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Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Updated: April 15, 11:37 AM ET
The best teams in the world

By Jeff Merron
Page 2

We scoured the world. We checked the standings. We pondered the dynasties. We thought about pleasant surprises. Then we looked deep inside our hearts. When that was done, when it came down to the tough decisions, we went gut.

Right here, right now, no question, these are the 10 best teams on this Big Blue Ball.

Place table heading here
10. Los Angeles Lakers
Despite the injuries, despite Kobe's legal woes, despite the buildup (Kobe, Shaq, the Glove, Malone ... best starting lineup of all time!), despite the comedown (infighting, injuries, and Bryant's legal woes) they've still pulled off the fourth-best record in the NBA. They'll win it all this year, and four out of five ain't bad.
9. India's national cricket team
They made history two weeks with their first victory in Pakistan ever, on their first visit to the country in 14 years. Not only did Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar and company win in Karachi but & dig this & they promoted world peace and public health.

The mostly Paki fans in Karachi's stadium showed great grace in cheering India's victory, and were even kind to the few Indian fans in the stadium. Pakistan's cricket columnists praised India's team, one giving the squad a back-handed compliment by calling it the country's greatest team ever (as in, how else could they have won?).

Almost simultaneously, the British Medical Journal reported, in reference to the India-Pakistan rivalry, "cricket is an important component of public health strategies."
8. De La Salle Spartans
These guys just win and win and win. The high school football superpower from San Ramon, Calif. has had 12 straight undefeated seasons during which they've compiled a 151-game winning streak and have been the nation's No. 1-ranked team four years in row. You start for the Spartans, and there's a very good chance that you're on your way to at least one college-town strip club, gratis, on your way to a free ride. And maybe even more: At last count, five former Spartans are active NFL players.
7. New England Patriots
Super Bowl champs. Fifteen straight wins & and counting?
6. North Carolina women's soccer
27-0-0 in 2003. NCAA champs for the 17th time in 22 years. Outscored opponents 32-0 in its six-game tourney ride. Heather O'Reillly was tourney offensive MVP and Catherine Reddick was tourney defensive MVP. Better than Mia Hamm's undefeated 1993 national champs? We say yes -- this team was more dominant against much tougher competition. The future is bright ... maybe. Coach Anson Dorrance and the school settled a sexual harassment lawsuit by agreeing to pay a former player $70,000.
5. Boston Red Sox
Even if the Red Sox don't win the World Series for another 50 years, they'll always be the thorn in the Yankees' side. They'll always be the pesky mosquito buzzing around those Yankee caps. The splinter lurking on the Yankee bench. The BoSox aren't small market, but there's nothing more fun for Yankee-hater Nation than to see the Red Sox challenge The Empire year after year.
4. New York Yankees
Meet the 2004 American League All-Star team.
3. Arsenal
The Gunners have faltered a bit of late, losing their last FA Cup match to Man U and being eliminated in the Champions League by Chelsea. But Arsenal is undefeated in the Premiership (22 wins and eight ties last time we checked), and will soon be champs. They won the FA Cup in 2003. Most important: despite the loss last week, they're better than Mighty Man U.

So go out to Highbury and sing along:
And did those boots of Arsenal's team
Walk upon Highbury's turf so green?
And did they play with great esteem
The best football we've ever seen?

And with a cannon on our chest
We play with heart, and mind, and zest
And we are proud to be Arsenal
In Victory Through Harmony
2. Kenyan marathon squad
It's Patriot's Day, so we'll put it in these terms: Kenyan runners took the first five spots in the 2003 Boston Marathon, and eight of the top nine positions. Or, we'll put it in world record terms: Paul Kergat ran the fastest marathon of all time last year: 2:04:55. Or we'll put it a third way: eight of Kenya's runners ran sub-2:07 marathons in 2003.

Finally, imagine this: you're Mbarak Hussein. Your 2:09:57 made you the No. 40 marathoner in Kenya in 2003. Where would you rank on the U.S. team? Number (gulp) 1.
1. University of Connecticut women's basketball
Three-peat. And we'll leave the rest to Diana Taurasi, after the big win over Tennessee: "UConn domination -- bottom line."

Also receiving votes:

University of Connecticut men's basketball
Grinnell College men's basketball
Minnesota women's hockey
Detroit Tigers