LAS VEGAS -- People get into the business of sports because they can't play them. Worn-out stars and non-athletes alike buy, manage and coach teams so they can derive some vicarious joy from the physical excellence of others. But deep down, everyone wishes they could take the field.
Daryl Morey showed up to his ping-pong tournament in a bright red, breathable Under Armour shirt, basketball shorts and sneakers. The event was in a cavernous, nightclub-like event room in the Palms and most of the folks attending were appropriately dressed up. But while everyone else mingled and drank, there was Morey, working up a lather at one of the tables in the room's center while music boomed and lights flashed overhead.
Morey holds what is now a yearly Las Vegas Summer League diversion to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, but also to style on fools. Basketball people and media alike are invited to attend and donate to buy a spot in the tournament bracket. This year, we stingy internet people were scared off by the hefty buy-in, so Morey just went ahead and covered everyone's donations to fill out the bracket. So we signed up. Daryl Morey paid a bunch of money to charity so bloggers could join his ping-pong tournament.
Updated bracket: pic.twitter.com/5lkpyixxTu— Adam Reisinger (@AdamReisinger) July 17, 2014
I got routed by Nuggets executive Ben Tenzer in the first round and Robby Kalland got worked by retired NBA journeyman Ryan Bowen. It was uneventful. But SB Nation NBA contributor Tyler Lashbrook drew a first-round matchup with Morey and lived to tell the tale. Let's talk to Lashy:
There must have been a warm-up, right? What was the feeling-out process like?
He was pretty focused. I'm not sure he scouted me. I'm one of those guys who played a lot as a 13-year-old and haven't seen a ping pong table since. I was good then, but that was nearly a decade ago at this point.
Morey and I went back-and-forth a bit to feel each other out before playing. Well, it wasn't really feeling out. He just kept sending serves that I couldn't return. Then a guy in a referee outfit came over and told us it was time to play for real.
The matches were best-of-three-games to 11, and word has it you nearly took the first game. How did that go?
I definitely made him uncomfortable. I think I scored eight or nine points. But he wasn't really trying.
He had this amazing serve that would slice in different directions. Every time my paddle touched the ball, it would fly off the table. But he didn't use it nearly at all in the first game. He started coaxing me with easy serves, because I was not worthy of the Devil's Cut.
He chuckled a little when he realized I couldn't return his real serve. But he didn't use it much at all in the first game. In the second game, though...
He just smoked you in the second game?
If we were playing NBA Jam, Morey was definitely on fire in the second game. I suppose I pestered him enough in the first game to deserve an ass-kicking in the second. He got up 6-0 early. I made some ground, but not enough.
On the final point, I returned his serve a little high and he spiked the shit out of the ball. It went flying off into the crowd and I heard a few laughs. I was a man stranded on Daryl Morey Island with nothing but a measly ping pong paddle. He ended me with the force of a 1,000 men.
Did you talk any shit? Like smash the ball and scream "CHRIS BOSH!"?
No, not really. I talked shit to the people watching, joking that I was going to take a game and that they shouldn't underestimate the mid-major underdog in the first round.
Did he say anything afterward?
I joked to him that I hope I warmed him up for the real opponents. I told him I heard he's won this event before, but he said that Rich Cho won last year and that Cho was better than him.
We should talk about Cho. The dude is an ace ping pong player. He wore a black Jordan shirt, red basketball shorts and some basketball shoes and absolutely toyed with people. That he lost before the Final Four was the biggest shocker of the tournament. But I think he just lost interest. He could have smacked everyone in the building.
Any scouting tips for future Daryl Morey ping-pong opponents?
Talk more shit. And don't try to do too much. If you can just get the ball on his side of the table, then you can hope he messes up.
Daryl Morey paid a bunch of money to charity so bloggers could join his ping-pong tournament so he could hustle them. Morey marched through the rest of the bracket with that untouchable serve and a wild array of smashes. Thanks to upsets and loss of interest (or coercion!?!?!), he avoided match-ups with Cho -- who I agree might be better than Morey -- and Hawks point guard Dennis Schröder, whose 6'8 wingspan makes him a menace with the paddle. Schröder was actually on the table (just warming up) for Morey's weakest moment of the evening:
Morey ended up in the Finals against Dallas Stars video coordinator Kelly Forbes and rolled over him...
Daryl Morey wins! https://t.co/6G3cRHAfGg— Adam Reisinger (@AdamReisinger) July 17, 2014
... and then it happened:
OH MY GOD THEY'RE PLAYING "ALL I DO IS WIN" AND I'M DEAD— Adam Reisinger (@AdamReisinger) July 17, 2014
Daryl Morey won the Daryl Morey ping-pong championship at Daryl Morey's event last night. Fire came down from the ceiling.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) July 17, 2014
No, seriously. Fire. Daryl Morey paid a bunch of money to charity so bloggers could join his ping-pong tournament so he could hustle them so he could celebrate while DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" blared and flames shot out of the ceiling. When you are very wealthy, not only can you oversee athletic glory, you can invent an entire realm in which to realize your own.
So congratulations, Daryl Morey. You are a champion.