February 26, 2003
Jennie Finch:
Softball player crushes comp in Page 2's Hottest Sports Personality poll (33 percent of 234,000 votes cast).
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Kobe Bryant was held to "only" 32 points last night. The Lakers still won, beating the Clippers 109-98. The world didn't end with the end of his streak of consecutive 40-plus (or even 35-plus) point performances.

What number counts? If anything, with the weight of the streak off his conscience (or lack thereof), the Lakers should be stronger than ever, even though Corey Maggette and his Double-Team Friends were able to provide a lesson in Kobe Kontainment (how sick that 32 is "containment"?)

More lessons: Hopefully, Kobe learned that points are just a means to an end; the only number that matters is wins -- enough to get into the playoffs for now, then 16 later. As I mentioned in a SportsNation debate about Kobe yesterday, 32 might not have the ring of 40, but it is enough to get him another ring.

Talking Good Game
After the game, Kobe said all the right things: "It's important to put the emphasis on how we're playing as a team. That means the streak is a streak. It's not going to win us any championships." Now he's got a one-game streak of being in our good graces.

Kobe comedy: Bryant even had a little fun with the media, joking that Phil Jackson called him at halftime to tell him to try to score 60. Riiight ...

More NBA
The theme of trading a few individual points away for wins was contagious around the league last night:

* Tracy McGrady (no scoring slouch himself) only scored 26 (again, "only"), but dished seven assists, helping new G&G teammates Gooden and Giricek score 20 each, and the surging Magic upended the Mavs.

* MJ scored 25, but let little Tyronn Lue pick up the slack (18

1. Canucks: Thrashed Atlanta 8-0; unbeaten streak at 14
2. Freddy Adu: Under-17 nat'l soccer team picks 13-year-old
3. Match Play: Who's got Phil Tataurangi in the pool?
1. Nets: Reeling after loss ... to Cavs?!
2. U. Washington: Even w/ recruiting fouls, they stink
3. Indiana: WAY outside bubble, after loss to Illinois
pts, 11 ast), and the Wizards won at slumping Indiana for the first time since '97.

* Tim Duncan continued to prove that a superstar doesn't have to score much, netting just 17 in a Spurs romp over the Heat. Then again, who needs scoring punch to knock out sorry Miami?

MLB HOF Vets Vote
I'm setting the over-under on the Veterans' Committee Hall of Fame vote (announced today at 2 p.m. ET) at 5. New voting rules put the ballot in the hands of living HOF members -- players and media -- with only a handful of votes for leftovers from the previous Vet Committee, accused of cronyism.

Word of the day: Inclusiveness The gates will open for Marvin Miller, Ron Santo and Gil Hodges. My wild-card pick is Joe Torre. The fifth spot is up for grabs, but it will assuredly be filled by the sympathetic living HOF'ers.

Serena: I'm No Annika
During a rain delay yesterday in Arizona, Serena weighed in on a

tennis battle of the sexes, after being asked about Annika Sorenstam.

Like Lennox vs. Laila: "I think it would be impossible," she said. "With tennis, it's like Lennox Lewis against Laila Ali." Boxing presents the most obvious gender gap of any sport that allows both women and men to compete.

But which mainstream sport offers the best chance for women to successfully hang with men?

Our top three: How wide is your definition of "sport?" (Archery? Horse racing? Equestrian events in the Olympics are already co-ed.) Predictably, the more physically demanding the category, the wider the gap; it closes where accuracy counts: 3) Auto racing (years away); 2) Golf (months away); 1) Bowling (should start tomorrow).

Spree vs. Byron Scott:
Boys, boys ... can't you just learn how to play nice? Tonight's Knicks-Nets matchup should be interesting.

Love 'em or leave 'em?
Vote at SportsNation

Today on ESPN.com
P2: Hottie vote
IN: Spring training
MLB: HOF vets vote

Yao drew the loudest cheers of the night at the Garden ...

The Boss is getting soft: Of Matsui, Steinbrenner said, "We've got to be patient with him" ...

Giving away Gary Payton won't keep the Sonics from a Glove nesting-doll giveaway at tonight's game, at fans' request ...

Kurt Warner is getting a $6M bonus check. He'll be second-string by Week 4, so let's call it what it is: Thanks ...

Martha Burk won't rule out illegal protest at Masters; Augusta cops seem just dense enough to take the bait ...

As if four years and a redshirt isn't enough, one NCAA sub-group wants to let football jocks have five full years to play ...

NFL teams must be under the salary cap by tomorrow; free-agent "midnight madness" starts Friday ...

PGA and USGA consideration of an equipment restriction for pros smacks of biting the hand that feeds ...

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