Rearview mirror: A decade’s worth of random “celebrity” encounters

Even me, Skip? Even you, Dorn.

My friends over at Trumbull Island are putting together a pretty extensive and highly entertaining collection of Top Ten lists for the decade, and for the year. As I helped them save Christmas this year, they asked me if I had any contributions, and then suggested “Top random people I met in the ‘00’s.” In truth, I’m sort of like Forrest Gump: I run a lot, I’m decent at ping-pong and I often find myself meeting a lot of random “famous” people.

I think this is supposed to be a Top 10 list, but it looks like that’s not a hard and fast rule for Trumbull, as someone had a Top 71 list. So, I’m offering a Top 16 list. This is in no particular order. Most of them are athletes, but not all of them. Also, I have pictures with most of these people, but I don’t like anyone to know what I look like, so you won’t see any here.

1. Ron Artest, 2000 – The media tells you he’s a total lunatic all the time. I talked to him for a few minutes in the locker room of a Bulls-Nets game in Jersey, and he comes off like Mr. Rogers. Nicest dude ever.

2. Chris Jericho, 2008 – The greatest wrestler ever. I met him randomly at the TGI Friday’s in my town following a local WWE event. He was eating dinner with the band “Trixter.”

3. Lawrence Taylor, 2009 – This happened this past Sunday, when he happened to stroll into a Houlihan’s I often frequent. When I shook his hand, he famously told me, “I’m not here for that.” Respect.

4. Gheorghe Muresan, 2000 – I met him in the locker room after a Nets game. I couldn’t resist taking a hilarious picture with him where I come up to about his waist. (I’m 5-foot-7) I’ve covered a pretty decent amount of sports events and have never taken a picture with an athlete while doing so – except for Muresan, and…

R.I.P.5. Arturo Gatti, 2001 – My favorite boxer. After his second fight with Micky Ward, I took a picture with him as he was leaving the arena to go get his broken hand fixed at the hospital. I think he only stopped because I was wearing a Gatti jacket.

6. Mike Krzyzewski, 2000 – I guess not that random, since I went to Duke. But what is random is that I’ve been in his house, watched his television and driven his car.

7. Elton Brand, 2000 – I used to eat pizza with him at Duke, which isn’t random. College students eat pizza together. Random part: The year after he left – and won Rookie of the Year – I went to ESPN Zone in Times Square to watch the 2000 NBA Draft. Out of nowhere, Elton walks in with a buddy. He recognized a couple of us, and came over to ask us who the Bulls had taken. When we told him it was Marcus Fizer, he asked us, “Why’d they pick him? We play the same position!” Our thoughts exactly.

Also: Not this decade, but sat courtside under a basket for a Bulls-Hornets preseason game in Chapel Hill before Elton’s rookie year. Elton somehow saw me and threw me a bounce pass a la Oakley to Spike. I was so surprised, it damn near hit me in the face. Luckily, I caught it and threw it back.

8. Chris Duhon, 2006 – Another guy I knew at college, but the random part came when he was playing for the Bulls. After a Duke-Gonzaga game, a bunch of us went to a bar across the street from MSG. Duhon came in, vaguely remembered a couple of us, and bought us all Jager-bomb shots. I did one.

Ghostface killer9. Brevin Knight, 2000 – I used to go to the WWF Cafe in Times Square for Monday Night Raw all the time back when it existed. One night, I looked up and noticed Brevin Knight sitting next to me at the table. That’s about it.

10. Matthew Lillard, 2004 – After an overnight shift at my job, I went to the NBA Store to cop a LeBron Team USA jersey – the Bronze Medal version – and ran right into the guy from Scream. The Ben Affleck to Freddy Prinze’s Matt Damon. All I could think to say to him in my sleep-deprived state was, “I enjoy your work.” I must have looked like a crack fiend; he seemed mortified. I decided it’d be best if I staggered off.

11. Dikembe Mutombo, 2000 – After a Nets-Hawks game. I had the opportunity to interview either Dikembe or J.R. Rider: An impossible decision. I opted for Dikembe, talked to him for about five minutes and understood two words: “FILL SHOES.” I’m not sure what he was attempting to say, but I had asked him something about Patrick Ewing. Spent the entire interview attempting not to have one of his elbows break my nose.

12. The evil coach from The Karate Kid, 2007 – I don’t know his real name, but I was at a horror/sci-fi convention and John Kreese almost ran straight into my neighbor while making a beeline to the bar. Kreese would have been plowed; my neighbor’s a pretty big guy.

13. Darryl Strawberry, 2003 – I’m Jewish, and incredibly, I apparently converted to born-again Christianity to meet my favorite all-time baseball player. It’s a long story. Ask me sometime.

14. Gisele, 2008 – I go to a lot of haunted houses in October. I was waiting outside the entrance to Blood Manor in New York, when this unbelievably stunning Amazonian woman came out. As I attempted to pick my jaw up off the ground, the guy at the door told me it was Gisele, Tom Brady’s betrothed. With someone that incredible also there, for once, I didn’t feel like a total loser at one of these things.

15. The guy who played Roger Dorn, 2009 – I actually know his real name, but come on, he’s Roger Dorn from Major League. No great story here. I just thought it was awesome to meet Dorn.

16. The Iron Sheik, 2009 – A few friends and I went to meet the Sheik at that horror/sci-fi convention. (I’m not sure why Sheik was there since he fit into neither category) My friend Rob (pictured below) went up and mentioned the name of B.Brian Blair, sending Sheik into fits of rage. He then asked us to get him a beer. We were about to – I mean, why not? – but Nikolai Volkoff told us not to.

Note the presence of Larry from Three's Company over the Sheik's right shoulder

Esoteric

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