Notes from a trip to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
In the last year, a dark cloud has been cast over the NBA. Or maybe it's more of an oddly colored umbrella. There is a clear conspiracy outlined by bizarre coincidences that are obviously part of a greater conspiracy.
No, not that thing. Or that thing. The other thing.
Bloggers are constantly wondering as to the validity of what is alluded to in hushed tones as "The Cheesecake Factory thing." It began simply, with whispers and vague references. Then, the first comprehensive report was published by ESPN's TrueHoop, outlining the longstanding relationship between NBA players and the Calabasas Hills, CA headquartered restaurant chain.
Then there were more reports. And still more. It has become clear that this is more than just a selective set of responses. This is a phenomenon.
And so, here at the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League, at the intersection of the major and minor leagues, with USA basketball practice mere hours away and a bevy of young NBA players and select veterans in attendance in a popular NBA vacation spot, we elected to test the hypothesis.
Hypothesis: Given the concentration of NBA players, staff, and personnel in Las Vegas, and the ratio of said individuals to the number of Cheesecake Factories, a trip to Cheesecake Factory will result in at least one NBA player "run-in."
After watching the Jerryd Bayless nova-explosion, we headed off to test our theory. Our investigators? Myself, our own Matt Watson, and Frank from BrewHoop. Join us after the jump for our discoveries.
Upon arrival, we had high hopes for DeAndre Jordan scrunched up at the bar, as Ronnie Turiaf and Brandan Wright celebrated their new status as teammates at a table. No such luck. After a brief wait, the kind and courteous staff showed us to our table and we began the search. Well, okay, first we ordered Popcorn Shrimp. (Come on. The NBA's Media Room food resembled something I ran over once on a lonely highway in Missouri.)
Having satiated our Popcorn Shrimp needs, we then turned to the task at hand. I set out on a reconnaissance mission, partly hoping to stumble upon a table full of Team USA superstars, partly terrified that any attempt to approach them would result in their bodyguards throwing me in the flaming fountain outside.
Nary a D-Leaguer in sight. No Joe Alexander scarfing down ribs, no Tractor Traylor devouring plate upon plate of chicken tenders. It would appear that our hypothesis was not to be confirmed by our testing.
I decided to interrogate politely inquire the waitstaff as to whether they had noticed a significant number of NBA players specifically in their restaurant. To our surprise, the response was not only affirmative, but enthusiastic. Tammy, or "Tammy" as we'll call her here, was very forthcoming about the clientele (and the availability of cheesecake).
MM: So, do you guys get a lot of NBA players in here?
Tammy: Oh, yeah, all the time. They love this place.
MM: Are they nice?
Tammy: Oh, yeah.
MM: Do they tip well?
Tammy: Oh, no.
Intriguing. We inquired as to which players had come in recently, and Tammy said she'd check with the bartender, who knew more clearly who they were than her. She did go on to mention some very interesting information.
"Rasheed Wallace, is that his name? He's in here all the time. He sits at the bar."
This would seem to back up an earlier report linking Sheed to "the Factory." More interesting still, though was when Tammy, excuse me, "Tammy," began to tell us of where she used to work. Newport Beach. It's unclear at this point whether Tammy is the same source listed in this TrueHoop report that references Kobe Bryant, but she did say she used to serve Kobe and his wife often at that particular Factory. The biggest surprise though, was when she told us what Kobe always ate, every time.
"Chicken Marsala. In fact, if he was too busy, he'd have someone pick it up the night before games. They told us it was his "lucky meal."
Further is necessary to study the link between Kobe's production spikes and the availability of Cheesecake Factory in said cities.
Tammy also informed us that Shaquille O'Neal often came in and was an excellent tipper. Then she gave us another refill and inquired again as to our desire for the Factory's most vaunted asset, cheesecake (it's unclear at this point in time whether that has anything to do with the name of the eatery).
After thanking Tammy and before we headed out to explore Las Vegas (and argue about the exact degree to which Kirk Hinrich is mediocre), I stopped to verify Tammy's information with the bartender, Tim, or "Tim." Tim verified the frequency of Rasheed Wallace's appearance, noting he'd been in as recently as two weeks, was a fine tipper, and often enjoys eating at the bar.
Tim also informed me that "Mr. Brewer" (Corey Brewer) had been in that week with a number of younger players.
In conclusion, though our original hypothesis was not validated, we did find ample evidence to support "The Cheesecake Factory Thing." Unfortunately, all data was compiled second hand, and therefore should be taken with a grain of salt. While "The Cheesecake Factory Thing" was indeed given more auxiliary support last night, a first-person, or first-blogger experience has not occurred. It is clear that more investigation is necessary in regards to this subject.
Special thanks to Tammy, Tim, and the fine staff of the Cheesecake Factory for both their help and a fine meal. Thanks to BrewHoop for use of his camera and for assistance in hijinx.
Oh, yeah, and the popcorn shrimp were awesome, though served at approximately 7,000 degrees, Fahrenheit.