Editor’s Note: Today is Don King‘s 81st birthday. Thus, a questionably relevant blog post about how one of our District Managers rectified a missed photo opportunity by snapping this epic shot, below.
About ten years ago I was a Timberwolves season ticket holder, and one of the world’s biggest Kevin Garnett fans. The Big Ticket was the same age as me, and I loved his passion and youthful enthusiasm for the game. His interviews were relatable and humorous and his game was dominating. He brought in the first (well, only, really) era of T-Wolves basketball being any good.
One night I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) and a friend at a TGIFriday’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Why I was at a TGIFriday’s is something that I can’t possibly wrap my head around now. Why KG was there was something that I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around then. But sure enough, on a random, slow, weekday night in an inner ring suburb of Minneapolis, there, sitting at a table in the back, was my favorite athlete in all of sports at the time.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
His table was on the way to the bathroom, so I only had to have a couple of my favorite beverages to have an excuse to get near him. Twenty minutes later, my time was up.
I made my move.
As I got closer to the table, I saw that he was sitting there with a girl and two children. He was wrapped up in his table and conversation.
He had diamonds earrings the size of dimes.
I looked at the table and thought, you know, he’s sitting down trying to have a nice meal with some family and/or friends, and probably doesn’t want some long haired, heavily bearded half drunk super fan coming up and bothering him with some “I’m a huuuuuuge fan will you sign this napkin for me” nonsense.
So I simply walked by and took the memory with me of my brush with greatness.
You’re probably wondering, what on Earth does this have to do with a photo of Don King? That’s because these two celebrity sightings probably couldn’t be more different.
It’s now 2007.
I lived in Chicago, married to the then-girlfriend, no longer had long hair, and my favorite athlete was Adrian “All Day” Peterson.
Our Marketing Director, Allyson Bradley, came up to Chicago to visit some of our stores. When people come from out of town to visit (business or pleasure), I always make sure and take them out to eat. I’ve moved beyond my TGIFriday’s stage and like to go to places that are 1) good 2) not a chain and 3) an experience they cannot get in their home town.
I settled on one of my favorite restaurants in the city, La Scarola.
I also invited some other store managers to round out the group and to have a little fun. I’ll spare you the minute details of La Scarola, but let’s just say that it’s a classic Chicago Italian restaurant –photos of famous people who have been to the restaurant on the wall; bad, dated wall paintings of some generic Italian countryside; and absolute deliciousness.
We got seated, and in full disclosure, I can’t tell you one thing about any of our conversations.
However, we enjoyed our meal, paid the bill, and got up to leave/smoke.
As we were leaving, there was a large table with a whole gang of people there. I briefly look over and saw someone who I thought was Don King. We went outside and I mentioned that I thought I just saw Don King to Allyson. Allyson reacted like I just asked her if we walked by my first grade teacher. (Meaning, she had no clue whatsoever who Don King was). Greg Lamer, who was a store manager in Chicago but is now the trainer in Kentucky, stated that he, too, thought it was Don King. I was looking through the window trying to make it out, when out came a man to smoke who was sitting at the table with Don King.
Me: “Excuse me, were you just sitting at the table with Don King?”
Him: “I sure was.”
Me: “Do you think he would be offended if I went up and asked to have my picture taken with him?”
Him: “I think he be offended if you didn’t!”
With that, I was off.
Greg was not only a good manager; he was also a great photographer and always had a camera in tow. He followed me inside and I went up to the table and asked Don if I could get a picture with him. As the man outside suggested, he was more than accommodating. He asked me to pull up a chair, and I’m now sitting at a table with frickin’ Don King. Greg took the photo, and I proceeded to sit in on King and Co.’s dinner conversation. Evidently, he was in town promoting a championship fight. This also happened to be right around the time of Michael Vick’s dog fighting trial. As you can probably guess, Don was pontificating on the subject as only he can. I will spare you the gory details of his position on the topic, but let’s just say that Don doesn’t hold dogs in very high regard. Which wasn’t surprising for a man who once managed Mike Tyson and has killed someone. But it was highly entertaining. I sat around long enough to get a great story, but not too long to overstay my welcome. I thanked Mr. King again for the photo and talk, and went on my way back into the night.
Only in America indeed.
 I now no longer really like KG. Which pains me to write. But, frankly, the dude dumped the Wolves and signed with the Celtics to get his ring. Which I don’t really blame him for. What I can blame him for is that he has become the complete opposite of what he used to be. He used to be the kind of player that you felt played the game because he loved basketball. He was fun and energetic. Now he’s like that rich old grampa who’s the meanest SOB that you’ve ever met. What happened?
 Side note- I got to go on the field before the game when the Vikings played the Bears at Soldier Field in 2011. I yelled out “All Day, baby!” to Peterson, and he smiled and pointed at me. Got that on video. Made. My. Day.
 No offense to Allyson or anyone else there.
 Kids, don’t smoke, it’s terrible for you and I’m glad I quit.
 Mrs. Stender. Meanest. Lady. Ever.
 I know, a lot of smoking references. I get it, I’m a bad person. But the experiences you get hanging outside smoking are priceless. Well, that, or whatever the cost is for a tracheotomy and some oxygen tanks.
 Just look at that photo. It was a full on denim suit with matching patriotic tie. He had on enough chains to embarrass Mr. T or your favorite rapper. Do you think they used a Bedazzler to make that jacket???
Kent is the District Manager for the Half Price Books Chicago District.