David Crane/Daily News Staff Photographer
Middle-aged white men can jump.
And dunk. With authority.
Depending on what those in authority will allow.
There’s a reason why most of the rims are either bent down and nearly torn off of every elementary school basketball court in the city – the bigger kids can’t help themselves. They get caught up in another Blake Griffin YouTube clip, and the next thing you know . . .
Wait a sec, what does that sign say?
“NO HANGING ON THE RIMS.”
With a giant circle and a cross through the silhouette of a player who kinda looks like Griffin.
There are seven specifically-created dunking courts at the NBA All-Star Jam Session in the L.A. Convention Center’s South Hall, baskets are arranged in ascending height from seven to 10 feet off the Sport Court tiled floors.
But once the waiver is signed, and stretching the calves, hamstrings and ego are done, there’s one simple request made for anyone who wants to show their above-the-rim abilities.
Hang time is all about what you do in the air, not what you gain from pumping yourself up on the iron.
Of course, that only applies to those who plan to hang around over on this side of South Park starting Thursday night, when the interactive playground held annually in
conjunction with Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center opens up to the public.
“Oh, no, no, no,” says Nora Risti, the director of events for NBA Entertainment, who allowed a few media folks in for a sneak peak of how it’s all set up earlier this week.
Why, because someone may actually hurt themselves?
“We haven’t had anyone get hurt,” Risti said. “Yet.”
And they aren’t looking for someone to break new ground. Or elbows.
The NBA Jam Session has been around for 18 years, and Risti has been running this version of pedestrian showtime for the last five. As part of the event last time it was at the Convention Center in 2004, when Staples Center also hosted the All-Star Game, Risti says the biggest changes between then is now is “a lot less music and a lot more basketball.”
In place of the stages where the hip-hop acts once made the scene, more than 45 basketball-related activities in all are spread through the 450,000-square-foot hall.
They’re tailored to the littlest of Nerf ballers who aim for the plastic hoops, all the way to the oldest who simply enjoy a stroll through a scaled-down replica of the Basketball Hall of Fame or want to have a picture taken with the five Lakers championship trophies.
In between all that, those who decide to do the dunk, drive, dribble and deviate from the norm can do so.
The ultimate NBA amusement park starts with entering through a hardwood-floor tunnel surrounded by 30-foot-high posters of all those NBA stars who’ll be at Sunday’s exhibition. More than 100 of the 1,600 volunteers assembled for the weekend will also be there, cheering and slapping hands with each person who comes in.
“When you see that excited look on some of those kids’ faces as they enter, with everyone giving them high-fives, it makes it all worth working the 18-hour days just to set this all up,” said Risti.
At that point, you’ve got three choices to go.
Hang a right, and you’re pointed at the Center Court – a 4,000-seat mini-arena where events such as a joint practice session for the West and East All Star teams and the annual celebrity game will be held.
Go straight, and you’ll run into the NBA Team Store — it’s about 10,000 square feet of space and impossible to miss. That’s intentional.
Venture past that, and there are things like a NBA photo exhibit of past All-Star Games, including some classic shots of Lakers from the past, going all the way back to the first event in 1951.
But veer left, and you’re left to your own devices.
The “NBA Fit” area is designed to get paying patrons to work up a sweat. A couple of full courts are laid out, sponsored by various companies, for the specific purpose of staging skills contests, holding clinics, getting autographs and staging photo opps.
Sweaty palms won’t be a problem, either. There are 400 Spaulding “Never Flat” indoor / outdoor basketballs set aside for use on all the interactive courts. The balls are regulation size, but specifically designed with the wider grooves and smaller panels, plus a tackier surface. A normal sized hand can actually palm these balls.
Especially, for any sort of dunk-o-rama exhibition you decide to put on for your friends, family and an NBA star from the past who might be watching.
“We have each ball with the initials ‘JS’ on them,” Risti said. “That’s for ‘Jam Session.’ That’s so no one happens to take one over to get some autographs and leaves with them.”
Bring a camera, and your own autograph book. After you’re done on the dunk courts, you may be asked to start signing balls yourself.
NBA ALL-STAR JAM SESSION:
WHEN: Friday (4 to 10 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Sunday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Monday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
WHERE: L.A. Convention Center South Hall, 1201 S. Figueroa Street, L.A.
TICKETS: Admission on Friday and Monday: $20 for adults, $12 for seniors and kids 12 and under. On Saturday and Sunday: $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and kids 12 and under. Children 2 and under are free each day. Tickets at Staples Center box office, Ticketmaster.com or 800-4NBA-TIX.
=Opening ceremonies with NBA commissioner David Stern: Friday, 6:25 p.m.
=Sprite Street Ball Dunk contest: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
=NBA All-Star Celebrity Game: Friday, 4 p.m. (additional ticket required, sold for $40 to $50)
=NBA All-Star West and East team practice: Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon (additional ticket required, sold for $40 to $50)
=NBA D-League All Star Game: Saturday, 2 p.m.