Yao Ming, who reports for duty with the Chinese national team this week, returned to China on April 26 and was, in the words of his marketing rep, Bill Sanders, "blown away by the impact SARS has had." Yao immediately organized and, on Sunday, hosted a three-hour telethon to raise money to battle the disease that has killed 252 people in mainland China. Broadcast live from Shanghai, Yao's hometown, the telethon featured videotaped messages from Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal, who said, in English, "I love you." Yao also responded to viewer e-mail and oversaw an auction of signed memorabilia from Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, as well as a pair of tickets to the Rockets' 2003-04 season opener. The telethon raised more than $300,000.
?After being kicked off American Idol last month, Kimberly Caldwell has landed on her feet. The perky Texan joined the team at Fox Sports Net as a special correspondent for the extreme-sports show 54321. Earlier this month Caldwell, 21, was on the red carpet at the X2 premiere, and this week she interviews the Eco-Challenge Playboy X-treme Team. Safe to say Caldwell won't be voted off this show anytime soon: Fox execs have already promoted her to a Friday-night studio gig. Says executive producer John Johnston, "Without a doubt, Kimberly exudes star power."
?Whether or not he and Britney Spears are still playmates, there's no question that Justin Timberlake has a love affair with basketball. Turner Sports execs noticed this at the 2002 NBA All-Star weekend, when Timberlake went up over one of the network's studio hosts, Kenny Smith, to nail a jump shot during the celebrity game. "Obviously he loves playing and he's a big sports fan," says Mike Pearl, a Turner Sports executive producer. Now Pearl and Timberlake have struck a deal for the *NSync-er to work as a special correspondent. Timberlake's first assignment: a series of old-school-versus-new-school debates with Magic Johnson that will run on the network's pregame show. (Friday's segment featured the singer extolling Shaquille O'Neal while Johnson praised Wilt Chamberlain.) Timberlake will also cover golf and auto racing.
?The recently formed Yale Collegiate Figure Skating Club—which has 15 members and meets at 7:30 a.m. three days a week—just got a whole lot stronger. Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist, has announced that she's becoming a Bulldog. The choice of college may mean that Hughes, a senior at Great Neck High on Long Island, will have to break with her coach of five years, Robin Wagner. While Hughes and Wagner want to stay together, the coach lives in Hackensack, N.J., about 90 minutes from the Yale campus, and says she has no plans to move....
Pound for pound Roy Jones Jr. is the best boxer turned actor to appear in Vie Matrix Reloaded. Though his part is on the lightweight side, Jones said he enjoyed the filming in Australia. "The acting people treat you much better than the people of boxing."