SHANGHAI -- The front door of the nightclub was simply out of the question. It was too dangerous. Even the brutish-looking Chinese toughs hired to protect the Heat here in Shanghai knew that.
The back door was the only option, and it wasn’t much better.
A crashing, sweating horde of humanity all hopped up on who knows what was there waiting to mob LeBron James. This was supposed to be Dwyane Wade’s private party, by invitation only, but someone had leaked the information, and everyone in Shanghai tried to crash the nightclub.
Forget international diplomacy, cracking skulls suddenly seemed like a reasonable option. No. Remain calm. Maybe this was just a normal Friday night in Shanghai.
The club of choice for the Heat’s one night out on the town was typical enough. Three floors, finely crafted wooden fixtures and familiar bass grooves lording over every sense in your body. The communist overtones of northern China and Beijing hide themselves well in Shanghai, a southern city that feels like a mix between New York and San Francisco in some areas and New Orleans and Amsterdam in others. It’s a cool town.
But the people trying to push into the club — there was nothing cool or internationally chic about them.
Ever seen old video footage of The Beatles when all the girls are losing their minds, screaming through raw throats and reaching out their arms over barricades at Paul and John? Most of those images are from The Beatles’ first tour of the United States in 1964. That was the scene at this Shanghai nightclub, except there were no barricades and no sweet little girls — just grown men and women acting like boy-band groupies and someone, in all their brilliance, had apparently thought it was a good idea to feed these people booze.
“Just push,” said one of the Heat’s staff members.
It took 10 minutes to break through the first floor. Wade’s party, sponsored by a Chinese social media company, was on the third.
For James and Wade, the trip to Beijing and Shanghai for the NBA’s 2012 China Games was an exhausting week of promotional appearances, shoe-company business, fan appreciation events, a few practices and two exhibition games. There wasn’t much time to relax, and this party was supposed to be one of those times. Most of the Heat’s players had elected to attend, so being the only journalist allowed into the event was a pretty good score.
James and most of the players were hanging out near the bar area of the third floor when I finally breached the multiple levels of security in place to keep out the crazies. The place was packed full of Americans and other internationals. Of the Heat’s contingent, there were the players, coach Erik Spoelstra, a few staff members and a couple of executives.
A section of the floor space had been roped off for the players and a mass of people, men and women, were surrounding the velvet barrier. These were the traditional sort of groupies I have become accustomed to in three seasons covering the Heat. Finally, I felt at home.
The dress code on the invitation to the party had said “smart and sexy,” and the many attendees were dressed appropriately. The promoters — the professional partiers charged with finding attractive people to populate a high-end event — had done their jobs well.