Wizards v. Bulls: A BlackAthlete.net Freestyle

By Emmett Gill, Jr.
Updated: April 4, 2008

Wizards Chicago BullsWASHINGTON, D.C. ” 3:00 PM – Demetria Richardson of BlackAthlete.com, or BlackAthlete Sports Network as we are now known, calls to let me know that credentials were approved for the Wizards versus the Bulls. BlackAthlete.net, in conjunction with the NNPA, has total-access NBA media credentials. In my unsolicited opinion (Tony Kornheiser says that’s what journalists are supposed to do), this is a huge accomplishment for a minority company in the sports industry and for writers of color. Unlike others at many websites with sports content, BlackAthlete.net CEO Roland Rogers wants his sports staff to find unique NBA feature stories, the juice, the word, what’s up and what’s down.

5:45 PM – I have not ironed my suit and I don’t have an angle for a story. The Bulls are in town and there are a lot of subplots. Jordan won six championships in 13 years in the city infamous for house music. Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, the two other rookies that entered the NBA from high school, are coming through. So is Ron Artest. It’s been speculated that Ron Artest broke Jordan’s ribs in a summer pick-up game and allegedly the Queensbridge and Brooklyn natives are not fans of one another. Jordan’s old teammate Bill Cartwright is now the Bulls’ coach and I think that is a great thing because there are now 13 black coaches in the NBA (the most ever). Finally (as Jay-Z plays in the background, rapping about an MJ fade-away), Mike needs 15 to score 30,000 points in his career. If you’re an avid sports fan, this information is old news. Feature?

6:20 PM – I’m walking through the MCI arena press entrance to swipe my credentials and see who I can rap to… I use the word rap because I decided this feature would be a freestyle one, meaning something off the cuff, thinking on the run, trying to get you to see the insight BlackAthlete Sports Network will bring….

6:30 PM – I roll in the media room and, as expected, all the big dogs are in the house: Michael Wilbon (Washington Post and ESPN), David Aldridge (ESPN), Steven Smith (Philadelphia Inquirer), David Schwartz (ESPN), Tony Kornheiser (ESPN and Washington Post), etc… With a 7:00 p.m. start, there were no pre-game interviews for me. So, I dropped in and paid my respects. Level 1, Concourse 107 — that means no seat with the big dogs? One day.

6:50 PM – I stroll through the crowd to see who is in the house. David Faulk, Ted Leonsis, Charles Mann are all chilling courtside. Concourse 107? Cool, I got my media guide, pre-game info, and a monitor beside Fox Sports Net. Time for a little research… Neither Tyson Chandler, Eddie Curry, nor Kwame Brown will start. The three high school draft picks have all alluded to the fact that they have to learn how to play hard. They are all averaging about 3 points a game and $3.1 million a year. Learn? Brendan Haywood was Rookie of the Month because at UNC you learn how to play hard!

7:00 PM – Tip off! The Bulls go on an 8-0 run to start the game and the crowd is off the chains. It feels like a real NBA game, but, like Bill Cartwright said, Mike’s true colors are… OK, the NBA is watching so I better be good.

23 Wizards – 14 Bulls. One of the refs is a lady ref. Is that the politically correct terminology? I think refs who happen to be female are great. I also believe a female will play one day in the NBA. However, I wonder to myself: if a player should smack a ref — who happens to be female — on the butt, does that constitute sexual harassment (see Mike Tyson statue)?

32 Wizards – 18 Bulls. Mike can’t heat up (1-5 FG), but he is not getting any lift in his jumper. Eddie Curry is the first former high school phenom in the game. He is a big dude – let’s see about those skills. Speaking of phenom, I shout out to my man Jamal Crawford, the Bulls point guard, who is out for six more weeks. If you are a Michigan fan, you’re familiar with JC, but since he entered the NBA, injuries have kept this superstar waiting – and waiting. Anyway, Mr. Crawford won the Injured Players’ Best-Dressed Award. He was sporting a four-button, light brown wool suit, with a thin block pattern, a soft baby blue shirt, and a fat tie. Get well soon, Jamal (Derek Anderson said JC will blow-up). End of the 1st quarter.

45 Wizards – 31 Bulls. OK, this is getting out of hand and my mind has turned to the buffet in the media room. Jordan takes Artest to the baseline… Artest fouls Jordan… 1 and 1… Good… Good… Jordan scores his 30,000th point. I looked around Concourse 107 and the lower level and none of the journalists were clapping – maybe they were writing or maybe it’s against the code. Regardless, to me, it was weird because I wanted to cheer. Then, Steven Smith stood, but he didn’t clap. Smith, upon noticing Marcus Fizer’s first appearance in the game, declares Fizer has not been *bleep* since he entered the league.

57 Wizards – 37 Bulls. A blowout before halftime? I was so busy free-styling that I didn’t notice that Sam Marchiano from Fox Sports Net had turned the monitor. What kind of nonsense is that? Well, MJ has 25 points and it looks like he may go for 50 (boy, was I wrong). The Wizards look good. Brendan Haywood qualifies for the Rookie of the Year, C. Whit looks good, and Tyrone Nesby is even getting a little run. Off to the media buffet table, but first a stop through the parking lot to see what the players are driving. A Mercedes 500 SL.? It’s Abe Pollin’s, according to James, the guy guarding it. James can’t tell me where the other cars are located. Off to the buffet table!

79 Wizards – 67 Bulls. Mike looks like his sinus thing is catching up with him, but it’s almost over. Tonto, jump on it, jump on it, jump on it… tonight’s music selection is right on time. I’m sitting here wondering whether the players get into the music. They played some Jay-Z, some Ja Rule – the kind of music that wants to make you get yours!

87 Wizards – 81 Bulls. What happened? At one time, the Wizards led by 26 points. Now, it’s down to a 9-point Bulls deficit – that broadcaster talk. Ron Artest gets the steal… he goes to the hole… Mike comes out of nowhere… It’s a block party. Game (89-83)!

9:10 PM – The crowd is filing out and it’s time to head to the post-game press conference. The thing about post-game press conferences is that there is no room for non-game-related questions. Some reporters, like the big dogs I mentioned earlier, have latitude. Doug Collins is first and he sums up the late-game block by saying, “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve seen Michael do all year.” I like DC because he’s a competitor, although now he is more easygoing. During the first post-game press conference of the year, he had his daughter Kelly sit with him as he answered questions. The Wizards’ locker room is now open for the press, so off to get the final set of sound bites (bytes?)!

10:00 PM – This is wild. Every reporter is standing in a semi-circle in the middle of the Wizards’ locker room, waiting for Jordan to come out. We’ve been waiting, which is cool because it’s Floor Jordan (smile), but the irony of it all is that there is hardly anyone interviewing the other 11 guys on the team. I mean a comment from C. Whit, a shout from Haywood, or some perspective from Popeye Jones…but, for the most part, there were 30 guys standing there jockeying for position to ask MJ questions. It was wild!

10:12 PM – Finally, Mike J appears in a tiz-zite black suit with a gold tie, a clean shave, and an earring that had more diamonds than a diamond mine in Africa. Mike satisfied the media troops’ obsession with his late-game block party and affirmed that he was “frustrated” (i.e., pissed off). However, for the most part, Jordan was visibly nonchalant about the victory over the team he transformed into a dynasty. Looked like he had things to do!

10:45 PM – As I head to the door, I’m not really sure if our readers will feel my freestyle. I figured it would be cool to take a look at the game-within-the-game of sports journalism. Test the limits a little. Besides, the great thing about a freestyle, is that when it is said, and done… it is said and done… You throw down your pen and roll out.