Of pancreatic cancer at age 63, Pulitzer Prize--winning photographer Brian Lanker, whose captivating work was featured in National Geographic, LIFE and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; whose talent was venerated with numerous international awards; and who left behind iconic impressions of hundreds of athletes. The spectrum of his SI work stretched from Wilt Chamberlain and John Wooden to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, and included 18 covers. But his best-known work came from his book I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, a celebration of contributions to art, literature, politics and athletics by 75 African-American women. Said SI director of photography Steve Fine of Lanker (above, with Bill Russell), "When he gets to heaven, we know one thing: The portrait of God will be in beautiful light."
From the Auburn football team after being charged with robbery, burglary and theft, four members of the national champion Tigers, who permanently dismissed the players on the same day as their arrest. Junior safety Mike McNeil, freshman receivers Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens, and freshman tight end Dakota Mosley were arrested on the morning of March 11 following a traffic stop, during which police recovered a handgun and stolen property. Police were responding to a report that three men had broken into a house about three miles from the Auburn campus and that one of the intruders displayed a handgun. Goodwin, Kitchens and Mosley were part of a 2010 recruiting class that was ranked among the top 10 in the nation, while McNeil, a starter, led the Tigers with 14 tackles in the '11 national title game.
After a four-year hiatus, Giants running back Tiki Barber, who on March 8 filed papers with the NFL to resume his career, only to be met with a chilly reception by his former team. "When we are able to make the transaction," the Giants said in a statement, "we will release him from our reserve/retired list." Barber, who turns 36 in April, rushed for a Giants franchise-best 10,449 yards during a 10-year career before retiring after the 2006 season. But his public image imploded during his postplaying career as an NBC commentator, prompting fans to boo last season when his name was unveiled in the team's new Ring of Honor. (He had used his TV platform to criticize Giants coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning.) Barber's TV career and marriage fell apart last April when he left his pregnant wife for a 23-year-old former NBC intern. The New York Post later reported that Barber, who was fired by NBC, was broke and could not pay a divorce settlement.
Amid criticism for failing to properly officiate the final seconds of a Big East tournament second-round game on March 9, three basketball referees, whose decision to sit out the remainder of the tournament was described by Big East commissioner John Marinatto as "in the best interests of everyone involved." The officials—Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton—withdrew a day after officiating St. John's 65--63 win over Rutgers. In the closing seconds of that game, Red Storm forward Justin Brownlee grabbed a loose ball on a tipped inbounds pass. But while celebrating the apparent victory, Brownlee appeared to travel, then stepped out-of-bounds with 1.7 seconds remaining. Neither violation was called, robbing Rutgers of a deserved last possession. The ending ignited a storm of controversy, including criticism from the NCAA national coordinator of men's basketball officiating, John Adams, who told ESPN, "Not officiating to the end of a game is unacceptable." Marinatto acknowledged that Rutgers should have received an extra possession.
At age 59 of a suspected heart attack while he was driving in Clarence, N.Y., former Sabres wing Rick Martin (above), who was part of Buffalo's fabled French Connection line in the 1970s. Martin had eight seasons of 32 or more goals, including back-to-back 52-goal seasons in which he was named to the All-NHL first team. He and fellow French Canadians Rene Robert and Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault formed a dominant line from '72 to '79, leading Buffalo to its first Stanley Cup finals appearance in '75, the fifth year of the franchise's existence. Martin made seven appearances in the NHL All-Star Game and had his jersey retired by Buffalo in '95.