Sports

TOO HOT TO HANDLE

Bone Collector is getting his biggest break yet. Otherwise known as Larry Williams, the 6-foot-nothing, all-everything ball-handling demon has turned Harlem's Rucker Park into his personal stage this summer.

After wowing the Rucker faithful with a shoelace-poppin' crossover dribble that is fast becoming legendary, the 21-year-old told the Voice that he earned his nickname "twisting ankles and tearing ligaments with a single dribble." Looking around at the NBA, college, high school, and no-school stars, he added, "I'd like to think that right now I'm the best player in this whole league."

Bone Collector grew up in Pasadena, Texas, but never played organized ball there, so he packed his duffel bag and headed for the world's most famous playground, where he is averaging 22 points and five rebounds with a team called RBK. Off the court, he's trying to make it as a rap artist.

"It's been a real rough life, man, lots of obstacles to overcome," he said. As he spoke, Bone Collector glanced at a tattoo on one of his arms, depicting a creepy skeleton's head with a long dog bone running through it. "I look down at that tattoo every now and then, especially while I'm playing. It serves as a reminder of my difficult upbringing."

Before washing up on the shores of Rucker Park, Bone Collector did make a stop out West, playing half a season at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Struggling in the classroom, he trotted over to Globe Institute of Technology in Lower Manhattan, one of the few powerful junior-college programs in the Northeast. He gave the Knights 9.5 points, 2.5 assists, and a bundle of headaches per game with his helter-skelter handle last season.

"We called him the 'Turnover Collector,' " said Globe head coach Ken Wilcox. "There's no question that, basketball-wise, he does things that other guys can't do on the court, but there were nights when he just drove me crazy with his dribbling."

Providence and Florida A&M have expressed interest in his basketball services, but as Ken Wilcox said, "That's true, but there's that whole academic thing he has to work out first."

Meanwhile, Bone Collector's also played this summer at the West 4th Street courts and at the Jay Erving Summer Classic in Philly, where Allen Iverson spotted him. Word is that the two ankle-busters may step off in a duel.

"Sounds good to me," said Bone Collector, staring at his tattoo as he spoke. "Let's get it on." —Vincent M. Mallozzi


MEET THE NEW BOSS

Like the crazy uncle who turns up at family reunions, George Steinbrennerhas emerged as New York's Most Valuable Pundit, an unlikely master of barbed wit and delicate malice worthy of Cardinal Richelieu. It seems like just yesterday that the turtlenecked one would utter only terse Schwarzeneggerian platitudes like "we'll be back." But after Indians owner Larry Dolan publicly dissed him in July, Steinbrenner retorted with a 300-word statement, couched in a tone of elaborate courtesy that hardly disguised its contempt: "Inasmuch as Mr. Dolan is only in his third season in baseball, he may not know . . . " Last weekend he struck again, having previously slammed the Expo management for trading star Cliff Floyd to Boston. "I just feel for the fans of Montreal," he said plaintively. "If they feel I am the one that has betrayed them, I send my apology, because I love that city." Snap!

While the big guy generated fireworks off the field, his minions fizzled on it, losing a series to the pesky A's. Hot on the trail of a wild-card spot, Oakland's young rotation stymied the Bombers yet again; the robotically consistent Mark Mulder's rare loss on Sunday still leaves him with an 11-3 record in his past 15 starts. Of New York's marquee pitchers, A's hurler Tim Hudson once exclaimed, "Shoot, they're all 15 years older than we are!" He meant it in a nice way. His team can rely on its aces to win—Hudson and Mulder (the 2000 and 2001 Cy Young runners-up), with Barry Zito rounding out the heroic trio. Can the Yanks rely on theirs? —J. Yeh


TUXEDO DISJUNCTION

Boxing is back in New York City, but the problem is that most people never knew it left. Thomas Gallagher knows this, but on August 30, "Black Tie Boxing" returns to Cipriani, a large banquet hall on 42nd Street. Tickets to the formal event are $200 a head and include a full-course meal while some of the city's brightest young prospects (from almost every borough and ethnic group) chew on one another. Gallagher wants to do this every month. Good luck.

"It's black tie, so people don't have to come here in the same clothes they worked in all day," he said. "It's an elegant night out with good food and good fights." Sounds good, but recent history shows that monthly fight cards in the city don't fly, because they're just too damn expensive.

The question remains: Is the city's sporting public interested in a full calendar of boxing? The press conference for the August 30 show may have provided a hint. Some of the boxers and Lou DiBella, an adviser for many of them, made speeches, and then DiBella asked the reporters in attendance if there were any questions. After 20 seconds of silence, an older fellow raised his hand and said, "What's for dinner?" Tough crowd. —Mitch Abramson

 
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