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Original Issue

Sports Beat

Yao Ming, who reports for duty with the Chinese national team
this week, returned to China on April 26 and was, in the words of
his marketing rep, Bill Sanders, "blown away by the impact SARS
has had." Yao immediately organized and, on Sunday, hosted a
three-hour telethon to raise money to battle the disease that has
killed 252 people in mainland China. Broadcast live from
Shanghai, Yao's hometown, the telethon featured videotaped
messages from Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal, who
said, in English, "I love you." Yao also responded to viewer
e-mail and oversaw an auction of signed memorabilia from Tiger
Woods and Michael Jordan, as well as a pair of tickets to the
Rockets' 2003-04 season opener. The telethon raised more than

--After being kicked off American Idol last month, Kimberly
Caldwell has landed on her feet. The perky Texan joined the team
at Fox Sports Net as a special correspondent for the
extreme-sports show 54321. Earlier this month Caldwell, 21, was
on the red carpet at the X2 premiere, and this week she
interviews the Eco-Challenge Playboy X-treme Team. Safe to say
Caldwell won't be voted off this show anytime soon: Fox execs
have already promoted her to a Friday-night studio gig. Says
executive producer John Johnston, "Without a doubt, Kimberly
exudes star power."

--Whether or not he and Britney Spears are still playmates,
there's no question that Justin Timberlake has a love affair with
basketball. Turner Sports execs noticed this at the 2002 NBA
All-Star weekend, when Timberlake went up over one of the
network's studio hosts, Kenny Smith, to nail a jump shot during
the celebrity game. "Obviously he loves playing and he's a big
sports fan," says Mike Pearl, a Turner Sports executive producer.
Now Pearl and Timberlake have struck a deal for the *NSync-er to
work as a special correspondent. Timberlake's first assignment: a
series of old-school-versus-new-school debates with Magic Johnson
that will run on the network's pregame show. (Friday's segment
featured the singer extolling Shaquille O'Neal while Johnson
praised Wilt Chamberlain.) Timberlake will also cover golf and
auto racing.

--The recently formed Yale Collegiate Figure Skating Club--which
has 15 members and meets at 7:30 a.m. three days a week--just got
a whole lot stronger. Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic gold
medalist, has announced that she's becoming a Bulldog. The choice
of college may mean that Hughes, a senior at Great Neck High on
Long Island, will have to break with her coach of five years,
Robin Wagner. While Hughes and Wagner want to stay together, the
coach lives in Hackensack, N.J., about 90 minutes from the Yale
campus, and says she has no plans to move.... Pound for pound Roy
Jones Jr. is the best boxer turned actor to appear in The Matrix
Reloaded. Though his part is on the lightweight side, Jones said
he enjoyed the filming in Australia. "The acting people treat you
much better than the people of boxing."


COLOR PHOTO: YURIKO NAKAO/REUTERS (PICTURE THIS) PICTURE THIS As part of this country's ongoing efforts to help people from other nations make the All-Madden team, Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles gave a demonstration of the ancient art of blocking to members of the football team at Tokyo's Waseda University. Quarles was in Japan last week to promote the Aug. 2 American Bowl between Tampa Bay and the Jets.



Bobby French, a high school baseball player in Austin, has asked
the public address announcer to introduce him as Bobby Freedom.


Diamondbacks 39-year-old first baseman, complaining to a stadium
disc jockey about Sly (left) & the Family Stone being played over
the P.A. during batting practice: "How about something since
we've been alive?"