As talked about here, here, and here, the Pacers held a cookout at Larry Bird's summer home for their season ticket holders. Through sheer luck (and thanks to my buddy G-Mo) I managed to attend and, completely out of character for this site, I can't say a single bad thing about it. It was quite awesome. I'd rank it up there with the invention of Guinness, the thong, the barbecued pig, and whatever else you wanna name.

I approached the event with what is commonly referred to as "cautious enthusiasm", which is fully realizing the cavernous gap in between how spectacular a given event should be, and the disappointing soul-crushing flop it could be. And I began to realize this when we were at the check-in. I had no idea the Pacers' target demographic were retirees and grandmothers. But, then again, these are also the unwavering, die-hard Pacers fans that have fondly remember the ABA championship days and stuck with the team through good times and bad. Especially the bad. But I boarded the shuttle not completely sure if we were going to a cookout or to Old Country Buffet to play bingo.

After an hour on the short bus, cynicism was in full force. Would any players even be at this thing? My doubts were shot down like a JJ Redick trade demand when Larry Bird and Jeff Foster were waiting at the end of the driveway, welcoming guests and taking pictures. Larry greeted us with a handshake and a slap on the shoulder. 14-year-old-fanboy-from-1989-mode was in full effect.

But that's not all. Jim O'Brien, Mike Dunleavy, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts and Quinn Buckner were all there as well. And it was an unusually personable environment, probably even more casual than your annual office Christmas party. Burgers and margaritas. Players roaming around, taking photos and chatting it up with the fans. G-Mo half-jokingly asked Foster to put him in a headlock for a photo, which he of course did.

As a side note: I hope Roy Hibbert cleans house this season, if only because he's so damn likable. He's about as unassuming as a 7'2" millionaire can possibly be. One fan mentioned he saw Roy fishing in Larry's backyard lake (Yes. Backyard lake. Larry's house is ginormous.) and he nearly impaled an elderly gentleman with the lure. Roy and G-Mo found they both have a fondness of commercialized Mexican cuisine. A good time was had by all.

In summary, it was undeniably cool. It was a level of player accessibility I didn't know existed. But I could be wrong. Have you had any "NBA players are just plain ol' folks" moments? Tell us about it in the comments!

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30 Comments:
Anonymous jonny drama said...
Apparently before I was born, my mother, father and older brother (who was like 4 or 5 at the time) were car shopping and while they were looking at cars they ran across a "giant black man" as my mother puts it. From what she said, he was a really nice and friendly guy who even cracked a few jokes.

I asked my dad about it. He told me "Yeah he was a basketball player....Robert Parrish. I knew that he was on the Celtics, but your mother and I never watched much basketball so we didn't make a big deal about it. Now that I think about it, I probably should have asked for an autograph for your brother."

Anonymous Sun Devil said...
One time I was at a Wendy's in Portland and Rasheed Wallace lumbered in. My friend didn't see his face and blurted out, "Holy shit THAT guy is tall!" Basically everyone in the place heard him.

Anyway, 'Sheed cut me in line (I was like 15 and 5'2" and awestruck) and ordered a small of everything on the menu. Pretty soon after he ordered four young kids came in and started saying, "That's Rasheeed Wallace!"

Then the following dialogue happened between a kid and Sheed

Kid: Hey Sheed, I'm about to go the NBA straight out of highschool

Sheed: You should stay in school or something

Kid: Yeah right! I'm good enough to be in the NBA!

Sheed (in a monotone voice): Awright whatever. Good luck.

(He turns back around grabs his food and walks out to his clown car BMW)

That's my experience with Rasheed: cutting in lines, small of everything off the menu, and apathy towards kids.

Anonymous jay_uno said...
offtopic:

will there be a worst of olympic basketball?

there would be enough to write about, that´s for sure.

Blogger jonathan said...
My friend and I were sitting courtside at a Raptors-Bobcats game (a watching experience unlike any in my lifetime as a fan). Throughout the game, we were doing our usual loud cheering for the Raps and heckling everyone on Charlotte like we would have done sitting way up where the players can't hear us.
In the mid fourth quarter, with the Raps completely dominating the game, I started focusing my yells of admiration for Morris Peterson, one of my alltime favourite players. Every time he was near I would yell stuff like " I love you Mo Pete!" and subsequently would tell the man who was guarding him, Jeff McInnis, that he couldn't guard him for $#!+. After a nice, hardly contested, three pointer by Mo, I told Jeff that he'd get burned all day like that because he can't play d.
The next play stoppage, the ball was being inbounded next to where we were sitting, and McInnis comes right up to me and says, "What are you, gay?" Shocked and sure I had misheard, I just repeated "Am I gay?!?!?" He then elaborated, "You said you love the guy!" pointing at Mo Pete. My friend and I just about died of laughter. So for the rest of the game, we kept trash talking McInnis exclusively, and he would respond, WHILE HE WAS PLAYING.

Blogger Ravi said...
I saw Scott Williams walk into my dentist's office in Phoenix a few years ago. It was pretty surreal, waiting in the dentist's office with Scott Williams. The dentist was my friend's mom, and after Williams left, I asked her about it. Apparently the dude had been coming in for about a year and I had never run into the guy.

My best friend's mom was an X-Ray tech to the team radiologist for the Phoenix Suns back in the early, early nineties, so she always got invites to parties that the players were having. I was only 3-4 at the time, but I apparently went to a couple and now have a ton of pictures of my toddler self getting held up by Barkley, KJ and Thunder Dan

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
My mom met Magic Johnson in South Korea maybe 7 years ago, real nice guy, got a picture together with him and personalized autographs for my me and my sister.

And Amare Stoudemire and his HUGE posse cut in line in front of my sister and cousin in Phoenix at some pizza place. They thought he was a jerk, or "some basketball guy", but I understood that he basically owns the city.

Anonymous spydermintz said...
I am proud to say that I might be the sole owner of an authentic Darrick Martin Raptors jersey... AUTOGRAPHED. For those of you who don't know who Darrick Martin is... don't worry about it. While I was at a raps game one time i stood by the tunnel waiting for Darrick to come out and I was waving my one and only jersey. I see him and Kris Humphries coming out and so Humphries points over at me and the jersey and they both just burst into laughter.
i thought that was pretty awesome...

Anonymous Pistonsgirl4life said...
Wow, that's pretty awesome. I'm honestly suprised to see an NBA fan event that doesn't involve "I Can Feel It Coming In The Air Tonight", giant explosions and way way way too much Thunderstix.... Good show.

Also is it fair to admitt that as a Piston's fan I scoured your article twice for any mention of a "freak injury to Mike Dunleavy" and that despite him being a great guy, I hope Roy Hibbs sucks the big one in the NBA...

Friends is friends but this is the Central baby. NO LOVE!

Anonymous tradebait said...
Two stories' first the one I tell EVERYONE ( many times probably). I met KG when I was 12, about 12 yrs ago now. He the Wolves were going into the hotel in Baltimore (the Bullets used to play 4 games a year in B-More) from the bus. Dad and I were walking by and he noticed so we went in. We passed Sam Mitchell and Spudd Webb (this guy can't be 5'7 I was looking down at him and I was 5'5 or 5'6 then). The guys were getting their keys and KG and Googs were waiting. I touched him and he looked clean over my head at my Dad who pointed down to me. He put the 9 chocolate chip cookies he had in ONE HAND down and shook my hand. Thats how I tell it, and I act it out EVERY TIME, sad.
Second: Stephen and Joey Graham are here at USF in Tampa running drills in the gym with some guy that looks like Anthony Randolph. S. Graham asked if they could use the court I was shooting on (better rim) so I said sure. I shot better than them, but I was strangely lights out all day everything was going in.

Anonymous Fields said...
This past weekend I was in Chicago O'hare airport with hopes of going home to Miami. This happened to be during a severe tornado warning, in which every flight was delayed or cancelled for the day. Upon arriving for my 8 pm flight, I saw none other than the original Heat star and childhood hero, Glen Rice. He was nice, chatting up with anyone who recognized him (not many did, surprisingly, even though it was all Miami natives at the gate) and taking pictures. The 8 pm flight became a 9:15 flight became a 10:30 flight became a 11:45 flight became a 1:00 am flight became a 10 am flight, and we were stuck in the airport for the night. What did former all star, USA team participant Glen Rice do? Rather than complain about the situation and demand a free hotel stay, he posted up with us on the airport floor for the night, watching movies on laptops and listening to music. Cool guy.

Anonymous pksmyth said...
On many different occasions have crossed paths with Allen Iverson and every time he has been extremely polite here are 2 of the times the first time in a night club where I spoke and he spoke and I wished him well on the rest of the season and he brought every thing at the bar which was totally awesome . The second time was at TGI Fridays while eating with my grand mother who is a die hard fan of his and again he came over and spoke to her and she kissed him on the cheek which was awesome so for all the bad press the little guy got while he was here he was always great to the fans

Anonymous mista p said...
i've only had 2 encounters with NBA basketball players.

years ago....in dennis rodman's 2nd year with the bulls (1996-1997 season)....i was visiting hollywood casino in aurora illinois. there was a huge crowd around one of the craps tables. i got curious and decided to be nosy and find out what was the big deal. low and behold...dennis rodman was playing craps at the table. i was a big fan of dennis back then i had to meet him. so i just walked by everyone (including the two body guards that were with him) and proceded to walk up to him to say hi. well, i got up to him and well...here's how the conversation went...

mr. p: hey! you're dennis rodman!!

rodman: um, i don't know you.

mr. p: i'm a huge fan! (as i extend a hand for a handshake)

rodman: security, get this guy away from me.

and just as he said that, two big burley men grabbed me by the arms and pulled me away.

never been a fan of rodman after that.



my second encounter with an NBA player came in the "post"-michael jordan era. i was part of "lifetime fitness" back in the day and i decided to go one evening to go work out. i was up by the weights when i notice a huge black man with skinny legs lifting next to me. he was wearing a cheap (or what looked to be cheap) warm up/shoot around toronto raptors jersey. i decided to try to position myself so i could see what loser would decide to wear such a jersey. to my suprise, it was antonio davis, who had just been traded to chicago a few days prior. i decided to try to hold a conversation with him...here's how it went...

mr. p: hey! you're antonio davis!

davis: yeah, that's me. what's it to you?

mr. p: just wanted to say welcome to chicago.

davis: thanks man.

mr. p: so how do you like it here so far?

davis: look man...(with a pissed off look on his face)...i just came here to work out! so leave me alone!

gawd, what a dick. so i let him be.

so, my encounters with NBA players hasn't been stellar. oh well.

Blogger m. Alana said...
I've flirted with Chris Richard before, a couple of times. That was kind of strange, but awesome. I have a picture of my hand up against his - his is literally twice as big as mine. Great guy. Very attractive for being freakishly huge, too. The whole size difference thing was a bit of a problem, though.

Other than that...Al Horford is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, Corey Brewer's eyebrows are enormous and he's the sweetest guy I've ever met, Taurean Green has pointy teeth and is terrifying (but hilarious), and Joakim Noah is strangely normal-looking in person. Oh, and Marreese Speights had a big man-crush on Chris Richard. They sat behind my friends and I on the grass at a Gator spring football game. Well, maybe less man-crush than hero-worship. I don't know if he still does, but I kind of doubt it.

I so wanted to reply to this with just "Um, I have a picture with Taurean Green", but I guess I couldn't resist sharing.

Anonymous Sun Devil said...
Also: Amare Stoudemire is a douchebag and horrible tipper.

Anonymous ticktock6 said...
This year I won a video contest and got to meet Chris Paul before a game... he pretty much is as nice as his rep says. He and his brother watched all the videos in the contest, even though it was someone from the team judging the entries, not him. Also he recognized the homemade "CP3 for MVP" T-shirt one of us was wearing, and went, "Hey, you wore that in the video!" Which was kinda cool seeing as it was in the vid for approximately 3 seconds.

CP3 also got out of his car at the airport this season at like 1 AM to sign a banner and take pics with some people I know.

Blogger Bugg said...
I met the Magic man back in '85 and even though his security guard wouldn't let us through after a charity game, he came over and started taking pictures with us even though his plane was leaving. Met Michael Thompson on a couple of occasions as well as Kareem, and they were both friendly. On the other hand, I met Tayshaun Prince and he was more than annoyed that we were even saying hi to him.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Sometime back in the late 80's, I saw Dave Cowens walking into a back alley around the old Boston Garden holding a basketball in each hand. I screamed out the first gem that came into my head:

"Hey Dave!"

He turned toward me and held up his balls. True story.

On another occasion, I asked him to sign my ticket at a Celtics/Lakers game. He did. Still have it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I played bag-o in wisconsin with a drunk Kirk Hinrich. hes like a hilarious frat boy

Anonymous Anonymous said...
My dad used to have little electric trains that he ran on tracks at the house. We ran into Mark Price and his family at a toy train hobby shop when I was about five or six. He was even wearing a Cavs jacket and his WARM-UPS, like he had just come from practice. He smiled and signed the random piece of paper I got from my mom. All-Star, pure point, money at the free-throw line, Toy Train Enthusiast, and Nice Guy.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Totally unrelated to this post but i thought you might have somethin to say about this photo of the croatian team at the olympics

http://www.nba.com/gallery/080809_8.html

Blogger wilt_for_life said...
I met Chris Bosh in person once, he glows.

Blogger Brandon said...
Tom Chambers used to buy a Subway Sandwich from me about once per week. He would usually pull up in the drive through in a little and somewhat beat-up Toyota 4-Runner that he barely fit in. I never understood why he didn't drive something more telling of his income. Occaisionally, I'd see him hanging out in a local grocery store, looking through magazines. I still wonder why he didn't just buy them. I think he liked to hang out in the grocery store. He was an OK guy, but nobody I'd take a bullet for.

When I was working in Portland, Chris Dudley worked one floor above me. I rode the elevator with him a few times per week. He reminded me of any other accountant type guy, only super elongated.

I've met quite a few NBA players, but absolutely the coolest and most 'regular guy' player I've come across was Jeff Hornacek. I met him at a BBQ, and I sat and ate and chatted with him for about 90 minutes. He was funny (pretended to wipe BBQ sauce over people), had great stories (dropped an F-bomb when teling about a guy stalking his family), and seemed to genuinely care what I had to say.

FYI - I love your blog.

Anonymous Pistonsgirl4life said...
Bugg, that sucks. I'd always had the impression Tay was a really down to earth guy. I've never met him, but he just doesn't radiate "jerkstore jock" on tv or in print. Ah well, another illusion shattered. This is almost as bad as the time I watched an old mix tape of Bill Laimbeer and realized "Holy crap, he really WAS a whiney diving b*tchface.... wow, I was wrong my WHOLE childhood."

:(

Anonymous Daniel said...
The best NBA player encounter ever is from the guy who called into Basketball Jones and told about how he rented "Transmorphers" to Andrew Bogut at a Milwaukee Blockbuster.

I'll never hear a better story than that.

Anonymous Herman said...
Well, my MOM's claim to fame is that she shared a flight with the '85 Edmonton Oilers, but since this isn't about hockey...

I used to work at the Air Canada Centre as a vendor. I used to show up early and try and talk to the players, when security didn't stop me.
One day I was hanging around the court, and I was trying to talk with Mike James. He had to run back to the locker room, so I decided to head back up the elevator to the main floor. As the doors are closing, I hear someone go "Hey, hold the door!", so I do. Lo and behold, Jalen Rose walks into the elevator. I start talking to him about Toronto, and living here, and generally joking around. He was really friendly. We start talking about the game that night (it was against the Cavs).

Me (joking): You think you can outscore LeBron?
Jalen: Of course!
Me: Wanna bet?
Jalen: Sure.
Me: Okay, five bucks says that Bron outscores you.
Jalen: (laughs) Fine. Watch me, son!

That, of course, was the night that LeBron scored 50 for the first time. The next week, I walk into the office, when my boss tells me there's some mail for me here. It's an envelope addressed to "that smartass vendor", and inside, there's a five dollar bill.

I've been a Jalen fan ever since.

Anonymous tradebait said...
My Mom has a claim to fame too, she went to school with the great Charles Oakley. She didn't even know who he was until I told her.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Scene: a tiny bar in W. Hartford CT

My (now) wife and I are sitting at a table next to the rear entrance. The door opens and this outrageously giant man unfolds himself through the door. I have no idea who he is, but his at least 7'4 and his shoulders were in different time zones. "Wow," I mutter to my wife. "That guy should play-" but before I can finish, another man is unfolding himself through the door.

Manute Bol, ladies and gentlemen!

I am awestruck and pretty ecstatic. He and his friend make their way to the bar where they take a seat. I explain who it is to my wife. She is a curious person and told me she wanted to go get us drinks at the bar.

When she came back, she told me that Manute Bol, still taller than my wife even while sitting, had asked if he could buy her a drink.

Manute Bol hit on my wife!

Afterward he was just chillin' with random people and seemed to be a very nice and relaxed person.

"I'LL be there!"

Blogger Stumbleweed said...
That one is awesome. "That smartass vendor"... hilarious. And yeah, Tayshaun doesn't seem like that type at all.. the more you know.

Anonymous StevenC said...
I've never met any NBA players (i'm european) but the Manute Bol comment reminded me of the time that Chris Rock hit on my wife while we were on our honeymoon in NY.
Noting like a celeb drooling over your wife to make you feel better about yourself :-D

Anonymous Mike said...
Cuttino Mobley is incredibly nice. Met him at a bar here in L.A. before the 06-07 season. Told him I didn't have a team when I was a kid, but had rooted for the Clippers since moving here in 2000. He went on to ask me where I grew up, talked to me for a bit. I was so surprised to find him engaging in conversation. Not what I anticipated.
Later that night, as the club was letting out, I was standing at the bar with some friends when Cuttino walked by, reached out, grabbed my shoulder and said something along the lines of "see you later man." Hours had passed, but the dude went out of his way to say bye. Pretty sweet.

Also, Sam Cassell came to the bar to hang out with his 2 guard. Seemed like a good dude as well.

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