeremy Lin:
Shaq: Hi, little fella.
Jeremy: Hi, Shaq.
9:11 p.m. Shaq keeps going, and then finally makes it to Blake Griffin. Blake is the only one who stands up and embraces Shaq:
Shaq: Why you playing with these little kids?
Blake: I got to, man, it's part of the deal.
Shaq: OK, well get me three oops in the first five minutes and I'll sit you till the end.
Blake: Thanks, man.
9:17 p.m. Wale is sitting courtside, alone, with two empty seats on both sides of him, texting.
Mass text to Maybach Music Group: WHERE IS EVERYONE? THIS IS MAD EMBARRASSING.
9:19 p.m. Mascot puts a cheerleader in Shaq's lap:
Shaq: Heeeey mama, get outta here before you get me in trouble (slides hotel key).
9:28 p.m. Wale, still frantically texting, still laughably alone:
Guys, this is really uncool. People are starting to stare. Hurry, please.
9:32 p.m. Jeremy Lin's parents are caught on the Kiss Cam texting and never react:
Mom: Jeremy is playing horribly.
Dad: I think we're on the Kiss Cam.
Mom: Don't you dare look up.
Dad: It's getting awkward. Everyone's laughing. Just listen.
Mom: DON'T YOU LOOK UP.
9:38 p.m. Rapper Meek Mill and friends arrive. Wale looks elated:
Wale: I'm so elated.
Meek: Does Ross know we're courtside?
Wale: No, but I charged these on his card and am hoping he doesn't check his bank statement.
Meek: We're screwed if he finds out.
9:39 p.m. Meek Mill takes phone call. Looks important.
Meek: Hi Rozay. Yeah, I didn't know they were courtside, either. Wale got them, sir. I'm sorry. OK, we'll see you Monday. Bye, boss. BOSS.
9:55 p.m. MarShon Brooks hits a 3, points at Deron Williams. Deron says something to wife:
Deron Williams: That dude sucks.
10 p.m. The JumboTron is playing the top 10 plays from people in the Frosh/Soph game. No. 1 is obviously Blake dunking on Kendrick Perkins.
Blake: (Not saying anything, towel over face, almost embarrassed as his teammates go crazy.)
Blake's thoughts: I am so awesome.
Side note: Watching Blake watch Blake is an incredible experience. So meta.
10:04 p.m. MarShon Brooks has an open short jump shot, runs back for a 3, airballs it, and then looks at Deron Williams. Deron says something to wife:
Deron Williams: What did I say? He's the worst.
Saturday Night: Shooting Stars/Skills/3-Point/Dunk Contests
8:43 Kevin Hart and Spike Lee talk around Mary J. Blige:
Spike: How you get these tickets?
9:05 p.m. Russell Westbrook and the kid he was "playing for":
Russell Westbrook and kid: [No conversation.]
9:10 p.m. Tony Parker and the kid he was "playing for":
Tony Parker and the kid: [No conversation.]
9:20 p.m. Westbrook and Parker, talk over kids:
Westbrook: When is this over?
Westbrook: Trying to go get changed and watch this dunk contest.
Westbrook: What hotel you staying at?
Side note: It is at this point that I move seats and sit a few sections behind the Black NBA Illuminati. In order (from left to right): Evan Turner, LaMarcus Aldridge, Serge Ibaka, Kemba Walker, Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. (Deron, Westbrook, and Durant join in later.)
To the right of the crew are The Decision Kids and to the left are The Money Team. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this would be a good time to close this blog post.
9:32 p.m. The Money Team (50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather) and Evan Turner:
Money Mayweather: Yo fam, you got love for the Money Team?
Turner: Well, I, um So it's funny, you know.
Money Mayweather: Don't look at me, ever again.
9:35 p.m. 50 Cent and white guy next to him:
No eye contact (not to be a spoiler, but this doesn't change for the rest of the night).
9:55 p.m. After noticing the different handshakes throughout the Black NBA Illuminati, neighbor David Jacoby and I decide we need a Grantland handshake.
9:58 p.m. Durant teaches Money Mayweather a handshake:
Mayweather: So it's bap bap and then salute?
Durant: No, we just went over this. Bap bap bap and then salute.
Mayweather: Yo chill son, I got this, Money got this. Three baps. Done. I got this.
9:59 p.m. "Bap bap bap and then salute" becomes official Grantland handshake.
10:03 p.m. Rondo comes out, walks toward the crew, and no one gives up seat. He sits alone elsewhere.
10:08 p.m. Deron comes back from the skills competition, negotiates with one of the Decision Kids:
Deron: I think you're in my seat, my man.
Decision Kid 1: Nope.
10:08 p.m. Older guy next to Decision Kids gets up and moves.
10:09 p.m. Money Team approaches Rondo and they each take one ear:
We know you ain't got no friends. Get in this Money Team.
10:15 p.m. Jacoby points out that the mascot Benny the Bull is the meanest, rudest creature ever created. He's right.
11:07 p.m. Floyd aggressively waves Durant and Westbrook over to take a walk with him:
Money: Aight, so y'all down with me and the Money team?
Westbrook (answering for both): Yes, we're down.
Durant (looking puzzled at Wesbtrook): OK. What do we have to do?
Money: OK. First assignment: Get me and 50 some bags of Cooler Ranch Doritos from the vending machine. You've got two seconds.
Sunday Night: The NBA All-Star Game
6:55 p.m. Walking in behind La La Vazquez-Anthony and Gabrielle Union:
La La Vazquez-Anthony: Girl, you look good.
Gabrielle Union: Girl stop, you know I don't.
7:09 p.m. Weezy and Orlando Magic Mascot:
7:20 p.m. Bill Russell and Mary J. Blige:
Mary: It's such an honor to meet you, Mr. Russell.
Bill: And you, the same. Who are you?
Mary: Mary J. Blige. I'm a singer. I'm actually singing the national anthem.
Bill: Did you win one of those shows?
7:21 p.m. Kobe and Chris Paul:
Kobe: I'm dropping 40.
CP3: You better get yours before Westbrook gets in.
7:26 p.m. (Before they walk out) Melo, LeBron, Wade, Howard, Rose:
LeBron: We're walking out to "I'ma Boss." Let's go ham.
7:28 p.m. Walk out. LeBron and Dwight yell "2 CHAINZ" and are dancing. Melo and Wade join in.
Jason Bourne Derrick Rose waits, stone-faced, for his next instructions.
7:29 p.m. Alex Rodriguez and girlfriend (sitting four feet away):
[No conversation, yet.]
7:31 p.m. Drake and Wayne:
Drake: Can I stand on this chair?
Wayne: [No response.]
7:32 p.m. Drake stands on chair, post-Canadian national anthem, and cheers.
7:36 p.m. Derrick Rose flashes first smile with Bill Russell:
Russell: How are you, Derrick?
Rose: Thank you for all you've done for the sport, Mr. Bill Russell.
7:43 (ALERT) First overheard conversation of the weekend — Kobe to A-Rod:
Kobe: What up, boy. [Chest beat.]
A-Rod: What up. One of two smiles of the evening.]
Actually, I'm just remembering it was mouthed. Still haven't used my ears.
7:49 p.m. Drake and Wayne: Still no conversation yet. Further evidence they aren't actually friends.
7:51 p.m. Drake and Wayne stand up together, then quickly sit down. No words exchanged.
7:55 p.m. Dwight ties shoes while he and LeBron chat:
LeBron: Last night was mad real.
Dwight: Sunglasses and Advil.
7:57 p.m. Wayne takes off glasses, gives to neighbor, they talk:
Wayne: Take my glasses.
8 p.m. Highlight of weekend: The West calls time out, the lights come up, and Ne-Yo puts back on his shades. I bet the interior of his fedora is lined with wet-wipes.
8:02 p.m. The troops are honored, Wayne stands up and pulls an American flag out of his pocket, waves it, yells something:
Wayne: FREE WEEZY.
8:03 Ne-Yo finally speaks to date:
Ne-Yo: I'm Ne-Yo.
Ne-Yo's date: I know.
Ne-Yo: That's cool.
8:04 p.m. Dwight is sitting in stands with an old white dude:
Dwight: Orlando in the building.
Old Dude: Yes sir, this building is most certainly in Orlando.
8:05 p.m. Westbrook makes a shot in front of Young Money. Wayne growls at him.
Side note: In addition to the Black NBA Illuminati, there's the Black Celebrity Illuminati. Will get into that later.
8:06 p.m. Wayne and Drake actually have a conversation. Again, I was on the other side of the floor, but I know this is exactly how it went:
Drake: Young Moolah Baby.
Wayne: Young Money Bitch.
Drake: Toronto stand UP.
8:10 p.m. Wayne has headphones on and is rapping along to something. Or maybe singing.
Wayne singing: "Bad dreams in the night. They told me I was going to lose the fight. Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering, wuthering heights."
8:13 p.m. Rondo and Pierce go up for rebound. Both interfere and it goes out of bounds. They stare at each other.
8:15 p.m. Spike looks like Diane Keaton.
8:18 p.m. Second meta moment of the weekend, as Dwight & Co. watch Dwight on the JumboTron do the cookie challenge. You know, when you put a cookie on your forehead and try to get it into your mouth without using your hands?
8:19 p.m. Dwight gets the cookie at the buzzer, LeBron and Wade are freaking out, dapping up Dwight:
LeBron: Ahhhhhh, you see that?
Wade: COOKIE CHALLENGE.
Derrick Rose: [Hands behind back, sweating, because he wasn't programmed to respond to the cookie challenge and knows he shouldn't celebrate, but loves cookies.]
8:20 p.m. Nicki Minaj has made her way to the Black Celebrity Illuminati row.
8:21 p.m. Wayne still has headphones on. Looks like a different song this time:
Wayne singing: "Hey ladies. When your man wanna get buckwild. Just go back and hit 'em up style. Put your hands on his cash and spend it to the last dime. For all the hard times."
8:22 p.m. Wow. Chris Tucker is here. Again. Rush Hour money is, apparently, the longest money.
8:24 p.m. Mascot skit with Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping." They fall at "I get knocked down."
Cee Lo: Haha.
Travie McCoy: Point and haha.
Kevin Hart: Stands up and haha.
Drake: Laughs, looks at Wayne, stops laughing.
8:27 p.m. Moment of the weekend: I reach across body and catch a T-shirt that flies over A-Rod's head without even standing. I get love from my section, and A-Rod turns around and flashes his second smile of the night. That happened. Moving on.
8:43 p.m. Three kids come up to A-Rod and ask for autographs but are too scared to get his attention. They eventually get it. So proud of them for their courage.
8:50 p.m. Halftime — Pitbull/Chris Brown.
8:51 p.m. A-Rod knows his Pitbull.
8:54 p.m. Paul Pierce, on court, taking video of Pitbull on phone. No other players to be seen.
8:48 p.m. A-Rod and CC Sabathia acknowledge each other, but still, no words. It's like they know I'm right there, taking notes right behind them.
9 p.m. With our own eyes, Jonathan Abrams and I watched the Drake/Common beef end. They shook hands, hugged, and ended it just like any two Basketball Wives would squash a conflict:
Common: Yo man, it's all about love. Let's squash this.
Drake: Yeah man, I feel you. I feel you. Most definitely.
Common: I hope you learned your lesson.
Common: I'm crazy, son.
9:02 p.m. Wolf Blitzer and a guy with Louis Vuitton hat/scarf set:
Wolf: Where'd you get that Louis Vuitton hat and scarf set?
Guy: Yo man, you know I can't tell you that.
Wolf: Oh my bad, no disrespect, I'm just trying to finish the winter out in style.
9:05 p.m. Dirk and Nash, on the court, seemingly talking about basketball:
Steve: So you know they're not going to pass it to you, Dirk.
Dirk: I know. Will you pass it to me?
Steve: Of course I will. We've got to stick together.
Dirk: Wait, what are you talking about?
Steve: You know
Dirk: No Steve, what are you trying to say?
Steve: Never mind, just look for the pass.
9:09 p.m. Kevin Hart and Benny the Bull:
Kevin Hart: Get out of my seat.
Benny the Bull: I'm going to kill you, Kevin Hart.
9:11 p.m. Dwight comes up to Bill Russell and tries a five-hit combo handshake with him:
Russell: What are we doing?
Dwight: It's our new handshake.
Russell: I don't like this.
Dwight: No Bill, it's cool.
Russell: I don't like you.
9:13 p.m. Seats change: Chris Brown is back. Chris Tucker gets sent away.
9:18 p.m. A rabbi to Sabathia: FIRST QUOTE ACTUALLY HEARD:
Rabbi: Hi, I'm your wife's rabbi. I bet you didn't know your wife had a rabbi.
Actually, Abrams heard it because I was too busy staring at A-Rod's girl, but yes. It happened and I'm still quoteless.
9:24 p.m. Chris Brown is announced, everyone cheers, I put head in hands and attempt to disappear.
9:39 p.m. Benny the Bull touches a Gym Class Heroes member's mohawk, then wipes residue on someone else. Wayne laughs. Mohawk guy doesn't.
9:53 p.m. Mid-yawn in the quietest arena I've ever been in, I see Drake talking to security guard, making hand gestures:
Drake: Yo, can Birdman Jr. and I please get some nachos? I'm Drake. That's Lil Wayne. Doesn't that mean anything to you?
9:54 p.m. 2 Chainz sits next to Wayne and they're talking:
Wayne: Boi, where ya been where ya been?
2 Chainz: 2 CHAINZ.
9:55 p.m. 2 Chainz is talking through a headpiece receiver connected to his iPhone.
2 Chainz: 2 CHAINZ.
10:03 p.m. LeBron hits a 3, causing an all-YMCMB stank face.
10:04 p.m. Benny the Bull takes someone's hat.
10:05 p.m. LeBron hits a 3, first real energy in the arena all weekend.
10:06 p.m. Durant comes back with shot. Crowd goes wild, guy behind us spills beer on Abrams. Abrams is mad. Abrams is sad.
10:09 p.m. The score is 141-146, West. Everyone is into it. Spike is talking to referee:
Spike: Ref, give me a break.
Ref: You were so good all weekend.
Spike: What'd you expect. I'm Spike Lee, maker of films and other assorted statements.
Ref: Good point.
10:15 p.m. Tom Thibodeau is yelling, writing up a play for the East team:
Thibodeau: Give it to LeBron. Good GOD just give it to LeBron.
10:17 p.m. Finally, with 22.8 seconds left in my All-Star coverage, my first actual quote of the weekend. The crowd is yelling "DE-FENSE." At the All-Star game. Unbelievable.
10:17 p.m. Also, with 22.8 seconds left in the All-Star weekend, Kevin Hart leaves. Meanwhile, on the other side of courtside, Wayne, Drake, and 2 Chainz are standing up, stressing. This is the moment that separates the camera-hungry, clownish sports fans from the camera-hungry, clownish non-sports fans.
10:20 p.m. LeBron has the ball and with only seconds left decides to pass it. And it's picked off by Blake Griffin.
10:21 p.m. Kobe, in LeBron's ear:
Kobe: I can't believe you passed it.
Kobe: You know I wouldn't have passed it.
Kobe: I would have shot it.
Kobe: Would have gone in, too.
Kobe: Ha. You passed it.
10:22 p.m. Spike is on the court, begging for a lane violation during Blake's second free throw.
Spike: LANE VIOLATION. GOOD LORD.
10:23 p.m. Blake makes free throw, a timeout is called, Tommy Thibs writes up one last play.
Thibodeau: Do NOT give it to LeBron. Good GOD just do anything but that.
10:24 p.m. Play doesn't work. Game over. Weezy is ecstatic.
Weezy: Young Money.