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The Beat

Three weeks ago, St. Louis-- born rapper Nelly figured his Nov. 2 birthday would be part of an ongoing bash celebrating a Cardinals World Series win. The Houston Astros ruined that plan, but sports still played a big part in Nelly's big day. The evening before he turned 31, the Charlotte Bobcats' co-owner went bowling with the St. Louis Rams' Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. As a follow-up, Nelly's friends arranged for a baseball-themed fete a day later that included batting lessons with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and a party at announcer Joe Buck's restaurant J. Buck's. Nelly and his girlfriend, Ashanti (above), enjoyed baseball-shaped cakes and Cracker Jack served by scantily clad "vendors."

■ Having accumulated physical proof that he's mastered hoops (two NBA championship rings) and romance (his girlfriend is Eva Longoria), Spurs point guard Tony Parker is setting his sights on some gold records. He's recorded a rap single, Top of the Game, and about 10 other songs for an album he hopes to put together. He has already recorded with rappers Fabolous and Booba, who, like Parker, speaks French. Two days before the Spurs' season-opening win, Parker recruited teammates Tim Duncan, Robert Horry, Nazr Mohammed and Brent Barry to play basketball--but not rap--in the video for Game. Says Duncan, "I asked to do a verse with Tony, but he thought I would overshadow him in the rapping department."

■ Could former NFL and college coach Jimmy Johnson survive for an extended time on a remote outpost with no product for his hair? Alas, we'll probably never find out. Johnson, now a Fox analyst, is such a fan of Survivor that he once attended a taping of a season finale and even submitted an audition tape to CBS, but he didn't make the cut.... Look out, Jack Nicholson, you've got competition. Michael Balzary, better known as Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, calls himself "the most pigheaded, tunnel-vision-having Lakers fan that ever lived." Now he has the blog to prove it. The bassist, who was born in Australia but grew up in L.A., recently began writing about his favorite team at, a blog he updates every other day with riffs on such topics as the Lakers' foes ("the kings are done, stick a fork in 'em") and the NBA dress code ("i don't care if they wear suits and ties, go naked or wear clown suits").... Alyssa Milano and Shannen Doherty last shared a spotlight on the WB's Charmed. (Doherty left the show in 2001.) Now their paths may cross again--in the Dodgers clubhouse. Milano started dating pitcher Brad Penny in August, and Doherty has recently been linked to team director of marketing Drew McCourt, whose parents bought the Dodgers in 2004.


Sometimes Mary Pierce takes this whole take-the-net strategy thing a bit too seriously. Pierce got tangled up during a victory over Kim Clijsters at the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships in Los Angeles last week. She went on to lose to fellow Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo in the tournament final, but she finished the 2005 season with a net gain. Pierce's year-end world ranking (fifth) is her highest in five years.


The NCAA took Division III Carthage College off its list of schools with banned Native American nicknames after the school changed its nickname from Redmen to Red Men.

They Said It

BILL WALTON, broadcaster and former NBA star, on the league's dress code:

"I have spent all summer sewing collars on my tie-dyed T-shirts."