NBA FINALS DEMAND A HOLLYWOOD FINISH

LAKERS-PACERS? A prediction?

No problem.

* GAME 1: The opening tip is delayed 90 minutes due to a limousine backup outside the Staples Center. Because so many movie stars are there — Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Denzel Washington — scalpers’ prices soar to
$10,000 a ticket. Several Lakers scrubs, realizing they’re not going to play anyhow, sell their seats, leaving Kevin Bacon, Jim Belushi and Ben Stiller actually sitting on the LA bench.

The first half is all Indiana, as Reggie Miller, a UCLA grad, hits five straight three-pointers and yells after each one, “REMEMBER ME?” Most of the crowd nods yes, believing Miller once had a small part in “Diff’rent Strokes.”

In the fourth quarter, with the Lakers down 15, Phil Jackson says, “We’ve come back before, let’s do it again.” Shaquille O’Neal, sweat pouring from his brow, looks up earnestly and says, “Mmzllp.”

Pacers win, 105-92. Jim Belushi grabs two rebounds.

* GAME 2: Already, Los Angeles has jumped off the bandwagon. Tickets are half-price. No stars show up, except Belushi, who asks to play point guard. Twenty-one-year-old Kobe Bryant, under advice from his agent, begins to lie about his age. “I’m really only 19,” he says. “Unless you’re looking to cast younger . . .”

Before the game, Indiana sustains an unexpected loss. Center Rik Smits quits the team to take the lead in a new movie, “Dutch and Dumber.” Nonetheless, the Pacers come out on fire. Reggie Miller once again hits a string of three-pointers.

“NOW YOU REMEMBER ME?”

The crowd nods yes, believing Miller once did a voice on “The Simpsons.”

With three minutes left, and the Lakers trailing, Jackson screams at Shaq,
“WAKE UP, BIG FELLA!” Shaq blinks, sweat pouring down his chin, looks up earnestly and says, “Plmzzzlp?”

Pacers win, 104-100. Jim Belushi misses a free throw.

* GAME 3: The scene shifts to Indianapolis, and so does the glamour. A limousine pulls up, and out steps a man named Clem, who owns a chicken feed store. “Parrrrrrr-TY!” he yells.

An NBC executive faints.

The Lakers, who have been abandoned by their fans (headline in LA paper:
“Bring back the Raiders!”), decide to get serious about basketball. Rick Fox even cancels a photo shoot to attend practice.

The results are obvious. Kobe Bryant, Glen Rice and Ron Harper each score 30. Lakers win, 103-67.

Afterward, Chris Mullin announces he is quitting the Pacers. The story fails to make the evening news, since no one knew Mullin was on the team in the first place.

* GAME 4: Jalen Rose huddles his Pacers together, arm-in-arm, and says,
“Fellas, let’s not forget what we’re here for . . .”

“YEAH!”

“We’re all free agents, and we’re playing for new contracts!”

“YEAH!”

With that, the Pacers go on a 24-2 run and blow out the Lakers by a final score of 99-71. Afterward, Phil Jackson sits barefoot, in the lotus position, humming.

Meanwhile, the Pacers suffer another defection. Forward Austin Croshere changes his last name to “Powers” and quits the team to go to Hollywood.

“That’s a dangerous move,” Larry Bird tells him.

“Oh no, baby,” Croshere says, “danger is my middle name.”

* GAME 5: A classic. Lakers win on a last-second basket. Unfortunately, no one sees it, since the game is up against “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” on ABC and “Survivor” on CBS.

Afterward, John Salley of the Lakers is asked about his team’s character.
“Forget that stuff,” he says, “did they throw that corporate guy off the island yet? I HATE him!”

* GAME 6: The series shifts back to LA. Since the Lakers are still trailing, 3-2 — and could technically be considered “losing” — not a single Hollywood type shows up.

At 6 p.m., the Lakers open the doors to anyone. The enthusiastic crowd inspires the team, as does the return of Dennis Rodman, who, unbeknownst to anyone, was still on the roster.

“I was gonna wait until Game 7,” Rodman says, after grabbing 36 rebounds, “but I wanted to show I was a team player.”

Lakers win, 98-88. Jackson stops humming, begins whistling.

* GAME 7: With the Lakers once again potential winners, the stars are back. Jack. Dyan. Denzel. Tickets go for $100,000 in the upper level. Before the game, an NBC executive is seen giving a fat envelope to a referee, with the words “If The Lakers Win, We All Win” written on the front.

Not surprisingly, the first half sees four fouls called on LA, and 56 fouls called on Indiana. Unfortunately, this sends Shaq to the line 112 times. He makes three.

By the fourth quarter, Bird is out of players, and is forced to suit up himself. Not to be outdone, Magic Johnson comes out of the stands. The game comes down to a final shot. Magic jumps for a baby hook — and rips a calf muscle. Bird leaps to block it — and pulls a groin. The shot bounces off Shaq’s head and drops in. Lakers win, 97-95.

The Pacers, dejected, are forced to take cabs home, since none of them has a contract. Reggie Miller is approached by a female fan.

“Don’t feel bad,” she says, “I remember you.”

“Thanks, Cheryl,” Reggie says.

Meanwhile, in the winning locker room, Shaq is asked about the bizarre finish. He looks up earnestly and says, “I believe tonight was the confluence of generations, combined with divine destiny.”Reporters are aghast. “You can speak!” they cry.

He grins. “You should see me play cello . . .”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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