Author Archives: Holly MacKenzie

Sinking Deeper Every Day: 70+ Things This Lockout Will Withhold

Photo by almost something poetic on Flickr

Saturday evening. Roughly 5:15 p.m. EST. I am sitting in a coffeeshop watching choppy Ustream of the Drew League games in LA when 36 year-old Joe Smith shows he can still get up and throw down. Immediately, I get a gchat message from @outsidethenba: “If that was an NBA game there’d be all sorts of age jokes on Twitter.”

<Insert sad face here>.

I miss the NBA. I know it’s still the offseason and we haven’t missed any games and things really aren’t that different…yet. I know these things. I know that the NFL sorted things out. I know that there are lots of people who are enjoying the break from the hustle and bustle of the season. I know that bodies need to rest and batteries need to be recharged. I know. It doesn’t change the fact that I miss it.

It’s been 111 days since I’ve been in an NBA arena to cover an NBA game. You’re lucky I appreciate you all or I’d list 111 things I’m longing for.

That’s 111 days since I’ve heard the high-pitched squeal of shoes squeaking on hardwood, or the slap of a foul committed in the post or the shrill pitch of a referee’s whistle refusing to be silenced by the drone of a crowd that disagrees with the call.

I’m itching. Antsy. Beyond ready.

And I know I’m going to have to wait. I’m going to have to wait to see Kenneth Faried make Denver fall in love with him, followed by fans everywhere. I’m going to have to wait to see Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo make me tune in to every single Bobcats game. To watch DeMar DeRozan’s first 40-point game and to hear Mark Jackson mic’d up in the huddle, to see if he says “hand down, man down” and to watch the reaction of his players when it does inevitably slip out.

I’m going to have to wait to see how Kobe’s knees are feeling after a summer of rest and alternative treatment. To hear KG say dirty words that make people angry. To watch DeJuan Blair continue to amaze, impress and inspire those of us with our ACL’s still intact. To get frustrated with DeMarcus Cousins when he gives people extra ammunition to use against him and to be elated when he drops a 25-point, 13-rebound, seven-assist night.

I want to watch John Wall and JaVale McGee. I want to be relieved that McGee left planking behind in the depths of lockout hell. I want to see Brandon Jennings put on a dizzying show and then flip the channel and see Russell Westbrook playing his game, yeah, the one that often causes him to be compared to television villains because people forget how much he’s still got left to learn.

I want my Twitter to be blowing up with silly hashtags for each and every Blake dunk. I want to see Blake dunk. Over cars, over Mozgovs, over everything.

I want to be able to tweet “all blocks everything” while delighting in the joy that Serge Ibaka brings. I want to see James Harden’s beard and Kevin Durant’s backpack. I want to watch Durant drop 60…On NBA defenders. I want to watch Eric Maynor nail buzzer beaters from half court and know Zach Harper is freaking out with me.

I want to watch Tristan Thompson in Cleveland and Cory Joseph in San Antonio and then I want to enjoy watching each of them experience their hometown debuts against the Raptors in Toronto.

I want Tristan to give Kemba a run for his money when we’re talking about best-dressed rookies.

I want to see Paul George take another big step forward. I want to see Lance Stephenson take the first step. I want to see Jeff Foster get hyped and Tyler Hansbrough get offensive rebounds.

I want to see Steve Nash be Steve Nash. I want to see if Raymond Felton is in shape. I want to see Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala make Doug Collins give super long, over the top compliments in his postgame pressers. I want to see a sophomore Ekpe Udoh. A veteran Raja Bell. A healthy Brandon Roy.

I want to see Udonis Haslem playing without ‘rows. I want to be instantly put at ease when I hear Hubie’s voice emitting from the television set. I want to tense up when I wait nervously on Thursday night to see if I’m going to be stuck with Reggie Miller’s. I want to see Shaq on TNT.

I want to get excited for Kyrie’s first double-double, emotional for the championship ring presentation and proud for Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki, still smiling after this stupid wait that is keeping them from their banner. I want to see Mike Brown in LA, Dwane Casey in Toronto, Lawrence Frank in Detroit.

I want to extend my best wishes to Frank in Detroit. As much as I miss the game, that roster still makes my head hurt.

I want to see Chris Paul. Remember the playoffs? Yeah, you do. God, do I ever want to watch Chris Paul play basketball. Give me Aaron Gray and Jason Smith and Chris Paul. He’ll make it work.

I want to see Ricky Rubio.

I want to see Jonny Flynn in Houston (where he is hopefully playing well).

I want to see Dwight dominate and I want to hear us debate how good he could he if he would just <insert suggestion here>. I want to see if he stays in Orlando. I want to see Melo and Amar’e continue to get comfortable in New York. I want to see Derrick Rose continue to make Brenda Rose proud and the rest of us speechless. I want to see Jeff Teague get buckets, Jamal Crawford rack up 4-point plays, Xavier Henry get burn and I want to talk with OJ Mayo because he rewards good questions with great answers even if the team bus is leaving in five minutes.

I want to see Tony Allen go Tony Allen and play defense with his hands behind his back. I want to see Doc Rivers coaching his team. I really want to watch Rajon Rondo continue to prove why he’s an iron man and to show why he is my favorite player to watch (minus the free throws).

I want to watch Rajon Rondo shoot free throws and Shawn Marion shoot jumpers and Jose Calderon play defense. That is where we are right now.

I want it all. I don’t want to wait. I think it’s foolish that we’re on the verge of losing actual games because people can’t sort this stuff out. It depresses me. It frustrates and infuriates me. When you’ve got a good thing, don’t let it slip away. NBA, you’re coming off an incredible season and I haven’t even mentioned the boys of Miami yet. Don’t mess this up. Don’t push us away. Don’t play dumb. Play games. Please. Soon. On schedule.

In the meantime, I’ll be Ustreaming and Youtubing my life away, watching skinny, shirtless boys singing songs about Brandon Jennings and his money. Please, give me more than that. I promise I’ll give you back my full attention.

Before my internet bill is through the roof because I’ve streamed too many streetball/euroleague/national team friendly matches, before we lose Nate Robinson to the NFL, before you lose me to the dark side, let’s figure this out.

It’s been 111 days. Please, don’t make me endure 111+ more.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, coach. That’s the plan for these guys, anyway.

While we’re all waiting for something to happen, guys to sign somewhere, do something crazy or announce that they’re taking up a new sport, something pretty cool is happening, it just doesn’t involve NBAers actually playing basketball. Well, it kinda does, just not as the competitors we’re used to them being.

First, we found out that Andrew Bogut was going to be spending his lockout serving as an assistant coach of the Australian National Team:

Bogut hoped to play for Australia in the best-of-three series, the winner of which will qualify for the 2012 London games. But Basketball Australia was unable to insure his multimillion dollar contract, and instead the former No. 1 NBA draft pick will assist coach Brett Brown on the bench.

Brown joked Thursday “he’ll be my richest assistant coach. He’s fantastic about wanting to play, but with injury and insurance issues with the NBA lockout, he’ll play his role from the bench next to me.”

via Yahoo! Sports

How baller is that? Can’t get the insurance you need to play for your country so you decide to coach your peers instead. I love this.

Later that night, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio tweeted a trio of tweets reporting that John Calipari announced John Wall, Rajon Rondo and Eric Bledsoe would be enrolling at the University of Kentucky if the lockout continues and also that if they are enrolled as full-time students, they would all be eligible to be studen assistant coaches:

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Earlier this year, Rondo returned to the Celtics lineup for a game against the Raptors after he had missed seven games with an injury. Unsurprisingly, he was key down the stretch as the Celtics pulled away and after the game I asked him about his time on the sideline, and if he’d learned anything about coaching. Here was his response:

“It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as a coach. I don’t know if I want to coach when I’m done. Guys, you tell them stuff, they do the opposite…When I’m out there, you can almost kind of control it a little bit, you can direct someone into their place, but once you’re a coach on the opposite end of the floor, it’s frustrating.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Rondo takes to coaching this time around.

Who’s excited about this? I’M excited about this. Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders and Vinny D. should also be excited about this. Young point guards taking on the opportunity to learn about the game from the sideline? This is a good thing. How awesome for the Kentucky guys who will get to learn from current pros, too.

There’s always a lot of talk about young players being stubborn and pros being difficult to manage. Things like this show that most of these guys just want to play, learn and get better at the game that they love. I’m a fan of each of these things. Know what I’m not a fan of? This mf’n lockout. While I’d love to see these guys as assistants, I’d love to see them playing basketball in the best league on the planet even more. #justsayin

Lessons from Baron

LOS ANGELES — “What direction is the culture moving in Los Angeles?” the lecturer asks, and from among the various students, including women in open-toed sandals typing away on laptops and a gray-haired man with a wedding ring writing on a yellow legal pad with a Montblanc pen, comes a response from a man with the beard that’s familiar to any NBA fan.

“East!” Baron Davis calls out, correctly.

-via ESPN. Wisening up in Westwood

Baron Davis has always been a little different than your average NBA player. He was the first professional athlete to ink an endorsement deal with Jenny Craig after struggling to keep himself in tip-top shape. He went to school with Kate Hudson and Cash Warren. He’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild and he’s produced a documentary about gang life in America. He’s as active outside of the basketball sphere as he is in it (and sometimes, it seems as though we see more of him off of the court than on it) and he’s got a loud and colorful personality that does indeed speak louder than his game these days.

Despite these things, my first interaction with Davis was less than stellar. It was in Seattle (R.I.P, Sonics), and the Golden State Warriors were in town. It was a game where the scoreboard caught on fire. A game where I spoke with Stephen Jackson about gun shots in Indiana. A game where Kevin Durant was so long and lean that you feared his forearms would snap when he was fouled while driving to the hoop.

Davis was alone in his locker after the game, and I asked him if we could speak. He said yes. I asked him some questions, plural. He elected not to respond, but to stare at me blankly. I repeated my questions. He repeated his stare. I was a rookie reporter, in the locker room for only the second time in my life. I didn’t know what to do. I chose to walk away. I felt my face burn up, not sure if this was normal behavior, feeling foolish because Davis was the player so many of my writer friends had told me to talk to because, “He’s great, you’ll love talking with him.”

After I left the locker room, as I walked down the tunnel, smiling at Don Nelson drinking a beer in the hallway by the team bus and trying not to stare at Robert Swift’s smoking hot girlfriend, I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around to face Davis. I tried not to show my fear on my face, but wondered if I was about to be cursed out, to earn the horror story that every writer seems to have about a player flipping out on them for no real reason. I braced myself for what he was going to say. After what seemed like an eternity, Davis asked me what I needed and asked me to repeat the questions I’d asked in the locker room. I told him I’d gotten the answers I needed from his teammates and started to walk away. He then began to apologize profusely, saying he hadn’t meant any disrespect, that he’d been caught up on something, but that wasn’t an excuse. The team had boarded the bus by this time and started yelling for him to get on. He motioned for them to stop before asking me again if I needed anything from him. In short, he was as polite as I’d expected him to be in the first place. He was human. He hadn’t been in the mood to answer anything, but instead of brushing me off as a media member that he didn’t know and had never seen seen before, he treated me with respect once he recognized his actions.

I’m sure Davis doesn’t remember this encounter, but I do because he taught me a lesson: players can be cranky, and sometimes you’ll approach them after a bad loss or performance when they’re angry or bitter or caught up in something. But often times, how someone treats you on that single occasion isn’t a fair representation of who that person is. Plus, people deserve a chance to right their wrongs before being written off. I was so bummed that Davis wasn’t what I had expected him to be, and then in the blink of an eye, he proved himself to be exactly what everyone had told me he was: a normal guy who also happens to get paid an absurd amount of money to play basketball.

Three years later, I stood in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ visiting locker room, waiting for Davis to address the media. My eyes were burning, stinging from an allergic reaction I’d had to the cologne a man sitting on press row was wearing. As Davis was answering a question into the camera for the Cavaliers broadcast team, he caught my eye and noticed the red, swollen eyes staring back at him. Despite being on camera he stopped to ask me if I was alright. After he was done with media, he pulled my aside, cringing while looking at my eyes, then told me to take care of myself and rest up. I wanted to tell him how he’d scared the hell out of me three years ago, but didn’t have the ability to think of anything but getting home so I could take my contacts out and flush my eyes out. Still, it was another little jolt that reminded me of the lesson mentioned above. People, especially famous people, can’t be judged by glimpses of interaction. It’s not fair.

Now, how does any of this link into Davis going back to school? Well, with Davis, we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s returned to UCLA 12 years after leaving for the NBA, because, unlike the unsavory, incomplete glimpse I’d gleaned during our first interaction of that Sonics/Warriors game, Davis has spent 12 years showing us that he isn’t just a basketball player. He’s got interests and passions that extend far beyond sports. This isn’t anything new. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou who said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Davis has shown us. We should have believed him. We should also remember, though, that it often takes more than a glimpse to be shown who someone is.

I’m so glad I didn’t walk away from that first experience with Davis jaded by his initial, blank reaction. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the uniqueness that Davis brings to the NBA in the same way that I do now and I really enjoy those things. As writers, there are always lessons to learn. Some of us bloggers (myself included), don’t have a journalism background; we never learned how to deal with attitudes in the locker room, or developing a good rapport with players. It’s trial by error and baptism by fire. My encounter with Davis was one of many lessons I learned in that first year of NBA writing, and three years later, it’s still the first thing I think of whenever Davis’ name is mentioned by a colleague. This time, though, I get to be the one telling the newbie writer that Davis is a sure-thing when looking for someone who will be interesting and engaging with your questions.

Finding players like that is one of the most rewarding parts of this gig. Learning about someone’s family, their friends, hopes, interests, random pieces of real life that tumble out when you ask a particularly good or intriguing question that captures a player’s attention is something you don’t forget. These lessons are also things that I will not forget.

The best part of experience is the lessons that come with it. After three years of covering the NBA, I’m thankful for all I’ve learned (both good and bad, and Lord knows there’s been plenty of not fun lessons to learn), but mostly, I’m excited for more. Now studying history at UCLA, Davis is keeping busy by learning from the experiences of those that came before him. It’s nice to know that getting paid a lot of money to play a game hasn’t killed Davis’s desire for more, either.

NBA Players Playing Basketball: A Reason to Wake Up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday

How did you spend your Saturday morning? If you were like a handful of us blogging types, you spent it straining your eyes looking at a grainy, sometimes jumpy feed of a bunch of NBAers playing against the PBA All-Star team. With highlights like that video above, it was totally worth it, even if I’m a pretty cranky, sleep-deprived girl right now.

With Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, JaVale McGee, Tyreke Evans, Derek Fisher and rookie Derrick Williams as the SMART All-Star team, the NBA boys won 131-105 in front of some wild fans who showed their love and appreciation for all things NBA.

JaVale McGee provided both the highlight and the lowlight of the game, scoring a team-high 25 points for the SMART All-Stars, then deciding to plank on the court. Seriously.

I love JaVale and it was fun to see him having fun, but can we be done with this planking business soon? At least he’s smiling.

  • Okay, so JaVale had 25 points, Durant scored 22, Derrick Williams had 19 and Tyreke Evans had 17. Those are the numbers you should probably know.
  • Harden had 16, Kobe finished with 12, CP3 added 11, Rose scored nine and Fish went scoreless, if you were wondering.
  • Kobe Bryant was the player-coach. Kinda fun. He also heard his name chanted by the crowd throughout the game.
  • Fans lined up for tickets for more than nine hours prior to the game.
  • Favorite line from an announcer: “JaVale McGee with 25 points and 1000 slam dunks.”
  • Best description of the planking craze comes from a GMA News recap: “Afterwards, McGee made true of his promise on his Twitter account by doing the plank, a crazed practice being done in public places.”
  • Favorite play from the game: That gorgeous Durant to Harden alley-oop linked above, but this was a close second:

  • Click here for a photo gallery from the game.
  • Best thing about the NBA community: Go to Twitter at 7 a.m. on a Saturday and there will be a crew of devotees awake and tweeting their way through an exhibition game because this is what we love and who we are and what we do.
  • Worst thing about this game: It’s truly deflating to think about the next time we’re going to see these players on a basketball court playing basketball that matters. While I love streetball and pick up games, I love the NBA and I want to see the greatest players in the world playing the world’s most beautiful game.
  • Important to note: There will be another game you can catch online tomorrow at 5 a.m. EST time. If you’d like to watch, I’m sure Twitter will help you with the appropriate linkage.
  • Finally, I’ll leave you with this photo (courtesy of @TheRealVP’s Twitter account) to make you smile. And if this doesn’t make you smile, well, I can’t help you. Wake up tomorrow and watch some basketball. That’ll do the trick.

SwaggerJack: Stream of Consciousness

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM and HP. Her SwaggerJack column is supposed to run weekly here at HP but technology interceded recently. She’s back this week with some random preseason thoughts as well as some OJ Mayo love. Enjoy.

Sorry for the lack of posting, everyone. I kinda had this thing happen that is NEVER supposed to happen to a Macbook, especially not one that is only a year old. Yeah. My hard drive crashed. While I use an external drive, I lost some articles and a whole lot of NBA photos along the way. I’m most depressed about that. Anyone with a collection of Kobe, Chris Paul or Stephen Jackson photos, feel free to email us at HP If you feel like sharing.

It’s freaking finally getting close (but not close enough), to the tip off of the 2008-2009 NBA season. I’m beyond ready. I’ve been going pretty crazy as the days get closer and, maybe it’s just me but this offseason seems like the longest one of all time. Ever.

I’m now a week ( or five), late with this but, anyone else find it kind of hysterical that Kobe Bryant was on Oprah’s show? I’m the biggest Kobe fan around (and yes, I like Oprah as well), but it just seemed funny considering the demographic of her typical audience. I never would have imagined I’d see him sitting on her stage. I guess winning gold medals can make anything happen.

Ever since the draft (well, actually, ever since the allegations brought forth against him last Spring), I have been trying to explain to people what it is about OJ Mayo that screams “star” to me. And, without having watched him suit up for his first NBA game, I have been unable to make people see what I’m talking about. Earlier this week I ended up making the comparison that I think is kind of perfect for explaining why I like this kid.

OJ Mayo drips swag the same way that Megan Fox oozes sex.

Now do you guys get it? There is something about him, he’s got that “it” factor. From the way he has been groomed to handle the pressures, his tireless work ethic, the smooth look on draft night to match what looks like an effortless performance put in night in and night out, the boy is destined to shine even if it is not as a result of his game in the first few years of his NBA career. While it appears as though the media scrutiny and hype over the past year has stifled some of that charm, I’m holding out hope that once he gets to slip the uniform on and shake off the doubters, haters, naysayers and other various media members and their opinions, that spark will return to his eyes and the personality will flow as freely as his game in the open court.

Besides, with the drama that is Beasley and the pressures that are on Rose, I’m looking forward to watching Mayo do his thing in Memphis. Thanks to Darrell Arthur, he is kind of in the perfect position, where he looks more and more mentally ready and prepared to handle this league.

Maybe the year of OJ? Hope so. I’m itching to see Marc Gasol as well. Hopefully he will get a haircut before season starts.

This whole writing recaps over at SLAM has kind of screwed with my NBA Lakers fandom. Of course they are still my team Absolutely. Definitely. Completely. Let me make that clear. However, when you watch 97% of the games that are played, you start to root not only for specific players but teams as well. And, when you are someone like me, who loves love, rather than hate (you all saw the Hate List), well, there are a lot of teams and players I’m loving.

The Blazers have to be included in this list, of course. Holy hell, who isn’t on their roster this season? It feels like they’ve got 37 million new guys to look out for. Definitely excited to see how Rudy Fernandez makes the transition. Also, of course, I will join the basketball world with all eyes on Oden.

My Warriors. Okay, not MY Warriors, but I definitely did let that slip last week when I was talking to a friend. “We matched, right?”, when talking about Buike’s contract, not even realizing until he reminded me that I committed the cardinal sin against my own team by claiming partnership with another.

Now, speaking of the Warriors, I need to talk about Monta Ellis. What the HELL, man? I swear, the Bay is like Heart Attack City because its just up and down, up and down. Lose Baron, but you’ve got Monta. Ooops. No you don’t. I don’t even know what to say about where this team will end up, what has happened to their identity or what to expect from them and I’ve got a team preview due in just a few days on them. My weekend will be spent trying to unearth some answers.

Mark Cuban has always been great in my books, but his post today calling out all of the absolutely ridiculous, idiotic, disgusting ignorance that has been flooding his inbox as of late has made me want to stand up and sing. Thank you, Mr. Cuban.

Anyone familiar with SLAM magazine is also familiar with Russ Bengtson. He’s got this basketball blog, where he is currently in the middle of posting 50 haiku’s, one player a day. A few of my favorites:

Dwyane Wade:
Fall down seven times
Miss the rest of the season
Maybe work on that

Caron Butler
Serving of Tough Juice
Ain’t never from concentrate
Fresh for you daily

Check out the blog, it’s pretty great. I’ve also heard there will be team previews in Haiku form coming up soon, as well.

Now that this is way late, I’m sure the Oklahoma logo has been bashed into the ground enough, but is there anyone else who thinks it looks too similar to the Nets logo? Blech, I am not a fan.

I’ve got to talk about Gil Arenas for a moment because dammit to hell, one of my favorites has to take a time out. Regardless of whether this will make him come back quicker, help his rehab, whatever, it just sucks that he has to sit out. And I’m sick of people saying it’s all good because he just signed that multi-million-dollar-man contract. No, it isn’t good. As a guy who loves the game and loves playing the game, it doesn’t matter if he’s a high school kid or a multi-milli, it is brutal to have to be stuck on the sidelines. Get that knee right, Gil. I miss watching you!

Oh, before I end this, just wanted to say how excited I am to catch the Mavericks this year. Coach Carlisle has said how Josh Howard has been working on his game and that he is improving everyday. I don’t know about all of you, but after this crazy offseason, I am so looking forward to watching him PLAY BASKETBALL and see if he can get back to December 7th, when he dropped 47 on the Jazz.

SwaggerJack: Gil Arenas – The Lost Interview

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM and Hardwood Paroxysm. Her SwaggerJack column runs every Friday on Hardwood Paroxysm. Today’s subject is an interview, kind of, with Gilbert Arenas, that serves not only as a reminder of how dynamic a personality Agent Zero is, but also of the importance of double checking your recording equipment. Yikes.

A Few Reasons Why I Love Gilbert Arenas

-He is only himself and unapologetically so.

-He remains humble while also being extremely confident.

-He gives back to his fans and sincerely appreciates them.

-He recognizes that as much as we love it, it really is just a game.

-He is all heart.

When I first started this column I told Matt I wanted it to be a space that reflected my love for the game and I wanted to start things off with two of my favorites. Those favorites would be Rod Benson and Gilbert Arenas—the All-Star bloggers of the NBA and D-League. While I easily set up a lengthy interview with Mr. Benson, I had to work just a little harder to track down Mr. Arenas. In the end, I was able to speak with him thanks to the Wizards fantastic PR people.

It was all arranged for me to call the Wizards training facility where I would be put through to Gil after he finished a workout session. While I had a set of questions prepared (and pre-approved), about being the bloggingest NBA player, the conversation was hijacked early and often by Arenas. Everything you read in the blog and laugh over on Youtube is true; the guy has such a wild personality and a broad range of interests. Blogging and basketball were hurriedly shifted to the back burner while we discussed Penny, Britney and wealth and happiness, among other things.

After the interview was finally over, I settled in to begin the dreaded transcription process. For anyone who has never done this before, it can only be described as painful. Taking a 40-minute interview and typing it out word for word—especially when you talk as fast, or laugh as much as I do—is not fun. But, it’s got to be done, so I usually try my best to dive in immediately when I’m still glowing from the info I’ve gotten.

Sitting down, recorder in hand, laptop on lap, a breakdown is about to take place. When I unhook the recorder from the telephone and press play I cringe as I always do upon hearing my own voice, smile when I hear Gil’s laidback “What’s up”—and then my heart jumps into my throat and my stomach drops onto the floor when the recorder stops. I fiddle around with it a bit, to no avail. Get some new batteries and its still the same story. 0:32 seconds of my 40+ minutes with Gilbert Arenas is all that the recorder captured. Sh*t. Damn. Motherf*cker. That wasn’t D’Angelo playing. I wasn’t playing either.

After a mini Russell Crowe/Naomi Campbell moment with the now-defunct recorder taking the place of a telephone, I stressed, worried and yes, shed a few tears. Called, texted and emailed pretty much every person I knew from SLAM asking what the hell I was supposed to do next. My panic only increased when everyone told me variations of the same thing: There really isn’t anything you can do. Even if you reschedule, you won’t get the same interview back. Ever.

That was one of the darker days of my young career. I’ve since purchased a shiny, new recorder that promises to work for at least a year. I’ve also calmed down considerably after hearing that every journalist will have to deal with slip-ups. I’ve decided I’m thankful mine was over the phone as opposed to falling flat on my face in a locker room or something. As it is always said, it could be worse.

As it is, it wasn’t a total loss. While I don’t have a recording/transcript, I did scribble down notes and then immediately after my recorder-throwing tantrum, I sat down and furiously unloaded everything that was fresh in my mind.

First up, after keeping his blog for the last few seasons, Gilbert was quick to say that the best part of the experience was grabbing the attention of fans that didn’t necessarily follow basketball or the NBA before stumbling upon him. After reading his blog, they’d decide to watch a game and they would come back. “Videogamers don’t know about basketball, but they see me blogging on their sites so they start watching, they start picking teams.”

Gil was also adamant that there was no negative for him as a result of having the blog and said that he doesn’t consider it to be negative at all unless it is hurting animals or people.

He has had “people I would have never thought” reading his blog, including Penny Hardaway, whom he has since met. When asked if it was as big a deal for him to meet Penny as it is for normal fans to meet their favorite NBA players: “I met my hero and I don’t put myself on that same level as him.”

Fact: He still had all of his childhood posters of Penny Hardaway on his bedroom walls of his father’s house before the recent selling.

When I told him he comes across as being authentic both in his blog and whenever we see him in games or interviews, he said he couldn’t be any other way. He has always been a joker and he is a happy person. From there we spoke about the fame and wealth that comes along with being a professional athlete and he reminded me that if you were unhappy before you got your big paycheck, there is a good chance you could end up unhappy after you get it and the excitement wears off.

Gil also spoke about how much he hates when people are put into a box and explained that when he rips off his jersey and throws it into the crowd after a game, it is his way of saying thank you for coming out to see me play. And he doesn’t just want to be remembered for his statistical accomplishments: “I want people to be able to say he had fun.”

When asked what advice he would give other bloggers, he said they’ve got to find their niche—and that everyone has one, whether it is positive or negative. He said to be entertaining and that Americans know drama. Giving examples, Gil mentioned NFL player Chris Cooley and, as a result, I’ve since become a fan and reader of his blog.

We talked about media, where I got to express my own frustrations with the journalists who judged his commitment, questioned his injury and said the team was better without him. He said he doesn’t let anything like that bother him. One thing that does get frustrating, however, is when a journalist reads something on a blog or in another column and they just run with it without checking to see if it is valid. Still, he was appreciative of the media overall and acknowledged that they are just doing their job, trying to get info on and from the players.

Somehow the topic of my favorite guy Magic came up, and Gil told me that when he shoots around, he doesn’t tie his shoes, because when you tie your shoes it’s game time. He heard this about Magic a while ago and it’s been his routine ever since.

After I asked him to explain taking and making game-winning shots, his description was so simple it did seem like a no-brainer. He said that after practicing so hard things get to be a routine and taking a shot is like, 3, 2, 1. When it’s the end of a game, he just flips his mind back to practice and the pressure drifts away. The other players may be there, but he does not flinch because he’s just taking another shot.

Over the course of the conversation, one sentiment that Gilbert repeated time and time again was that he is living his dream, having fun each day and he wants to be able to give that enjoyment and thanks back to all fans of the game. He even gave some of that back to me when he wished me well in my career and then gave a few pointers on members of the media and things to keep in mind as I navigate this sports world.

The best part of talking to Gilbert was talking to Gilbert. He was up for anything I asked, and he often added to my questions, went off on tangents and then turned them back onto me to see what I would say. As exciting he is as a player, he’s an even more exciting and enjoyable person off the court. I wish him nothing but health and success in the future.

Unfortunately, what you just read represents only a fraction of the interview that I had with Mr. Arenas. I hope, if nothing else, this shows that the man is exactly as he comes across in his blogs. He is humble, kind and very engaging. Hopefully in the future I will get to talk with Gil again and be able to bring you the goods in their entirety.

My favorite part of our conversation came just before we finished, when I got to tell Gilbert I’ve never hated to cheer for someone as much as when he dropped 60 points on my Lakers in L.A. He got a laugh out of that and I got to see that with Gil Arenas, what you see, hear and read, is exactly what you get.

SwaggerJack: RIP AC

While the basketball scene in Canada is smaller than that of the US, it is a very tight-knit community. I received the tragic news this afternoon of the murder of Aaron “AC” Chan, an aspiring musician and producer who was well known throughout the basketball scene in Vancouver, British Columbia. Having participated in the Dolphin Park Classic only last month, it is hard to believe that this vibrant 25 year-old is no longer with us. My friend and colleague Gerald Narciso reported the sad news over at Bounce. As the basketball community and all of AC’s family and friends in Vancouver grieve over this horrific loss, I’d like to express that the thoughts of everyone at HP are with them.

SwaggerJack: All About the Shoes?

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM and Hardwood Paroxysm. Her SwaggerJack column runs Fridays here at HP, and looks at the more personal side of being an NBA fanatic. This week’s topic? Shoes, of course.

Shoes. Kicks. Sneakers. Whatever you want to call them, when you watch enough ball you start to take notice. For me, I’d look only on TV, to check what my guys were wearing, at least at first. Before long however, I was checking out footwear in class, on opposing teams and even on the street. Immediately after height and eyes, my own eyes began to dart to the feet and sometimes, those shoes could make up for a multitude of other shortcomings.

One thing that makes me a little bit different than most sneakerheads is the fact that I can’t wear the shoes. I’ve also never played a game of basketball in my life. Nope, thanks, I’ll just watch. This almost always surprises people when they ask me how I got started with basketball, but it’s true. I fell in love with Magic, like I mentioned last week and then I started coaching with the guys team in my high school, worked with teams in university and here I am today. Having never played in even so much as a pick up game before, I have never had to have a pair of shoes that I needed to slip on. Having size six feet and being under 5’2”, I’ve got little use for shoes that have anything less than a four inch heel. Still, I fell victim to the spell. Jordans. Pennys. Old school Reebok pumps. Kobe’s space shoes. Huaraches. Iversons. I loved them all.

In addition to loving the game, like so many I also grew up loving Scoop. Instead of crushing on players, I crushed on Scoop Jackson’s words. Even when he gave me a headache by writing an entire piece on Ricky Davis in one word sentences. That’s my guy. So as I found out that Scoop was the hardest of hardcore shoe fanatics and shoes became more and more popular in SLAM, I began to feel as though I was missing something. I wasn’t a part of the movement, I didn’t even own a pair of basketball shoes.

As I got older this began to be an issue because all of my friends were collecting and buying and obsessing as well. I didn’t want to be left out, but I also needed to start out small. Some offcourt shoes that I could wear as I dipped my toes into this sneaker world seemed like go. As I’m sure you can imagine, it didn’t really work out for me. Kob was with Adidas at that point and the space shoes were too much, even for me, one of the biggest Kobe fans you’ll meet. I remember how excited I was when I finally did buy my first pair of forces, white with pink on the toes. I even bought pink laces to switch it up a bit. Then, with those still sitting on the floor in my closet, I went and bought white Iversons, because I liked him and they looked pretty simple. Neither pair ever got to be worn in. I’ve still got the forces, I guess as a reminder of my first foray into the shoe world. I’ve learned quickly that I’m not a sneaker-wearing girl. I also learned that I like low dunks better than forces, if anyone is keeping score.

Since I am not a collector myself, I’ve become concerned with the shoes that my friends wear to live and play in. I think it just happens when you watch as much ball as I do. Every season, sitting down to flip through a Nike catalogue and helping to pick out the basketball shoes that would be worn by my university team became one of my favorite “end of summer” moments. If I can’t wear them, I’ll choose them.

The biggest part of this thing that annoys me is that I don’t have those fond memories of specific shoes that most of you do. I don’t have that pair(s) that I obsessed over keeping clean. There isn’t a shoe that was worn while I hit my first game winner, or one that I was convinced gave me those extra seconds on defense, or that I kept until they fell apart. Not a pair that I had on when I had my first kiss, first block or first detention. No memories interwoven within the threads of my kicks. When guys smile and think back to the first time they found “their” shoe, I keep it moving because I never had that moment.

Over time, instead of just noticing shoes, I began to fall in love with what players would write on them. Whether it was for a loved one, a bible verse or even just a reminder to themselves to keep focused, I love seeing guys with inked up shoes. Or ankle tape, like “All Alone, 33” Steph. Earlier this season when Ivy wrote “Thanx Phila” on his shoes for his return to Philadelphia, I was done.

Shoe wise, nothing will compare to when I was in the Lakers locker room this past February. Pregame. Lamar Odom is sitting in his locker, takes his shoe off and uncaps a silver marker. He’s wearing black shoes in the game so while there is chaos surrounding him, media members swirling, players joking around and people constantly coming in and out of the room, he slips into the background until he’s got his shoes finished. I watch him as he first writes his mothers name, then his grandma’s name and then, “Baby J”. Three loves of his life who had left too soon, etched on his heart and now also on his shoe.

Since that moment, shoes have changed to me. I know I’m never going to wear them and that’s okay. My heart may as well be sewn into the tongues of those shoes, because the game certainly owns it. As I stand a few inches taller thanks to my own heels, I don’t need to prove my place through shoe collections or anything else. It really isn’t all about the shoes, at least not to me. Still, every time I go to a mall with my guy friends, I am happy to sit and smile while they choose a new pair. And, when I go shopping with my girls, my eyes gaze wistfully at store windows, looking for the shoes that I hope the man of my dreams will be wearing when I look down to the floor and fall in love.

Since I’ve shared my “non-memories”, please, please feel free to share with me your favorite shoes, your first shoes, etc. Now that I’m okay with not having a collection of my own, I love hearing shoe stories from everyone else. Someday though, I’ll have a pair of Kobe’s game shoes hanging on the wall in a shadow box. Count on that.

SwaggerJack: The Hate List

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM magazine, SLAM online, and HP. Her “SwaggerJack” column runs Fridays around these parts.

Because I love this game so much and I’m often sticking up for the players who have managed to make their own lives difficult (or, as difficult as getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball can be), I am often asked about the players I don’t like. My mother taught me not to hate, so there is no true NBA monster in my mind, but there are some players both past and present who have been able to get under my skin.

Reggie Miller is a past guy that I loved to hate. Watching him yell in the PR guy’s face before the game to get hyped up used to make me want to deck him. Of course, when he played his final game, I bawled my eyes out, because even for Reggie there was great, great respect. As a player, not a member of the broadcasting team. Still, there are some players in the league today who annoy me. Sometimes this list is validated, sometimes not.

It took me awhile to come up with my list, but I’m confident that there are others out there who will agree with me. While my mind first went to the usual suspects like Bruce Bowen or Shaquille O’Neal, neither of these guys fit the bill. With Bowen, I liked that he knows and accepts his role on the Spurs, even though I want to bash his shins with a baseball bat at least once a year. Especially so when he gets involved with Chris Paul in a skirmish.

While people expect me to hate Shaq since I am obviously Team Kobe, I can’t. The guy is too entertaining and he was a huge part of getting us three championships and with the exception of a certain someone below, anyone who was once a member of the purple and gold will always hold a place in my heart, even Kwame. That being said, the little stunt he pulled this season, being miraculously healed as soon as his plane landed in Phoenix wasn’t so cool. Also, calling out his former teammates in Miami. Chris Quinn? Really, Diesel? His bench-sitting in Miami was a slap in the face to the fans and organization and I’m not down with that.

But, who am I kidding? I’m that girl who really does love the NBA and everyone in it. Even the guys who made this list, I still root for them while watching and it’s kind of like the people in your everyday life who drive you nuts, but without them, you’d hate the silence. I’ve got love for all of these guys even if they make me want to pull my hair out and scream some (most), games. To the people who wanted to see my negative side, read on. I now present the first (and probably last), SwaggerJack Hate List.

1. Wally Szczerbiak

I like typing your crazy last name and how you were like a mentor on the Sonics earlier this season. I like how intense you can be while in the game and I also am kind of in awe of your shoulders. It sneaks up on you, that physique you’ve got. Still, I’m almost positive that you were endorsing Skechers a few years back. If it wasn’t, then that male model was your twin. Also, any man that uses more hair product than I do gets an automatic strike (see below: Kirilenko).

2. Antoine Walker

Remember when you and PP led the Celtics back from 21 down in the fourth quarter of the 2002 playoffs? I think I liked you then, and somehow I was able to look past the fact that you just don’t look like a basketball player. Or, at least one who actually hits a weight room. You seem like a fun guy, but you were definitely the one getting the better deal out of the Pierce-Walker tandem. Now he gets to play with KG and Ray Ray and he actually earned his ring. Hope you had fun watching from your courtside seat!

3. Damon Jones

Damon. Damon. Damon. How quickly they forget. I know that’s what you’re thinking. It wasn’t long ago you was draining threes and had everyone mesmerized. Well time’s up, Jonesy. With the loud outfits and even louder mouthpiece, you’ve made a mockery… Of yourself.

4. Brian Cook

Brian Cook, gets the distinction of being the only Laker to make this list. Since that 03 draft when I hoped and prayed that the good things I had read about him in “Men of March” would translate over to the NBA, he has let me down and crushed my spirit. It was a warm day in November when I heard the news that he was leaving for Orlando. Even after all of these years of disappointment, I wish nothing but the best for him with the Magic.

5. Ben Wallace

Part of me cannot believe I’m putting you up here, Wallace. A few years ago, I was fearing the fro and cheering for every monster rebound you’d find a way to haul down. I loved your work ethic. Now, it seems like the only highlights I’m getting from you are air balled free throws and fainting spells. Where oh where did Big Ben go?

6. Reggie Evans

Exhibit A. Obviously, I’m not a guy and I have no idea what this feels like, but being a woman in a bar where complete strangers use close quarters as an excuse to be entirely inappropriate, Evans needs to be on this list. He grabbed Kaman’s stuff! That’s got to be at the top of “Things that are Never Okay on a Basketball Court”.

7. Cuttino Mobley

Cuttino. Stevie Franchise. Somehow these two are forever connected in my brain, but Steve has never bothered me like Mr. Mobley. Maybe it’s the cocky look always present on Cat’s face when it’s been quite some time since he’s accomplished anything worth noting, maybe it is how he thinks he’s going to save the Clippers in close games and ends up sinking them, or it could just be because he reminds me of the days when Francis was young and had those crazy hops, bottom line is, Cuttino makes me scowl.

8. Andrei Kirilenko

This may be an unfair selection since I actually love looking at Kirilenko’s stuffed stat line each night, but his spiky hair drives more than Sloan crazy. Add in his wife who thought going on the Tyra Banks show to discuss the “free pass” she’s got for Andrei was a good idea and he needs to be here.

9. Vince Carter

I’m Canadian and have had more than enough of both your whining and your mother. That’s really about it. Thanks for deciding to bail on your fans when you decided you wanted out, it was appreciated.

10. Jason Kidd

It hurts my heart to have to put you out there like this, but I really don’t have any high-profile NBA superstar on this list. I guess you’ll do. I love your talent, adore your knowledge of the game and wish I had your court vision. I also despise the way you handled things in New Jersey and I’m not really a fan of your jumper.

Honorable Mentions

Brook Lopez

Yes, I realize this boy has yet to play a minute in an official NBA game, but after his teary-eyed performance at the draft (and his asking who the Nets coach was), he’s got some redeeming to do before he gets in my good graces. Things working in his favor: He’s young and passionate, likes writing and the arts and I hear he’s a good guy from the people.

Adam Morrison

I can’t kick a guy when he’s down, but ever since your dramatic exit to the NCAA’s you make me scrunch up my face and not in a good way. I was able to look past the ‘stache and your eccentric ways, and I love when a guy is able to put it all out there, but writhing on the floor, tears soaking your jersey was a little much. Maybe if you’d lost out on a buzzer beater or something. Anyway, get healthy, and man up!

SwaggerJack: The Laker Girl Life

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM Magazine and Hardwood Paroxysm. Her SwaggerJack column runs regularly here at the Paroxysm. This week she outlines the life of a Lakers fan, one moment at a time.

Before you all get crazy on me, I have an “s” on the end of Lakers in the above title, no need to think I’ve gone off the deep end and feel that my everlasting love for the Lakers has earned me a spot on their dance team. Oh no, I am much, much to vicious after a tough loss to even muster a goodnight let alone dream of poofing pom-poms around.

This piece has been floating around in my head since Graydon’s HustleJunkie post last week, where he compared the game of basketball to a dance. While I completely agree, it got me thinking. If basketball is a dance, then it has a melody and I think everyone can attest to the fact that there are specific songs out there that transport you to another time with memories so fresh and vivid it feels like you could reach out and grab that time, no matter where you are when you hear them. For myself, and most basketball fans I’m sure, there are games that do this. Games that take me back to high school, missed shots that remind me of broken dates, broken hearts and broken (championship) dreams. Buzzer-beaters that inspire and propel me forward, the game has taught me more about life itself than anything else in it.

Almost all of these defining moments that came at the hand of palm to orange sphere involved a man wearing a Lakers logo upon his chest. I’ve tackled eight of my favorite Kobe moments here, in my first ever contribution to Hardwood Paroxysm (thanks again, Matt), but really, my love affair begins long before Kob. Without the Lakers, there would be no basketball in my everyday. The only way to do this is to choose some of those memories that represent both the Lakers and myself as I think back about what basketball has taught me.

#1 My first life altering, future-changing, career-defining moment came from a game I cannot even remember. It was winter and I was stuck inside away from the cold. I was young, possibly four, probably five and I was sitting in the living room, playing with the remote. I remember flipping because I liked hearing the “chut” sound as the channels flip (I still do, actually). Somewhere along the way, I stopped on a channel and I saw him. His beautiful smile lit up the screen and my heart along with it. The moment was Magic, literally. Earvin Magic Johnson leapt off of that screen and into my life, smiling, dribbling and gracefully gliding across the court. This was my introduction to basketball and the beginning of my Laker passion.

From that moment on, I was hooked. I didn’t know the rules of the game, or much of anything about it, but I learned. I was like a rookie, stuck on the bench with nothing else to do but observe the action unfolding on the court before him. Over time, the game became like second nature to me and those Laker boys were my second family. Even if they had no idea I existed, let alone dreamed in shades of purple and gold.

#2 Since most of the memories of my childhood are happy ones, and almost all of the ones involving basketball from this time are good, there is one that sticks out as being about pain. Lots of it. November 7th, 1991, my boy Magic was on the screen again, only this time the Magic was gone. In its place was the grief-stricken look of a man who has just discovered he does not have time on his side. This was the day that I learned about HIV. I don’t even remember how my mother began to tackle this topic with me. I only knew that I had lost my father to a boating accident at three and now I was hearing that my next favorite man would be stepping away from the game. I don’t even think I did understand what was wrong with Magic, only that he was sick and that sometimes people have to go away.

#3 I will keep the Kobe draft day trade story short, only to say that I was fascinated by Kobe ever since the day I saw highlights from his press conference announcing he would be declaring for the draft. At 12 years old and dreaming big dreams, watching this skinny kid dive head first into his own, felt right to me. When the Lakers-Hornets trade went through, it felt like it was my gift from the two Jerry’s. After being consumed by this draft and where Kob would end up, he ends up on my team, in exchange for Vlade Divac. That was the sweetest stroke of genius and twist of fate that I could ever dream up.

#4 December 6th, 2000. It’s not even halfway through the season and it is a match up between the Lakers and the Warriors and yet, the game sticks out to me when I think back to nights spent watching the Lakers. The game itself was actually pretty special, a 21 year-old Kobe lighting up the Warriors until Antawn Jamison started returning the favor and at the end of OT the Warriors won while the two young guys finished with 51 points apiece. I remember this game because my grandmother was in awe of what she had just watched. Being on the East Coast, the 11:30 pm tip off didn’t really go over too well with my mother, especially when we only had the game shown on the satellite TV that was in the living room. The only solution was for me to spend game nights at my grandmother’s house and in the process convert her into a basketball fan. My Laker love grew to enormous proportions in the living room of her home, she and I awake while the rest of Nova Scotia was sleeping.

#5 This next memory also took place at my G-ma’s house. It was the 2000 NBA finals. Lakers. Pacers. Rik Smits. Reggie Miller. Game four. June 16th. It was a Friday night and my Grandmother had a Bingo game or church meeting, something along those lines. I was alone sitting in my favorite chair, remote on the armrest, Pepsi in my glass and popcorn in a bowl. I didn’t get to eat any of that popcorn. The Lakers (in Indiana), inexplicably folded, died and surrendered, allowing the Pacers to win the game, 120-87. I remember lying back in the chair, wanting the game to be over. Wishing someone could take me out of my misery. I’m pretty sure that this was the first game out of only a handful to this day where I have stopped recording midway through because I knew it was over. By the end of the game, I had a heavy heart and a broken tooth, clenching my teeth just enough in frustration that I now had physical pain to match the emotional. I also had an excuse for my tears. Told you, I’m too intense to be a cheerleader.

#6 I’m at my aunt’s house, babysitting three of my cousins who are all in bed. It’s the Lakers and the Mavericks and I am able to watch since my aunt has ordered NBATV specifically for me. I have already told her babysitting will not happen on game nights if she doesn’t have the games. I’m watching my guys and it is not going well. By the start of the fourth Q, we are down 27 points. For whatever reason, I didn’t turn this tape off; I had faith that we could figure out a way to get back into the game. With the VCR recording, Kobe and Co. got to work. I watched, moving from my spot on the couch to stand and pace, then to another spot on the floor only a couple of feet away from the TV, transfixed. As Kobe dropped in shot after shot with the net barely daring to ripple, I began to breathe easy because I knew this was happening. We were winning this game. Before I realized what was happening (and probably as a direct result of the joyful scream I let out when I watched the usually calm Brian Shaw hyping everyone up in a time out), I noticed my youngest cousin, Kevin, had joined me. Peeking around the corner, in his pajamas, eyes wide in wonder, he was staring at the TV just like I had the first time I saw Magic. We watched the rest of the game together, jumping and yelling, high-fiving like complete morons, oblivious to the world outside of the STAPLES center and beyond our TV. At the end of it, my Aunt returned to find us awake and eating cookies and milk because really what else can you do at 3am after you’ve just watched your cousin witness his first Kobe game winner?

#7 January 12th, 2002. Lakers. Bulls. As I am watching the Lakers play the Bulls and Shaquille take his normal beating under the basket, suddenly things go awry. After taking a hard foul from Charles Oakley, Shaq loses it. And by losing it, I mean taking a swing at Brad Miller. A swing so close to hitting the entire arena shuddered to think of what would have happened had his fist connected with Miller. I remember this moment because obviously, who doesn’t, but also because I immediately called my then boyfriend to tell him to tune in to the craziness, but instead of getting an audience to watch with, I got my first non-basketball related broken heart. While Shaq was this close to losing it all, for the first time in my life I realized there are certain things that not even basketball can fully cure. At least not immediately.

#8 Summer. 2001. I’m at my grandmother’s when my mother calls me. I laugh at her and tell her she is crazy when she delivers the news that Kobe Bryant has been charged with sexual assault in Colorado. I continue to laugh, although a bit more nervously when she tells me to flip the TV to CNN so I can see for myself. Certain she has gotten Kobe confused with someone else, I can still recall that sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach as I somehow found a way to sit while my knees gave way beneath me. There was my guy, my player, my hero, my absolute favorite athlete plastered across the screen as these people speculated about whether or not he could have possibly done the unthinkable. I felt sick. My grandmother was upset, my mother worried about how silent I had become over the phone. It was a long summer of reading articles and court documents, sexual assault cases and various accounts of what had happened in that hotel room. Eventually I felt (and still feel), confident in the fact that nothing illegal happened in that room. Dishonorable, of course, but not a crime. Still, it forever changed the way people react when they find out I am a Kobe Bryant fan.

#9 We are now at my high school graduation. The day I completed my career as a high school student was also the day of the 2003 NBA Draft. It was the year of Bron, Melo, Darko and some guy named Wade. To my annoyance, it was also the year of Brian Cook and Luke Walton (the latter of whom, we are still stuck with). Skipping the pre-prom dinner was a no-brainer for me, I needed to see at least the beginnings of the draft. Going to prom was great, minus the fact that this was before everyone had cell phones and I had to continuously leave the party to go and phone my mom to update me on the last seven or eight picks. I had such high hopes for my boys, that somehow, they’d turn their 24th and 32nd picks into something golden that while I was excited for the future of Bron and Melo, my weekend was spent researching Cook and Luke.

#10 February 2006. STAPLES center. Raptors. Kobe Bryant. 81. 81. 81. This is the night that basketball fans around the world will either never forget or kick themselves for turning off the TV at half time. Watching the game, the Lakers looked lackluster and in danger of losing to the Toronto. At the start of the third it was immediately apparent that Kobe Bryant was not going to let this happen at any cost. Determined, Kobe set out with stone-cold eyes, clenched jaw and an iron will. Jumper after jumper, drive after drive, dunk, steal and splitting defenders one, two and three the Lakers did end up winning that game, but it became an afterthought as Bryant walked off of the floor, arm raised to the sky, 81 points of the Laker total his own and history, in his grasp. I watched the first half of this game alone, after getting into a fight with a boy. Of course. I was in the living room because I wanted to focus on the game and not rehash the details of the situation we were arguing about. Early into the third quarter, I summoned him to the living room and told him “Kobe’s got that look, you want to see this”. By the end of the game, the fight was a distant memory as there was postgame hoopla to take in and a celebration to be had. When this was all over, it was well after four AM and I had to go in to open the gym where I worked in less than an hour. There was no sleep that night. Not that I needed any.

While I have mentioned ten memories above, there are many, many more that factor in to my being a Lakers fan and that deserve to be mentioned here. Because this is already too long, I chose ten. From each of these specific memories, I have learned life lessons. I learned that there can always be magic in your life if you choose the right path and spend your days doing what you love.

I learned that if you do not feel comfortable telling the truth about the way you live your life when cameras are not on you, then perhaps you should re-evaluate what you are doing with your time.

Sometimes things just will not go your way, but it is better to lose a battle and then come back and win the war.

Even when you are down 27, with 12 minutes to go, never give up, or allow any situation you are faced with, to allow you to lose your fight. When your back is against the wall, there is nothing more to lose, so go out and get it back.

There will always be battles that will not be worth fighting and sometimes, you will find yourself about two inches away from losing it all. Pick and choose your battles wisely, that way you can win the important ones.

Everyone on this planet, basketball player, basketball writer, and everything in between, is human. The higher the pedestal, the harder the fall. Don’t idolize someone that you know solely through a game.

In life, just like on draft day, all we can do is make the best decision with the information available to us at the time. While Melo and Wade came after Darko and it still hurts that Leandro Barbosa was sitting pretty while Brian Cook smiled for the camera in his Lakers hat, this is life.

Finally, when you just keep your eyes forward, head up and heart fully in tune to what you are doing, sometimes you can accomplish amazing feats that go beyond even your own wildest dreams.

This game is a metaphor for life, and it is also the greatest teacher of mine. What are your life lessons from the game?