"Steve," you'll say. "It's, uh, Steve."
"Sorry?" he'll ask, bending down to hear.
"It's, uh, not Doug, it's Steve."
"Oh, sorry," he'll say, looking away again, "George."
MELROSE AVENUE, HOLLYWOOD
You half expect Shaq to pull into the Paramount Pictures lot, get a half-caf, half-decaf skinny latte, maybe do lunch with some execs. But he does not pull in. Shaq does not want to be a corporate entity moonlighting three hours a day as an NBA center. He is serious about business—he likes his friends to call him Enrico Gates, after Roger Enrico, CEO of Pepsi, and Bill Gates of Microsoft—but he is twice as serious about hoops. He makes movies only during the summer and insists on having an NBA basket outside his trailer. (While filming Steel he practiced free throws, and he and Bucky played two set painters two-on-two for hours every day.) Shaq does no ads, appearances or rap recording on game days. "He's committed to basketball," says Harris. "He works as hard as anybody. And I don't think making movies ruins your basketball career. It hasn't seemed to hurt Michael Jordan."
Says Shaq: "People expected me to freak out here. Well, I didn't."
In fact, one night when we were at his penthouse, the Men of Unclear Purpose informed him that he was invited not only to the premiere of the Rodney Dangerfield movie Meet Wally Sparks but also to a Damon Wayans party.
"Nuh-uh," said Shaq. He also didn't go to the Grammys. "Couldn't," he says.
"Why not?" I ask.