The WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden is filling up in advance of the NBA Draft, but Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio aren't the names being discussed. Everywhere you turn you hear one person whispering to another, "Did you hear about Michael Jackson?"
The news of Jackson's death on Thursday afternoon started blowing up Twitter feeds, instant messengers and e-mail accounts moments after TMZ's initial report. Everyone in the building who thought the biggest news of the night would be the addition of a crop of young bucks to the NBA suddenly found themselves talking about something else entirely. Every time a phone rings, it isn't word of a potential deal or a change in philosophy from one of the teams. It's that same question, over and over again.
We'll see how the night plays out, both on the Jackson story and whether the interest in the task at hand picks up to normal levels, but there isn't much by way of pregame festivities at the Garden. That's a pretty bold affirmation of Jackson's place in the cultural firmament, even though he hasn't had a hit record since basketball's most famous M.J. was a one-time champion.
It will be interesting to see if the interest in Jackson is shared by the draftees, assuming they're asked about it during the interview sessions. If they know Jackson it is likely from the music collections of their parents and/or his trial earlier this decade.