We rank 'em. You react. That's how the Daily List rolls.
6/25/2007 02:27:00 PM
Brushes with sports stars
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com
Technically this is my List, but I'm hoping it'll turn into your List.
I'm am an ordinary person who's had some extraordinary experiences, mostly due to my job, but also just as a matter of luck. Through the years, I've not only met an interviewed a lot of athletes, but I've been able to square off against a few of them. Call me Joe, but these are my pros, the most well-known athletes I've ever gone one-on-one against.
But what I'm really interested to read are your responses at the end. Read and react…
1. Shareef Abdur-Rahim: Reef was in eighth grade when I was a junior, and he used to come watch our varsity team practice. He also played a lot of pick-up ball with us and we dominated him -- he was about 5-foot-10 and weighed 95 pounds at the time. I used to regularly block his shots and score against him. Then. He's a lot better now.
2. Shandon Anderson: My senior year we played against Shandon's Crim HS team three times. We beat them all three times, but he was pretty much unstoppable, about 6-7 with the ability to shoot, dribble, post-up. I'm pretty sure he's the only guy I played against who now has an NBA championship ring. And he's definitely the only guy I played against who signed a six-year, $42 million contract.
3. Martice Moore: My classmate for several years and my teammate for one year. He was our superstar and the best high school player I've ever seen -- I'll never forget the game he finished with 33 points and 32 rebounds. He went on to be ACC Rookie of the Year at Georgia Tech and eventually transferred to Colorado. He never did make it in the NBA.
4. Ronaldinho: I didn't actually play a real game with or against Ronaldinho, but it sure felt like it. At least I'll always be able to say Ronaldinho underestimated my speed.
5. Marcus Camby: I didn't play hoops against Camby, but Madden. It was a few years ago, when Camby was on the Knicks, and he and I ended up squaring off at a party in Midtown. I had the Falcons, he had the Vikings, and he ran up such a huge lead (throwing bombs from Culpepper to Moss over and over) that the mercy rule had to be invoked.
Now it's your turn. Who's the best-known athlete you've ever squared off against? How did you fare? Let us know below…
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.
1. Mike Devereaux - He played his Legion Ball in Casper, Wyo and came to speak at my school (Douglas, Wyo) one day. I talked to him after the event and showed him my 66 Impala. He might not have been impressed by it, but he said he was, which was good enough for me at 16.
2. Chad Greenway - I did play-by-play for 5 years for a local radio station here in Mitchell, SD. Chad played 10 miles down the road. I got to do a few of his final games his senior year of HS.
3. Kurt Angle - Met him in an airport in Detroit. A friend was a huge fan of his so I asked him for a quick autograph. We talked about a match he just had for about 5 minutes. It was pretty cool
4. Rod Beck - This is more of a near miss, but when I was in legion ball we went to see the Rockies playing the Giants at Mile High. Rod was in the outfield with a bunch of the other ball players and we were trying to get him to give us a ball or an autograph. A friend of mine tried bribbing him with a chew (dumb) and he just turned around and laughed at us.
I waited on Wade Boggs while working in key west. Being a huge mets fan i had to mention '86. So, i bought him a beer, sad congrats for the '96 ring (Yanks) but offered my condolences for that oh-so close loss in '86. His friends laughed, he...needless to say...did not and lloked like he wanted to kill me. so worth it.
I saw my HS basketball team (Haddonfield HS, NJ) play in a local tournament against Camden High School when DeJuan Wagner (#6 pick in 2002) was there. He effortlessly put up about 75 points, pulling up for jumpers from what seemed the half court line.
I got into a pissing match with Bill Cartwright. Literally. It was about 15-20 years ago, I was in a movie theater in Emerson, NJ. There I was standing at the urinal doing my thing, when the very tall man took the spot next to me. It was Bill. I finished first if that counts for anything.
I met Bill Walton in 1986 at a Grateful Dead concert at the old Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, we were sitting at the top of the stadium when he came up the stairs. He's a really nice guy to talk to, and seemed pleased to talk hoops, the C's and what was their last championship.
I played Rugby in college in the States and then had the chance to "brush-up" against a number of member's of France's national team when I lived in Paris. Its better not to brush-up against some of these guys too closely.
1) Christope Domenici - stil on the national team and the fastest individual I ever saw live. Forced me to embrace my limitations as an athlete.
2) Jean Condom - silly name for a big dude. I dare you to say it to his face. He was literally able to push three or four of us off with one arm. The gap between his strength and mine was so big it was not even embarrasing. Some guys are fast, this guy was strong.
3) Nick Farr Jones - Former Scrum-half and captain of Australia when they won the World Cup in 1991. He was built like your neighbor's little brother. I had no idea how he not only survived, but thrived in international rugby until we started playing. He was all business, the kind of guy you want to follow into a fight.
Back in the States and switching gears to hoops, in 2005, when the Spurs were reigning champs, I "brushed-up" against 4) Gregg Popovich and 5) Sean Elliott They were kind enough to join us at a charity wine tasting event in Chicago when they were in town to play the Bulls. There was no competition involved, but they both know a lot about wine and I was presenting, so there was some pressure. They could not have been friendlier or more down to earth. We have a few pics on our website, with me at 6'0" looking like a 4th grader in comparison to Sean.
Finally, and speaking of 4th grade, I went to grade school and high school with 6) Danya Abrams of Boston College Hoops fame (he made the cover of SI during the NCAA's one year. As third grader, he was the ringer to pick in kickball (he was at least 5'5"), and in high school, at 6'8 320 he was hard to stop at fullback when we needed a first down.
I was on Allison Feaster's little league basketball team. For those who don't know Feaster, she opted to attend Harvard and led the Crimson to a win in the NCAA tourney as a 16-seed. For the record, I beat her regularly in pick-up games.
When in the Air Force I once interviewed Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino over a weekend golf tournament in Tokyo. this was in the 70's. Palmer was on the way down, Player was still good and Lee, well Lee was always great on and off the course. I interviewed the Palmer that now no one remembers, arrogant, self-important, I made this game what it is today and I don't have time for you. I wrote a very non-flattering article about him. Gary Player on the other hand just touted golf and being in good shape (long before Tiger gave it credence) and was so polite, considerate and just super nice to speak with. Trevino had me on the floor with some insight about his golfing with military people and how he use to make tons of bucks off of them with side bets, etc. He was so cool, he invited me to play a round of golf following the tournament,which I did. Go forward to 2000 in Hawaii. Met Palmer and Player at another golf tournament. Took my published articles along for them to sign after all these years. Player was pleased that I said such nice things about him and he gladly signed the article. Palmer was now the player that no one could say anything unpleasant about and he lived up to it by accepting the article to sign and even read a couple lines and said I must have been having a bad day when I wrote it. I laughed and said that's mostly likely what happen. He was super nice to the group of guys I was with when we met. Truly the ambassador of golf today. Sometimes it depends on what day you have your "brush-in" with a sports star, as some days will not be so good, while on another day you might think they walk on water. Sounds like the rest of us to me. Aloha,
In college, played against Former Quarterback Mike BucK (UMAINE) in intramural football and beat his team - suffice it to say he did not take the defeat lightly (he almost had a Ryan Leaf worthy verbal meltdown at the end of the game)- the funny part is I had a much better athletic career playing Rugby than he did in the NFL (albeit he made a ton more money that I did) but my career did last longer
I lived in Winston-Salem for a year after college and went to the wake forest campus frequently to play ball. One day I got to play in a pickup game against Tim Duncan. He wasn't trying against a bunch of scrubs like us, until one of my teammates made a three pointer and started jawing a little bit as a joke. Tim went down and scored 4 quick baskets to end the game. All in all, he was a pretty cool guy, although I am still a Carolina fan
I played 3 years against Moses Malone in High School. I was on the county team (Prince George) and he was on the city (Petersburg) team. All in all we matched up about 10 or 12 times. Awesome team they were. 50 and 0 their last 2 years both ending in state (Va) championships. The game that stands out is in Petersburg, late 2nd quarter and we're trying to still stall. They are leading about 28 to 4. At the half it was 34 to 6 because I hit a 30 footer at the buzzer (no treys in those days) and got a standing 0 from the Petersburg crowd. Best player and team I ever saw in High School (there's not ours - lol).
Marcus Allen. I had the privelege of playing against him all 4 years in high school, in San Diego. He was literally then, "ALL-EVERYTHING"...the best athlete, let alone football player on the field-a true difference maker in every facet of the phrase. I played both sides of the ball, and on one particular play as flanker, I took a flanker screen off the right side as my guards were pulling to lead interference, Marcus, who played both QB and safety, came from deep in his position at rocket speed and just about separated me from my uniform--head up, full speed right through the blockers, wrapping his arms around mine and pulverized me into the ground for a 1 yard gain. That play, caught on game film, was used by our secondary coaches as the role model way to defend against the pass---much to my chagrin, as I lost my helmet, my breath and about 2 years of knowledge on that hit.
I played soccer club ball with/against Jonathan Spector in the NW Burbs of Chicago. We played against each other since I was about 10 and he was 8 or so. When I was training with the teams a year older than me, he was training with the teams 4 years older than him. I didn't played too often against him, but one time when I did, I remember accidentally knocking him over in the penalty box and he fell down and started to cry. When the PK got called, he immediately stopped crying and just smiled at me. Cheeky little guy. Also, he was always very small for his age. He sure sprouted up though, huh?
I had the "good" fortune of meeting Michael Schumacher in Montreal back in 1994, before he had really done anything. He was a stuck up, arrogant, unfriendly son of a -----. But he was driving for the team I supported, Benetton, so I cheered his career there.
Elton Brand. He and I were in high schools that were five minutes apart, and even though they were in a division up from us, we still scrimaged against them (their coach's kids were in our school district, so there was some connection). Elton was probably the nicest guy we ever lost to: at the end of each game, while shaking hands, he'd be like, "Keep your heads up, you played a great game", etc. I never blocked any of his shots or anything, but I did foul him one time. Let me tell ya, it really hurt to foul him!
This isn't actually a case of "squaring off" against an athlete, but I once spent a glorious day with Mr. Jim Rice, should-be Hall of Famer for the Boston Red Sox. 1990. I was working for a company which booked special events. A grocery store chain in Spartanburg, SC wanted a sports star to come in and sign autographs during their weekend food expo. Being a huge Red Sox fan and knowing he was from the area, I suggested Mr. Rice. He accepted the offer and I finagled my way into being the driver responsible for picking him up about 4 hours away, driving him to Spartanburg, "guarding" him during the show, and driving him back. Being right out of school and not yet having heard the word "steroid" associated with baseball, I was in heaven. Jim was incredibly nice and we talked baseball all the way to the event. After he signed autographs, the owner of the grocery chain offered to take all the different celebrities to his country club for dinner.... with one exception. Even in 1990, blacks were not allowed at his club in Spartanbug. I was outraged when he informed me that JIm would not be invited. It turned out okay, because Rice never found out about it and, since he hadn't been home in awhile, asked me to drive him to his tiny hometown nearby so that he could visit his antique car collection and his mother. So, he took me out for Chinese. I met his mom, saw his cars. As we ate, several people came over for autographs. Since I hadn't anticipated his little detour, I hadn't planned on it being so late when we headed back. I had left at 5:00 AM to pick him up and it was approaching midnight on the trip back, with me still having to drive four hours BACK to Spartanburg. About two hours away from his drop-off location, he leaned forward into the front seat and asked, "Hey, you gotta drive back after you drop me off?" When I informed him that I did, he said, "Tell you what... I know you weren't counting on my four-hour delay; why don't you hop in the back and take a quick nap before your drive back. Let me drive the rest of the way here." So, there I was, a young kid right out of school being chaffeured by my biggest baseball hero! It was the greatest sports-celebrity day of my life.
I met Jason Varitek on a plane from Atlanta to Boston. He was in coach like me. He was super nice, signed some autographs for the woman sitting next to him who didn't know who he was. The entire flight I talked about how much I hated the Yankess, he kept looking back at me smiling. I also helped get his bag out of the overhead. Super nice guy. They went on to win the World Series that year.
Lower Merion won the tip but missed their first shot. All I can remember is three of us Prepsters going for the rebound and all of a sudden this kid named Kobe flies in to get it and then proceeds to dunk on all of us. It was AWESOME! LOL
Ken Dilger (former NFL TE) once threatened to kill me after he thought I undercut him during a pickup game of basketball. Meanwhile the real culprit, Simeon Rice (yes, that Simeon Rice), who had actually shoved Dilger while he was in mid-air even though they were on the same team, was off to the side giggling like some kind of maniac
I have had the priviledge of having a few NHL hockey players come into my house when I was younger. My parents were billets for the Medicine Hat Tigers, so quite a few of them would come over with the guys that lived with us. One guy who lived with us was Matt Walker's brother Darby. I have played the original NHL Hockey for Sega Genesis with Matt Walker, Rob Neidermeyer and Sergei Klimentiev (Of the Russian Super League). Other guys who have been to my house and hung out with me are Chris Osgood, Mike Rathje, and Brian McCabe.
I once played in a pickup game of basketball in high school against Tebucky Jones (Safety New England Patriots). My older brother, three friends and myself played them and we won a close first game. Well I guess they didn't like losing to a bunch of white boys because they came back and demolished us. Tebucky was dunking so high it seemed like his entire upper torso was above the rim. They killed us the next two games. He was that good and it was only his secondary sport!
The best one I have is this. I am a 30+ yr old woman who never played soccer until my late 20's. A former US WNT player decided to use the rec league I played in to work on her conditioning for a season. The first game against her, she came charging into the box with the ball and I stuffed her, later in the first half, she tried a cross from the end-line and I killed that as well. I spent half-time laughing that I stuffed a gold medalist. Jenni Branam, btw, she also won a national championship or two as a goalie at UNC.
Phil Mickelson: We were in the Bahamas for a cruise and we went to a dolphin excursion, my husband snags me and says, "Hey, Isn't that Phil Mickelson?" I was floored, it was Phil and his wife actually took a picture of me with Phil. Pretty cool.
I played craps with Elton Brand in Vegas a couple years ago (3 I think) during NBA all-star weekend, everywhere on the table I had a 10$ bet, he would have at least 100$, several of his posse were right behind him cheering him on, nice guy, everybody knew who he was, but nobody bothered him, just had fun gambling with him...along the same lines, was at the swim up bar when Rodman decided to play some swim up blackjack (betting several grand a hand) at Hard Rock, this was about 6 years ago.
Harold Solomon - tennis player from the 1970s. Video games - Pong - had just come out. I beat my brother at the game, a version of tennis. Mr. Solomon was next up and I beat him, also. At that time, he was the reigning Italian Open champ and, I think, a finalist in the French Open.
Played in an all star football game with Eagles DE Trent Cole. He was too quick for the OT to pass block him so I had to kick out from gaurd to pick him up. He got a full running start and ran me over.
I was on the same Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego to Oakland Bill Walton about 5 years ago. There was a Greatful Dead show in Oakland so the flight was full of aging hippies reminiscing about the good old days of free acid. The flight was delayed for 30 minutes for Mr. Walton. He squeezed down the aisle of the little plane saying "hi" to all the old hippies before wedging himself and his massive square head into a row near the back of the plane. I had an aisle seat, so he literally brushed against me.
I used to valet at a 5 star resort in Charleston, SC. Serena Williams was in town for the Family Circle Cup. Her little dog came up to me, so naturally I pet it. When I looked up to see Serena standing there, she immediately turned around and snatched up her dog. P.S. She didn't tip me for the time she stayed. Real class act. P.P.S. Her crappy director boyfriend was there. He's a hack.
- Back in the early 80's, I was staying at the Reno Hilton on holiday. I was unaware that there was a boxing match in town that weekend - Milt McCrory was fighting. I was just there to gamble. Back then, the bathrooms were downstairs. I was waiting for my husband to come out of the men's room. A very tall, good looking man walked up to me and wanted to buy me drinks. Unfortunately, I had to turn him down because I thought my husband would get jealous. When my husband finally came out of the bathroom and saw the man walking away, I told him the story. He said "Hell, I wouldn't have been jealous if you had drinks with Tommy Hearns."
Flash forward several years. I'm single, living in the Silicon Valley. I'm having drinks with friends at a sports bar. A very nice looking man wanted to buy me drinks. This time, I turned down Ronnie Lott.
The Orioles come to play the Indians in the Summer of '95. Cal Ripken is set to break Gehrig's consecutive games played record. I worked at the Jake at the time and walked past the visitor's locker room after every game. The first game of the series I make sure I have a new game ball and a pen in my pocket. Sure enough, out of the locker room comes Cal Ripken, who joins Eddie Murray to walk to the players' parking lot. I ask Mr. Ripken for his autograph and he tells me he will after the last game of the series. So after the second game, there I am again and coincidentally, out comes Cal (we're on a first name basis at this point, though he doesn't know mine) from the locker room. We give each other the nod and go on our ways. After the last game, security in the tunnel is absurd. No loitering, no talking to the players, blah, blah, blah ... but I've got a deal with the Iron Man! As the Fates would have it, out comes Cal. I walk over and ask for the autograph. The power-tripping security guard who shall remain nameless comes over and tells me to move along and that I shouldn't even be down there. He's telling me this after the 40th-ish time I've done it? Cal asks me if that is true, and I tell him it's not. I walk this way every night. Cal asks the power-tripping security guard who shall remain nameless if that's true, and he says, in fact, it is. Cal gives me a smile and signs the ball on the sweat spot. Love that ball.
I ran into Andre The Giant while going through an airport in France when I was a kid. I travel almost weekly for business and have run into Mariano Rivera, Jerry The King Lawler, Patrick Ewing, Roger Staubach, and many others. It's cool, they are usually very nice and are willing to take a picture or sign an autograph for you.
I played craps with Champ Bailey at the Bellagio around New Years 03. At the time he was still with the Redskins, although he was up for FA. As an avid skins fan, I asked him if he was staying in Washington. He looked at me and said "Count on it." He was gone within a month, albeit in a 'trade.'
The wife and I are working at Jacobs Field in '97. In the tunnel outside the home locker room, we run in to Eric Plunk, who at the time was a significant piece of the Tribe bullpen during the early and mid '90s. The wife, now a pastry chef, offers him a choclate chip cookie. He politely declines and proceeds to have his worst year with the Tribe. He never has an ERA under 4 again and is out of baseball two years later. Should have eaten the cookie.
This was way back in '76. I was at a Porsche/Audi dealer in KC, looking at a Fiat Spider. While in the lot talking to the salesman, a guy pulled up in a butterscotch colored Porsche 911 with a salesman passenger, obviously from a test drive. Anyway, it was George Bret, still fairly new in the KC area, and I walked over and met him. I remember wishing him good luck in his MLB career.
In 2001, I was playing golf as a single at St.Andrews in Overland Park. I got put in a group with 2 athletic looking individuals, and, upon introductions they turned out to be former Kansas City Chiefs wide-receiver Carlos Carson (U of Tennessee), and fullback Theotus Brown (UCLA). I asked them during the round if they missed the NFL and Carlos stated he missed the fans and catching the long ball.
Theotus Brown stated "I missed it everyday but Mondays" (he was primarily used as a blocking back). Super individuals, and, both decent golfers.
Back in 2004, I was returning to Seattle from a business trip. My wife, a few months pregnant at the time, and her parents were late picking me up. We were heading up to watch the Mariners play and decided to stop at Babies R Us on the way. I immidiately recognized one of the customers inside shopping. It was Shaun Alexander and his wife. Of the 4 of us, I was the only one who knew who Shaun was. My father-in-law, being the funny guy that he is, walked up to him and asked "Hey, aren't you that Seahawks guy?" Shaun laughed and said yes he was. He agreed to sign a couple autographs for us and I talked to him about the joys of parenthood. Genuinely nice guy.
played against scott scudder when he was a senior at prarieland hs and i was a freshman at hugo hs. his team went undefeated and won texas aaa state championship in spring of '86. he was drafted in 1st round by the reds in the draft. btw, they won 10-0 in a 5 inning run rule that lasted less than an hour. he struck out 14 of 15 batters he faced. best baseball player i ever played against which in included doug glanville in college.
Danica Partrick-her sister went to Tennessee and dated a fraternity brother of mine. She came in town to visit her and came down to the house. FYI She has an American flag tattooed upsidedown on her lower back.
In the summer of 1970, I was working, with my brother as a cook at a Howard Johnson's at the Springfield, VA exit on I-95, just off of the Capital Beltway. As I looked out through the cook-line window at the front door, I saw an imposing man enter the restaurant, accompanied by a young lady, and another guy, and all take a seat at the counter. The first man looked so familiar to me, and I kept trying to figure out where I had seen him before. Suddenly, I turned to my brother and asked him if the guy at the counter didn't look exactly like Muhammad Ali. My brother thought so, too, so I just had to go out and ask the man. He stuck out his hand in greeting, and said, "I sure am!" To this day, my biggest regret is that I lost the folded Howard Johnson's placemat that he signed for me, which read "STILL the World's Champion, Muhammad Ali" (remember that he was then without the title that had been wrongfully taken from him because he would not go to Vietnam)
1. Jordan Farmar- We played against his Taft team when he was a senior at a tournament. We had heard the hype but at a little over 6' we werent that impressed. But the first play of the game the center tips the ball to him as he breaks down the floor and he threw down a two hand two foot dunk.
2. Darren Collison- He was amazingly quick and could shoot lights out. We played his Etiwanda team close(we were both seniors) but he knocked shots down late both games to get the win.
Grew up with friends of Amanda Beard's extended family....couple years before her 1st Olympics we were playing Track & Field on NES (WITH the pad) and I won a race without cheating and using my hands on the stomp button things.
Folks, I beat an Olympic Gold Medalist in a footrace.
Okay, I have a pair from one restaurant located near a series of loft complexes on the edge of downtown Denver. A.I. purchased one of the top floors and would come in often after wins. Only would order Coronas and Patron, and would never sit at the bar. Ordered gumbo a couple times, but didn't eat much of it. He always came in with a posse of a couple friends, almost always the same guys.
Not very friendly with anyone, but not rude, just looked tired of being approached by strangers for a decade plus. He brought in his daughter, though, once... I've never seen anyone better with their child. She was an infant, and he sang and cooed and talked baby talk like a children's bedtime tape. I couldn't believe the night and day that was Allen Iverson.
Second guy was the exact opposite, though also an allstar point: Steve Nash. Came in with his wife and a friend who lived near by. She finished four Goose and tonics (maybe soda) in an hour. He had a med-rare steak and a couple glasses of Pinot Noir. Really, really funny guy. Definitely like a big kid. Dirty jokes galore, trying to embarrass his wife... really cracked me up.
He was in town to play my Nuggets the next evening, but wasn't a lock to play because of shoulder problems. When he came in, it was the week prior to his birthday, I believe. Anyway, he sits down at a large booth we have in the back adjacent to the restrooms. At one point he has to relieve himself and walks a couple feet to the can. Shortly after we hear a large bang from inside, and some muffled shouting. He's hitting the wall, and continues for about thirty seconds. Everyone at the table was cracking up. He did end up as a scratch in the next evenings game, though. Talk about extreme disappointment.
Kirk Heinrich - My junior year in high school #1 Sioux City West and Kirk Heinrich came to play us (MOC-Floyd Valley High School) in the last regular season game. They were a bigger school and a class above us.
We were undaunted and led at halftime. I can still remember the sound of Heinrich's dad/coach yelling and swearing at his team during the break. We came out and still led going into the fourth quarter. Then Kirk flipped a switch, lit us up like a Christmas tree and they pulled out the win. But we still played with 'em and gave them quite a scare. I've been a Heinrich fan ever since.
I met Danny Ainge at an appliance store when he coached the Phoenix Suns. I was the presidet of a disabled students resource committe for a local school district. We were looking to hold a baseball card show to raise funds to stock a library for parents to access when researching medical information & education information for their children. I asked Danny if he could make an appearance & sign autographs for about 1 hour. Despite the fact his children attended the district, he said he was not interested & would not help. I then asked if he could donate an autographed basketball for our silent auction....again, he said NO! He was a stuck up, rude ex-athlete who displayed characteristics similar to those we criticize athletes today for displaying. Despite being a life long Boston Celtics fan, as long as he works for them I will root for the other teams they play.
Played 4 years of high school ball against Billups. He was a man amongst boys. He would fire at will from anywhere on the floor and dunk effortlessly. Talked a alot of trash but then again I would too...
One night during All-Star weekend working security at a club in Denver Magic Johnson came in had VIP and asked us to get him to his spot ASAP. He said he need to chill out before he dealt with the fans. As I escorted him through the crowd everybody was asking for autographs and pictures, and he put the blame on me saying "Hey can't stop now these guys won't let me." "I would love to stop guys but these guys need me somewhere now!" He never did talk to the fans...
On a college visit, I ran into Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison lifting weights. I got autos and had conversations.
When I worked for the 76ers, I came across tons of players, but when T.O. was traded to the Eagles, he attended the game and I found myself standing right next to him under the tunnel. This was pre-problems so everyone loved him.
Also while with the 76ers, spoke with World B. Free, very nice, outgoing, friendly guy.
While in Vegas last August, around 3-4 AM, I ran into Jason Terry playing blackjack or 3 card poker or something. I took a picture of him with my cell phone camera. He was all alone; No posse, no ladies, no fans, not a single person around him. I didn't even recognize him at first because he just had a t shirt and shorts on, not to mention he's short by NBA standards.
Also saw a ton of poker players (if that counts) while in Vegas because the World Series final table was going on. Saw Johnny Chan check out some young hot chick in a hallway.