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The NBA : Abdul-Jabbar and English Settle

They may never get to the point where they shake hands on a basketball court again, but Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Denver forward Alex English have settled their legal differences out of court.

You may recall that last season, English, the captain of the Nuggets, and Abdul-Jabbar, captain of the Lakers, slapped lawsuits on each other. Abdul-Jabbar was served papers in the visitors’ dressing room after a game in Denver last February; when English came to Los Angeles in March, he was served while sitting on the visitors’ bench during the game. During the first round of the playoffs, when the Nuggets and Lakers met, Abdul-Jabbar pointedly refused to shake English’s hands, as is customary for team captains before a game.

At one time, both players were represented by the same agent, Tom Collins, whom Abdul-Jabbar later sued for $59 million, charging negligence, fraud and breach of trust in Collins’ handling of Abdul-Jabbar’s investments and other financial affairs. Abdul-Jabbar’s suit alleges that Collins frequently transferred funds from the account of one client to another without the client’s knowledge.

English, together with another Collins client, Dallas guard Brad Davis, sued Abdul-Jabbar for a total of $150,000 they claimed they had loaned him. Abdul-Jabbar responded by adding English and Davis as defendants in his action against Collins.

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But recently, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement in which Abdul-Jabbar dropped English and Davis from the Collins lawsuit, which is still pending, and they dropped their action against him. As part of the settlement, none of the parties involved were allowed to discuss the terms of the agreement, but presumably, Abdul-Jabbar paid back at least a portion of the money the other players said were due them.

“Alex and Kareem are glad to have the matter resolved,” said Kimberly Henry, the Denver attorney who represented English. “Alex always wanted to be fair. He’s a very fair person.”

Abdul-Jabbar’s attorney, Leonard Armato, did not return a phone call.

Collins, by the way, has lost his house in Encino, his ranch in Colorado, and is now working in a butcher shop in a Denver suburb, according to his attorney, Donald Rivers.

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Add Abdul-Jabbar: He has said that next season, at which time he’ll be 42, will be his last, and if his new marketing agency has its way, Abdul-Jabbar will bow out with more than the usual fanfare. Nancy Sarnoff, who has teamed with Armato to form Management Plus Entertainment, is trying to line up a corporate sponsor or two to promote Abdul-Jabbar’s farewell tour of NBA cities next season.

Can’t you just see it now: The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Helsinki Formula Hair Growth tour?

Sarnoff has experience with this sort of thing: She used to represent Pete Rose, and got him on the cover of a Wheaties box while he was pursuing Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record.

“Obviously, the big problem is the NBA,” Sarnoff said. “They, too, want a part of the pie.”

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Equally obvious, this sentimental journey will reward Abdul-Jabbar with more than tears.

A dunkathon for a honeymoon: Dallas forward Mark Aguirre, a member of the Western Conference All-Star team, will be married in Chicago on Saturday, the day before the game. Aguirre’s good buddies, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, will be among the invited guests.

The Atlanta Hawks haven’t won in three games since they assured Mike Fratello of becoming coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars for the first time.

“I told him it was the kiss of death,” said Laker Coach Pat Riley, whose team beat the Hawks last Friday. “They played so hard to get him there and now they let the helium out of the ball.”

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Humble pie: Dallas center James Donaldson, who was added as a reserve to the Western team when Portland’s Steve Johnson underwent thumb surgery, disputed the merits of his selection.

“Personally, I don’t feel like I deserve to be there,” Donaldson said. “I don’t feel like I’ve played at that level. I’d rather put the All-Star selection and the whole weekend out of my head. But Commissioner (David) Stern chose me and I can’t afford to insult the commissioner.”

Neither, apparently, can James Worthy, the on-again, off-again, on-again member of the West team. Riley said Monday that as of that day, Worthy still intended to play Sunday, but reiterated how one false jump can cause considerable pain in Worthy’s left knee.

“In an All-Star Game, you have a tendency to do too much,” Riley said. “It’s like, ‘I’ll show you, you show me.’ ”

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One player who was insulted by not being selected was Chicago forward Charles Oakley, the league’s leading rebounder.

Said Oakley: “The coaches who did not pick me will see me in the second half of the season and they are going to wish they had picked me.”


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