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Five athletes, two coaches and one team everyone should root for

Dwyane Wade

Not only is the Miami Heat star one of the game's best players on the court, he is one of the most charitable off it. And he doesn't give just money; he gives something more important: his time. Wade, 27, is known for going to hospitals and homes to visit sick children, often without telling anyone he is going. One example was this month when he visited the home of 8-year-old Michael Stolzenberg, whose bedroom is covered with Heat memorabilia. Stolzenberg was bitten by a bug in July and nearly died, and he still is recovering. When the Heat beat the Grizzlies this week, Wade took off his jersey and gave it to Stolzenberg to put on his wall.

Mike Krzyzewski

When you were watching Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils take on Villanova on Thursday night, were you rooting for Duke? Unless you are from Philadelphia, you should have been. Of course, those from Chapel Hill think Krzyzewski, 62, is merely the human form of a rat; the favorite teams of a North Carolina fan are the Tar Heels and anyone playing Duke. But Coach K deserves all our respect. He does things the right way. Duke has no scandals, no allegations of cheating. His kids stay clean. They graduate, and they win a few games, too. What else could you want?

Phil Mickelson

Tiger Woods really has no rival. Not like Jack Nicklaus had in Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. And maybe Woods never will. Maybe his rivals are the rest of the field and his race to beat Nicklaus' majors record. But if one player out there makes the perfect Tom to Tiger's Jerry, it's Mickelson, 38. For starters, the two deep down don't really care for each other. Lefty has already won twice this season, and with Tiger still looking to find his game after knee surgery, we could really go for a summer rivalry. We're pretty sure Tiger will raise his game. Mickelson will just need to join the party.

Derek Jeter

While half the major-leaguers were looking for an excuse to get out of the World Baseball Classic, perhaps the biggest name in the game stepped up and fulfilled his duty, playing shortstop for the Americans. Here's the thing about Jeter, 34. He's single. He's good-looking. He's a star. He's the shortstop of the Yankees, for crying out loud. And yet his name shows up more often in the sports part of the New York tabloids than on the gossip pages. You never hear about him getting into a fight at some strip club or arguing with a girlfriend in a swanky restaurant. And truly he's the last person you think will be linked to steroids. This guy has his cake and eats it, too, because he handles himself the right way on and off the field.

Rocco Baldelli

He is wearing a different uniform — the uniform, by the way, of the Rays' biggest rival — but he is still the same guy he was when he was with the Rays. Our guy. Before he became a Red Sox, Baldelli, 27, was one of ours, and he always will be. He has overcome serious injuries and other health issues, never complained, worked hard and helped the Rays get to the World Series last year. It wasn't really his choice to leave after last season, but the Rays didn't welcome him back. There will come a time when Rocco will beat the Rays with a shot off the Green Monster. When he does, don't hate him. Give him a hand.

Kyle Busch

NASCAR doesn't feel the same as it did a few years ago. Its popularity seems down, and when a sport needs a boost, there are two ways to get it. It needs to find either a star most everyone loves (think Michael Jordan and the NBA) or one that everyone dislikes. Jimmie Johnson has won three consecutive NASCAR championships and seems like a nice-enough guy, but he doesn't stir passion. Kyle Busch, 23, does. Most don't care for him, and the best part is that he is good. He has won twice already this season. Having the bad guy win isn't always a bad thing. Having Busch win might be just the medicine to get NASCAR healthy again.

The sports world is made up of two types of players and teams: those we like, and those we don't. Usually we decide which is which based on where we grew up, where we live or where we went to college. But taking that out of the equation, we step back today and objectively give you five athletes, two coaches and one team you should root for because they are either good people, deserve their success, or are good for their sports.

Montreal Canadiens

This is the 100th anniversary of the Canadiens, and they are dangerously close to missing the playoffs, which would be awful in Quebec, where hockey is like a religion. Furthermore, it would be horrible for the NHL. Toronto and Ottawa are going to miss the postseason, and if the Canadiens miss, too, no Eastern Conference Canadian teams would be in the postseason. That would be a nightmare for Canadian television ratings. The NHL is always more interesting when the Leafs and Canadiens are good, or at least in the playoffs.

Raheem Morris

Being the coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs is not exactly a dream job at this moment. The Bucs just cut loose popular veterans, including perhaps the greatest player in franchise history, Derrick Brooks. They don't have a starting quarterback. They have holes to fill all over the field. This is what Morris inherits for his first NFL head coaching job. By all accounts, the 32-year-old has all the makings of a solid NFL coach. It would be a shame if the Bucs fell apart and he took the blame for many things that are out of his control.

Five athletes, two coaches and one team everyone should root for 03/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 6:34am]
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