LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant always shines brightest among the stars, especially in his hometown.
Bryant brought Showtime back to the All-Star Game, scoring 37 points and tying a record with his fourth MVP award, leading the Western Conference to a 148-143 victory over the East on Sunday night.
"I feel like we have a sense of responsibility and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard," Bryant said. "And we come here, that's what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete and that's what I try to do and that's what I try to tell my teammates to do."
Returning to the game he dominates after a one-year absence, Bryant added 14 rebounds in a spectacular performance in front of the usual celebrity-filled crowd that turns out to see his Lakers at Staples Center.
"It feels great, being at home here and playing in front of the home crowd," Bryant said after receiving the MVP trophy. "This will be my last All-Star game in front of these home fans, so it feels good to do it."
Kevin Durant chipped in 34 points, scoring five straight after the East cut a 17-point deficit after three quarters to two points with 2:34 to play. The NBA scoring leader added the clinching free throws after the East got back within three in the final seconds.
LeBron James powered the East rally, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to join Michael Jordan as the only players with a triple-double in the All-Star game. Amare Stoudemire also scored 29, but Miami's Dwyane Wade, the MVP of the East's win last year, had to leave with an ankle injury after scoring 14.
Wade said he rolled the ankle he originally hurt in a loss at Boston last week. He was hoping James would pull it out without him.
"I wish the East would've won, then my teammate with the triple-double would've stole [the MVP]," Wade said. "But [Bryant] deserved it."
Plenty of Hollywood giants were sitting courtside, but Bryant's popularity here can rival most of them. This week, he became the first athlete to have his handprints and footprints put in concrete outside Hollywood's famed Grauman's Chinese Theater.
He told fans to "enjoy the show" before the tip, and as always he delivered a good one.
Always more about focus than fun, Bryant had 21 points by the time Rihanna came out for her halftime performance, putting him halfway to Wilt Chamberlain's record from 1962, the year of his 100-point game.
"You could tell he started out from the start, he wanted to get the MVP," Stoudemire said. "He was not passing the ball, at all. But that's Kobe."
And when the East made it close in the third quarter, Bryant dunked over a chasing James who was going for the block, then nailed a 3-pointer to make it 90-79.
"He was unbelievable tonight," James said. "You definitely saw his motor was going tonight."
Carmelo Anthony scored eight points in his possible goodbye to the West team. The weekend was dominated by talk of a potential trade to New York or New Jersey, and the Denver Nuggets forward appeared alternately entertained and annoyed by the constant questions.
"At times, it can be tough, but it's fun at the same time," he said while walking on the magenta carpet before the game. "During this weekend I'm still having fun."
While hearing some of the usual "MVP! MVP! chants he's usually serenaded with at Staples Center, Bryant tied Bob Pettit's record for All-Star game honors. He was scoreless for the final 6:48, but Lakers teammate Pau Gasol had a big basket to help the West hold on.
Gasol scored 17 points, helping the West hold on against an East team featuring a combined seven players from Boston and Miami, considered two of the biggest threats to end the Lakers' reign.
The exhibition game had a bit of a finals feel with the presence of a record-tying four players from the rival Celtics.
Paul Pierce -- who grew up in nearby Inglewood -- and Kevin Garnett received the heaviest boos during the starting lineups. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were also here from the group that lost Game 7 on this floor last June and would love another chance to come take the title back.
East coach Doc Rivers sent his four players out together midway through the first quarter to loud boos that usually provide the soundtrack of June in Los Angeles. They quickly turned to cheers when Allen threw up an airball on his first shot attempt.
Bryant denied gaining extra motivation from seeing the two rivals, both of whom already won at Staples Center this season. But he was clearly into the game from the start, driving for a couple of strong dunks or knocking down jumpers when defenders gave him room.
The crowd of entertainers included Beyonce and Jay-Z, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Jack Nicholson, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Justin Bieber -- who was called Justin "Berber" by the public address announcer while mentioning the teen star's MVP performance in the celebrity game on Friday.
Perhaps trying too hard to impress the stars surrounding them, there were errant passes and shaky shooting in the early minutes. The West got it right in the final minute of the first quarter, with rookie star Blake Griffin of the Clippers catching an alley-oop pass from Deron Williams for one of his powerful dunks -- though not quite the degree of difficulty as his slam while leaping over the hood of a car Saturday to win the dunk contest.
The game was a welcome diversion from the Anthony talk and the troubling labor situation that threatens the league. Next year's game is scheduled for Orlando, but nobody can be sure it will be played. The owners and players' association met Friday to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires June 30. Though it was described as a positive meeting, there was also no progress made, and the sides have a significant gap to close in order to prevent a work stoppage.
And it was a welcome break for Lakers fans, whose defending two-time champions stumbled into the weekend with three losses in a row.
They'll be all right if Bryant is as sharp in the spring as he was Sunday.
Chris Bosh scored 14 points, Allen had 12, and Derrick Rose and Joe Johnson finished with 11 apiece for the East.
Following a pregame performance by rocker Lenny Kravitz, and a tandem talc toss by James and the rest of the East starters, Bryant scored 11 points in the first quarter. The West led 76-64 at halftime.
Russell Westbrook, who played at UCLA, scored 12 points and Chris Paul added 10 for the West.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Chicago White Sox pitcher and animal rights activist Mark Buehrle told MLB.com recently that there were
times this season he wished Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick would get hurt.
In 2007, Vick was convicted of a felony related to a dogfighting ring and served 19 months in prison.
"He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game, and I know it's bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt," Buehrle told MLB.com. "Everything you've done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys."
At some point after the story was posted on MLB.com, the quotes were removed from the story, but the writer, Scott Merkin, had posted them on his Twitter account.
After serving his prison time, Vick was signed by the Eagles in 2009. This past season he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year after making the Pro Bowl with the Eagles.
Buehrle and his wife, Jamie, who have three dogs, are active in promoting canine rights and have partnered with the White Sox on a program called "Sox for Strays," which hosts area animal rescue groups during the season at U.S. Cellular Field.
Jamie Buehrle made news in December when she helped save a dog who was found wandering the streets in St. Louis with an arrow sticking out of its abdomen. The Buehrles donated money to help pay the dog's veterinarian bills and, through Facebook, found a home for the dog.
Anyone else feel the same as Buehrle?
Thursday, February 10, 2011
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers' record-setting losing streak is intact. Byron Scott finally snapped.
Cleveland's first-year coach unloaded on his team during and after a listless 103-94 loss on Wednesday night, extending the Cavs' NBA record skid to 26 and tying them with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the longtime national punchline for failure -- for the longest stretch of incompetence in major American pro sports.
"I'm mad as hell," said Scott, who kept the postgame locker room closed for more than 30 minutes. "I can deal with losing, especially when our guys play as hard as they have in the last couple weeks, but I find it very hard to deal with when guys don't come out ready to play."
Instead, Cleveland's season slipped further into shame.
"Everybody's mad as hell," guard Daniel Gibson said when told of his coach's surly mood. "To lose like that and for it to get to this point and still sometimes not see a sense of urgency, I can see why it would push you to that point. What are you going to do? It's either do it or don't.
"The guys have to figure that out."
The Cavs' next chance to end the slide will be Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. After that comes a home game against the road-winless Washington Wizards on Sunday.
"Something has to give when they play the Wizards," said two-time reigning NBA MVP LeBron James, whose departure from Cleveland for Miami has led to the Cavs' stunning collapse in their first season without him, on Tuesday night after the Heat beat Indiana at home. "I think that should be a nationally televised game, honestly."
Rodney Stuckey scored 22 to pace the Pistons, who didn't want to be remembered as the team that let the Cavs get off the mat. Detroit's players said they were motivated by ESPN analyst Tim Legler, who predicted Cleveland would end its streak against the Pistons.
Like James, McGrady is looking forward to seeing the Cavs-Wizards tilt.
"As crazy as it sounds, I want to see them and Washington play," McGrady said. "I don't wish anyone to have a bad losing streak, but I want them to get to Washington, 0-and-whatever they could be, and see whose streak ends. That would be something that would be interesting to watch."
The Cavs and their fans had hoped this was the night this streak, that has stretched through the holidays, the NFL playoffs and almost two months, stopped.
Cleveland had played well in its previous four games, losing by a combined 21 points and actually came into the matchup favored to beat Detroit, which was playing its second straight after hosting the league-leading San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
But the Cavs fell into a 12-point hole at half, and although they pulled within three in the third, they fell apart early in the fourth. Only some late buckets in garbage time made the score respectable.
When the final horn sounded, Cleveland's fans didn't bother booing as the Cavs dropped their heads and walked dejectedly to the locker room.
"Well, one of these days," one fan climbing the stairs mumbled as he left.
Scott, who has remained publicly stoic during the streak, didn't mince words afterward. He confronted his players about their poor showing.
"We got all professional basketball players in there and at some point in time you have to have some pride in what you're doing. Tonight, we didn't come out with that pride. We came out just going thought the motions like we were going to win the game no matter what they did. They played last night and I thought it looked like we played last night.
"Everybody's got to go home and take a good, hard look in the mirror.
"Don't point fingers. Look at yourself first."
There had been so many encouraging signs lately for the Cavs. They fell 99-96 on Monday in Dallas, when they failed to execute in the closing seconds and set a new league mark for consecutive losses over one and two seasons. Scott was heartened by his young team's effort against the Mavericks, and with eight straight home games ahead, the time seemed right for Cleveland to get back in the win column.
The Pistons built an 11-point lead after three and never let Cleveland get going in the fourth.
Will Bynum scored 17 and Charlie Villanueva 13 for Detroit, which played without guard Rip Hamilton. He sat out with a strained right groin.
Antawn Jamison scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half for Cleveland. J.J. Hickson scored 18 with 15 rebounds, but the Cavs got just 17 points from their bench.
Scott maintains he has no regrets about taking the Cleveland job, which he accepted not knowing if James would re-sign. After hearing him asked about the decision so many times lately, Scott's wife, Anita, asked her husband if he laments coming to Cleveland.
"No," he told her.
He's being tested by a streak that won't end.
"The thing I focus on is guys getting better," he said. "I thought the last week guys got better each game and tonight I thought we took a gigantic step backwards. We had no sense of urgency whatsoever and that kind of amazes me. When we've lost as many in a row as we lost and when you've been as close as we've been in the last four or five games and to be at home and come out the way we came out -- that amazes me."
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Wake Forest freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan needed a kidney transplant. None of his family members was a suitable match for a donation.
For Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter, the decision to donate one of his kidneys to a player who hadn't yet even stepped on the field was an easy one, writes ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee.
Both men are recovering at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after Walter donated a kidney to Jordan on Monday. One of the surgeons in the procedures, Dr. Kenneth Newell, said the operations went well and that both men are expected to make full recoveries.
"When we recruit our guys, we talk about family and making sacrifices for one another," Walter said before the operation. "It is something we take very seriously. I had the support of my family, Wake Forest and my team. To me it was a no-brainer."
Jordan, who was selected by the New York Yankees in the 19th round of the amateur draft in June 2010, started feeling ill in January 2010, after he had committed to Wake Forest.
It wasn't until April that Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, a condition in which abnormal antibodies were causing his white blood cells to attack healthy tissue in his body. It left his kidneys functioning at 8 percent by August. He still attended Wake Forest for the fall semester, despite needing 18 to 20 hours of daily dialysis.
When none of Jordan's family members was found to be a suitable match for the transplant, Walter had himself tested -- a complex process that takes five weeks.
Walter found out he was a match on Jan. 28 and told the team three days later about his decision to donate. That didn't surprise Wake Forest senior outfielder Steven Brooks one bit, according to Baseball America.
"The Tom Walter I know has been a very stand-up man at all times," Brooks said told Baseball America. "When he made a commitment to Kevin, he did it for good and bad. It may be eye-opening for other people, but not for me because that's just the kind of guy he is."
Walter went to Wake Forest in 2009 after the University of New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, downgraded its baseball program to Division III. He's expected to be discharged from the hospital later this week and hopes to rejoin the Demon Deacons for their Feb. 18 season opener at LSU.
"If [Jordan] makes it back to the playing field, that would be a great story. But I just want him to have a normal life and have the chance to be a normal college student," Walter said, according to USA Today.
For now, though, he said the priority for his son is the early stage of recovery, which includes taking short walks in the hospital Tuesday and making sure his incision doesn't become infected.
"I think he's feeling great, outside of he's still got a couple of tubes hanging out of him," Keith Jordan said, according to The Associated Press.
Keith Jordan said he isn't worrying about when his son may return to the field. "One of the things we do know for Kevin is, he's going to want to go do stuff right away," Keith Jordan said. "He's going to have to take care of himself. ... His intention is to get back on the field, so I'm sure he's going to do whatever it takes to do that."
Keith Jordan told Baseball America there's no way to describe what Walter's decision means to his family.
"It's like divine intervention when you look at everything that happened and how we even got to Wake Forest," Jordan said. "And then to meet a coach like Coach Walter and look at some of the things he had been through and done, and then to now do this, you just can't express it in words."
Really nice story, shows how much of a family the team is
Monday, February 7, 2011
NEW YORK -- For the second year in a row, the Super Bowl has set a record for American television viewing.
The Nielsen Co. said Monday that an estimated 111 million people watched the Green Bay Packers outlast the Pittsburgh Steelers in professional football's ultimate game. That tops the 106.5 million who watched the 2010 game between New Orleans and Indianapolis.
The series finale of "M-A-S-H" had held the title of the most-watched TV show in the United States for 27 years. It is now No. 3.
Fox had the advantage of a game between two of the National Football League's iconic franchises and, even though it looked like it could be a rout when the Packers took a 21-3 lead, it went down to the final minute and held viewers' interest.
In fact, the most-watched single play of the game was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's final incomplete pass to Mike Wallace with about a minute to go, according to measurements by TiVo Inc., the digital video recorder maker. When that pass hit the ground, it clinched the game for Green Bay.
The five most-watched events in U.S. TV history are now "M-A-S-H" (seen by just under 106 million people on Feb. 28, 1983) and the last four Super Bowls, Nielsen said.
Television ratings in general have been super for the NFL this year, with viewership up 13 percent over last year, Nielsen said. Games on CBS, Fox and NBC averaged 20 million viewers, more than twice what networks get for their prime-time programming.
"Super Bowl XLV caps what is arguably the most successful season that any sports league has ever had," said Pat McDonough, senior vice president for insight and analysis at the Nielsen Co. "The number of people watching NFL games has never been higher, with 24 percent more people watching the average NFL game this year than just five years ago. The Super Bowl continues to be in a category of its own."
Football has become the communal event that television, in a splintered competitive world of dozens of networks, rarely provides outside of "American Idol" or the Oscars. Compelling story lines for the games and the growth in high-definition television help make the games compelling for viewers. The games also tend to be DVR-proof, with viewers wanting to see them live.
Traditions that have built around the game itself make the Super Bowl compelling to non-sports fans. Christina Aguilera's goof on the National Anthem, the Black Eyed Peas halftime show and the dozens of commercials that companies debut on TV's biggest stage were water-cooler discussion topics along with the game on Monday.
Fox's "Glee" took advantage of the time slot directly after the game, reaching 26.8 million viewers for its special episode. It was the most-watched scripted entertainment program on TV since Fox's "House" aired after the Super Bowl three years ago, Nielsen said.
TiVo also judged the Snickers commercial featuring Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr to be the top-rated commercial of the telecast. The company determines that through a calculation that takes in viewership and how many times people rewind their DVRs to watch the ad.
Second place was Best Buy's ad with Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne.
"Funny ads made it to the top," said Tara Maitra, TiVo's vice president and general manager for audience research and advertising sales.
The Black Eyed Peas' halftime show, with guests Usher and Slash, held its own. TiVo said it had nearly identical viewer engagement numbers as shows with classic rockers over the past two years.
People were much less likely to stop the game to repeat the ads in the second half, when the football action was compelling, Maitra said. No beer ads made TiVo's top 10 rated ads for the game.
The average Super Bowl viewer with a DVR either paused, rewound or fast-forwarded 145 times during the game, TiVo said.