Kari screenshotted me this text she received a couple of weeks ago:
“Hi ladies! Quick question—do you know any basketball players in LA who would want to be stand-ins for our rehearsals at All-Star Weekend? Essentially the producers rehearse the events and we’d like to have real basketball players help the camera men set up the correct shots. Plus, you get paid!”
As we all know, Kari’s in Luxembourg. As we all know, Kari’s from LA.
“My roommate here in Luxembourg got this message from her friend who works for the NBA. Nicole, this has your name written all over it. You get to be on the court. Right next to Russ.”
She knows me so well.
I immediately texted Kari back, “I’m in.”
After officially accepting the position, one of the employees asked me if I knew anyone else who could help. Unfortunately, since it’s a paid position I couldn’t ask any of the girls. So that left me with one person and one person only athletic enough for the job— my boyfriend.
After getting Kari’s text I called my mom. At this point she’s used to it.
“This kind of stuff always happens to you. You’re in LA, none of this surprises me anymore.”
She couldn’t be more right. As excited I was to finally go to an All-Star Weekend, and not just “go” to All-Star Weekend, but PARTICIPATE in All-Star Weekend, I wasn’t all that surprised. Events and galas and premieres and shows and ceremonies are a regular in Los Angeles. There comes a point when you simply feel as if you’re always in the right place at the right time, because something is always going on in this place, all the time.
The schedule of the All-Star Weekend events were as follows:
You know when you’re a little kid (or 24) and you watch All-Star Weekend and imagine yourself doing the skills challenge and you set up an obstacle course in your backyard with cones and cups and anything you can find in your garage in order to simulate that very skills challenge?
Or when you ask your mom and dad for five ball racks and 25 basketballs (5 of which being multi-colored) for Christmas in order to correctly practice the 3pt. contest so when you’re one day called upon nothing will faze you?
That was just me?
Well, regardless of the rest of the world’s opinions, I was ready for this.
Built for this.
Born for this.
(Simply an excuse to add a cool picture I found of high school me)
Gone were the days of throwing bounce passes through hula-hoops. I was going to be on the NBA All-Star Court inside of Staples Center using the exact same stations the NBA All-Stars were going to use later that night.
Now— let’s fast forward.
One week before show time.
I’m flown out to Nashville to get semi-emergency mouth surgery.
I say mouth surgery because that sounds so much cooler than “wisdom teeth surgery.”
They were really starting to bother me. So much so that I was having a hard time eating and headaches were frequent.
I had to email the NBA.
I didn’t think I was going to make it to All-Star Weekend after all, and I didn’t want to put them in a bind. I needed to tell them so that they could find a replacement for me.
As hard as it was, the doctors weren’t going to let me fly two thousand miles across the country so soon after surgery.
I was crushed.
Surprisingly, immediately after surgery I felt fantastic. Not just because I was hopped up on pain meds, but I really didn’t feel any pain. I hardly bled.
(Don't I look totally "with it")?
The next day I felt better than the first.
And the next day I felt better than the second.
And the third day…
Okay, I’ll stop.
But I felt so good that I knew I could make it back to LA in time for at least the last few days of rehearsals.
My mom booked me a flight.
I made it back Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in much. But I was able to watch boyfriend Sean light it up. He was an all-star.
He played the part of Joel Embiid.
And boy did he shine!
He's the one in the yellow. Shining.
On Sunday, hours before the game, Sean rehearsed the starting lineups with Kevin Hart.
(There's Kevin. If you can see him).
While they were on stage having a ball being best buds and all, I got to watch with the producers.
Queen Latifah, Ludacris, Adam Devine, and Pharrell were taking their turns one by one performing their songs right in front of me.
I had my own personal concert.
As I stood there watching Sean play Joel, Adam Devine sing as if he’s a singer, and Queen Latifah bring the house down I couldn’t help but smile.
Sure, I didn’t get to make 25/25 3 pointers and sign a 10-day NBA contract because someone would have noticed me and I would have gone viral and become rich and famous, but I did get to stand in the middle of the All-Star court amongst some of the biggest names in entertainment all because I was a women’s basketball player at UCLA and I live in Los Angeles, California.
(And, because Kari asked me to, of course).
Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Players hog all the attention.
Sure, they’re athletic gazelles.
Sure, they look better in uniforms than we do.
Sure, they’re cool.
But the players make up such a small part of the fun.
The “team” goes far beyond just 13 girls.
And one of those glanced over, taken for granted, extremely important part of the puzzle team members that I want to highlight today is our very own Dave Marcus, the man behind the mic.
Since 2003 Dave has worked closely with UCLA.
The sharp looking man in the suit? That’s Dave.
The man with the voice of an angel? That’s Dave.
The UCLA play-by-play radio extraordinaire? That’s Dave.
His presence is felt, his commentary is never negative, and his passion runs deep. I’ve had the pleasure of calling a few games with Dave this season. I don’t know how the man does it. He typically goes on air for two straight hours. All by himself. No sidekick to allow him even a gulp of water! He does it all. The commentary, the set-up, the production. Despite the plate full of responsibilities his voice remains crisp and his commentary is never short of insightful.
However, his gifts weren’t given overnight.
He has worked and worked and worked at his craft.
“When I was a kid, very few games were televised. Radio was our open window to the sports world. Like many who went on to do play-by-play, I would make believe I was announcing on the radio even when I was in the backyard playing catch with my dad. It used to drive him crazy. I grew up listening to the greatest radio announcers of all time, including Vin Scully with the Dodgers, Dick Enberg with the Angels (later Rams and UCLA basketball on TV), Bob Kelly with the Rams, and Fred Hessler with UCLA football and basketball. I almost never missed a game. The Los Angeles announcers were known for their impartiality, unlike many of the markets across the country where they openly cheer for the home team. I have always tried to honor that tradition and call my games objectively.”
Midway through the first quarter of my first color commentary gig with Dave, he politely reminded me to stop saying “we.”
“We are dominating the boards right now," says Nicole.
“We can’t get over screens," says Nicole.
“If we can stop them in transition, we’ll win handedly," says Nicole.
What can I say? I’m a Bruin. And I want the world to know it.
Unfortunately, not everyone else does. I must be careful with my verbiage, with my nicknames, and with my subjectivity.
Dave makes this look easy. He is so polished. Not only does he know the ins and outs of UCLA basketball, but he is also plugged in to nearly every other team in the country.
I asked him how long it takes to prepare for a game.
“I search out as much information as I can about women’s college basketball year round. I always try to stay knowledgeable enough to be conversant about all the teams in the country, not just UCLA. Back in the old days, it was hard to even get basic statistics to prepare for a game. You had to get the sports department of each school to fax them over and that process usually wasn’t easy or quick. If we were lucky, we could get a school to mail us a media guide, which was a paper guide about the size of a phonebook.”
Dave, you’re not that old. We still know what media guides are. Phonebooks on the other hand? No promises.
UCLA found a diamond in the rough. They found a man full of passion about women in sport. They found a man, and made him family.
Many may not know what he looks like, many may not even know his name, but many know his voice; he’s the man behind the mic, and his name is Dave.
“I think it’s about time you write a blog about LA,” said Miss Debbie, the best boss I’ve ever had.
Oh, don’t tease me, Debbie.
I didn’t even mean for it to happen, either. I was literally having a normal day. I didn’t even mean for it to be spectacular.
So, without further ado, let me tell you allllllllll about “A Day in LA.”
Like any other off-day, I started it off right, at Philz Coffee.
Philz is a California staple, made famous by the hit TV show Silicon Valley, another California staple.
Philz is located in the heart of Santa Monica. Think: beach town, sunshine, and sweet & creamy coffee.
After Philz I texted my boyfriend and I told him to pack up a few pb&j’s and fill up the gas tank.
Today was a Six Flags day.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is only a 30-minute drive from campus. Naturally, when Cyber Monday came around, we knew what we had to do— buy season passes.
It was a beautiful day. Again guys, I didn’t mean for this day to happen. It just happened. It just happened to be a gorgeous sunny and 75 degree day, with a gentle, light wind feathering my hair in between every jump shot.
Did I mention it’s February?
And it’s sunny and 75.
After visiting the roller coaster capital of the world (did I mention Magic Mountain is the roller coaster capital of the world?), we needed to quench our thirst.
The college kid in me hasn’t died yet. You can’t beat a $1 Coke, whether you’re in LA or a place a lot less cooler than LA.
I had dinner plans with Lindsey Corsaro that night. So after we downed a couple refills of caffeine, I met her at a fun, local more-Californian restaurant in Westwood.
In typical Lindsey and Nicole fashion, dessert was in store after our dinner of vegetables.
To Salt n’ Straw!
Salt n’ Straw is another LA favorite in the heart of Hollywood and Venice.
What is Salt n’ Straw one may ask?
Ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. But it’s not just “ice cream.” It’s Kelli Hayes-type ice cream.
In order to have Kelli Hayes-type ice cream, we need Kelli Hayes.
20 minutes later the three of us were in line waiting for a scoop.
After downing chocolate gooey brownie, honey lavender, and salted caramel truffle delights, we knew the night wasn't done there.
Kel was all hyped up on sugar (and salt).
She took the reigns and dubbed herself navigator for the night. First on the slate of great was LACMA. To look at the lights.
From LACMA we went to Griffith Park. Juuuuuuust a tad too late. Pulled in at 10:30pm. Closed at 10. But here’s a visual. A visual of what we would have seen had the guards given into our plea.
We would have looked through telescopes and stuff.
From LACMA we went to Mulholland Dr. To look at more lights.
From Mulholland we went to SC. To stare down enemy territory the night before. The calm before the storm.
(No picture needed).
From SC we went to LA Live. It wasn’t very live. It was a ghost town down there. The lights of Staples Center weren’t even turned on. But again, Kelli wanted to go, so we went anyway.
From LA Live we went to (don’t tell coach) California Donuts. We really just went to look at the donuts, I mean, at least that’s what we’ll tell coach if she asks.
From Fruity Pebble long johns to Reese’s peanut butter chocolate frosted, we looked, and then we bought.
After donuts and after checking the clock, we realized we had been together for four straight hours.
Just a girl and her friends. Going to dinner and dessert.
So what makes it unique?
This girl and her friends
…live in Los Angeles.
And THAT was just a regular 'ol day in LA.