LOS ANGELES — To be an NBA player in L.A. means hearing the same old jokes – but with some extra pizzazz, if they’re delivered by celebrities.
Ivica Zubac – who has played the entirety of his three-plus-year NBA career in L.A., starting with the Lakers, who traded him to the Clippers in February – said he enjoys the opportunity to meet famous folks such as actor/comedian Adam Sandler, who sauntered in the Clippers’ locker room (on rapper/actor LL Cool J’s heels) after Tuesday’s victory over Phoenix to say hello.
“He asked me about my (wrapped) shoulder, he was like, ‘Did you hurt your shoulder tonight?’” Zubac said. “And I’m like, ‘Nah.’ And he said, ‘You had a couple of nice dunks, good game.’ So it was cool.
“And then I asked him for a picture.”
He can put that in his collection alongside those with boxer Evander Holyfield and actor Denzel Washington, the latter of whom was among the guests invited to the “Lakers Genius Talks” while Zubac was with them.
“He came to the Lakers facility to talk to us, and after that he was out there shooting jumpers a little bit on the court – and then I waited until he was done to take a picture with him,” said Zubac, who also met rapper Kendrick Lamar, actor Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk through his former team’s motivational speaker series.
“We went to SpaceX to talk to Elon Musk, that was cool,” Zubac said. “He gave us the tour. We couldn’t film it or anything. There were rockets, it was impressive. It was a lot of cool stuff. And at the end, we got in a conference room with him and he talked to us about how he struggled at the beginning; when he got out of college, he had a lot of unsuccessful projects. And he’s the guy who invented PayPal – I didn’t know that – but he sold that and he spent all that money for SpaceX and Tesla.
“He was just telling us, ‘Never give up, always chase your dreams.’”
Those messages, delivered by super-successful stars in other fields, resonate with professional basketball players like Zubac.
“We go through the same stuff,” the 22-year-old Croatian center said. “For sure. They got their own fans, we got our own, and there are a lot of them who have a crazy story.
“I like it a lot. I wish it happens more often. Just it’s cool, watching all those guys acting or listening to their songs growing up, it’s really cool to meet them and see they’re normal and cool.”
Stars even tell jokes like regular people.
When the 7-foot center was introduced to Sylvester Stallone at Gunnar Gym in Beverley Hills, the Clippers’ center recalls that the actor joked with trainer Gunnar Peterson about the size of Zubac’s feet: “I didn’t know you let people with skis in here.”
“I mean, I heard it before,” he said. “But I can let that slide from him.”
Before Thursday’s game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was awarded a plaque commemorating his being honored with the 2018-19 Rudy Tomjanovich Award. The award, which initially was announced on June 13, is in recognition of his cooperation with the media and fans, as well as his excellence on the court.
“Rivers is generous with his time with the working press and is thoughtful with his answers to reporters’ questions,” the Professional Basketball Writers Association stated in a release announcing the award, which Rivers also won in 2011-12 as coach of the Boston Celtics.
“Thank you, guys,” Rivers said Thursday, joking that the award came at a price, considering the amount the NBA has fined him recently for statements that went against NBA guidelines.
“This award has cost me probably $150,000 in the last six months. Every time I talk the league fines me. Would you guys like me to keep talking or just shut up?”
When his audience of reporters responded in favor of the former, Rivers said: “Well, let’s go for it then.”
Doc rivers awarded the Rudy Tomjanovich award from the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
The award honors coaches for their cooperation with the media and fans.
— William “Cashmere Claus” Updyke (@willupdyke) December 20, 2019