NBA

Kobe Bryant's jersey numbers retired in ceremony as Magic Johnson hails him as greatest Laker ever

Sport360 staff 19/12/2017
Kobe Bryant poses with his family after both his jerseys are retired at Staples Center.

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant was hailed as the “greatest” Los Angeles Laker of all on Monday by fellow legend Magic Johnson in a ceremony to retire Bryant’s jersey numbers.

The tribute came at half-time of the Lakers’ Staples Center matchup against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, with Bryant’s Numbers 8 and 24 joining other inspirational Laker icons from the team’s 70-year history.

“We’re here to celebrate the greatest to ever wear the purple and gold. He made us rub our eyes and wonder what did we just see,” said Johnson, now Lakers president of basketball operations. “There will never, ever be another Kobe Bryant.”

Bryant played 10 seasons in each retired number, winning three titles in the single-digit uniform top and two in the higher number jersey.

“Thank you so much for tonight,” Bryant told the crowd, which chanted his name while giving him a standing ovation. It’s not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me. It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before.”

Many of the team’s past legends were on hand to welcome Bryant, who retired after the 2015-16 campaign as an 18-time All-Star, a 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA scoring champion and two-time Olympic champion.

Bryant, 39, said fans inspired him to put in the work every day that became his trademark over two decades with the Lakers, an unprecedented feat.

“Those times are the dream,” Bryant said. “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey. If you accomplish that, your dreams won’t come true — something greater will.”

With a nod to his “Black Mamba” nickname, Bryant closed his remarks with, “Mamba out.”

With his family on hand to watch, Bryant was honored with the mention of such career highlights as his career-high 81-point game in a 2006 victory over Toronto, the second-highest point total in any game in NBA history.

Also acknowledged was his final game, when he became the oldest player in NBA history to score 60 points, hitting the mark on the number in his farewell victory over Utah.

“There will never be an athlete in his last performance to top this man’s performance — 60 points. Man,” Johnson said.

The most emotional moment came when Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who has helped keep the Lakers heritage together, paid tribute to Bryant.

“What we’re celebrating is the journey you took us on for those 20 years,” Buss said. “If you separate the accomplishments of each of those jerseys, both of those players would be in the Hall of Fame.

“We asked for your hustle and you gave us your heart which was so much more. You have forever made your mark on this franchise.”

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LeBron James gets ejected for first time in his career but Cavs still down Heat

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There's a first time for everything.

LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his NBA career on Tuesday, but it didn’t stop his Cleveland Cavaliers from marching to a 108-97 home win against the Miami Heat.

James was angered at the lack of a foul call on a drive to the basket on which he came up empty.

Shouting, he made a beeline for referee Kane Fitzgerald, who quickly whistled the superstar for a technical foul and then pointed to the exit with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter.

It was the first time James was ejected in 1,082 career regular-season games.

“I got fouled,” James said. “I showed my frustration to the ref and he sent me to the locker room.”

James, who had stripped the ball from Miami’s James Johnson at the other end, said he was “fouled all the way up the court, from the time that I stripped him all the way til I got to the rim.

“I said what I had to say and I moved on but (Fitzgerald) decided I should get two (technical fouls).

“It is what it is,” added James, who scored 21 points with 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals. “We got the win and that’s the most important.”

The Cavs were leading 93-70 at the time, and the absence of James for the final period didn’t stop the Eastern Conference champions from notching a ninth victory in a row.

Kevin Love scored a season-high 38 points for the Cavaliers and Dwyane Wade added 17 off the bench against his former team.

Cleveland led by as many as 34 points and now have their longest regular-season winning streak since January 15-February 5 of 2015.

Love added nine rebounds and connected on 14 of his 17 free-throws. Cleveland seized control of the contest with 75 points in the first half — 32 of them from Love. Dion Waiters led the Heat with 21 points and Bam Adebayo scored 19.

The game marked the first time that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went up against his former Miami stars James and Wade at the same time.

He coached Heat teams led by James and Wade to four straight NBA Finals appearances from 2011-2014, winning titles in 2012 and 2013.

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Steph Curry is reminding of just how good he is

Jay Asser 20/11/2017
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Rolling: Stephen Curry. Picture: Getty Images.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that even though he’s not necessarily the best player on his own team, Stephen Curry is an MVP calibre talent who is more than capable of carrying his side to wins.

Curry’s past two games have served as a reminder of that, coming on the heels of arguably one of his worst performances in recent memory.

After being held to just nine points in the high-profile loss to Boston, Curry has returned to peak form by scoring a combined 74 points on 54.3 per cent shooting from the field and 42.1 per cent on 3-pointers in victories over Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

21 11 17 NBA

As he’s done during much of Golden State’s run of dominance and at times last season, Curry powered the Warriors to a 118-111 win over the Nets on Sunday without Kevin Durant on the Durant, who is averaging 24.9 points per game, missed his second contest of the season, this time to a sprained left ankle, which put more onus on Curry to shoulder the scoring load.

“It’s 25, 26 points that are missing and you’ve got to try to put pressure on the defence to kind of honour your scoring threat and open up the floor for everyone else,” Curry said.

Curry didn’t see out the win, fouling out with three minutes left after drawing a charging foul on a drive.

But his effort through the game’s first 45 minutes were enough to stave off a second-half surge by Brooklyn as he finished with a season-high 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Now at 29 and with his two MVP seasons in the rear-view mirror, Curry may not be fully at the height of his powers anymore.

His current field goal percentage of 46.7 is his lowest since 2012-13, while he’s shooting under 40 per cent from long range (38.3) for the first time in his career.

Curry’s pull-up shooting efficiency has also dipped since his supernova season in 2015-16, dropping from 44.3 per cent overall and 43.0 on 3s that season, to 38.9 and 36.7 per cent last year, to 46.2 and 36.2 per cent so far this season – all while his attempts have also dropped.

Despite what has so far been an ‘off’ shooting season for Curry, he still ranks 22nd among qualified players in true shooting percentage – calculating a player’s field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage together – with a mark of 64.6.

Even at less than his best, arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the game remains deadly and if his past two performances are any indication, the Warriors will have no shortage of firepower even when Durant sits.

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