Pop is Sam Armato, USC professor emeritus and father of Shaq's agent, Leonard. "Ancillary," the professor says. He explains that the word means subordinate, secondary, a side dish.
A few nights later Shaq tells reporters, "I do have other interests, but they're ancillary."
Ancillary? You could employ a small country helping Shaq pursue his ancillary interests. This is what he has going in Los Angeles as we speak (ready? Inhale!): This summer he will appear in his third movie (Steel, produced by Quincy Jones); he has his own record label and line of clothing (TWIsM: The World Is Mine); he is promoting his third rap CD (You Can't Stop the Reign); he is developing his own TV series (Hoops, a basketball-themed show); he has been nominated for a Grammy as a contributor to a music compilation produced by Jones (Q's Jook Joint); he has his own Web site (www.shaq.com); he has marketing relationships with more than 10 companies (which he sometimes plugs ad nauseam—when he signed with L.A., he said the way for the Lakers to win was, "Play hard, drink Pepsi and wear Reeboks"); he is a partner in the entertainment company A.S.E. (Armato is Shaq Entertainment—get it?); he and the Universal Studios theme park are developing a Shaq "entertainment venue," in which you will be able to pursue your favorite Shaqtivities, such as recording rap music, playing video games and jamming basketballs—but not, at least so far, sitting in a car and having your ears turned to Gerber's. (Exhale.)
"In the last year?" says Bucky, Shaq's driver-personal assistant-gofer. "I've had one day off. I mean, the guy never stops."
LA CIENEGA AND MELROSE, WEST HOLLYWOOD
"Dirt, why do you think Shaq loves it in L.A. so much?" I ask.
"More roads," says Dirt.
Shaq has always loved U.S. road travel. Coming home from his first day at preschool in Jersey City, he refused to get off the bus. His mother asked what was up. "Wanna keep riding," he said.
After losses at the Forum, Shaq will keep riding, sometimes for four hours. After wins, though, the route is always the same. It includes his favorite streets—Wilshire, Sunset, Melrose, Third, Beverly—a stop at Jerry's Famous Deli for a sausage-and-cheese omelette and pancakes, and then home. When you are Shaq, there are only two places you can hide: your house and your car. And even though Shaq lives in a 5,000-square-foot penthouse with a 360-degree view of L.A., he likes the car better. In the car he also has the privilege of using the bass to realign his spleen.
He says, "Mllnghrose, bro, thzzwhr I rnngmb cnk itup."