Now that we're down to the Final 7, it's time to start bringing in the celebrity judges. For Round 5, I recruited one of the most famous celebrity brothers in Hollywood history -- a man who appeared in the first three Rockys, the guy who gave us the "Staying Alive" theme song, the Jeremy Giambi to Sly Stallone's Jason Giambi ... the one, the only Frank Stallone.
(Just kidding ... wanted to see what it would look like in print.)
We actually have Chuck Klosterman for this round. You know him as the monthly columnist for Spin Magazine, Esquire and Oui Magazine, as well as the author of "Fargo Rock City," "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" and the upcoming "Killing Yourself to Live" (coming out this summer). Just nine months ago, we exchanged e-mails and posted them on ESPN.com for an entire day, a harmless idea that drove all the people who spend their days using anonymous names to rip writers on message boards into an absolute frenzy. Now he's back to help out with the intern contest for a round.
Here was Chuck's question for the group:
"LET US ASSUME you have been sentenced to serve 30-years-to-life at a maximum security prison for a crime you did not commit. You will share a 12x12 foot cell with someone of your own gender for the totality of this prison sentence. This person will essentially become your whole life: He (or she) will be your closest friend, confidant, protector, and companion. Almost every conversation you have for the next three decades will be with this singular person, and -- when exercising in the prison yard -- your ankle will be chained to this individual.
"This is the person you will share the rest of your existence with.
"And somewhat coincidentally, this cellmate will happen to be a current NBA (or WNBA) player.
"If given the choice of all active hoopsters, who would you select to spend your life in prison with (and why)?"
So that was the question. If I were in the contest, my answer would have been Antoine Walker -- if he could singlehandly turn around the 2005 Celtics, I'd be anxious to see what he could do in a maximum-security prison. But our seven finalists had other ideas. Here were their answers. We'll announce who was voted off on Thursday.
THE FINALISTS -- ROUND 5 (ELIMINATED): 1-2
FINALIST NO. 1
Name: Matt Bank
College: Dartmouth College, 2004
Residence: New York, NY
Current Job: Structured finance paralegal
I learned from "The Shawshank Redemption" some invaluable lessons about cellblock chemistry that transfer well to this latest installment of The Contest:
1. Don't make friends with Bogs Diamond.
2. Don't make enemies with Bogs Diamond.
3. Stay away from Bogs Diamond.
4. Tim Robbins probably still can't throw a baseball without looking like he's cruelly handicapped.
All right, maybe I didn't learn that much, but obviously prison's a brutal place; an independent society of lunatics and deviants contained behind the inscrutable reflection of barbaric social norms and sexual desperation -- The Surreal Life: San Quentin. I'd rather not go.
Keep in mind my stats: 6'0", 165 lbs. I wasn't exactly born with the "powerhouse" gene. Unfortunately for everyone, that went to my sister, so I'm sure most NBA players would provide a toughness upgrade I'll badly need in the big house, excepting, of course, Kyle Korver, Yao Ming, Doug Christie, and Oliver Miller after a box of Moon Pies. Insidious backstabbers like Kobe are out, along with funny-accented foreigners -- even ones like Peja who might defer advances from other cons by appearing filthy. Shaq's too space-consuming, Troy Hudson can't shave, Ray Allen frequently looks like he has terrible gas, Sam Cassell's eyes are way too close to his ears, and as much as I respect the eternalness of Kevin Willis, I just don't trust him without the knee and elbow pads.
I would unequivocally select to be my 30-to-life cellmate Quentin Richardson just so I could ask him why he and Darius Miles do that ridiculous two-fists-against-the-head celebration after they score. Maybe I'm putting all my eggs in one basket here, but, frankly, that fists quirk really bothers me. Why the hell does he do that? Stuck in a cell for the rest of my life is one thing, but I'm not prepared to sit in the prison Rec Room watching games that whole time saying, "Why the hell does he do that?" You can take my freedom, but you'll never take my capacity to be really annoyed by dumb things.
Here's how I envision it:
Me: Why the hell do you do that?
Quentin: As a tribute to Cypress Hill's memorable 1993 hit, "Insane in the Brain."
Me: Oh. Huh.
I guess then we'd have to find something else to talk about: Where'd he find Brandy a decade after she's done anything worthwhile? Does MC Lyte prefer NFL guys or something? Can I call him Q-Ball or Q-Bert? Is the guy in Van Wilder really as cool as everyone thinks?
Oh yeah, 30-to-life would fly by.
FINALIST NO. 2
Name: Kevin Cott
College: University of Georgia, 2002
Residence: Atlanta, GA
Current Job: law school student
The task is to find a cellmate who could conceivably be my "Red." Based on the overall vibe I get from his TNT persona, my ideal choice would be Kenny Smith. However, the "current player" limitation makes the question far more difficult. Although I love the NBA and share the delusional idolatry for its players of your average ten-year-old, I recognize that most of these guys will not be solving life's mysteries anytime soon. I really just want to find someone as far from Ruben Patterson as possible.
To aid my decision, I have created an extremely complex formula that scores each player from 0 to 100 based on their cellmate compatibility. I've taken the liberty of ranking every current NBA player, but due to word constraints, will only be listing a select few and their corresponding scores.
Here are some players who I'd never choose:
•Nick Van Exel (0) -- I cannot think of a single thing that he brings to the table.
•Michael Olowokandi (22) -- distracted by clouds, he'd be oblivious to the angry mob pummeling me in the prison yard.
•Chris Andersen (45) -- clearly a raving lunatic. High probability of being shot down from the tower when Chris whispers, "it's time for the Birdman to fly," dragging me along as he makes a run for it.
•Ruben Patterson (-150) -- harshly penalized for potential to "turn" in a way that would violate my personal space. Corliss Williamson, Eddie Griffin, and the rest of the Blazers received similar penalties.
High scores included Shaq (86), Tim Duncan (89), and Grant Hill (91), but the clear winner is ...
-Yao (95) -- remember how funny it was to watch the Francis/Yao dynamic? They were like a great comedy team. Francis would say "Yao this" and "Yao that," and Yao would just roll with it as the perfect straight man. That's how I picture us in prison. He'd be Teller to my Penn, Silent Bob to my Jay. Also, watching Regular Yao transform to Prison Yao would be hilarious. I picture Prison Yao developing a pimp strut and rockin' the Tupac bandana. More importantly, Yao seems to possess infinite wisdom -- think Phil Jackson without the pretension. I believe that, in my darkest times, Yao would always know just the right thing to say (I'm not even kidding). And finally, Yao might not provide the protection of the Diesel, but he's still a 7'6 wild card.
THE FINALISTS -- ROUND 5 (ELIMINATED): 1-2