The Lakers had been trounced 108--72 by the Mavs; coach Phil Jackson had moaned that Kobe was a victim of a league "witch hunt." (He's been suspended twice this season for elbowing.) What's it all mean to Kobe? Showtime, baby! Sixty-five points one night and 50 the next lifted him to No. 1 in NBA scoring and secured two L.A. wins. Explained Bryant, "I'm just being more aggressive at both ends of the floor."
"A great day for hockey," said Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux (right) after the Pens got the arena of their dreams. Then they celebrated: With Sid the Kid (108 points) streaking, they'd won five straight—beating tough New Jersey and Buffalo teams—through Sunday.
Johnson, that is. NASCAR stud won his second straight, zooming past Tony Stewart in Atlanta. Twenty-two races till the Chase, but, said Johnson, "We're thinking championship already."
On ice! Wisconsin's pucksters won their second straight NCAA title, closing the season on a 26-game winning streak. Think star forward Sara Bauer (page 37) is a hockey player? She shook off two broken ribs to rack up six points in the two games of the Frozen Four.
Uh, a little subtlety, Danny.... Celtics G.M. (above) got docked $30,000 by the NBA for getting too close to Texas star and potential top draft pick Kevin Durant. The tip off? Ainge sat with Durant's mom at the Big 12 tournament. Ainge, whose lousy Celtics (20--46 through Sunday) have a good shot to finish last overall, got more bad news out of the NCAAs: Son Austin and the BYU Cougars were ousted in the first round.
A great day at the trade deadline (sniper Ryan Smyth came over) gave way to the ugly Chris Simon incident (his slash got him banned) and now this: five losses in six games—the last three with goalie Rick DiPietro out with "total body soreness."
We mean Stevens. The Seahawks tight end was charged with DUI, and things are dicey at home: His condo board, says The Seattle Times, wants him to answer complaints that he parties a tad too loudly.
On the hardwood. Ohio State's hoopsters (culled from a student body of 44,942) got upended by Marist (4,986) in round 1 of the NCAAs—the highest seed (fourth) to go down. Said Big Ten Player of the Year Jessica Davenport (11 turnovers), "We weren't playing like ourselves."
SI PLAYERS NHL POLL
Who has the hardest shot in the NHL?
¬´ Sheldon Souray, Canadiens D 48%
Zdeno Chara, Bruins D 26% ¬ª
Sami Salo, Canucks D 4%
Dion Phaneuf, Flames D 3%
Blue Jackets left wing Fredrik Modin (fifth, 2.5%) was the only forward among the top six vote-getters.... Souray's slap shot was the second fastest measured (100.0 mph, behind Chara's 100.4) at January's All-Star skills competition.... Souray leads all defensemen with 17 power-play goals this season; Phaneuf is second, with 13.... Leafs forward Chad Kilger unleashed what is believed to be the hardest shot ever recorded (106.6 mph) in a 2006 team skills competition.
[Based on a survey of 366 NHL players] • For an expanded version of the poll, go to SI.com/players.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BRYANT)
BILL FRAKES (AINGE)
JASON COHN/REUTERS (LEMIEUX)
DAVID WALBERG (JOHNSON)
MARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (STEVENS)
LOU CAPOZZOLA (SOURAY)
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (CHARA)