The two greatest basketball players of the past two decades are changing marital status. Michael Jordan proposed to longtime girlfriend Yvette Prieto on Christmas Day. Days earlier, Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa filed for divorce. Six years ago Jordan's first wife, Juanita, ended their 17-year marriage, walking away with $168 million in cash and assets. Vanessa Bryant, likewise, has no prenuptial agreement to prevent her from receiving up to half of the Bryant fortune, which best estimates put at about $360 million.
For both stars, the demise of their first marriages stemmed from serial infidelity. Jordan was a notorious womanizer in his playing days, and Bryant admitted to sex in 2003 with a Colorado hotel employee who accused him of rape. Criminal charges were eventually dropped and a civil suit settled out of court. Through the ordeal, Vanessa Bryant stood by her man, who gave her a $4 million ring as part of his apology. But rumors of further infidelity have swirled since, and the payout is likely to climb much higher than $4 million this time around.
Jordan and Bryant have avoided the media circus that surrounded Tiger Woods during his marital collapse. Why? They are superstars with similar international acclaim. Their divorce settlements are and likely will be even larger than the $100 million Woods paid out to ex-wife Elin Nordegren. All three men harbor the secrets that gossip sites desire. Why the double standard in scrutiny? Probably because adultery among basketball players is old news but among golfers a breaking story.
That discrepancy results from a naïve assumption that golf's gentlemanly decorum transfers from the fairways to the hallways of the players' hotels. At least since Wilt Chamberlain's famous claim in 1991 to have slept with 20,000 women, sports fans and writers have assumed that aggression and bravado on the professional basketball court translate into sexual promiscuity off it. A Sports Illustrated cover story in 1998 chronicled the illegitimate children fathered by respected NBA stars like Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Jason Kidd, and many others.
Revelations that Woods maintained as many as 13 mistresses served as golf's equivalent exposé. The truth is now out: Many wealthy athletes engage in extraordinary womanizing on the road, no matter their public image or the sport they play. That this is even true for an apparently devout Christian like Orlando Magic forward Dwight Howard, who fathered an illegitimate child with a team cheerleader, should press Christian fans to prayer.
Many sports prognosticators have hoped for years that the convoluted Bowl Championship Series would crumble after crowning the wrong national champion. Few could have guessed that its undoing would result from crowning the right one. Alabama's 21-0 drubbing of LSU Jan. 9 left no doubt as to the best team in the country. Also not in doubt: The game ranked among the most boring championship contests ever played.
Following the second-lowest-rated BCS title game ever, conference commissioners met for their first serious discussion about shifting college football's postseason to a playoff format. Even Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, a staunch opponent of a playoff in years past, expressed openness to the idea: "Four years ago, five of us didn't want to have the conversation. Now we all want to have the conversation."
Much conversation remains to sort through how to involve bowls and whether university presidents would even support a playoff, but a decision is likely by summer. With a potential doubling of the BCS' $125 million television contract with ESPN, change seems inevitable.