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Digest: LeBron James leads call to end gun violence at ESPY Awards

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James accepted the award for best moment for his team’s 2016 NBA Finals Championship. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James accepted the award for best moment for his team’s 2016 NBA Finals Championship. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Awards: LeBron James won five trophies, including best male athlete and best NBA player, at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles when frivolity gave way to a James-led call to end gun violence and racial profiling.

The show honoring the year’s best athletes and sports moments opened on a somber note, with James and fellow NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade standing four abreast on stage addressing the recent shootings of blacks by white police officers.

“The urgency to create change is at an all-time high,” Anthony said.

Paul, the nephew of a police officer, recited the names of several men who have been fatally shot. Wade urged a stop to racial profiling, a shoot-to-kill mentality and “not seeing the value of black and brown bodies.”

“Enough is enough,” he said.

James echoed Wade, noting, “We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence.”

James urged his fellow pros to educate themselves and renounce violence while using their resources and time to help strengthen and rebuild their communities.

“We all to have do better,” he said.

Golden State star Stephen Curry thanked the quartet for their message while accepting the night’s first award for record-breaking performance. He hit 402 3-pointers during the regular season.

James won male athlete and championship performance for the third time in his career and his fifth trophy as top NBA player. He shared the team and best moment awards with his Cavaliers teammates, who upset Golden State to deliver the first championship for Cleveland in 52 years.

In accepting best moment, James brought teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on stage, where he saluted Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown for his early social activism in the hardscrabble city.

Breanna Stewart won best female athlete on her third try, beating WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and two Olympians, swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles. Stewart helped UConn win a fourth straight NCAA basketball championship before going to the WNBA.

In her speech, Stewart called for equality for women athletes.

“I know everyone in this room loves and supports women and girls in sports and wants to be a part of that change, right?” she said. “Equality for all takes each of us making an effort. Together let’s be better.”

In one of the night’s most emotional moments, Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old high school football player from Knoxville, Tennessee, was honored posthumously with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for giving his life to shield two young women from gunfire last year. His mother, Zenobia Dobson, and two brothers accepted the trophy from Curry, with last year’s honoree Caitlyn Jenner joining the standing ovation.

Dobson told the audience four months after her son’s death his 12-year-old cousin was killed in a drive-by shooting on his way home from a basketball game where Zaevion was honored.

“I’m here to fight back,” Dobson said. “We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on the families throughout America.”

Tears welled in the eyes of several athletes who applauded her comments.

“We need to rewrite laws to make it harder for people to get guns,” Dobson said. “All the athletes in this room, you have a lot of power. People look up to you, I know Zaevion did. I urge you to think tonight about why he died and what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent man or woman from being lost.”

In video comments, President Barack Obama said, “It’s up to all of us to build a country that’s worthy of Zaevion’s promise. That’s what we owe him. That’s what we owe all our kids.”

Vice President Joe Biden presented TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance for his strength and determination while fighting leukemia for 1 1/2 years. During the commercial break, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller joined Sager and Biden on stage for a photo.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service was presented to Paralympic swimmer Sgt. Elizabeth Marks for her strength through adversity and continued service to her country. Singer Justin Timberlake gave the Icon Award to Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach, all of whom retired from their respective sports this year.

Seattle NBA franchise unlikely in near future

Men’s basketball: Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said Wednesday he doesn’t see Seattle landing an NBA franchise “within the next year or two years” to facilitate public funding for an arena.

Speaking at the Geek Wire Sports Tech Summit at Safeco Field, Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, said there have been no talks about NBA expansion at the owner level and Seattle’s quickest hope for an arena might involve bringing hockey here first. Ballmer had partnered with entrepreneur Chris Hansen on his Sodo District arena project, but left that group two years ago to buy the Clippers for $2 billion.

Duncan reflects: When Tim Duncan decided to reflect on his outstanding 19-year NBA career, the understated star did it in the most Timmy way possible: seated at a table with a friend from the islands. Two days after the San Antonion Spurs announced his retirement, Duncan told longtime friend Rashidi Clenance that he simply “started not enjoying myself as much. It wasn’t fun as much. When it’s not fun anymore, I’m done.”

When the decision was made public, Duncan was hailed as perhaps the greatest power forward the league has ever seen, a five-time champion and unparalleled teammate whose selflessness and determination served as the backbone for the most enduring success story in American sports over the last two decades.

Duncan tried to avoid much of the praise, watching former teammate Bruce Bowen’s tribute on ESPN and coach Gregg Popovich’s emotional news conference on Tuesday.

“I about lost it on that one,” Duncan said during the interview streamed online by ViVid Streaming.

“I didn’t expect the response that I got,” Duncan said. “No, I didn’t. That’s the way I’m built. I knew that I didn’t want to sit there and watch what was being said. It’s appreciated, but I just didn’t want to watch it.”

Matchups set for 2K Classic: Pittsburgh will face SMU and new coach Tim Jankovich, and Michigan meets Marquette in the semifinals of the 22nd annual 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, which returns to Madison Square Garden this year. The semifinals are Nov. 17 with the championship game the next night. The tournament moves back to Madison Square Garden after being held at Barclays Center.

Mercury top Mystics in final seconds

WNBA: Brittney Griner had 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, Sonja Petrovic made a go-ahead basket with 29.9 seconds left and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Washington Mystics 78-74 on Wednesday.

After Petrovic’s floater in the lane, Emma Meesseman missed a left-handed hook shot and Griner made two free throws. Washington’s Tayler Hill had an open 3-pointer rattle out with 7 seconds left.

Diana Taurasi added 18 points on 4-of-18 shooting for Phoenix (9-13), ninth in the AP power poll. Meesseman scored 22 points and Hill added 15 points for eighth-ranked Washington (9-12).

Ogwumike lifts Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Candace Parker added 11 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Chicago Sky in Rosemont, Illinois.

Ogwumike was 10 of 11 from the field for her fifth consecutive game with at least 20 points. Kristi Toliver had 13 points, Jantel Lavender added 12 points and Essence Carson scored 10 for Los Angeles (19-1), the top-ranked team in the AP power poll. The Sparks had 28 assists on 33 field goals.

Elena Delle Donne scored 15 points and Quigley added 13 for sixth-ranked Chicago (8-12).

Liberty’s BLM shirts lose hashtags: New York Liberty players are still wearing warmups to support the Black Lives Matter movement – but their shirts won’t be imprinted with hashtags created after recent police shootings.

The Liberty first wore black shirts Sunday with the words “(hash)BlackLivesMatter” and “(hash)Dallas5” on the front and a hashtag with a blank space on the back. But on Wednesday, players wore plain black Adidas shirts before a game against the Atlanta Dream, and said the decision was due to a compromise made by the players to wear the branded warmup shirts.

International League wins All-Star Game

Miscellany: Lehigh Valley’s Edward Mujica and nine other relievers threw seven scoreless innings in the International League’s 4-2 victory over the Pacific Coast League on in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Columbus’ Erik Gonzalez, Lehigh Valley’s Andrew Knapp and Pawtucket’s Chris Marrero homered for the International League.

Baylor hires Rhoades: Baylor hired Mack Rhoades as its new athletic director, bringing in an experienced administrator it believes will help the reeling program rebound from allegations that it didn’t properly handle sexual assault claims against its football players.

Small loses arbitration case: Veteran cyclist Carmen Small lost her arbitration case for a spot on the four-member U.S. team headed for Rio, and will be forced to watch from the sidelines as the powerhouse women’s squad rides for gold.

Megan Guarnier was the only rider who earned a guaranteed spot on the squad by virtue of her bronze medal at the world championships. That left three discretionary picks that went to two-time and reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, veteran Evelyn Stevens and climbing specialist Mara Abbott. Amber Neben also lost her arbitration case.

The 36-year-old Small had argued that her handy victories over Armstrong and Stevens at the time trial national championships this year should have helped her earn a spot.


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