Originally published in SLAM 53

1993. The long black limousine rolled silently into the underground parking garage, hidden cameras recording its every move. Upstairs, things were set into motion, and a whisper started throughout the facility. “The Giant is here! The Giant is here!”

Doctor Richard Deshaies met the strange group at the door of his office—two six-foot men in dark suits and sunglasses, dwarfed by the man who stood behind them. “Hello, Andre,” the doctor said. Following a 20-year pro wrestling career, the legendary Andre the Giant had fought his last match. He’d accidentally angered a powerful French businessman with shady connections—there was some confusion over one of his lines in The Princess Bride—and his life was constantly in danger. He needed a new identity, and quick. The trouble was, new identities for 7-4 pro wrestlers were hard to come  by. Forced into hiding for several long months, Andre was assumed to be in poor health. His people did nothing to disprove those assumptions.

Then, one day in 1993, a star Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis was killed in a freak accident—his wife backed over him in the driveway. Given the situation, Lithuanian officials preferred to keep the accident quiet. It was an incredible tragedy for Eastern Europe—but a fair bit of luck for Andre. An athlete himself, Andre could easily assume Sabonis’ identity.

The surgery went well, and Andre spent the next two years losing weight and learning the game before making his NBA debut. (Seeing that he didn’t have time to master the nuances of the game, Andre spent a majority of his time working on passing and long-range shooting.) “Knee injuries” having robbed him of his quickness, “Sabonis” nonetheless carved a niche for himself, and no one suspected he was actually a 50-year-old ex-wrestler.

No one but Horace Grant, that is. Horace was, and is, a huge pro wrestling fan, and he wasn’t going to miss a chance to upstage one of his old heroes. It was just a matter of waiting for the right time.

Russ Bengtson