Courtside with P. Diddy and MJ

  Ballers, shot callers and boldface names

•  A field study in celebrity culture

•  Finally, something not about hockey

The last time I really cared about NBA basketball was probably the day Michael Jordan retired for good. It’s not my favorite sport (can you guess which is?) although I do enjoy the March madness of college hoops.

In 1998, though, I had an idea for a CNN Showbiz Today story that would be chock full of Hollywood celebrities, not to mention easy to report, since CNN’s New York bureau was right across 8th Avenue from Madison Square Garden.

Puff Daddy – real name Sean John Combs, at that point yet to be known as P. Diddy or Diddy – was suddenly a fixture on “Celebrity Row” at Knicks games and was rivaling Spike Lee for the title of #1 celeb fan.

Ever the pop sociologist, I decided to investigate this confluence of sports, superstars and super-egos:

If you were keeping score, you saw Elle MacPherson, Janet Jones-Gretzky, Aidan Quinn, Spike Lee, Linda Fiorentino, Billy Baldwin, Woody Allen, and Danny DeVito. There’s a little mystery, however: right after the shot of Fiorentino – and before the first glimpse of Jordan – there are three people sitting at courtside. If you can identify one or more of them, please let me know in the comments here (or on Facebook or Instagram) whom it might be. It could just be three non-celebrities (“civilians”) with expensive seats. I really don’t know.

After the game, a special area was set up to accommodate the inflated number of news media reps who wanted to hear from Jordan. I waited my turn as the sportswriters asked about the game, his line (stats) and so forth, and then asked my question about what draws celebrities to courtside. I had told the Knicks PR people why I was there. Perhaps they had told the Bulls’ PR people that the guy from CNN wanted a soundbite about celebs, perhaps not. In any event, Jordan delivered. And I’m sure he was familiar with the topic.

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