28 February 2011

Greatest Love of All

I had this old VHS that I wore out to death: NBA Superstars. It was one of my first basketball videos and I'd watch it over and over again. At the time I had yet to have any music preferences so I just listened to all the artists featured on the video. Luckily for me, the artists and songs highlighted were pretty classic. Janet Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Kool Moe Dee, John Mellencamp, Yanni, Steely Dan, Whitney Houston. Each song was paired with an all pro and it was all so beautifully done. A few years ago NBA Entertainment released all three Superstars sets on one DVD. Only the first one is timeless, but for a few bucks it's a must buy for every basketball fan. Check out some of the videos and playlists from the first Superstars tape here. And this NBA Jam Session tape was my second favorite, but it never hit DVD sadly.

Of course, when I went to make my memory video of my first in-person Celtics game this weekend, I dipped into the Superstars playlist for a classic, Billy Joel's "This is the Time." Their version features NBA greats from the past; my version features my Saturday night at the Clippers versus Celtics game.

Basketball games I've attended in my lifetime: (1) Golden State Warriors versus Clippers when I was a teenager. My dad brought me because the Clippers were doing pre-season in San Diego and we sat way up. (2) Pistons versus Hawks, in college, when a group of us got tickets for the Palace and sat as high up as humanly possible. Dikembe Mutombo was an ant. (3) Lakers vs 76ers once on Christmas Day. Somehow my friend had box seats and George and I both went to see Iverson battle Kobe and Shaq. I thought that would be closest I'd ever get to a NBA game.

Oh no, this time around, we sat seriously three rows from the front. Like it was us, then two rows of VIP seating, then courtside seats. I've been telling people that we were well within the Splash Zone. Suffice to say, the only time I've been closer to a basketball game was when I'm sitting on the sidelines of a pickup game, waiting my turn.

How did I end up with such great seats? Well, my friend's girlfriend got him the tickets for his Valentine's Day present. And then she so kindly suggested that he take me. Initially I wasn't sure if I could take them up on their kind offer since I was clear across the country and flying in for a game seemed extravagant. But my friend said, "C'mon, it's once in a lifetime. Get here and we'll go. " So of course I had to come because this was my only chance to see Paul Pierce, KG, Rondo, and Ray Allen all together. No amount of money would be worth staying away. I love Valentine's Day! (Actually I think I just love my friend's girlfriend, but in a grateful way.)

You would cry too it if happened to you.

So how was the game? It was amazing of course. Everyone looks exactly like they do on TV, just life sized. It's weird. Celebrities tend to look different than they do on-screen, but sports people are just the same in person. Maybe I need to get closer or something. But what you can't feel at home is the absolute confidence and coolness of all the players.

The Clippers, who aren't even a good team, all carry themselves with swagger. Backup players are looking out into the stands as if they own the place. And when Blake Griffin is about to get loose for a dunk, the entire arena stands up in anticipation. He had two open court slams and a few other mighty ones. The man is a monster. And when they say Kevin Garnett just exudes cool, it's absolutely true. Just looking at these prime athletes walking around on the hardwood made me want to faint. "How do they walk around being so awesome all the time?"

The floor looks tiny though, like way smaller than it is on television. More narrow and not nearly as wide. The players look like they are all mushed together and it seems like there's no room anywhere. And when dunks or spurts of action happen, it's all incredibly fast. Blink and you miss the pass that leads to a score. You really gotta pay attention. I tried my hardest not to take pictures, video, or look at my phone because I needed to maximize my forty eight minutes of heaven. My hands started hurting from clapping so hard about halfway through the first quarter. I had to pace myself. I found myself yelling out non-sensical things even though I'm not much of a screamer.

I'm also not normally an autograph or picture guy but I was hoping maybe I'd sneak close enough to a player for one or the other. My semi-realistic goal was to say "hey" to Brian Doo, the Celtics strength and conditioning coach. He's always on TV and he's like the Asian face of the organization. Sadly, no Celtic came within hailing distance of me. However, my friend did get to meet Ben Baller, who is the new Jacob the Jeweler -- among many other things. Just the night before, my friend had been showing me Baller's blog and website and filling me in on his history. And then at halftime this blinged out Korean guy goes walking by and my friend's like, "It's Ben Baller!"

When he came by again, my friend congratulated Baller on his recent engagement and then we snapped a quick pic. The encounter made us seriously giddy and it was our biggest brush with celebrity that night. Unless you count Pat Sajak, who also walked by, looking all orange and old. Or Billy Crystal, who looked kinda bored and probably wished he had Oscar hosting prep to do. I did keep an eagle eye out for Bill Simmons but no luck there.

Afterwards, we drove back down to San Diego and immediately rewatched the game on DVR to see if we made any of the shots. Our seats were situated so that every time the teams transitioned from one end to the other, we appeared as little blurbs in the background. It's such a small thrill but man were we excited. I want to save that recording forever. During the game, we tried to jump out of our chairs before anyone else in order to get on TV but that clearly didn't work. Next time I need to wear my gear -- which we had run out of time to pick up beforehand. I have logo-ed out high rise socks, wrist bands, a jersey, and a sweatband, I swear!

This was quite possibly the best night of 2011 for me. And it's only February. Sorry March through December, it's all downhill from here. Thanks Hong and Jenn, Sweetest Day this year is on me!