Master P still clings to NBA dream

What is the present for the man that has everything? For Master P, it's wearing an NBA uniform.

Master P will likely make more money this year than Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett, the NBA's two highest paid players, combined. The rap star, whose real name is Percy Miller, is the CEO of the overwhelmingly successful No Limit Enterprises. Along with making his fans say his catch-phrase, "Uhh," Master P has made many movies, starred in many movies and even has his own clothing line "P. Miller" and toy doll.

All these accomplishments for Miller stemmed from wisely using the $10,000 gift from his grandfather as a young adult after spending much of his life living in poverty in the New Orleans projects. And since the 32-year-old has figured out a way to come from nothing to more than something, he believes he can make his dream of playing in the NBA come true.

"I never had nothing," Miller said. "I had to go out there and do something for my family, and the music stuff blew up for me. I come from a poor family. I had to do what I (needed) to take care of them. Now I got that straight, I want to do something I like while I can still do it."

The 6-foot-4 Miller was on his way to playing basketball at the University of Houston when a knee injury changed his direction. Instead, Miller put his energy into the rap game and it more than paid off. But while rap is his claim to fame, you can see in many of his videos that basketball is a major love in his life.

While his name probably has helped open some doors basketball-wise, Miller has kept the focus by opening some eyes in the professional basketball ranks.

During the strike-shortened 1998-99 season, Miller was a member of the Charlotte Hornets during training camp but didn't make the regular-season roster. During the 1999-2000 season, he once scored eight points in an exhibition game against the Vancouver Grizzlies while playing for the Toronto Raptors and continually packed arenas. The Raptors, however, waived Miller just before the season began. He has also played with Fort Wayne of the CBA and San Diego of the IBL.

Miller said previously he didn't have the mentality to play in the NBA. But after spending last summer playing against the likes of all-stars Baron Davis, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Los Angeles and All-Star Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell in Houston, Master P says he is ready to go from the rap stage to the NBA hardwood.

"I've been able to play with those guys and hold my own," Miller said. "I think basketball is about confidence. You go out there and see all the people and miss one shot, and you lose your confidence. But when you look at the franchise players, they miss a shot and they keep on playing ... The confidence I have on the stage with my music really helps me now."

To show just how serious Miller is about playing in the NBA, he has recently worked out in Denver at the Nuggets' practice facility twice and met with general manager Kiki Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe has been intrigued by Miller's game and once tried to convince Don Nelson to give Miller a tryout (to no avail) while working for the Dallas Mavericks.

Currently, the Nuggets have no room to acquire Miller as they have the maximum 15 players on their roster. But Vandeweghe said that if Denver did somehow have an open roster spot, Master P deserved consideration. If signed, the rookie Miller would cost an NBA team a prorated rookie minimum of $349,458 and could bring excitement to the arena whether he plays or not.

"The positive is what I can bring to the community and the kids," Miller said. "I think I can fill the seats up. Even though basketball isn't about that, it would make the game more fun knowing the gym is packed when you're playing at home. I can bring a spark plug to the club. I'm a wild-energy-type person."

Rap fans might go to games to see Master P in an NBA uniform. But what about basketball purists? Many would think it's a joke -- a publicity stunt. Master P, however, could care less about the skeptics. He's confident he would get the last laugh.

"I really don't care," Miller said. "If I came in here and the lights come and I put up a good show, then all that skepticism will be out. I just want that opportunity. That's how everyone else in the league gets started. Somebody has to have confidence in him and put him on the stage.

"I played in the CBA with (Houston's) Moochie Norris. Somebody gave him an opportunity. I played in the CBA with (Minnesota's) Troy Hudson. I played with (Sacramento's Damon Jones). I played with (Chicago's) Rick Brunson in the CBA. Someone was willing to give him the opportunity ... You don't have to score every basket. But if the people know that you're giving 150 percent, then they are you going to root for you."

Numerous NBA players have been dissed for trying to get into the rap game. Cedric Ceballos was horrible. Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant and Dana Barros have tried and failed. But on the flip side, Shaq Allen Iverson are NBA All-Stars who have lyrical skills, too. So if Shaq and A.I. can do it, why not give Master P a chance?

Late in a season when a team like the Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are in the LaBron James sweepstakes and out of the playoff race, what would it hurt to put Master P on the court? It wouldn't hurt so bad to lose games with a packed house, especially considering the pro-rated money Miller would make at that point. And once and for all while Miller realizes his dream, we will see if he can make the fans scream with his hoop skills or make them say, "Uhh."

"C'mon man, I'm from the hood," said Master P, when asked if he would be intimidated to play in the NBA. "Basketball is a fun thing."

Marc J. Spears, who covers the Denver Nuggets for the Denver Post, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.