Best Local NBA Hopeful (Who Actually Has a Shot)

LaMarcus Aldridge

Seagoville High School hoops stud LaMarcus Aldridge spent most of his senior year trying to decide whether he would play basketball at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall or take his game directly to the NBA. This is the kind of decision you're faced with if you happen to be 7 feet tall and blessed with a point guard's game. Aldridge ultimately decided on UT (after signing a letter of intent, then changing his mind and declaring for the NBA draft, then changing his mind again), but his NBA dream will become a reality eventually, whether he decides to leave UT after one season or four. Maybe he'll even wind up playing for his hometown Mavericks. We can only hope.

You could say that the chief quality of a good columnist is that he or she always surprises the reader. Except that one can do so in bad ways, such as when a Metro columnist writes about his dog dying or the back-porch witticisms spouted by his parents. Fraley, though, surprises sports fans in good ways. He is a contrarian when appropriate, writing compelling columns about why the much-hated Barry Bonds deserves respect. He offers context in his columns, such as when he said that Buck Showalter's influence with management could be as damaging as Lou Piniella's power reign was to the long-term prospects of Seattle. He champions the underappreciated (TCU) and isn't afraid to call out local stars (Hank Blalock). That he is able to consistently surprise and enlighten sports fans, most of whom are already immersed in the day-to-day activities of their favorite players and teams, makes him a star in the local media lineup.

Readers' Pick

Randy Galloway

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Known to some as "DJ Banger," this 7-foot discovery from the Congo won't offer a lot in the way of scoring or minutes played this year. But several facts about him already make him our favorite Maverick. One, with his wide eyes and small but prominent ears, he looks like Popeye Jones' younger, bigger, thinner brother. Two, he already is the toughest Mav on the team and a person who can at least put some hard fouls on various NBA jerks (we're looking at you, Doug Christie). Three, he was the inspiration for the best line in SI.com's Mavs off-season review: "You have to pay a $7 cover whenever DJ Mbenga spins, but it's worth it."

For a while there, we were thinking about giving this award to someone else, and then we realized something: We don't really know anyone else on the Stars. Not anymore. It seems as though all of our old favorites are gone. All of them, except Modano. Plus, the NHL might be on hiatus for a while, what with the impending labor negotiations, so we thought it might be nice to send Modano out with a bang, just in case hockey never comes back and he has to spend the rest of his days as a used-car salesman or something. After that, we figure he'll be homeless and sleeping in a gutter somewhere. Which will be sad. Very, very sad. So, congrats, Mike, and enjoy it while it lasts--you won't get this kind of attention at the soup kitchen.

Readers' Pick

Mike Modano

You just don't appreciate it, OK? The most important international event in Thoroughbred racing--more important than the Kentucky Derby, though not as historic--is coming for the first time to Grand Prairie. It's not like we get an abundance of championship sporting events in Dallas, and the Breeders' Cup is definitely the highlight of the international racing calendar, with $14 million in purses on the line. The Breeders' Cup Classic, worth $4 million itself, often decides the horse of the year, and each of the other seven races on the Breeders' Cup card can yield a divisional champion. Smarty Jones is out of this year's Classic after his early retirement, but you can still expect Pleasantly Perfect, who took the $6 million Dubai World Cup earlier this year and will defend last year's Classic win; Azeri, the finest female Thoroughbred in training in the United States; this year's top remaining 3-year-old, Triple Crown spoiler Birdstone; last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide; as well as champions from England, France, Ireland and all the places that host high-caliber racing. Also present will be the top riders in the world. This is the Super Bowl and World Series wrapped into one.

Admit it: You thought the Rangers would be awful this year. You didn't like any of the veterans the team acquired; you thought that the young players were a year away from being great--oh, and there was that little matter of trading away the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez. But the surprising pennant run the team made changed all our minds. The best part of the season was that so much of it was dependent on young players, guys who should be Rangers for the next few years. When a team builds itself with guys like Michael Young, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cordero, it not only makes us pleased with the present, it makes us giddy about the future.

Just in case you're confused, we're talking about Donnie the son, not Don the father. Donnie, who is an assistant coach with the Mavericks in addition to being the president of basketball operations, wins this particular award, but not because of anything he did with X's and O's. Rather, he wins because the guy has some serious hoops skills. You wouldn't know it by looking at his now-doughy frame, but the man can play some ball. During the annual media-coaches Hoop-It-Up game, Donnie made area journos look like a bunch of Jerry's kids. He posted up, spotted up and drove the lane. He was like Michael Jordan out there. Only shorter. And with less hops. And with a slower first step. But trust us--he was like Michael Jordan.

Readers' Pick

Bill Parcells

City Tavern
Beth Rankin

If you're like us--and we hope you're not, because a trip to rehab is in your immediate future--the perfect game of pool happens between two events: the fifth bourbon-and-whatever of the night and the first broken glass. The former causes the game of pool to happen (because we're getting antsy and competitive), and the latter is caused by the game of pool (because we're antsy, competitive and a bit lax with our drink placement). Because of this, we tend to go to bars that have pool tables and not pool halls that serve drinks. Either way is fine; we're just telling you what we do. In that scenario, there is no finer place to play pool than upstairs at City Tavern. The tables are more than adequate, well-maintained without making too much of a production about it, spacious but not to the point where you start feeling all self-conscious, as if you should be wearing a tuxedo like one of those guys on ESPN2 at 4 a.m. But it's the rest of the package that seals the deal. It's like being in a well-heeled friend's basement: You can still watch whatever basketball/football/baseball/hockey game that's on from any vantage point, thanks to the flat-screen TVs hanging in the corners. The two friends not playing pool with you can jump knee-deep into a round of Golden Tee a few feet away. And the waitresses don't ignore you just because you're shooting some stick.

Readers' Pick

Clicks Billiards

Various locations

We like Lone Star Park; it's as family-friendly as horse racing can be, but we're not real keen on initiating our 5-year-old son into the rites of gambling. That's why we venture to the Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark in Frisco, which rises incongruously from a suburban expanse of malls and glass boxes. Step inside, and you're immediately sucked into an illusion of small-town Americana. It's kind of weird when you think about it, and the game itself is entirely incidental (who are those guys, anyway?), but a Frisco RoughRiders game is a lot of fun. The place is clean (check out the interior-designed women's potties), there aren't any bad seats, you have plenty of munchies to choose from, and the kids will love gyrating to the tunes blaring across the PA system or watching cheesy minor-league stuff like a PG-rated visit from the "San Diego Chicken." Another good thing: Tickets start at $7 (plus the $1 "convenience charge," Ticketmaster commission and all that junk) and top out at $18. So you may be living an illusion, but at least it's an affordable one.

We really sweated about this one. Not because we're overly hairy, even though we are. Because we like so many sports talk shows. We love the laid-back stylings and intelligent banter of Dunham & Miller (and Gordon) on KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket during morning drive. We're big fans of Newy Scruggs on ESPN 103.3 after that. We think Bob and Dan middays on The Ticket are extremely underrated--we almost always find the sports talk and the jackassery engaging. And we have a soft spot still for warhorse Randy Galloway on ESPN, especially when he lets Jennifer Floyd Engel from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sit in (mee-yow). So we asked a buddy: What criteria should we use to decide? He said, simply: When you get in your car, you look at the clock on the dash. Depending on what time it is, when are you most excited to turn on the radio? That would be between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., during The Hardline on The Ticket. Like all good radio shows, the chemistry of the entire cast--Mike Rhyner, Greg Williams, Corby Davidson and Danny Balis--is what sucks you in, keeps you around, makes you laugh. That and hearing Williams say things like "She's so horny she'd hump a rock pile if she thought there was a snake in it."

Readers' Pick

The Hardline

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