Once upon a time, not quite three years ago, a girl who had been all about football her whole life fell in love with basketball. Not quite one year ago, that same girl wrote her first basketball blog post. It got some attention. So she kept writing.
This past weekend, she went to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans with a media credential and VIP access to the best parties and the best players.
"Suuuuuuure," you're thinking. But it actually happened. This is the ridiculous story of what went down.
How to pick up a blogger at All-Star Weekend
All-Star Weekend coincided with the beginning of Mardi Gras, so I was appropriately handed All-Star themed beads when I walked off the plane. My cabbie was a fun older lady with bright purple nail polish and matching coat. Upon finding out I was not there for Mardi Gras, but for the All-Star Game, she promptly launched into a long lecture on how to pick up guys while I was in town. ("You KNOW there are lots of single young men here for that," she said, confirming my sneaking suspicions.)
Not too long after that, the guys of basketball Twitter also decided to be helpful, and previewed the pickup lines I could expect this weekend:
Girl, are you Kevin Durant? Because I really can't contain you.— Cole Patty (@ColePatty) February 14, 2014
"Girl, are you Shaquille O'Neal? Because what you say is stupid but I'll always love you"— Andrew Tobolowsky (@andytobo) February 14, 2014
"Girl are you Steph Curry? Because you could hit it from anywhere"— Andrew Tobolowsky (@andytobo) February 14, 2014
"Hey Girl, are you Jae Crowder? Because you look terrible" *drops mic*— Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace) February 14, 2014
This would probably work on me. RT @KirkSeriousFace: "Girl are you Dirk? Because SHUT IT DOWN LETS GO HOME"— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 14, 2014
Thanks, guys. That was truly special.
Meeting (and drinking with) a legend
My little group was being hosted by Crown Royal for the weekend, and they wasted no time in pulling out all the stops for us. We drank well, and for free, all weekend. We got into the best parties (more on that below). We went to the actual ASG. But the highlight of weekend was probably Saturday evening, when Crown Royal arranged a meet and greet and whiskey tasting with the legendary Dr. J. To be totally honest, it was one of those moments where I wish I had more NBA history under my belt, because I knew the magnitude of the moment but most in the room were genuinely starstruck.
Dr. J was gracious enough to toast with us and spent about 20 minutes taking questions. He talked about topics ranging from the impact of the history of the game on the current generation and his passion to not let the earlier days be forgotten, including his heroes: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Oscar Robinson. He also talked about the evolution of the dunk contest, and why you don't see the "best" dunkers necessarily participate:
The slam dunk contest became one of those things because someone's gotta lose. And when you're building this corporate image and structure and all the dynamics associated with that, coming in second in the slam dunk contest goes in the wrong column.
It was a completely fascinating discussion of NBA history and the evolution of the game. What an amazing treat.
"No, I swear, we're really VIP. It's fine."
Again thanks to our fantastic Crown Royal sponsors, we got the VIP treatment at the two biggest parties of All-Star weekend: the TNT/Kenny Smith party on Friday night and the Kevin Hart party on Saturday night. Apparently Charles Barkley was there on Friday night, which makes sense, and apparently Nick Cannon was the DJ. I didn't see them, but I did see a lot of tall guys who could have been basketball players or former basketball players. (Please see above re: my three year basketball fandom. I don't ever recognize anyone.) But there was bottle service and pulsing club music and they were "the" parties, so. That's the bigger point here.
Also, the fashion is kind of all over the place. There was your normal club attire I guess. There was us. But then....I've never seen so much very unfortunate use of skintight leopard print. Maybe that's normal in New Orleans. Or for Kevin Hart groupies. (Do those exist?)
When you are bloggers, interesting things happen when you roll VIP at parties. At the TNT party, we snuck into what we assumed was the VIP area with no problem, and were really proud of ourselves, only to be told later that we had been in the VIP area and "snuck into" the normal person area. The next night, in the ridiculous scrum to get into the Kevin Hart party, the security guards let me and one of our guys through the line, then stopped my other two co-bloggers and questioned them extensively before someone finally confirmed they were good to get in. Because bloggers always have VIP access to the best parties, duh.
These were collectively The Most Blogger Things that happened all weekend. Make sure you wear your skintight leopard print next time, boys.
It's going down, I'm yelling.... NO. NO. NOT AGAIN.
If you have attended a NBA game, or have ears, you have heard "Timber." It is the most awesomely awful song in the history of music. It gets played during every game at American Airlines Center and from what I can deduce using logical reasoning after this weekend, the NBA is contractually obligated to play it everywhere all the time at any NBA-related event. It gets inescapably stuck in your head and just when you think it's unstuck, there it is again.
They're playing Timber at media availability, because of course.— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 15, 2014
TIMBER!— Robby Kalland (@RKalland) February 16, 2014
IT'S GOING DOWN, I'M YELLING TIMBER— Mavs Moneyball (@mavsmoneyball) February 17, 2014
I've decided to just lean into Timber and not try and fight it.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 17, 2014
During the game, In the middle of Sir Foster's amazing organ covers, we got a snippet of Timber. Not on the organ. The actual song, for like 10 seconds. Just thrown in there. You truly cannot escape it. Also, this video exists. Well played, Pitbull and Ke$ha. Well. Played.
Basketball royalty, semi-royalty and internet royalty
I know you don't believe me at this point, but there were actual basketball things with the actual players in the actual game that happened this weekend too. The All-Stars held an open practice on Saturday morning that we managed to see the end of. In case you don't believe me, here is a video of Jeff Caplan, Tim Cato and me walking behind Craig Sager as he interviewed Steph Curry. If we look lost, it's because we spent about half an hour just trying to figure out where we were supposed to be. (They hold the Saturday practices and availability at something called Jam Session, which is basically a basketball amusement park.)
But we made it! And media availability right after practice was pretty insane, both literally and figuratively. Dirk. KD. Steph. CP3. LeBron. Etc. All in the same room. Just....I was taking it all in, because it was a moment I may not get again. I couldn't STOP taking it all in.
And Craig Sager seemed to remember us later, so that was cool:
Craig Sager just gave @tim_cato and I a casual 'sup. So.— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 15, 2014
In between those types of experiences, there were the random encounters with who I will lovingly refer to as "basketball internet royalty." People who I've never met in real life, but know them from (or have interacted with them on) Twitter. The most memorable of those moments was probably chatting with J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas of NBATV's The Starters when we ran into them on the street. Those little real-life connections were almost more cool than hanging out with Drake. (If we had gotten to hang out with Drake. He wasn't returning my calls, though.)
The truly amazing (non-Timber) music experience
Everyone in the hip-hop world, from the aforementioned Drake to Vanilla Ice, was in New Orleans for this weekend, and if you don't believe me, these girls have you covered:
Shoutout to the girls who stopped their car in the middle of the road to yell at @myfabolouslife. You almost died, but you got your photo.— Tom Lorenzo (@TomLorenzo) February 16, 2014
I am an unabashed music junkie, and I will say that the random music moments were possibly (for me) better than the big ones. During the one little bit of tourism I got to do walking through the French Quarter and up and down Bourbon Street (holding a purple daiquiri the whole time, because of course I was), I got these two moments.
Guy playing "All I Ask of You" from Phantom on violin as I walk through the French Quarter. #swoon— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 16, 2014
Just some things that you remember well because it's so New Orleans. Also, purple daiquiris. As I was walking on a street. Come on. That's great.
But the big music moments at the game itself. My goodness. Player introductions were just Pharrell bringing out guest after guest after guest and they were fantastic:
And I don't know guys, but I don't think any halftime show in history has topped or in the future will top this one, with Trombone Shorty; Dr. John; Earth, Wind & Fire, Janelle Monae and Gary Clark Jr. Seriously, go watch that linked video. I have not seen all the halftime shows in history, but Twitter seemed to concur:
This halftime show is everything. #love— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 17, 2014
This is everything.— Robby Kalland (@RKalland) February 17, 2014
I don't remember the last time I grooved so hard. I don't know that I ever have.— Hal Brown (@HalBrownNBA) February 17, 2014
There was, in fact, some basketball
Finally, just to bring things full circle, by the end of the weekend I did have the guys trained to know exactly how to get to my heart:
You guys @Nate_Timmons just gave me a Ricky Ledo rookie card so this weekend is officially the best.— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 17, 2014
Oh yeah. I watched some basketball too. In a not yet remotely full and pretty quiet Smoothie King Center, I stood up high over a railing and stared for about 20 minutes in awe at this:
Current status: watching Dirk and Steph Curry getting up shots before the ASG. #heaven— Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix) February 17, 2014
* * *
So, this has been a three year journey that started with me watching Dirk win his only championship and most recently had me behind the scenes at what might be his last All-Star game. And making some wonderful new friends along the way.
I keep thinking I should quit blogging while I'm ahead, but the experience just keeps getting bigger and better.