If you've read the sports pages lately, you might think the world's invaded by Shaquille O'Neal clones. Big-pawed preschoolers terrorizing the Nerf rim, ponderous preps with shoe sizes twice their age -- yep, the "Baby Shaq" tag gets tossed around like Dikembe Mutombo in the 2001 Finals. Never mind that so much baby talk can be a curse. (Remember Harold Miner, a.k.a. Baby Jordan?) Or that the Big Fella himself seems dubious about the moniker: "I'm like an unconceptual, preconceptual lunar moon. I only come around once every 115 years." Back on planet Earth, we tracked down some of his namesakes anyway -- you know, to see how they measure up.
6'9", 280 pounds, 17 years old
Iraklis Salonica, Greek Pro League
BIG DEAL He's named after the Greek play-wright, who was kind of like the Big Aristotle of his time. Soph dunked on Gheorghe Muresan in a recent game against the Romanians. Shaq cleaned his teeth with Gheorghe Muresan.
BIG DIFF Schortsianitis, a Tim Duncan fan, is eyeing the 2004 draft. The first Greek baller to make the NBA: 7'2" Suns C Jake Tsakalidis. But "Baby Jake" doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents.
6'9", 285 pounds, 14 years old
St. Patrick High School, Elizabeth, N.J.
BIG DEAL He was "only" 5'4" in fifth grade, then shot up 17 inches in three years. After dwarfing eighth-graders last season, Caracter outplayed kids three years older at July's Nike Camp.
BIG DIFF He has a smooth J and prefers facing the basket to banging on the block. His favorite NBA character is Dirk Nowitzki. Says Derrick: "I hope I'm done growing."
This article appears in the December 23 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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