At times I feel as if I have walked into my television set. I move from quiz shows to dance shows to entertainment to politics to computer games to sports. And sports seems to be the least of it.
Four days. Four days of parties. Four days of promotions. Four days of nonsense. Once upon a time, the NBA All-Star Game was a simple affair, the best NBA players from the East and the West getting together for a basketball game and maybe a banquet. All that changed in 1984 when the NBA staged its first slam-dunk contest and its first legends game between old-time stars the day before the big game. Then a three-point-shooting competition was added, and a rookie game was substituted for the legends game after a string of knee injuries left the legends looking not so legendary. Meanwhile the corporate dollars began to flow, and the game became, you know, "dope." Cool.
"What are you doing here?" I ask a broad-shouldered businessman at one of the NBA events. "Trying to see what influences you've had on the sport?"
"No," says Vince McMahon, head of the World Wrestling Federation. "We just always like to see what [NBA commissioner] David Stern is doing."
"I'm covering this for television in Saudi Arabia," says Alaa Abdelnaby, the Sacramento King forward who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and lived there until he was two years old. "They were looking for someone who spoke Arabic, someone who played basketball and someone who would like to come here. I was their guy. I've spoken more Arabic in the last two days than I have at just about any time in my life. It's a challenge."
"You're broadcasting all of this stuff back to Mecca?" I ask.
"Do you know the saying about the mountain coming to Muhammad?" Abdelnaby says. "We're sending the mountain there through the air. All of it."
More than 1,350 media credentials are issued, a record. There are feeds to 167 countries, another record. There is one television crew that goes through an All-Star news conference asking each player, "If you were a sound, what sound would you be?" The follow-up question is, "If you were an animal, which animal would you be?" There is play-by-play coverage on U.S. radio, for the first time, of the slam-dunk and the three-point competitions.
"How are you going to do that?" I ask Glenn Ordway, an NBA Radio announcer. "Do you just say, 'Whoa, baby!' after each dunk?"