Shooting for The Stars
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LAS VEGAS, NV., Feb. 15, 2007 -- NBA All-Star Weekend is more than just a way to recognize the best basketball players in the game and much more than a mid-season respite (parties and more parties!). It is a showcase of talent across the worlds of celebrity, a celebration of stars in sport, entertainment and popular culture.

And I still get star struck.

I know, I know. I shouldn't admit that. It's not cool to be enamored with the whole celebrity scene, but I just can't help myself. If I'm around or near a celebrity of any kind, I turn into a different person. I get nervous, start sweating and try to come up with something witty to say so they will laugh, take a liking to me, make me their friend, invite me to cool parties with other famous people and pay for everything for the rest of my life (This has to happen. It is my destiny).

That's just the way I am.

I was eight years old when I met Hulk Hogan in an airport, but I was too nervous to ask him if he considered himself a pioneer in closing the gap separating sports and entertainment (I got his autograph and gave him a piece of my gum). Twenty years later, I met Mr. T in that same an airport and regretted not asking him about working with Hogan in Rocky III.

Nope, I haven't changed.

Why is it that we always seem to encounter famous people in airports, when rushing to catch a flight or waiting on line in the food court for a Cinnabon (Mmmmm. Cinnabon)? I've seen gorgeous models, brilliant musicians, blockbuster movie star actors, Hall-of-Fame athletes and even the occasional talentless socialite trying to blend in (though the "fly" sunglasses and purple fur coat make that tough). Yet I rarely get to catch up to them because they check-in at the First Class lines and get ushered through security without emptying their liquids or taking off their shoes, thus circumventing the hassles that stress out us common folk to no avail.

Luckily, with my thinning hair, three ounces of shampoo for two weeks on the road for The Finals is now more than enough.

Recognizing famous people is a sport in and of itself (I often wake up at the crack of dawn to train like figure skaters and sprinters). I often have to make a split-second decision whether or not the face I recognize is a celebrity or just someone I knew back in college. But it can get confusing. That is why I absorb roughly 100 hours of sports and pop culture a week - television, music, newspapers, movies, web fare, gossip magazines, newspapers - and try to retain as much as I can.

Of course, living in New York City, you recognize people quite frequently. In fact, just last week I sat one booth down from a woman who played the daughter of "Gimme a Break" alongside the late Nell Carter back in the mid-1980's. Yet instead of telling her how much I loved seeing her on "The 100 Greatest Child Stars" program on VH1 recently, I just sat quietly and tried to eavesdrop on her conversation (She is actually a lawyer now, but still does voiceover work).

By the time I got my first job in sports several years back, the odds were clearly stacked against me being successful. How would I react in the presence of Michael Jordan, Lebron James or Lisa Leslie? Being around athletes and celebrities still made me giddy.

Then I got to know them.

I spent three years as the and editor and spent most of that time relating to them on some mutual ground. I loved talking about old episodes of "Golden Girls" with Phoenix Mercury forward Kayte Christensen, talking about the Grammy Awards with Dwyane Wade at All-Star last year in Houston, discussing politics with Detroit Shock All-Star Swin Cash, joking with Shaq and singing karaoke with Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi. I sat next to Connecticut's Katie Douglas on a plane as she worked on her wedding plans (She wore white and had a cake - that's about all I remember).

So what's still left to accomplish? Plenty.

I want to yacht with Diddy, sing with Springsteen, discover with Ben Franklin, reminisce with Mindy Cohn, rule with King Solomon, ride with Theodore Roosevelt, run with Magic, dance with Digital Underground, swim with Damian Bailey, travel with the Miami Heat Dance Team, clean up the streets with McGruff, the crime dog, book a gig with Sly Winkle from California Dreams, meet the inventor of the "Moist Wipes," brainstorm with the crew from West Coast Customs, cuddle with the Snuggle fabric softener bear and smack some sense into that Ponce de Leon.

At least a few of them will be here this weekend. And maybe I'll even work up the courage to talk to them.