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August 10, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel"

Where: HBO

When: Tonight, 10

People seem to view Keyshawn Johnson, the subject of one of the four stories in this edition of HBO's sports magazine show, as either charming or arrogant. Reporter Derek McGinty's segment on Johnson is not likely to change anybody's mind.

When McGinty points out that he is viewed as arrogant, Johnson, smiling, says, "Who cares?"

Johnson, the former USC and New York Jet wide receiver who signed an eight-year, $56-million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is known for his candor. For instance, when McGinty asks Johnson about the 1992 L.A. riots, Johnson, then a freshman at West Los Angeles College, says he "joined in and got some stuff." McGinty: "Like what?" Johnson: "TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens."

Johnson's USC coach, John Robinson, recalls the first time he met Johnson, saying: "We arrive at the Coliseum for a game and I'm the first one off the bus, and this 9-year-old kid is asking me for tickets." Robinson said he gave him tickets. And what did Johnson do with them? "I scalped them," he says.

Johnson, one of six children in a single-parent household in South Central L.A., talks about some of the criminal activity he was involved in as a child. "In the street, you did stuff to advance your economics," he says. Johnson also talks about spending time in a juvenile detention center when he was 14. "Compared to the street, it was like going to camp," he says.

He says he learned right from wrong as he got older. "I decided I wanted to go to college," he says.

By the time Johnson got to USC, Robinson says, he was a delight to coach. But Robinson was never quite sure what Johnson would do next. "During games, he'd come up behind me, stick his hands in my back pockets, pull down on my pants and whisper, 'You gonna throw me the ball?' " Robinson says.

"When he first got to USC, he said he was going to catch 100 passes each year, be a top draft choice, make All-Pro and own one of the best restaurants in L.A.," Robinson says. "He has accomplished all that."

Johnson says he wants to retire from football after 10 years in the NFL, when he is 32. He talks about his retirement news conference and, figuring Bryant Gumbel will be there, does a pretty good imitation of him. "Do you buy into what he is saying?" Johnson says in his best Gumbel voice, smiling as he does the impersonation. Johnson smiles a lot in the segment.

The first feature on this edition of "Real Sports" is about Cuban defector and star third baseman Andy Morales, whose first attempt to escape from Cuba in June failed. He made it on his second try a month later. Johnson is the second story, and the third is on Teresa Weatherspoon of the WNBA's New York Liberty. The final segment is about a soccer program for poverty-stricken Haitian children.

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