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Best Of 2005

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Heat Player

For all their superstardom, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade can't hit a 24-footer to save their nicknames. Wade makes a three-point shot, on average, once a month. O'Neal has made precisely one NBA trey, nine years ago. Damon Jones, the Heat guard keeping defenses honest -- and freeing the lanes for the Diesel and Flash to savage the rim -- happens to be a guy who couldn't even make a CBA roster when he left the University of Houston after a passable junior season. Jones started his pro career in 1997 as a member of the Black Hills Posse in the International Basketball Association -- and even then was coming off the bench. He fought his way up to the CBA, then toured the NBA with the Celtics, Nets, Mavericks, Warriors, Grizzlies, Pistons, Kings, and, last year, the Bucks. When Rafer Alston left Miami for a $5-mil-a-year contract with Toronto, the Heat signed Aimin' Damon for half that, money well spent: This season, the bargain-basement bomber hit more three-pointers at a higher percentage than any other player in the NBA. He carried one of the highest assist-to-turnover ratios in the league, turning the ball over about a third as often as Wade while starting more games than in the rest of his career combined. Jones has finally arrived, and no coincidence, so has the Heat. As he told the Miami Herald, in reflecting on his meandering career: "I wouldn't change the script at all."

Personal Best

Road to the Grand Slam

South Florida is still tennis mecca, drawing rising stars from near and far. Nowadays, it's not just the Florida weather (even states in the frigid north now have those inflatable, climate-controlled tennis pods where would-be tennis stars can drill year 'round) but sharp-eyed honers of championship racket technique like Rick Macci. It has been a good year for the maestro of the Palm-Aire Racquet Club in Pompano Beach, who counts the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati, and Andy Roddick as former charges. Macci's got a couple of up-and-comers (a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old, both girls), and the future's looking bright.

One of Macci's great pleasures is taking his three daughters -- ages 8, 7, and 5 -- to a county fair or a local carnival to get lost in the amusements. "There's a kid in all of us," Macci says.

"We always make a day of it at the county fair. What I like about it is just the enjoyment children get out of it. They can go on the littlest ride or the biggest ride and they don't know the difference." Can we call that a passion for the game?

Best Marlins Player

The four-year, $52 million deal for aging first baseman Delgado, a bona fide star, was just what Jeffrey Loria needed to lift the stink off his franchise after giving away World Series hero Pudge Rodriguez. But what Delgado really brings to South Florida -- and the entire United States -- is a dose of political courage. That's right. The guy believes in something other than the next seven-figure endorsement deal he can squeeze out of some corporate giant. Delgado refuses to stand for the singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch, a new ritual brought on by a knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy of September 11. Why? He doesn't like, as he puts it, "the way they tied 'God Bless America' and 9/11 to the war in Iraq in baseball." You see, he's not politicizing the game but the exact opposite: Delgado is protesting the politicization of sports. Been to an NFL game lately? Now, a good word to remember the troops overseas is one thing, but halftime has become a frickin' military procession. It's like a jingoistic commercial for the Bush Doctrine in between the ones for Buick and Bud Light. "I say God bless America, God bless Miami, God bless Puerto Rico, and God bless all countries until there is peace in the world," the new Marlins star says. Yes, and God bless Carlos Delgado too.

Best Sports League

Some people would argue that this is not actually a sports league but a drinking club disguised as a sports league. In what other athletic association do players need to pause to put their beers in their fanny packs before making a catch in deep center field? But athleticism, strategy, competition, and team spirit are all part of the game. Players slide into home plate, make sweet plays, coach teammates from first and third bases, and debate when to bunt or sacrifice fly. The uniforms are hot too: Look for pimped-out threads complete with capes, tube socks, headbands, and beer cap appliqués. Get in on the trend while it's hot: The number of teams in the Fort Lauderdale division jumped from five in the first season to eight in the second, and registration just opened for West Palm Beach and Miami leagues. At last count, the birthplace of adult kickball, Washington, D.C., had 178 teams -- a number limited only by the number of available fields in the city.

Best Place to Kayak
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

You'd think that having your own private island would be too pricey for the working stiffs. But there's a private stretch of sand on Munyon Island at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park that's easily accessible for saps like you and me. Munyon is just a short kayak trip across the park's lagoon estuary, which is ideal for beginners, with its waist-deep water. The kayak rental will set you back $10 an hour for a single or $15 for a two-person, or $25 and $40 for a half-day trip. You'll paddle past roseate spoonbills, silver mullets, and feeding pelicans before landing along the soft sand of Munyon. There's even a covered picnic spot hidden in the trees. On most days, you'll share the island only with the hermit crabs, which will make this your own private island, at least for a day.

10900 State Road 703, Juno Beach, 33408
MAP
561-624-6950
Best Place to Jog

If you like to run, well, you're crazy. We mean, it's almost summer in South Florida, and even if you jog at midnight, you'll sweat like a pig. You'll suffer. Of course, you may end up healthier, but then again, you may end up dead. So we recommend drinking heavily. Still want to exercise? Try the 8.5-mile Hollywood Broadwalk course set by the South Florida Striders, who sponsor a fun run every Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.. The course starts at the bandshell, which is located on Johnson Street at the beach. Head north along the Broadwalk to Dania Beach pier -- you'll see some stunning vistas and get a good look at humanity (meaning albino-like, shirtless, Québecois tourists) along the way. Then turn around and head back south to the Jefferson Street parking lot. Turn around again and return to the bandshell. There are three great advantages to this course: (1) There are showers along the way, so you can cool off; (2) it's measured, so you know how far you've gone; (3) Nick's Bar and Restaurant (954-920-2800) is located just north of the course's end, so you can suck down a cool Kalik when you finish.

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Best Heat Player: Damon Jones

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