Yes, and water's wet, we know. Shaq's back (and pictured above), so's Coach Riley, and the defending champs had won seven of eight. And how they shone at All-Star weekend! Blossoming guard Jason Kapono ran away with the three-point shootout, while Dwyane Wade won the skills challenge for the second straight year.
Baseball must be back because Maddux is loosening up for his 22nd NL season—with the Padres, as a $10 million man—taking infield (he has 16 Gold Gloves) and dispensing simple wisdom on his success: "You have to locate your fastball and change speeds."
That's Mr. Brodeur to you. Peerless Devils goalie blanked the Islanders for his league-best 11th shutout of the year—he's got 91 in his career, 12 off the NHL record—and has all of New Jersey's division-best 36 wins. At 34, the Hall of Famer--to-be surprises even himself. Brodeur: "I never expected to do what I'm doing."
That's U.S. style. The Dolphins and the Giants play at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 28, and within days of the announcement 500,000 ticket requests were submitted to nfluk.com, causing the site to crash several times.
An 18-1, No. 7--ranked team just three weeks ago (we had 'em as Hot then), Oregon had lost six of eight through Monday and fallen from the Top 25. As guard Malik Hairston (above) noted, "That's bad basketball." On the ice mighty Anaheim lost four of six.
The Bulls forward, apparently unmoved to be performing for the likes of judge Michael Jordan, said he was only in the NBA's slam dunk contest for "the free money." That drew him a $10,000 fine from the Bulls. Then he finished last in the competition.
Mark had that agonizing Daytona (page 46). Jacques (right), of the NHL's Panthers, is torn by his job titles. As coach he thinks his 13th-place club has a shot at the playoffs (it doesn't); as G.M. he may strip the team by Tuesday's trade deadline. And pop star Ricky's vida got more loca: He got heat for giving an obscene gesture while singing about President Bush.
That is, soccer. Hot-tempered striker Craig Bellamy (left) reportedly faces a $155,000 fine for swatting a teammate with a golf club during a team-bonding trip to Portugal—they were arguing over a karaoke competition.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Who is the fastest player in the NBA?
¬´ T.J. Ford, Raptors G 25%
Allen Iverson, Nuggets G 18%
Leandro Barbosa, Suns G 9%
Tony Parker, Spurs G 8%
Yao Ming, Rockets C 35% ¬ª
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavs C 10%
Dikembe Mutombo, Rockets C 10%
Shaquille O'Neal, Heat C 7%
FAST FACTS: The only nonguards to get multiple "fastest" votes were the Cavs' LeBron James (fifth, 7.5%) and the Suns' Shawn Marion (5.3%).... Guards Gary Payton (Heat) and Sam Cassell (Clippers) got multiple "slowest" votes.... The Hawks' Speedy Claxton was 10th fastest (3.0%).... Joe Smith, a former teammate of Ford's, once said, "When he is on the court, you have to have your wheels on."
[Based on a survey of 271 NBA players] • For an expanded version of the poll go to SI.com/players.
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (SHAQ)
LISA BLUMENFELD/GETTY IMAGES (HAIRSTON)
BOB ROSATO (MARTIN)
LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/GETTY IMAGES (BELLAMY)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (YAO)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (FORD)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (BRODEUR)