NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of quote-starved journalists packed into a Manhattan hotel ballroom, swarming around basketball royalty on Friday.
From starters like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, to old timers such as Dominique Wilkins and Scottie Pippen, reporters and camera crews at NBA All-Star Game Media Day jockeyed for position in a crush that approached Super Bowl hysterics.
There were even the silly questions that have long been a hallmark of the NFL championship game build-up.
San Antonio Spurs sharp-shooting guard Marco Belinelli, who is competing in Saturday’s three-pointer contest, was quizzed about cuisine in the south Texas city.
“I‘m from San Antonio. How do you like the Mexican food down there? Do you have a favorite place? What does an Italian in San Antonio enjoy eating?” a reporter asked.
“I need to find one,” answered Belinelli, who is in his second season with the NBA champion Spurs.
“There is a good restaurant in San Antonio for Mexican food but I couldn’t find a good Italian restaurant. It’s a good city.”
International reporters, meanwhile, were out in force, with a hefty Spanish contingent dominating talks with the Gasol brothers, the first siblings to start in an NBA All-Star Game.
More than 1,800 media are covering the NBA All-Star weekend, including a record 534 international media from 52 countries --more than double last year’s total of 265 in New Orleans.
The All-Star weekend features a record 16 international players in a season when a record 101 foreign players were on NBA rosters.
Belinelli’s Spurs are perhaps the most international of all NBA teams, playing a sublime form of team basketball with the help of Argentine Manu Ginobili, Frenchmen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, Australians Patty Mills and Aron Baynes and Brazil’s Tiago Splitter.
“Live the dreams in America and try to do your best to win,” said Belinelli. “A lot of guys from everywhere around the world. Is good.”
Editing by Gene Cherry