With apologies to World B. Free, Shaquille O'Neal and, yes, even
God Shammgod, when it comes to staking a claim to basketball's
alltime name, Fennis Dembo enjoys Jordanlike distance from the
pretenders. "I'm always a bit stunned that people still remember
me," says Fennis, whose mother, Clarissa, selected his name,
along with that of his twin sister, Fenise, as a declaration
that after 11 children, her childbearing days were finis. "I
tried to set up an E-mail account, but two other
guys--basketball fans, I guess--were already using my name in
their address."

Dembo, a native of San Antonio, and his unforgettable
appellation moseyed onto the sports scene more than a decade ago
when he established a national profile at Wyoming. A burly 6'6"
forward with a penchant for flamboyance, a predilection for
chaps and Stetsons and--one almost forgets--a decent outside
shot and fine low-post moves, Dembo, as a junior, helped the
Cowboys reach the Sweet 16 of the 1987 NCAA tournament. His most
memorable game came in the second round, in which he torched
UCLA for 41 points while bombarding the Bruins' Reggie Miller
with verbal shrapnel. The next fall Dembo was a preseason
All-America. After a lackluster senior year (Dembo only made
All-WAC, not All-America, and Wyoming lost in the first round of
the NCAAs), he was selected by Detroit in the second round of
the NBA draft. In his lone season in the league, he was little
more than a cognomen in the Pistons' machine, a tweener who was
too slow to play small forward and too small to play power
forward. After Detroit won the 1989 NBA title, Dembo was
released, and he embarked on a dizzying basketball odyssey. His
travels included two stints in the CBA, a stop in Spain, three
years in France, a year in Italy and a stretch last year as the
designated American ringer on an Argentine team. "One of the
hardest things about playing overseas is that clubs don't like
the players to have too much personality," he says with a
chuckle. "I had to calm it down."

Having unofficially retired and settled in Birmingham with his
wife, Joy, and their infant daughter, Kailyn, Dembo, 31, hopes
to work with troubled teens as a coach and counselor. "There are
lots of kids who need help," he says. "I've had a great time
playing basketball, and getting a championship ring with
Detroit, I wouldn't trade for anything, but it's time to move on."

Nevertheless, as a visit to the Internet will attest, his name
won't easily be forgotten.

--L. JON WERTHEIM

COLOR PHOTO: JOE MCNALLY [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Fennis Dembo]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)