All-Star Weekend is over now, both in life and in our hearts. But while you’re actually there, it’s hard to write about it because everything is insane. Therefore, even though nobody asked for them, I’ll put up a few memories of it over this week.
When you’re a fake journalist at a big news event like this, you spend most of your time trying to fit in. This involves pretending to send important emails on your phone, staring at your phone like you just got a really important email, and waving your phone in people’s faces because it’s the only information-recording device you brought. Resulting pictures throughout this post.
Sometimes you want to ask players questions or make eye contact with them, but these urges are pretty quickly overwhelmed by your desire for them to like you. It probably really annoys Ray Allen when reporters approach him, you think, and then how will you be friends??
There was one time, for example, when Ryan and I sat at the front row at David Stern’s All-Star press conference. And I could barely pay attention to what he was saying, because I was so worried that Marc Spears and Howard Beck were mad at me for taking the good seats so they had to sit, like, nine rows back. I actually turned my press pass backwards at one point so nobody could see my name. I know, but that’s how intense it was.
If you’ve gathered a middle school vibe from from these anecdotes, you’re on the right track. At both ASW and middle school, you walk around with this idea in your head that the cool kids are watching you, and you have to act a certain way to impress them, even the cool kids don’t actually know who you are. You’re fully aware that all it takes is a quick glance at your chest (“Celtics Hub? Sounds bloggy.”) for them to realize you’re not somebody they need to be talking to. And every time you get your courage up to actually commit an act of journalism, you hear about one of the other bloggers getting his hand bitten off by Gregg Popovich for asking him a basketball question and then you skip right back into your shell.
But, and this is possibly the only thing I learned about NBA culture over the weekend: I’m not sure journalists are the only ones who feel the effects of this system. Over the weekend I watched lower-level players and former players look like victims of the immutable middle school hierarchy. These guys, who anywhere outside of an NBA event walk like gods, went pretty much ignored the whole weekend, even though they’d shown up and made themselves available. While the stars walked around parties with human shields laughing at all their jokes, the lesser-known guys would just stand around at the periphery with nobody to talk to. Same with interview sessions: more standing around, in case anyone was interested in talking to them, as dozens of people gathered to hear the same old stuff from the bigger names.
Two examples of this from the mixer in the Marriott lobby, one current player and one young former player who now works the D-League, both with strong connections to Boston. As crowds mingled around the bar downstairs, among them John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, and Terrell Owens, these guys were outside the fray completely alone. The current player sat one floor above, alone in a hallway lined with computers for complimentary guest Internet use.
He didn’t use the computers. It was just a quiet place outside of the action. Many people passed him, most of them certainly recognized him, and nobody said hello. He sat there for almost half an hour. Here’s a picture I took from far away out of respect/fear.
The former (now D-League) player, meanwhile, was down below near the bar, although just outside it. He appeared to show up alone, then staked out a spot along a wall and just leaned there by himself. Autograph hounds were all over John Wall right in front of him, but he just looked at them sort of disinterestedly.
At one point, I heard a large man near me tell a woman in a short skirt to “Stand next to him.” She did, sort of awkwardly posing on the wall, but she never spoke to him and he never acknowledged that she was there. I don’t have any pictures of this that don’t show his face.
It all makes sense, of course. In any system where some individuals are appraised as being more valuable than others, via their salary or a scoring system or whatever, you’re going to get wallflowers at the office party. But it still surprises you when you see these guys, who are so cool and have the greatest job in the world, being left out.
Sorry for going blind item with this one, I just don’t feel good using names talking about how these guys just hang out alone. Hopefully you’ll trust me, because these stories aren’t really interesting enough to not be true.