Picks and Pans Review: On Tour With...
TITLE: Living the Dream PLACE: Wal-Mart, San Antonio COPIES SIGNED: 328 in 90 minutes
HE HAS STARED DOWN SHAQ, THE ADMIRAL and other monsters of the low post without a flinch, but Houston Rockets center Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon, 33, looked a little shaky facing Daniel Schnall, a skinny 9-year-old clutching a souvenir game program. "I'm sorry, but I'm only supposed to sign books," said Hakeem sheepishly, dispatching Schnall with an engulfing handshake but no autograph. Houston, we have a problem.
Schnall, after waiting five hours to make sure he was first in line to meet his hero, who was passing through San Antonio for the NBA All-Star game last month, wasn't the only disappointed fan. An advertising mixup had most of the 500 Rockets boosters on hand believing that Olajuwon would sign caps, cards and T-shirts as well as copies of his autobiography Living the Dream (Little, Brown $22.95), written with Peter Knobler. Another hitch: Olajuwon hit the showers sooner than fans expected, signing for just over an hour rather than the announced two hours.
Snafus aside, the soft-spoken, seven-foot Nigerian native dazzled the Fort Sam Houston Hornets, a team of tykes sponsored by the Armed Forces Youth Center. "Hakeem's not like other basketball players," said Hornets coach Miguel Corbett. "He cares about children. That's why I brought them here." People on line chipped in so the team could buy two books, and Wal-Mart managers kicked in two more. "Thanks for coming, guys," said Hakeem, who after signing more than 300 books, agreed to autograph a few caps and pictures.
Still, the Dream left dozens of fans wondering what to do with their newly purchased Rockets memorabilia. Many returned the goods and put their own autographs on complaint cards. "Writing is much harder than playing basketball," sighed Olajuwon. And both, it seems, are easier than book signings.