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Original Issue

Dream Team

For this year's NBA preview issue we constructed Frankenshaq, the
perfect center to take on the NBA's reigning monster, Shaquille
O'Neal, and it fell to photo editor Marguerite Schropp Lucarelli
(left) to collect the body parts. She combed her photo files as
well as those at the NBA's library, trying to find images that
were facing the right way and could be pieced together into a
coherent whole. Says Lucarelli, who has been editing photos for
SI since 1994, "It was like playing paper dolls; I was reverting
to childhood."

Helping out with the pictures in the preview was staff
photographer John W. McDonough (right), who, like many NBA
centers, has had a run-in with Shaq. McDonough was sitting
courtside a couple of seasons ago when Shaq, going for a loose
ball, stepped on the photographer's right ankle. "My foot went
completely numb," says McDonough, who was not seriously injured.
(Shaq later asked if he was O.K.) McDonough prepares for games as
thoroughly as any player: He and his assistants arrive at an
arena five hours before tip-off to rig seven to 10 remote-control
cameras to supplement the shots he takes with his handheld
Hasselblad and Canon. Says McDonough, "My goal is to make one
really great picture a game."

In 1993 senior writer Jack McCallum (left) cowrote the book Shaq
Attaq with Shaquille O'Neal, chronicling the player's rookie
season in the NBA. For this issue he visited Sacramento center
Vlade Divac, who because of the Kings-Lakers rivalry, says
McCallum, "has emerged as a sort of foil to Shaq."

Senior writer Ian Thomsen (right) looks at the NBA's intriguing
new big man, the Rockets' 7'5" Yao Ming. Thomsen tried to get
time with the Chinese star in the opening days of the World
Basketball Championship in August but says that because of the
language barrier and the mob of reporters around Yao, "I fed him
about as many questions as his guards fed him passes in the low
post." Thomsen, who eventually interviewed Yao later in the
tournament, believes that within a few years he will be a top
player: "American players might snicker because Yao doesn't know
how to dunk. But I think he'll have the last laugh."

SI's man in the middle is pro basketball editor Hank Hersch
(left), who chose to put centers under a microscope in this
issue because he sees a fundamental change in the role of the
pivotman. "The only dominant center playing the position the
traditional way is Shaq," says Hersch, who covered the NBA for a
decade as a writer. "No one can figure out how to beat him at
his game, so you're seeing other big men evolve in different
ways." --Bill Syken