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Beefing Up At age 20, the Sonics' burger-binging Rashard Lewis is a Grade A talent

Sonics forward Rashard Lewis, who was self-assured enough to jump
straight from high school to the NBA two years ago, is a young
man who knows what he wants--especially on his hamburgers. "We
call him Meat and Cheese," Seattle center Jelani McCoy says.
"He'll order a cheeseburger at McDonald's and tell the cashier,
'All I want is meat and cheese. No pickles. No onions. Just meat
and cheese.'"

The 20-year-old Lewis is similarly direct in describing the
biggest decision of his life. Led by pro coaches and agents to
believe he would be a lottery pick, he entered the 1998 NBA draft
straight out of Elsik High in Alief, Texas, only to be shown
squirming and crying on national TV as name after name got called
ahead of his on draft night in Vancouver. He wasn't taken by the
Sonics until the 32nd pick, but he claims to have no regrets
about bypassing college. "It was my dream to play in the NBA,"
says Lewis. "If you have the talent, why not go for it?"

Determined not to become the poster child for the NBA's Stay in
School program, the 6'10" Lewis spent his rookie season
listening, learning and eating stacks of ungarnished
cheeseburgers to add bulk to his rather frail, 215-pound frame.
As one of the first Sonics off the bench this year, he has
displayed a quick first step, a feathery shot and a knack for
offensive rebounding. In a 117-106 win at Dallas on Feb. 9, Lewis
poured in a career-high 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds,
spoiling the return of Dennis Rodman. Afterward his teammates
greeted him in the locker room with a we're-not-worthy bow right
out of Wayne's World.

As small forward Ruben Patterson's backup, Lewis was averaging
6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds at week's end, but starting with his
outburst in Dallas, he has scored 10.4 points per game despite
being the last option in the offense. "Right now he's a
counterpuncher," Seattle coach Paul Westphal says. "But he's got
talent, and he works hard. That's why he's going to make it in
this league."

Though Lewis may be on the verge of hitting it big--he's earning
$400,000 this season but as a free agent could make up to $3.5
million next year--he's still enough of a kid to get excited about
meeting NBC basketball reporter Ahmad Rashad, who as an NFL
wideout inspired Lewis's mom, Juanita Goodman, to name her second
son after him (give or take an r). Lewis even shares a modest
apartment in downtown Seattle with close pal Rick Harshman, the
23-year-old son of former Sonics assistant Dave Harshman and
grandson of longtime University of Washington coach Marv
Harshman. "We've got no framed pictures on the walls, no flowers
or plants," Lewis says. "It's a typical young guys' apartment."

Lewis doesn't play a typical young guy's game. Even after dunking
over guard Gary Payton in a practice last season, a tomahawk job
that rendered the Glove momentarily speechless, Lewis couldn't
bring himself to showboat--he just let out a scream and walked off
the court. After all, if there's one thing Lewis hates, it's
mustard on a hot dog.

--Marty Burns