Friday Sports in Brief
LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James wiped his eyes as the national anthem ended. Wearing Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey, James wrapped teammate Anthony Davis, in a No. 8 jersey, in an embrace.
The Lakers’ two current superstars were back on the court Friday night for the team’s first game since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash five days earlier.
“Everybody was emotional,” James said after the Lakers lost to Portland 127-119.
Davis, who scored 37 points, added, “We wanted to make him proud.”
Portland’s Damian Lillard had 48 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a Kobe-like performance.
“I don’t think anybody walks away from this moment and this situation a winner,” Lillard said. “The memories that we’ll take away from it was just sad and just tough.”
James paid tribute by wearing an oversized jersey, finger sleeve, wristbands and Bryant’s shoes.
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA’s All-Stars will be playing this year with Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant in their minds and on their jerseys.
So, coming soon: No. 24 Giannis Antetokounmpo, and No. 2, LeBron James.
As part of what will be a long series of tributes to Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the NBA announced Friday that every player on Team Giannis will wear 24 on their jerseys at this year’s All-Star Game and every player on Team LeBron will wear 2.
Kobe Bryant spent the last 10 seasons of his career in a No. 24 jersey. Gianna Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and an outstanding young player, wore No. 2 on her jersey.
All players taking part in All-Star weekend — including the Rising Stars game Feb. 14 and the Saturday night events such as the 3-point contest, slam dunk contest and skills competition — will wear a patch with nine stars to commemorate the nine victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
HOUSTON (AP) — Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic will be out at least six games with a sprained right ankle.
Doncic was injured during a scrimmage in practice on Thursday and coach Rick Carlisle said before Friday’s game against the Rockets that he’d be out until at least Feb. 10.
Carlisle added that he expects that Doncic will be healthy in time to participate in the All-Star Game after he was selected to the team for the first time and voted a starter.
Carlisle said the Mavericks expect to have an update on Doncic’s condition on Feb. 8, which is the day of the sixth game.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills have informed county officials they will not use an early and one-time opt-out clause to terminate their lease at New Era Field.
The team’s decision, sent in a letter to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Friday, was considered a formality, but in no way rules out the possibility of the Bills one day playing at new facility in downtown Buffalo.
A copy of the Bills letter was posted by Poloncarz on his Twitter account, and simply states the team will honor the terms of the 10-year lease negotiated in 2013, and not exercise the early termination clause.
The Bills had until the end of February to inform the county of its decision.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said Friday he wants to play next season at age 37, and he’ll likely be back with the Miami Dolphins.
Coach Brian Flores said last week he expected Fitzpatrick to return.
Fitzpatrick started the final 12 games last year for the Dolphins, who went 5-11 but had a surprisingly strong finish under first-year coach Flores. Fitzpatrick, a 15-year veteran, ended the season saying he was undecided about whether to retire.
“I want to keep playing,” Fitzpatrick told the Dolphins’ flagship radio station, WQAM, at the Super Bowl media center. “Physically you have to re-evaluate everything. and mentally and emotionally. It didn’t take very long for me to know, with the season we had and how much fun I had out there. I want to keep playing.”
Fitzpatrick is under contract with Miami for $5.5 million in 2020.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tony Stewart, the throwback, blue-collar “People’s Champion” of NASCAR, is once again the headline act.
Stewart was one of five inductees Friday night into the 11th class of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame — a group that is essentially a celebration of Joe Gibbs Racing. The three-time NASCAR champion was inducted alongside Joe Gibbs, his former team owner, and Bobby Labonte, his first NASCAR teammate.
Also inducted was Waddell Wilson, an engine builder and crew chief who coincidentally was team manager of Stewart’s first foray into NASCAR. The late Buddy Baker, who raced 33 years before transitioning into a broadcast role, was also inducted and Stewart has early ties to him, too.
LONDON (AP) — The coronavirus-enforced suspension of soccer in China has led to Manchester United filling a void in its strike force.
Odion Ighalo joined United on loan until the end of the season in May from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua just before the January transfer window closed on Friday night.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned to the former Watford player while scrambling to find a forward after Marcus Rashford with ruled out with a long-term injury. United had been trying to sign Josh King from Bournemouth but a deal couldn’t be struck.
It is three years since Ighalo left England for China after scoring 39 goals in 100 appearances for Watford, with 20 coming in the second-tier Championship. He was African Cup of Nations top scorer last year with five goals in Nigeria’s run to third place.
TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers are trying to shoot down rumors that this year’s 2020 Games might be canceled or postponed because of the spread of a new virus.
Japan has so far reported no deaths from the coronavirus that has killed more than 200 people in China. Japanese organizers have hesitated to say much for several days, but on Friday they addressed the rumors. So did the International Olympic Committee, which also has said little.
The Olympics open on July 24, just under six months away.
“We have never discussed cancelling the games,” Tokyo organizers said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organizations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary.”
Rumors of a cancellation have spread in Japan with reports that the Swiss-based IOC has met with the World Health Organization about the outbreak. The WHO has called the virus a global emergency.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Terry Fair, a key player on Georgia only men’s Final Four team, has died at the age of 59.
The university said Fair died Thursday of natural causes in his hometown of Macon, Georgia. Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones confirmed Fair’s death.
Fair was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, capping his college career by leading Georgia to an improbable Final Four appearance in the program’s inaugural NCAA Tournament appearance in 1983. It remains the school’s greatest season.
Fair, a 6-foot-7 forward, was picked by the Indiana Pacers in the fourth round of the 1983 NBA draft. He went on to play professionally in Israel for a decade.