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Scoops from Sports Spectacular

Brand shines at event; Kournikova, Leinart open up

Posted: Wednesday June 6, 2007 3:02PM; Updated: Wednesday June 6, 2007 3:54PM
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Elton Brand, Shahara Brand
Elton Brand and wife Shahara stepped up big at the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular.
Kevin Terrell/WireImage.com
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Elton Brand looked at the stack of envelopes that were handed to me, took one and passed the rest over to the other invited guests sitting at our table inside the swanky ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza for the 22nd annual Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular.

Brand, who was being honored that night for his charitable contributions, opened his endowment envelope and looked at the list of sports terms associated with each type of donation.

$250 -- Fan,
$500 -- Rookie of the Year
$1,000 -- All-Star
$2,500 -- Most Valuable Player

He folded up his envelope and then nudged me with his left leg. "How much money did they say they've raised so far tonight?" he asked.

"They're at $1.9 million," I said.

Brand then turned to his wife, Shahara, whispered in her ear and kissed her hand before he was escorted backstage where Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy and Gary Payton would introduce a highlight reel of his achievements and present him with his award.

"It's an honor to receive this prestigious award," said Brand after being given his glass plaque. "I want to thank Cedars-Sinai for everything they've done with birth defects and the children that they affect. I suggest if you get a chance, go see these kids and you'll be truly touched. My wife and I have been so touched already that we're part of a great night that has already raised $1.9 million that we've decided to make it a nice even $2 million by pledging $100,000."

When Brand returned to the table, he gave me a fist pound and I teased him that they would have to create a new Hall of Fame bracket for him on the envelope. "I'm just happy to help," he said. "It's a great cause."

The cause of the night as it has been for the past 22 years is the Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center which focuses on helping children suffering from genetic birth defects. The annual dinner event has raised over $17.5 million for the institute and also honors athletes who've given back to their communities. In addition to Brand, this year's Sports Spectacular recognized LaDainain Tomlinson, Michael Irvin and Anna Kournikova.

While I got to sit next to Brand and his wife during the awards dinner, the intimate setting of the event gave me a chance to make the rounds and chat up some of the honorees. And really, any excuse to saddle up beside Kournikova even for a few minutes is good enough for me.

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