of the YEAR 2005
His spirit has made him the ultimate teammate at the toughest times.
by Charles P. Pierce
Moments to Remember
After his mom died, the Astros' ace delivered by Tom Verducci
A 23-year-old rookie made history at Indy by Kelli Anderson
The Swiss wizard rallied in the U.S. Open final by S.L. Price
During a key timeout Baylor got a needed boost by Grant Wahl
Matt LEINART &
USC's partnership prevailed at Notre Dame by Austin Murphy
Athletes & KATRINA
The disaster brought out the best in NFL players by Michael Silver
Competition has helped heal many Iraq war vets
BY S.L. PRICE
11 From the Editor
18 Leading Off
31 Air and Space
Who cares which NHL player had the most stitches? I do by Steve Rushin
• Granddaddy of the end-zone dance
52 Faces in the Crowd
152 Life of Reilly
Denver's O-line: a lifeline for running backs but death to p.r. by Rick Reilly
125 College Basketball
• Florida finds a playmaker
129 The NHL
• Sharks' attack gains needed bite
130 The NBA
• Elton Brand's MVP campaign
• Old news for Bernard Hopkins
136 College Football
• Reggie Bush joins USC's elite
143 The NFL
• The new Nigerian nightmare
• Is B.J. Ryan a bargain for Toronto?
150 Olympic Sports
• Bum knee doesn't slow Bode Miller
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**How difficult will the road be for Landon Donovan (right) and the U.S. at the 2006 World Cup? Follow the Dec. 9 draw for Germany at SI.com/soccer, with analysis from Grant Wahl and Gabriele Marcotti, and tournament predictions from Mark Bechtel.
**The Hot Stove League is barely a month old and the Mets have already given the highest average salary ever for a reliever (Billy Wagner's $43 million over four years), while the Dodgers have made Rafael Furcal the second-highest-paid shortstop in MLB (three years, $39 million). What other rich deals will go down this off-season, and where, oh where, will Manny Ramirez (bottom left) wind up? Get the latest news and analysis on signings and trades at SI.com/baseball.
**Despite the wide-open ice, the neutral-zone trap is still a part of the NHL. Read Darren Eliot's take on the trap at SI.com/nhl, along with Allan Muir's assessment of the U.S. junior team, which will be favored at this month's world tournament.
**Nathan Vasher (below) and his mates share the NFL lead in interceptions returned for touchdowns (three), and are a big reason that the Bears have their first eight-game winning streak since 1985. Can this team give the Windy City its first Super Bowl champ in 20 years? Follow Chicago's stretch run, with perspective from Peter King and Dr. Z, and see Don Banks's Closer Look at the Bears-Steelers showdown, at SI.com/nfl.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LYNN JOHNSON (Background by SI Imaging)
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DAMIAN STROHMEYER (BRADY)
With a strong performance on Sunday in a 16--3 win over the Jets, Sportsman of the Year Tom Brady has the Patriots in the running for a fourth Super Bowl title.
ERIC ENGMAN/FAIRBANKS DAILY MINER/AP (PURPLE HEART)
ELLEN OZIER/REUTERS (DUKE)
Sean Dockery buried a 40-footer with less than a second left to lift top-ranked Duke to a 77-75 victory over Virginia Tech in Durham.
DAVID BERGMAN (DONOVAN); CHUCK SOLOMON (RAMIREZ); DAVID E. KLUTHO (VASHER)