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STRETCH
Steve Wulf
March 06, 1989
THOUGH HIS 7'5" HEIGHT IS ESTEEMED, CHUCK NEVITT SEEMS CONDEMNED TO SIT AT THE END OF THE BENCH
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March 06, 1989

Stretch

THOUGH HIS 7'5" HEIGHT IS ESTEEMED, CHUCK NEVITT SEEMS CONDEMNED TO SIT AT THE END OF THE BENCH

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For the record, Nevitt has a 42-inch inseam, a 16-inch collar and a 41-inch sleeve. He also wears size 17 shoes, but that's almost small for someone his size. Most of his clothes are custom-made in Hong Kong, and there is a traveling tailor who services the big guys in the NBA.

Nevitt also had a hard time finding a team he could fit into. In 1984, with the help of an uncle in the printing business, he sent out publicity brochures on himself. On the cover was a picture of Nevitt blocking a shot by 7'4" Ralph Sampson, then with Virginia. On the first inside page was this caption for the cover photo: "If you don't recognize No. 50, you don't follow pro basketball very closely. He's the incomparable Ralph Sampson. But how about the guy hovering over him, blocking the shot? Do you know him? After all, Sampson is 7'4". Not a lot of folks make him eat the ball."

The brochure actually intrigued a few clubs. At about this time, Nevitt also got a new agent, Keith Glass, whose brother was a coworker of Chuck's mother-in-law in Raleigh, N.C. The Lakers invited Nevitt to camp. Things were looking up—even for Chuck.

But then came some tragic news. The closest of his siblings, older brother Steve, with whom he had shared a bedroom, committed suicide at the age of 28. "Nobody really knows the reason," says Jack. "Steve was out of a job, living at home. He was the least athletic one of us. But you only see these things in retrospect. Under the circumstances, Chuck was a real comfort, even though he was hurting as much as any of us. He held up so well. He was like a tower of strength." Since Steve's death, Jack, a sales rep for Procter & Gamble, and Chuck have grown much closer.

After the funeral, chuck reported back to the Lakers. "I don't know if I was consciously trying to make the team to make up for Steve's loss, but I think I knew it was important subconsciously. I just didn't want to give the family any more bad news, I didn't want to have them hear that I was cut." Coach Pat Riley gave Nevitt little chance of making the team at the beginning of camp, but working with assistant coach Bill Bertka, Chuck displayed a toughness nobody had seen before. The Lakers signed him as a free agent in September '84.

They waived him seven weeks later, but they wanted him around to keep Abdul-Jabbar sharp, and in case of emergency, so he was given a job in the public relations office. "Basically, what Chuck did was get things off the top shelf for me," says Lakers p.r. director Josh Rosenfeld. Nevitt also made appearances in shopping malls, helping to sell Laker tickets. Who could resist buying a seat from a 7'5" ticket seller?

During this period, Nevitt tried out for a part in Back to School, the movie comedy starring Rodney Dangerfield. Actually, it was Dangerfield himself who suggested Nevitt be tested for a scene inside, ironically, a big men's clothing store owned by the Dangerfield character. Chuck did not get the part. But then, he was used to being cut.

Even though he wasn't playing, Nevitt had some memorable practices with the Lakers. Once he nailed Mitch Kupchak, who was just coming back from a knee injury, in the nose with one of those pointy elbows. As Kupchak lay on his back in the trainer's room, Nevitt kept apologizing, "Mitch, I'm so sorry, Mitch, I'm so sorry." Says Kupchak, now the Lakers' assistant general manager, "My nose wasn't bothering me half as much as Chuck was. I finally told him to cut it out."

Nevitt was re-signed by the Lakers in March '85, when Jamaal Wilkes was hurt, and he stayed with the club right through the playoffs and the championship. He actually played in seven playoff games, blocking six shots in just 37 minutes of playing time. So he earned his ring.

The Lakers waived him again the following November. "I guess it was decided he'd been given enough time to develop," says Kupchak. "I remember the day he was cut in Portland. Kurt Rambis and Ronnie Lester and some other guys and I went up to his room to make sure he was O.K. We went up there to cheer him up, and pretty soon he was the one cheering us up.

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