The Slatest

The Best Photo We Didn’t Use This Week: Wait, Why Is Joe Manchin Hanging Out With Shaq?

From L-R: Jim Justice, wearing a blue brocade suit jacket, Shaquille O'Neal wearing a black suit and tie, and Joe Manchin wearing a three-piece suit with a gold vest and bow tie.
When worlds collide. Theo Wargo/WireImage for The Greenbrier

Slate’s homepage editors spend a lot of time looking for editorial photos to put on our site. Those searches sometimes yield unexpected results: random, perplexing, and mesmerizing photos that don’t belong on the homepage, but that are too good not to share. Every week, we’ll share the weirdest photo from the wires.

What search term was used to find this in Getty?
“joe manchin”

What were you hoping to find?
A photo of Joe Manchin, the most talked-about man in the Senate.

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What did you find instead?
Jim Justice, Shaquille O’Neal, and Joe Manchin, dressed to the nines. Justice’s brocade jacket is a showstopper, but Shaq and Manchin aren’t too shabby themselves. Shaq, as usual, makes his companions look like small fries, even though Justice (6-foot-7) and Manchin (6-foot-3) are both tall enough to fit in the NBA themselves.

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What’s the actual backstory here?
This July 2, 2010, photo is from the grand opening of the Casino Club at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. At the time, Joe Manchin was the governor of West Virginia, and Jim Justice—now the governor of West Virginia—was the Greenbrier’s owner and chairman. Justice, a coal baron and the state’s wealthiest person, had revived the resort from bankruptcy the year prior. The luxury resort has a storied past—most notably, the government built a secret bunker underneath it at the height of the Cold War as a shelter for Congress in the event of a nuclear attack.

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The black-tie event featured a coterie of celebrities, including Brooke Shields, Lionel Richie, Jessica Simpson, Debbie Reynolds, Charles Barkley, Ben Affleck, and Jennifer Garner. (Garner, an “unofficial ambassador” for her home state of West Virginia, shared some sweet, chummy moments with Manchin during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.) The celebration was described as “Monte Carlo meets Gone With the Wind,” and tickets started at $850.

According to the Washington Post’s write-up, Shaq said he wasn’t much of a gambler but was excited for the casino’s sushi restaurant. Manchin, in exemplary political fashion, spent the evening shaking hands with every single gambler in the establishment.

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Does Joe Manchin hobnob with any other famous athletes?
During his Senate reelection campaign, Manchin nabbed an endorsement from fellow West Virginian Jerry “The Logo” West. He also calls Hall of Fame Boston Celtics player Bob Cousy a friend. Manchin grew up idolizing Cousy, and he successfully lobbied then-President Donald Trump to award the NBA star the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019. In addition to his basketball connections, Manchin has been friends with University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban since the two were children.

Why is this the weird photo of the week?
It makes me long for a simpler time, when Joe Manchin wasn’t the center of attention.

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