PRO BASKETBALL—NBA: The ghost of Christmas past reigned over much of the league, handing out victories only to those who had enjoyed them for years and leaving the needy with a stocking full of grumblings. Midwest leader Milwaukee won its 300th game in 5½ seasons of campaigning, beating Cleveland 123-110 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's high for the year of 38 points. Chicago Coach Dick Motta, whose Bulls trail Milwaukee by 3½, was having none of the holiday spirit after losing 82-81 to Capital on three Elvin Hayes baskets in the waning minutes. Even the 118-94 Chicago blitz of Atlanta failed to appease Scrooge Motta who said: "...you cannot ask any questions of the officials. They treat us like caged animals, and that's how it's been for six years." Detroit was only third in the Midwest but fourth in the NBA with a 23-15 record. And Kansas City-Omaha made good early on some New Year's resolutions, winning five of seven as Jimmy Walker was Santa's biggest helper. In the Central Division, Capital had enjoyed a Christmas Day treat over New York 102-100 and held a 3½-game lead over Atlanta. Cleveland climbed out of the Central cellar over Houston despite the soaring scoring of the littlest Rocket, Calvin Murphy. In the East, Boston edged Buffalo 125-123 for its fifth win in a row. Boston leads New York by eight games. Golden State lost five of five over the holidays and thereby surrendered the lead in the West to Los Angeles.
ABA: Back-to-back losses on the road left New York humming "There's no place like home for the holidays" and tied for second with Kentucky, half a game behind Carolina in the Eastern Division. The Nets had startled everyone by winning 19 of 22 and had even found themselves in first place as Carolina, without Billy Cunningham, lost three of five. But when New York traveled into the Cougars' lair, Carolina regained first with a 105-95 victory as Mack Calvin scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter and Ted McClain set an ABA record for steals with 12. Then West leader Utah felled New York 107-97 for the Stars' ninth win in 11 games. Surprising San Antonio moved into a second-place tie with Indiana in the West after a holiday period that saw the Spurs climb over .500 for the first time since April 1970. Rookie Swen Nater had a 27-point effort in the 104-76 victory over San Diego.
BILLIARDS—MOHAMED JUNAID MOHAMED LAFIR, 45, of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) ran a world-record break of 859 consecutive balls to capture the world amateur tournament, in Bombay.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—In "Baby Bowl" action preceding the Big Four, NORTH CAROLINA STATE whipped Kansas 31-18 in the Liberty Bowl despite Jayhawk Quarterback David Jaynes' record-breaking performance: he completed 24 of 38 passes for 218 yards. In the Tangerine Bowl, MIAMI of Ohio bested Florida 16-7. The Fiesta Bowl saw ARIZONA STATE wear down Pittsburgh 28-7. GEORGIA squeezed by Maryland 17-16 in the Peach Bowl; HOUSTON downed Tulane 47-7 in the Astro-Bluebonnet; and in the Gator Bowl TEXAS TECH defeated Tennessee 28-19.
HOCKEY—NHL: Beware, Rangers and Bruins and Canadiens and Maple Leafs, the "French Connection" is back! Buffalo's Gil Perreault, who broke his leg eight weeks ago, rejoined linemates Rick Martin and Rene Robert Sunday and the Sabres beat Pittsburgh 3-2 to end a six-game losing streak. Four nights later Martin scored twice and Perreault once in Buffalo's 3-1 win over Detroit. The fifth-place Sabres are 13 points back of East leader Boston but only two points behind fourth-place Toronto. Boston holds a five-point lead over Montreal, which saw its 10-game unbeaten skein ruptured by Toronto 9-2. The third-place New York Rangers won two of four over the holidays, including a 2-1 decision over brawny West leader Philadelphia. The New York Islanders and Vancouver fought for East cellar rights. At week's end the Islanders had escaped the bottom on valiant performances by Goalie Gerry Desjardins, who stopped 44 shots in a 1-0 loss to Minnesota. Philadelphia won three of four and held a one-point lead in the West over Chicago, which continued to enjoy the ageless wonders of Stan Mikita. Atlanta and St. Louis clocked a dead heat for third, aided by some pretty impressive wunderkids: the Flames' rookie Forward Tom Lysiak scored the winning goal in Atlanta's 6-4 win over Los Angeles, and the Blues' rookie Goalie John Davidson made 37 saves as St. Louis downed Pittsburgh 3-1.
WHA: In the West upward mobility is still a reality, not a myth. No fewer than three teams held first place during the holidays: old leader Edmonton, Howe-powered Houston and just plain Minnesota. And just plain Minnesota was king at week's end by virtue of a 5-4 win over Edmonton, which has been sinking slowly for weeks now. Rob Walton contributed one goal and two assists in the victory. Houston's Gordie Howe propelled the Aeros into a first-place tie with nine points in three games before Christmas: the old fellow had one goal and three assists in the 10-0 romp over Winnipeg and four goals in an 8-3 rollick with Los Angeles. Then Houston ran into East king New England and lost 3-2 in overtime. New England had a whale of a holiday, winning three of four and opening an eight-point lead over Toronto and Quebec.
SQUASH RACQUETS—GIL MATEER, 19, son of former U.S. Open champion G. Diehl Mateer, won the U.S. junior singles title over Thomas Page, 17, of Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh. In the national boys' division (15 years and under), MARIO IVAN SANCHEZ, 15, of Mexico City upset top-seeded Tod Binns, 15, of Toronto 15-12, 15-8, 15-8.
TENNIS—EVONNE GOOLAGONG defeated Chris Evert 6-2, 6-3 in the Bonne Bell Cup to lead AUSTRALIA to a 6-3 team victory over the United States in Sydney, Australia. By winning the Bonne Bell, Australia completed a sweep of all major team competitions over the U.S. this year.
MILEPOSTS—DISRUPTED: By American League President Joe Cronin, the managerial plans of the New York Yankees. Cronin invalidated Dick Williams' newly signed contract with the Yankees on the grounds that Williams is still under contract to Charlie Finley and the Oakland A's. Left undisturbed was ex-Yankee Manager Ralph Houk's contract with the Detroit Tigers.
DROPPED: By Cincinnati's Xavier University, intercollegiate football after 58 seasons that began in 1901. The reason, said school president the Rev. Robert W. Mulligan: "Costs of intercollegiate football have grown so high...that we now find it impossible to sustain this program...."
INDICTED: Twenty-eight persons, including 13 harness-racing drivers, by federal authorities on charges of fixing superfecta races at Roosevelt and Yonkers last year. William (Buddy) Gilmour, Del Insko and Carmine Abbatiello, who rank second, third and fourth on the money-winning list this season, were among the drivers charged.
NAMED: As Commissioner of Golf replacing Joseph C. Dey Jr., DEANE BEMAN, 35, former U.S. Amateur champion, effective in February.
RESIGNED: LARRY JONES, football coach of Florida State, after a 0-11-0 season. Reasons included newspaper articles questioning his supertough off-season training and a 49-0 loss to arch-rival Florida.
SELECTED: As Horse of the Year for the second time, SECRETARIAT, also named as the best 3-year-old colt and the best grass horse. Others honored by the Daily Racing Form, the Thoroughbred Racing Associates and the National Turf Writers Association: PROTAGONIST, best 2-year-old colt or gelding; TALKING PICTURE, best 2-year-old filly; DESERT VIXEN, best 3-year-old filly; RIVA RIDGE, best colt, horse or gelding, 4-year-old and up; SUSAN'S GIRL, best filly or mare, 4-year-old and up; SHECKY GREENE, best sprinter, 3-year-old and up; and ATHENIAN IDOL, best steeplechase or hurdle horse.