"I have no idea," Ordway says. "I'm just going to have to see what comes out."
A $500-a-ticket, black-tie roast of Barkley, emceed by comedian Billy Crystal, is held at the Pointe Hilton at South Mountain on Thursday night to benefit, among other charities, the scholarship fund that Barkley has established at Auburn University. Barkley enters as a king, with a purple robe that is so long that three children hold the train. A party is held the next night at Rawhide, an Old West theme park in Scottsdale, where Bill Russell stands in the back of a large pavilion and, along with 5,000 other people, listens to Kenny Rogers sing and watches line-dance lessons on a concrete floor. There is an MTV party on Friday, and Boyz II Men open the show. There is another party afterward, at Planet Hollywood. There is a performance by Bill Cosby on Saturday. There is a lecture, for wives of owners, team officials and invited guests, by Jane Goodall, author of Through a Window and In the Shadow of Man.
The NBA Jam Session, the party for the common man, is ongoing for four days at the Civic Plaza. For seven bucks admission, five bucks for children, a visitor can measure his or her hand against the prints of Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon and various other NBA stars. There are basketball booths and activities of all dimensions. One challenge, sponsored by Nickelodeon, entails hanging from a harness high above the ground and trying to dunk a basketball. It has a three-hour wait. There are lines everywhere. The attendance on Saturday alone (51,500) totals more than the attendance for the entire All-Star Jam Session a year ago in Minneapolis.
I watch the most elementary challenge, a continuously running three-on-three tournament on 32 half-courts. A high school kid steps out of bounds, drops the ball to the floor out of frustration and kicks it as far as he can.
The biggest celebrity in the celebrity slam-dunk competition is Cal Ripken Jr., the Baltimore Oriole shortstop. He certainly has the free time but wonders if he is ready to try this. He debates whether or not to enter until the last minute.
"I'm at that age, in basketball, where the legs are taking you down instead of up," he says. "But I've been playing a lot lately. And I can still dunk."
He tries. His basic dunk starts with him bouncing the ball high off the floor, then jumping to grab it and stuffing it through the rim. He misses once. He misses twice. He makes the dunk on the third try. The judges are not impressed. The judges, right to left, are baseball player David Justice, WWF champion Diesel, baseball pitcher Dave Stewart, late-night talk-show host Conan O'Brien and comedienne Judy Tenuta.
"You know a lot about dunking?" I ask Tenuta.
"I can dunk," she says. "I have the shoes."
O'Brien also has shoes. They are rhinestone-studded hightops that feature a caricature of him on one side and a bicycle horn on the other side. He has been showing them to All-Stars and touting their efficiency. "We've had the pump on the inside, and that's kind of passed away," he says. "Let's try the pump on the outside."