FEBRUARY 17, 2007
(STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - The NBA All-Star Weekend was launched at a party in Makati the other night, and everybodyís looking forward to the biggest annual bash outside of the Finals. But the question is how come many All-Stars arenít playing.

Fans are wondering why the players arenít so hot on seeing action in an East or West All-Star uniform, considering how many of them dreamed of being in the game when they were kids. Perhaps the novelty has worn off. But perhaps itís because many of the players are just so darned tired.

Imagine, if you will, being the average NBA player. Youíre probably 6-6, 6-7 on a good day, and your regular day is pretty wearing. Youíve got practice for two to three hours, wherein your coach yells and screams at you and youíre banging bodies with really large people who are built like brick walls. Then, you go to the gym and hit the weights, the track and anything else you need to vent your excess energy on.

For some players, it ends there. They can go back to their gated communities, turn on their humongous television sets and other playthings, and vegetate.

But if youíre an All-Star, it never ends. There are product endorsements to do, appointments to make, business meetings to attend, and even the occasional autograph-signing. With the NBAís dress code, the only time you actually get to put on shorts, ironically, is on the court or in the gym, when youíre working; the exact opposite of the rest of humanity.

And remember, in the US, everything requires great travel. The major tire companies allegedly lobbied the California government to build freeways not for travel convenience, but so people would go farther to get where theyíre going, and therefore use more rubber on their tires. The problem is that everyone else followed suit.

So there you are, cooped up in your Escalade, trying to hustle from one place to another, to meet people youíll probably never see again, and perhaps give words of wisdom or answer questions youíve given thousands of times before, and still keep in a good mood. Then, itís off to a hotel where the shower hits you in the chest, the beds are too small, and everyone wants a piece of your time. Thatís the downside.

Ironically, now that the NBA is available in more places in the globe, the players have needed to be more available to more and more new audiences. And their endorsements have multiplied, so there are more ad agencies, directors, business partners and investors to please. For a two-day appearance, youíll need to travel almost as much time as youíll be on the ground, in a plane designed for people almost a foot shorter.

So you canít really blame players whoíve turned away offers to do the slam dunk contest, or perhaps play in the All-Star Game, because itís an extension of a job that sometimes threatens to consume them. Of course, they should do it for the fans. Who pays their salaries? But then again, why are they playing? Two reasons: to win games and to invest in their future.

Shaquille OíNeal once wrote that he hasnít even touched a penny of his salaries, because his endorsements are more than enough to sustain the next three generations of his family. Thatís probably why some people feel that he doesnít take the game (or his weight) as seriously anymore. But for the major players, thatís a fact of life. They get big bucks, but they also donít own their own lives.

But still, I donít feel too sorry for them.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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