Play It Forward: Dec. 31-Jan. 6

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is surrounded by the Clippers — and former teammates — Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom during their first meeting of the season on Nov. 2. (AP Photo)

NBA: Lakers at Clippers, Staples Center, Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Prime, TWC SportsNet:
Magic Johnson saw the Clippers playing on Christmas Day and . . . thought he’d seen a magic act. “I thought I would never, ever see ‘Showtime’ again,” the Lakers’ Hall of Famer said on the set of the ESPN halftime show during the Clippers-Denver game on Dec. 25, having just watched the Clippers score 42 points in the second quarter to take a 67-48 lead, highlighted by driving dunks by Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes, alley-oop dunks by Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and back-to-back 3 pointers by Barnes and Chris Paul. “I was the architect of ‘Showtime’,” Johnson reminded us. “The Clippers? That’s ‘Showtime’.”
And as for the Lakers? It’s time to show what they’ve learned in the second meeting of the four scheduled this regular season between the Staples Center tenants.

Clippers forward Caron Butler reacts after scoring as time expired in the first half against the Lakers on Nov. 2. (AP Images)

After the Lakers absorbed a 105-95 loss to the Clippers on Nov. 2, then-coach Mike Brown was trying to explain why his 0-3 team needed Kobe Bryant to play 43 minutes on a bruised foot, because the 40 points he scored at least made it close. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro couldn’t make any assessment of which team was better. “It’s too early to tell anything yet, other than we have to keep getting better.”
The Clippers have been much better – the league’s best record to date – while the 15-15 Lakers would not be in the playoffs if they started today.
After this, the two will get together again on Valentine’s Day, then on April 7. Let’s not even assume both will be playoff bound yet.

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50 years later, the ’63 Rose Bowl has stayed golden on its golden anniversary

UPDATED BELOW WITH LINKS

Go ahead and defend the 2006 version of the Rose Bowl as the grandest of them all.
In that BCS-orchestrated title matchup of No. 1 USC against No. 2 Texas, Vince Young dancing into the end zone with 10 seconds left has become the lasting image of the Longhorns’ 41-38 victory, leaving Pete Carroll, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush languishing on the sidelines.
What could be more memorable than that one?
The ’63 Rose Bowl is ready for another comeback, 50 years later.

“When you think of the all the great teams that have come and gone, and all the great games along the way, that one in 1963 — it’s held up as the icon,” said Tom Kelly, the 85-year-old former USC play-by-play voice who was in the national radio booth that day when No. 1 USC somehow captured John McKay’s first national championship by outlasting No. 2 Wisconsin, 42-37.
Pete Arbogast, the current voice of USC football, was an 8-year-old who got two tickets to that Rose Bowl as a Christmas gift, and went to the game with his grandfather.
“We were even with the goal line, and so far down on the press box side of the stadium that when the Wisconsin players stood up – which is most of the game – we all had to stand just to see the field,” recalled Arbogast, among the 98,698 on hand.
What Kelly saw from the press box, and Arbogast tried to witness from nearly down on the field, has held up against the test of time, with a golden glow on its golden anniversary as Rose Bowl No. 99 is set to be played on Tuesday.

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Play It Forward: Dec. 24-30

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

NBA:
STAPLES CENTER CHRISTMAS DAY DOUBLEHEADER:
Lakers vs. New York, Tuesday, noon, Channel 7
Clippers vs. Denver, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Prime:
So who’s the lucky group of employees on the schedule to have to leave home early on Christmas Day, open up the downtown arena bright and early to let the Lakers in, change out all the hardwood in the late afternoon, then come back around midnight to make sure it’s all locked up after the Clippers are finished?
A year ago, the league had to use this Christmas Day event as its regular-season launch party following months of labor unrest. The Lakers lost by a point to the Bulls, and the Clippers, in Chris Paul’s debut, had a 19-point win at Golden State.
Since the NBA started doing Christmas Day games in 1947, the Knicks have actually made the most of it, with 47 appearances. Despite a sub-.500 record (22-25) on the holiday, New York still has the most victories on this day. Kobe Bryant has the honor/annoyance of having played in a record 14 Christmas Day games – with the Lakers losing nine of them. But considering how the Lakers performed in Steve Nash’s return from a broken leg on Saturday, this could be a game where the Lakers, on a four-game win streak, actually reach the .500 mark. They’ve only been even or one game over .500 four times this season. Steve Nash’s return from his broken leg last Saturday at Golden State takes the surprise away about how the Lakers may operate in this new offense under coach Mike D’Antoni. The Clippers and their 13-game winning streak will be the talk of the nightcap, with Billy Crystal expected to slide out of his courtside seat at some point and  join Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy at their midcourt broadcast table to comment on how things transpire.

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The L.A. News Group Sports Person(s) of the Year for 2012 …

UPDATED: 12/22/12 8 AM:

We’ve announced it today, under that umbrella title of the Los Angeles News Group title instead of a specific newspaper in the chain such as the Daily News, Daily Breeze, Press-Telegram, Tribune, etc. All for one and one for all.

Aside from the ideas we had of who deserved it, we also wanted to bestow special recognition of the So Cal star women athletes of the 2012 Summer Olympics, who we’ve put into one block candidacy:

Getty Images

==Allyson Felix, the former L.A. Baptist High star and USC-educated sprinter, who broke through after taking silver in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 to finally capture gold in the 200 meters at London. Add to that her participation on two winning relay teams, becoming the first woman since 1988 (Florence Griffith-Joyner) to take home three gold medals. It was plenty enough to have her be rewarded with the 2012 Female World Athlete of the Year from the IAAF. Continue reading

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