When the Lakers need him most, No. 1 fan Jack Nicholson rises from his front-row seat and exhorts the Great Western Forum crowd to scream for the team.

In Chicago, film critic Gene Siskel always gives the Bulls a thumbs-up, and singer John Mellencamp loves the Indiana Pacers almost as much as his guitar.But for big stars with egos to match, who can believe that sitting on the sidelines - no matter how close - is enough? Certainly they'd rather be on the court, playing for all the glory.

So, what if Jack and Gene weren't just watching, but we were watching them? What if this year's NBA Championship would be decided not by Michael, Karl and Shaq, but by Denzel, Wilford and Arsenio?

Would Utah stand a chance?

"We'd kick their tails," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a former prep basketball star and potential starting center for a mythical Utah team made up of celebrity Jazz fans. "I think our celebrities stack up rather well."

If positions on each squad were based on attendance at home games, Utah could have one-time boxer Donny Osmond at point guard, David Has-sel-hoff at lifeguard, and a forward line of NFL quarterback Steve Young and University of Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus. Wilford Brimley and Michael Douglas could come off the bench.

If these hypothetical contests were based on celebrity status alone, the Hollywood Lakers would clean house.

But with Utah's burgeoning film industry, its winter playgrounds and the Jazz's recent accomplishments attracting stars from all around, the franchise is getting more high-profile support than you'd expect from the NBA's smallest market.

"Baywatch" star Hasselhoff, for instance, has become a huge Jazz supporter. When they played in Los Angeles in April, he contacted the Jazz, not the Lakers, for tickets.

"David Hasselhoff told me last year he's just become a fan of Karl and John and their work ethic and what they stand for, the kind of people they are," said Jay Francis, senior vice president of marketing for the Jazz. "That's, sort of, not typical in sports today, and because of that he's adopted the team."

Hasselhoff might look good with his shirt off, but can he shoot an 18-foot jumper?

Former NBA Coach of the Year Tom Nissalke, now a local sports radio personality, figures any hopes Utah's stars might have would rest on Steve Young's shoulders.

"If the other (players) just got out of the way, I figure Steve could probably deal with a lot of the other five (opponents)," Nis-salke said. "I'd put my eggs in his basket."

But the coach figures Utah's celebrities would finish third, at best, in a playoff with stars from L.A., Chicago and Indiana. Still, it would be worth a shot. Nissalke said he'd gladly try to coach Utah's celebs to victory.

"I'd do it in a minute - for one game," he said. "To put up with the egos of any of those teams for more than one game would be tough. I'd say a lot of them would be wanting the ball all the time."

Here's a look at the possible celebrity rosters:

Utah Jazz

Having Majerus in the starting lineup would give the Jazz celebs a coach on the floor. Unfortunately, he could be on the floor ON HIS BACK. He'd know what to do, but would he be in any shape to play?

"He's not in any shape to walk around," Nissalke observed. "He's 400 pounds. I'll bet Majerus couldn't run five feet without collapsing. I'd put him on the bench."

But Utes football coach Ron McBride could help the team, Nissalke said. "He'd be a feisty competitor, probably a power forward."

Nissalke would put "Touched by an Angel" star Roma Downey in the starting lineup for good looks alone, figuring she might distract the opponents.

Chicago Bulls

A game between the Bulls and Jazz celebrities could get interesting with Hatch, a conservative, matching up against the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a liberal.

"Both people like to talk a lot. There'd be a lot of trash talking," Nissalke predicted.

With Jerry Springer playing forward for the Bulls, all sorts of havoc could occur. The talk show host has a knack for inciting fisticuffs and near-riots. If things get ugly, Nissalke figures the Jazz could draw on Osmond's experience from his 1994 boxing match with "The Partridge Family" star Danny Bonaduce.

Los Angeles Lakers

A Lakers publicist said there should be enough athletic celebrities in L.A. to form an unbeatable team. But the starters, including longtime Forum regular Dyan Cannon, aren't too impressive.

Season ticket holder Leonardo DiCaprio may be the most beautiful person in the world, but his turnaround jumper is ugly by comparison.

"My guess is he would be in the `twerp' category," Nissalke said of DiCaprio. "I think he's probably about, what, 4-foot-7?"

And sitting on the bench might be as good as it gets for Nicholson.

"I'd say he'd be terrible," Nissalke said. "If he could put one foot in front of the other, that would be a minor miracle."

Indiana Pacers

The biggest celebrity in Indianapolis is the Pacers' coach, Larry Bird. But since he's already with the organization, he doesn't count.

"We don't have many stars here," admitted MaryKay Hruskocy, a Pacers media relations assistant.

David Letterman is an Indiana native but has reportedly attended just one game in eight years. In May, there are plenty of Indy race car drivers hanging around Market Square Arena. But there's a little more to basketball than turning left.

Two season ticket holding football players, the Colts' Marshall Faulk and Jason Belser, make the starting lineup by default - along with Major League baseball player Tony Gwynn, who allegedly has a home in Indianapolis.

That should be enough athletic talent to run circles around any team of aging actors, putzy teen idols and trash-talking politicians. But we'll never know. Turning the NBA over to celebrity basketball wannabes isn't going to happen. Not on this planet.

And as far as Nissalke is concerned, that's a very good thing.

"Watching these people play," he said, "would set basketball back about 35 years."


Additional Information

NBA Playoffs

Mythical Celebrity Lineups

Utah Jazz

G - Donny Osmond

G - David Hasselhoff

F - Rick Majerus

F - Steve Young

C - Sen. Orrin Hatch

The Bench - Wilford Brimley, Roma Downey, Ron McBride, Michael Douglas, Robert Urich.

Los Angeles Lakers

G - Dyan Cannon

G - Leonardo DiCaprio

F - Anthony Kiedis

F - Denzel Washington

C - Jack Nicholson

The Bench - Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods, Tyra Banks, Nicole Kidmank, Cinty Crawford, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Michael Richards, Arsenio Hall.

Celebrity lineup

Chicago Bulls

G - Gene Siskel

G - Carmen Electra

F - Jerry Springer

F - Billy Corgan

C - Rev. Jesse Jackson

The Bench - Oprah winfrey, George Wendt, Joe Montana, Penny Marshall, Evander Holyfield.

Indiana Pacers

G - Marshall Faulk

G - John Mjellencamp

F - Jason Belser

F - Tony Bwynn

C - Emerson Fittipaldi

The Bench - David Letterman, Scott Goodyear, Robby Gordon, Paul Tracy.