What’s a Jam Session without 7-foot hoops?


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?


With a giant circle and a cross through the silhouette of a player who kinda looks like Griffin.

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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.

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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.

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Spoiler alert: A first look at the Jerry West statue outside of Staples Center


The official coming-out party for the Jerry West statue permanently on display outside of Staples Center near the Team L.A. Store won’t come until Thursday afternoon.

But when we happened to be walking past the spot this afternoon. And happened to see workers setting this new piece of artwork in place near Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson and Oscar de la Hoya. And happened to pull out our cell phone camera and snap a shot, in the presence of security guards protecting whatever they protect.

Imagine that.

Not quite the pose of the NBA logo that we imagined — he’s driving to the basket with the ball in his left hand, but not so upright. But moments after we took this, the statue was wrapped in black covering — the rain was coming and going, and it’s not likely not to be revealed officially for another 48 hours.

The public is invited to the 5 p.m. ceremony, hosted by Jim Hill, with the official unveiling at about 6 p.m. The 14 foot bronze statue of West on the granite pedestal weighs about 1,500 pounds. It was created by Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany, who also did the statues of Gretzky, Magic (17 feet tall), De La Hoya (14 feet tall) and Chick Hearn (16 feet and 5,000 pounds) that are in front of Staples Center on Chick Hearn Court.

FoxSportsWest.com will do live streaming of the ceremony on its website.

Meanwhile, workers were also putting new banners outside Staples Center in preparation for Sunday’s NBA All-Star game:

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The Laker Channel in ’12-’13, and at least 20 years more, with Time Warner Cable’s dollars


If the Lakers are considered the New York Yankees of the NBA, they’re swinging for the fences in creating what could be the biggest change in the Southern California sports TV landscape over the last several decades.

In a sweetheart deal announced on Valentine’s Day somewhat similar to what the Yankees did in starting their own YES network, the Lakers announced a 20-year agreement with Time Warner Cable to create two exclusive regional cable channels — one in English, and a ground-breaking one in Spanish — that will carry each game, home and away, starting with the 2012-13 season.

Terms were not disclosed but industry sources estimate that hundreds of millions that will change hands — more likely at least a couple of billion dollars when all is said and done — this will be one of the biggest sports regional network deals in cable TV history.

The Time Warner deal begins in 18 months, when the Lakers’ current contracts with Fox Sports West and KCAL-Channel 9 expire after the 2012 season.

Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, a force behind launching the Prime Ticket regional network to spotlight his team 25 years ago, said in a statement: “The Buss family is thrilled to join forces with Time Warner Cable in building the TV home for Lakers fans. Time Warner Cable has been producing quality sports programming for over a decade and the Lakers have been producing championship seasons for even longer. I am particularly proud of being part of the first ever Spanish-language RSN in the country. Together I’m confident we will delight our fans.”

Time Warner Cable, available in two million Southern California homes with an additional 500,000 in the Lakers’ regional coverage of Nevada and Hawaii, will make the yet-to-be-named channels available to all cable and satellite dish companies, just as FSW and Prime Ticket are today, said Melinda Witmer, TWC’s senior vice president and chief programming officer.

She said while 90 percent of the homes receive cable or dish TV reception, leaving some out who can not afford it, research bears out that “most consumers get their TV viewers through a multi-channel provider. Our experience is that Time Warner has a large footprint and the bulk of basketball fans through the country get their sports through a cable regional sports network.”

The trick for Time Warner will be to generate demand for its Lakers channels to have cable systems put it on their accessible tiers over the next 18 months, which involves negotiating sub fees and resistance from competing companies.

While FSW takes the most direct hit from the deal, it maintains local TV rights to the Dodgers, Angels, Clippers, Ducks, Kings, USC and UCLA sports game packages. The Dodgers and Angels have made overtures about starting their own cable channels in the past — but the Lakers have apparently beaten them to it.

A Fox spokesman issued a statement from the network: “Fox made an offer to the Lakers that would have paid them one of the highest local TV rights fees in professional sports. We did not believe that going higher was in the best interest of our business or pay TV customers in Los Angeles, who will bear the cost of this deal for years to come.”

KCAL Channel 9 added in a statement: “We look forward to continuing to broadcast the team’s games to all its fans across Southern California through the completion of the 2011-12 season. Beyond that, KCAL 9 will continue to make local sports a big part of the station’s identity.”

Tim Harris, the Lakers senior VP of business operations and chief marketing officer, said the team had been talking to Time Warner about this deal for more than a year, and “what kept driving us forward was synergy” with Time Warner enabling the team to more with interactive elements, pre- and post-game shows, and other programming on off days.

Last August, Buss was asked if there was a time when he thought the Lakers could on their own regional channel, like the Yankees and Mets.

“I suppose so,” he said, a week after he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’ll tell you, I’m the wrong person to ask about that now. (Daughter) Jeanie (who runs the business side of his teams) is the one. Like with any business you look at every opportunity. Whether you’re serious about it or not is another story.”

Forbes magazine recently put the Yankees’ value at $1.6 billion, with YES network paying the team $100 million on top of $84 million in rights fees in 2009. Forbes lists the Lakers’ $643 million worth second in the NBA to the New York Knicks’ $655 million.

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Play it forward: Feb. 14-20 on your sports calendar


Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:


NBA: Lakers at Charlotte, 4 p.m., Channel 9:

The Bobcats always seem to give the Lakers fits, even as they come off a strange lackidasical effort in Orlando.


Series: “Jeopardy!”, 7 p.m., Channel 7:

On a day where neither the Lakers, Clippers, Kings or Ducks play a game, check out the second night of the “Jeopardy!” challenge where two former star contestants rage against the IBM machine.


NBA: Lakers at Cleveland, 4:30 p.m., Channel 9:

Can the Cavs make it two in a row over L.A. teams? Last time out, they only scored 57 points.

NHL: Kings at Columbus, 4:30 p.m., FSW:

The team has chalked up a 5-0-2 road record so far on this journey away from Staples Center.

NHL: Ducks vs. Washington, Honda Center, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Ducks get to host Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh, as well as Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, in the same season. And the Kings don’t.

College basketball: Pepperdine at Loyola Marymount, 8 p.m., ESPNU:

It’s the 154th meeting between the two, coming off the Waves’ 78-75 win over the Lions in their last clash on Jan. 22 when junior guard Lorne Jackson (Simi Valley High) hit three free throws with 12 seconds left to put Pepperdine ahead for good. Anthony Ireland’s three-point shot from the top of the key at the buzzer was off the mark for LMU.


Golf: PGA’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Here, play the course yourself. In your mind (linked here). Without the rain. CBS has the final two rounds.

NHL: Kings at N.Y. Rangers, 4 p.m., FSW:

The Rangers’ Marian Gaborik is supposedly on the trading block. Are the Kings interested in taking him home?

College basketball: UCLA at Stanford, 7:30 p.m., FSW; USC at Cal, 7:30 p.m.:

The Bruins lost to the Cardinal by 11 at Maples Pavilion last season.


NHL: Ducks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., Prime:

Two more teams slug it out for the dangling Western Conference playoff berths.


NBA: All Star skills competition, dunk contest, Staples Center, 5:30 p.m., TNT:

What will Blake Griffin come up with? Maybe he can ask another one-time Clipper dunk champ, Brett Barry.

NHL: Kings at N.Y. Islanders, 4 p.m., FSW:

The New York trip continues with a venture to Long Island. The Islanders know how to put up a fight.

NHL: Ducks at St. Louis, 5 p.m., Prime:

The Blue stunned the Ducks with two goals in six seconds in a 5-1 win back on Oct. 11.

College basketball: USC at Stanford, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

The Cardinal couldn’t handle the Trojans last month — a 65-42 USC win — but it has beat USC eight times in a row at Maples Pavilion.

Monster Jam: Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m.:

The main event on the infield of Dodger Stadium is scheduled to include appearances by monster truck machines better known as Grave Digger, Dragon’s Breath, Maximum Destruction, Monster Muttm, Nitro Circus, Iron Man, The Patroit, Tropical Thunder, Shocker, Obsession, King Krunch, The Felon and El Matador. For those scoring at home, there are points in standings to be gained from this event.


NBA: All Star game, Staples Center, 5 p.m., TNT:

LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh team up with four members of the Boston Celtics to try to mess up a party for Kobe, Gasol and Blake Griffin on their home court. It means nothing in the standings or Carmello Anthony’s future (what if he’s traded to the Knicks or Nets before the game?) and everything else in shoe endorsements and YouTube clips. Flash back to the last time the game was here in 2004, and the highlight was Star Jones’ marriage proposal from Al Reynolds during a time out: The Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal was the game MVP, scoring 24 points with 11 rebounds in the West’s 136-132 win. Shaq’s supporting cast, aside from Kobe, included current Celtics teammates Ray Allen (Seattle) and Kevin Garnett (Minnesota), while Ron Artest (Indiana) came off the bench to score seven points for the East. Jones, by the way, has shed more than 300 pounds since that episode – the former co-host of “The View” lost about 150 of her own after bypass surgery and then dropped another 150-plus by divorcing Reynolds in 2008.

NASCAR: Daytona 500, 10 a.m., Channel 11:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the top qualifier of the event, 10 years after his dad died. Watch for the moment of silence during Lap 3.

College basketball: UCLA at Cal, 7 p.m., Prime:

The Bruins held on for a two-point win against the Bears last month at Pauley Pavilion, when Reeves Nelson (24 points) tipped in the winner at the buzzer.

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Oxnard’s Malinosky, former Brooklyn Dodger, dies at 101

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Tony Malinosky, the oldest living former major league baseball player and a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1936, has died at the age of 101.

Malinosky passed away Feb. 8 in Oxnard, the team said on its website (linked here).

An infielder from Illinois who attended Whittier College with future president Richard Nixon was signed originally by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In a story that the Associated Press did on Malinosky before his 100th birthday (linked here), he said he made $400 a month in his big-league career. Under manager Burleigh Grimes and playing with future Hall of Famers Waite Hoyt and Heinie Manush, Malinosky and the Dodgers went 62-91.

“I lived off Flatbush Avenue, near Ebbets Field,” Malinosky recalled. “We had a lot of fun in those days. Of course, it was a lot different than today. The players nowadays have to have a truck to haul away their money. When I played, you could put it in your pocket.”

Here’s also a link to a feature done on him by KCLU reporter Lance Orosco (linked here), that earned him a Peabody Award.

So who now is the oldest living former major leaguer? It’s 99-year-old Connie Marrero, a Cuban-born pitcher who played for the Washington Senators from 1950-54. He’s en route to turning 100 on April 25.

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