NBA Pranks for the Memories, By George
The Golden State Warriors' forward has seen plenty in his day, but he still was quite surprised to learn about the April Fool's prank played on Denver forward Kenyon Martin. Not only is the rugged Martin one of the most humorless players in the NBA, he's a 10-year man.
"He's a veteran,'' George said about the prank in which a driver for Nuggets guard J.R. Smith filled Martin's car up with buttered popcorn. "You don't pull pranks on veterans. That's a rookie prank. Why are they pranking the vet? If they had something going on in their locker room, you don't do that to a vet.''
It did not turn out well. After seeing what had been done to him. Martin stormed into the locker room following the April 1 home game against Portland, and demanded to know who had taken his car keys out of the locker room to pull the stunt.
"I swear to God, boy, when I find out who did it I'm going to put my... hands on one of you all,'' Martin said in a rant TMZ has posted online. "I'm going to put my hands on whoever did it ... you best believe that. It's personal ... you best believe it."
So file this under the category of pranks that might not be fondly remembered by those on the team. But that's OK. There are plenty of other pranks pulled in NBA history, many against rookies, that have remained legendary.
One team notorious for pranks was George's Lakers of the past decade. When George was a rookie in 1999-2000, the Lakers played a preseason game in Little Rock, Ark. After a shootaround, Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal and several teammates struck.
""Shaq, Glen Rice, John Salley and Ron Harper, all those guys, taped me to the floor and just left me there," George said. "I couldn't get up. They taped me up pretty good."
The players left. Finally, after about 15 minutes, an arena worker found George and cut him loose.
The Lakers that season must have had a good supply of duct tape. They weren't done with George.
"We taped him to a valet cart once in a Sacramento hotel, and we rolled him down the hall and into the elevator and sent him down to the lobby," said Rick Fox, then a forward for the Lakers.
By 2004-05, George was a six-year veteran with the Lakers. It was time for him to be on the other end of pranks.
The Lakers that season had an obscure rookie named Tony Bobbitt. At a preseason game, actress Lucy Liu was sitting in the front row at the Staples Center, and Bobbitt claimed to teammates he knew Liu and she was looking at him.
Several Lakers veterans, led by Vlade Divac and George, knew Bobbitt was fibbing. So they sprung into action.
They had a ballboy bring a note to Bobbitt with a cell phone number that was said be Liu's but really was Divac's. A female Lakers employee had recorded an outgoing message on Divac's phone.
It wasn't long before Bobbitt was leaving voice and text messages for Liu. Lakers players roared with laughter while reading Bobbitt's attempts at poetry. Bobbitt thought the text messages sent back were from Liu.
"The whole team got involved," George said. "He said he went on a date with her, and we knew he didn't because it was Vlade's phone he was calling and texting."
Soon, the veterans were ready for this prank to reach its climax. They sent a limousine to take Bobbitt to a restaurant, with Bobbitt thinking it had been sent by Liu for a meeting.
Hidden cameras recorded everything. While Bobbitt waited at a table with a bottle of champagne for his dream girl, Lakers teammates instead showed up.
"We jumped out, and he said, 'She's coming,' " George said. "We said, 'Quit lying.' It started as a small prank and grew since he had kept lying for three or four weeks. We got the whole thing on DVDs. When guys on other teams came through, they'd say, 'You got one of those DVDs?' We called it 'Bobbitt Gone Wild.' "
That's the only reason anybody on the Lakers remembers Bobbitt. He was waived in November 2004 after playing in two games and never has been seen again.
While O'Neal actually wasn't on that Lakers team, having been traded the previous summer to Miami, he no doubt was proud of his teammates continuing the pranking tradition on the Lakers, where he had been the team ring leader.
Following a 3 1/2-year stint with the Heat, O'Neal took his pranking to Phoenix. It was there he encountered forward Louis Amundson.
Amundson was a third-year man, but had played just 27 games in his first two seasons while in and out of the NBA. So he was as good as rookie, and a perfect prank victim.
Amundson lived just down the street from US Airways Arena, and rode his bicycle regularly to practice. That caught the attention of O'Neal.
"He'd take my bike every day of practice and hide it,'' Amundson said. "That became like a running joke ... He must have done it 50 or 60 times. Security guards sometimes let me know that it was hanging from the rafters.''
Amundson eventually became determined to get his revenge. But what to do?
"I wanted to do something he wouldn't try to kill me for,'' Amundson said. "I was contemplating putting a mountain lion or something in his car, but figured that wouldn't go over too well.''
Amundson eventually enlisted a buddy late last season to help him. They went to the post office and got two 30-foot cubic bags of Styrofoam peanuts that are used for packing. The gags were about six feet tall and cost about $50.
Amundson pilfered O'Neal's keys from his locker and went to his SUV. Amundson's buddy then arrived with the giant bags of Styrofoam, and Shaq's vehicle soon was filled to the brim.
As luck would have it, a camera crew was following Shaq around that day for a reality show. So O'Neal was shown arriving at his car to find out he had been the victim of a prank.
"He looked pretty surprised,'' Amundson said. "But he's kind of a jokester himself so he appreciates a good prank. He was just kind of joking around with everybody and with the crew. But I knew he was going to try to get me back. The thing about a prankster is they don't like to be outpranked.''
So the next day at practice Shaq held the long-haired Amundson down on the floor and tried to cut off his pony tale. Amundson said Suns coach Alvin Gentry fortunately rescued him.
Knowing what George said about it not being wise to prank a veteran, Amundson lived in some fear of O'Neal trying to get him back. But Amundson was spared (for now) due to the season ending, the Suns not making the playoffs and O'Neal being traded last summer to Cleveland.
The Amundson-O'Neal showdown wasn't the only big prank of last season. Sacramento rookie Jason Thompson fell victim to similar popcorn prank that was inflicted upon Martin.
Actually, the popcorn prank started when Dahntay Jones was a Memphis rookie in 2003-04. He slipped up on his rookie chores of delivering doughnuts to the team, and paid for it.
"They filled up my [Range Rover] with popcorn, putting it through the sunroof," Jones, now with Indiana, said of veterans James Posey, Jason Williams, Lorenzen Wright and Bonzi Wells. "They got the keys out of my locker. I came out of practice, opened my door, and popcorn falls out. I couldn't help but laugh."
Jones laughed despite a $150 cleaning bill. And even that didn't fully do the job.
"The car smelled like popcorn for a month," Jones said. "You'd turn on the heat and little kernels would still come out."
Those on the Grizzlies talked about the popcorn prank for a long time. Jones believes that guard Bobby Jackson, who joined the Grizzlies the next season, learned about it and later brought popcorn hazing to the Kings.
It wasn't doughnuts that Thompson slipped up on delivering. He got lax with the lox, having not properly delivered bagels and toppings to the team's veterans.
Thompson then walked to the parking lot after a practice to find his Escalade filled with popcorn. Pounds of it.
"It was a big surprise,'' Thompson said. "The bagels had been there. I just didn't physically bring them. I had a secretary bring them for me, and [the veterans] didn't like that so they got me. ... I came out and I thought I just had the shaving cream they put on my car. But I looked inside and there was the popcorn.''
Thompson knew the buttery popcorn was hardly ideal for his expensive interior. So he quickly got his car detailed, spending about $200.
"It was on YouTube,'' Thompson said of the prank being recorded by a camera crew brought in by the veterans. "And it had like a million hits. But I can laugh about it now. Obviously, when it was happening I wasn't laughing about it. It took me a couple of weeks before I did.''
Why does one think Martin won't be laughing in a couple of weeks about the April Fool's joke played on him?
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson