As usual, the crowd for tonight's Los Angeles Lakers game at the Great Western Forum resembles a cattle call for Hollywood Hunks du jour. Seated a few rows beyond one baseline is Scott Wolf (Party of Five), and somewhere in the stands, hiding under a baseball cap, is King of the World Leonardo DiCaprio. At midcourt, occupying the best seat in the house and drawing flirtatious glances from the Laker Girls, is a tall leading-man type in a handmade, meticulously tailored suit. He not only looks like a star, he's got all the accessories—a thick modeling portfolio, an acting coach, a personal trainer, three agents and a starring role in a popular Saturday-morning sitcom.
He also stands 6'7" and could still break off a move on Young Master Kobe. But Reggie Theus isn't here to network, he's here to work. He's doing color commentary for TNT, and a quick peek at the NBA record book shows that Theus isn't just another pretty voice. He was a two-time All-Star and scored 19,015 points and had 6,453 assists. Among retired players, only first-ballot Hall of Famers John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West reached the 19,000-6,000 double. After 13 seasons playing on teams so bad they made The Postman look good, Theus is now a triple threat on television. In the NBC Saturday-morning comedy-with-a-message Hang Time, Theus plays Bill Fuller, a retired NBA star who coaches a high school team in the mythical town of Deering, Ind. He also appears several nights a week on TNT's and TBS's NBA broadcasts, working either as a cohost from Turner Broadcasting's Techwood studio in Atlanta or as a courtside color commentator. During the playoffs, which began April 23, he will be on the air almost every night. Among court commentators, only Gerry Spence gets more airtime.
Now in his fourth season with Turner, Theus, 40, relies on the same trait that distinguished him as a player: He's always willing to take shots. "The Lakers are totally falling apart," he says tonight after Los Angeles's front line allows an uncontested Phoenix tip-in to ice the game. "That's just terrible basketball." During a Jazz-Sonics game in Seattle, Theus's partner, Bob Neal, noted that Seattle coach George Karl considered Utah's mercurial forward Chris Morris "the unknown factor in tonight's game." Theus pounced on that: "He's an unknown factor, period," he added, chuckling. "Who can figure that guy out?"
The same might be asked of Theus—does he want to be a broadcaster or a matinee idol? His TV teammates are more than happy to help him decide. "I think Reggie's a much better broadcaster than he is an actor," says Ernie Johnson, Theus's sidekick on the TNT and TBS studio shows. "I mean, I haven't seen him getting any daytime Emmy nominations. Have you?"
Theus, who wants to break into films, has elected not to return to Hang Time. "I want to evolve as an actor," says Theus, sounding more Hollywood than Techwood. "But I always want to be involved with basketball. Ultimately I see myself as a play-by-play guy." So is he the next Al Pacino or the next Al Michaels? Either way, Reggie Theus, standing on the corner of Hollywood and twine, is ready for his close-up.