Haven’t heard of the NBA Entertainment League? It’s no longer a secret.Shane Duffy doesn’t green-light movies. He doesn’t throw Oscar-night galas or guide A-list careers. If he walks the red carpet, he does so in settings other than Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Golden Globes ceremony.
But the case can be made that he’s the most powerful man in Hollywood … or at least the most powerful man in Hollywood recreation. Duffy, you see, heads the celeb-stocked NBA Entertainment League (NBAE). It may not be the most exclusive fraternity in Los Angeles (that would be the $20-million-per-picture club), but it’s certainly close.
It’s a league in which, on any given Sunday, you might find Jamie Foxx driving past Adam Sandler for a layup or see Will Ferrell enmeshed with Ice Cube in the low post. You might see a sequence in which Snoop Dogg starts a fast break with an outlet pass to Justin Timberlake, who then dishes across the key to Jaleel White (that’s right, Steve Urkel) for an easy finish. You might witness not one Superman but two -- Brandon Routh, all elbows and angles as he works the offensive boards, and Dean Cain, who takes a charge as eagerly as a jayvee kid trying to make the varsity team -- appear to be as encumbered by gravity as the rest of us.
Yet, while the A-list names may lend the league its glamour, the NBAE is very much an egalitarian operation. Ferrell, Timberlake, and past participants such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey
Maguire net the league its few headlines (besides a small item in the New York Post, it has largely remained off the media radar), but once they enter the gym, they’re just some guys in high-tops. Let’s put it this way: Given the choice between having a big star with far-reaching professional tentacles and having a former Division I hoops player who stands six-foot-five and shoots more than 50 percent from the field for a teammate, most everybody in the league would choose the latter. The players show up to have fun, break a sweat, and hang with their peers. But once the whistle sounds, they want to win. Badly.
Take, for example, Donald Faison of Scrubs and Clueless, one of the league’s longer-tenure players -- and, much to his dismay, one of the handful of veterans not in possession of a championship ring. “It sucks to lose,” says Faison, shaking his head ruefully. “I don’t have any great memories yet because I’ve lost each year in the playoffs.” But what about the buddies he’s made, the contacts he’s forged, or the intrinsic rewards of teamwork? “That doesn’t matter,” he says. “The only good part of that is if I meet somebody here and then I see them in an audition and I don’t get the job, at least I know I busted their butt on the basketball court.”