They say some of the darndest things in the NBA. - It was a good year for quotes, but three quipsters rose above the rest Ñ Houston's enterprising Yao Ming, who doesn't even speak English; his always-engaging teammate, Maurice Taylor; and Seattle's dim-bulbed center, Jerome James.

The 7-6 Yao gets third place in our rankings, with kudos to his interpreter.

Yao, after facing 5-5 Earl Boykins: 'Even when I looked down, I couldn't see him.'

Boykins, whose coach with Golden State was 5-6 Eric Musselman: 'I never have to worry about the team having practice uniforms to fit me. I can just wear Coach's gear.'

Yao, after taking an elbow to the throat by Dikembe Mutombo: 'The center I went up against today gave me a very deep impression.'

Yao, after the Rockets shot .295 from the field in a game: 'Bad shooting is contagious. Tonight, it was like SARS.'

Yao, on Thanksgiving in reference to media demands that have lessened this year: 'Thanksgiving just passed, so you probably know what I am thankful for Ñ LeBron James.'

Houston forward Taylor, our runner-up, is a kick in the pants.

Taylor, on getting down to 253 pounds at the start of the season: 'I haven't been at 253 since Krispy Kreme franchised.'

Taylor, on teammate Jimmy Jackson: 'We say he's the coach's pet. Jim don't like it too much, but, hell, people in jail don't like being there. Some things you've just got to live with.'

Taylor, after he got into a brief shouting match with the Spurs' Stephen Jackson: 'He didn't even go to college, so I'm not going to waste my time conversating with him when he probably doesn't even know how to hold a conversation.'

Wow. But our Little Brown Jug Award for '03 goes to James, a soft-bodied 7-1 boob with a knack for messing up.

James, benched for a game after snoozing through a videotape session: 'It's not like I was sleeping. I just dozed off.'

James, after coach Nate McMillan called him selfish: 'I don't worry about that kind of stuff. I only worry about me.'

The best of the rest follows. Enjoy.

Dallas coach Don Nelson, describing how he almost choked on a piece of food during a recent meal: 'I thought I was going to die. You could have given me the hemlock (maneuver).'

Seattle's Brent Barry, with the final word after hitting a 41-foot set shot in overtime against Chicago: 'I was worried I was going to step on the line Ñ the half-court line.'

Utah's DeShawn Stevenson, after being knocked unconscious for a moment in a game with Milwaukee: 'It wasn't scary. I was asleep.'

Detroit coach Larry Brown, asked if he might put rookie Darko Milicic on the injured list: 'No. We wouldn't have anybody to pick up shirts and towels.'

Former Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich, after the Rockets ended a 10-game regular-season losing streak at Orlando: 'The last time we won down here, Snoop Dogg was still a pup.'

Clipper forward Elton Brand, after suffering a split lip in his first practice after missing the first month of the regular season because of a broken foot: 'I loved it. It felt good. To get elbowed in the face again, I missed that, you know.'

Reggie Miller, asked why he has stayed with the Indiana Pacers for 17 years: 'I'm a simpleton.'

Lamar Odom, when he was with the Clippers, on the difference between the Rockets and the Clippers: 'They are a young, up-and-coming team. We feel we are a young team.'

Forward John Amaechi, on punishment by Utah coach Jerry Sloan if a cell phone rang on the team bus: 'It was cause for castration.'

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, at the news conference announcing his hiring: 'The misery is what you miss Ñ that pit in your stomach about what could go wrong, and trying to find solutions to problems.'

Van Gundy, after his first month on the job: 'That was a good press conference line. It was a lie. I hate the misery.'

Shaquille O'Neal, on the sculpted body of Laker teammate Karl Malone: 'Every time he takes his shirt off, I say, 'Put that back on, showoff.' '

Karl Malone, on the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant spat: 'It's over. You guys (in the media) are trying to get a fart out of a dead mule.'

The Lakers' Bryant, after a 5-for-15 shooting performance against Memphis: 'Sometimes you make 'em, sometimes you don't. But you'll never know if you can make 'em if you don't shoot.'

Analyst Steve Kerr, on Pacer All-Star Jermaine O'Neal: 'Portland was patient with him, and now it's paying off for Indiana.'

Kerr, when he was still playing with San Antonio, after teammate Tim Duncan collected 27 points and 25 rebounds in a 67-65 win over Orlando: 'It reminded me of my girl's YMCA games. Everybody misses all their shots, and the tallest girl gets all the rebounds. Tonight, Tim was the tallest girl.'

TNT's Charles Barkley: 'I don't watch the Clippers unless we got them on TV. I'd rather watch 'The X-Files.' '

Antoine Walker, after Barkley lamented, 'Larry Bird has to be rolling over in his grave watching the Celtics tonight,' with Boston trailing by 20 at halftime in a game against Philadelphia: 'Last time I checked, Bird ain't dead.'

Walker, asked why he shoots so many 3s: 'Because they don't have 4s.'

Boston General Manager Danny Ainge, displeased with the toughness of the Celtics early this season: 'I have always believed you have to be instigators and not retaliators, and I'm not even sure we're retaliators.'

San Antonio assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo, on a lifestyle changed after the birth of son Kyle: 'I used to enjoy road trips for going out to restaurants and things like that. Now I enjoy them because I get to sleep all night.'

Tom Gugliotta, on the hazing his Phoenix teammates were doing with rookies Leandro Barbosa (Brazil) and Zarko Cabarkapa (Serbia): 'People scream at them like they are deaf. They are not deaf. They speak another language. We have to remember that.'

Ex-player Charles Oakley, on the softness of today's players: 'I have seen the league go from hard hats to miniskirts. They are wearing dresses now.'

Golden State's Troy Murphy, after the Warriors got blown out by Cleveland one night, then took care of Boston the next: 'It's beyond explanation. There are some things you can't understand Ñ the Kennedy assassination, where the aliens are hiding, and our ups and downs. Oh, and Stonehenge.'

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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