Monday, October 18, 2010

Been There, Done That: Shawn Bradley

Back in the days when I was working for Alan Osmond Productions, one of my jobs included arranging for guest tickets to Stadium of Fire. Usually this meant pulling a block of tickets for local sponsors to bring selected guests to the show and having some pretty great reserved seats. Occasionally, we would get a request that was a little more specific: West side, center box or something along that line.

The most unusual, and specific request came to my attention probably in 1991 or 1992 when I was asked to pull a pair of tickets for then BYU’s then-center player on the basketball team, Shawn Bradley.

Now pulling a pair of tickets wasn’t unusual in and of itself; it was the location of the tickets that was much different than any request I’d ever gotten before. First of all, the tickets were to be on the West side, but they needed to be the last seat south on the top row before the nosebleed section and the seat directly in front of it.

“Is Shawn bringing a date that he didn’t want to have sit beside him or something?”I asked the person phoning in the request.

“No, Shawn is coming alone,” the caller told me. “But he needs two seats: one to sit in and the other one for his feet.”

His feet? I thought. Now, I’d never met Shawn Bradley before, so I had no idea why he would need a seat for his feet until I met him at the show that night.

Shawn Bradley is 7' 6" tall! Even with his legs crunched up, there was no way he would be able to put his legs in front of him in those narrow rows. And he couldn’t have anyone sit directly behind him because they would never be able to see.

So, Shawn got to enjoy Stadium of Fire because I was able to accommodate his special seat request.

Flash forward nearly twenty years to this past weekend. I was in Anaheim, enjoying the day at Disneyland with my family when I saw a guy who towered–and I DO mean towered–over everyone else walking through Tomorrowland. I looked, then looked again, trying to be sure.

“Hey, Mike,” I called to my husband. “See that really tall guy?” How could he miss him? “I’m pretty sure it’s Shawn Bradley.”

“Didn’t he play for the Lakers?” my husband asked.

“I can’t remember for sure,” I said, “but I know he played for BYU. I got him seats once for Stadium of Fire. I’m pretty sure that’s him, but he looks a little different.”

“If it’s not him, then I’d still say that guy is an NBA player. Too bad the kids aren’t here right now,” my husband said as we returned to what we were talking about before I spotted him.

Later that evening, as we were leaving the park, Mike and the boys were walking far ahead of me—something they usually do because I can’t keep up—when we passed Shawn again. This time he was seated with his wife and sons, waiting for their bus back to the parking lot.

As I walked past, I could get a good look at his face—he was too far away before in both distance and height—and I knew for sure it was him. Mike turned around to look for me and I jerked my head toward Shawn and mouthed, “Yep. It’s him.”

Another man and his family had stopped to chat with the former NBA star. I motioned for Mike to come back with the boys and we waited for several minutes for the guy to stop talking, but he wasn’t taking the hint that others were waiting and Mike didn’t feel comfortable stepping into the conversation.

I did. I’ve done it many times before when meeting celebrities. HA!

When I got my chance, I stuck my hand out and said, “Lu Ann Staheli. We met several years ago when I was working with Alan Osmond Productions and Stadium of Fire.”

“Wow! That was like twenty years ago,” he said.

“This is my husband, Mike,” I said and then Mike introduced the three boys we had with us in Anaheim.

“Were you in Space Jam?” Chan asked.

“That was me,” Shawn said. The boys talked with him a few more minutes then we were on our way.

“Great segue,” Mike said as we left the park. “You’re much better at that than I am.”

“Practice, I guess. Just lots of practice,” I said.

The next day I found myself daydreaming as we stood in line for food in California Adventure, and I thought, Wonder if Shawn Bradley is back at Disneyland today. I looked over, and there he was. Standing four rows over and three feet taller than anyone else in the line to get a chicken sandwich.

I guess former NBA basketball players need to eat too, especially after a big day visiting Mickey Mouse. But I can’t help but wonder—how does someone like Shawn Bradley get his entire 7' 6" frame bent low enough to fit into the parachutes on a ride like Soarin’Over California?

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