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THE 10 COOLEST ATHLETES I’VE EVER MET

Posted by HG on June 22, 2007

I was 10 years old the first time I met an athlete. My pops had taken me to an N.C. State basketball game, and after the game he got us down to the Wolfpack locker room exit. It was the highlight of my life to that point. I got to stand there, talk to, and get autographs from Sidney Lowe, Derek Whittenburg, Chuck Nevitt, and Jim Valvano. Thurl Bailey slipped out but I’d catch up to him later.

 When I say I got to talk to, I might be slightly overstating it. Lowe and Whittenburg couldn’t have said more than 15 words to me..combined. And I was talking to Chuck Nevitt’s girlfriend more than I was talking to Big Chuck. She was telling me a story about Chuck buying a boat… Jim Valvano talked to me a little bit but the greatest thing about him was his consistency. He kept calling me A.C. instead of H.G. I met him about 10 years later when he was working for ABC and in town to call a Louisville/UCLA game. He kept calling me A.C. instead of H.G.

Since then, through work and dumb luck, I’ve crossed paths with a number of athletes. In the brief time that I’ve talked to any of them, I’ve always wound up with an impression. It’s probably not fair to judge somebody that quickly, but it’s all I get.

10. Bobby Bonilla: I met Bobby at a celebrity golf tournament. I was there as a member of the media, not being a celebrity, obviously. We talked Pirates, he talked cigars, and then we just stood around bullshittin’ for about 5 minutes. People passing by could only assume we had known each other for years.

9. Warren Sapp: 99 could be on the list or off the list. The first time I met him, he was still a Buc and Tampa had just signed Keyshawn. He was more than happy to chop it. He kept reiterating that Key was the key and now they were gonna win the Superbowl. The second time I met him, he was a Raider, and he didn’t have two words for me.

8. Lennox Lewis: I guess knowing you can knock out anybody in the building probably leaves you pretty relaxed. That’s what Lennox was. Real relaxed, real English, but he really didn’t wanna talk about Mike Tyson. He was still boxing at the time, so we mostly talked boxing. We talked a little music and he swore that when he hung up the gloves he was done.

7. Eric Karros: There’s no one time for EK. I met him a couple of times over the years and he was always cool. He didn’t take the business of baseball too seriously, but he loved the game. He always had time to talk baseball, and he’s good for a joke about an opposing team/player.

6. Tracy McGrady: I talked to T-Mac for about 10 minutes at a party. He had just joined the Rockets, which was precluded by rumors of Shaq going to Orlando to be teamed up with McGrady. T-Mac gave me his opinions on why the deal never got done, but said Houston was a good move too. We gm’d on what some of the other teams in the league should do, and he told me the things he was gonna miss most in Orlando. It was just an average conversation between an NBA player and some dude at a party.

5. Thurl Bailey: Meeting him wasn’t as cool as it was sentimental. I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet Thurl without Karl Malone arranging the meeting. We talked N.C. State hoops for a little  bit, and then I asked him to sign the “Go Pack” sheet that had the Valvano, Nevitt, Lowe, and Whittenburg autographs on it. I thought he was gonna cry. You should have seen how that piece of paper took him back in time. It was a great moment, and to this day those are the only 4 5 autographs I have.

4. Lenny Harris/Mike Sharperson/Darryl Strawberry: I went to the worst/best post game barbecue in the early 90s. It was bad because there wasn’t much food, the grill was on somebody’s patio, and there weren’t more than 3 ladies there. Then Lenny, Sharp (R.I.P.), and Strawberry rolled in and things livened up a little. Lenny Harris was in rare form, Sharperson wasn’t sure who they played next (it was Atlanta, and the games were important. The Dodgers were in a pennant race.), and they all wanted to get the hell out of there before Kal Daniels showed up. They were gonna go out on the town for the night and they didn’t wanna drag him around. Kal showed up to everybody’s dismay (I think even me and my buddies by this point). Darryl was cool as could be, and even sought us out before he left to say “nice to meet y’all”. He then got in his black Mercedes, cranked the beat, and bounced. He was dope.

3. Karl Malone and John Stockton: I didn’t meet them together but you can’t have one without the other. I got a chance to do some work with Karl, and I gotta say he pretty much is what you see on tv. A big country dude that prefers a small city and starry nights. He’ll say some shit that will have you dyin’, not neccesarily intentionally, but he was a cool cat.

I met John Stockton after a Jazz/Clippers game. It was weird… The Jazz weren’t in any hurry to get to the bus or anything like that and I ended up standing there, talking, to John Stockton… and Peter Vecsey walks over. It didn’t ruin the conversation I was having with Stockton although it didn’t make it better either. The best part of the conversation was when John was breaking down Utah’s pick and roll, explaining how they have limitless options depending on what the defense does, and basically saying Stockton/Malone= Unstoppable.

2. Chris Webber: I useta go out with a chick that thought Chris Webber was the finest man on the planet. You could call her a C-Webb Stan. When I met Webber, we started off talking basketball, and during the conversation I thought about Ms. C-Webb Stan. Camera phones weren’t around yet, but I did have my trusty recorder that I carried with me everywhere for work purposes. I told Webber that I had a friend that thought he was the biz and asked if he could say something nice to her on tape. He takes the recorder and does 1 minute 30 seconds of telling her how much he’d like to meet her and if things go well they can get married in his backyard. It was some of the funniest shit I had ever heard. As you can guess, she was pretty damn happy with that tape.

1. Derek Fisher: Probably one of the top ten coolest people I’ve ever met. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody with a bad word to say about D-Fish. I’ve met him through work and in social settings and he’s been the same all the time. Cool and down to the Earth.

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Posted in BOBBY BONILLA, CHRIS WEBBER, COOL ATHLETES, DARRYL STRAWBERRY, DEREK FISHER, ERIC KARROS, JOHN STOCKTON, KARL MALONE, LENNOX LEWIS, LENNY HARRIS, MIKE SHARPERSON, N.C. STATE, THURL BAILEY, TRACY MCGRADY, WARREN SAPP | 2 Comments »