If the sport of professional bodybuilding were a patient, it would be sprouting IVs and surrounded by a team of frantic surgeons alternately administering CPR and shouting things like “Clear!”” The sport that brought us icons named Reeves, Schwarzenegger and Coleman needs an infusion of new blood, and fast.

““He’’s flatlining! No, no . . . I’’m afraid it’’s too late. There’’s nothing more we can do. Nurse, call the time please . . . Wait! What’’s that? We’’ve got a pulse!”

For bodybuilding fans, May 13, 2006, can’’t come too soon — that’’s when the sport’’s version of Dr. Feelgood will step onto a professional bodybuilding stage for the first time (at the inaugural Vyotech/Shawn Ray Classic in Denver) and perform a lifesaving procedure disguised as a posing routine.

We’ve complied our top six reasons why we believe 26-year-old Denver resident Phil Heath could very well be bodybuilding’’s next big thing, assuming, of course, the hype generated by publications like this one doesn’’t emotionally overwhelm the guy they call The Gift. We’’re not only betting that it doesn’’t (see Reason 4) but that you’’ll be singing his praises soon enough, especially if you’’re female.

Reason 1: He’’s (Damn) Good

It takes a bit of an expert in such things to determine what constitutes an excellent physique vs. one that could redefine the sport. From his tiny joints to his long, round muscle bellies to his ability to get those all-important glute striations, Phil has the goods. Detractors like to harp on his clavicle width, or lack thereof, with the glee others take in noticing an ingrown hair on Brad Pitt’’s cheek. Nonfactor. We saw him training this past November: His delts now more than make up for any clavicular shortcomings.

Reason 2: He’’s a Baby

Phil turned pro by winning the 2005 NPC USAs in Vegas at the tender age of 25. In an era when most IFBB rookies are the same age at which many NBAers hang up their Chuck Taylors, Phil is a throwback. In the ’80s and early ‘’90s, guys like Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler were storming the sport in their early- to mid-20s. Phil has been compared to all three, and deservedly so. We can see Phil dominating pro stages for the next decade and a half, if we’’re lucky.

Reason 3:  He’s a Newbie

More impressive than his relative youth is the fact that Phil never even picked up a weight in earnest until he was 19. It was only when his coach at the University of Denver insisted that the point guard add some box-out strength that Phil began training in an organized fashion. While he was a middle-of-the-pack college b-baller, he showed world-class muscle-building ability. Within five months of his first bodybuilding workout, Phil had won his first bodybuilding title. That was only three years ago, which means the kid still has a lot of growing to do. Let’s see what he looks like with a decade of lifting under his weight belt.

Reason 4: Been There, Done That

As a player for a Division 1 basketball team, Phil got his taste of the temptations that follow successful athletes from hotel to hotel. Bodybuilding is little different from team sports in that it has its fanatics, its groupies, its hangers-on. And while all have proven a distraction at one time or another to some very big names in the sport, Phil developed the skill-set required to handle the pressure at an age when most bodybuilders are the ones following their heroes around with pens and pads.

Reason 5: He’’s Lovin’’ It

To date, Phil has shown nothing but boundless enthusiasm for bodybuilding. He has made an awful lot of friends in an awfully short time and radiates good vibes when on public display. His combination of energy, affability and easy humor remind us of a guy who did pretty well in bodybuilding, then went on to make movies and govern a state.

Reason 6: He’’s Pretty

Square jaw. Piercing green eyes set against caramel skin. If nothing else, the kid will help fill contest seats with female behinds. Which will help fill contest seats with male behinds. See? We know what we’re talking about.

Editor’’s Note: It seems that the pressure isn’’t getting to Phil just yet. He went on to win his first two pro shows -— The Colorado Pro and the New York Pro -— on back-to-back weekends in May. For more info on Phil, visit his official website: www.philheath.com