Los Angeles Diary: The ESPYS
It was a Super Bowl of family reunions, topped off by LeBron James’ super secret after, after party
There are very few places where the world’s most famous people geek out over the world’s most famous people. The Academy Awards. A “Brangelina” (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) red-carpet sighting.
And, the ESPYS — which in many cases feels like a good ol’ family reunion.
This year was no different. The most celebrated — and decorated — people came together to toast, get toasted, challenge institutionalized racism and party until the wee hours of a cool Los Angeles night all in the name of good sportsmanship.
There are many events around the Oscars of the sports world, but the true kickoff is the ESPN The Magazine Body Party, the shindig that celebrates one of the most anticipated multicovers of the year. This year’s event happened at Avalon Hollywood, a popular concert venue that has hosted private, invite-only affairs for the likes of Mary J. Blige and Prince. There’s always a surprise performer, and this year it was Bell Biv DeVoe aka BBD, who brought down the house. For about an hour before the group took the stage, many players from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving among them, held court near the performance space, snapping shots with other athletes and BBD fans ready to get it in.
“All you athletes? Be sure to stick around after the show so we can get our photos, too,” joked BBD singer Ricky Bell.
Pretty sure he wasn’t joking, though.
As the group closed out the performance with its huge hit, 1990’s Poison, the performers invited a few members of the audience to go up on stage, taught them some quick choreography and performed the popular track with them. Yes, I jumped on that stage, too. As did ESPN’s His & Hers co-host Michael Smith and actress Rosario Dawson, who was clearly geeked out at the experience.
In the parking lot after the show, the group posed with actress Gabrielle Union, who was in attendance with her husband, newly minted Chicago Bull Dwyane Wade, who later snapchatted their meeting.
As expected, the afternoon on the red carpet was celebratory — superstar athletes flipping out over seeing other superstar athletes ensued. It was one long, continuous, jovial moment after another as newly retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa Bryant (the couple recently revealed they’re having another daughter), rushed past the crowd. Former boxer Laila Ali, the daughter of the late Muhammad Ali, and her husband, Curtis Conway, also caused quite the excited stir among the fans. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and singer Ciara, who got married last week, glowed as they quickly walked past everyone else on the carpet as well, pausing every now and again to accept well-wishes from their contemporaries and fans.
Los Angeles Clippers players DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul both posed for photos with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, while former WNBA player Lisa Leslie, two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and his wife, Ayesha Curry, made sure to pose for their fans as well. Actor Jessie T. Usher and his castmates Teyonah Parris, Tichina Arnold and RonReaco Lee were excited to celebrate the recent NBA title won by the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James — the executive producer of their show, Survivor’s Remorse, which is loosely inspired by his life as a young NBA star. Another red-carpet highlight: Usher and Sugar Ray Leonard knuckling up for photos; the singer and Cleveland Cavaliers co-owner is portraying the fighter in the upcoming film, Hands of Stone. Singer Teyana Taylor and her husband, Cleveland Cavalier Iman Shumpert, certainly were cozy and coupled-up. And new Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant’s mom, Wanda Durant, accepted well-wishes from fans on the carpet.
Inside the award show, the tone turned serious and there was concentrated silence as NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Paul, Wade and James stood in black tuxedos and opened the show with their call for athletes to do more than become active on social media when it comes to the police violence against black people. The sentiment was carried over in many of the night’s speeches, including Curry’s, and that of Zanobia Dobson, the mother of 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson, who was killed while shielding two girls from gunfire. There were very few dry eyes inside of the auditorium.
After the awards show, ticket holders piled into the ESPYS after party, where the Grey Goose was free-flowing, and ESPN host and former NFL star Marcellus Wiley manned the DJ booth and challenged folks under 30 to learn what a “real running man” is. Guests also took in performances from Morris Day and the Time and headliner Sheila E., who did a full-on tribute to the late musical artist Prince.
The lucky few who scored red wristbands soon left and headed to West Hollywood, where James again hosted a private, intimate after, after party for friends. His teammates — Irving and Richard Jefferson among them — all worked the room, but it was James who had shed his tuxedo for a T-shirt and casual gear, and took on the role of party host. “Mi casa es su casa,” I overheard him tell a friend, after asking if he can get them anything to eat or drink. Exactly how we expect our family reunions to go down.