Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

July 20, 2008
A very Vegas night

LAS VEGAS - Three days.

That's the average Joe's threshold for Sin City, whether you're coming here for a bachelor party or getaway or just so happen to be en route to nowhere. My count? The seventh and final day.

At least the Northern California air I left behind was a convenient primer for the endless smoke-filled casinos.

But while the city comes with its downfalls, nights like tonight are what I enjoy most about this place. In what has been a semi-annual affair during NBA summer league, I managed to break away from the hoops long enough to experience an event that is so very, very Vegas. Three years ago, it was the World Series of Poker and local card stud Aaron Kanter's surprising run. This time, it was James Irvin of Citrus Heights and his chance to shock the mixed martial arts world.

It didn't work out for the Del Oro High product, as he was knocked out cold in a minute by the esteemed Anderson Silva. But while much of the action in the cage didn't disappoint, the scene itself inside the Palms Casino's Pearl Theatre was worth watching even more.

What I saw from a ringside seat while swearing I'd never pay the $200-$450 ticket price the 2,100 folks around me anted up...

The Kings

They had a suite of their own, although it was more of a big balcony actually. Coaches, friends, players (Brad Miller, Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes, Patrick Ewing Jr.) were on hand, at times acting more like they came from Sacramento High School rather than an NBA team. In a good way, of course.

When it was announced that Irvin was from Sacramento, the suite explodes with civic pride and there is fist pumping by all. While leaving the venue, I ran into Ewing Jr. and mentioned how this was a "shot of a lifetime" for Irvin.

"He definitely took a shot," the big man shot back in reference to Silva's knockout punch. "A hell of a shot."

The Kings' owners

Joe and Gavin Maloof were on hand and joined by a champion. Boston's Paul Pierce was a guest of honor, as were the various other friends and casino types. There was civic pride in the Maloof suite, too, or at least Irvin pride. When Irvin lost, a woman in the front row heckled Silva from afar as if he had just pounded on her son.

Joe Maloof mentioned earlier in the day that he hasn't quite developed the stomach for MMA fights just yet. Nonetheless, he certainly appeared to have a good time.

The celebrities

If anyone watching on SpikeTV noticed the octagon girls contorting their necks so as to peek at a particular front row fan, there was good reason. Usher was close enough to require a sweat cloth, as was Jamie Foxx.

The most shocking celeb sighting, though, was Mandy Moore.
The easy-on-the-eyes actress/singer is apparently a huge fan. And not only did she come supporting the brand by wearing a UFC t-shirt, she stuck around to listen in on the press conference afterward. It was quite a sight, with Moore hiding out in the back while the various fighters discussed their bouts.

For those who missed it...

Final thoughts...

* Irvin's mother, Tracy, said she's grown accustomed to seeing her son do his thing on fight night. She may still cringe a bit, but apparently the charismatic - if not English-speaking - Anderson Silva won her over.

"I like the guy who beat him, so that worked for me," she told me afterward. "(Silva) looked like a really nice guy, and that matters to me."

* The post-fight scene was quite comical, mainly because I was out of my element.
So Irvin misses the official press conference because he's getting his eye stitched, and I go looking for his family because he's the only reason I'm there to cover this thing. Then after myself and KHTK's Sean Cunningham find him, he says he wants to do interviews up in his room.
Except that - as I pointed out in the story - he lost his key and had to head for the front desk. There was just something unorthodox about following this beast of a man around the casino after having never met him, then sauntering into his plush hotel room. He couldn't have been a nicer guy, even offering a shout-out to his hometown folks.

"Every time I fight I try to represent Sac," he said. "People stand behind me, and I want to do them proud....That's one of the things I try to bring with me in the ring is to do my hometown proud."

* Irvin's nickname being "The Sandman," it only seemed natural that Metallica's Enter Sandman was his entrance song. I had to ask about it since it's one of my all-time favorites.

"They (the fight organizers) surprised me with it," he said. "Usually I ask for it, but they didn't say they were going to pick it. (UFC commissioner) Dana White picks the music."

* Irvin has parlayed his fighting career into a training business as well, as he owns an MMA center in Roseville.

- Sam Amick



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