- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

Shaquille O'Neal apparently has a rich fantasy life, judging by his recent comments to a radio station in Los Angeles that he has slept with Cindy Crawford, Venus Williams and Aaliyah.

This revelation came as news to the three women, each of whom denied ever being intimate with O'Neal.

Of course, professional athletes sleep around an awful lot, although they usually have the good sense not to name names, except in private, and that's only if they know the name of the woman, which is not always the case.

The name of the woman is usually immaterial unless the moment of joy ends up in a paternity case, and then it is left to the lawyers and judges to put a dollar figure on the bundle of joy.

As it turns out, the naming of names either was O'Neal's idea of a joke or a way to practice safe sex. Or perhaps it was a Zen thing, and non-practitioners wouldn't understand.

It seems O'Neal, on second thought, has not slept with Crawford, Williams and Aaliyah in the Biblical sense, only perhaps in his wildest dreams, and to hear the three women tell it, not even then.

O'Neal was only kidding, being lovable to a fault, having fun, making it up as he went along.

"Am I the only superstar with a great sense of humor?" O'Neal said.

By the way, have you heard the one about O'Neal and Vanessa Williams, wife of Rick Fox?

"If Shaquille made the statement as a joke, it was in very bad taste," Williams said.

At least he left Serena Williams out of it, along with Richard Williams and Richard Simmons.

Star Magazine, one of the supermarket tabloids, couldn't resist, plastering the tidbit on the front page, with the headline: "Shaq: My Affair with Cindy Crawford."

The tabloid could have added: "Sex, lies and no videotape."

One way or the other, O'Neal is no Wilt Chamberlain, the self-proclaimed greatest philanderer in the history of the NBA. George Washington slept here. Chamberlain slept everywhere else.

In 1991, Chamberlain wrote in his book that he was up to 20,000 women, an astonishing figure, because there are only so many days in a year and Chamberlain was only 55 years old at the time. He claimed to have started early, at age 15 by his recollection, which came out to roughly 1.3 women a day, even counting leap-year days.

Chamberlain never expressed fatigue, and the 20,000 women, whoever they were, never objected to being part of such a massive study in human development. Was it as good for them as it was for Chamberlain?

It takes a big man to satisfy 20,000 women, as Shawn Kemp can attest.

Kemp gave out after fathering seven children by six women, subverting an all-star career with weight problems, drug problems and financial problems. He is perhaps the only person who could check himself into a drug rehabilitation center and call it a vacation.

The nocturnal habits of players is unusually tricky, and no small area of concern among those dependent on the young and virile. All too many players need the opposite of Viagra. The Wizards have not been the same since Juwan Howard and Chris Webber met the woman from Connecticut.

After their meeting, Webber went to Sacramento, Howard went to Dallas, and the Wizards went to the bottom of the NBA standings. No one laughs in Tony Cheng's neighborhood these days, except the visiting teams.

O'Neal dispatched a letter of apology to each woman after receiving a lecture from his mother. As an added touch, he sent flowers to Crawford, perhaps because she wound up on the cover of Star Magazine. It is the first time O'Neal has been pushed around in these playoffs.

"It was a bad joke," O'Neal said. "I apologize, ladies. Not everyone has a great sense of humor like me."

You can add stand-up comic to O'Neal's list of interests outside basketball. He is a basketball player, movie star, rapper and a larger than life version of Chris Rock.

He is, obviously, from the no-paternity-suit, no-foul school of interpersonal relations.


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