Ke$ha becomes NBA fan after Westbrook sings tune

Ke$ha didn’t pay much attention to the NBA until recently when

she realized she had a fan in the league.

The pop star was shown a video of Oklahoma City All-Star Russell

Westbrook singing along to her hit ”Die Young” before a recent

game against the Mavericks.

”It was the cutest, hottest thing ever to see a basketball

player doing that to my song,” Ke$ha said.

Told that Westbrook is known as one of the NBA’s most

fashionable players because of his unique ensembles, Ke$ha wasn’t

surprised.

”I’m sure he is, if he likes my music then he must have good

taste,” she said with a giggle.

Westbrook isn’t the only NBA player who has taken a liking to

Ke$ha’s tunes. She’s also been alerted to other video clips of

ballers enjoying her work.

”Lots of basketball players like to dance around to my songs,

so it’s made me more and more of a fan,” she said.

Ke$ha, who has an upcoming documentary miniseries on MTV called

Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life, headlined a pre-game concert at

Sunday night’s All-Star game.

”It’s really exciting because it was made by just me and my

brother and one of my brother’s friends and we traveled around the

world together,” she said of the documentary. ”It was very

guerrilla style, do-it-yourself capturing everything that you could

imagine or not want to see about my life. The documentary is so

much more intimate than people would expect it to be.”

Another star in town to help out with All-Star festivities was

R&B crooner and nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend.

Legend performed the National Anthem before Sunday night’s game.

Before that he raved about how much he loves basketball.

”I’m a true NBA fan and this is something that I always look

forward to as a fan, and to be a participant in such a big event is

always a good thing,” he said.

Legend’s organized basketball career ended in elementary school,

but his affinity for the game never has.

”I grew up in a family that really had two loves, sports and

music and they were about equal,” he said. ”We grew up big

football and basketball fans and both of my brothers played

basketball very well, but I’m not very good. I always played to

just for fun, but I was always better at music.”

Legend has a new album coming out in June and is looking forward

to seeing how fans will respond to it.

”Everyone always says: `This new one is my best one yet,”’ he

said. ”And I feel like that, too, but I’ll let the people be the

judge. I’m really proud of it, and I feel like it’s a great

statement of where I am in my life and musically right now. I think

people are going to dig it.”

Ludacris, who also performed in the pre-game concert, has been

involved in several All-Star games throughout his career. Still,

the excitement of being involved hasn’t worn off.

”It’s just all in fun and it’s good,” he said. ”It brings a

lot of artists and a lot of players together, and we’re all friends

with each other so we all motivate each other from the players to

the rappers and it’s just good to see everybody.”

Grammy-nominated rapper B.o.B., who is wrapping up a new album,

joined Ke$ha and Ludacris in the pre-game concert. He believes

professional athletes and musicians share similar qualities.

”I think it’s so parallel because you have to pull so much out

of yourself to perform on a professional level,” he said. ”You

can’t be that good at something unless you love doing it.”

Grammy Award-winning singer NeYo performed during player

introductions. He enjoyed the chance to part of such an eclectic

group assembled for the event.

”It is absolutely a blast,” he said. ”Everybody who is

anybody is here, from R&B stars to rappers to just any kind of

celebrity you can think of that is a fan of basketball, so you’re

definitely going to have a good time.”

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SPECIAL TREAT: Past and present NBA stars and WNBA players

joined a dozen Special Olympics athletes in a charity game on

Sunday afternoon.

Dikembe Mutombo, Detlef Schrempf and Chris Mullin were among the

former players and Portland guard Damian Lillard, Denver forward

Kenneth Faried and Golden State forward Harrison Barnes were among

the current ones who participated in the second NBA Cares Special

Olympics Unity Sports game as part of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

WNBA stars Candice Wiggins, Ruth Riley, Nicole Powell and Ticha

Penicheiro also played.

”It’s not about how good you are,” Mutombo said, ”it’s just

about sharing the same value and love on the basketball court, and

in any sport. Just enjoy it.”

NBA commissioner David Stern shook hands with the Special

Olympians before the game and Yao Ming watched from a courtside

seat. Yao and Mutombo are just back from South Korea, where they

watched the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The NBA has partnered with Special Olympics for 30 years, and

the league’s Basketball Without Borders program has sponsored

international basketball clinics for Special Olympics athletes.

Yao became involved with the Special Olympics in 2003, and the

organization’s 2007 Summer Games were held in Shanghai, Yao’s

hometown. Yao greeted the two Chinese players in Sunday’s game,

Jian Gong and Xue Mao.

”Special Olympics is a unified sport,” Yao said. ”We live

together with all kinds of people. We share the same air, the same

day and night. That’s why we come together.”

The dozen Special Olympics players included the two from China,

one from Italy and one from Namibia. Jose Benitez, a player from

Puerto Rico hit a floating shot over the 7-foot-2 Mutombo, second

on the NBA’s list for career blocks.

”Some of them, they can be in any sport, whether in college,

even professional,” Mutombo said. ”They’re good.”

NBA Cares, the league’s charity initiative, and corporate

partner Coca-Cola presented a $50,000 check to the Special Olympics

before the game.

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WHAT IF?: Michael Jordan wonders if he could have won nine

titles. Bill Russell, under different circumstances, could’ve ended

up winning none.

Two of basketball’s greatest champions discussed those aspects

of their careers for programs that will air Monday on NBA TV.

The programs are part of a three-hour block of specials

featuring interviews with three Hall of Famers.

In ”One on One with Ahmad Rashad: Michael Jordan,” Jordan

talks about what could have happened had the Chicago Bulls stayed

together. He retired again and Phil Jackson didn’t return after

they won their sixth title in 1998.

”We have to live the rest of our lives with this idea of, wow

we could have won seven, or we could have won eight, or we could

have won nine,” said Jordan, who turned 50 on Sunday. ”We could

have done all that.”

Russell did all that and more, winning an NBA-record 11

championships with the Boston Celtics. But in ”Mr. Russell’s

House,” he tells ESPN’s Bill Simmons that he never even would have

been an NBA player if he was picked to play elsewhere.

”St. Louis was overwhelmingly racist,” Russell said. ”If I

would have been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn’t be in the NBA. I

would not have gone into the NBA.”

He also talks about an offer he had to come back after retiring

with the Lakers – who already had Wilt Chamberlain playing for

them.

”How would he feel playing backup center?” Russell said he

asked owner Jack Kent Cooke.

The Jordan episode airs at 8 p.m. ET with the Russell special to

follow. The programming wraps up with ”Sir Charles at 50,”

featuring Charles Barkley as he turns 50 talking to Turner Sports

colleague Ernie Johnson after his life.

—–

SLAM DUNK: When Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins to win

the 1988 slam dunk contest, many people thought Wilkins would have

been the champion if the event had been anywhere but Chicago.

Did Jordan?

”We talk about it all the time,” Wilkins said. ”Mike and I

are such great friends, great competitors, and he said, `Hey, if it

was any other arena, it could have turned out different.”’

Wilkins was one of the NBA’s great dunkers, helping make the

slam dunk contest the marquee event of All-Star weekend for many

years. But his losses to Jordan and teammate Spud Webb were

probably more famous than his victories – even if Wilkins wasn’t

too sure he actually lost some of them.

”I did it five times. Won it four, got credit for two,” he

said with a laugh.

He said players during his time never declined to participate

and didn’t even care who won. Those days are gone now, with LeBron

James never dunking and the field filled with such lower-level

names Saturday that it received far less buzz than it did for so

long.

Wilkins said when he competed, he heard fans used to buy tickets

a year in advance for a chance to see the dunkers. And he believes

that level of excitement can return.

”Go back to the old format, get all the top guys to get

involved in it, and you’d have that same pandemonium, trust me,”

he said.

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writer Chris

Duncan contributed to this report.