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By Patrick Range McDonald
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Have you ever seenRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Tom Stoppard play that recasts Hamlet from the point of view of the Dane’s two school chums, their exits coinciding with their entrances in the Shakespeare play? The Web site sashavujacic18.com is a little like that, the grand tragicomedy of the Lakers season playing out from the vantage of the team’s reserve guard, the heroic feats of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol acting as background to the prowess of the sharpshooting Slovenian, whose flowing hair and sharp Slavic features attract a hard core of predominantly female fans. Subscribers to Bryant’s Web site learn how to set a pick, how to execute a head fake, and what kind of Kobe swag is currently available in China. Followers of Vujacic’s site discover their hero’s favorite Beatle and the name of his bulldog, they plan meetups, and they watch the color of his headbands as intently as Anna Wintour ever watched a Prada show. There are reports in Italian, from fans who discovered him when he played for the Udine team there, and in Serbo-Croatian from his native Slovenia.
The woman behind sashavujacic18.com is Emily Ho, a slight, pretty librarian with the grace of Natalie Portman, who runs the site out of a small but exceedingly tasteful Silver Lake studio apartment lined with prints by half the artists in the Giant Robot stable. (The apartment, which she shares with boyfriend Gregory Han, has won prizes in national design competitions.) Days, Ho works an art bibliographer at the Getty; her living room table is strewn with French-language tracts and photocopies of 17th-century Italian manuscripts. Evenings, she rolls down a 92-inch projection screen and the Lakers cavort on her wall at nearly life size.
“I’m not sure I really got into basketball until my boyfriend got this screen,” she says, still marveling at the size of the thing, “but I almost immediately became obsessed with Sasha. Watching basketball became something Gregory and I did together, instead of something I merely tolerated.”
No stranger to blogging — Ho contributes recipes and farmers market reports to the popular foodblog The Kitchn, and has written for local art sites — she started the delightful Sasha Watch blog last fall, was quickly noticed by national basketball Web sites and the Orange County Register, and was hired by Vujacic’s PR representative in February to run the player’s personal site. She is the gatekeeper to Sasha Nation, the intermediary between Vujacic and his fans, and she is still starstruck enough to marvel when Vujacic stops a moment to text a thought to a friend, a friend that just happens to be Pau Gasol.
“The most nerve-wracking part was when I found out that Sasha’s family read Sasha Watch when they were thinking of hiring me — the headband watch, the mooning out, the fan stuff — I didn’t imagine anybody would ever read it.’’
It is by far the most entertaining personal Web site of any player in the NBA, a site that captures exactly what it feels like to be a certain kind of basketball fan: an enthusiast who perhaps cares more about personalities than about the triangle offense, about community more than stats. The site is silly, and yet not; obsessive, but in a knowing, self-aware way. It is charming to watch videos of Vujacic gazing soulfully into the sunset, projecting Oscar winners, or gamely trying on hand-knit headbands sent in by his admirers.
“One thing that’s changed,” Ho says, “is that now that I know Sasha pretty well, I like and admire him more than I ever thought I would, but I’m probably a little less infatuated with him. He seems like a really great little brother now. Some things just work better as abstractions.’’