What could be a more romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend than with the NBA, who will be celebrating its All Star Weekend in New York? Ariana Grande will perform at halftime and Christina Aguilera will play before Sunday’s All Star Game, but the real star power is at Feb. 13’s Celebrity All-Star Game, live from Madison Square Garden. Baller and black-ish star Anthony Anderson—who will also be hosting the NBA’s All Star Saturday Night live from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, which not only features the dunk contest but also a performance by Ella Henderson—got the trash talk started early.
How prepared are you for the Celebrity All Star Game?
I’ve got a long way to go. I’m not making excuses, but I haven’t played competitive basketball, especially at that level, in years. I don’t even know that I still can.
You played in the NBA’s first celebrity game in 2003. What do you remember about that?
That was before social media, and it wasn’t televised, so if you weren’t there to see it, it never happened, and you could deny everything and embellish what you wanted to. But now with Twitter and Snapchat and all this other stuff, everybody is going to know instantly what’s going on on the court and who got what done to them.
So will that make your game a little more tentative this time?
Of course! I’m 44 years old—I’m going to step carefully and gingerly. I may not even run up and down the court. I’m looking to have some fun, talk a little trash—really, talk a lot of trash, because my trash talking is gonna overshadow my game—and just have a lot of fun with cats.
Who is going to get the most trash talk?
I’m gonna talk a lot of trash to Nick Cannon. Common is a friend as well—he’s from Chicago, my family is from Chicago, so we’re like brothers. The person whose head I want to get into is Michael Rappaport. I’m going to be in his ear all game. He’s a friend of mine, and he has repeatedly told me that New York is his home, Madison Square Garden is his arena, and he is the home team and I am coming to play on his court. Anyone else on the opposing team can score 50 or 100 points, but Michael Rappaport will score nothing. He’s actually filming my show blackish this week, and he won the MVP one year, years ago. So he’s been throwing that in my face all week. He’s been threatening to bring the trophy to work all shined up. I don’t have one myself, so he wants to show me what one actually looks like and to see how it feels. I keep telling him I’m getting my own one day. He asked to be called MVP at work, and since he is an MVP, I have granted that request. So whenever Michael Rappaport is needed on set, they ask for the MVP to be brought to set. I do give him that much respect.
Spike Lee is going to be an assistant coach. Do you think he’ll be effective?
I’ve known Spike for some years. He’s a great Knicks fan. I don’t know how well he’ll do as a coach, but as a fan and a student of the game of basketball from a fan’s perspective, I give it up to him. Some of that may have rubbed off on him because he sits courtside at every game, so he may know the X’s and O’s. If all else fails, if the team does lose, it’s all about the coaching. When we win, it’s all about the players on the court. You can put me on record about that.
You’re also playing alongside Kevin Hart, who has won the MVP of this game twice.
Kevin Hart is a good friend of mine. He won MVPs two years running, but that’s because of his prowess on social media. That’s when they allowed the fans to vote. I’m not taking anything away from Kevin. He is the Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb of the celebrity entertainment league. I’ll give him that. But I don’t have to worry about him because we’re teammates, so we’re going to work together. We have great chemistry. Kevin and I have done some great films together. You know, Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4.
Of all the basketball players who have tried their hand at acting, who is the best?
I’m going to have to go with Pretty Ricky, Rick Fox. Rick puts in the work. I’ve seen Rick work with his acting coaches, and we’ve had conversations about the industry.
I feel like even Shaq would agree that Rick Fox is a better actor than he is.
Yes! But you know what? We’ve got to give it up to Shaq. Kazaam! Come on!
Who did you root for growing up?
I’m an L.A. boy, so the Lakers was and still is my team for the most part. I’m not going to say I jumped on the Clippers bandwagon, but I cheer louder now for the Clippers than I do for the Lakers. My favorite player was Charles Barkley, who has become like a big brother to me over the years. I patterned my game growing up after Barkley. I wore his number when I played team sports. So the Lakers are my team, and Barkley is my player.
Can you predict your stat line for the game?
I’m going to fall just short of a triple-double. I’m gonna have a double-double definitely. I don’t know if that double-double is going to consist of 10 turnovers and 12 fouls, but I guarantee you this, I’m going to get my numbers one way or another.