BOWIE -- In Miami, they called the phenomenon "Oggmania," a curious bonding of the Heat fans to an awkward, third-string center who's future may be as the world's tallest flower child.
Whether 7-foot-2 Alan Ogg will be with the Washington Bullets long enough to build a similar following in Washington remains to be seen. But the "Wizard of Ogg" has a knack of attracting attention despite the modest statistics he's compiled as a pro.
After signing a 10-day contract with the Bullets as an emergency replacement for starting center Pervis Ellison, who's expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Ogg tried to explain his mystical appeal.
Despite averaging 2.2 points and 1.7 rebounds as Miami's 12th man the past two seasons, his brief court appearances would inspire wild enthusiasm and chants of "Ogg! Ogg! Ogg!"
could easily have been interpreted as cries of derision for a slow-footed giant with limited skills, but Ogg preferred viewing it as genuine affection.
"They say people don't love Goliath," he said while packing his bags for a trip back to Miami. "But in my case, I think they were rooting for an underdog.
"They know I'm not the most talented guy, but that I'll always give 100 percent effort. The Miami fans weren't mocking or insulting me. They were just trying to encourage me."
Ogg's NBA highlights are so rare, he has no trouble remembering them.
"There was a game against Dallas my rookie year when I got to play 14 minutes because [starting center] Rony Seikaly was hurt. I got a few big rebounds and deflected the Mavericks' last-second shot. The local TV station voted me the game's MVP."
His popularity quickly grew, spawning a fan club and magazine devoted to "Oggmania."
"It got to the point where I couldn't go anywhere in the Miami area without people recognizing me and asking for my autograph," he said.
Although he was cut this fall to make room for rookie Matt Geiger of Georgia Tech, Ogg is fondly remembered by Kevin Loughery, who coached the Alabama-Birmingham product last season.
"He's a wonderful kid and a free spirit," said Loughery. "I expect when he retires, he'll be riding in a bus with a giant flower painted on the side.
"But Ogg is no buffoon. He's big, tough, can block shots, and he's not afraid to bang people. There should be a place for him in this league."
Ogg was granted a pair of 10-day trials with the Bucks, but starting center Moses Malone's imminent return negated an extended stay. He returned to his adopted home of Birmingham, Ala., in February, waiting for his agent, Glen Schwartzman, to call.
"I played one week for Rockford [Ill.] in the CBA, and then I was considering an offer from Europe," he said. "But it made me too jumpy sitting by the phone, hoping it would ring."
It finally did, and now he's a Bullet for at least 10 days. Can Oggmania far behind?