Editor’s note: This column was originally published in 2001. We’re re-running it here at Grantland in honor of Paul Thomas Anderson Week.
I wanted to post a review of the offseason moves in the NBA, and I wanted to write about Boogie Nights … hence, we’re combining the two! Instead of simple offseason awards, I’m handing out 33 memorable quotes from “Boogie Nights” to NBA players and teams.
Without question, Boogie Nights boasts one of the best ensemble casts of all time.
Why 33? Come on, you really need to ask? (Here’s a hint: He’s the Basketball Jesus.)
Why Boogie Nights? For one thing, the themes of the movie should ring true for NBA fans: sex; drugs; insta-success; struggles adjusting to success; garish spending sprees; chemistry problems; cheesy gimmicks; more sex; more drugs; ludicrous characters; goofy nicknames; even more sex; sudden, sweeping failure; and subtle comedy galore.The movie moved into my personal pantheon when HBO started showing it 24 hours a day for about nine consecutive months back in ’98; sometimes a movie just grows on you, especially one with this many nuances (that’s the best way I can describe it: It grows on you). And once you’ve conditioned yourself to the fact that the last 45 minutes of the movie are more depressing than that Ed Burns has dated Christy Turlington and Heather Graham in the same lifetime, you can kick back and enjoy those nuances and accept the movie for what it was: a superb, original, well-done and well-acted movie that might have been the best ensemble piece of the ’90s.Or maybe I’m completely insane.
On to the awards …
1. “Wanna hear a poem I wrote? ‘I love you, you love me. Going down the sugar tree. We’ll go down the sugar tree, and see lots of bees: playing, playing. But the bees won’t sting, because you love me.’ That’s it.”
To the team everyone wants to love, the L.A. Clippers. They’ll hit rock bottom again when Miles, Odom and Brand flee town for greener pastures someday, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Clips have an “America’s Team” feel for the first time in eons. I mean, is there anyone not on this bandwagon? They might even be frisky two years from now in a “1994 Montreal Expos” kind of way.
2. “Can I kiss you? Please? Can I kiss you on the mouth? Please let me.”
To Christian Laettner. He must have felt this way about MJ after the Wizards offered him $21 million over four years. And just for the record, redheaded Scottie begging Dirk Diggler to kiss him on the mouth was the most unexpectedly disturbing/haunting movie scene of the ’90s that didn’t involve the words “Bring out the Gimp.”
3. “This is hi-fi, OK? High fidelity. You know what that means? That means this is the highest quality fidelity. Hi-fi. Two very important things in a stereo system.”
To Seattle. At this point, the Sonics are doing everything short of putting Gary Payton on eBay with ALL-STAR POINT GUARD in the listing. Any takers? Anyone?
4a. “Do you have any coke at this party?”
4b. “Oh, I’m sure we can find some somewhere.”
To the Detroit Pistons. Brimming with cap space, the Pistons’ big summer moves were (1) handing out $33 million over six years for Corliss Williamson (that isn’t a misprint), and (2) dealing for Cliff Robinson (apparently Alex English and Larry Nance weren’t available). That reminds me — here’s a math equation for all you aspiring Will Huntings out there:
(Cold weather teams + lots of cap space) x (free agency) = ???????
(Answer: The lottery!)
6. “I’m looking forward to seeing you in action, Eddie. Jack says you have a great big (expletive). May I see it? [Long pause.] Well, thank you, Eddie.”
To the Kings. They made the most underrated deal of the offseason (Jason Williams for Mike Bibby). Sacramento’s point guard play has been killing the Kings for two seasons running — they couldn’t find anyone who could play defense, distribute the ball and make an open jumper. Bibby’s a perfect fifth wheel for them. Meanwhile, White Chocolate will thrive on a dreadful team in Memphis, once again proving the World B. Free Corollary:
Some guys were just meant to play for bad teams.
(Note: There’s comedy, there’s high comedy … and then there’s the “Well, thank you, Eddie” scene with the Colonel and the future Dirk Diggler. Why did they jail the Colonel in the second half of the movie? Couldn’t they have spun him off into an HBO sitcom about a porn producer called The Colonel? Tell me that wouldn’t be better than Arli$$. Actually, a root canal’s probably better than Arli$$. Let’s just move on.)
7a. “How old are you?”
7b. “Oh, I have a work permit, I have all the papers …”
8. “It’s like Napoleon, when he was the king, you know, people were just constantly trying to conquer him, you know, in the Roman Empire. So, it’s history repeating itself all over again.”
To the Portland Trail Blazers. For the 87th straight season, they brought in an accomplished, second-tier star (Derek Anderson), overpaid him ($48 million over six years) and put him in a situation where he’ll battle for minutes and shots. This team will finally fall under the cap again in the year 2029.
9. “Lemme tell you something you don’t know — I know a lawyer, you understand? You might think I don’t, but I do, and I’ll take you to court!”
To the Joe Smith saga. Finally, mercifully, it’s over … and he’s back in Minnesota. Never again in your lifetime will a career 14-point scorer cause this much of an NBA ruckus.
10a. “This is the best work we’ve ever done.”
10b. “Yeah, it’s a real film, Jack.”
To the Toronto Raptors, who defied the odds by keeping their major free agents (Alvin Williams, Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams) and even securing a $5 million trade exemption from the Oakley trade to make a run at another free agent. One more key addition, and they might even be the Eastern favorites … heck, they might even convince Vince Carter to play his entire career in Canada!
(On second thought … nahhhhhh.)
11. “She’s the best. She’s a wonderful mother, you know? She’s a mother to all those who need love.”
One of the funniest quotes in the movie (Jack Horner’s description of coke addict/porn actress Amber Waves) goes to the always-hysterical Nets. They inexplicably offered $33 million over six years to Todd MacCulloch. Are they going to make MacCulloch grow a Mike Gminski beard just to complete the G-Mo effect? Is it a rule that a white stiff center needs to be signed to a lucrative, multi-year contract every few years just to keep everyone on their toes? And can a team be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before the season if their starting center combo is Todd MacCulloch and Jim McIllvane?
(Here’s the best part: The Sixers haven’t decided whether they should match New Jersey’s offer sheet yet. I’m telling you, I should be running one of these teams.)
12. “I’m a [expletive] idiot. I’m a [expletive] idiot. I’m a [expletive] idiot.”
To Tim Duncan. Deep down, you know Duncan is kicking himself for staying in San Antonio for three more years. It’s not like David Robinson is going to do better against Shaq next season. And it’s not like the Derek Anderson–Steve Smith exchange will help the team’s chances of defending Kobe Bryant next season. Orlando must be look pretttttttttty good right about now.
13a. “Do these characters have names?”
13b. “My character’s name is Brock Landers.”
13c. “My character’s name is Chest Rockwell.”
13d. “Those are great names!”
To the L.A. Lakers. They added three capable veterans to the mix (Mitch Richmond, Samaki Walker and the always-underrated Lindsay Hunter), giving them the best supporting cast they’ve had during the entire Kobe-Shaq Era. Scary thought.
(The Brock-Chest stuff still cracks me up, by the way, even after the 700th viewing. I wanted to dress up as Brock last Halloween, but none of my friends would agree to be Chest and wear the sleeveless red vest. Oh well.)
14. “I like simple pleasures, like … lollipops in my mouth. That’s just me. That’s just something that I enjoy.”
To your buddy Sports Guy. Not only was this one of the watershed quotes in the movie, it also sums up my feeling about NBA trades in general. I was actually driving to Connecticut when I first heard word of the Kidd-Marbury trade; I was so flustered and overwhelmed that it practically sent me careering into a guardrail. Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury!?!?!?!?!?!?! Good God!!!!!!!
By the way, I have no life.
Speaking of that trade …
15. “Come on, be a little bit more respectful! This is Rollergirl!”
To the Suns. You knew they would shake things up, but did they really have to exile J-Kidd to New Jersey? Shouldn’t there be an NBA rule that reads, “Any point guard who can run a fast break and actually cares about getting his teammates involved should not be allowed to play for a crappy team that’s off the radar map?”
I feel bad just thinking about Kidd wearing a Nets uniform, the same way I felt bad when John C. Reilly popped up in Never Been Kissed and For Love of the Game two years ago. Some things are just out of our control.
16. “When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign — it just blows up because the name is so powerful. … It says … DIRK DIGGLER.”
To Marbury. From all accounts, his biggest problems in New Jersey revolved around the fact that he couldn’t handle playing with lousy teammates on a lousy team. Now he’s in a lively NBA city, in good weather, with better teammates on a team that desperately needed a GTG (go-to guy) … and as an added bonus, he hasn’t had his breakout year yet. Right guy, right place, right time, just like Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner’s pool party back in the late ’70s. You’ve been warned.
17. “We want something else from you … in the master bedroom, under the bed, in a floor safe. Understand? We want what is in the [expletive] safe in the [expletive] master bedroom in the [expletive] floor safe!”
To Chris Webber. He tortured Kings fans for almost 12 months, finally parlaying his “I’m not sure I like it here … OK, twist my arm” situation into a seven-year, $123 million deal, despite the fact that he lacked any other realistic suitors. Pretty impressive deal for a 28-year-old guy who’s never been past the second round, no?
The goofiest exchange in the movie goes to the goofiest ongoing gag of the year … the fact that Vancouver’s franchise is now calling itself the “Memphis Grizzlies.” The Memphis Grizzlies??? Did you ever think the NBA would come up with a more ludicrous name than the “Utah Jazz” in your lifetime? Now I’m rooting for the “San Diego Timberwolves” and the “Montreal Heat” to happen.
19. “These movies we make, they can be better. They can help, they really can. I’m gonna keep trying, if you guys keep trying. Let’s keep rockin’ and rollin’, man!”
To the NBA. There has to be a better system than the current one, which allows borderline All-Stars to hold their teams hostage for nine-figure contracts. Did you ever think somebody would utter the sentence, “Allan Houston signed for $100 million today”? Have you watched the Mavs and thought to yourself, $90 million probably isn’t enough for Michael Finley — he’s gotta be worth more than that!
20. “Everyone’s blessed with one special thing.”
To Chris Dudley. Has C-Dud been traded to every team in the league yet? This guy’s been passed around more times than Lamar Odom’s bong.
21. “You know what, I’m the biggest star here, that’s the way it is! … You’re not my boss! You’re not the king of me! I am the [expletive] king of Dirk!”
To Dirk Nowitzki … I mean, who else would this go to? (By the way, when they finally release the Very Best of Mark Cuban DVD, I’m hoping for a bonus outtake where Cuban and Nowitzki reenact the poolside argument from Boogie Nights when Jack Horner fired Dirk Diggler. Can you imagine Cuban screaming, “I’m not gonna film you right now … not in this condition!” and Dirk screaming back in a German accent, “You’re not the boss of me!” while Steve Nash held him back? This needs to happen.)
22. “I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I am a big, bright, shining star.”
To Isaiah Rider. You know J.R.’s looking into a mirror right now and telling himself this.
23a. “I think maybe she did too much coke.”
23b. “Oh, you think so, doctor?”
To the Knicks … $27 million and five years for Clarence Weathersoon??? How many undersize power forwards can one team have? What’s the limit? Is there room on the preseason roster for Byron Houston, Jerome Lane and Randy White?
24. “Hey, Jack? Do you want me to use a Spanish accent?”
To nobody … this line’s too good. I’m keeping it for myself.
(If you’re scoring at home, this is what Diggler asks Horner right before they start filming a scene for “Spanish Pantalones” — Reason No. 245 why Boogie Nights is one of my favorite movies of all time.)
25. “You can’t do anything. You’re a loser. You’ve always been a loser.”
To the Nuggets. Their big free-agent signing was $7 million and three years for Avery Johnson, with a one-year option on the giant salad fork sticking out of his back. Maybe they can throw him into a $47 million backcourt with last year’s big free agent signing, Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Don’t these teams have scouts?
26. “My [expletive] wife has a [expletive] in her [expletive] in the driveway, all right? I’m sorry if my thoughts are not on the photography of the film we’re shooting tomorrow, OK? All right?”
To Miami coach Pat Riley. He’s losing Anthony Mason, Bruce Bowen and Tim Hardaway, his francise center is a medical question mark, he’s handicapped by the salary cap because two borderline, “We’re never taking you anywhere past the second round”–level All-Stars (Eddie Jones and Brian Grant) are hogging his salary cap, he can’t seem to land any free agents, and he actually told his secretary, “Can you get me J.R. Rider’s agent on the phone?” this week. All Riley’s summer needs is another Magic Johnson comeback.
27. “You can work out in the morning, you can work out at noon, you can work out at night. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have those juices flowing in the Mr. Torpedo area in the fun zone.”
To the Magic. Horace Grant and Patrick Ewing? Are they trying to reconstruct the 1993 Eastern Conference All-Star Team? Why not spend all of their $4.5 million exemption on someone like Marc Jackson, who could have actually helped them? Hey, at least Magic GM John Gabriel finally has a third and a fourth for those games of canasta on the charter jet.
28. “He’s not gonna piss in the pool, is he?”
To Ruben Patterson. The Sonics forward added a whole new dimension to the free-agency wish list this summer: the “I’d rather play in a city where I don’t have to register as a sex offender” dimension.
29a. “You still hungry?”
29c. “Why don’t you feast on that?”
To Charles Barkley. Keep eating, Chuck. We need you on TV. We’re begging you. Don’t get in shape. Have another slice. And another. And another.
30. “Jack? I could do it again, if you need a close-up.”
To Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s sitting in the driver’s seat right now with multiple suitors (Toronto, Houston, Miami, Indiana, etc.). It’s a feel-good story; Hakeem’s my favorite “38-year-old future Hall of Fame center prone to blood clots who almost retired last year and might or might not have a couple of years left in the tank” guy in the league.
(While we’re on the subject of guys hanging around, how ’bout Burt Reynolds making his triumphant Hollywood comeback in Boogie Nights? I kept waiting for him to break into Dirk Diggler’s dressing room and perform one of his Longest Yard speeches near the end of the movie: “We’ve come too far to stop now. For the Colonel, for Todd Parker … for Little Bill. Let’s do it.”)
31. “After all is said and done … you never walk, you never run (you’re a winner!) … you got the rules, you know the streets … break the rules, take the heat (you’re nobody’s fool!) … you’re at your best when the going gets rough … you’ve been put to the test, but it’s never enough … YOU GOT THE TOUCH! You got the power!”
To Michael Jordan. For God’s sake, just come back already.
32. “I don’t need to get a new look, the look I have is just fine — chocolate love. One hundred percent!”
To Patrick Ewing. His testimony during the Gold Club trial last week was unequivocally the comedic highlight of the summer. From the sound of things, Ewing’s performance at the Gold Club was his finest work against a double team since the ’94 playoffs. It even inspired Ewing Theory scholars to wonder if the whole Ewing/Gold Club situation had Ewing Theory potential.
Think about it … after Ewing left the club, did the strippers immediately start performing better lap dances and showing more intensity on the stage? Hmmmm.
33. “I got a feeling that beneath those jeans, there’s something wonderful waiting to get out.”
To Ewing again. Here’s an actual excerpt from his testimony: “The girls danced, started fondling me, I got aroused, they performed oral sex. I hung around a little bit and talked to them, then I left.”
(The NBA . . . it’s FANNNNNNN-tastic! I love this game!)