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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
ESPN Classic celebrates Father's Day

Celebrating Father's Day, ESPN Classic presents six SportsCentury programs featuring some of the greatest athletes who also happened to have fathers or sons that could play or coach. ESPN Classic will also present the moving SportsCentury profile of Brian Piccolo. Here's Sunday's schedule:
All times Eastern

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds rounds the bases after his historic homer.
Barry Bonds had a season for the ages in 2001. Not only did he break Mark McGwire's mark with his 73 homers, he also removed Babe Ruth from two lines in the record book with his .863 slugging percentage and his 177 walks. But even before Bonds turned 2001 into something special, the race to Cooperstown, to almost-certain first-ballot induction, was already won. He had earned a future spot in baseball's Hall of Fame with three National League MVP awards and eight Gold Gloves in the 1990s. By both blood and osmosis, Bonds bursts with the DNA of inherited greatness. His father, Bobby, was an exceptional player in his own right and Willie Mays is his godfather.

Dale Earnhardt
1 p.m.

"The Intimidator," sometimes known as "The Man in Black" or "Ironhead," helped transform NASCAR from a regional sport to a commanding presence on the national landscape. Dale Earnhardt didn't provide much middle ground. Most fans either loved him or hated him, but there was no questioning his ability behind the wheel. Ralph, his father and a well-known engine builder, became something of a local legend as a short-track driver and won the NASCAR Sportsman Division Championship in 1956. His son, Dale Jr., continues the Earnhardt NASCAR legacy.

Kobe Bryant
2 p.m.

Kobe Bryant
As a rookie, Kobe Bryant won the Slam Dunk contest, just as Michael Jordan had in his first season.
He parachuted into the NBA directly from high school, an 18-year-old man-child with a self-confidence bordering on arrogance. Kobe Bryant had to grow up in public -- and he has done so, although the evolution has been difficult and fitful. Bryant learned to discard flamboyance for flamboyance's sake. He learned to hoard the special moves and save them for the special moments. Bryant was bred to play basketball. His father, Joe, played on three NBA teams in eight seasons.

Gordie Howe
3 p.m.

Durability thy name is Gordie Howe. In his tenure as a professional hockey player, he skated right wing through the presidencies of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. He outlasted the Energizer bunny, playing for a remarkable 32 years. Howe was presented a golden opportunity in his golden years: To play with his two sons. The Houston Aeros of the WHA signed him, Mark and Marty. It was the thrill of a lifetime.

Cal Ripken Jr.
4 p.m.

Cal Ripken
Cal Ripken is one of only two American Leaguers with 3,000 hits and 400 homers.
When Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig, he snapped what many baseball people had considered an unbreakable record. Ripken extended his streak to 2,632, and this is his lasting monument. Scouting Ripken was an easy chore for Baltimore. His father, Cal Sr., had been a minor league player and manager in the system and, since 1976, a coach with the Orioles.

John Elway
5 p.m.

The numbers never told John Elway's story. They built him up at times, flogged him at others. His overall statistics were impressive, but his true measure as a player ran straight to his heart. The Denver Broncos star found ways to win. Strangely, it took two championships at the end of his career to certify his stature, to soften the mark of three Super Bowl losses. Elway spent his youth under the tutelage of a great coach, his father Jack.

Brian Piccolo
6 p.m.

Just mentioning his name offers us a reminder that each day can't be taken for granted. Brian Piccolo didn't live long enough to fulfill his dream of becoming a great NFL running back. But in death, from cancer at just 26, he became a symbol of courage.

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