If I could be commissioned to write the biography for any of the NBA players I’ve ever covered over the last five years, I’d probably choose D.J. Mbenga, who’s got one of the most ridiculous life stories of any professional athlete ever. After him, though, I’d take on the narrative of Luol Deng, the current starting small forward the Chicago Bulls. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Nice To Meet You’ Category
To casual NBA fan, one would assume that Ron Artest is slightly insane based solely on the now-infamous Malice at the Palace incident back in 2004, when he entered the stands and punched a fan in the face for throwing a cup of beer at him.
But there’s more to Ron Artest than one might imagine. Yes, when he was a rookie he drank cognac in the locker room during halftime of some games. Yes, that same year he applied for a job at Circuit City so he could get a discount on electronics. And yes, he once wore a bathrobe to one of his practices. All of these things are true. I’m not saying he’s perfectly sane—just that he’s not as bad a guy as you’d expect. (more…)
This originally appeared on FreshScouts.com on August 20th, shortly after my wife was given the opportunity to meet her childhood crush, Taylor Hanson. I wanted to write about the experience, but I realized that I sort of already did. So here’s the story of how Wifey met the Man of Her Dreams.
(Those of you saying, “You mean it’s not you?” are exactly correct. At least not when compared to Taylor Hanson. Otherwise, yes, I’m the man of her dreams with lowercase letters. I’m perfectly fine with this).
In order, these are the cast members from “Saved by the Bell” that I’d most like to meet:
1. Kelly Kapowski (she’s 36 years old and still one of the hottest women alive)
2. Mr. Belding (who my brother has actually already met—apparently he’s a very nice, cool guy).
3. Zach Morris
4. Stacy Corosi (played by Leah Remini of “King of Queens” fame)
5. Mike Rogers from “The College Years” (played by Bob Golic, former NFL lineman and brother of “Mike and Mike in the Morning” radio personality Mike Golic).
7. Jesse Spano (I always thought she was gross, even after “Showgirls.” Especially after “Showgirls.”)
8. Lisa Turtle (I have no positive or negative feelings towards her either way, which I think is worse)
(Take every other cast member ever from the history of the show, including all the extras who didn’t even have lines, and number them randomly from 9 to 1, 278. Then…)
1,279. Mario Effing Lopez
And of all the people on the list, the two I’ve actually come across in the real world are the two I like least. (more…)
The first time I met Kevin Durant was during his rookie season with the Seattle SuperSonics, and I was shocked to get time alone with him despite his being the second overall pick in the previous summer’s draft and the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year all season long.
Still, that’s what happened, even in Chicago, where media descend on anybody even remotely resembling a star like starving tigers on raw meat.
Seeing Durant alone by his locker felt like something of a small miracle, so I approached him and asked for a few minutes of his time.
You never know what to expect with basketball stars, as I’ve said in this space literally tens of times before, and many top draft picks are weighed down by significant egos. Still, you don’t get many chances like this at the United Center, so even if this guy was a known media murderer I was still shaking his hand and introducing myself.
Turns out he wasn’t a media murderer. Not even close.
In fact, there have been few times when a player has been so genuinely happy to meet me. In a lot of ways, I really couldn’t believe how well that night had been going. The gods of sports reporting were smiling upon me, and the radiating glow from their warmth was absolutely overpowering.
I love nights like that.
“Hi, Kevin? Joel Brigham with HOOPSWORLD. How you doing?”
My standard introduction.
“Hi, Joel. Nice to meet you,” Durant returned, smiling genuinely.
We bantered about the trials and tribulations of being a rookie, about his career aspirations, and about the possibility that his team would eventually be moving to a new city (which it did the following summer, to Oklahoma City). The whole thing only lasted about five minutes, but was an extremely amiable conversation that ended with handshakes and chuckles and thank you and you’re welcome.
I wrote up my article, which I remember feeling very positive about, and called it a night.
But just a couple of short months later I’d find myself in Phoenix covering All-Star Weekend, at which Durant was participating in the Rookie/Sophomore game. I bumped into him at an after party and re-introduced myself.
He remembered me.
There are players I interview 15-20 times a year on the actual Bulls roster who I don’t think would’ve cared so much to remember my face, especially not after the first meeting, but Kevin Durant did. He even agreed to take a picture with me, the results of which is a disturbing multicultural bastardization of Laurel & Hardy.
Still, bumping into KD at an event where Talib Kweli plays a private set for only a few hundred people is a special thing. For those counting, that’s two Durant meetings and two tremendously positive experiences.
When I saw him again it was over a year later at the annual Las Vegas Summer League, as he hung around to “coach” other young players on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster. The atmosphere as these events is very loose, so when he was just hanging out at midcourt dribbling a basketball, I moseyed up and made a run at a quick interview.
Before I even got to him he said, “Oh, hey man! How you been?”
What kind of freak memory does this kid have?
As always, he gave me loads of his time, answered my questions with gusto and pizzazz, and thanked me for talking with him, as if I were doing him some big favor. I left thinking, “This is a cool guy. They don’t make superstars more down-to-earth than that.”
And the more I found out about Durant, the more that rumination was justified. He loves playing Oklahoma City because it’s so small and so quiet, and he’s got absolutely zero aspirations of bolting there for a place with more “marketing opportunities.” He’s not, for example, taking his talents to South Beach any time soon, and he would pass on Chicago, L.A., or New York as a home town ten times out of ten if a comfortable house in Texas was the alternative.
He’s not at all arrogant and he’s not a glory hog. He doesn’t run his mouth. He’s poised to be the best overall player in the NBA this year partly because he’s a freak of nature with an 8-foot wingspan and unstoppable range, but also because he spends his entire summer in the gym working his ass off.
That’s the kind of player I want to root for, and in fact that is the kind of player I root for, because I clearly love me some Kevin Durant. I didn’t get to meet up with him last year because my schedule made me miss the one OKC visit to Chicago, but I’m hoping to have another soiree with the big guy this winter.
Hopefully he remembers me.