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Spur of the Moment

November 8, 2013

It’s 7:00 on a Saturday night.  Somehow circumstance has trumped the usual rules of logic that dictate my life, and I find myself in the VIP Lounge before a Ninetology All Star Basketball game in Kuala Lumpur’s Putra Stadium .  Standing less than 10 ft away is former Spur and perpetual rebel, Dennis Rodman.  In spite of the fact that basketball (specifically Spurs basketball) is the only sport I have a soft spot for (to the point where I made sure my daughter had the initials A.J. after Avery Johnson), and that Rodman’s larger than life persona has always intrigued my introverted self, there is not a chance that I’ll be taking even one step closer to meet the man best known for playing by his own rules.

Pregame Dennis Rodman

Pregame Dennis Rodman

Rodman is not keen on meeting any fans.  It’s a vibe that is palatable from where I stand (and perhaps even in San Antonio, right now).  He’s the only player in the room who has appointed a man to stand around and make sure no one gets close enough to chat or take a picture without his explicit consent.  It’s a tactic that certainly works on easily intimidated fans like me.  He doesn’t want feel like a prop for Instagram pictures, he doesn’t need to hear fan validation, or desire to answer questions about his renowned antics.  I can respect this, so I move on.

Regular size people and Jaber Rouzbahani.

Regular size people and Jaber Rouzbahani.

Regular size basketball players, and Jaber Rouzbahani

Regular size basketball players, and Jaber Rouzbahani

There are other players, most notably former NBA star Doug Christie who has brought along his young son (who he himself home schools), who are excited to meet fans and learn about a new city.  Christie is warm and easy to talk to.  He tells us about his wife’s upcoming reality TV show, how he enjoyed taking his son to the PETRONAS Towers, and how much he’s enjoyed visiting KL.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

I wasn’t familiar with Christie’s career before meeting him, but right away I’m a fan.  He relayed a story that I truly appreciated, where on one improbable occasion two people he was working with recounted how his actions had positively impacted them.  He couldn’t recall the occasions they were referencing, as they happened long ago, but Christie was so touched that they had remembered him so many years later, and that in effect his kindness had come full circle.  As I listened it occurred to me that Doug Christie must start these impromptu circles of kindness wherever he goes.

It was all very exciting.

It was all very exciting.

It’s 8:30 and the game begins.  Amazingly, I’m sitting courtside with the best view of a live game I’ve ever had.  Out of the corner Dennis Rodman appears, this time in full clown-like makeup–complete with glittering multi-colored hair.  The crowd is caught off guard by what they are witnessing, and a flurry of cell phones scurries to capture the scene.  It’s an occurrence Rodman initiates, and yet is incongruous with the aloof man in the lounge.  But this odd juxtaposition of irreverent flamboyance and social awkwardness is fundamental to his one of a kind personality.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

Dennis Rodman chasing the ball.

Dennis Rodman chasing the ball.

No one can take their eyes off Rodman.  He seems to be invoking an alter ego, sort of a (basketball) court jester, as he plays to the crowd making lighthearted gestures and sporadically autographing, then tossing, items into the audience.  The other players act as if nothing is out of the ordinary (and perhaps for them, nothing is) and the game is played like any other.  Once again, Rodman has set his own rules (this time that a sparkling diva will be taking his place tonight), and others play along.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

Ninetology All Star Basketball

It’s after 10:00 and I leave the arena.  Dennis Rodman did not disappoint.  His sardonic, enigmatic, and unpredictable persona was as conspicuous and entertaining tonight as it was back when I was a high school student in San Antonio.  But in the long run the more meaningful, and perhaps memorable, experience was getting to have a conversation with Doug Christie.  His generosity of spirit is something that will remain with me long after the makeup of the evening’s events has washed away.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

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