Odell Beckham Jr is doing everything he can to keep the New York Giants in playoff contention.
The star wide receiver has reeled off six straight 100-yard games, with his latest dazzling performance producing 166 yards and two touchdowns in Monday’s 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Beckham was targeted nine times – his lowest since Week 8 – but made the most of each look as he hauled in seven receptions for a season-high in receiving yards.
After bursting onto the scene with his famous one-handed grab in primetime against Dallas last year, Beckham has continued to make jaw-dropping plays on a regular basis and delivered several more gems against Miami.
His first touchdown looked improbable in real time as Beckham appeared to be out of bounds when he caught a 6-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning on the sidelines of the end zone in the third quarter.
Replay, however, showed Beckham using masterful footwork to drag his feet to get inbounds for his first score of the night.
Then in the fourth quarter, Beckham – who suffered cramps in the third quarter and had to dash to the locker room for treatment – burned the Dolphins secondary with a double move to draw safety Reshad Jones before making the catch in open field and scampering 84 yards to claim a second TD.
Beckham is tied with Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant as the only players with three receptions of 80 yards or more over the past two years.
He capped off his night with a five-yard catch on third-and-3, snagging the ball barely above the turf to seal the victory.
“They got it to a star player, and he made plays for them,” Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.
Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who has become accustomed to Beckham’s legend as his former team-mate at LSU, said of his friend: “Obviously, his performance is something we all expect. He’s just continuing to do what he does.”
The victory for the Giants broke a three-game skid and ties them with Washington and Philadelphia atop the NFC East at 6-7.
With only Dallas seemingly out of contention at 4-9, the division is up for grabs and Beckham’s sweltering stretch of play is indicative of the urgency needed for New York.
“It’s a must-win, a playoff game for us,” Beckham, said. “They’re all playoff games.”
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The Chicago Bulls put a slow start behind them to post a resounding 115-96 win against NBA whipping boys the Philadelphia 76ers.
A 25th defeat in 26 games for the Sixers came despite them heading to half-time with a 56-51 lead, as Jimmy Butler led scoring with 23 points, assisted by Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell with 17 and 16 respectively.
The Bulls have now won three straight games.
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That is nevertheless a record that pales against the startling 13-0 home start to the season achieved this season by the San Antonio Spurs.
Win number 13 arrived on Monday night as the Spurs beat the Jazz 118-81 on the back of 22 points from Kawhi Leonard and 18 points each from LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker.
Jamal Crawford's late three-point shot gave the Los Angeles Clippers a 105-103 overtime win against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace.
Blake Griffin had a 34-point game for the Clippers, and Detroit's Reggie Jackson exactly matched that haul but missed a last-ditch shot to win the game.
Marc Gasol's 24 points helped the Memphis Grizzlies see off the Washington Wizards 112-95, while Chris Bosh also scored 24 points to guide the Miami Heat to a 100-88 victory against the Atlanta Hawks, for whom Kent Bazemore scored 28 points in a losing cause.
The Toronto Raptors saw a four-game winning run halted by the Indiana Pacers, who posted a 106-90 home victory, while the Orlando Magic overcame the Brooklyn Nets 105-82 and the Phoenix Suns tripped up 104-94 on the road against the Dallas Mavericks, despite Eric Bledsoe scoring a game-high 23 points.
Will Barton's 23-point performance pointed the Denver Nuggets towards a 114-108 win against the Houston Rockets, while Damian Lillard plundered 30 points for the Portland Trail Blazers in a 105-101 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Superlative numbers on the court, bewildering figures off of it. LeBron James remains an absolute colossus with basketball in hand and, as the statistical landmarks continue to rack up (devour his individual achievements on Wikipedia if you can spare a few hours), the man rightly known as “King James” further cements his place on the Hall of Fame throne.
The 30-year-old takes residence alongside the likes of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the most consistently brilliant sportsmen of this, or any other era.
Turn on the TV here in the US and, more often than not, James will be on screen. Whether he’s relaxing in a comfortable Kia car or pumping iron while wearing Beats headphones, LeBron’s brand is almost impossible to ignore. He’s a relentless, one-man marketing machine.
Yet the figures flying around this week following Nike’s decision to hand the Cleveland Cavalier a lifetime deal were quite remarkable. It’s believed the contract – the first of its kind in the company’s proud 44-year history – is worth a cool $500 million. That’s a rather welcomed $30 million a year. Being a legend really does pay.
“It’s clear LeBron is already one of the all-time greats and this will transcend beyond his playing career. The increased success of his brand as a signature athlete is why this contract has been agreed,” a highly-placed Nike source told Sport360.
Any of those highly enjoyable, yet ultimately irreconcilable, debates about who’s the greatest player of all time would have James pitted against that other Swoosh superstar, Michael Jordan. In reality, only Jordan can match him.
The sportswear giants have made more versions of James’ signature shoe than any of their stellar performers other than the Chicago Bulls legend whose affiliation with Nike has elevated him into the realms of the financially unbelievable.
Ever since the Air Jordan brand showcased its apparel for more than just basketball, Jordan has become the highest-paid retired sportsman in the world. He is worth $1.1 billion. Not bad for someone who retired 12 years ago.
These huge contracts, however, aren’t new in the NBA. Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant signed a $300 million agreement with Nike last year, having been pursued voraciously by the Stephen Curry-backed Under Armour who are snapping at their heels. Adidas have also splashed the cash, throwing $200 million to Houston’s bearded wonder James Harden in a 13-year deal.
In 2014, people wanting to walk like the King earned Nike $340 million. To place those numbers into context, Durant’s shoe sales were second-best at around $180 million, while the retiring Kobe Bryant was next with $105 million. Those sales alone undoubtedly prove that when it comes to marketability and popularity, James really is in a league of his own.
LeBron after signing the lifetime deal with Nike pic.twitter.com/lNGC95JzNH
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James, who signed for Nike in 2003 just before the draft on a seven-year, $90 million contract, is racing along in MJ’s slipstream, especially considering sales of his latest shoe are tipped to reach $400 million.
Unequivocally, Nike owns the basketball shoe industry, possessing an incredible 95.5 per cent of the $4.2 billion market last year. James has driven sales with stratospheric acceleration.
“I’m very humble, man,” James said. “It’s been an unbelievable time for myself and my family, and I’m just grateful that Nike and [Nike founder] Phil Knight and everyone over there just believed in a skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio, and I’m happy to be a part of such a great company.
“We’ve done a great job of building my brand to this point today. We want to just continue it. If it makes sense for us to have a ‘Team LeBron,’ or whatever the name will be, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there.”
Nike’s revenue has tripled since James’ signing, with the stock price rocketing up more than 1,000 per cent.
“LeBron and I have been in love and obsessed with Nike since we were kids,” said Maverick Carter, James’ business partner. “For LeBron, he’s thrilled to know he’s a Nike guy for life.”
I bet he is.