Special to Page 2
LOS ANGELES -- Not everyone was bowled over by the star power of the people collecting swag at the ESPY Style Studio. Talking on her dad's cell to her coach while trying on a pair of Donald J Pliner shoes, 13-year-old golfer and Best Moment nominee Dakoda Dowd was asked what luminaries were around. "Nobody, really," she replied. "Just a bunch of millionaires."
But the Crown Royal Suite was the center of the party. And the most appreciated swag seemed to be the wireless iPod accessories provided by Speck Products, the "Orb" iPod speakers by mStation and the plush leather reclining home theater seats customized to each player's team, courtesy of DreamSeats.com.
Of particular interest to Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning in the DreamSeats.com suite was the chair with the NBA championship logo as well as the Miami Heat logo. Settling into the sweet red and black cocoon, Mourning had Shaq on his mind. "I think the Big Fella would be able to fit in this one."
Meanwhile, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward wanted one with "MVP" embroidered into the chair's back.
Olympic silver medalist and X Games snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler toured the Studio with a fellow X Gamer, skier Kristi Leskinen. At Cierge -- Sony's personal electronics shopping service -- they learned that everything they buy through the program comes with breakage coverage, a major relief for athletes who hurl themselves through the air with abandon and don't always land gracefully. "That's important for us," Leskinen laughed.
Not all Style Studio gifts were useful for everyone. World champion figure skater and Best Breakthrough Athlete nominee Kimmie Meissner was given a $5,000 gift certificate for rims (courtesy of American Racing), and another $5K to have Outlaw Motorsports customize her ride. A tricked-out rig might be a step or two ahead of the carless 16-year-old. "I just got my permit," she said.
Meissner also revealed she wasn't above ESPY ballot stuffing, but the rules wouldn't let her. "I could only vote once. They would only let you vote once. I was very disappointed. I would have sat there every day."
Her dad, however, is a big Alexander Ovechkin fan, also nominated as a Breakthrough Athlete. "He said to me, 'If you hadn't voted on our computer, I would have voted for him.' Then he said he was kidding."
Former Heat and current Cavs guard Damon Jones, also known as a world champion talker, was an unofficial host for ESPN Original Entertainment's inside look into ESPY Week -- he dubbed himself the "behind-the-scenes ambassador." He managed to secure an on-camera reunion with former teammates Wade and Mourning. Big 'Zo ribbed Jones mercilessly about his tight shirt. "You got my son's shirt on," he said. "You can see his heart beat." Jones shook off the criticism. "It's Euro, man," he replied. Said Jones of Wade, "I took the man to another level."
Jones was working for free. "I'm not getting paid this time. Next year, I'm going to request pay because I feel like I'm too good to be doing this for free. I've got a face for TV."
By the way, seen swapping phone numbers? Mourning and Randy Jackson.
Mourning also spent some serious time with Outlaw Motors, getting the lowdown on how long it would take to find, restore and customize a silver '69 Cutlass with a drive top. The answer? About eight months to a year. Worth the wait for 'Zo, whose love of classic cars is founded in memories of his childhood and his grandfather.
Reggie Bush might be an ESPY veteran, but he was a Style Suite newbie. "We couldn't take this stuff last year," said the Trojan-turned-Saint. With the eyes of the world trained on Southern Cal, Bush's leaving the '05 Style Studio with a mountain of swag would have had the NCAA watchdogs smelling blood.
The most secretive stop in the Style Studio belonged to Marchon Eyewear. Their closed-door "eye makeovers" were off limits to media. "I can't really give you too much behind the scenes. A lot of stuff went on back there," Bucs linebacker Ryan Nece said of his custom fitting. "He didn't even give me the option to pick. He's a little bit like the Soup Nazi, so I didn't want to make him mad. No sunglasses for you! I didn't want that. But I got one of the nicest pair of sunglasses I've ever had. He knows his thing."
Chris Paul left with a nice haul from the Studio. "I had no clue that I'd receive all these different things," he said. "Unbelievable." The NBA Rookie of the Year was looking forward to taking in the whole red carpet thing at his first ESPYS, and meeting people of whom he's a fan -- particularly Jason McElwain. "I'm going to probably try to get his autograph if I can."