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Garbage Time The NBA lockout has given players the leisure and license to launch artistic air balls

Shaquille O'Neal's declining CD sales evoke the early ages of
civilization, but in reverse. His first disc went platinum. His
second went gold. His third disc, like his free throws, went
iron. Now comes O'Neal's fourth album, Respect, in which the Los
Angeles Lakers center does not entirely disprove what the rock
star and social critic Gregg Allman once said: "Rap? It's short
for crap."

The NBA must end its lockout soon, but not because the league
has canceled Denver versus Dallas in November. On the contrary:
That was an unexpected delight, like waking in winter to
school-closing announcements. Rather, the NBA must end its
lockout before another idle player has time to act, rap, write,
produce or product-plug. Please. A recent visitor to the Shaq
World Online Web site asked, "Hey, Shaq Daddy! What have you
been doing during the lockout?" To which Shaq--whose .527 free
throw percentage last season gave renewed resonance to the
phrase foul shooting--responded: "I've been chilling, promoting
the album."

Ah, the album, on which Shaq reassures a father whose daughter
he is escorting to a pool party: "I'll bring her home in one
piece/Though she came in a two-piece." We have all heard
basketball announcers say of one player or another, "This guy
can create." They're not talking about art.

Take Dennis Rodman. He doesn't rap, but he has just wrapped--on
production of his latest movie, in which the Worm plays an
Interpol agent who teams with two monks/computer wizards in the
South of France to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an old crony
who just happens to be a...oh, never mind. By this point in the
film, most moviegoers will have long since pulled a Ted
Kaczynski and tried to hang themselves with their own underwear.

That was certainly true of both people who bought tickets to My
Giant, which 7'7" Washington Wizards center Gheorghe Muresan
filmed in the summer of '97. Last season the Romanian played in
exactly eight games, having insufficiently rehabbed the
stretched tendon in his right ankle while on the movie set. But
then, Muresan lists Arnold Schwarzenegger as his childhood hero,
not Willis Reed.

Shaq himself confesses that one of his burning ambitions is "to
get a Terminator 3 role with Arnold Schwarzenegger." In the
meantime he is honing his chops in a new video, currently in
heavy rotation on MTV. O'Neal stars with Magic Johnson and Lisa
Leslie as well as two actors from a hauntingly similar stylistic
school--Steven Seagal and the Taco Bell chihuahua.

As if this veritable Edinburgh Festival of NBA culture weren't
enough, we can also look forward to albums from Lakers swingman
Kobe Bryant, Milwaukee Bucks forward Tyrone Hill and Sacramento
Kings forward Chris Webber, who has also acted on Fox's New York
Undercover, which is not to be confused with HBO's Oz, on which
Lakers forward Rick Fox has supplemented his own NBA paycheck.

Paycheck? What these guys need is spellcheck. Bryant is a member
of the Philadelphia hip-hop ensemble Cheizaw. Hill's record
label produces an act called KompoZur. Webber's forthcoming
album will feature guest artist Kurupt. Rodman's movie is called
Simon Sez. Shaq's new CD, on which he collaborated with Peter
Gunz and Majah League, includes a cut called Blaq Supaman.

The shortest review in the history of live theater was for a
London play called I Am a Camera, about which one critic wrote:
"No Leica."

But the manifold multimedia moonlighting of NBA stars can be
summed up still more briefly. Simply put: It suqz.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO [Drawing of Shaquille O'Neal singing in car with padlock around his neck]