By Sam Alipour
Special to Page 2

LOS ANGELES -- Jason McElwain is running the room.

In the exclusive 2006 ESPYS VIP Green Room backstage -- a setting where LeBron James yuks it up with Ashley Judd and Venus Williams woos Matthew McConaughey and every woman is working on James Blake -- a 17-year-old team manager for his high school squad is calling the shots.

"Kobe Bryant!" J-Mac says, completely ignoring Matt Leinart, who's conversing with the Lakers star. "Kobe, can I get a picture?"

"J-Mac, my man!" Bryant exclaims to the kid who became famous after scoring 20 points in four minutes. "Of course you can."

But J-Mac isn't quite ready to take the picture. No, he pauses to scan the immediate vicinity for stars who are worthy to join in the picture, ignoring LeBron, again dissing Leinart and ultimately settling on Judd, pulling her by the arm and into the frame.

And J-Mac isn't done yet.

"Kobe, give me your phone number," McElwain tells Bryant.

Although Bryant would like to give the kid his number, he has neither the pen nor paper. Not that this deters J-Mac, who commandeers this reporter's pen and notepad, handing them to Bryant. Not that I'm bothered by it. In fact, I'm not even sure I'll ask for my tools back because in this room, J-Mac is king and there are many massive security men swirling about who surely would like to escort me out.

But not before I provide the play-by-play from behind the scenes of the 2006 ESPY Awards -- the spectacle behind the show. Trust me, it's far more fun back here.

THE SHOW BEGINS
Shaun Alexander just won the first award. When he leaves the stage, the groupies are waiting for him -- and they're led by Jimmy Kimmel. "Shaun, I just gave your assistant my contact info," Kimmel says. "Let me know."

"He's hitting me up for some tickets," explains Alexander, who is unbothered by the commotion backstage and, apparently, unfazed by stage fright. "I wasn't nervous at all. I just wanted to keep my speech short and sweet."

BEN STILLER: ALL BUSINESS
While rapper-turned-presenter Andre 3000 practices reading off a teleprompter backstage, a nervous Stiller is pacing back and forth like a madman, reciting his lines to himself: "Bam, the chair. Bam, the chair."

Chris Berman interrupts him: "Break a leg, Ben."

CARMEN ELECTRA AND THE FLYING TOMATO
As Electra calmly feasts at the craft service table, a production assistant is panicking.

"Carmen, you're up," she says. "Let's go."

Carmen quickly has the P.A. check her teeth for food, then hurries to the stage to present an award with Olympic snowboarder Shaun White.

Afterward, White is liking his chances. "Carmen went off script and started flirting with me onstage," White says. "I think I may have a shot."

MATT LEINART AND REGGIE BUSH MAKING THE ROUNDS
Leinart and Bush are doing an interview backstage with "Entertainment Tonight." Afterward, Leinart doesn't look too happy. "Can I get a football question?" Leinart whispers to Bush.

Next up for the ex-Trojans is an interview with Shaun Robinson of "Access Hollywood." Bush tells the camera he wants to meet Mariah Carey when, on cue, Carey rushes past. Robinson yells after the diva: "Mariah, Reggie says he wants to meet you."

As Bush squirms, the diva continues her brisk pace. "I would," Carey says. "But your cameras are in the way."

MAKEUP DATES
While Kimmel gets his face done inside the backstage makeup tent, fellow presenter Mark Wahlberg says he isn't buying.

"There's no way I'm putting on makeup," Wahlberg says. "I gotta go home and play with my kid after this. My daughter already freaked out when she saw me wearing makeup for my movie 'Invincible.' She said, 'Daddy, you're not supposed to be wearing makeup.'"

"Mark is more of a man than I am," Kimmel says later.

WILL FERRELL VS. DANICA PATRICK
After serenading Lance Armstrong on stage, Ferrell -- who plays a NASCAR driver in the upcoming "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" -- gets dissed by Patrick.

"I told him he couldn't handle me on the racetrack," Patrick says. "Neither can Ricky Bobby."

"I can't believe I just got called out by Danica Patrick," Ferrell says. "I don't like Formula 1, anyway."

KOBE AND ALONZO AND D-WADE
Kobe Bryant -- he of the three championship rings -- and his wife, Vanessa, are chatting with Alonzo Mourning, who looks a tad haggard.

"How are you still partying?" Bryant asks Mourning.

"I've been waiting for this for 13 years," Mourning says. "I'm milking every bit of this."

Nearby, Dwyane Wade, who was named "King of Bling" at the GM All-Car Showdown, talks about his wheels. "I won it with my H2 Hummer with the 30-inch rims," Wade says. "Real 30-inch rims, not like Reggie Bush with his 28."

"But I don't know how I'm going to get the trophy back to Miami."

GO, LONGHORNS
After a long embrace with Judd, UT fan McConaughey intently watches the presentation of the Best Team Award on the Green Room flat screen. When Texas loses out to the Steelers, I ask him whether he's disappointed.

"Dude," he says, looking at me as though I'd just asked to play with his hair. "It's just an awards show. I could care less."

JAMES BLAKE GETTING MUCH LOVE ... FROM MR. BELDING
Blake excuses himself from a conversation with Venus Williams to grab a drink at the open bar. "Tell them to put it on my tab," Williams says.

Because the bar in question obviously serves complementary drinks, this is a smooth line from Venus. Problem is, she's just one of 400 young (and old) women who've been working on Blake, recently named one of People mag's "Sexiest Men Alive." Not that he's gloating.

"I've been getting grief in the locker room," Blake says of his newfound recognition. "And I'm rolling with six guys tonight, so it hasn't helped me here, either."

In fact ...

"The most love I got tonight was from Mr. Belding from 'Saved By The Bell,'" he continues. "I was a big fan of 'Saved By the Bell,' but now that I've told you that, I'm sure that'll only repel the girls some more."

LANCE ARMSTRONG EMERGES UNSCATHED
The show is over, and Armstrong leaves the stage looking content. "I loved it," Armstrong says, whipping a towel across his shoulder. "I hope everyone else did."

Berman overhears this and sends some words of encouragement. "Great job, Lance," Berman says. "It's official, you can give up your day job."

"It was a challenge," Armstrong continues. "I trained hard for this, but we had a great crew and a great team of writers who made me look good."

"It was one of the highlights of my life," he says.

LEBRON MAKES A MOVE
Although the awards show is over, the party in the Green Room is still going strong. So is James, who'd just begun chatting up Judd when a TV crew hurriedly rushed to their side, throttling them with lights and cameras and dork sweat.

After ESPN kills LeBron's game, he leads me on a tour of the Green Room.

And now I'm feeling weird because LeBron James is leading me around the party with his arm around my shoulder and I'm enjoying this show of affection far too much for my own liking.

"This is amazing," James says. "To see all of these athletes and celebrities around each other, it doesn't get any better than this.

"I mean, I've done my commercials, but nothing compares to rubbing elbows with these stars."

I know the feeling. Sadly, Judd will not.

THE ELDERS
Doug Flutie, Bill Cowher and Berman are talking about the art of the two-point play. Later, they will discuss the art of knitting sweaters.

BIG BEN ON THE MEND
As T.O. scarfs down shrimp, a young woman nearby is giving her phone number to Ben Roethlisberger.

"I'm sure you get this all of the time," she says with a giggle.

"I really don't," he says.

Clearly, he wields a lie as well as he does a football.

AWKWARD MOMENT OF THE NIGHT
Judd is jabbering on with Wade, leaving Gary Payton out of the conversation. This is because Judd apparently has no idea who Payton is.

"I'm sorry," she finally says to Payton. "What's your name?"

"Gary," he says. "Gary Payton."

"Gary, so nice to meet you," she responds warmly. "Do you play with Dwyane?"

This exchange makes me squirm, but Payton is a better man than most. "I'm a big fan of your movies," Payton tells Judd.

WE'RE ALL FULL
The music dies and the party is about to join it, so I leave the Green Room and make my way outside, where I spot a very attractive young woman who's looking none too pleased while chatting with a dismissive security guard.

"But I'm with LeBron," she pleads with the man at the door. "Can't you just let me in?"

"Sorry, honey, LeBron only has a 'plus one,' and we already let three girls in," the dude says.

"We're all full."

Yes, we are.

Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles and writes the Media Blitz column for ESPN The Magazine.




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THE GREEN ROOM