by Eric Woodyard
The act of getting a pregame interview with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is like seeing Bishop Magic Don Juan sporting anything but green and gold (…it just doesn’t happen much!). I found this out when Wade and the Heat made their visit to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the struggling Detroit Pistons yesterday.
I came into the arena with high hopes! For what it’s worth, it was an ESPN/ABC nationally televised game, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Wade’s a humble dude so I knew that I could be lucky enough to pull of this feat. Wrong! Not only was I unable to get an interview with him, I was unable to even see the MVP candidate until about 10 minutes before the tip off. Despite my failed attempt with the Flash, I was successful in my other efforts. The actual game was action-packed but most of the real action took place before and after the exhibition. Here’s what happened…
Upon entering the arena, ESPN cameramen were everywhere and I spotted a few familiar faces even before visiting the team’s locker rooms. The first person that I encountered was NBA legend turned analyst, Mark Jackson, who was friendlier than most. The New Yorker was engaged in casual conversation with another person from the media when I briefly interrupted him for a short interview. After quizzing me about my background info and asking me if I knew SLAM Editor-In-Chief, Ben Osborne, he agreed to answer a few questions.
SLAM: How do you feel about being here today watching DWade take on the Detroit Pistons here in Motown?
Mark Jackson: Well it’s gonna be a lot of fun. You’re talking about getting the opportunity to watch arguably the best player in the game and a guy that has a legit chance to win MVP so it should be a very entertaining ball game.
SLAM: Your (analyst) style is pretty creative, you’ve got your own punch lines like “Mama there goes that man,” and things like that. How do you come up with those types of things?
MJ: Well it’s really New York talk. It’s something I grew up with playing basketball on the playgrounds of New York City, playing with family and friends, [and] no matter what I’m doing all day everyday, I’m a trash talker and I’m having fun. So it’s just an extension of me calling the game almost like I’m sitting on the couch with my family just having fun with it. So I’m trying to put my own spin on it.
SLAM: We have a guy here in Michigan by the name of Rodney Stuckey. A lot of people like to compare him to Dwyane Wade, what’s your take on that?
MJ: It’s really not fair to compare him to a guy that has ultimately won a championship and is a guy that is one of the top-three players in the world today. But Rodney Stuckey is a phenomenal young basketball player and you can see the similarities in both players and you can see how bright his future’s gonna be. Outstanding scorer, tremendous strength and a bright head on his shoulders.
SLAM: Who’s your MVP? Do you feel DWade should be considered for it despite his team’s record?
MJ: Well his team is in the Playoffs so he certainly should be considered but when you’re talking about the MVP, I think it’s a toss up between Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It’s awfully tough to pick one of those guys. I think the rest of the season is going to tell who separates themselves.
From there it was off to the locker rooms. The Heat’s side was pretty dead as most of the players took part in shoot around. Mario Chalmers listened to music while Luther Head and Udonis Haslem had their eyes fixed on film of the opposition.
On the Pistons’ side, Rodney Stuckey munched on a pre-game meal after taking a few pre-game shots and signing autographs to the rowdy fans. Stuckey was cool, calm and collected as he too was watching film of his basketball idol Dwyane Wade while sitting at his locker. There was also an Allen Iverson sighting as he stretched in the training room looking as if he would take part in action.
After peeping the scene for a little while longer, I decided to step into the media room where breakfast food was being served. Without trying to be too much of a pest, I decided to approach former Bad Boy Rick Mahorn who was stern but fair.
“What’s up Mr. Mahorn?” I asked as he ate.
“If you mess with me while I’m trying to eat I’ll kill you,” Mahorn said smirking.
“Oh OK,” I said not knowing whether to take him serious or not.
“I’m for real! Naw but what can I help you with?” he said grinning looking up from his plate of pancakes, hash browns, and bacon.
“I work with SLAM, and I was wondering if I could get an interview?”
“Yeah, I’ll get you when I’m done eating.”
Instead of waiting around because he wasn’t nearly finished, I decided to camp out in the hallway to watch as the Pistons stormed their home court. Mahorn ran into me out there and said he’d get me after the game but I didn’t see him again. He wasn’t dodging me, but we were both very busy after the game and we didn’t cross paths.
– Without A.I., Rip, and Sheed, Wade dominated as usual! 39 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks… including the game-winning swat on Stuckey that made me feel like a proud father as he did wonders for my fantasy league team.
– Stuckey held his own, though, as he chipped in 24 points, grabbed a board, and threw 3 dimes. The Pistons lead for most of the game but fell in the end, 96-101, moving three games behind Miami in the Eastern Conference standings.
– Rip was the only player from the injured trio to sit on the bench and support his team. A.I. and Sheed teased the fans as they came out during warm-ups and signed a few autographs before heading back into the locker room to watch the game.
– In the second quarter Rip even seemed amused as he and Kwame Brown watched himself on the scoreboard’s large screen in the “24 seconds with Rip” feature during a time out. When asked who his favorite actresses were he responded with “I have two, Halle Berry and Pam Grier. Only people from the old school know about Pam Grier… I have an old soul.”
Following the game near the tunnel of the visitor’s locker room, I ran into another distinguished African-American actress who unfortunately didn’t top Rip’s list…Gabrielle Union. Caramel skin glowing, dimples glaring and looking as beautiful as ever, I wanted to spit a few words in her ear but I decided not to (…just kidding). I couldn’t say the same for the fans who bombarded hip-hop star, Flo Rida, before I reached Gabrielle Union. He seemed to enjoy the attention as he posed for pics and gave out his signature to just about anyone who asked.
This, minus the autographs and photos, was a lot like the media frenzy around Dwyane Wade in the visitor’s locker room as he sat at an unnamed locker and answered each question fired from reporters with grace and humility. Although I was unable to get a direct interview with the Flash, I can take credit as being the first person to show him a copy of his third appearance on the cover of the SLAM Magazine.
A video of this occurrence will be posted later this week on SLAMTV… Stay tuned!!