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In 1988, Rony Seikaly became the first Lebanese player in the history of the NBA when he signed with the Miami Heat. Today, he is believed to be the tallest disc jockey in the world. No obscure milestone, it seems, is safe from this man.
Seikaly grew up in a musical family, and from his early teens, he liked to control the turntables, blasting Sister Sledge in impromptu disco parties at home. And during his 11-year NBA career with Miami, Golden State, Orlando, and New Jersey — he was appropriately nicknamed "Spin Doctor" for his moves on the court — music was always the six-foot-11-inch center's secret passion. His specialty: the spaced-out electronic house music that makes you want to wash an Ecstasy pill down with a $12 Heineken as you sweat 12 pounds off at a velvet-roped nightclub. He idolized house legend Danny Tenaglia.
His teammates, most of them hip-hop fans, were not on board. "The locker room was the one place I couldn't play my music," he tells Riptide, laughing. "They'd all say, 'Turn that shit off!'"
Upon retirement in 1989, Seikaly, who lives in a $7.5 million, 10,000-square-foot mansion on Miami Beach's North Bay Road and is divorced from a Mexican supermodel, wasn't searching for money or prestige. But the club owner, who now operates Wall Lounge in South Beach's W Hotel, started getting serious about spinning records, and it soon became his post-basketball profession.
After all, the two gigs aren't so different, he says: "In both basketball and DJing, the adrenaline is there. You control the night for everybody in attendance: You can make sure they have a great time, or you can ruin their night by missing a shot or not playing the music they want to hear."
This month, Seikaly signed with well-known house-music label Subliminal Records. When Riptide catches up to him, he's back in Lebanon during a Europe club tour. The one constant of a successful DJ's life: travel. "When I stopped playing the NBA," he remarks, "I thought the last thing I want to do is get on more planes, but here I am. I don't have the luxury of the team plane anymore. I'm back on commercial."
Seikaly is still a huge Heat fan. So, Riptide wonders, what song would best describe the team's mood upon securing superstars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James? Without hesitation, he croons a Black Eyed Peas selection: "Tonight's going to be a good night."
And what would Seikaly play for those poor souls in Cleveland? "Something," he quips, "by Eternal Tears of Sorrow."