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Quickly Finding a Groove

Popular recording star Shaquille O’Neal is the toast of the NBA this season as professional basketball’s premier center-rapper. Shaq has a hot-selling album out this Christmas, and I can’t wait for that collection of Broadway show tunes he and Johnny Mathis are doing.

The only thing compact about Shaq is his discs. Yes, it’s Billboard by day and backboards by night for this young 7-footer from Orlando--I’m sounding like Casey Kasem here--who will be appearing live and in concert at the Sports Arena tonight against the tone-deaf Clippers. He is shooting up the league and the charts.

See, this is the one big difference between Michael Jordan and Shaq. Mike could dunk, but he couldn’t funk.

Then again, Shaq’s golf stinks.

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His singing voice isn’t the greatest on wax, either. Other NBA players talk trash, but Shaq is the only one who sings it. When they talk about records being made to be broken, they’re talking about Shaq twice. His album should be stocked at your local music store on the “Hard Listening” shelf. I’ve found cooler jazz in Utah.

Yet of all the center-rappers in basketball, O’Neal is easily the best. I mean, the man can out-rap Vlade Divac any day of the week. His debut disc is called “Shaq Diesel,” possibly because it sounds as though it were recorded on a train. Included among a dozen songs in this collection of Shaqsta rap is a number called “I Hate 2 Brag,” which, while we’re on the subject, also goes 4 me.

What we have to remember is that this is only O’Neal’s first album. He is bound to get better. By the time he’s 40 or 50, he will be doing commercials on late-night TV alongside some of our most famous entertainers, Kathie Lee Gifford and her ballads of love, or Zamfir and his pan flute.

After an intro, Shaq cuts loose with a song called "(I Know I Got) Skillz.” It may remind you of that hit song from the ‘80s by the Quayles, "(I Know I Can’t) Spelle.”

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Next selection is “I’m Outstanding,” which he definitely is. Then comes one called “Where Ya At?"--possibly inspired by the opposing NBA players Shaq is supposed to guard--followed by the aforementioned “I Hate 2 Brag” and then something titled “Let Me In, Let Me In,” which I believe is the story of Indiana Coach Bob Knight being banned from the Tennessee Tech game.

Side 2 on my cassette begins with “Shoot Pass Slam,” a tune having to do with O’Neal’s disdain for the comma. Then comes “Boom!” “Are You a Roughneck?” “Giggin’ On ‘Em"--don’t ask me; I thought it would be about catching frogs--"What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock?)” and a finale quite appropriately titled “Game Over” that lasts for only 10 seconds, but simply happens to be the most happening 10-second song ever sung. You can sing the whole thing yourself by the time Scott Skiles or Penny Hardaway dribbles the ball past half-court.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Shaq on his album’s success. OK, so Luther Vandross isn’t losing any sleep. OK, so maybe Nick Van Exel isn’t losing any sleep. Let’s see somebody else from the NBA do better. Let’s see Shawn Bradley sing and dance.

He would look like a flamingo.

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My only fear about the Shaqster is that he might change his name, the way so many rappers do. It’s one thing for Chris Jackson to become Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. That’s an act of faith. But I am not looking forward to Shaquille O’Neal waking up one morning and deciding to change his name to Snoop Doggy Dogg.

There are rappers named Ice-T and Ice Cube. What if Shaq elects to begin calling himself, say, Ice Cream? “The Orlando Magic defeated the Chicago Bulls last night, 100-99, led by Ice Cream’s 29 points.” Or the New York Times reported that this was the first time the President and Mrs. Clinton had been introduced to Mr. Cream.

Anyhow, I hope Shaq is successful in his multifaceted career. He also has shot his first movie, co-starring Nick Nolte, in which he (O’Neal, not Nolte) plays a basketball player. Good casting.

And he’s cutting his second album, which will include NBA-themed numbers such as: “A Hundred Bottles of Laimbeer on the Wall,” “Mourning Has Broken,” “I Dream of Rodman With the Light Red Hair,” “Sooner or Laettner,” “76er Trombones,” “Please, Mr. Mailman,” “Here’s to You, David Robinson,” “Hakeem (I Saw, I Conquered)” and, in his first country-western attempt, “Achy Laker Heart.”

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