Readers' Choice

Professional athlete
Steve Smith

Comeback athlete
Vinny Testaverde

Athlete with a heart
Steve Smith

NASCAR driver
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Golf course
Quail Hollow Club

Driving range

Bowling alley
George Pappas' Park Lanes

Player on top of his game
Jacob Coggins

The Charlotte Eagles have consistently been one of the top teams in USL-2 (United Soccer Leagues) and the team owes much of that success to the play of Jacob Coggins. The Charlotte native led the league in scoring (goals and assists) and goals last season, and for the third time in four years, while leading his team to the semifinals in the playoffs. But now the Eagles will have to do without him. Coggins has made the jump to USL-1 and is playing this season for the Carolina RailHawks in Cary.

Charlotte 49ers golf team

Not many are aware that our bustling state university has a top-notch golf team. Head coach Jamie Green has steadily built a winning program since taking over five years ago. After finishing third in the 2007 NCAA golf championship, the Charlotte 49ers started this season on a high note, winning five of its first six tournaments (the long season runs through May). In late September, the team earned the number one ranking in the country, the first time a UNC-Charlotte team had ever been ranked first.

Breakout star
Stephen Curry

He started the season on some fans' radar because he had a pretty good freshman season (and a dad named Dell). By the time his sophomore season ended, he was making the rounds on the national talk show circuit, and reporters were bombarding him with the question of whether he would be entering the NBA draft. A Davidson player going pro? Early, at that? Well, when you're Stephen Curry and you've led your team to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament by averaging thirty-two points in four games, during a season in which you set several records including hitting more three-pointers in a single season than any player in NCAA history, then it all makes sense. Luckily for Davidson—and anyone who enjoys watching college basketball—Curry says he'll return for his junior year.  

Player acquisition
Jason Richardson

On NBA draft night last June, many eyes were on the Charlotte Bobcats as it was widely speculated that the team would trade its first-round draft pick for an established player. Michael Jordan was in a secure location inside the arena (sounds dramatic, doesn't it?) as he and his staff selected Brandan Wright with the eighth pick. Before fans could say, “Not another Tar Heel,” Wright was traded to Golden State for guard Jason Richardson. With Richardson, the Bobcats got a go-to scorer and showed critics that they just might be willing to spend what it takes to put a winning team on the court.

Player who didn't disappoint
Jon Beason

If there was any bright spot from the Carolina Panthers' disappointing 2007 season (7-9 record), it was the great play of rookie linebacker Jon Beason. He worried fans by starting his NFL career holding out for a better contract offer. But he proved to be worth every penny. Starting all sixteen games, he finished third in the NFL in tackles with 140, just one shy of the second-place total.

Memorable moment
Michael Jordan paired with Tiger Woods

If the Wachovia Championship wanted to send the message that it's one of the preeminent golf tournaments in the country, it accomplished that by pairing Michael Jordan with Tiger Woods in its Wednesday Pro-Am last year. This was the first time the two friends and Nike gods played golf together in an official event. Woods, showcasing his perfect swing, and Jordan, with the customary cigar hanging from his mouth, cracked jokes with each other through eighteen holes at Quail Hollow Club, as fans watched in awe. 

Sports entertainment
Charlotte Bobcats home games

In its fourth season, the Charlotte Bobcats aren't a winning team. But where the Bobcats deserve credit is making the games entertaining regardless of the play on the court. Timeouts are enjoyable as fans look to the large video screen on the scoreboard to see the “Kiss Me Cam” (there's always at least one awkward couple who don't want to kiss), along with contests (giving a winning fan a choice between a date with a beautiful model or an autographed Gerald Wallace sneaker—he chose the shoe) and pranks. And during the Harris Teeter VIC card giveaways, you realize just how many people have Harris Teeter VIC cards.

Story in sports
Davidson Wildcats' season

The tiny college (1,700 students) in the tiny town of Davidson completed an unforgettable basketball season with a two-point loss to Kansas in the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament, snapping its twenty-five-game win streak. The kids and their coach captured the attention of the nation as the team upset three teams in a row (Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin) on its way to the Elite Eight. Many were quick to label them as the Cinderella team of the tournament, but they'd been preparing for this run since the beginning of the season by playing a tough schedule that included games against UNC, Duke, and UCLA.  

Underrated player
Jason Richards

As the NCAA season progressed and Richards led the nation in assists with eight per game, many sports analysts began to say that Richards was one of the most underrated players in the country. Now thanks to his play during the NCAA Tournament, scouts from NBA teams have taken interest in the senior point guard.

Bob McKillop

The success of the Davidson Wildcats' season has to be attributed to head coach Bob McKillop. While he's built his team into a respectable program during his nineteen years there, it wasn't until the national spotlight shone on him during the NCAA tournament that many began to realize just how great a coach he is. Think about it: he led a school to the Elite Eight that has only 1,700 students. One of the teams he beat, Wisconsin, has 42,000 students. And it's not like McKillop can have his pick of the litter when it comes to recruiting—the players face the same rigorous admission standards as the rest of the students. But he gets quality players and teaches them how to play superbly as a team. Plus, all of his players graduate. How many college coaches can say that? 

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