Let me start off with a little background:
It’s the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and the C-Webb, Vlade, Mike Bibby, Sacramento Kings – the team that Shaq famously called the “Queens”.
Back then, I was dividing my time between writing cover stories and features for Men’s Fitness and writing columns for a then-fledgling basketball website called HoopsHype.com. If you’re a basketball fan, you know HoopsHype.com. If not, all you need to know is that it’s a phenomenal basketball site that started as a blog and then got bought by USA Today and is now part of their online empire. It’s a great media success story and I am proud to say I was one of the first columnists on board.
Of course, fifteen years ago being a columnist for an unknown website was essentially media pan-handling. Nobody wanted to look at you, much less issue you a press pass for a practice, or, even crazier, an actual NBA playoff game.
As a lifelong Celtics fan, it pains me to say this, but I have to give the Lakers organization credit here. I wrote their head of media, explained what I did and what HoopsHype.com was about, mentioned my other writing credentials, and lo and behold, I was issued a press pass for one of the biggest Western Conference rivalries at the time. At the Staples Center. I was ecstatic.
I immediately fired off an e-mail to my editor about all the ideas I had to cover the game. It was a given that Shaq and Kobe would be swamped, as well as many of the Kings, but it was such an important series at the time for Chris Webber that we decided to go big. I was going to aim for an interview with C-Webb in the most important playoff series of his career.
You have to remember, this was Webber at the height of his powers. He was a 26 points, 10 board and 6 assists a night guy back then. He was a beast.
Sacramento also had home court that year, so it really was his chance to take down the defending champion Lakers.
The teams had split the first two games and on my two-hour ride to Staples Center from Hermosa Beach, I was really hoping for a Sacramento road win.
Maybe I’d catch Webber in a great mood and he’d be willing to give me five or ten minutes for an exclusive and I could help put HoopsHype.com on the map.
When I arrived at the arena a few hours before game time, I have to admit that I was pretty excited. I had done some national cover stories with some big names, but really, if you’re going to be a sportswriter, you want to be at the big games, and this was probably the biggest game in the NBA playoffs that year up to that point.
I checked in, got my credential, snagged a free meal in the Chick Hearn media room, stared at Michael Wilbon and JA Adande for a few minutes and then headed up to the 3rd level of the rafters, where I was seated.
It was above the nose bleeds. Any higher and I’d have needed oxygen and a Sherpa.
I won’t go into too many details, but the Kings won, Webber played great (26-9-6) and I was pumped for my interview.
I took the elevator down, politely waited for the beat writers and major media names to finish their questions and then I got up the courage to approach Webber at his locker when I saw my opening.
“Hi, Chris,” I said. “Great game tonight. Really hammered the boards. So, uh-“
“What’s Hoopy Hype?” he asked, cutting me off and looking at me confused.
“What?” I said, also confused.
“Your badge says Hoopy Hype? Is that some kind of kids show or something?”
“Hoopy?” I said. “No, I write for Hoopshype. Like, hoops and hype. Two words. Not hoopy. We want to be a cool basketball site for hardcore fans.”
And that’s when I looked down and noticed that my press pass did, in fact, say hoopy.
“Oh, man,” I said. “It’s, you know, a new site and it’s just a typo.”
“What’s it supposed to be?”
“Hoopshype,” I said. “Hoopshype dot com. Hoops, then, hype.”
“That’s better than hoopy,” he said.
“Yeah, I agree,” I said. “Hoopy does sound like a kids show or something.”
“Well, good luck with it,” Webber said, putting on his jacket and walking away.
“Thanks, Chris,” I said. “Good luck with the rest of the series.”
“Thanks,” he said, and disappeared out of the room.
I just blew my five minutes with Chris Webber following one of the biggest games of his career and biggest wins of that year’s playoffs because I got distracted talking about a freaking typo.
I scanned the room for Webber but he was gone.
Vlade was gone. Mike Bibby was gone.
I had nothing. Well, not nothing. I had a great open for an article on Chris Webber that I couldn’t use because I never got to talk to Webber about, you know, the game or basketball or anything other than the word hoopy.
And that’s when my man, Bobby Jackson, made the mistake of making eye-contact with me; a young writer in dire need of an interview for his story so he doesn’t leave a huge NBA playoff game with nothing to write.
Fifteen years later, I gotta thank B-Jack for saving my ass and giving me ten minutes for an interview and making sure I didn’t leave empty handed.
All because of a typo.
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