When you're nickname is "Boobie" and you happen to play basketball for the best team in the NBA's Eastern Conference, it's kind of easy to draw a crowd.
Thursday evening, at the Alltel store on Great Northern Blvd. in North Olmsted, that's exactly what Daniel Gibson did.
Gibson arrived at the store at around 5:20 for an autograph session that lasted until 6:30. The fans were already waiting - and had been waiting for hours - in a line that snaked through the store and out onto an icy shopping center sidewalk, stretching for several hundred feet. Security guards let the fans into the store five at a time once the session began.
A store associate said a few fans had been waiting in the shopping center parking lot since midnight.
Gibson, dressed in a blue shirt and seated at a table, cordially and patiently signed his name to a stack of photos placed in front of him, and just about anything else you might be able to imagine: hats, jerseys, pennants, basketball, t-shirts and some of the bobblehead dolls -- given away during Wednesday night's game against Charlotte.
At 6:30, Gibson's handlers cut the autograph line, Gibson signed his name a final few times, pushed himself back from the table, and walked to the front of the store to wave to the stragglers who didn't make it into the store. They cheered, pounded on the glass and mounted a brief "Boo-bie!" chant.
Then, Gibson was gone. Whisked to a back room to sign a few more items and make a quick exit to a waiting limousine.
Ever wonder what an off day for an NBA player is like? By the time the session began, Gibson's day was already 12 hours old. He had spent the day shuttled among public appearances and interviews, with several hours of early-afternoon practice somehow sandwiched in between.
As Gibson was applying his autograph to a final few items in the back room, I had a chance for a little Q&A time with one of the Cavs' fan favorites. Here's what he had to say about the season so far, his performance, his teammates, and the all-important game versus the Boston Celtics tonight.
EC: How would you rate your season so far? Are you satisfied with it?
DG: It's been OK. I've been trying to get myself back to 100 percent. I hurt my foot a while back, and now I'm just trying to get all the way back from that. My foot is probably at about 85 percent right now.
EC: When you're in a shooting slump, how do you try to break out of it? Is it more in how you approach games, or is it about the work you do in practice?
DG: A lot of it is just the work you do in practice. But right now it comes down to getting healthy. I feel like once I get totally healthy, a lot of the other stuff is going to take care of itself.
EC: When you're injured and out for a few games, as you were earlier in the season, how do you stay physically and mentally ready to play, so that you can jump right back into action?
DG: You just try to condition yourself when you're not playing. You try to keep yourself focused and just watch a lot of game film so that you stay ready to play.
EC: A lot has been made about the Cavs' great team chemistry this season. What is your take on this team's chemistry?
DG: We just have a lot of core guys on this team that are really smart players. We have great people and great talent, and when you have great people and great talent, you're going to have a great team and great chemistry.
EC: When the big trade was made last February to bring in Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak, how did you adjust to a major roster overhaul and a bunch of new teammates in the middle of the season?
DG: It just takes time to adjust. That's what we went through last year in losing in the second round of the playoffs. But going through that last year is one of the reasons we're so much better this year. Going through the playoffs together and going through a training camp together is how we've gotten to know each other so well.
EC: What is LeBron like when he's just hanging out with the team?
DG: He's a jokester. He's always the one out there having fun. He's only 24 years old, so in a lot of ways he's still a big kid at heart. He's probably the most outgoing guy on the team.
EC: What is the toughest part of the NBA season?
DG: The traveling. Getting into a city at two or three in the morning can sometimes be difficult, and then you have to get up and play the next day.
EC: What teammate can always make you laugh?
DG: Delonte West. If he wasn't playing basketball, he'd be a comedian. It's all day long comedy with him.
EC: What teammate has taught you the most?
DG: LeBron taught me about how to get through an 82-game season, how to carry myself on and off the court, how to handle everything as a professional player. I'd say he's definitely taught me the most.
EC: How are you gearing up for the showdown against the Celtics?
DG: I'm preparing for the game the same way I always do, but we all know that we're playing one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, so we get a chance to extend our lead over them with a win.
EC: Who cuts the designs into your hair? Do you have any plans for new hair designs?
DG: My barber does it about every two weeks, and I do have some plans for new designs coming up. I'm going to do something with it.