I'll take a few questions now. Yes?
Q: Is it true that last week you conned your way into a pickup
game with Shaquille O'Neal, Antonio McDyess and other NBA stars?
Q: Which did it involve, cash payments or incriminating
A: Neither. It was just me and some of my homies--Shaq, Dice,
the Wizards' Otis Thorpe, the 76ers' Mark Davis, former NBA
standout Rodney McCray, guys like that.
Q: Is it true that you wore your geeky Ivy League glasses and
test-pattern shorts? And your watch, for god's sake?
A: Only so the paramedics would be able to affix time of death.
Q: Why in the name of all that is good and decent in the world
did they let you play?
A: Because I asked.
Q: You asked?
A: Sure. Because of the NBA lockout, I had heard, a lot of stars
were hangin' at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston, where the
Rockets usually practice. So I asked the club president if I
could play, and he said, "O.K., but only for the first 10
minutes when the pros are still kind of warming up. That way
there's a chance you might not get killed."
Q: Did you?
A: Well, I admit, on the first trip down I did an unwise thing:
I tried to set a pick for Shaq on the 6'9", 250-pound McDyess.
But I was only without breath for maybe 75 to 90 seconds, tops.
Q: Whom did you guard?
A: I didn't know him, but I assumed he was either a lottery pick
or a college star from the area.
Q: You got smoked by a complete nobody, didn't you?
A: Like a trout. He turned out to be 27-year-old Ramone Veal,
who, while never having been in the NBA, did play in the pro
leagues of Colombia, where I'm guessing that he was a living
Q: What's this about you gagging a wide-open 15-foot jumper?
A: Does anyone else have a question?
Q: I'm the only one here.
A: Yes, it's true, but, philosophically, can any jumper truly be
considered "wide open" when you're being guarded by a Colombian
Q: I heard you blew an alley-oop pass, too.
A: O.K., Shaq made this great block and fired an outlet to me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a teammate streaking toward
the hoop. Now, in my usual game at the Y, we do not get a lot of
chances to throw alley-oops. Dr. Manny Glickstein, the
urologist, generally can't get that high, and certainly not
Father Casey. So, I thought, why not? I lofted a perfect pass
only to find that the streaking player was the Jazz's Chris
Morris, who, while a wonderful shooter, would not be considered
a leaper in a herd of elephants. He couldn't quite reach my pass
and instead only batted it off the glass with his fingertips.
Q: You airmailed the poor guy.
A: Yes. So now the ball is loose, right? What do I do? I swoop
in, rebound it, blow past Timberwolves guard Stephon Marbury
like he's a YIELD sign and kiss it sweetly off the glass for two.
Q: You blew past Stephon Marbury.
A: Yes, in the sense that he was sitting in a chair under the
basket support. Still, the fact remains, my career NBA lockout
line reads: 10 minutes played, .500 shooting percentage and one
rebound. Plus, I outscored Shaq, who had zero points during my
Q: I'm not surprised, with you as his point guard. Did you guys
A: I did tell him once, "Next time down, gimme the pill and run
an iso for me." He did not laugh.
Q: So, did you win?
A: Well, we were behind 8-4 when I was taken out, but it does
not go down as a loss, officially.
Q: So, just to recap, you had Shaquille O'Neal and three other
NBA stars as teammates in a pickup game, but you lost to a team
led by a man named Ramone Veal. Would you agree this ranks as
the lowest moment in this godforsaken NBA year?
A: Absolutely, but afterward, Shaq paid me the ultimate
compliment, saying, "Well, at least you're better than Elden
Q: I'm outta here.
A: I'm not sure he was kidding.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]
I had Shaq and three other NBA stars on my side but lost a
pickup game to a team led by a man named Ramone Veal.