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No sleep 'til All Star

Mark Woods in Atlanta

Five for 15. 

No, we're not talking about Antoine Walkerís stats in the Three Point Shoot-Out. 

Five days, 15 hours sleep Ė that was All Star Weekend 2003 in Atlanta.

The NBAís International PR chieftain Terry Lyons, almost in a whisper, revealed the secret formula for survival at the outset. 

ďPlenty of 20 minute naps,Ē he nodded sagely. ďThatís the way to get through it.Ē 

And amid the madness of an event which continues to grow exponentially each February, even 20 minutes might be too much to miss. Blink, and something else has passed you by.

Particularly, celebs. Atlanta was crawling with them. 

Need a little Snoop Dogg, Jay Z or Beyoncé? Not a problem. 

Adam Sandler? Just look courtside. 

Justin Timberlake and Nelly? No need to look Ė they were everywhere.

Star spotters were like pigs in the proverbial muck. The intoxicating mix of a party circuit sans pareil and some of the most famous athletes in the USA (plus Brad Miller) attracts every name into town, the expensive seats crawling with the A-list of hip hop and Hollywood as everyone aims to see and be seen.

Thatís the thing about such mammoth productions. The centrepiece, the game itself, is almost secondary. Itís about the chat, the hustle, the chase and the love. 

Each player hosting his own gathering, each fan desperately searching a ticket.

It helps, of course, when you have a big yellow media pass dangling from your neck. You line up, wave it around the face of some 150 kilo security goliath and hope that they wave you on by. More so though, itís about who you can call, who has the inside tickets, the finger on the pulse. Scoop Jackson, you are the man.

Without sleep, All Star Weekend just rolls into one long excursion. You soak it up, see the sights but only when the numbness of insomnia subsides do you really appreciate the full panorama.

The most memorable bits?

Most absurd: Fat Freddie M, erstwhile friend of this publication, claiming fatigue and threatening to go home and miss overtime in Michael Jordanís final All Star Game. We kid you not but he soldiered on bravely. Phat.

Most cringe-worthy: Chinese journalist, in the middle of a locker room scrum, asking Kobe Bryant to autograph a cap. Oxygen should have been on hand as all of us in the vicinity stopped breathing in disbelief. You just canít do that stuff. Credit to Kobe for handling it with his usual class.

Most delightful: Sue Bird, Seattle Storm goddess. Is it the done thing to ask an interviewee to marry you?

Most jammy: The posse from FHM scoring an invite to hang out with Meat Loaf, just before MJ popped in for a visit. It was a blast, guys. Check out their inside tale in a coming issue.

Worst nightmare: Traffic. They've hosted Super Bowls and the Olympics. Just not within a 500 metre radius. And with everybody having a party - and in some cases, two - there was no room to move. Chances of Atlanta hosting another one any time soon. Nil. Shame though.

Best drama: The Philips Arena announcer who made us all wait to learn who had given up their starting spot for Michael. And to Isiah Thomas for keeping the secret.

Best friend: The limo driver who picked up a bunch of exhausted and potentially hypothermic journos from Blighty as they thumbed a ride at 4am. Whoever you were, thanks.

Best bragging: Five hummers parked side by side outside the Marriott, all of the drivers eyeing up each otherís wheels. Everyone has one, not just Lebron. Word.

Thatís All Star Weekend. Itís over. Now for that nap.

Comprehensive All Star Game 
coverage this month 
in Tip Off Magazine. 
Click for more info.

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