By Miki Turner
Special to Page 3

Mikki Moore
Dollar Bill somehow seems to take to his owner.
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. – Let me be clear. I love playing tackle football, have been known to throw a 'bow or two on the basketball court and love to box. But when it comes to frogs, snails, worms and snakes, I'm real girly.

So, it was with great trepidation that I agreed to go to Mikki Moore's home and meet his pets -- ones I refer to as slimy, slithering, scaly and potentially dangerous reptilian critters.

Moore, the Los Angeles Clippers' 7-foot backup center, keeps three boa constrictors of assorted sizes and colors in large glass tanks at his high-rise condo near Venice Beach. Dollar Bill, the largest one, is a Colombian red-tail boa. He's about seven feet long and still growing.

My, he'd make a lovely purse.

There's also a nameless rainbow boa about five feet long. He's cool because he gets kind of iridescent when exposed to light.

I'm thinking strappy sandals ...

And the baby of the bunch is an albino Burmese python. He also has no name and is a little less than two feet long.

Just the right size for a belt. Too bad he doesn't match the shoes.

Additionally, Moore has another python at his condo in Atlanta, Ga. He had another one, but that one recently died. He also owns three alligators that he keeps at his home in South Carolina. He'd love to have all of them with him in his Marina Del Rey crib, but there's some sort of state law preventing California residents from housing pets that have about 200 really sharp teeth.

Darn the luck.

Despite the fact that Dollar Bill and the unnamed rainbow boa have the ability to -- well, severely "constrict" a person's movements -- Moore was completely at ease with his pets. He has never been bitten or had any kind of bad encounter with his pets. During my visit, he took them all out of their tanks and tried to get them to mug for the camera.

That was kind of hard to do when their bodies were coiled around his torso.

And, although snakes don't exactly wag their tails or display any type of emotion, it seemed that they dug him, too. Besides, they're probably smart enough to know that it wouldn't be cool to bite the hand that feeds you frozen rodents.

"You start off feeding them little mice," Moore said. "You can give them frozen or live mice about once every three weeks. If you want them to stay kind of docile and not really aggressive, you feed them the frozen ones. You just put it in hot water, throw it in the tank and hopefully he'll go over there and eat it. But for entertainment, you could feed him a live one."

Yum. Can you imagine a lovelier vision?

"And once they get bigger, you can feed them rabbits if you want to," Moore added. "But I don't do it, it's too much blood and that's kind of cruel."

Mikki Moore's snake
Fuzzy, furry or cuddly doesn't come to mind.
Given his Southern roots, Moore's attraction to reptiles isn't too surprising. He had his first encounter with a "friendly" garden snake when he was 11.

"My uncle had a farm, and my grandmother had a garden," said Moore, who grew up in Orangeburg, S.C. "So, I was always out in the wilderness as you would say. I would always try and catch them. I caught a couple of them, put them in a Mason jar and punched holes in the lid. I'd bring them in the house and my mom would turn me right back around! So, whatever your parents tell you that you can't have, you're always going to be infatuated with it."

Moore is now so into snakes that once the Clippers cap their season April 20, he's planning to add to his collection. He eventually would like to own six snakes and house them in their own special room.

"If I sign a long-term contract somewhere, that's what I'd like to do," Moore said. "I'd have like an exotic room for them and maybe have one in my living room -- not the living room where you're not supposed to sit on the furniture but the living room where you watch TV. They do make nice conversation pieces."

Most of Moore's current teammates haven't exactly embraced his exotic household "adornments." When asked whether he'd consider baby-sitting Dollar Bill, Bobby Simmons shook his head. Elton Brand just laughed, and Corey Maggette asked how much money was involved.

But Moore says that Chris Wilcox at least seems open to the possibility of owning a snake someday.

"He came over two nights ago and held the rainbow boa, so he's getting into it," Moore said. "At first he was like, 'No, I'm not getting no snake.' But in the profession that we're in, that's the easiest pet to have. You can just feed it a rat and give it some water and you can leave it for a month. He sees that it's not really dangerous."

In Wilcox's case, however, seeing is not yet believing.

"I don't know," Wilcox said. "I'm still in the process of deciding. I've got to go back to his house in a few more days. I've got to play with them a little bit longer before I go get one, you know what I'm saying?"

Sure do.

But beware Chris, Moore is a snake charmer. Although I never wanted to hold Dollar Bill or his cousins, by the end of our visit he had persuaded me to at least touch the albino critter. I did so with the tip of my right index finger, and I was pleasantly surprised.

He wasn't the slimy, slithering, scaly and potentially dangerous critter I thought he'd be. In fact, his skin was baby-bottom smooth. That made me smile.

Yep, that dude is gonna make a fine belt someday.

Miki Turner covers the fusion of sports and entertainment for Page 3 in L.A. She can be reached at dmiki@aol.com.