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ROAD TAKEN After her sophomore season, while working out with the U.S. World University Games basketball team, Jones broke her left foot, which kept her from running in the Atlanta Olympics. A North Carolina assistant track coach and Olympic shot-putter named C.J. Hunter supervised Jones's rehab and later became her husband. Though she did return to the basketball team, averaging 18.6 points in 1996--97, Jones told her teammates in a tearful meeting that she wouldn't play her senior season so she could concentrate on track. By 1998 Jones was the world's fastest woman in the 100 and 200 meters, and two years later she won Olympic gold in both events in Sydney. But Hunter soon disgraced himself with a positive drug test and, though they are now divorced, subsequently helped ensnare Jones in the ongoing BALCO drug scandal. ( Jones contends that she has never used performance-enhancing drugs.)
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD Track man though he was, Hunter loved basketball and supported Jones's jones for the game. But it was while playing hoops that she broke her foot, which led her to rehab, where she met Hunter.
ROAD NOT TAKEN The high school prodigy from the bulrushes of Petersburg, Va., attracted hundreds of college recruiters, including evangelist Oral Roberts, founder of the university bearing his name, who offered to cure Malone's mother, Mary, of her bleeding ulcer. But in the spring of 1974 Malone signed a letter of intent with Maryland, whose coach, Lefty Driesell, had charmed Mary by invoking the Bible and talking up the virtues of a college education.
ROAD TAKEN Driesell hadn't reckoned on the ABA's Utah Stars, who had drafted Malone. On the August day that Stars coach Bucky Buckwalter and owner Jim Collier spread 10 $100 bills across an orange crate in the Malone living room and showed Malone a photograph of a Lincoln Mark IV, Lefty wound up the loser. In agreeing to a five-year deal worth $590,000, Malone became the first high school basketball player to go straight to the pros, where he became the greatest offensive rebounder of all time during a 21-year career. Meanwhile Maryland regularly endured blows that confirmed its reputation as college basketball's most snakebitten program.
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD When Malone finally agreed to terms with the Stars, in the Washington, D.C., offices of his agent, all parties had to drive to a Ramada Inn in Rosslyn, Va., for the signing because D.C. law required a party to be 21 to enter into a contract.
LOST IN THE MIST Malone's deal included up to $120,000 in incentives for making progress toward a college degree. Today Malone, who never did attend college, speaks frequently to groups of children and sounds a lot like Driesell: He talks up the value of staying in school.