Quick multiple-choice quiz: What do Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, David Hasselhoff, Donny Osmond, Penny Marshall, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone and John Stockton have in common?

Select from the following:a) They are all stars.

b) Combined, they have more money than most Third World countries.

c) Their recognizable mugs have been spotted at the NBA Finals.

d) They are all actors.

e) They've been associated with their fair share of flops.

If you scrambled to find an "All of the above" selection, pat yourself on the back.

If you agreed with most of the answers but scratched your head on "E," watch tonight's game a bit closer. You'll see that even the NBA's best two teams have some pretty good actors - perhaps a greater percentage than Hollywood.

And like Tinsel Town, the NBA has more than its fair share of flops.

For Nicholson, it was "Goin' South," a film that did just that in 1978. DeVito had "Matilda." Osmond wore purple socks. Enough said.

Though just as prevalent, flops in the NBA aren't as easy to define as flops in the entertainment industry.

"That's some guys' trademark," said Utah center Greg Ostertag, who is often called a $39 million flop but rarely a flopper.

"Some flop better than others, I know that," laughed Jazz forward Bryon Russell.

A prime example was Sunday's game. One NBA reporter from New York was disgusted when Karl Malone was called for a charge against Scottie Pippen during the second quarter. "It made me sick," said the writer, who thought Pippen could have been nominated for an Oscar for his role in drawing that charge and three others.

The defensive play - or acting job? - happened during a pivotal swing of momentum in what turned out to be the biggest team flop in NBA Finals history. What a coincidence.

Interestingly, Jazz center Greg Foster said Pippen used good defensive skills, not acting, to get four offensive fouls called against Utah in Game 3.

"None of those were flops the other night, those were all charges," Foster insisted. "So, flopping doesn't even come into play in this instance. I say that seriously. They were in position. Period. Great defense."

Rodman, considered the King of Flop by many, was also accused of overacting in Game 3. He got nailed in the nose by a flailing Malone elbow when The Mailman swung his arms to clear some space so he could drive.

The whistle blew. Offensive foul. But was it? That, of course, is up for debate. But consider this: The last time the muscle-bound Malone cracked somebody, David Robinson was knocked out and sent to the hospital. Rodman, on the other hand, jerked his head back and then broke out into laughter before his colored coif snapped back into place.

Malone's elbow probably did nick his nose, but Rodman's reaction - not to mention his past history of faking and flopping - made the offensive foul call look as legitimate as pro wrestling. It apparently pays to hang out with the likes of Hulk Hogan.

"I don't think Rodman's afraid of standing in there and taking some contact," said Ostertag. "He'll try to get away with one every once in a while, but so will a lot of people."

That seems to be the consensus about flopping. NBA players make the game entertaining, but as credible as, say, "The Jerry Springer Show" - by combining athletics and theatrics.

"Yeah, they all flop," said Dr. Jack Ramsay, ESPN's basketball expert and longtime NBA coach. "But they don't get away with it much. You don't see the officials honoring that much in this series. These are the best officials. They've seen the best flopping."

But distinguishing between a flop and a foul is often hard to do. Fans, players and coaches are blinded sometimes - OK, all the time - by their loyalty. Even Ostertag admitted that.

"If they're on your team, it's kind of hard to say, because you really don't see what everybody would call a flop. What you see is a legitimate charge or a player-control foul," said Ostertag when asked if Malone and Stockton are good floppers. "When you see it from someone else, of course it looks like a flop. You don't want it called against you."

And those not associated with the Jazz often say Stockton and Malone are two of the biggest con-artists in the business. Fans from other cities voice their dismay about the supposed acting jobs on sports-talk shows, especially when the 260-pound muscle-bound Malone occasionally sprawls across the floor after contact with a smaller player. The issue was a hot topic during the early rounds of the playoffs, inciting one San Antonio fan to haul a sign to the Alamodome telling the Jazz to "Get the flop out of here."

Scott Layden, the Jazz's player of personnel, thinks it's unfair to accuse Stockton and Malone of flopping.

"To me it's disappointing that they would be the target of any criticism from any other organization, coach or player," he said. "We need to look at those guys as the leaders of this game. They just play so hard every game.

"Bottom line is," Layden continued, "you're not fooling anybody by flopping. The referees know."

It's apparently just everybody else who is confused.

Even Doug Collins and Bob Costas bantered back and forth about a call Malone received at Luc Longley's expense in Game 2.

"He does a good job acting there and flopping," said Collins, whose opinion was supported by the video replay.

Costas saw it differently.

"That's gamesmanship," he said. "That's not worthy of disdain."