Most NBA players have at least one good story about playing the Los Angeles Lakers inside Staples Center. Oklahoma City Thunder players can one-up even the best.
"The last game, an impromptu concert broke out, which was a little strange,” remembered forward Nick Collison. "I haven’t had too many experiences like that before. It was a circus in there.”
It was Nov. 22, a Sunday. The American Music Awards was being held across the street at the Nokia Theatre. One-by-one, the stars trickled in, taking their rightful place in the league’s most expensive courtside seats, turning the game into an after party.
Actors Jack Nicholson and Andy Garcia were in their usual seats. Rappers Jay-Z and Drake sat across from the Thunder’s bench. Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose even had camera lenses zooming in.
But when the Lakers built a 26-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Lakers’ game-presentation staff decided it be a good idea to hand one of the stars a microphone.
The Grammy-Award winning Will.i.am gladly obliged, taking his cue during a fourth-quarter timeout and bringing the sellout crowd to its feet as he sang the chorus to the Black Eyed Peas hit, "I Gotta Feeling.” Group member Fergie stood by his side. Will.i.am then introduced B-Real from Cypress Hill, who Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez just happened to be standing next to as the jumbotron displayed the scene.
"I was thinking it’d probably be crazy to play in there all the time,” Collison said. "That’s the first time anything like that happened in my career.”
Said second-year forward D.J. White, "That’s just part of the Lake Show. You just have to deal with it.”
Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, "Only in L.A.”
The Thunder returns to Staples Center tonight for its second and final game against the Lakers in L.A, where it’s becomes easy to get lost in the arena’s aura — from the seven retired numbers and 15 championship banners hanging from the rafters, to the stars who dot the courtside seats and, apparently, now break out in song during fourth-quarter blowouts.
"It’s a fun environment,” Brooks said. "In the last 20 years, there has been a good chance you were playing against one of the best teams in basketball... It’s a great opportunity for guys to play there because you’re playing against the best team and arguably the best player, (Kobe Bryant).”
Brooks remembered being overmatched and in awe of Magic Johnson during one of his first visits to L.