With D-Wade injured, this honor must now go to a mere mortal. Jason Kapono is most definitely human, flawed by his slow feet and inability to fly. But the six-foot-eight swingman possesses a laudable knack for pouncing on loose balls, plus an unselfish impulse for making the extra pass. He's a dexterous ballhandler and a fearless shooter, and he ranks as the league's best in three-point-shooting percentage — winning All-Star weekend's three-point competition was no accident. With his superstar teammates, Kapono has formed a symbiotic relationship: By forcing defenders to come out to defend him, Kapono saves Shaq from double teams and opens up space for Wade to go soaring into the lane. Plus, on a team full of past-their-prime All-Stars (Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Eddie Jones, and, yes, Shaq), it's nice to have a goofy white guy hustling back on D like he's lucky to be in the league.
Chicago Bears (and former Gator) quarterback Rex Grossman put it best: "Jason Taylor is a beast." That utterance came after Taylor single-handedly whipped a then-undefeated Bears team. In the first half alone, Taylor intercepted a Grossman pass that he returned for a touchdown and, in the very next possession, sacked Grossman, forcing a fumble. It's just a shame that Taylor, at age 31, wasted his greatest year on a team that had no offense and a turncoat coach. It's also a shame that last May, Taylor had an encounter with a cracker named Redmond Charles Burns. In a road-rage incident near Davie, the five-foot-11, 168-pound Burns screamed racial epithets and threatened to kill the six-foot-six, 250-pound Taylor. Although Taylor is known for his off-field humanitarian work, his single greatest act of charity was resisting the impulse to snap Burns' neck.
After one year in the remote football exile known as the Canadian Football League, Williams is homesick for our Miami Dolphins, and superagent Leigh Steinberg is trying to make it happen. The question is, who's the real Ricky? Was that him in 2002, rushing for a league-leading 1,853 yards? Or was that him in 2004, when he retired from the league, abandoning what might have been a Super Bowl contender, ostensibly so he could live in an African hut and smoke several acres of ganja? It's hard to believe, but Williams didn't even turn 30 until this month. There might still be some gas in that tank. Unfortunately, the Dolphins running game is in the able hands of Ronnie Brown, so we might never know whether there's another side Ricky hasn't shown us.
A Fort Lauderdale native who graduated from Deerfield Beach High School, Mickey Storey arrived at FAU in 2005 and immediately made his case as the best baseball pitcher in school history. He posted a record-low 1.70 earned-run average and won ten games that first season — one against sixth-ranked Georgia Tech. The skinny, six-foot-two, 183-pound Storey was the NCAA's Freshman Pitcher of the Year and a third-team All-American. Of course, there was no topping a year like that one, and Storey came down to earth in his sophomore campaign, his ERA swelling to a more pedestrian 3.84. But this year, Storey's back to his old self with dominating wins to start his third year. Sadly, if Storey keeps this up, he's a good bet to leave FAU this summer after getting picked in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
As the reigning WBA/WBC cruiserweight champion, O'Neil "The Supernova " Bell is the hottest commodity in Seminole Warriors Boxing, a promotions firm based in Hollywood. And Hollywood's Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has been the site of some of Bell's defining moments as a professional: a 12th-round knockout against Dale Brown and an 11th-round knockout against Sebastian Rothman, both in 2005. Those two matches were preludes for the legendary battle Bell waged in January 2006 against Frenchman Jean-Marc Mormeck in Madison Square Garden — a tenth-round knockout for Bell. The two have a rematch scheduled for early March in Paris, though it's in flux since Bell's arrest in February on charges he threw a hatchet at his training partner — an incident that suggests Bell has taken his Seminole Warrior association a bit too literally. Still, there's no questioning the native Jamaican's toughness. Keep an eye on Bell as he mulls adding weight for a run at the heavyweight title.
Panthers fans will probably tell you that the best Panthers player is, uh, on another team right now. Management has a nasty habit of trading beloved players (Roberto Luongo, anyone?) for unremarkable ones (we won't name names). Now, after seven seasons without a playoff game in sight, fans — and the athletes themselves — are tired of all those marks in the L column. By the end of this season, even the usually unflappable Olli Jokinen was expressing frustration and otherwise-promising powerhouse Nathan Horton was playing like he was asleep. But there on the ice, behind the blue line, stood the team's secret weapon on blades: Jay Bouwmeester. The notoriously shy 23-year-old defenseman speaks so softly in interviews that he can barely be heard. But his eyes? Intense. His feel for the game? Intuitive. His skating? Wicked fast. That's why he was the third pick in the 2002 entry draft, why he played on the Olympic team (for Canada), and why he made the All-Star team this year. By all accounts, JayBo is a smart, agile, well-rounded player who's just coming into his prime. And best of all is his contract — he's ours until at least 2009.
No one at Dania Jai-Alai wins as much or finishes in the money or produces as many highlight reel plays as Arriaga Andoni Echaniz. A native of Markina, Spain, the 32-year-old Echaniz has no peer in the jai-alai frontcourt. That position calls for lightning-quick reflexes and swift lateral movement — Echaniz has those, in addition to a crowd-pleasing habit of colliding with walls in his pursuit of a point. In his player profile, Echaniz claims a weakness for plays to his left, as well as for the occasional cigarette. But it doesn't seem to slow him down. So on your next trip to the Dania Jai-Alai, skip the slots. The smart money is on Echaniz.
So what is it that Pat Riley has for short, chubby, bald sidekicks? First, he had Stan Van Gundy, who might have been hopping barrels in a game of Donkey Kong rather than coaching an NBA team of giants. Now there's Ron Rothstein at Riley's side. Neither man looked all that impressive or had a stellar rise in the game. Yet both men proved formidable. Van Gundy was an able — and animated — head coach, leading what was a listless squad under Riley to the playoffs before he was fired. (Oh c'mon, you don't actually believe he voluntarily stepped down so he could spend every day with his kids do you? Puh-lease). This season, Riley stepped away from the team again as it struggled, leaving it in the hands of Rothstein, who immediately proved himself a worthy head coach during a Shaq-less seven-win stint. As if the roundball gods were out to punish Riley for his fickle comings-and-goings, Dwyane Wade suffered a serious shoulder injury on the day the former Showtime coach returned, hurting the Heat's hopes of repeating as champions. For his brief but impressive run as coach, we honor Rothstein as coach of the year. What, you thought we were going to give it to Nick Saban?
Back in March, the Heat coach decided to break his longstanding silence on political issues. It was a move most of us have since come to regret. On the Iraq War, he said, "When you're in a fight, you just can't blame. You've just got to win the fight and then figure it out. We've got guys over there that are fighting this war for us, and we're over here arguing about it." Uh, yeah, Pat, that's kind of what we do here in America. It's called democracy. "Win the fight and then figure it out"? Dude has obviously been playing the role of hardwood dictator for too long. Unfortunately, he kept going: "I've never taken any kind of a real stance, ever. I have my beliefs and the way I am. I'm very proud, so much, to be an American. I am pro-government, OK?" You know that part about never taking a "real stance," coach? Stick with that from now on.
Most of us moved to Florida for the sun-drenched coast, but then, paradoxically, never actually go to it. "I don't have any quarters for the meter," we say. "Ugh. Can't deal with traffic on 595." "Bed, Bath, & Beyond is having a sale! It's air-conditioned in there!" Think swimming, scuba diving, sand castles, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, sunrises, sunsets, starry nights, sea turtles, and simple seaside strolls — and those are just the S's! Do you see where we're going with this? Add Broward County's 24 miles of coastline to Palm Beach's 45 and you have a playground that's not only honking big but free! I can't speak for you, but I sure feel lucky.

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