After a long summer of topless championship parades, free-agency meetings in the Hamptons, Snapchat mishaps, and gold medals, the NBA is finally, truly, really, almost back. The start of training camp marks the beginning of our NBA Preview.
This is How Basketball Works Week. We’ll be looking at the scouts, stats, coaches, and tactical developments that are shaping the game.
There is a lot to look forward to this NBA season: Kevin Durant on the Warriors; Al Horford on the Celtics; Russell Westbrook hosting 82 consecutive table reads of the second act of Oldboy. But there is one subplot I’m personally looking forward to more than any other. And that’s the subplot of the Knicks being competitive again. No, really: year-two Porzingis … change-of-scenery Noah … post-peak but tail-prime-ish Melo … maybe I’m off base here, but that sort of feels like 45 wins and the playoffs.
Which, sorry, don’t get me wrong: I don’t care. I don’t care about the Knicks — at all. But care or not, a relevant Knicks team is a positive for a higher purpose — a purpose that rises far above basketball, and goes well beyond fandom. The Knicks being good means … the celebrity vibes at Madison Square Garden being good. And the celebrity vibes at Madison Square Garden being good is the world at its most beautiful and true.
So, in honor of the first promising Celebrity MSG season in — miss you, J.R.; miss you, Amar’e; miss you, Tyson and Jason and Kenyon and "hyping up James White as ‘a real sleeper’ in the dunk contest" and Pablo — four long years, we’re going to move forward by looking backward. And in doing so, we’re going to figure out the final answer to one of the most important questions in the history of basketball.
A lot of celebrities have had a lot of fun at Madison Square Garden over the years. But who has had the most fun? Which great time … has been the greatest time?
What is the best night that anyone has ever had at MSG?
It’s time to squash our fears and kiss our ghosts. This is the story of celebrities dicking around at Madison Square Garden. This is the unabridged history of fun.
First, before we get to our list and dive into just what it is that makes a celebrity night at Madison Square Garden stand out, let’s first establish what it is that makes a celebrity night at Madison Square Garden not stand out. Here are three noted Celebrity MSG Night buzzkills:
Buzzkill No. 3: Hockey
Sorry, hockey. It’s not your fault, and you didn’t do anything wrong. Let there be no doubt that a lot of people have fun at hockey games at Madison Square Garden — and that some of those people are celebrities.
For example, here is a picture of the celebrity Katie Holmes, having fun at a 2015 New York Rangers game:
And here is a picture of the celebrity Fabolous, also having fun at a New York Rangers game:
And lastly here is a picture of the celebrity Liam Neeson, having what appears to be a lot of fun, and having it at a New York Rangers game:
But as much fun as those celebrities look like they’re having … I’m going to be honest: This is a basketball list. And there will not be any hockey games on it. Here is a hug at a New York Rangers game from Susan Sarandon:
Buzzkill No. 2: Bad Celebrity Chemistry
This is important: A fun night doesn’t happen on paper. It happens with real people, having real fun, together. And that’s why chemistry — though often overlooked — is such an essential component to the Celebrity MSG experience.
For example, take the photo below — a star-studded group that includes (clockwise starting from top left) Emmy Rossum, Katie Couric, Katie Couric’s then-boyfriend, John Starks, Victor Cruz, and Andrew Garfield. In theory, I love this group. I could see this group having a night together that people would talk about for years. But in practice:
Notice Rossum, leaning over in demonstrative anguish, in a move that says, "Look — this is shit. If I’m not courtside, I might as well be in the nosebleeds. I’m not even trying to be rude. This just isn’t right, it isn’t how you treat people." Notice Couric, disgusted by Sleeveless Civilian on her right, and Cellphone-Bound Boyfriend on her left. Notice Cruz and his friend, icing Starks out of the joke — and notice Starks, exacerbating the ice-out with a self-alienating sitting position that says, "I had a really funny thing to say, just now — but if you don’t want to include me, then that’s your loss." And finally, notice Andrew Garfield, who fucking hates this, and wants to know if it’s almost over, how many quarters are there in basketball.
Which is really all just to say: This is a great group on paper … that simply didn’t jell. They were the victims of bad celebrity chemistry — and a potentially great Celebrity MSG Night was ruined as a result. It won’t be the last.
Buzzkill No. 1: Dates
Here’s the thing: Dates are good. The inclusion of "dates" on our buzzkill list is not an anti-dates stance. Going to a basketball game on a date — so long as you don’t propose — is a fine idea, and many people have had fun doing it. If this were a list of "some times in history when people have had fun at Madison Square Garden," then I certainly could see a lot of date nights making the cut. But this isn’t a list of some fun nights; this is a list of the most fun nights. And for whatever reason, when it comes to Celebrity MSG, date nights have struggled to take that next step — to reach that elite, elite level of fun.
After studying some tape, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.
First, PDA just makes everyone feel weird.
And second, well — let’s dive into this one a bit. Here is a courtside group consisting of noted celebrities Kate Upton, Justin Verlander, and Edward Burns, from a game on October 29, 2015:
Good group, promising night. But look closer:
Pay attention to the spacing imbalance that the Upton-Verlander date (green) has on this group’s vibe. Verlander displays deeply exclusionary body language, leaving Burns — knowing at this point that the night is a bust — with very little incentive to bring his fun-having A-game. The Verlander-Burns gulf (red) is a problem — but also make sure to take note of the directional indicators (pink) here: Verlander’s eyes, snubbing Burns at a clean 180-degree angle; Burns’s shoulders, slumping at 45 degrees, to signal deep sorrow.
Here is another group, consisting of the celebrities Nelly, Justin Bartha, and Larry David. The Big Three. To have the Big Three all together, in one row, in the world’s most famous arena, is simply astonishing stuff. This should be one of those photos that people have hung up in dorm rooms: three majors artists, from three different worlds — music, film, and television — coming together … to watch a game of basketball. It’s perfect.
But take another look:
The spacing issues here are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Also notice David’s mouth, pointing in a downward-facing shallow parabola, indicating a frown.
Surely at this point you’re wondering: Is this all just a fool’s errand? Can IDS (Ideal Date Spacing) even be achieved at Celebrity MSG? Is it possible?
And in fact it can. Take a look at this picture of dating — arguably double-dating — celebrities Julianne Moore’s husband, Julianne Moore, Emmy Rossum, and Sam Esmail.
Looks great to the naked eye — but let’s still chart it out to make sure:
Yeah, this looks great.
Now that we’ve established why some nights just don’t work, let’s move on to more important things: the nights that worked — and worked better than any others in history.
A few simple rules to keep in mind:
- No repeat showings. (No one is interested in hearing about how a night was "the best night ever" if it wasn’t even the best night ever for one of the principal parties involved.)
- If there aren’t photos, it didn’t happen.
- It has to be fun.
And that’s it.
Here are the Elite Eight — the eight best nights that anyone has ever had at Madison Square Garden.
8. Ansel Elgort, Dakota Fanning, Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning’s Hot Dad, and Gabrielle Union
Date: November 30, 2014
Score: Heat 86, Knicks 79
Night-of fame hierarchy: Fanning > Union > Elgort > Jordan > Hot Dad
Current fame hierarchy: Jordan > Union > Fanning> Elgort > Hot Dad
A few notes:
1. This is Elgort’s night.
Look: I could say more. I could write hundreds of words here about how, for a few, short hours, a couple of long Novembers ago, Ansel Elgort held the world in the palm of his hand. I could write about the jersey, the hair, the shirt, the hand gestures, the grin. I could write about the hat. I could write more, again, about the grin.
But I won’t. And I won’t because you already know. And I won’t because I think that we would get more out of this — this section, this piece, this brief and unrepentant moment together we call life — if we focused on the things we’re not already sure about. So we’re moving on.
This is Elgort’s night.
2. What a power couple.
3. OK — what is Dakota Fanning’s hot dad doing?
Like — imagine you’re Dakota Fanning.
You get your start, as a 6-year-old child actor, with some bit work on TV: ER, Ally McBeal, CSI, that sort of thing. As a 7-year-old, you break out with a "wow, who’s that cute kid?" supporting role as Sean Penn’s daughter in (I like Michelle Pfeiffer and Beatles covers, sue me, I’ll sue right back) I Am Sam. You follow that up with a scene-stealing moment as Yung Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama. You follow that up with Uptown Girls ("they’re about to teach each other how to act their age"), and when that hits — wow. Suddenly, you’re A Thing. Your face is on the poster. Your name is on the poster. Dakota … this is amazing.
After Uptown Girls, you make sure to keep the momentum going. You lock in a coveted Friends guest-star spot. You book Man on Fire with Denzel, and War of the Worlds with Spielberg and Cruise. You keep learning and growing — and gaining more and more confidence. They try to box you in a few times, but you won’t let them: You release The Secret Life of Bees in ’08; a little Twilight from ’09 to ’12; The Runaways — you’re Dakota Fanning, you’re a literal rock star — in ’10. And then in 2013, you’re 19 now, you take that last, major step: a two-movie year, Very Good Girls and Night Moves, that puts you on the map as an adult. What a journey, and what a destination: You’re a movie star.
And now it’s 2014, only one year later, and you’re 20 — and you’re sitting courtside … at Madison Square Garden … next to Michael B. Jordan.
Dakota: This is incredible. You did it. You made it.
You’ve worked so hard for this. It’s all, finally, happening.
And then here is this fucking guy …
… butting in …
… and joining the conversation …
… and ruining fucking everything.
4. Here is a photograph of Ansel Elgort wearing a Knicks shirt at a Rangers game.
5. Overall, this night is a unique case. Between Union’s postgame brilliance, normal Knicks-Heat stuff, the Fanning-Jordan–Hot Dad trinity, and [imagined Elgort voice, I’ve never heard him talk] ELGORT: It’s quite possible that this night engages in the highest raw total of fun of any on this list. But at the same time, there’s an issue — and it’s the reason why this night comes in outside the top five.
That issue is: The fun is fractured. You have Union, doing her impeccable "I neg the shit out of Dwyane Wade out of love" thing, solo. You have Elgort, pulling up from half court on our antiquated notions of Y.A. celebrity, solo. And you have Michael B. Jordan and Steven Fanning, playing 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Fanning, on their own little courtside island. And it’s from this perspective that, in many ways, it’s impressive this night made it at all. As the old saying goes: There’s no "I" in "fun at MSG."
The rest of our list reflects that.
7. Justin Verlander, Kate Upton, Amanda Seyfried, Justin Long, and Taylor Swift
Date: November 12, 2014
Score: Magic 97, Knicks 95
Night-of fame hierarchy: Swift > Upton > Verlander > Seyfried > Long
Current fame hierarchy: Swift > Upton > Verlander > Seyfried > Long
A few notes:
1. This game was played on November 12, 2014. Taylor Swift’s 1989 was released on October 27, 2014 — only 16 days prior.
Swift has referred to 1989 as her [misunderstands the meaning of pop music almost completely] "first official pop album." Beginning with its first track, "Welcome to New York," 1989 brilliantly (if perhaps cynically) used "moving to New York" as a metaphor for [listens to Madonna once] [but not that one song] [too bad, it’s a good song] "not really fucking with country music anymore." Much of the album’s promotional cycle involved Swift playing up this metaphor — and going to great lengths to establish her "new" pop identity, and "real" New Yorker bona fides.
Here is Taylor Swift cutting an educational video on how to pronounce "bodega":
Got it. Another major element of 1989’s promotional campaign involved Swift forging a series of recurring platonic relationships — a custom popularly known as "making friends."
Here is Taylor Swift on a casual walk with a friend in late 2014:
And it is amid the perfect storm of these contexts that the Magic played the Knicks on that fateful Wednesday night. On November 12, 2014, Taylor Swift came to Madison Square Garden to chew bubblegum and create authentic New York friendships that would last a lifetime — and she was all out of bubblegum. (Bow-day-gah.)
2. Justin Verlander’s stylist is working at about a 12.5 out of 10 right now, and I need him or her to take it down to about an 8. Please, please, don’t get me wrong: I want Justin Verlander to look good. Henley-and-sunglasses at the airport? Yeah, of course, sometimes it’s sunny inside. Clean suit for a night out in Miami? I love it, it looks great. But lately, I’m sorry — it’s too much. OK? It’s too much. I’m not even asking for a lot. I’m asking for — I mean, I’m asking for Justin Verlander’s stylist to take things from, like, here …
3. Here are my five favorite drunken celebrity photos of all time:
(5) Cameron Diaz giving the middle finger to a stranger.
(4) Rihanna drinking from her own shoe.
(3) Kiefer Sutherland ashing a cigarette on a flower.
(2) Amanda Seyfried annoying Kate Upton at the Knicks game.
(1) Reese Witherspoon staring out the window of Jake Gyllenhaal’s car.
Alas, The Great Seyfried has since settled down, and — classic Seyfried — got engaged to Don from The Newsroom. Like Babe Ruth putting away his bat for the last time … or Pelé hanging up his cleats: Seyfried’s plastic beer cup, once so vaunted and full of possibility* (*beer), has now gone empty. (Because she drank it.) But we’ll always have 11/12/14.
4. This was the single best night of Justin Long’s life. Feel free to dispute that, though I don’t really see what the point would be. Have you ever been in a dream, and it’s such a good and strong dream that, literally while you’re in the dream, you stop and think to yourself, "Wait, hang on, this is a dream," but it doesn’t even matter, the dream just kind of keeps going, and going, and going, and going, until, all of a sudden, without warning, someone in the dream whispers, "The dream is about to be over now," and so you say your goodbyes to everyone in the dream, all of the beautiful dream people whom you’ve grown to love and like and hold so dear, and, "No," they reply, "I don’t understand, why do you have to leave now, we were having so much fun in this dream, all of us, this was such a good dream," and you tell them, "I know, I know exactly what you mean — but unfortunately that is how dreams work," and so they ask you, "Well, then, why don’t you just dream this exact same dream again? And then it could keep going, exactly like this, another time," and you tell them, "That’s a really nice thought, and I appreciate your initiative, and I wish it worked like that, dreams, I mean, but they don’t, and I have to accept this, and I’ll miss you very, very much, goodbye," and then you wake up? — well, that what this night was for Justin Long.
5. Ringer staff writer Kevin Clark, a Magic fan, was also in attendance at the game. "I vividly remember Taylor Swift [was there], because Frank Isola kept going after the Knicks for overpromoting her that year," Clark recalls, adding, "Justin Verlander is a bit of a Magic fan, too, for whatever reason. He shows up to a lot of games in Orlando. Feel free to add that Verlander is definitely the most famous Magic fan. Ian Poulter isn’t actually famous, and Tiger Woods can’t go out in public anymore."
6. Overall, this was a special night. But to quote the poet Amanda Seyfried:
"I don’t need to come back."
6. Don Gummer, Meryl Streep, and 50 Cent
Date: January 26, 2014
Score: Knicks 110, Lakers 103
Night-of fame hierarchy: Streep > 50 > Gummer
Current fame hierarchy: Streep > 50 > Gummer
A few notes:
1. 50 Cent’s five favorite Meryl Streep movies: (5) The River Wild, (4) The Bridges of Madison County, (3) Fantastic Mr. Fox, (2) The Devil Wears Prada, (1) Adaptation.
2. Meryl Streep’s five favorite 50 Cent songs: (5) "Ayo Technology," (4) "Baby by Me," (3) "Crack a Bottle," (2) "Hate It or Love It (G Unit Remix)," (1) "In Da Club."
3. I really appreciate how happy 50 seems about the Knicks winning, and how upset the Gummer-Streeps seem about the Lakers losing.
4. The "celebrity looking or not looking at NBA dancers" genre is one of the all-time most iconic genres of American photography.
Let’s play a quick round (answers — yes, "yes," no, or "no"):
5. Overall, I think this night might be a little overrated. Like, let me be clear: It’s still extremely, extremely elite. It’s a great group, and the Lakers lost, and some really good faces were made. I feel totally comfortable calling this the sixth-best night in the history of MSG. But when Don Gummer — who, let’s face it, looks a little like he’s wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt under a short-sleeve T-shirt — is your night’s consensus MVP … I don’t know. This is tough. But I just can’t call that a top-five night.
5. Katie Holmes and James Dolan
Date: January 9, 2014
Score: Knicks 102, Heat 92
Night-of fame hierarchy: Holmes > Dolan
Current fame hierarchy: Holmes > Dolan
A few notes:
1. I’m sorry.
2. I ship it.
3. Say what you will about James Dolan, and there’s a lot to say, I really can’t stress how much there is to say, and how little of it is good, or even non-bad, but:
I have literally never seen Katie Holmes so happy in my life.
I know this is inconvenient, for all of us. But … sometimes that’s just how love works. Sometimes love is inconvenient. Sometimes it isn’t the perfect thing, with the perfect person, in the perfect place, at the perfect time. Sometimes, when what we never knew we needed knocks on our door, we have to open our hearts. Sometimes, when life throws us an authentic, Spalding, game-used NBA basketball …
… we have to catch it.
4. Things that could plausibly be on this phone that belongs to either James Dolan or Katie Holmes, it’s hard to tell, ranked in ascendant order of plausibility:
(5) Cruise dickpic
(4) Deep-web blues Shazam
(3) Your best tweet
(2) Katie Holmes’s IMDb page
(1) They are making a real-life Knicks trade — like, right there, in real time, they just thought of it, I hope you love it — from James Dolan’s phone.
5. Overall, like I said — I’m sorry. This isn’t great.
But anytime a night involves two celebrities maybe but probably not but I don’t care falling in love, that’s a top-five night — it really just is.
4. Diddy, Jerry Seinfeld, Jessica Sklar, Kim Basinger, and Alec Baldwin
Date: June 11, 1999
Score: Knicks 90, Pacers 82
Night-of fame hierarchy: Seinfeld > Diddy > Baldwin > Basinger > Sklar
Current fame hierarchy: Diddy > Seinfeld > Baldwin > Basinger > Sklar
A few notes:
1. Points for: This is Seinfeld-proximal Seinfeld and No Way Out–proximal Diddy. Points against: This is post-Seinfeld Seinfeld and Forever-era Diddy.
2. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but: If I’m a celebrity taking part in this night, then I’m a little worried about Alec Baldwin’s potential as a bad-chemistry guy. In 2016? I think this goes fine — I doubt that 2016 Baldwin would have a problem being the third- or fourth- or fifth-most-famous person in the room. But in 1999? I feel like there’s a small chance he might bring down the group.
And yet my best guess is still: This night is a blast. Maybe Seinfeld, in the second quarter, oversells a Baldwin one-liner and tells him, "You’re pretty funny" (Baldwin: "I get that a lot"). Maybe Diddy, around halftime, goes out of his way to mention to Baldwin how The Edge isn’t quite enjoyable enough to become a cult classic, or even the tier right below cult classic, but the tier two tiers below cult classic, easily, it could definitely get there, it’s a good movie. Maybe any number of things happen. All I’m saying, is: There are warning signs here. And when you’re at the level of fun-having we’re at right now: You can never be too careful.
3. "Kim Basinger at a Knicks game in 1999" = FALL MOTHERFUCKING LOOKS:
4. A tiny opinion: Seinfeld doesn’t get criticized enough for its failures as a basketball show.
Yes, sure — the Knicks aren’t totally absent from Seinfeld’s narrative: Season 1 episode "Male Unbonding" (1990) loosely revolves around two Knicks tickets (Jerry never goes to the game); Season 3 episode "The Limo" (1992) loosely revolves around four Knicks VIP passes (Jerry never goes to the game). But otherwise? That’s kind of it.
Seinfeld was a show about a Jewish guy, ostensibly a sports fan, living in New York in the ’90s. Its absolute apex — say, seasons 4–7, 1992–96 — coincided almost exactly with the apex of the Ewing-era Knicks. And still the three most enduring sports-world connections in Seinfeld are probably: (1) George’s employment with the Yankees, (2) Keith Hernandez dating Elaine, and (3) "The Face Painter," the episode where they take Puddy to Rangers-Devils. All three of those are memorable connections, and I don’t regret them.
But come on. No iconic episode where [cranks wheel on Seinfeld plot generator] Kramer tries to fix the ’94 Finals? No "Elaine meets a tall stranger at a blackjack table in Atlantic City" MJ cameo? (Newman was in Space Jam!) No B-plot where George’s new girlfriend tries to get him to dress better … and then leaves him for ’93 Pat Riley? Maybe I’m overreacting — and it certainly doesn’t change my view of the show: Seinfeld is a masterpiece, and nothing can change that.
But I don’t know. I needed, like … 5 percent more hoops.
5. Overall, was this a great night?
3. Beyoncé, Jay Z, Chloë Sevigny, and Julia Stiles
Date: November 25, 2008
Score: Cavaliers 119, Knicks 101
Night-of fame hierarchy: Jay Z > Beyoncé > Stiles > Sevigny
Current fame hierarchy: Beyoncé > Jay Z > Sevigny > Stiles
A few notes:
1. I have a theory that Jay Z and Beyoncé secretly hate the Nets. My theory is based on two pieces of evidence. The first piece of evidence is that, sometimes when Jay Z and Beyoncé watch the Knicks, they look happy. The second piece of evidence is that, sometimes when Jay Z and Beyoncé watch the Nets, they look sad. I will present the evidence in reverse order.
Here is a picture of Jay Z and Beyoncé watching the Nets and looking sad:
Here is another picture of Jay Z and Beyoncé watching the Nets and looking sad:
Here is a picture of Jay Z and Beyoncé and Jake Gyllenhaal watching the Nets and looking sad:
Here is a photo of Jay Z and Beyoncé watching the Knicks and looking happy:
Thank you for your time. The prosecution rests.
2. Beyoncé’s five favorite Chloë Sevigny roles: (5) Dogville, (4) The Last Days of Disco, (3) Bloodline, (2) Zodiac, (1) Where Does Chloë Sevigny Keep Her Golden Globe?. Jay Z’s five favorite Chloë Sevigny roles: (5) Gummo, (4) Palmetto, (3) The Brown Bunny, (2) Broken Flowers, (1) American Psycho. Julia Stiles’s five favorite Chloë Sevigny roles: (5) Big Love, (4) Trees Lounge, (3) Melinda and Melinda, (2) If These Walls Could Talk 2, (1) Love & Friendship.
3. Beyoncé’s five favorite Julia Stiles roles: (5) The Prince and Me, (4) The Mindy Project, (3) The Omen, (2) Mona Lisa Smile, (1) Dexter. Jay Z’s five favorite Julia Stiles roles: (5) Save the Last Dance, (4) 10 Things I Hate About You, (3) Hamlet, (2) A Guy Thing, (1) Jason Bourne. Chloë Sevigny’s five favorite Julia Stiles roles: N/A.
4. Beyoncé’s five favorite Jay Z songs: (5) "’03 Bonnie & Clyde," (4) "Run This Town," (3) "Hollywood," (2) "Part II (On the Run)," (1) "Lift Off." Chloë Sevigny’s five favorite Jay Z songs: (5) "Intro" (from The Dynasty: Roc La Familia), (4) "Heart of the City" (Unplugged version), (3) "Reservoir Dogs," (2) "So Ghetto," (1) "Lucifer." Julia Stiles’s five favorite Jay Z songs: (5) "Otis," (4) "Show Me What You Got," (3) "Roc Boys," (2) "Holy Grail," (1) "Numb/Encore."
5. Chloë Sevigny’s five favorite Beyoncé songs: (5) "Countdown," (4) "Baby Boy," (3) "Sorry," (2) "Get Me Bodied," (1) "I Care." Julia Stiles’s five favorite Beyoncé songs: (5) "Halo," (4) "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," (3) "Hold Up," (2) "Check on It," (1) "Get Me Bodied (Extended Mix)." Jay Z’s five favorite Beyoncé songs: (5) "That’s How You Like It," (4) "Déjà Vu," (3) "Upgrade U," (2) "Drunk in Love," (1) "Crazy in Love."
6. Chloë Sevigny is basically Forrest Gump, only if Forrest Gump had been directed by Harmony Korine and much more adventurously costumed and based on a true story and about going to lots of Knicks games. Also Forrest would receive his first kiss from Steve Buscemi, and have "Friendly with tattoo artist Scott Campbell" on his IMDb profile, and in the last scene of the movie would visit Jenny’s grave and tell her that she was honestly pretty annoying, most of the time, and a bad friend, and that, with Jordan playing baseball all of a sudden, the Knicks have a real shot next year.
7. This is my favorite URL on the internet: http://www.nba.com/media/knicks/kb06_060308_leefryechloe.jpg.
8. Overall, this is a night firing on all cylinders — a magnificent and truly rare level of night. Am I biased? I mean, I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. Yeah. But I could also easily make the case for this night as no. 1. (No need to go through the entire hypothetical here, but it involves insanely good diner food and a surprisingly well-behaved baby elephant and a prank call to Gwyneth Paltrow about 2001 nostalgia that, in retrospect, wasn’t not in bad taste.) To me, no. 3 feels more than fair.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Howard Stern, Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles
Date: March 19, 2004
Score: Knicks 79, Nets 65
Night-of fame hierarchy: DiCaprio > Stern > Hawke > Charles
Current fame hierarchy: DiCaprio > Stern > Hawke > Charles
A few notes:
1. What are the group dynamics here? Do we even know who came together? Well, let’s start with what we do know: Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles go way back — all the way back to having filmed Dead Poets Society together in 1989 — and definitely rolled in as a crew.
I think Stern came with a date who is out of frame, and I’ll go off the board and say DiCaprio came solo.
2. One thing I love about this group is the way that all three factions (Stern, DiCaprio, Charles-Hawke) seem like they would have been comfortable having a conversation only about themselves — but that no other faction within the group seems like it would have been even remotely capable of sustaining that conversation. For example, I imagine 2004 Stern walking around like it’s a lock that everyone he encounters in a given day has listened to his show. And yet I would cap the odds that 2004 Leonardo DiCaprio knows what a radio is at about 45 percent. I also imagine 2004 Leo walking around talking breathlessly about "Marty" — " … and then Marty goes to me, I know, this is crazy, he goes to me, ‘Leo, listen, they’re gangs and they’re in New York, what more can I say,’ and of course I’m just, like, ‘Marty, Marty, Marty, say no more’" — to anyone who will listen. And this is the face I imagine 2004 Ethan Hawke making while having to listen to Leonardo DiCaprio talk about being Martin Scorsese’s handpicked muse:
But mostly … I just imagine 2004 Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles walking around thinking that Dead Poets Society is the greatest film ever made — and assuming that everyone else feels the same. I imagine them treating it like some holy cross between Tokyo Story and Star Wars — a perfect document etched into the popular and artistic fabrics alike of the cinematic consciousness. (Here is a Josh Charles quote about his experience filming Dead Poets Society, from 2014: "The power of music is something that I took with me.") I like to imagine that they’ve been slowly rolling out an "official" abbreviation for it — "DPS," or "DeadPo," or maybe, just, "Society" — that they toss around casually with each other, waiting impatiently for other people to catch on, though no one ever does. "What are you guys laughing about?" I imagine DiCaprio asking Hawke and Charles, about halfway through the first quarter.
"Oh, nothing much," Hawke tells him. "Just some light Society talk." "Cool," DiCaprio answers, excitedly. "I love society." "Yeah, I know," Hawke says. "Everyone does. It’s an important film."
3. Nice hat.
4. Let’s talk about Ethan Hawke for a second. Is Ethan Hawke the current king of New York basketball? I have to say: yes.
Consider the four qualities that make a king: lineage, power, respect, and fear.
Ethan Hawke was named Prince of New York Basketball in 1994, after putting together a completely unprecedented "Madonna + double-guest" playoff run. Sorry, let me untangle that. A "Madonna + double-guest" playoff run is when, during a single playoff run, you are photographed at Madison Square Garden with (1) Madonna, and (2) two different people who are given the title "and guest" — as in, "Ethan Hawke and guest."
L-R: Madonna, Ethan Hawke.
L-R: Ethan Hawke, guest.
L-R: Guest, Ethan Hawke.
Here is then-prince Ethan Hawke, completing the transfer of power — as he receives a customary handshake from the previous king, Spike Lee, in early 2011:
From this point forward, Hawke has total control over basketball in New York.
And then here is a 2015 news dispatch from the modest Hawke fiefdom "Brooklyn":
When Ethan Hawke walks into Madison Square Garden, he instantly commands respect.
OK, not from everyone. But from most people — of every class and creed.
Here are some loyal Hawke subjects, kissing the ring of the king in his kingdom:
And it isn’t just the little people who respect Hawke. This is a king whom Paris Hilton (a major political figure in Los Angeles at the time) makes a point to walk over to chat with during a timeout …
… and then leans over to laugh at a joke by — not a forced laugh, I have it on good authority that it was a funny joke — later on in the game.
This is a king whom Rihanna (the Queen of America at the time) stops to chat with, at NBA All-Star, even when he’s wearing a Syracuse (Syracuse) jersey-shirt (jersey-shirt).
The shirt, the school — it doesn’t matter. When you’re the king, you’re the king. And you command respect.
But being king also means making tough choices, and never really knowing who your true friends are. Most people say that they want to be king — while remaining blissfully ignorant of the fine print: that it can be incredibly isolating.
Here are celebrities Nikki Cox, Jay Mohr, Kerry Washington’s boyfriend, and Kerry Washington, leaving Ethan Hawke alone, because he’s the king, and it seems like he’s in a bad mood:
It’s a tough break for King Hawke — but heavy is the head that wears the beanie but I pretend it’s a crown.
5. Overall, this is a near-perfect night. You have all the necessary ingredients for a great time: friendship (BFFs Hawke/Charles); rivalry (an age-old battle between ’90s spiritual foes, New York Actor Hawke vs. L.A. Movie Star DiCaprio); and a wild card (has there ever been a better wild card than Howard Stern?). I imagine this night starting out with the Knicks game (7:30–10:30 p.m.); then moving on to some semi-friendly poker (11 p.m.-2 a.m.) ($2K blinds, a secret pact to let Leo win because "he’s the only one who cares," Leo finding out about the pact and punching out Hawke, whom he assumed orchestrated the dive [though it was really Stern]); and then finishing up (2:30–6 a.m.) with Charles brokering a Hawke-DiCaprio peace accord in a rooftop hot tub (DiCaprio, heavily slurring: "I don’t like you, man … but I … respect you"; Hawke, sober: "For me, it’s the exact same, but reversed").
Here is a quote from Josh Charles on friendship:
This was a really, really, really, really, really great night. But it’s not the best.
1. Michelle Rodriguez, Cara Delevingne, and Miguel Cotto
Date: January 7, 2014
Score: Knicks 89, Pistons 85
Night-of fame hierarchy: Rodriguez > Cotto > Delevingne
Current fame hierarchy: Delevingne > Cotto > Rodriguez
A few notes: