Tuesday, December 25, 2012


LeBron James,  Dwyane Wade & Mario Chambers bike ride once a month in Miami's Critical Mass Ride.  The route takes them through Omni, Edgewater, Upper East Side, North Bay Village, Miami Beach, Venetian Islands, ending Downtown.   An event that bring respect for the bike rider in Miami.  Thousands ride every month.  What better way to bond with the people of Miami?

The three ride on Christmas Day, after their game with the Thunder.  It is a special ride.

"Hey, guys," says LeBron.  "A little different tonight.  A detour.  We're going to stop in to the Fontainebleau Hotel.  They're having a Christmas Toy Drive.  Whole bunch of little kids'll be there."

"Toy drive?"  says Dwyane."

"Yeah," says Mario.  "They have it every years, give kids toys during Christmas.  Real nice thing."

"But, LeBron", says Dwyane.  "I don't have any presents to give any kids. Only place open now, 7-11?"

"Got it covered," says LeBron."  He shakes a paper bag.  "We'll give these.  They're gift cards. Got a couple hundred or so.  Magic Johnson's Theaters.  Each gives you a year's worth of movies.  Just pass them out.  Kids'll love them." 

"But," says Mario, looking into the bag.  "They must have cost you...?"

LeBron looks over at Mario.  "Come on.  It's Christmas.  Let's go.  It'll take about an hour to get over there." 

North on Biscayne Blvd, twenty minutes, they slow down.  They're lost.  The Fontainebleau is west of the AA Arena, but aren't they traveling North?

"We're lost, I think," says Mario. "Sure this is right?" 

"You might be right.  Let see,"  says LeBron. "We know it's west of the Arena."  He looks into the sky.  "I got it.  We'll follow the lights of the planes landing at MIA. That's west of here. Just follow the lights, and we'll get there."

And they do.  The Lights in the sky show them the way.

Half hour later, relieved, they sail into the parking lot at the Fontainebleau.
Inside, a lady stands at the hotel's reservation desk.  She has no bags.  She's pregnant.

"I'm sorry ma'am.  This place's full.  There's absolutely nothing available."  His voice is grim.  "You must have a reservation.  I'm real sorry, but you'll have to leave..." 

The lady moves back, a tear in her eye, but goes into the hotel instead.  She needs a place to sit down.

"Ma'am, you can't go back there," he says.  He taps the bell for security.

Outside, our Three Wise Men park their bicycles and plow through the glass doors.  There is a red and green sign pointing toward a large room full of screaming children.
"This must be the place," says Dwyane.  He waves to children going in.  They stop and wave back, their mouths hanging open.  They wave back, fun in their eyes.
As the three moves toward the room, LeBron look down a long corridor, and sees a woman sitting on the floor.  She holds her head.

"This isn't right," says LeBron.  He walks down the corridor.  "Are you okay, Miss?" 

"Hello.  Well, I tried to get a room...there are no rooms...I'm having a baby.  I didn't think it was going to be so soon..."

"Your kidding?  A baby?  Right now?" says LeBron.   He scoops her up in his arms.  "We gotta get you to a hospital."

On the run, "Hey, Dywane.  Mario. Another detour. We're not staying.  We gotta get this lady to a hospital."

The man at the reservation desk points.  "There.  Get her. There she is."  Two security guards move from the shadows.

"But...it's LeBron James?" says one of the guards.

"Dwyane Wade...and Mario Chambers?" says the other.  "We can't..."

"But she isn't supposed to be in here?  Arrest her."


The Three...well, actually it's The Four now...rush by the open door of the Toy Drive.  There are hundreds of kids and presents inside.  Pandemonium.

"Here," says LeBron to the guards.  "We brought gifts.  Pass these out to as many kids as you can."  He tosses them the paper bag.  "There's a couple hundred in there.  We gotta go."

Out they fly, piling into a cab.  And they're off, with all four, in unison, yelling, "Jackson Memorial Hospital."

"And step on it." says LeBron. "It's Christmas Day.  And we're going to have a baby."


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Friday, December 21, 2012


Kobe sits in the break room,  right after the Lakers game.  They beat the Bobcats by one.  He watches  Sports Center,  relaxing.  Still in uniform, he sits back, feet up, a Red Bull in one hand, a PayDay in the other. 

Jerry West sticks his head in the door.  "Hey, Kobe, good job tonight.  Pretty close, huh?"

"It was a tough game tonight, Mr. West, but we pulled it out. Still working on defense."

West comes into the room and looks up at the TV.  They're talking about the old Lakers, and showing fast breaks. 'It's Show Time,' they're saying.

"Remember those days, when it was up and down the court, setting up plays on the run, long passes.  You were there.  Rebound, one pass, four on two, and score.  Those were the days."

"Mr West, come on," says Kobe. "When we get our team all on the same page, get into synch, everybody's healthy, we can do it.  Maybe my legs were stronger when I was a rookie.  But I'm still fast, you know I am."

"Those faster days," says Jerry.  "We'll get there again.  That's the Lakers.  Show Time."  He leaves with a wave.  "Good game, Kobe."

Kobe lifts his Red Bull.  "See ya, Boss."

What was that all about?  Does Jerry think we should be like we were?  Fast breaks, Running, Show Time,  on every play?  We won with Show Time, but come on, you're talking 17 years ago."

Matt Barnes bounces by, sees Kobe, and does an about face.  "Kobe?  Saw the game.  A squeaker, one point, right down to the buzzer."  He laughs.  "How many of those did I play in when I was a Laker?" 

"Matt Barnes?  What are you doing in here.  Don't you play for that other team?  LA Clompers?"

"Came by to get Jodie Meeks.  I'm taking him to my tat guy.  Get tattoos.  Like to get a crown like you got, but it's been done.  Back when everything was so exciting.  Well," as he looks at the TV, "that excitement, we had, I got it now with the Clippers. You guys were...kinda slow tonight...really..."

Kobe's feet hit the floor and he throws the Red Bull can at Barnes. "Matt go. Get out of here. Go play with your Clompers.  I'm trying to relax here."

Barnes ducks, arms up, then waves.  "Good Luck, Kobe.  You guys'll get it into gear...maybe...someday." Big grin, and he's off.

What?  Again with the Slow?  Are we that slow?  We're a little older, maybe, but come on.  What about The Nicks.  Look at them.  How old are they?  Rasheed, Jason Kidd, Canby.  How old is Kurt Thomas? 75?

He looks up at the TV.

"...Sports Center will be right back with a list of illegitimate children of NFL players.  Darren McFadden, Santonio Holmes, Jason Caffey...there's a whole long, long, loooong list.  We'll be right back..."

"...When your back hurts...get the ICY HOT patch.  I do..."

Pau Gasol walks in, goes over to the glass door fridge, pulls out a large can of Beaver Buzz, and sees Shaq.  "Hey, look it's Shaq, doing another commercial.  How many does he do?  I see him all the time?"

"Once I retire," says Kobe, "I'll be out of my contract and I'll be doing all those too.  Buick, Icy Hot, Pepsi.  I've seen them all?"

"They say he makes $20 million for every commercial he does.  Not too shabby."

"He's so big, they like that I guess." says Kobe.  "I'll be all over the TV too, when I retire."  They bump fists.

"Who's better than you?" says Gasol.  "That stuff in Colorado, everybody's forgotten by now."

They hear Shaq's voice, and look up at the TV.

"Luv Shaq," says Shaq.  "Luv Shaq Vodka.  Of course it's what I drink."

"Luv Shaq Vodka?  Can you believe."  Kobe starts laughing.  "Shaq was nothing more than just a huge center.  Should have been a football lineman.  Now he's everywhere.  His own Vodka? Give me a break.  If it wasn't for him I'd have 40,000 points, not only 30,000."

"Gotta admit, he's a savvy marketeer," says Gasol.  "Shaq's probably known by more people round the world than you, Kobe.  I know he's better know than me."  Gasol throws his towel over his shoulder and turns toward the showers.

"Damn Shaq," mumbles Kobe.  He gulps down the red bull, and chomps off a chunk of his PayDay.  "I can do that too, you know.  I'm a much better player than Shaq. Hello."

Kobe pops another Red Bull, and rips open another PayDay.  We win the game, and all I'm getting here is how slow the team is.  And how come I'm not doing more commercials? What is that?  More people know Shaq than me?  Come on guys,  I lead the NBA in scoring.  What do people want from me?
He wolfs the PayDay, and gulps the Red Bull. 

The door slowly pushes open. Two young high schoolish kids stick there heads inside. They're tall. 

Kobe waves them in.

"Hi," one says.  "It's a pleasure to watch you in action, Mr Bryant.  We're high school all-stars."

"They said it was okay to come back here," says the other.  "Just be real cool about it."
"That's okay," says Kobe. "Just winding down from the game. We almost didn't get it done this time."

"Yeah, but we knew the Lakers would win," says one. "The Bobcats, come on."

"They got tired in the last 5 minutes," says the other. "Couldn't make a three pointer to save their lives."

"There was no passing," says Kobe, "just shoot and miss.  Good defense won the game."

"Good Luck, Mr Bryant."  And they leave.  But Kobe hears as they slowly close the door,  "Yeah, Kobe.  They call him the ball hog. They all say it.  He doesn't like to pass to anybody.  He doesn't set up shots for anybody else.  But he's still pretty good."

What?  That's how people see me?  Ball Hog?  He squeezes the Red Bull can in his hand and shoots it at the trash can across the room.  It hits the rim and bounces back behind the fridge. "Damn."

He looks up at the TV.
"...and 5,000 assists for Chris Paul.  Officially 6 foot, but...5 10's more like it.  Only four other players got to 5,000 assists faster in their career's than Paul, and they're all Hall of Famers...."

Kobe waves his PayDay at the TV.  "Don't have to be a good shooter to get assists.  You just need good shooters on your team to dish it off to. Shaq are you listening?"

"...and the crowd chanted C. P.  Three, C. P. Three, when he got his 5,00 assist.  C. P. Three...C. P. Three..."

Kobe points the remote, the TV clicks off.  He sits there, snapping the PayDay wrapper.

So, when I retire, Jeeez, 17 years at this.  Next year, yeah.  It'll be next year.  So...How will I be remembered?

A Ball Hog?
Not my Champion Rings?  Not my buzzer beaters?  Not my scoring points?  He was a Ball Hog.  That's how they'll see me?

So, okay, I am kind of a ball hog.  But...I don't want to be known...I guess...okay, I'll be a much more giving player in the future. All right already, I'll stop hoggin' the ball. 
Kobe jumps to his feet, grabs a towel and turns toward the showers, an inspired new spring in his step.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012



Warren Sapp filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, but he says he lost his Super Bowl ring from the 2002 season.  When he showed up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 year Super Bowl reunion last Sunday, he was wearing the ring.  He says he found the ring in time for the reunion.  Turns out the thing was under the cushions in his couch the whole time, along with the remote.


Stenciled on the door:  Salvatore Manila,  Attorney at Law.
Warren Sapp and his posse of four push through. 

"Hello Mr. Sapp," says Debbie.  I'll tell Sal..."

"I got this."  Sapp opens the door.  "He said to come over.  So here I am."  He laughs, high fiving his posse.

Debbie looks in. "Mr. Manila, it's Mr. Sapp..."

"Sal, got your message."  Big grin.

Mr. Sapp and his posse wear their best;  Armani, Florsheim, Fubu, Hilfiger, Rolex.
Sal stands, and waves his hand in the air. "Hey guys...Debbie?..."

"I'll get more chairs," she says.  She smiles, and points to the chairs in the other room. The posse brings in the chairs. 

"Gentlemen," says Sal.  "Glad you could all come."

They look around at the mahogany walls, desk, the cabinets.
"Nice,"  says one of the posse.  "Ooooo," says the rest, and flop down in the cushioned chairs.

"Okay Sal," says Sapp.  He giggles, looks around, and crosses his feet on the mahogany desk.
"What's this all about? Get a panicky call from my lawyer.  I gotta change my schedule, you know."

"You got a lot of debts, Warren.  About the bankruptcy.  We gotta talk."

"I owed people money? I know that. There was the bankruptcy."  He looks around, big smile.  "You're the one supposed to pay all my bills for me."

"Hey," says a posse. "Drinks?   I'm feeling thirsty.  Got any Gin and Juice?"

Debbie is at the door. "I'll see what I can do?"

"Okay, bottom line. You Warren, you made $82,185,056 in your NFL career.   You now have $826.04 in your bank account."

"Sal, you said I was lookin' at $6 million in the bank." He puts his head back, and talks to the ceiling.  "Chump change for me."  He giggles. "But still, Sal, that's what you said."

His posse, laugh, but squirm a little in their seats.

"Hey, you're not alone," says Sal. "A 2009 Sports Illustrated study found that 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt two years after they retire.  And fifty percent of the NBA five years after leaving the league,  broke.  Can you believe?"

"Warren," says a Posse.  "Should've invested in gold, not gold diggers." Big giggles.  Sapp furrows his brow. 

"Hard to feel sorry for someone gets his Bentley repossessed, Warren, come on," says Sal.

"Sal, you're supposed to be my friend.  Didn't we already do the bankruptcy stuff."

"Warren, you went through $82 million." says Sal.  "But it's about the ring." 

One of the posse raises his hand.  "Man got robbed by bad investments, bling bling, balling, getting robbed by whitie collar guys.  That's the truth."

"Got that right," says Sapp.

"Look," say Sal. "Iron Mike blew $400 million on mansions, cars, tattoos, jewelry and Siberian tigers. Bad investments usually a big part."

"You know I got expenses," says Sapp.  "Two kids with Jamiko.  And, well, four other kids with four different ladies along the way."

"I got it here," says Sal. "$75,495 a month in alimony and child support."

One posse mumbles, "NFL stand for NEED TO F*** THE LADY'S."
"Oooooo," the others say in unison, laughing.  They point at Sapp. He smiles, and shakes his head.
"Bankruptcy judge called me." says Sal.  "Your Super Bowl ring was not one of the items on your list.  You gotta give it up.  It worth quite a bit of money.  They'll want you to sell it."

"Sell my Super Bowl ring.  No way in hell.  My ring?  I can't, Sal."

"But you got no choice.  They know you got it.  Hell, everybody knows you got it." 

"I'll say I sold it. Sold it to...some dude.  I ain't got it no more.  That's what I'll say.  Why not.  What they going to say.  I'm a lair?"

"If that's what happened, you sold it, then they'll want the money you got. Pay back some of your debts."

"You're my lawyer.  What do I do?  Nobody's gettin' my ring.  Nobody."
"Look, Warren, I can't tell you to lie, but...I can give you a ...hypothetical.  You lost it, could happen, but for something as valuable as your Super Bowl ring?  Might be a hard story to sell."

"I can believe it," says a posse.  "Remember, the Bentley, we had to get it out of impound?  You forgot where you left it. Four in the morning that time?"

"See," he laughs. "I got a reputation for losing stuff.  They'll believe it. So, I lost it...at a bar, somewhere?"

"Maybe we can think up some other place..."says Sal.  "If you really lost it."

"Sal, it'll work, come on, it's me.  They'll believe me.  I was on Dancing with the Stars.  People believe Celebrities." 

"Warren," says a posse.  "We was watchin' Sports Center, eatin' Doritos, you know, and we maybe lost it in the couch?  Under the cushions, you know.  All kinds a stuff gets lost in the couch."

"And I found the TV remote in there too.  That'll work."  Sapp puts both hands in the air.  "Why not?"
"But," says Sal.  "Not saying that won't work.  But...I can't tell you what to say, but...hypothetically..." He rubs his forehead. "This is about as believable as Andrew Bynum saying he hurt his knee bowling."

"Relax, Sal," says Sapp.  "I gotta go to the ten year Buccaneer reunion.  I can't go without my ring.  Miracles of miracles.  I found it."

Sapp looks at his posse.  He jumps up.  "Thanks Sal.  I got it.  I couldn't never give up my ring.  It's sacred.  It was in the couch with the remote.  Crazy, huh?"
"Warren," says Sal.  "Maybe I can make some kind of deal with the bankruptcy court, and you can buy back the ring, so you won't have to...Misrepresent...?"

"Misrepresent?  No way, Sal.  I represent."  Sapp jumps up. "Right guys?  We'll go with I lost it in the couch.  Could happen.  I like it."  Sapp and Sal bump fists. "Okay, guys, I think we all need to buy us a couple of pairs of new shoes...after lunch, of course.  Whadya say?"

As the whole bunch, giggling like hell, pile out of the office.  

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