? Spurs at Lakers
NBC 9:30 PM
No sooner does Charles Schulz announce his retirement ("Auugghh!") than the NBA stages A Chucky Brown Christmas. Will San Antonio's starting small forward discover that the true meaning of the holiday resides not in which one of these Western Conference powers is victorious but rather in goodwill toward men?
?SportsCentury Athlete of the Century
ABC 5 PM
And the winner is... Justin Gimelstob!!! Uh, no. At press time ESPN was keeping secret the order of the final four- Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth—of its 50 Athletes of the Century. Today's honoree deserves to be named Athlete of All Time, unless someone has a 20-mile time for ancient Greek marathoner Pheidippides that can persuade us otherwise. All 50 profiles from this memorable series will be replayed on ESPN2 starting on Thursday (7:30 p.m.) and continuing on New Year's Eve (1 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight).
?Williams World Challenge
NBC 4 PM
Feeling hip and popular: Davis Love III, 35, who joins in-crowd swingers Sergio Garcia, 19, Justin Leonard, 27, and Tiger Woods, 24, today in the third round of this new 12-man event (the fourth and final round takes place on Sunday on NBC at 2 p.m.) that spans two centuries from the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Feeling left out: Scottsdale resident Phil Mickelson, 29, who now has time to attend that New Year's Eve Judds reunion concert at America West Arena.
? Bud Greenspan's Kings of the Ring
SHOWTIME 10:05 PM
"There are rare moments," says New Yorker editor and Muhammad Ali biographer David Remnick in this captivating 96-minute film, "when sports and politics intersect." Noted Olympics chronicler Greenspan scores a knockout by exploring such intersections in the careers of four heavyweight champions—Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Ali. When Johnson, avatar of African-American dominance in sports, died in an auto accident in 1946, one journalist said that he "died crossing the white line for the last time." Decades later Louis would be buried in Arlington National Cemetery as a hero, and still later Ali would light the torch at the Atlanta Olympics.
? Florida State vs. Virginia Tech
ABC 8 PM
In the year 2000.... Conan: "Dick Van Dyke will turn abruptly toward the camera and say, 'I'm a doctor, by gum, why do I keep diagnosing murder? Especially for that last young man, whose only symptoms were itching and burning.' " In the year 2000.... Andy: "The Hokies, armed with a freshman quarterback and a linebacker named Engelberger—each a second-team All-America—will contend for the national title." In tonight's Sugar Bowl (page 50), the Seminoles, with offensive missile Peter Warrick, take their third shot at the national title in four seasons, while upstart Virginia Tech will try to ride Michael Vick, tailback Shyrone Stith (above) and an underdog's inspiration.
ALL TIMES EASTERN. SCHEDULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.