The Tuesday Show Prep

Kobe Bryant formally says goodbye

I guess I've never been a very good fan of anything. With only a handful of exceptions, I tend to keep my heart and emotions out of the sports world.

It's one of many reasons why I never try to compare legend with legend.

The "Mt. Rushmore" of this and that in the sports world does little for me.

But I admit now, looking back at the career of Kobe Bryant, who had both his #8 and #24 jerseys retired at a pregame ceremony at the Staples Center, I did admire his skill on the court. 

He was brash, he was relentless, and more important than those things -- to me -- he was unapologetic. He demanded a level of output from others much like he did for himself.

I'm well aware that many people think Kobe Bryant was a bit of an a--hole. I can also shrug my shoulders at that one. I'm unaware of anything specific in a contract signing that Bryant took part in where the "don't be an a--hole" clause was a requirement.

And if we're simply going to play revisionist history and ignore the allegations of sexual assault, if we're going to turn off the moral compass on everything and simply reflect back on a career in which Bryant was part of five NBA championship teams, then I don't know what more you want from the man.

Kobe was not a perfect man.

He was pretty damn brilliant on the court.

And in spite of what you think of his "other" actions -- which by the way, is probably pretty close to what I think of some of his actions -- it's easy for me to look past the negative press that he oftentimes inflicted on himself and remember a basketball player who was pretty damn extraordinary.

Falcons 24, Buccaneers 21

The Atlanta Falcons hopes for reaching the postseason remain strong after a 24-21 win on the road last night over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Devonta Freeman broke the game open with a fourth quarter touchdown run, part of his 126-yard rushing and 68-yard receiving night. Jameis Winston threw three touchdowns on the night for the Bucs, who had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds before Patrick Murray’s field goal attempt sailed off to the right. The Falcons improve to 9 and 5, a game back of both Carolina and New Orleans for tops in the NFC South. Tampa Bay falls to 4 and 10.

Skipper steps down as ESPN president

John Skipper resigned as president of ESPN and co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks on yesterday.

Because it turns out the president of the sports giant had a problem with substance addiction.

"Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN. I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger." -- John Skipper

Skipper went on to say in his prepared statement that he is hoping to rid himself of his addiction. 

"I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.

George Bodenheimer, ESPN's president from 1998 to 2011 and its executive chairman until May 2014, will take over as the acting chairman of the company for the next 90 days to help Disney chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger find Skipper's replacement.

The 61-year-old Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine. He was named to his current job on January 1st of 2012.

"I join John Skipper's many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time," Iger said in a statement. "I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family. 

"With his departure, George Bodenheimer has agreed to serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for the next 90 days to provide interim leadership, help me identify and secure John's successor, and ensure a smooth transition. I am grateful for George's support and look forward to working with him again in this temporary role."

News Services contributed to this report

The Top 10 Countdown Continues

Our annual look back at the most important stories of the year continues this morning on FIRST SPORTS with a look back at a historic run to the NCAA men's championship in college basketball by the North Carolina Tarheels.

We'll also recap a great run by Gonzaga to make it to the finals, a huge tournament run from Oregon and more when we break down the ninth most important sports story of the year. 

Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for....

As we approach the penultimate week in the regular season, it's time -- once again -- to look at the top teams in the NFL.

Some of you are still scratching your heads at the events which took place in Pittsburgh the other night, or the events in Oakland in which an index card will rule all the other index cards.

But with all that aside, let's let the madness begin.

2-- NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (up 1 spot)
3-- CAROLINA PANTHERS (up 1 spot)
4-- MINNESOTA VIKINGS (up 1 spot)
5-- LOS ANGELES RAMS (up 1 spot)
6-- PITTSBURGH STEELERS (down 4 spots)
8-- ATLANTA FALCONS (up 2 spots)
9-- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (no change)
10-- BALTIMORE RAVENS (first time in top 10)


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