When we last checked in on the formerly East Rutherford/ currently Newark/ soon-to-be-Brooklyn New Jersey Nets a year or so ago, they were stumbling out to an 0-18 start en route to a near record-breaking 12-70 NBA season. They had all the curb appeal of a tollbooth on the Garden State Parkway crossbred with a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.
One year later, the Nets still stink, but – ooh la la! – there is a smell of Old Spice in the air and – forget curb appeal – this hunk of hoopland is oozing with sex appeal.
These days, Prudential Center in Newark looks more like Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
Nets forward Kris Humphries is dating sexy reality-TV superstar Kim Kardashian.
Nets guard Sasha Vujacic is engaged to sexy tennis almost-superstar Maria Sharapova.
Nets part-owner Jay-Z – sexy himself, I’m told – is married to uber-sexy singing superstar Beyonce.
And, frankly, the sexiest appeal to these Nets is their new majority owner, Russian billionaire bon vivant Mikhail Prokhorov. But we’ll get back to him later.
So how did Kris Humphries – a career 5.0 points-a-game scorer, the poster boy for NBA anonymity – land Kim Kardashian? Some people think there’s a Kardashian on every corner in L.A. Oh, no. There’s just a handful of them, and you need major coin and beaucoup swag to walk into a high-end Beverly Hills joint with a K-Girl hanging on your well-toned arm.
The Sisters Kardashian – Kim, Khloe and Kourtney – are fame perfectionists. Khloe is married to the Lakers’ Lamar Odom. Kim once dated Reggie Bush, the ’05 Heisman Trophy winner who returned it earlier this year (luckily, he had kept the receipt). Kourtney and her sisters appeared on the Season 3 premiere of “90210” – they played themselves (who else were they going to play, the Jonas Brothers?).
I mean, you can’t even keep up with the Kardashians unless you’re watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and reading their recent autobiography, “Kardashian Konfidential.”
Honestly, I don’t now how Humphries does it – half his day he’s trying to make sure the humdrum Nets get better, the other half he’s trying to make sure Kim’s nail-salon appointment doesn’t conflict with her tanning-salon appointment.
(Column Intermission: The Wall Street Journal – continuing its painting- by-numbers approach to sports – breathlessly reported last week that, in 163 college-bowl games over the last five years, the team that traveled further is 83-80. No word from the Journal on the difference between teams that checked in baggage and those that placed their larger carry-on items in the overhead bin.)
Meanwhile, the mercurial Jay-Z somehow hip hops between the mean streets and Main Street. Google his rap lyrics – I can’t print them here, not because this is a family newspaper, but because I wouldn’t print them anywhere – and you’ll find a trail of profane proclamations, coarse talk and graphic sexual references (and those are the love ballads).
Yet Jay-Z remains a Mainstream USA entrepreneur: Record mogul, club owner, clothing line, Budweiser Select kingfish, NBA part-owner. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Beyonce were having dinner right now with David Stern on his way to helping President Obama with foreign policy.
Anyway, for all of the Nets’ sudden sex appeal, nobody is steamier than their new poo-bah, 6-foot-7 industrialist Mikhail Prokhorov. He’s the NBA’s tallest and wealthiest owner. He’s the 39th richest person in the world and the second-richest man in Russia, behind some guy who couldn’t get Kim Kardashian on the phone if his life depended on it.
He graduated from Moscow Finance Institute (I believe they are the Ragin’ Cajuns) and he runs the company that is Russia’s largest gold producer (not the cheap stuff G. Gordon Liddy is hawking at 4 a.m.).
But here’s the best part: Prokhorov reportedly doesn’t own a cell phone, doesn’t have an e-mail address, doesn’t Twitter and doesn’t sit courtside every game shouting at officials. He’s the anti-Mark Cuban – America’s new Big Sexy, and he now runs Couch Slouch’s favorite 9-21 team.
Ask The Slouch
Q. As a literate man, can you explain to your semi-literate followers why 34-year-old Ryan Leaf is penning his autobiography in a three-book set? (David Gold; Beaumont, Texas)
A. I believe Winston Churchill also wrote three volumes of memoirs, and his life wasn’t nearly as absorbing or riveting as Leaf’s.
Q. Has any franchise ever offered to compensate you if you agree to refrain from picking it as a Team of Destiny? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Hey, pal, the Eagles are knocking on destiny’s door and I’ve got enough Ben Franklins to fix the crack in the Liberty Bell.
Q. How many times during a televised football game do you think an announcer can tell us that a challenge replay has to be conclusive for the call to be overturned? (Darrell LaMotte; Butler, Pa.)
A. An average of 1 1/2 times per replay; for an NFL Network game with Matt Millen and Joe Theismann, multiply that number by 3.