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Bluff The Listener


BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Maz Jobrani, Brian Babylon and Jessi Klein. And here again is your host, the moderator of the next presidential debate...


KURTIS: ...Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill...


SAGAL: ...And God forbid. Right now...

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: It is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MICHAEL WHITE: Hi, Peter. Thank you. This is Michael White (ph) from Lancaster, Pa.

SAGAL: Lancaster - I haven't been there, but I understand it's the heart of Amish country. Is that correct?

WHITE: It is.

SAGAL: And how have you been doing during lockdown?

WHITE: I have been doing great - tons of baking, lots of NBA basketball lately...

SAGAL: Sure, of course.

WHITE: ...And a lot of time with my 1-year-old baby boy.

SAGAL: Oh, my gosh. Well, it came at a good time. You can stay home for him, and that's really great.

WHITE: Yeah, I know.

SAGAL: Well, Michael, welcome to our show. You're going to play the game in which you have to tell truth from fiction. What is the topic, Bill?

KURTIS: NBA bubble, toil and trouble.


SAGAL: The NBA bubble is awesome because even if you're not into basketball, you like the idea of rich people being trapped inside somewhere. Our panelists are going to tell you about someone making the most of their time in the bubble. Pick the one who's telling the truth, and you'll win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?

WHITE: Oh, absolutely. This is my life's ambition here. I'm ready to go.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Well, I'm both flattered and a little worried for you, but OK.

WHITE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: First, let's hear from Maz Jobrani.

MAZ JOBRANI: The NBA is now truly an international league. So what happens when you put a bunch of foreign-born players into a bubble with a lot of free time on their hands? For Iranian-born Majid Jaansan (ph), the answer was simple - open up a language school to teach your teammates how to speak Persian, or Farsi. When the 7-foot third-string backup center for the Indiana Pacers found himself cooped up in his hotel room, he decided to offer free language lessons to his teammates.

First, he had to come up with a name for the course. Says Jaansan, (imitating Iranian accent) I personally learned English from the app Babbel, and we are currently in a bubble. So I took the letter A from Babbel and the letter U from Bubble and picked the letter that comes in the middle of these two, which was K. So I named my classes Bkuppel (ph), which is the sound my chickens used to make on my farm back in Iran - (imitating chickens).

JESSI KLEIN: (Laughter).

JOBRANI: To his teammates' pleasant surprise, many of the basketball terms in Persian were very similar in English. For example, the word for pass is pass (ph). Shoot is beshoot (ph). Basket is basket (ph). If you had the opportunity to watch the Pacers play, you would have also heard them using Persian to trash-talk their opponents. One time, upon scoring a three-pointer, the team's point guard turned to his opponent and screamed Ahmat (ph), which means, your aunt. Asked why the term your aunt is an insult, Jaansan said, (imitating Iranian accent) it's like yelling, your mama. But mother jokes are a big taboo in Iran, so we make fun of your aunt.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

JOBRANI: Jaansan has chosen to stay in the bubble during the finals and offer his course to the Lakers and Heat players so they too can cuss each other out in Persian.

SAGAL: An Iranian player, taking advantage of the isolation to give Farsi lessons to his surprisingly enthusiastic colleagues inside the bubble. Your next hoop scoop comes from Jessi Klein.

KLEIN: There are two things it's hard to get in the NBA bubble - coronavirus and a good cup of coffee. So the enterprising star for the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler, has started selling coffee out of his hotel room in a business he calls Big Face Coffee. Butler, who at 6-foot-7 seven is considered venti, has an unorthodox business plan. A large coffee is $20. A small coffee is $20. Two small coffees is $50.

The high, confusing prices gave the Heat's athletic trainer, Brandon Gilliam, an opening. He started selling coffee out of his room at $5 a cup under the name Little Face Coffee. It should be pointed out that $5 is still a ridiculous amount to pay for a cup of coffee, especially when the guy making your coffee's other job is touching groins all day.

Little Face started posting reviews on his door, all of which are made up. Big Face had cups, T-shirts and hats made with his own personal logo. What a fun rivalry - or quite possibly, we're witnessing what happens when you lock grown men in isolation for several weeks, and they slowly go mad. But hey, at least they're not murdering. In the end, it's all just good for team spirit.

As Butler says, quote, "We got a little competition, but it's all fun and games. Now, I make way more money than he does over at Little Face. You should know that.


SAGAL: An NBA star starts selling coffee for 20 bucks a cup out of his hotel room, leading to a price war. Your last story of a bubble diversion comes from Brian Babylon.

BRIAN BABYLON: In the early days of the NBA bubble, a few players got into serious trouble for escaping to a club, and that ended any opportunity to have any fun at all. Then, on a Saturday night in late August, players heard a thump, thump, thump of dance music coming from the hotel lobby. Those who came down found a very tall man in a white tracksuit and a marshmallow mask who called himself DJ Karshmello (ph) playing some serious beats on a very expensive sound system.

Most surprisingly, the dance remixes were all made of basketball court sounds - the squeak of sneakers on hardwood, the clink of balls hitting the rim and even players cursing. It's not a club, but it's not bad, said James Harden. And it sounds like basketball practice, which makes up for the fact that there are no women to dance with.

JOBRANI: (Laughter).

BABYLON: The identity of DJ Karshmello is unknown. But as one coach said, he's seven feet tall. How many people could it be? Oh yeah - lots of them.

SAGAL: All right. These are your choices of a story of players amusing themselves inside the NBA bubble. Is it, from Maz Jobrani, a Iranian player teaching anybody who wants to learn Farsi so they can trash-talk; from Jessi Klein, one of the biggest stars of the league starting a coffee business out of his hotel room, selling it for $20 dollars a cup; or from Brian Babylon, the mysterious DJ Karshmello, who plays dance mixes of sounds from the basketball court?

WHITE: Like I said, I've been watching lots of basketball in the bubble, and I've been following it as well, so I'm going to have to go with very, very expensive cups of coffee from Jimmy Butler.

SAGAL: Yeah, well, they could afford it. I give you that. All right. You've chosen Jessi's story of the coffee shop wars in the bubble. To bring you the correct answer, we spoke to a journalist who has been following the real story in the bubble.


RANDY BUFFINGTON: Jimmy Butler selling coffee in the NBA bubble is amazing. Imagine your barista charging you $20 for a cup after they just dropped 40 points on you.


SAGAL: That was Randy Buffington. He's a sportswriter for Fox 26 and ESPN's Undefeated talking about the coffee war in the bubble. Congratulations, Michael. You got it right.

WHITE: All right.

SAGAL: You earned a point for Jessi. You've won our prize, the voice of your choice on your voice mail. Congratulations.

WHITE: Oh, yes. Bill Kurtis coming at you. Thank you.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Oh, well, I guess you just tipped your choice. But I can't blame you. I cannot blame you at all.

KURTIS: No, it's a good one.

WHITE: I hope he doesn't Bill me.



SAGAL: Well done, sir.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Thanks so much for playing, my friend. Take care.

WHITE: Thank you.


DON HO: (Singing) Tiny bubbles... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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