Michael Jordan and Larry Bird made the trick shot popular in those McDonald’s commercials during the ’90s, but it was a relatively little known basketball player who brought the tricks to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Cedric Ceballos made one of the most controversial dunks in the event’s history when he wore a blindfold as he dunked his way to the 1992 dunk title.
While that moment still makes Ceballos’ name recognizable to many, the former NBA star wants people to know about his other passion: music. Ceballos is set to show that enthusiasm when he takes over the turntables Saturday night at Gallery Nightclub.
We caught up with the former NBA All-Star, who has spun at Ghostbar, VooDoo Lounge and Poetry, to talk about his love for music and to find out who would win in a rap battle between him and his former teammate Shaquille O’Neil.
VEGAS.com: What does it mean to you to be DJing in Vegas?
Ceballos: “I’ve DJ’d in Las Vegas before so it’s always exciting. I’m a music lover, I’ve been a music lover since I was like 10 years old and DJing since I was 12. I just love going there because I can play almost anything because there’s going to be a region of people from out of town that love that generation, that love the style, that type of music. It’s just a melting pot of people who want to hang out and have a great time.”
VEGAS.com: When did you develop your passion for music?
Ceballos: “I woke up one summer morning and a next door neighbor of mine was from Jamaica Queens and they came back with Afrika Bambaataa and they were playing it early in the morning. And I was just mesmerized. I got out of bed with my pajamas on and everything and just stood by the kitchen window and just was stunned. His father walked by and asked me what I was doing. I was like, ‘I can’t stop listening to that song. Can you play it again?’ He was like, ‘Let me turn it over and play you the vocals for you.’ And he turned it over and played the vocals and just kept asking him to flip it over and flip it over for a good hour or so and then I was just stuck. I wanted to learn about that culture, I wanted to learn about that type of music. And that’s what brought me to “Beat Street,” that movie about DJing and I’ve just been in love ever since.”
VEGAS.com: When did you get your first turntables?
Ceballos: “In 1984, right after the summer Olympics in Los Angeles, I was a ball boy for the Dream Team, well the Dream Team back then, with Michael Jordan, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Mullin, all those guys on that squad. I was a ball boy so the money I earned from that — that’s what I had to purchase my first turntables. I had already been practicing on my mother’s turntables with the volume control before that. But for my own set I used every dime (I made), I didn’t spend no extra money on nothing else. When I got my whole check I just went straight to the stereo store and got it taken care of.”
VEGAS.com: Were you able to spin while playing in the NBA?
Ceballos: “I would DJ all the time. I kept turntables at the house, always had a mobile unit just in case. When I played I would go out and DJ at high schools without any attention. I would just get ahold of the principals at high schools and activities counselors and say ‘Hey, we’re going to be DJing for lunch,’ and the kids would be dancing and eating, get a little boost of energy and go back to school. (It was) unannounced, I didn’t tell the media about it or try to get some attention out of it. It was just something that was done while I was in high school. Dr. Dre used to come to my high school and I just thought it was great that I could continue and give that thought to other kids.”
VEGAS.com: You did two tracks on the “B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret,” album, what was it like working with Warren G on the “Flow On,” track?
Ceballos: “Me and Warren had been friends. I went to high school in Compton so Dre used to come up there and DJ. Me and Warren met a couple times back then as well as Snoop, I knew Snoop when he was at Long Beach Poly (High School). So we hung out a little bit and knew about each other and when they started to emerge and the whole Dr. Dre era started to emerge, I was getting in the NBA so it was real easy for us to work with each other, it wasn’t really a problem. But it was just unbelievable where I was working. We did the song in New York at the Hit Factory, which Michael Jackson, Biggie Smalls, everybody worked at that place so that was a big, huge mindblower for me. Warren just took it in stride like he had no problem, it ain’t nothing but the Hit Factory, but I was just like these mics have been blessed by some unbelievable talent.”
VEGAS.com: Who would win in a rap battle between you and Shaq?
Ceballos: “Shaq is pretty good. I know he’s much more creative than I am right now, back then I would have smashed that. Most of his stuff is written for him and then he twists it and tweaks it and puts it to his standards and makes it fit for him. He’s a much bigger celebrity, a much bigger personality. We were teammates on the Lakers, myself, Shaq, Kobe Bryant used to have rap battles all the time on the plane. We went at it a couple of times, he won one time, I won one time too.”
VEGAS.com: Winning the dunk contest was obviously a big deal for you, but there was a bit of controversy. Could you see through the blindfold?
Ceballos: “No not at all. And I really love that it just continues going that was my objective. When I did it I had in my mind that two things would come out of it: One, that I would bust my (butt) and people would be talking about it for years and years and two, I would make this thing and people would be talking about it for years and years. At the time I wasn’t playing so it was an opportunity for me to get my name out there, to get some publicity and that just kind of boosted my career.”
VEGAS.com: As for your future, do you see yourself staying involved in basketball or would you like to veer off and DJ more often?
Ceballos: “I love DJing, this is a passion that I love doing but I did my homework and I’m a little frustrated because a lot of celebrities are DJing, and I’m not trying to hate on them or bring them down, but I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. All the celebrities that are coming up with all of a sudden they’re DJs and they’re terrible. I’ve gotta be the No. 1 celebrity DJ in the world and anyone that wants to challenge me, find me, follow me on Twitter whatever. I will battle any celebrity DJ, second-career DJ out there.
“I love basketball, it’s got me a lot. I’m going on 25 years in the game, I just became an owner of my own basketball team, the Arizona Scorpions. So I still love basketball, I still love music and I think I have enough time and passion and commitment to give both of them to give them a hundred percent effort.”
VEGAS.com: We have to ask, are you bringing the blindfold to Gallery?
Ceballos: “I will bring the blindfold. It will be in my pocket. I’m working on this new mix blindfolded so I definitely want to get that employed into my DJ show.”