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Original Issue

Sports Beat

Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko is getting competition from his
wife on the celebri-meter: Masha Lopatova is a budding pop star
in Russia. She recently released an album, Maloveroyatno (which
means "highly unlikely"), and saw the first single, Saharniy
(which translates roughly to "sugary"), hit No. 1 on Russian MTV.
The video follows a group of young Russians out for a night of
partying in Moscow and is a loose chronicling of Lopatova's
real-life breakup with Russian pop star Andrei Grigoriev.
Kirilenko, 21, who is third in the league in field goal
percentage, met Lopatova at a youth basketball camp in Moscow--he
was an instructor, she was working p.r.--and he appears in the
video, dancing at a club. "Not very good," says the 29year-old
Masha, who's the daughter of Andrei Lopatov, one of Russia's most
famous basketball players. "I call him corner dancer. He moves
like a robot."

Mr. Me, meet Mr. Ming. Rockets center Yao Ming recently appeared
in his first U.S. commercial. A spot for Apple Computer pairs the
7'5" Yao with the 2'8" Verne Troyer, best known as MiniMe in the
Austin Powers movies. In the ad Yao, sitting next to Troyer in an
airplane, pulls out a PowerBook G4 notebook with a 12-inch
screen. Troyer responds by pulling out a PowerBook with a 17-inch
screen, on which he begins watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, causing Yao to look on in envy. "It was pretty funny,"
says Yao. "But the process of making it was very tiring. I had to
sit there with lights on my face. It felt like I was right up
against the sun."

Want to know what the Eagles and the Jets have in common besides
having been bounced from the playoffs? Try a passing connection
to one Tiffany Schmid, a 26year-old swimsuit model and reality
dating show regular. Last year Schmid got matched up with Eagles
receiver Freddie Mitchell and Jets offensive lineman Chris Smith
on separate shows. In a May taping of TLC's A Dating Story,
Schmid and Mitchell went via white limo to Great Adventure
amusement park. The date ended in a kiss, but then Mitchell went
on a sports radio show and said Schmid "wasn't drop-dead ugly."
Says Schmid, "I called him up, cursed him out and haven't spoken
to him since." A month later Schmid met Smith on Blind Date. The
pair played a little two-hand touch in a park and fell hard for
each other, dating until December, when Smith abruptly broke it
off. What did Schmid learn from the experiences? That reality
truly bites. "I want nothing to do with athletes ever again," she

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, had their first
child on Sunday. Natalia Diamante Bryant, who arrived two weeks
early, weighed six pounds, 14 ounces and was 19 1/2-inches long.
"I feel great," said Kobe before the Lakers Monday-night game
against the Clippers. "I saw the whole thing and didn't pass
out." Mother and baby also felt fine.... In Florida the word
irregularities seems to go naturally with the word voting, which
explains how Panthers center Olli Jokinen wound up with 18,765
votes for the NHL All-Star game--when he wasn't even on the
ballot. Linda Hart, a forensic scientist from Miami, and Maryanne
Darby of Cooper City, Fla., both members of the Panthers Booster
Club, wrote him in those many times. "I have writer's cramp,
among other things," says Hart. Last week an appreciative Jokinen
met his two fans after a game and gave each an autographed stick.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB COUEY-SEAWORLD/AP (PICTURE THIS) PICTURE THIS If there is no crying in baseball, then there is surely no blubbering in football, which may have been what attracted killer whale Kasatka to the game. The 27-year-old pride of San Diego's Sea World last week demonstrated that she can put the ball through the uprights even when trainer Robbin Sheets blows the snap. Are the Giants listening?




The three female gymnasts banned by the Romanian Gymnastics
Federation for appearing nude in an adult film (Scorecard, Dec.
30, 2002) were offered keys to the city by Bucharest mayor
Traian Basescu.


Rockets coach, after Houston beat the Magic in Orlando for its
first regular-season victory there since 1991: "The last time we
won here, Snoop Dogg (left) was still a puppy."