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Zach Randolph is scared of cats

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Marc Gasol gives Z-Bo a head's up about a fearsome tabby in the parking lot. (Rocky Widner/NBA/Getty Images)

During his 12-year NBA career, Zach Randolph has made it abundantly clear on a number of occasions that he's not scared of anybody on the basketball court. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Memphis Grizzlies power forward has gone toe-to-toe with some of the league's biggest and baddest dudes over the years, including, most recently, Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins; their November clash resulted in ejections, a $25,000 fine for Randolph and one of the season's great quotes: Z-Bo telling Memphis radio host Chris Vernon, "I'm good with these hands, man. I'm a jackin' dude." (There's also the off-court and past stuff, which only bolster Z-Bo's never-scared bona fides.)

But as a wise man — either Winston Churchill or Jim Carrey in "Me, Myself and Irene," not sure which — once said, just because a man rocks doesn't mean he's made of stone. As he's matured, Randolph has more frequently shown a softer side, engaging in heartwarming charitable endeavors like donating $10,000 last summer to save a pit bull that had been trapped for days in a Memphis drainpipe. Randolph's giving actions and interactions with the rescued pit bull — later named "Little Z-Bo," which is the best — will be featured Saturday on an episode of the Animal Planet reality series "Pit Bulls and Parolees."

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But as Randolph told ESPN Playbook's Sam Alipour in an interview pegged to the episode's Jan. 11 premiere, his love for dogs (he owns several and acts as a spokesperson for the Memphis Humane Society) doesn't extend to all furry, four-legged creatures. Nor, it seems, does his fearlessness:

Like you, I’m a dog lover. On a possibly related note, I feel, in my heart of hearts, that cats are evil. Feel me?

Naw, you’re right: You can’t be both a dog lover and a cat lover. I’ve got a crazy phobia about cats. For some reason, I’m always thinking they’re going to scratch me. If a cat walks up, I’m going, “Oh no, this dude about to scratch me — I know it!” Cats scare the hell out of me. I love animals, but I’m no cat lover. Guys usually aren’t.

Interesting. Then maybe you can help me out. My buddy, Mike Garrett, an otherwise normal, single, young man, is very seriously considering buying a cat. He won’t listen to me, so maybe he’ll listen to Z-Bo. Mike’s crazy, right?

Oh, man, tell him to buy a dog! [Laughs.] Yo, I’m serious, tell your friend — tell him right now: You don’t need no cat, Mike. Buy a dog.

Yeah, Mike. Buy a dog. Zach Randolph said you should buy a dog, so you should definitely buy a dog. Like, right now. Seriously, ask Ruben Patterson and Louis Amundson what happens when you don't do what Zach Randolph wants you to do. You should get this done as soon as possible. Do you need to borrow some money? Just let me know, dude.

Though I myself own a cat, I understand that Z-Bo's position is a common one, and I respect it. Most dog owners I know think that cats are kind of the worst; frankly, many cat owners I know think they are the worst, due to their predilection toward clawing up your stuff, waking you up in the middle of the night by knocking stuff over or scratching at your bedframe, hissing at unfamiliar houseguests, licking their butts in front of company and occasionally hacking up hairballs. Yes, dogs do many gross and unappealing things, too, but they tend to do it with a friendly personality that most cats can't muster. I don't share the feeling that cats are evil, irredeemable creatures that are the worst, but I can understand it. (Also, not all apartment buildings let you have dogs, guys.)

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Perhaps more importantly, I don't judge Z-Bo's fear. People are scared of all kinds of things; Damian Lillard, for example, fears statues, and it hasn't stopped us from respecting his Rookie of the Year credentials. Admitting your fears is the first step to overcoming them, reaching a new level of personal maturity and becoming a better, fuller you; I, for example, am afraid that if I make fun at Zach Randolph for being scared of creatures that are about 1/100,000th his size, I will be pounded into jelly by Zach Randolph. See? Facing your fears is important.

I only hope that, as Zach continues his journey of emotional growth, he can find it in his heart to spare a bit of love for creatures like, for example, young Doc Devine-[REDACTED]. I have no doubt that the heart of Z-Bo is big enough for all creatures, be they great, small or scratchy.

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