James DeGale Beats Andre Dirrell On Points To Make Briton History

James DeGale beat Andre Dirrell on points to claim the vacant IBF super-middleweight belt in Boston and become the first Briton to win Olympic gold and a professional world title. Londoner DeGale, Olympic champion in 2008, put Dirrell on the canvas in the second round with a devastating left. American Dirrell, 31, made a remarkable recovery and landed shots on a tiring DeGale as the match went on. But a late flurry by DeGale, 29, secured a unanimous decision. American judge Daniel Fitzgerald and British judge Howard Foster both scored the fight 114-112, while Canadian Alan Davis scored it 117-109. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I’m world champ – I made history,” said DeGale, who improves to 21 wins (14 KOs) and one defeat in the paid ranks. “I will take on any super-middleweight in the world. There’s no other super-middleweight that would beat me on my day.” DeGale’s victory could lead to a rematch with bitter domestic rival George Groves, who is set to fight Sweden’s Badou Jack for the WBC title later this year. Groves, who was knocked out by Nottingham’s former world champion Carl Froch in 2013 and again in 2014, beat DeGale on points in 2011. Many good judges predicted a dull fight for the belt vacated by Froch earlier this year, what with both men being southpaws and back-foot boxers. And the pre-fight omens were not good, with the fight taking place at 4:30pm local time for the benefit of American television and in front of a sparse crowd at the Agganis Arena. And the pre-fight omens were not good, with the fight taking place at 4:30pm local time for the benefit of American television and in front of a sparse crowd at the Agganis Arena. With a 10-7 round in the bag, DeGale looked to press home his advantage in the third. But Dirrell, whose heart was questioned by Froch during the build-up, stayed largely out of range and managed to clear his head. Thereafter Dirrell appeared to take control of the fight as DeGale seemed content to protect his lead, staying on the outside and throwing punches sparingly. However, many of the rounds were difficult to score, meaning neither man would have felt secure heading down the stretch. But it was DeGale who finished with the greater urgency, upping his work-rate in the final two rounds and doing enough to earn his place in the history books.

DeGale becomes the sixth current world champion from the United Kingdom, which could become eight when lightweight Kevin Mitchell and featherweight Lee Selby fight for world titles in London next Saturday.

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Michael Jordan Extends Deal With Longtime Partner Upper Deck

Trading card and collectibles company, Upper Deck, announced a long-term extension this week to its partnership with basketball legend Michael Jordan to be the sole producer of authenticated collectibles, trading cards and memorabilia featuring Jordan’s image and autograph. The deal limits the number of Jordan autographs, which in theory will drive up the price for collectors. The relationship between Jordan and Upper Deck dates back to 1992. Other global icons in the Upper Deck portfolio include Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali and LeBron James.


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For the first time since 1996, TIGER WOODS is not ranked among the Top 100 golfers in the world, according to the Official World Golf Rankings updated the first week of April. Injuries and poor play have plagued the biggest name in golf over the last few years, so the 39-year-old Woods falling out of the Top 100 rankings was bound to happen eventually.

Still, like MICHAEL JORDAN floundering for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s or Jack Dempsey struggling to get his groove back after a three-year hiatus from boxing in the early 1920s, Woods is a former sports icon with a fingertip grip on his former years. These rankings are a gut punch to an all-time great, but his recent announcement that he will play in the 2015 Masters tournament in Augusta shows that he is not ready to accept his drop-off as a permanent one.

That, frankly, is a good thing for both the PGA and TV advertisers. Last year’s Masters put up the lowest TV ratings (8.6 million viewers in 6.4 million homes) since 1993, and it is no coincidence that Woods was not involved in that tournament. Despite an ever-increasing influx of bright young stars, Woods is still one of the sport’s main draws, so the fact that he is back in the field this spring should mean significantly improved ratings for the most important golf tournament of the year.

Of course, it is impossible to know just how much of a boost he will give viewership because there is no guarantee he will make it past the first round. Even Fox Fox Sports, the network that won a 2013 bid to air U.S. Golf Association events through 2026, has spent the last several months wondering if they were ever going to get their money’s worth in that deal. With young stars like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, there is a lot to like about the future of golf, but Fox made their TV deal hoping they would see Woods return to relevance. Thus far, he has not.

The extended absences due to various injuries certainly has not helped, as the ratings historically have struggled when Woods does not play. During his peak years—1999 to 2006—ratings typically fell about 25% when Woods was not participating in a given tournament. Even with rising stars to help the golf world prepare for life after Tiger, a lot of people are scared that the numbers may permanently drop to where they were before Woods emerged onto the scene.

“The majors will always be major and get a decent following because they’re always fascinating,” said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising, in an interview with the New York Times back in February. “It’s the other tournaments that are going to suffer a lot more without having a Tiger Woods playing on the weekend.”

Even though Woods has not won a Masters since 2005, fans still tune in to watch him every time he participates in the tournament because he always seems to be in the hunt. In fact, from 2006 to 2013, he finished lower than 6th place only once and was the runner-up twice. Despite all of his struggles, when healthy he comes on strong for the tournament that matters most to viewers.

And that is what matters most to the networks and advertisers. It is a more fan-friendly television event with Woods in the field, even if it has been a decade since he last slipped on a new green jacket.


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The Los Angeles Lakers Great, Kobe Bean “THE BLACK MAMBA” Bryant passes THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER OF ALL TIME, “Michael Jordan”, for third place in points scored during a career in the NBA!!

MINNEAPOLIS — With a pair of free throws in the second quarter Sunday evening, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant moved up one notch on the all-time NBA scoring ledger, taking over third place and passing Michael Jordan.

Kobe Bryant

Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the youngest of three children and the only son of Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant.  He is also the maternal nephew of John “Chubby” Cox. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu.  His middle name, Bean, is derived from his father’s nickname “Jellybean”. Bryant was raised Roman Catholic. When Bryant was six, his father left the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball.  Bryant became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak Italian and Spanish.  During summers, he would come back to the United States to play in a basketball summer league.

Bryant started playing basketball when he was 3 years old,  and his favorite team growing up was the Lakers. Bryant’s grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games, which Bryant would study.  At an early age he also learned to play soccer and his favorite team was AC Milan.  Upon Joe Bryant’s retirement from playing basketball in 1991, the Bryant family moved back to the United States.

Bryant earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School located in Ardmore, in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. As a freshman, he played for the varsity basketball team.  He became the first freshman in decades to start for Lower Merion’s varsity team, but the team finished with a 4–20 record.  The following three years, the Aces compiled a 77–13 record, with Bryant playing all five positions.  During his junior year, he averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists and was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year,[15] attracting attention from college recruiters in the proce. Duke, North Carolina, Villanova and Michigan were at the top of his list; however, when Kevin Garnett went in the first round of the 1995 NBA Draft, he began considering going directly to the pros.[15]

At Adidas ABCD camp, Bryant earned the 1995 senior MVP award,  while playing alongside future NBA teammate Lamar Odom. While in high school, then 76ers coach John Lucas invited Bryant to work out and scrimmage with the team, where he played one-on-one with Jerry Stackhouse.  In his senior year of high school, Bryant led the Aces to their first state championship in 53 years. During the run, he averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots in leading the Aces to a 31–3 record.[19] Bryant ended his high school career as Southeastern Pennsylvania‘s all-time leading scorer at 2,883 points, surpassing both Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons.[20]

Bryant received several awards for his performance his senior year including being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men’s National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald’s All-American, and a USA Today All-USA First Team player. Bryant’s varsity coach, Greg Downer, commented that Bryant was “a complete player who dominates”.  In 1996, Bryant took R&B singer Brandy to his senior prom, though the two were, and remain, just friends. Ultimately, however, the 17-year-old Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA, only the sixth player in NBA history to do so.  Bryant’s news was met with a lot of publicity at a time when prep-to-pro NBA players were not very common (Garnett being the only exception in 20 years). His basketball skills and SAT score of 1080 would have ensured admission to any college he chose.  In 2012, Bryant was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.

The first guard to ever be taken out of high school, Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.  According to Arn Tellem, Bryant’s agent at the time, Bryant playing for the Charlotte Hornets was “an impossibility”. However, Bill Branch, the Hornets’ head scout at the time, said that the Hornets agreed to trade their draft selection to the Lakers before picking Bryant. The teams agreed to the trade the day before the draft and the Lakers did not tell the Hornets whom to select until five minutes before the pick was made.  Branch said that prior to the trade agreement, the Hornets never even considered drafting Bryant. Prior to the draft, Bryant had worked out in Los Angeles, where he scrimmaged against former Lakers players Larry Drew and Michael Cooper, and according to then-Laker manager Jerry West, “marched over these people”.  On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights.  Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.

The first guard to ever be taken out of high school, Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.  According to Arn Tellem, Bryant’s agent at the time, Bryant playing for the Charlotte Hornets was “an impossibility”. However, Bill Branch, the Hornets’ head scout at the time, said that the Hornets agreed to trade their draft selection to the Lakers before picking Bryant. The teams agreed to the trade the day before the draft and the Lakers did not tell the Hornets whom to select until five minutes before the pick was made.  Branch said that prior to the trade agreement, the Hornets never even considered drafting Bryant. Prior to the draft, Bryant had worked out in Los Angeles, where he scrimmaged against former Lakers players Larry Drew and Michael Cooper, and according to then-Laker manager Jerry West, “marched over these people”. On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights.  Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.

During his rookie season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.  At the time he became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game (18 years, 72 days; a record since broken by Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bynum), and also became the youngest NBA starter ever (18 years, 158 days).  Initially, Bryant played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time. By the end of the season, he averaged 15.5 minutes a game. During the All-Star weekend, Bryant was the winner of the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, becoming the youngest player to be named the slam dunk champion at the age of 18. Bryant’s performance throughout the year earned him a spot on the NBA All Rookie second team with fellow bench teammate Travis Knight.  His final minutes of the season ended in disaster when he shot 4 air balls at crucial times in the game.  He first missed a jumper to win the game in the 4th quarter and 3 three-pointers in overtime (2 of which would have tied the game in the final minute). With that the Utah Jazz ended the playoffs for the Lakers in the second round. Shaquille O’Neal commented years later that “[Bryant] was the only guy who had the guts at the time to take shots like that.”

In Bryant’s second season, he received more playing time and began to show more of his abilities as a talented young guard. As a result Bryant’s point averages more than doubled from 7.6 to 15.4 points per game.  Bryant would see an increase in minutes when the Lakers “played small”, which would feature Bryant playing small forward alongside the guards he would usually back up. Bryant was the runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, and through fan voting, he also became the youngest NBA All-Star starter in NBA history. He was joined by teammates Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Van Exel, and Eddie Jones, making it the first time since 1983 that four players on the same team were selected to play in the same All-Star Game. Bryant’s 15.4 points per game was the highest of any non-starter in the season.

The 1998–99 season marked Bryant’s emergence as a premier guard in the league. With starting guards Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones traded, Bryant started every game for the lockout-shortened 50-game season. During the season, Bryant signed a 6-year contract extension worth $70 million. This kept him with the Lakers until the end of the 2003–04 season. Even at an early stage of his career, sportswriters were comparing his skills to those of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The playoff results, however, were no better, as the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Bryant’s fortunes would soon change when Phil Jackson became coach for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999.  After years of steady improvement, Bryant became one of the premier shooting guards in the league, earning appearances in the league’s All-NBA,  All-Star, and All-Defensive teams. The Los Angeles Lakers became true championship contenders under Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who formed a legendary center-guard combination. Jackson utilized the triangle offense he used to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls, which would help both Bryant and O’Neal rise to the elite class of the NBA. The three resulting championships won consecutively in 2000, 2001, and 2002 further proved such a fact.

Bryant started the 1999–2000 season sidelined for six weeks due to an injury to his hand in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards.  With Bryant back and playing over 38 minutes a game, he saw an increase in all statistical categories in the 1999–2000 season. This included leading the team in assists per game and steals per game. The duo of O’Neal and Bryant backed with a strong bench led to the Lakers winning 67 games, tied for fifth-most in NBA history. This followed with O’Neal winning the MVP and Bryant being named to the All-NBA Team Second Team and All-NBA Defensive Team for the first time in his career (the youngest player ever to receive defensive honors).  While playing second fiddle to O’Neal in the playoffs, Bryant had some clutch performances including a 25 point, 11 rebound, 7 assist, 4 block game in game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.  He also threw an alley-oop pass to O’Neal to clinch the game and the series. In the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers, Bryant injured his ankle in the second quarter of Game 2 after landing on the Pacers’ Jalen Rose‘s foot. Rose later admitted he placed his foot under Bryant intentionally.  Bryant did not return to the game, and he also missed Game 3 due to the injury. In Game 4, Bryant scored 22 points in the second half, and led the team to an OT victory as O’Neal fouled out of the game. Bryant scored the winning shot to put the Lakers ahead 120–118. With a 116–111 Game 6 victory, the Lakers won their first championship since 1988.

Statistically, the 2000–01 season saw Bryant perform similarly to the previous year, but he averaged 6 more points a game (28.5). It was also the year when disagreements between Bryant and O’Neal began to surface.  Once again he led the team in assists with 5 per game. The Lakers however, only won 56 games, an 11-game drop off from last year. The Lakers would respond by going 15–1 in the playoffs. They easily swept the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs, before losing their first game against the Philadelphia 76ers in OT. They would go on to win the next 4 games and bring their second championship to Los Angeles in as many seasons. During the playoffs, Bryant played heavy minutes which brought his stats up to 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. In the playoffs, teammate O’Neal declared Bryant the best player in the league.  Bryant ended up making the All NBA Second team and All NBA Defensive Team for the second year in a row. In addition, he was also voted to start in the NBA All-Star Game for the 3rd year in a row (no game in 1999).

In the 2001–02 season, Bryant played 80 games for the first time in his career. He continued his all-round play by averaging 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He also had a career high 46.9% shooting and once again led his team in assists. While making the All-Star team and All-NBA Defensive team again, he was also promoted to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. The Lakers won 58 games that year and finished second place in the Pacific Division behind in-state rival Sacramento Kings. Bryant was suspended one game after he punched Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers after the Lakers’ March 1, 2002 victory over the Pacers.[59][60]

The road to the Finals would prove a lot tougher than the record run the Lakers had the previous year. While the Lakers swept the Blazers and defeated the Spurs 4–1, the Lakers did not have home court advantage against the Sacramento Kings. The series would stretch to 7 games, the first time this happened to the Lakers since the 2000 Western Conference Finals. However, the Lakers were able to beat their division rivals and make their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. In the 2002 Finals, Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 51.4% shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game, which included scoring a quarter of the teams points.  At age 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships. Bryant’s play was notable and praised for his performance in the 4th quarter of games, specifically the last 2 rounds of the playoffs. This cemented Bryant’s reputation as a “clutch player”.

In the 2002–03 season, Bryant averaged 30 points per game and embarked on a historic run, posting 40 or more points in nine consecutive games while averaging 40.6 in the entire month of February. In addition, he averaged 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, all career highs to that point. Bryant was once again voted to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive 1st teams,  and came in third place in voting for the MVP award. After finishing 50–32 in the regular season, the Lakers foundered in the playoffs and lost in the Western Conference semi-finals to the eventual NBA champions San Antonio Spurs in six games.[63]

In the following 2003–04 season, the Lakers were able to acquire NBA All-Stars Karl Malone, and Gary Payton to make another push at the NBA Championship.[64] Before the season began, Bryant was arrested for sexual assault. This caused Bryant to miss some games due to court appearances or attend court earlier in the day and travel to play games later in same day.  In the final game of the regular season, the Lakers played the Portland Trail Blazers. Bryant made two buzzer beaters to win the game and the Pacific Division title. At the end of the fourth quarter, Bryant made a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to send it into overtime. The game eventually went to a second overtime, in which Bryant made another 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Lakers past the Blazers, 105–104.

With a starting lineup of O’Neal, Malone, Payton, and Bryant, the Lakers were able to reach the NBA Finals.  However, they were upset in five games by the Detroit Pistons, who won their first championship since 1990.  In that series, Bryant averaged 22.6 points per game and 4.4 assists. He shot 35.1% from the field.  Phil Jackson’s contract as coach was not renewed, and Rudy Tomjanovich took over. Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant.  The following day, Bryant declined an offer to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and re-signed with the Lakers on a seven-year contract.

Bryant was closely scrutinized and criticized during the 2004–05 season with his reputation badly damaged from all that had happened over the previous year. A particularly damaging salvo came when Phil Jackson wrote The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. The book detailed the events of the Lakers’ tumultuous 2003–04 season and has a number of criticisms of Bryant. In the book Jackson called Bryant “uncoachable”.  Midway through the season, Rudy Tomjanovich suddenly resigned as Lakers coach, citing the recurrence of health problems and exhaustion.  Without Tomjanovich, stewardship of the remainder of the Lakers’ season fell to career assistant coach Frank Hamblen. Bryant was the league’s second-leading scorer at 27.6 points per game, but he was surrounded by a subpar supporting cast, and the Lakers went 34–48 and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The year signified a drop in Bryant’s overall status in the NBA, as he did not make the NBA All-Defensive Team and was also demoted to the All-NBA Third Team.  During the season, Bryant also engaged in public feuds with Ray Allen and Karl Malone.

The 2005–06 NBA season would mark a crossroads in Bryant’s basketball career. Despite past differences with Bryant, Phil Jackson returned to coach the Lakers.  Bryant endorsed the move, and by all appearances, the two men worked together well the second time around, leading the Lakers back into the playoffs. Bryant’s individual scoring accomplishments posted resulted in the finest statistical season of his career. On December 20, 2005, Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. Entering the fourth quarter, Bryant outscored the entire Mavericks team 62–61, the only time a player has done this through three quarters since the introduction of the shot clock.  When the Lakers faced the Miami Heat on January 16, 2006, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal made headlines by engaging in handshakes and hugs before the game, signifying a change in the feud that had festered between them.  A month later, at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, the two were seen laughing together.

On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points in a victory against the Toronto Raptors  In addition to breaking the previous franchise record of 71 set by Elgin Baylor, Bryant’s 81-point game was the second-highest point total in NBA history, surpassed only by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962.  In that same month, Bryant also became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points or more in four consecutive games, joining Chamberlain and Baylor as the only players ever to do so.  For the month of January, Bryant averaged 43.4 points per game,  the eighth highest single month scoring average in NBA history and highest for any player other than Chamberlain. By the end of the 2005–06 season, Bryant set Lakers single-season franchise records for most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832). He won the league’s scoring title for the first time by averaging 35.4 points per game. Bryant finished in fourth place in the voting for the 2006 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but received 22 first place votes—second only to winner Steve Nash.  The Los Angeles Lakers posted a 45–37 record, an eleven-game improvement over the previous season, and the entire squad seemed to be clicking.

Later in the season, it was reported that Bryant would change his jersey number from 8 to 24 at the start of the 2006–07 NBA season. Bryant’s first high school number was 24 before he switched to 33. After the Lakers’ season ended, Bryant said on TNT that he wanted 24 as a rookie, but it was unavailable, as was 33, retired with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant wore 143 at the Adidas ABCD camp, and chose 8 by adding those numbers.[94] In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers played well enough to reach a 3–1 series lead over the Phoenix Suns, culminating with Bryant’s OT-forcing and game-winning shots in Game 4. They came within six seconds of eliminating the second-seeded Suns in Game 6, however, they lost that game 126–118 in overtime.  Despite Bryant’s 27.9 points per game in the series, the Lakers broke down, and ultimately fell to the Suns in seven games.  Bryant received criticism for only taking three shots in the second half of the 121–90 Game 7 loss to Phoenix. In the 2006 off-season, Bryant had knee surgery, preventing him from participating in the 2006 FIBA World Championship tournament.[97]

During the 2006–07 season, Bryant was selected to his 9th All-Star Game appearance, and on February 18, he logged 31 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals, earning his second career All-Star Game MVP trophy Over the course of the season, Bryant became involved in a number of on court incidents. On January 28 while attempting to draw contact on a potential game winning jumpshot, he flailed his arm, striking San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili in the face with his elbow.  Following a league review, Bryant was suspended for the subsequent game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. The basis given for the suspension was that Bryant had performed an “unnatural motion” in swinging his arm backwards. Later, on March 6, he seemed to repeat the motion, this time striking Minnesota Timberwolves guard Marko Jarić.  On March 7, the NBA handed Bryant his second one-game suspension.[101] In his first game back on March 9, he elbowed Kyle Korver in the face which was retroactively re-classified as a Type 1 flagrant foul.

On March 16, Bryant scored a season-high 65 points in a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, which helped end the Lakers 7-game losing streak. This was the second-best scoring performance of his 11-year career. The following game, Bryant recorded 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves,  after which he scored 60 points in a road win against the Memphis Grizzlies—becoming the second Laker to score three straight 50-plus point games, a feat not seen since Michael Jordan last did it in 1987.  The only other Laker to do so was Elgin Baylor, who also scored 50+ in three consecutive contests in December 1962.  In the following day, in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 50 points, making him the second player in NBA history to have 4 straight 50 point games behind Wilt Chamberlain, who is the all-time leader with seven consecutive 50 point games twice.  Bryant finished the year with a total of ten 50-plus point games,  becoming the only player beside Wilt Chamberlain in 1961–62 and 1962–63 to do so in one season. He also won his second straight scoring title that season. Throughout the 2006–07 season, Bryant’s jersey became the top selling NBA jersey in the United States and China.  A number of journalists have attributed the improved sales to Bryant’s new number, as well as his continuing All-Star performance on the court.  In the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers were once again eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, 4–1.



Kobe Bean Bryant is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He entered the NBA directly from high school, and has played for the Lakers his entire career, winning five NBA championships. Bryant is a 16-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. As of November 2014, he ranks third and fourth on the league’s all-time postseason scoring and all-time regular season scoring lists, respectively. He is the son of former NBA player, Joe Bryant.

Bryant enjoyed a successful high school basketball career at Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country. He declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft upon graduation, and was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.

Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. A feud between the duo and a loss in the 2004 NBA Finals resulted in O’Neal’s trade from the Lakers to the Miami Heat. Following O’Neal’s departure, Bryant became the cornerstone of the franchise. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons, setting numerous scoring records in the process. In 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single game in NBA history, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. He was awarded the regular season’s Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2008. After losing in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant led the Lakers to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, earning the NBA Finals MVP Award on both occasions.

At 34 years and 104 days of age, Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He is also the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. Since his second year in the league, Bryant has been selected to start every All-Star Game. He has won the All-Star MVP Award four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011), tying him for the most All Star MVP Awards in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team. Sporting News and TNT named Bryant the top NBA player of the 2000s.



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After a breakout 2014 Year, The Ethiopian women of the East African nation, to include, Almaz Ayana, are ready to amaze in Beijing in the 5000m or 10,000m competition races.

The athletics world is accustomed to seeing Ethiopian women winning 5000m or 10,000m titles, but no one from the East African nation of 94million whose last name does not start with a ‘D’ had been able to get to the top of the podium at the Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships, IAAF World Cross Country Championships, or IAAF Continental Cup over the past decade prior to mid-September.

This strange streak ended when Almaz Ayana won the 5000m at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech, Morocco.

In the probable absence of her two illustrious compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, Ayana is now being touted as a potential medal contender at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing next summer.

“Being called the successor to Tirunesh and Meseret does not frighten me,” said the 23-year-old Ayana.

“I grew up listening about Tirunesh and Meseret on the radio. I am proud that people are comparing me with them. My plan is to achieve more than they did and to do so with God’s help.”

Her victory in Marrakech was one of two major titles in the Moroccan city this year. The other came just over a month earlier when she beat another team mate, world indoor 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba, in a pulsating race to win the African 5000m title.

Understandably, Ayana has fond memories of the picturesque holiday destination, not for its tourist getaways but the serious business of athletics.

“I would be happy if championships are held there all the time,” she says of Marrakech with a big smile, “It is the city where I have a lot of good memories. The stadium and its track were comfortable for me.”
With Defar taking maternity leave to give birth to her daughter Gabriella and Dibaba stepping up to make her debut over the marathon in 2014, Ayana has duly stepped up to fill their big shoes. But, perhaps more than she cares to admit, both Defar and Dibaba have had a major hand in pushing her from being a world junior record-holder in the steeplechase to a runner able to mix it with heavy hitters over the 5000m.

Ayana got her breakthrough in the summer of 2013 when she shadowed Dibaba for 10 laps of the 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris before narrowly losing out to the world record-holder in a super-fast 14:25.84, a massive personal best.

It was a result that helped her leapfrog other pretenders and earn a place in Ethiopia’s team for the IAAF World Championships later in the summer in the Russian capital Moscow.

“I remember that I ran three races before Paris (two over the 3000m steeplechase and one 5000m) in eight days,” she recalled.

“At the end of June, I returned home to run another steeplechase for my club at the national championships and was very tired from competition, but I wanted to honour my commitment.

“I ran in Lausanne in another steeplechase and just wanted to get the Paris Diamond League 5000m out of the way and return back home. I was very tired, but I was told that I was going to race against Tirunesh and knew I had nothing to lose.

“The conditions were great that day and I just gave it a go. I was extremely surprised to run my personal best and qualify for Moscow.”

With Dibaba opting to run only the 10,000m in Moscow, Ayana did not get a chance to renew her rivalry with the two-time Olympic champion but, after cruising through the 5000m heats, she got her chance to duel with one of the most successful 5000m runners of all time.

She approached the final, not with the cautious optimism of a young upstart, but with the confidence of a seasoned 5000m specialist.

“I knew that Meseret had a superior finishing kick and decided to lead during the first six laps to stand a better chance of winning the race,” she said, recalling her tactics that day.

“I finished third and won bronze, but I think I would have finished second had I not led for too long.”
It was a remarkable result for an athlete who, until just a few months before the World Championships, had spent the previous four years of her track career as a confirmed steeplechaser.

Although she improved the world junior record over the barriers in 2010, a mark of 9:22.51 at the Diamond League final in Brussels, after earlier that summer finishing fifth at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Canada, Ayana admits she had no particular affinity for the event.

“I got into the steeplechase because I did not want to disappoint my club (Defence Sports Club) coaches when they scouted me during a regional event.

“But I also thought that after four years, the 5000m would be more difficult. I was afraid of moving up to the 5000m when my husband Soresa Fida first mentioned the idea.

“I was very hesitant, but after a lot of discussions, I decided to give it a go.

“My manager also questioned my potential over the event, but I remember Soresa saying ‘whether she can cope or not, she must try it’. I decided to listen to his advice and have no regrets today.”

After a successful year in 2014, Ayana is already looking forward to the 2015 outdoor track season where her major ambitions are to win the 5000m world title and attempt the world record over the event.

“Breaking the world record is possible,” said Ayana, whose personal best is nearly 14 seconds behind Tirunesh Dibaba’s mark of 14:11.15.

“And I will be thinking about it whenever there are favourable conditions,” she added.

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Auckland City ended their historic FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 campaign by finishing in third place after defeating CONCACAF champions Cruz Azul 4-2 on penalties.

Auckland City ended their historic FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 campaign by finishing in third place after defeating CONCACAF champions Cruz Azul 4-2 on penalties.

The Mexican side eventually found their confidence and in the tenth minute Joao Rojas narrowly missed at the far post after Alejandro Vela had sent in a cross from the left wing. Ten minutes later, La Maquina (The Machine) had another chance when Marco Fabian’s left-footed strike from just inside the box was saved by Auckland City goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley.

The New Zealanders would respond in the 28th minute when Emiliano Tade dribbled past Gerardo Flores in the left side of the box to create space for his powerful right-footed shot, which was saved from a narrow angle by Corona.

Both sides looked to be heading into the break level, however, Ryan de Vries had other plans. In stoppage time, a long diagonal ball from Tade found the 23-year-old who shook off his defender to slot his shot past Corona and give Auckland City a 1-0 lead.

The Mexican side appeared to have their equaliser minutes after the break when Mauro Formica headed in a cross from the right wing, but he was adjudged to be offside. The CONCACAF champions continued to put pressure on the Auckland City goal, and they finally found the equaliser in the 57th minute when Vela’s cross from the left wing found Rojas, whose header was initially blocked by Takuya Iwata, but the ball landed at his feet and he made no mistake with his strike.

Cruz Azul continued to pose a threat with possession and just five minutes after their goal, they almost had another when Fabian’s spectacular scissor kick was blocked by Auckland City’s Darren White. Substitute Christian Gimenez almost gave Cruz Azul the lead in the 73rd minute, but his headed effort went straight into the arms of Spoonley.

Each side would have one more chance, de Vries set up Auckland City’s Tim Payne whose shot from the edge of the box was saved by Corona, and Flores crossed from the right side for Formica, whose headed effort was again saved by a sprawling Spoonley to take the game to a penalty shoot-out.

Auckland City held their nerves from the spot and defeated Cruz Azul 4-2 on penalties with Sanni Issa scoring the eventual winner, to become the first Oceanian side to win a medal at the FIFA Club World Cup.

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FIFA Club World Cup , Real Madrid Coast To Morocco 2014 Title, Defeating San Lorenzo, 2-0

Real Madrid won the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 after defeating San Lorenzo 2-0 in the final in Marrakech.

The UEFA Champions League winners scored on either side of the half thanks to goals from defender Sergio Ramos and winger Gareth Bale. The win now brings Carlo Ancelotti’s side to 22 consecutive wins in all competitive matches.

Real Madrid head coach Ancelotti made one change from the side that defeated Cruz Azul 4-0 in the semi-final with FIFA World Cup™ star James Rodriguez replacing Asier Illarramendi in midfield.

The European champions nearly scored in the first minute when Toni Kroos won the ball in midfield before setting up Cristiano Ronaldo on the left wing. Ronaldo then crossed towards the onrushing Karim Benzema, who was unable to reach the cross.

In the fifth minute, a free-kick from Ronaldo deflected off the wall, bouncing straight into the arms of San Lorenzo goalkeeper Sebastian Torrico. Benzema tested Terrico later when his right-footed shot from 20 metres was saved in the 28th minute.

Eight minutes later, Madrid went on a counter-attack with Benzema finding an onrushing Bale whose shot was saved by Torrico for a corner kick. The breakthrough came when Kroos’s corner kick found the head of Sergio Ramos who leapt over Mario Yepes to create familiar scenes from the semi-final.

Real then took the momentum from Ramos’s goal to distance themselves from the Copa Libertadores holders. A clever pass from Isco found Bale inside the box, and the Welshman’s left-footed shot slipped beneath Torrico and into the net.

San Lorenzo threatened Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas a couple of times with Enzo Kalinski providing the most dangerous chances, however, Casillas was able to deal effectively with San Lorenzo’s efforts to assure the Spanish giants the title in Marrakech.

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Pair of Converse Michael-Jordan-worn shoes auctions for $33k, These Michael Jordan shoes sold for $33,000. (Grey Flannel Auctions)

Grey Flannel auctions, known for game-worn and autographed memorabilia, put up a pair of autographed Pro Leathers that were worn by Jordan during his freshman year. If you’re up on your basketball history, he wore the white pair of the Pro Leather model during the 1982 NCAA Championship game when he hit the game-winner against Georgetown.

Jordan signed with Nike before his rookie season in the NBA. He actually had to be convinced because he was ready to go ahead and sign with behemoth Converse at the time. In fact, in the David Halberstam book on Jordan, “Playing for Keeps,” it was revealed that Jordan wasn’t even planning on taking the meeting with Nike, and that his mom had to berate him into getting out of the house to make it to the airport in time for his flight to meet with executives.

The legend of Michael Jordan jump started as a Freshman at the University of North Carolina. With the 1982 NCAA Championship on the line, Jordan hit a mid-range jumper with 15 seconds remaining to secure the national championship for the Tar Heels. The clutch jumper was a preview into the career of what would be the best basketball player ever to step on the hardwood. On the tongue of each sneaker is a “CONVERSE ALL STAR” manufacturer’s tag. The baby blue sneakers have a white Converse logo on each side of the sneaker. On the back of each sneaker reads, “CONVERSE” in white with the logo above. Jordan signed the right-footed sneaker in pen with the added inscription, “Best Wishes”, and in our opinion rates a 5 overall as the signature is faded. Original lacing included. The sneakers show great signs of use with creasing throughout and signs of wear towards the front of the sneakers and near the ankle area. These sneakers are properly tagged, were presented to us as game-used during Jordan’s freshman year at UNC and in our opinion show excellent use. Our consignor was a high school teammate of Jordan and visited Jordan during his freshman year at UNC. There is a newspaper article documenting the event. These sneakers were personally signed and gifted to our consignor from Jordan after a postseason workout in Chapel Hill. They are a much more rare version of North Carolina University’s “Converse” pro leather sneakers because of their Tar Heel blue color. Accompanied by photos of the two as teenagers in Jordan’s dorm room, along with a Christmas card Jordan sent to our consignor and his family. This is the earliest known, fully documented pair of Jordan sneakers that exist. Accompanied by a full JSA LOA as well as a detailed letter from our consignor.




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Charlotte Dujardin OBE (born 13 July 1985) is an elite British dressage rider. Riding Valegro, Dujardin currently holds the complete set of the available individual elite dressage titles; the individual Olympic freestyle, World freestyle and Grand Prix Special, and European freestyle and Grand Prix Special titles. Dujardin is the first, and to date only, rider to hold this complete set of titles at the same time.

In addition, she forms part of the current Great Britain team for Team Dressage; as such she is also the current Olympic, and a former European, Team Dressage champion.

Born in Enfield, Dujardin was brought up in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire where she attended Vandyke Upper School.  She started riding as a two-year old, returning her elder sisters’ horses from the show jumping ring to the horse box. Aged three, she achieved second place at her first Pony Club show jumping competition outing. To finance their hobby, their mother Jane Dujardin bought and sold ponies for her daughters to ride to enable them to continue riding.

Leaving school aged 16,  Dujardin won the Horse of the Year Show competition four times and was a winner at Hickstead on three occasions.

After encouragement from her trainer, Debbie Thomas,  Dujardin took up dressage with a horse bought from her grandmother’s inheritance.  In February 2007, after seeking employment with Carl Hester,  he gave her some coaching and spotting her talent he offered her a job as a groom at his yard in Newent, Gloucestershire, where she has since remained. Dujardin’s owned-horse is Fernandez.

In 2011, Dujardin was asked to develop the novice Dutch Warmblood gelding Valegro by Hester and co-owner Roly Luar with the intention of that horse being ridden by Hester.  However, after competing in their first dressage Grand Prix event in 2011,  the combination became part of the successful team which won gold in a European Dressage Championship event at Rotterdam. The pair then won the FEI World Cup Grand Prix at London Olympia in 2011, setting a new World Record for the Olympic Grand Prix special discipline point-scoring at 88.022%, in April 2012.  In December 2012 Dujardin, again riding Valegro, won the 2012 World Cup freestyle event held at Olympia with a score of 87.875%.

Dujardin and Valegro were selected to represent Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics,  and in the first round the team set a new Olympic Record of 83.784%. On 7 August 2012 the pair were members of the team which won the gold medal in the team dressage event. Two days later, in a routine accompanied by music which included Land of Hope and Glory, The Great Escape and the chimes of Big Ben;  the pair won the gold medal in the individual dressage event with a score of 90.089%.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to equestrianism.

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