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Former NBA Player Todd MacCulloch Is Now a Pinball Star

At times MacCulloch rejects the idea that he is using pinball to replace basketball. He says he plays for fun, to meet people and to add to his collection of games. A few weeks ago, at a tournament in Seattle, he was matched up with Sharp for a game that was supposed to start in five minutes. Sharp thought he had time to grab a sandwich and was nowhere to be found. MacCulloch frantically called Sharp's cellphone, imploring his friend to return for a match in which he was certain to beat MacCulloch rather than have to forfeit.

And even when Sharp returned, just in time, MacCulloch had done research on the game they were about to play -- one neither knew well. He offered the tricks he gleaned to Sharp, who used them to score 2.5 million points. MacCulloch had 100,000.

"So he took the knowledge that I gave him but he was able to much better implement it and that was the end of my day," MacCulloch said. "That was fine because it was pinball and most people are good people and you would expect the same."

There are times he does concede he becomes competitive. The other players notice it. Even when he is at home, playing for fun, he reacts to mistakes by slapping his enormous hands on the machine and stalking away.

"In some ways I see myself as an athlete," he said. "I still have problems with my feet and I can't run around. In some ways it feels like forever ago. I almost forgot what I looked like in my former life. My body has changed a lot, not in a good way."

Because he can't stand for a long time, MacCulloch brings a stool with him when he plays. In a way this bothers him because it's another sign that he can't move around the way he once did. But he shrugs. Years ago, when he first started playing professional basketball, he bungee-jumped twice and went skydiving once. Now he hobbles from pinball machine to pinball machine like an arthritic old man.

But he does not stay depressed for too long. Pinball has brought him a purpose, a fire he never imagined. Free completely of basketball, he is considering going to more tournaments next year, trying to make the big run Kerins believes he has in him.

"I still want to get better," the tallest competitive pinball player said. "I still want to improve. I still want to win some pinball hardware and get a trophy one of these days."

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