Posted Feb 7 2009 12:05AM
He was born in Buffalo but calls Phoenix home. Hall of Famer and 1974 All-Star Game MVP, Bob Lanier is opening his arms and heart to all visitors descending onto the Valley this week for NBA All-Star. Lanier is Phoenix's ultimate ambassador and will be everywhere from now until All-Star Sunday, whether it's at a Toyota Project Rebound event at a local school or mixing it up with chefs and other NBA legends at an NBA Cares and Cooks fundraiser. The Special Assistant to the Commissioner will no doubt make the most of the weeklong community events in an area that is near and dear to his heart. NBA.com's John Hareas recently caught up with Lanier.
NBA.com: How important is hosting All-Star to a city such as Phoenix?
Bob Lanier: It means a great deal, especially from an economic, community and entertainment standpoint.
Economically, All-Star will be significant to the city, given the number of people who visit, filling the hotels and restaurants all week. And given these difficult economic times, it will be great for the city to receive that financial boost.
On the community side, it's always about giving back. There will be a day of service. We will be refurbishing homes on the South Side for needy families. We will also be all around the Valley for basketball skills developments for the Boys and Girls Clubs.
One of our biggest initiatives that week is the Legacy event at Caesar Chavez Elementary School. The event will have a long-term impact because we will be donating books and computers, the tools kids need to succeed in life. Long after NBA All-Star is over, kids will still be able to tap into these invaluable resources. To me, that is what NBA All-Star is all about.
There will also be Jam Session for kids of all ages who want to see NBA players and entertainers or if they want to grab a t-shirt or shoot some hoops or measure their hands against Shaquille O'Neal's hands or somebody else's shoes. There will also be an NBA Block Party event, which is an outdoor festival with music, player appearances, all kinds of cool stuff.
The key to All-Star is having fun and if you're lucky enough to attend, fun is never in short supply.
NBA.com: This has to be extra special for you since you're a Phoenix-area resident.
Lanier: Yes, it also means more people reach out to me requesting tickets [laughs].
What's great is that I see the difference the NBA makes on a global basis. I live it. But it's extra special because a lot of people that I deal with on a daily basis in this area, will also see the league's community impact first hand. They know what I do and the traveling all over the world with the league and its players and this will give them a chance to experience it because a lot of them will volunteer their time at home refurbishments or playground builds.
NBA.com: I understand you'll be spending some time cooking that weekend for a fundraiser, NBA Cares & Cooks.
Lanier: That's right. Yours truly will be joined by George Gervin, Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins and other former players and we'll be paired with an All-Star lineup of 12 chefs from the finest Valley restaurants. This event will be held at Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday night after the All-Star Saturday Night events.
The goal is to raise money for the St. Mary's Food Bank, Waste Not, Feed the Children and Share our Strength in the drive to end hunger. It's open to the public. Fans can purchase tickets, help make a difference and have some fun.
I'll be doing plenty of mixing, seasoning and of course, eating the food. [laughs]
NBA.com: Everyone has a favorite dish they prepare. What's yours?
Lanier: I'm into Southwestern style collard greens, so they have a little spice to them. When you combine Southwestern style collard greens with some Southwestern style fried chicken, Mmmmm. It's so good that it will make you want seconds and thirds. [laughs].
NBA.com: Without the chefs, would you ever trust the other legends to prepare your meal?
Lanier: Oh, no, no. I know that Ice and those guys cannot cook. Ice can finger roll, Rick Barry can shoot underhanded and Dominique can slam dunk but he can't slam dunk a potato and put some cheddar cheese on it and make it taste good.
NBA.com: You were an eight-time All-Star and won MVP honors in 1974. What do you remember about that game in Seattle?
Lanier: You know, it's funny: Just recently, my 10-year-old daughter asked me as we're talking about All-Star, "Dad, have you ever won an All-Star Game MVP?" I laughed and looked at her and said, 'Girl, you better Google me." [laughs]
The game in Seattle was no doubt special to me. It was the first All-Star Game where I received more than 10-12 minutes of action. I played 26 minutes in that game. The coach of the West All-Stars was Larry Costello and I was thankful he gave me some time.
I'm not sure most people realize it but when you're out there, you want to win. You're not out there trying to kick it. The competitive juices take over.
My teammate on the West, Spencer Haywood, was also having a good game. I think I scored something like 12 of my 26 points in the fourth quarter.
Our team was loaded: In addition to Spencer, we had Kareem, Dave Bing, Rick Barry, Gail Goodrich. It was a great time.
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