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Birmingham is bringing it and then some
by Michael Eaves / June 14, 2004

New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Atlanta are some of the favorite stops on the NBA schedule for both players and the media. But the city name is such a vague reference when talking about the places one might hang out.

New York has Times Square. Miami has South Beach. Los Angeles has Hollywood. Atlanta has Buckhead. And the 2004 NBA Finals are showing that Detroit has Birmingham.

Comprising one of the country’s richest zip codes, this northern Detroit suburb is home to some of the most frequented restaurants and bars in the area. From elegant dining at Forte to tasty cocktails and dancing at The Blue Martini, Birmingham offers all the amenities an NBA baller would need. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that one of the best hotels in the area – The Townsend – sits right in the heart of this cozy consumer’s paradise.

Word of the Lakers arrival and consistent traipsing of the area has led to an influx of Pistons fans from all across the metro area desperately seeking a glimpse of the league’s highest profile team. And they are succeeding.

From heckling and flashing obscene gestures at players and coaches while eating dinner to organizing early morning wakeup calls featuring car horns and stereos outside the Lakers hotel, the Detroit faithful are making it crystal clear where both their loyalties and their hatred lie. As if anyone needed a reminder.

THE SPIDER REIGNS SUPREME

As a member of the Pistons beloved Bad Boys, John Salley endeared himself to Detroit fans forever. Regardless of what happens with his television and acting careers, the Spider will always have a home in Motown.

And what better way to show your appreciation to the fans, than to lend your name to a club party the week of the NBA Finals?

Salley’s shindig went down at Lush in Pontiac. A club normally the host to a mixed suburban crowd spiked with overloads of techno music was transformed into an urban mecca for all that is NBA and hip-hop. Wannabe ballers and hoochie mamas were out in full force – armed to charm and dressed to impress.

Salley was right at home puffing on a cigar while donning a Detroit Tigers hat. And unlike most ballers/celebrities, he didn’t just hang out in the VIP area. Salley kicked it hard amongst the people.

From accepting props for his blue-collar work back in the day to giving his opinion on who will win the series – he earned rings with both the Pistons and the Lakers – Salley not only handled it with class, but seemed to sincerely enjoy the attention. And the clubbers loved him for it. Not to mention the fact that he gave them another reason to party. Who doesn’t love that?

TASTY TREATS

One of the true treasures in life is knowing the location of a late-night spot where you can get food after a night of clubbing. And thanks to the help of some befriended Detroit locals – Deanna, Robin and Nancy – I tasted perhaps the best early morning grub in the Motor City.

If you are in the neighborhood and get the chance, you have to stop by Spanga’s Coney Island Restaurant in Royal Oak. Tommy Drosis greets you at the door and directs you the next available table where menus offer everything from omelets and pancakes to greek salads and burgers.

And the service is quicker than Richard Hamilton’s release. Your western omelet and hash browns get to your table before you finish telling the story of what you saw outside the women’s bathroom.

But if you didn’t catch it from the name, the coney island hot dog is the house specialty. And the best and only way to truly enjoy it is with the works – chili and onions.

Calorie and carb counters beware. You won’t find the coney island listed as permitted options on either the Atkins or South Beach Diet. But as we all know, calories don’t count between one and six o’ clock in the morning.

The clientele is mostly weary, leftover clubbers either still trying to mack or score something they couldn’t land in the club: a tasty bedtime snack.

But aren’t we all?

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Michael Eaves covers the NBA for FOX Sports West in Southern California. You can reach him at meaves@foxsports.net

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