That time former NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer almost sued Prince
A hair salon, a dance floor and a heart-shaped bed — what else did Prince manage to squeeze into Boozer’s home?
It’s been two years since the world was rocked by the news that Prince, one of the most talented artists to roam this earth, had died in his home.
As the world grappled with such a significant loss, others attempted to fill the void with some of their fondest memories of Prince. Sharing stories of fan meet-and-greets with those who either knew him personally or were touched by his aura almost became therapeutic. Most sentiments were sweet and thoughtful, while others expressed the playful side of Prince. But the anecdotes that seemed to gain the most attention came from those who had experienced “made-for-television moments” with The Purple One himself. One of those people? Former NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer.
Boozer’s unique encounter with Prince is one deserving of an E! True Hollywood Story segment on Chappelle’s Show. Thirteen years and many previously unreleased details later, the story has quickly become one of Boozer’s most popular to share.
We’ll take it back to 2005, when Boozer, a 23-year-old with only two seasons of professional basketball under his belt, had just signed a contract with the Utah Jazz. It was a fresh start for the NBA player, and finding a new home topped Boozer’s list of priorities. Boozer hadn’t planned all the details of his new location, but after growing up in Alaska and battling harsh winters in Cleveland, he was certainly in search of a warmer climate. Ultimately, Boozer settled on a 10-bedroom, 18,000-square-foot mansion in Bel-Air, Los Angeles.
But before Boozer could spend quality time in his new crib, the Jazz training camp was calling — and so were at least 20 people looking to rent his new house while he was away.
“My Realtor Roxanne hits me and she says, ‘Los, I got a call from a bunch of people who want to rent your crib,’ ” Boozer said. “I was like, ‘I haven’t even lived in it. I’m still a week away from decorating, so, no. I haven’t lived in it yet, why would I lease it out to somebody else?’
“The list kept getting shorter and shorter of people calling about it. The first calls, it was about 20 people. The previous owner had been in entertainment and was well-known and threw gatherings and parties there, so they knew the house.”
As Boozer continued to decline offers, the list continued to dwindle. Twenty people became 18. Eighteen became seven. Around a month later, Boozer was down to one persistent person, who’d call to make an offer at least eight times. The unidentified person was willing to pay $95,000 a month, which was a little over $1 million for the year, and that was an offer Boozer refused to pass up. As good as the deal was, there was only one short catch: Boozer would have to fly from Utah back to Los Angeles to meet with the potential renter.
Boozer waited for an off day to make the trip. He returned to his home and waited to meet the renter who’d be helping him with his mortgage payments. The gates to the home opened, and a limo entered. Out of it came a man no taller than 5 feet 2 inches and dressed in a layered top, nice jeans, boots with a perfect hairstyle. His eyes remained hidden behind sunglasses, but a starstruck Boozer already knew exactly who it was. The potential renter surprised both Boozer and his real estate agent Roxanne Nelson.
“As soon as he stepped out of the limo I was like, ‘Wow’ because I didn’t know who [I’d be renting to],” Boozer said. “Roxanne didn’t even know who it was because it was always the assistant calling on his behalf. So when he pulled up to sign the paperwork at the house, I was like, ‘Roxanne, is that Prince?’ It was a moment for me because there’s not that many times I’ve been starstruck, but that was one of those times. I was starstruck because it was Prince — I listened to half his albums because my parents were huge fans growing up. I watched his movies. Purple Rain is still one of the best movies ever made. It was incredible to be able to rent my house to him.”
The two began to talk and bonded over their common interest in basketball. On the rooftop was Boozer’s basketball court. Prince began shooting around with Boozer and talking to the rising star about his career.
“He was very cool,” Boozer said. “Obviously, very short, but he was huge into basketball. Loved basketball. We had a great conversation. He said he followed me a bit in my career. He told me I was a beast of a young player, because I was young. I was a baby in the NBA. He’s from Minnesota, so he was a huge Kevin Garnett fan at the time.
“Honestly, he had a good jump shot. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He could actually play ball. Very impressive.”
Prince disclosed to Boozer that he needed a place where he and his band would feel inspired enough to create a new album. He signed a one-year lease and began occupying the space during basketball season. But a few weeks later, Boozer would be sidelined with a hamstring injury that required physical therapy.
“The best physical therapist, Judy Seto, was in L.A.,” Boozer said. “I fly out to L.A. I had to be there like three weeks to take care of my hamstring, and I go by the crib. I hit him up, I said, ‘P, I’m about to come by the house. If you need anything, let me know.’ ”
Boozer returned to his street, but something had changed. The house he’d purchased didn’t look like the house he’d purchased at all. Maybe it wasn’t his. Boozer continued to drive down the street, then back up to the only house with his address. The 12-foot-high gates adorned with gold lions that greeted him every time he came home had been replaced by a purple symbol of some sort. This couldn’t have been his. Boozer punched in the code to his home and the gates opened right away. “I’m like, ‘Wow, so the homie changed my gate to this symbol,’ ” Boozer thought at the time.
It was his home. But what had happened to it? Boozer stepped out of his car. The stairs leading from the motor court to his home were draped with a purple carpet emblazoned with the same symbol that greeted him minutes earlier.
“I wasn’t aware of what that symbol was at the time,” Boozer admitted.
Prince’s decorative creations outside of the home seemed minor once Boozer laid eyes on the interior renovations. The beautiful Italian carpets chosen by his then-wife were pulled up and replaced by black carpeting. Black and purple seemed to be the new theme of the home, and there were those symbols again. Boozer approached a spare bedroom that had been completely transformed into a full-use hair salon. The other, a massage parlor.
“I never had that [in a home], but I’m still like, ‘What’s going on?’ I spent all this bread to decorate, and now he did all this. I had a really awesome weight room. He turned the weight room into a dance floor. He had a disco ball and a DJ booth, which I thought was pretty awesome since I never had that before either, but I was still like, ‘What the hell?’ I’m livid. I go into the bedroom and it’s a purple, heart-shaped bed with black carpet. At this point, I’m like, ‘What the f— happened to my house?’ ”
Boozer immediately began placing calls to the superstar, only to be greeted by his voicemail each time. Days turned into weeks, and after nearly two months without a returned call or response from Prince, Boozer was ready to take legal action.
“I left him one more message and said, ‘P, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for two months. I don’t know where you are, I hope everything is cool with you and your family, but I’m about to sue you because you changed my whole house around without giving me no notice, and that’s a breach of contract.’ ”
Three days later, Prince was back on the grid.
“My lawyers were about to prepare the paperwork and everything. I’m about to sue Prince. Who wants to sue Prince? An idol, someone you look up to? Nobody wants to do that. It gets to that point and he calls me. I’m at a game and he’s in Japan on tour for that 3121 album. He goes, ‘Man, I’m so sorry. I’ve been on the road the whole time. Don’t worry, the house is going to look just like the house when you moved out. When I move out at the end of my lease, it’ll look just like I was never there. Trust me.’ He wired me $500,000 to ease my mind, which is a lot of bread on top of the rent that he was already paying.”
Being a man of his word, Prince did exactly what he said he’d do. By the end of his lease, the house looked as if he’d never been there. Boozer walked in to see beautiful Italian carpeting. The hair salon was gone, and all the equipment was back in his awesome weight room. The mystery symbols that were seen in nearly every room had vanished without a trace. Still in disbelief at how quickly Prince had transformed the home back into his home, Boozer wired the $500,000 back to his renter.
Proof of Prince’s stay is documented throughout the album artwork for 3121, Prince’s 31st studio album released in 2006.
“If you look at the CD cover, it’s my house,” Boozer said. “So he put the house all in the CD cover.”
The two formed a friendship over the years and would make time for lunch or dinner when they were in the same area. The last time Boozer would see his friend was at the Jordan Brand’s 30th anniversary party during NBA All-Star Weekend in 2015. Prince gave an impromptu performance and wowed the crowd, just as he did throughout his career.
“Even now with the two-year anniversary [of his passing], it’s still mind-boggling to me what really happened,” Boozer said. “There’s just so much mystery around his death — Michael Jackson’s death, Whitney Houston’s death too. I’d like to know what really happened.
“[If he were still alive], I’d tell him it is an honor to meet you. I literally do believe I was conceived because of your music between my mom and dad. You’ve inspired so many people. It’s an honor to have met you, great to hear your music and good to call you a friend.”