The Year in Sports

»Latrell Sprewell. In 1998, he was not only Middle America's worst nightmare, he finished fourth in the Voice Sportswriters' Poll for worst sports figure. But in 1999, the Knick swingman was, if not the American Dream, at least the Knicks' savior. He electrified Madison Square Garden like it hasn't been juiced since Clyde hung up his full-length mink, and in the process he saved Jeff Van Gundy's job as surely as his earlier actions bought P.J. Carlesimo a two-year stay of execution. Besides his on-court endeavors, Sprewell turned out to be a compelling, articulate figure outside of the arena—just ask Mike Wise.

Team of 1999

USA Women's Soccer. They took the Women's World Cup championship in dramatic fashion, filling up huge stadiums along the way and providing yet another touchstone in the advancement of women's sports.

Runners-up: New York Yankees. The 25-time World Series champions swept the Fall Classic for the second consecutive year. The dynastic version of the Bombers are back, doing the Bleacher Creatures proud. »Houston Comets. The 1999 WNBA champions are the league's only champions, having won it all in each of its three years of existence. And no other team comes close to Cooper, Swoopes, Thompson, and company—they've had the league's best record all three years as well.

Worst Sports Figure of 1999

Rae Carruth. While we're not entirely comfortable picking Carruth before he's been tried—he stands accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, and could get the death penalty—Carruth is clearly the poster boy for NFL domestic abusers. He's a symbol of the long and embarrassing list of football players accused of committing crimes against women. We only hope that Carruth's tragic case spurs the NFL to come up with more than cosmetic solutions to an obvious problem.

Runners-up: John Rocker. Let's be clear. Rocker is a straight-up bigot. There need be no psychological testing on him to figure this out. But the kind of xenophobia he spewed to Sports Illustrated isn't exactly a rare thing—even if its condemned as outrageous by the whole world. Let's put it this way: Major League Baseball will be the organization that ultimately sanctions Rocker for his remarks, yet MLB, in 125 years of existence, can't seem to let more than a token number of minorities or foreigners into its corridors of power. » Juan Antonio Samaranch. The former fascist bureaucrat leads an Olympic movement that has emerged as woefully corrupt. The bribery scandal that rocked the IOC last year resulted in the purge of powerless officials from third world nations, while Samaranch and his cronies survived. His new "reforms" for the IOC hardly seem to address the problem, and his selection of the likes of Henry Kissinger to an "independent" IOC ethics panel is suspicious at best.

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