By Alejandro de los Rios
Peja Stojakovic held his CharitaBowl event on Friday to benefit his children's foundation and his "Courts for Kids" program. By all accounts, the event was a pretty resounding success and all the proceeds will be going to the new Boys and Girls Club center that will benefit the over 500 families living at the Iberville Projects.
The buzz-phrase all night was "great cause" and the atmosphere was charitable all around. Aside from the NBA Cares programs that the Hornets have participated in, this was the first real opportunity since Katrina that the general public had a chance to interact with the players. And while the bowling area was roped off to separate general admission ticket holders and those who paid a premium to bowl, players had not problem reaching, and even going over, the ropes to sign autographs and take pictures.
Johnny DiBartolo, representing the Boys and Girls Club of SouthEast Louisiana said that he was "extremely pleased with the turnout." He also talked about how that the event was "proof that the Hornets are New Orleans' team. This is normally a football town, but this is proof that this can be a basketball town too."
I asked DiBartolo, who was wearing a bowling shirt but was not at any lane, why he wasn't bowling.
"I have an injured wrist," he said.
So how's his game when he's not injured?
"My game is always in need of improvement," he conceded.
With a media pass in tow, and good friend Eilan Levkowitz taking pictures, I was able to talk it up with all the stars and fans. Follow me after the jump for pictures of all the festivities (none of which, though, even approach the adorableness of the one above of Peja bowling with his son).
Chris Paul and Julian Wright had a little fun with each other about who was the better bowler. Chris said that he knew he was going to beat Wright and wasn't "even worried about it." Julian jawed back, saying that "Chris has been running away from me for three months."
Unfortunately, the mano-a-mano matchup never really materialized as Paul left after only one game and I was never able to figure out what he scored (word has it that it was in the 220 range). Before he left though, Paul told me that he was especially touched that it was Peja's event.
"That's somebody that I watched when I growing up and to be doing this for him makes it even better," he said.
I asked if he had seen Peja bowl.
"Yea. He ain't that great."
Speaking of bad bowlers, there seemed to be a general consensus that David West is among the worst on the team.
"I don't bowl," he told me plainly.
His teammates weren't so kind. Melvin Ely called West "absolutely the worst bowler here." Coach Byron Scott even joined in on the fun, saying West had pretty weak game (it should also be noted that Scott said that Julian Wright is the best bowler on the team, even if Chris Paul would debate that).
Absolutely the more random celebrity sighting of the night was Jared Fogel of Subway fame. Jared was the first person I saw when I walked in and I went directly at him, saying he had to be the weirdest celebrity to appear at the event. Jared, the good sport that he is, laughed and said "It's good to be weird."
So how where does bowling rank up there in terms a way to lose weight?
"Bowling is probably not that great cause you're not really doing that much," he said. "But it's a great way to have fun."
There really is nothing like seeing a 7-foot tall man bowling. I asked Tyson Chandler what his game was like and he said "very basic. I'm like the Tim Duncan of bowling. I just stick to the basics."
Deuce McCallister was in attendance and spent a lot of time talking with fans and signing autographs. With DiBartolo's comments in mind, I asked Deuce to compare the Hornets and Saint in terms of popularity.
"It's not even a comparison," he said.
Being the instigator that I am, I asked Deuce if he meant that the Hornets don't compare to the Saints in terms of popularity.
"Not like that," he said. "Both teams are doing a good job in the community and with the city."
The award for the best sign of the night had to go to young Jacobi Thiel, who got pretty much everyone of note in the building to sign it. Mother Aimee Thiel said that that family went to a game for Christmas and have since become "total addicts." Baby Jade was intent on grabbing my notebook and pen as I talked to her mother, no doubt a journalist in waiting right here (probably not). Contrast Jade to the most bored kid in the building:
And just in case you thought that the players weren't genuinely enjoying themselves and readily willing to sign autographs, I give you the following photos: