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Monday, December 23, 2002
Updated: December 24, 3:02 PM ET
Best rookies of 2002

SportsNation

1. Clinton Portis
The Broncos running back is a lock for AFC rookie of the year honors, with stats the envy of just about any NFL runner, regardless of experience. With a week to go, he has 1,280 yards rushing (with an impressive 5.1 yards per carry) and 13 TDs. He has another 346 yards receiving and two more TDs.

Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis was a second-round pick but is showing first-round talent.

2. Julius Peppers
The Panthers defensive end had to sit the last four games of the season after a suspension for using a banned substance, but he's still the favorite for NFC rookie of the year. (35 tackles, 12 sacks, five forced fumbles, five passes defended, one interception)

3. Pau Gasol
The runaway winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year Award led the Grizzlies in scoring last season with a 17.6 ppg average, and also led the team in rebounding and, while he was at it, blocked 196 shots.

4. Tamika Catchings
In her first year in the WNBA, the former Tennessee star recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined her last season. The Indiana Fever forward led the league in steals (2.94 a game), was second in scoring (18.6 ppg), fourth in rebounding (8.6 per game) and 10th in assists (3.7 per game). In other words, she wasn't just the league's top rookie -- she was one of the league's best players.

5. Jimmie Johnson
Fifth in the Winston Cup standings, just ahead of rival rook Ryan Newman, thanks to 21 top-10 finishes and three victories.

The Year in Review: Listmania!
SportsNation has compiled our rankings of the best and worst of 2002. Check out our top 10 lists and then voice your opinion by voting in the polls.

Most memorable moment
Athlete of the Year
Best moves
Worst moves
Feuds of the year
Rookies of the year
Ugliest moments
Teams of the year
Flops of the year
Fantasy player of the year

6. Dany Heatley
The 20-year-old Thrashers right winger won the Calder Memorial Trophy (NHL Rookie of the Year), tallying 26 goals and 41 assists for 67 points in the 2001-2002 season.

7. Rick Carlisle
The Pistons head coach garnered Coach of the Year honors after his first year at the helm of an NBA team. He guided the Pistons to 50 wins, 18 more than the 2000-01 season, the Central Division title, and a first-round playoff win over Toronto.

8. Francisco Rodriguez
Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 regular-season innings for the Angels before he blew away batters in the playoffs and World Series. In September, F-Rod gave an inkling of what he was all about, surrendering only three hits while striking out 13 in his five appearances. In the postseason, he was nothing less than sensational, looking more like a veteran at his peak than a 20-year-old. In 11 playoff and World Series appearances, Rodriguez went 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA, pitching 18.2 innings, striking out 28 while walking only five. Would the Angels have won it all without him? Probably not.

9. Ilya Kovalchuk
The Thrashers left winger finished a close second to teammate Heatley in the Rookie of the Year standings. Kovalchuk scored 29 goals, leading all NHL rookies.

10. Eric Hinske
The 25-year-old Blue Jays third baseman won the AL Rookie of the Year award after hitting 24 home runs, driving in 84 runs and hitting .279 with a .481 slugging percentage.