The atmosphere at Verizon Up Arena in the L.A. Convention Center was electric to say the least on Friday afternoon as thousands of fans packed the arena adjacent to the Staples Center to watch their favorite celebrities battle it out with the NBA’s finest.
Last Sunday, Paul Pierce was having his Boston Celtics jersey retired at the TD Garden — and on Friday he was going up against pint-sized Justin Bieber on the basketball court. Yep, even Hollywood scriptwriters couldn’t make that one up.
Fitting with any high profile event in La La Land, the NBA rolled out the red carpet for their celebrity teams — coached by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and Katie Nolan — as Common, Bubba Watson, Anthony Anderson, Jamie Foxx, Nick Cannon, Nate Robinson, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, Jerry Ferrara and others trotted out in their team jerseys.
Rapper Quavo from Migos got the biggest cheer from the crowd, while poor Bieber was booed. Give it to the Biebs though, he won MVP the last time the All-Star Game was in L.A. seven years ago. The pop star is older and wiser now, but has he kept his ball skills?
TheWrap battled traffic, road closures, over-priced parking and a long walk to be there in person to bring you all the behind-the-scenes insight.
While the Celebrity Game aired live on ESPN, here are 12 things you didn’t see on TV.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea whistled his expectations for the matchup during his pre-game interview. While we have no idea what he was trying to say, it sounded cool — and confident.
Jamie Foxx gets cultural
The Oscar winner actor had a logical reason as to why his Team Clippers would win in a joint pre-game interview with Bieber. “This is Black History Month,” he said, with no further explanation other than: “I don’t have to prepare, I am ready-made and all you have to do is add water.” Smooth.
Made up of four quarters, each 10 minutes long, the Celebrity Game is shorter than a regular NBA game. There were less time outs (one 60-second time out per half, per team) and stops for referee calls as well, making it feel like it was flying at a break-neck speed.
Censored trash talk
Team Clippers coach Katie Nolan told TheWrap on Thursday that she’d have to censor her trash, “I’m not allowed to say most of the words I usually say,” she revealed. The ESPN host was very careful not to drop any F-bombs on live TV, “What I am allowed to say here … is ‘bring it,'” she carefully told the crowd in her pre-game interview.
From the golf course to the basketball court
Bubba Watson pulled off the ultimate feat in multitasking by playing in the Genesis Open in Pacific Palisades (where he hit a remarkable tee shot from 181 yards for a tap-in birdie on the par-3 6th hole) Friday morning, then playing in the Celebrity Game in the late afternoon.
He even threw some serious trash talk into the mix by burning Bieber. “Justin looks a little slow … he’s old now,” Watson said before tip-off. He’s only 23 … as we said before, poor Bieber. The “Baby” singer actually got some of the first points for Team Lakers, so he’s not that slow.
The smaller Verizon Up Arena created a much more intimate — though slightly chaotic — atmosphere for the crowd than it’s sister venue, Staples Center. Courtside seats were filled by regular people rather than A-list stars or corporate executives, while everyone got a good view of the action, even those on the top row.
“Black Panther” Bulk
While millions of fans poured into movie theaters Friday to see Marvel’s “Black Panther,” star Michael B. Jordan transformed from mercenary Erik Killmonger to a bona fide baller. The 15 pounds of pure muscle that he put on for “Panther” showed as he ripped up the court and the competition.
Nick Cannon gets punked by Kevin Hart
Ten-time Celebrity Game veteran Cannon was honored by a montage of his best moments, which he was not impressed with. It got worse as Kevin Hart sent a video message just to tell him that “he sucks.”
“I think you’ve been on every losing team,” Hart told Cannon. Now that’s harsh.
Mascots hold court
From huddling on the court with Cannon to posing for selfies with kids, team mascots were everyone’s best furry friends as they bounced around the arena hugging everyone who got in their way. The Miami mascot, Burnie (who is an orange anthropomorphic depiction of the fireball that looks more like a deranged bird) could have done with going to dry cleaners, but what he lacked in cleanliness, he made up for in dance moves and twerking.
Say what you will about Justin Bieber, he gave the fans a treat by stopping to sign autographs as he walked off the court at halftime … shirtless and flashing his tattoos, no less. Randomly, Bieber also changed from his Lakers’ purple shorts at halftime to Chicago Bulls pants … that matched rival Clippers red uniforms.
Smell of greenery
As a group of rappers (who will remain nameless) walked across the court to take their seats, the pungent smell of weed drifted after them. Even the security guard spotted the marijuana haze, but thankfully thought it was funny.
A new career for Quavo?
After trumping Biebs in crowd cheers, Quavo beat out all the competition by being named MVP after Team Clippers clinched a 75-66 victory. Oh yeah, and he scored a fastbreak layup on Bieber. Quavo led all scorers with 19 points, closely followed by Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse and NBA2KTV host Rachel DeMita who each scored 17.
Quavo’s performance was so impressive that he soon has the Twitterverse suggesting he swap music for sports.
Quavo now has a:
Grammy nomination ??…
Platinum album ??…
MVP Trophy! ??… pic.twitter.com/06MyzFbyps
– SB Nation (@SBNation) February 17, 2018
Get Quavo a 10-day pic.twitter.com/yR3uifqsZs
– Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 17, 2018
“17 5 same color T-Shirt.”
Even the commentator is hyped from this Quavo Eurostep ???? pic.twitter.com/rIWKboXgpQ
– Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 17, 2018