ESPN 100: Never say die
ESPN The Magazine counts down the 100 sports stories that mattered the most in 2006.
6 Consecutive Tour stroke-play wins, matching second-longest streak ever (still active going into 2007)
25 Days before start of Ryder Cup that Irish magazine The Dubliner published phony porn shots of Tiger's wife, Elin
2 Major wins: PGA Championship and British Open, bringing career total to 12, second all-time
1 Immeasurable loss: Earl Woods, 1932-2006
Pat Riley will tell you he thought he was why the Showtime Lakers won all those titles. But he's older now. He lost his mother just before these playoffs and limped through them in need of a new hip. The chase, his addiction, had beaten him down. He needed a win badly. Take my name off the marquee, he said a few years ago. But then Anthony Carter's agent forgot to activate a player option, freeing up money for Lamar Odom the chip that brought Shaq to Miami. Then D-Wade fell into his lap. Lucky. And suddenly Riley was holding the trophy again the photo is his screen saver. Know what he says now? That this one means more than all the others combined.
Dan Le Batard
When I wrote about Barry Bonds for The Magazine last April, the potentiality of his impact on America seemed far more menacing than it does now; at the time, it appeared Bonds' passing of Babe Ruth was both imminent and meaningful. But things played out much more slowly than anticipated: He didn't pass Ruth until May 28 and, though people certainly noticed, few seemed to care. The idea of Bonds passing Ruth was more troubling than the event itself. Bonds was old and hobbled, no one was watching his ESPN reality show, and Major League Baseball was consciously pretending that this particular hit didn't mean anything at all.
Bonds finished with 26 home runs overall, he's 21 shy of Henry Aaron's 755 but he no longer intimidates. ...
Assuming ... he stays healthy, he could pass Aaron as early as July, and the whole "Bonds as a disillusioning metaphor for modernity" thesis will likely resurface. But at the moment, he looks like a lucky dude: Two people have gone to jail because of the BALCO investigation, and Bonds isn't one of them. While mastermind Victor Conte and loyal trainer Greg Anderson simmer behind bars, and the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote the book on Bonds stare down possible sentences for refusing to give up their sources, Barry is free to pump iron, play with his kids and exist as baseball's most unsympathetic tragic figure of the modern age. Which isn't so awful, all things considered.
After 21 years and 60 titles, 36-year-old Andre Agassi retired from tennis following a third-round loss at the U.S. Open. One of the sport's most popular players, Agassi received an eight-minute standing ovation following the match. He will spend his golden years (or at least his 40s) developing luxury-resort properties with wife Steffi Graf. As we wish the pensioners well, let's take one more look at Agassi's Odyssey.
May 1, 1986: Sporting flowing trailer-park locks, an earring and neon Spandex, Agassi turns pro. No, not that kind of pro.
July 5, 1992: Wins Wimbledon.
Fall 1992: Begins dating Barbra Streisand. Suddenly, his hair isn't the main topic of conversation.
Sept. 11, 1994: Is first unseeded player to win the U.S. Open.
Late Fall, 1994: After one too many perms, creeping baldness forces Agassi to shave his head.
April 10, 1995: Climbs to No. 1 after beating Pete Sampras in his first Australian Open in January.
April 19, 1997: Marries Brooke Shields.
Nov. 10, 1997: Ranking drops to 141.
April 9, 1999: Divorces Brooke Shields.
June 6, 1999: Wins the French Open, becoming the only male to win all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold.
Oct. 22, 2001: Marries Steffi Graf. Son Jaden Gil is born that week. Daughter, Jaz, born Oct. 3, 2003.
May 11, 2003: At 33, is the oldest male to be ranked No 1.
Sept. 11, 2005: Loses to Roger Federer in last Grand Slam final, at U.S. Open.
Sept. 3, 2006 : Back pain and No. 112 Benjamin Becker usher Agassi out of his final U.S. Open in the third round. "The scoreboard shows that I lost today," he says. "But what the scoreboard doesn't show is what I feel."
No. 9: Upset Special
By the time of George Mason's March 26 matchup with UConn, the top seed in the Washington Region, the 11th-seeded Patriots had already mowed down postseason regulars North Carolina and Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament. But when Huskies forward Denham Brown hit a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, it looked as if the Patriots' magic had run out. Deep into OT, though, GMU was still up by two. Brown pulled up at the 3-point line ... and missed.
No. 10 Run of the Court
He's just 25, yet many watchers concede Roger Federer is already the greatest player in tennis history. His nine majors, including three of four in 2006, have his Slam sights set firmly on Pete Sampras' all-time record. In fact, the question isn't if Federer will pass Sampras, but by how much:
|Open Era Leaders|
|Pete Sampras (1988-2002)||14||7||6||1|
|Bjorn Borg (1973-1982)||11||10||1||0|
|Roger Federer (1998-present)||9||8||1||?|
|Jimmy Connors (1972-1993)||8||4||2||2|
|Ivan Lendl (1978-1994)||8||1||7||0|
|Andre Agassi (1986-2006)||8||3||3||2|