Weekend Sports In Brief
CALABASAS, Calif. (AP) — The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.
The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys and chanting his name, gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday’s Grammy Awards where Bryant was honored.
The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.
The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.
NEW YORK (AP) — Kobe Bryant authored some of his most memorable moments at Madison Square Garden and made himself a centerpiece of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
Bryant was remembered for that and so much more Sunday after the five-time NBA champion, his teenage daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash.
Tributes poured in from around the basketball, entertainment and political worlds. Players and teams who competed with and against Bryant struggled their way through the games that were scheduled, unable to summon his intense competitive spirit.
Madison Square Garden was lit up in the Lakers’ gold and purple colors for the game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Nets star Kyrie Irving didn’t play, leaving the arena after hearing of Bryant’s death.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With a tribute to Kobe Bryant written on his Nikes, LeBron James moved past the retired Los Angeles great for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list, scoring 29 points in the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
James scribbled “Mamba 4 Life” as he chased Bryant, the five-time champion, in Philly. James scored the milestone basket with 7:23 left in the third quarter. James entered 18 points shy of passing Bryant, and the layup gave him 33,644 points. James stands third with 33,655. Bryant finished his career with 33,643, all with the Lakers.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644,” Bryant tweeted.
MIAMI (AP) — Kansas City waited 50 years to get back to a Super Bowl. And then the Chiefs had to wait a few extra minutes once they got to Miami.
It took workers at Miami International Airport about three attempts to get one of the rolling staircases that the Chiefs would use to deplane properly lined up with the front door of their chartered jet. The delay was brief, and coach Andy Reid and the rest of the Chiefs’ delegation made their way into the hangar for the short walk to waiting buses.
A handful of local politicians and officials were at the airport to greet the teams, as loud hip-hop music blared through the maintenance hangar that was being used for the arrivals.
No players or coaches spoke to reporters inside the hangar. The first media session for the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers — who arrived a couple hours after the Chiefs did on Sunday — is Monday night, when the NFL has Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park.
Super Bowl 54 is Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Green Bay linebacker Za’Darius Smith hastily organized an homage to Kobe Bryant minutes before the Pro Bowl.
Smith and his NFC teammates learned about Bryant’s death while they were in the locker room getting ready for the NFL’s all-star game Sunday. Smith suggested the best way to pay tribute the late NBA great was to mimic his fadeaway jumper after big plays.
So they did — repeatedly.
It was one of several ways NFL players remembered Bryant during the celebratory event, which the AFC won 38-33 for its fourth consecutive victory in Orlando.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marc Leishman couldn’t miss whether it was for birdie for par, racing from four shots behind with a 7-under 65 and winning the Farmers Insurance Open when Jon Rahm couldn’t match his eagle putt from three years ago.
Leishman ran off five birdies on the front nine to seize control Sunday over a fast-faltering Rahm and Rory McIlroy. He kept a cushion with three big par saves down the tough stretch at Torrey Pines and closed with a 6-foot birdie putt that turned out to be the winner.
Rahm closed with a 70.
Leishman became the second Australian to win on Australian Day, following Lucas Herbert’s playoff victory in Dubai on the European Tour earlier Sunday.
Tiger Woods, trying to set the PGA Tour record with his 83rd career victory, never got anything going. Woods had to settle for a 70 and tied for ninth, six shots behind.
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Madelene Sagstrom won the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio for her first LPGA Tour title, birdieing the par-3 17th to tie for the lead and winning with a par when Nasa Hataoka missed a 3-footer on the last.
Sagstrom finished with a 2-under 70 for a 17-under 271 total at rain-softened Boca Rio Golf Club.
Hataoka shot 69. The Japanese player birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to take the lead, then fell into a tie when Sagstrom birdied the 17th and lost with the bogey on the par-4 18th.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Lucas Herbert marked Australia Day in his native country by capturing his first professional title, beating Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa on the second hole of a playoff in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Herbert rolled in a birdie putt from 2 feet at the 18th on his third trip up the par-5 last at Emirates Golf Club, after Bezuidenhout failed to get up and down from the back of the green for his own birdie.
The 24-year-old Herbert dedicated his victory to the people back home battling Australia’s unprecedented wildfire crisis.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Nathan Chen won his fourth consecutive U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s gold medal Sunday. Skating to the score from “Rocketman,” Elton John’s biopic, Chen soared far above the competition, winning by more than 37 points.
The ninth man to earn at least that many U.S. championships in a row, and the first since Brian Boitano completed that kind of quad in 1988, Chen hit four quadruple jumps and six triples in his routine that had the crowd on its feet long before it concluded.
Chen, 20, has not lost a competition since a dismal short program at the 2018 Olympics ruined any chance at a medal. He’s won two world championships and three Grand Prix Finals crowns altogether.
Plus the four U.S. titles as he continues raising the standards for men’s skating even as he attends Yale full time.
Chen, who has a bronze medal from the team event at Pyeongchang, will be a favorite for a third successive victory at worlds in Montreal in March.
The last American man to win three consecutive world titles was Scott Hamilton with his fourth in a row in 1984.