The NBA goes to Hollywood

By Fred Schruers
Updated January 26, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

L.A. really is a hoops-obsessed town. Not just because of the Lakers. Take Brian McKnight. One minute, he’s crooning ”Win” at halftime of the New York Giants’ Jan. 14 playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings in New Jersey. The next, he’s off to L.A. for the NBA Entertainment League championship at Staples Center. Yes, the NBA has its own Hollywood league. Now in its third season, the program offers friendly competition and a strict invitees-only door policy. ”I thought it was gonna be some screaming teenagers-MTV thing,” says Timothy Olyphant (Gone in 60 Seconds), whose Raptors won last year’s title. ”Next thing you know I was getting dunked on.”

The NBA-sponsored program boasts 10 teams of Hollywood execs and stars like Tobey Maguire, Dean Cain, and Michael Rapaport. ”Once a year,” says league commissioner Zane Stoddard, ”Superman [Cain] plays Spider-Man [Maguire].” The court competition can be fierce: At this year’s championship, late-arriving Blazer team star McKnight scored 27 points in a 65-60 win over comedian Bill Bellamy‘s Sonics (who included ex-Survivors Gervase Peterson, Dirk Been, and Joel Klug). ”I’m not a treadmill guy,” McKnight says of his hoops regime. ”And I’m the most competitive guy you’ll meet outside of Michael Jordan.”

Though his team was ousted early, Raptor Jason Gedrick can’t complain: He just landed a gig on ABC’s The Beast. ”I got that job ’cause I was in this league,” says Gedrick, who met a Beast production exec on the court. Not that networking matters more than working the net. ”I may actually be losing work,” says Olyphant. ”People tell my agent, ‘The Raptors beat us last year — why should I give Tim anything?”’

Fred Schruers