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April 28, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY

What: "Hot Rod Hundley--You Gotta Love It, Baby"

Author: Rod Hundley, with Tom McEachin (Sports Publishing, $22.95)

Reflecting on his more than 40 years in the NBA as a player (with the Lakers) and broadcaster (for the Lakers, Suns and Jazz), Rod Hundley, one of sport's great quipsters, has this to say about each time he visits the Forum:

"I get a chill every time I . . . look up to see my No. 33 hanging from the rafters, right up there with Elgin Baylor's 22, Jerry West's 44 and Wilt Chamberlain's 13. . . .

"Of course, it would have meant a lot more if the jersey hanging up there with my 33 on it didn't have 'Abdul-Jabbar' written across the top."

That's the way it goes, for 271 pages, in a very funny and sometimes illuminating journey through the NBA.

Hundley pulls no punches, either, particularly when the subject is players who don't play to their potential, a category in which he includes himself.

On Jazz player Greg Ostertag: ". . . has great skills but is not in the right frame of mind for NBA basketball. . . . He doesn't compete and he's not in shape. . . . I think he's a wasted talent. He wants to high-five a guy who blocks his shot and say, 'Hey, nice block,' instead of . . . punching him in the mouth."

Hundley, a Laker guard from 1957 to 1963, says he made $10,000 with the Lakers his rookie year and $11,500 his last season. "I earned a grand total of $62,500 in six seasons in the NBA. Players now get that for playing one game."

Of the famous snowstorm-forced 1960 landing in an Iowa cornfield in the Lakers' DC-3 (no one was hurt), Hundley recalls the terrifying moments before touchdown.

"I told the guys I was ready to pay off all my poker debts, that's how scared I was," he writes.

He further writes he may have hit his playing peak as a high schooler in Charleston, W.Va.

"I was the best high school player I've ever seen . . . and that includes Jerry West," he says.

And never, he says, was he a yes man for owners who didn't know anything about basketball.

Once as an assistant broadcaster for the Lakers, he says owner Jack Kent Cooke told him to build up the team's top draft pick, Bill Hewitt of USC, as a future Elgin Baylor.

Hundley says he told Cooke: "Mr. Cooke, I can't say that because Billy Hewitt couldn't carry Elgin's jock."

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