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Foul Lines: Part I

Posted: Monday January 23, 2006 1:33PM; Updated: Thursday February 16, 2006 3:39PM
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Foul Lines
Foul Lines: A Pro Basketball Novel
Touchstone Books
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After covering the NBA for more than a combined 30 years, SI senior writers Jack McCallum and Jon Wertheim figured they had witnessed enough colorful characters and madcap antics to fill a book. So that's what they did. Their co-authored satirical novel of the NBA, Foul Lines, was released this week. SI.com has serialized three chapters. To order the book, click here.

PART II | PART III

The first thing everybody told Kwaanzii Parker was not to blow a hundred grand of his signing money on a ride. Which is precisely what he did. Kwaanzii's selection was a Robitussin-purple Jaguar with plates that read kingkwaan! Like most professional athletes, Kwaanzii tooled around in an automobile equipped with a jet engine, two elaborate hood ornaments, a neon underbelly and those vanity plates. But he just hated it when somebody recognized him.

Kwaanzii, a tender 18, was eight months removed from his senior prom -- which he attended with rap star Shabeera Slade, an event that rated five minutes on BET -- and seven months removed from his high school graduation, which he passed up in favor of Shaq's All-Star Super Jamaica Jam. From the time he was an AAU star in Las Vegas at 13, King Kwaan was in the E-Z Pass lane to the National Basketball Federation, never a thought that he would spend a single night on a college campus -- unless, as one recruiter put it, "he was making a booty call."

Kwaanzii had developed a close personal relationship with an older Los Angeles Lasers teammate, point guard Litanium (Tribal Cat) Johnson, a friendship based on overlapping pharmacological esthetics and a willingness to drive at excessive speeds. Litanium was himself hiding from the public in an orange Lamborghini Gallardo with plates that read yr o da cat. Tribal Cat secretly he admired the teenager's ride and pondered picking up one himself, though at the moment he was, to paraphrase his accountant, "slightly cash deficient."

The two players bonded when, back in early October, they happened to pull out of media day together and begin a friendly race along Figueroa Street in downtown L.A. Kwaanzii won that one, which didn't sit well with Litanium, who the next day kicked it up to 125 mph and nipped his young teammate. Litanium christened their competition Drag Club and felt much pride when it spread throughout the team. Litanium had always considered himself a leader. Quoting one of his favorite movies, he often counseled his teammates, "First rule of Drag Club is you do not talk about Drag Club."

Litanium and Kwaanzii had raced a dozen times, and Litanium, nothing if not an inveterate competitor, secretly kept a log of the results. Much to his dismay, the rookie had won eight of their showdowns. Litanium considered their races a show of esprit de corps -- "closing the generational gap," as he put it -- while Lasers coach John Watson, who was almost sideswiped by Litanium as he pulled out of practice one day, called the players "brain-dead idiots racing to the morgue."

Having begun as a daylight activity, Drag Club had lately moved to the nocturnal hours. And tonight, as Litanium saw it, seemed ideal for a chapter meeting. Following a 101--83 victory over Seattle, most of the Lasers were scattered about The Vines, a trendy nightclub near Malibu owned by a close friend of team owner Owen Padgett. The occasion was a commemoration of Coach Watson's 50th, though the evening's business -- a desultory rendering of Happy Birthday and the presentation of a laptop to Watson, a confirmed Luddite -- was over quickly. Litanium had played well, with 18 points and 11 assists, and Kwaanzii hadn't played at all. (Watson didn't have much faith in rookies.) Litanium figured that Kwaanzii would be angry and distracted.

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