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‘NBA 2K’ tournament bracket: Live stream & results for every match during ESPN’s Players Tournament

Star NBA players will be competing against one another in an “NBA 2K” tournament starting April 3 and lasting until the finals on April 11.

The NBA 2K Players Tournament features big-name athletes from today like Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell and more. There are 16 total NBA players playing in a March Madness style bracket. There will be eight Round 1 games followed by four Quarterfinal matchups. Then we get into the Semifinals and eventually the championship.

The winner of the tournament will receive a $100,000 donation from 2K, the NBA and the NBPA in support of ongoing coronavirus relief efforts.

NBA 2K TOURNAMENT: Full TV schedule | Odds, prop bets

Live stream for NBA 2K tournament

UPDATE: Despite the official announcement claiming you’d be able to watch these games on eight different social platforms, you can only watch these games live on ESPN or ESPN2. An NBA spokesperson clarified to Sporting News that Twitch and YouTube broadcasts of these games will be re-aired versions and not live events.

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While the games will be broadcast on ESPN channels, fans will also be able to tune into the games in a number of different ways. The NBA 2K Twitch channel above will be hosting the games, as well as the NBA’s official Twitch channel. In addition, both the NBA and 2K will be broadcasting the games on their respective YouTube channels.

Below is the full list of ways you can view the games.

Games will be broadcasted on either ESPN or ESPN2.

NBA 2K Players Tournament bracket & results

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Round 1

Kevin Durant might have grabbed the early lead with the Clippers, but Derrick Jones Jr. was able to take control in the second half with the Bucks thanks to a fast-paced 3-point barrage. Looks like transition defense in 2K is the bane of Durant’s existence.

Deandre Ayton and the Rockets cruised to victory in a much lower-scoring game against Zach Lavine and the Heat, who struggled with shot selection throughout the game. In his defense, he said he hadn’t played 2K since he was a rookie in 2014-15, whereas Ayton has been an avid player since 2K9.

Trae Young and the Bucks absolutely demolished Harrison Barnes and the Raptors in the biggest mismatch of the tournament. So far the younger player has won all three matchups.

The youngsters’ streak ended in the nightcap as Beverley, 31, topped Whiteside, 30, in a lopsided Bucks-Lakers matchup.

Montrezl Harrell and Domantas Sabonis began play Sunday with an absolute blowout. Harrell beat Sabonis 73-51, leading Sabonis to rip himself on the telecast. Sabonis called his virtual play terrible but took the beatdown like a good sport.

Rui Hachimara barely edged out Donovan Mitchell in the best game of the tournament on Sunday. Hachimara’s Lakers were up three points with five seconds left when Danny Green missed a free throw. Mitchell, playing as the Nets, got the rebound and passed the ball upcourt to Spencer Dinwiddie for a good look from three, but the shot didn’t fall. 

Devin Booker, the favorite of the entire tournament, held off Michael Porter Jr. in an 85-75 win that was closer than the final score indicates. Booker showed his knowledge of the game by calling specific sets and motion plays; most other competitors have gone with simple pick-and-roll offenses.

Andre Drummond blew out DeMarcus Cousins in the final game of the first round by a final score of 101-49. Cousins essentially gave up by the fourth quarter.

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

Championship

‘NBA 2K’ Players Tournament TV schedule

Here is the TV broadcast schedule for the entire “NBA 2K” Players Tournament. The tournament can be streamed through the ESPN and NBA apps. Each of the NBA’s social channels on Twitter (@NBA2K, @NBA), Twitch, YouTube and Facebook will also show the games live.

UPDATE: The NBA announced a date change for the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals have moved from April 7 to April 9. 

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Testing the NBA draft waters: What’s different in 2020

College athletes who plan to test the NBA draft waters this spring are finding themselves in the middle of a budding standoff between the NCAA and player agents, according to multiple sources. Many of the more than 150 prospects are picking from a small group of qualified agents as they seek feedback before deciding whether to go pro.

The uncertainty regarding when the 2020 draft will be held and what the pre-draft process will look like because of the coronavirus pandemic has had a trickle-down effect to agents, many of whom say they are focusing on keeping their existing clients with the NBA season — and future paychecks — in limbo. That is leaving fewer options for college players looking for guidance before making a decision on whether to go pro or return to school.

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Phil Taylor vs Raymond van Barneveld start time: When is the Darts From Home match?

Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld’s rivalry will be renewed to fill the sporting void caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The retired darts legends, who have an incredible 21 world titles between them, will be playing from their homes using an interactive Target Nexus board.

The event is being organised by Paddy Power, who will be donating £1,000 for every 180 hit during the match.

The match format is first to seven legs (best of 13) in a traditional 501 start, double-out game.

A Paddy Power spokesman said: “The whole world has been lamenting the loss of top-level sport to keep us entertained in these strange times.

“Well you don’t get much more top-level than Taylor and Barney when it comes to darts, and both players will be really going for it.

ALSO SEE: Michael van Gerwen vows recover from World Darts Championship defeat

“It may not be Ally Pally, but Darts From Home should at least offer some relief for all my fellow sports fans who are going stir crazy during lockdown.”

What time is Phil Taylor vs Raymond van Barneveld?

The Darts From Home match is scheduled to start at 7pm BST tonight.

READ MORE

  • Fallon Sherrock EXCLUSIVE: What it means to part of the Premier League

Fans can stream the action live on Paddy Power’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.

What has been said?

Taylor: “I’ve loved it over the years, in fairness, and it’s strange that it’s the first time we’ve actually going to work together, playing against each other on nice terms, where we’re not battling against each other.

“I should have never lost that [2007 final]. I’m sitting here now thinking that’s money I’ve thrown away there that I could have used now.

“It was the most talked-about rivalry. Sky would put up ‘Taylor vs Barneveld’ and they had a clock ticking down for a few weeks.”

Van Barneveld: “I’m the only one of two other players who have five or more world championships.

“The others are Phil Taylor and Eric Bristow. I’m proud of that.”

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Opinion: Lakers’ LeBron James keeping right perspective during coronavirus pandemic

Because he has a competitive side, LeBron James conceded the ending to this 2019-20 NBA season might not sit well with him.

James has experienced plenty of elation, winning three NBA championships. He has experienced plenty of frustration, falling in six other NBA Finals. But how will he wrestle with the Los Angeles Lakers possibly failing to win an NBA title for reasons that have nothing to do with losing to a superior opponent, should the season be canceled altogether due to the coronavirus pandemic?

“I don’t think I would be able to have any closure if we don’t have the opportunity to finish this season,” James said Wednesday on a Zoom call.

Because he has a positive attitude, however, James has kept everything in perspective. James considers the general public’s health a far more important issue than if the NBA can resume its season. James expressed more concern over how this pandemic has hurt those that worked for a small business, restaurant or hotel. James shared his respect for teachers guiding their students through online classes during this past month of social distancing.

When it came to basketball, James sounded both brutally honest and relentlessly positive.

“Closure? No,” James said. “But to be proud to what we’ve been able to accomplish at this point, I’ll look back and know we did something special in that small period of time.”

It might be easy to dismiss what the Lakers accomplished. Yes, with both James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers are supposed to be contenders. But it is not that simple.

Before the NBA suspended the season on March 11 following Utah center Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19, the Lakers (49-14) had the Western Conference’s best record for reasons beyond their top-level talent.

Frank Vogel entered this season as the Lakers’ third choice as head coach with a staff that the front office influenced. Those in NBA circles thought that would soon result in Vogel struggling to win respect and assistant coach Jason Kidd eventually taking his spot.

James entered the season only a few months removed from missing 27 games due to a strained left groin. Instead of succumbing to Father Time, the 35-year-old James delayed it and entered the regular-season MVP conversation.

Davis entered the season with criticism about his departure from New Orleans and skepticism about his persistent injury history. But he became a perfect partner for James with his post presence and defense, with minimal ailments and zero drama.

The Lakers had acquired a handful of new players, including a dependable shooter (Danny Green), a locker-room stalwart (Jared Dudley), a stout defender (Avery Bradley) and a player with a questionable past (Dwight Howard). Since then, the Lakers’ reserves have mostly become the best version of themselves.

Keep in mind, they minimized those speed bumps with an erratic training camp in China while the country took offense to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting out his support for the Hong Kong protesters. The Lakers also navigated through the unexpected death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, whom were among nine people that died in a helicopter crash just over two months ago.

“I thought it would take us a lot longer than it did. But I was wrong,” James said. “I was very wrong about that. We were able to click. We were able to figure out who would our team be – and it started with Coach Vogel. We were going to be a defensive-minded team. We’re going to hit guys. We’re going to be very physical. And then on the offensive end, we’re going to play fast, but we’re going to play smart and we’re going to play together. And everything started with myself and AD, and it trickled down to everyone else.”

This isn’t the time to write the Lakers’ season in review just yet. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Monday that the league will not make any decisions this month, and it remains unclear if next month will bring any clarity.

“I'm always pretty optimistic about everything,” James said. “I feel like it's always greener on the other side of the fence. I believe that this is a roadblock for all of us, not only as Americans, but for the world … It’s a test of our mental side, our spiritual side, it’s a test for everything. We had grown so comfortable with how we live our life and everyday life that it’s now time to take a pause. I’m very optimistic about not only just basketball, but sport. It’s not just about the Lakers. It’s not just about the NBA, but it’s everything.”

But it is also about LeBron James and his attitude.

Yes, James has chafed at the possibility that the NBA could host games without fans, either at every team’s venue or at a neutral sight, such as Las Vegas. He shared child-hood memories of seeing rowdy fans at his high school. James credited the Miami Heat’s fans for the comeback wins over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 and 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Yet, James sounded aware that playing in any game under any circumstance is better than nothing at all.

“If it comes to a point if we’re playing without our fans, we still know that we have Laker faithful with us in spirit,” James said. “We know they’ll be home cheering us on, online, on their phones, on their tablets watching us playing so hopefully we can bottle that energy that we know we’re getting from them.”

James admitted there will be some difficulty in returning to play after sitting out for an extended period of time. Even at 35-years-old, he has argued he needs to maintain his rhythm.

He has trained four or five times a week at his home gym. Unnamed friends have given him access to their own private basketball court. James has also shot on his own court with his son, Bronny. He's also had frequent conversations with the Lakers’ front office, coaching staff and teammates, either through Zoom or text messages, in hopes that conversations could at least foster some team unity.

“LeBron is a pro’s pro and I know that the way he dedicates himself to his profession is unparalleled and has been in this time,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said Wednesday on a Zoom call. “I know he’s been committed to leadership, and he’s been committed to continuing to inspire his teammates.”

Mar 1, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) smiles during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Derick E. Hingle, Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

To keep himself inspired, James has adhered to a strict routine. He goes to sleep using the Calm App, which plays uplifting stories and inspiring music. He wakes up feeling invigorated because he sees his sons (Bronny, Bryce) and daughter (Zhuri) have what he calls “a positive mindframe.” After eating, practice and training, James has kept himself engaged in other ways. He will meditate for 10-minute intervals. He will complete breathing exercises. He will express gratitude for his various accomplishments and fortunes. He then enjoys free time with his loved ones. 

“It’s definitely been a bit of a blessing to be able to be here 24/7 and be here with your family,” James said. “And being able to – I don’t want to say ‘recoup’ the time, because that’s one thing you cannot do. Time waits for no man and you can’t do that. But to be able to appreciate it and be in this moment, it’s been pretty cool. Even though I’ve missed the game of basketball like none other.”

And sure, it has helped that James has spent part of his quarantine life the same way most of us have.

“I did watch ‘Tiger King,’ ” James said. “Pretty much anything that has the word “king” in it, I pretty much watch. 'Tiger King,' 'Lion King…’ ”

It would also be captivating to watch the King himself. That show is usually more entertaining when LeBron James plays basketball. Yet, it is still inspiring to see how James has stomached the reality he might not play basketball anytime soon.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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Iconic NBA games on ESPN: How to watch the classic matchups

ESPN is airing classic NBA Finals games throughout the month of April, including a doubleheader on Wednesday featuring the Miami Heat’s incredible comeback in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals and their clinching win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7.

Each week — with the 2019-20 NBA season shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic — ESPN will televise iconic doubleheaders on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET, with games streaming via the ESPN App

The televised slate features memorable performances from LeBron and Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat, The Big Three Boston Celtics and the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Get caught up on all of these matchups here.

MORE: Latest updates on ESPN’s MJ documentary series

April 8 | 2013 NBA Finals | Games 6 and 7

Game 6 | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

Bang! Ray Allen’s clutch 3-pointer sends Heat vs. Spurs to overtime — and to a Game 7.

  • There was no one like Ray Allen

  • Ranking LeBron’s best seasons ever

Game 7 | 9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

LeBron, Wade and the Heat overcome the Spurs to win their second straight title.

  • LeBron or MJ? How the King is settling the GOAT debate

  • The three superstars who defined this NBA decade

April 15 | 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals | Kobe’s Lakers go back-to back

2009 Game 5 | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

Kobe wins his fourth NBA championship as the Lakers defeat the Magic.

  • Kobe Bryant’s greatness was both beautiful and maddening

  • How Kobe almost became a Celtic

2010 Game 7 | 9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

Kobe evens the score with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen by leading the Lakers to a Game 7 victory.

  • 15 iconic images of Kobe from the photographer who saw it all

  • NBArank Game Changers: The 25 most influential players ever

April 22 | 2008 NBA Finals | Games 4 and 6

Game 4 | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

Celtic Pride is on display as Boston pulls off a tremendous comeback victory.

  • Paul Pierce: ‘Kevin Garnett and I were meant to be together’

  • KG helped Rajon Rondo unleash his fire

Game 6 | 9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

The Celtics restore Boston’s championship lineage by defeating the rival Lakers.

  • Pierce took the long road to greatness

  • Ray Allen revels in 2008 Celtics at Hall of Fame induction

April 29 | 2004 and 2014 NBA Finals | Crucial Game 5s

2004 Game 5 | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

The Detroit Pistons complete an impressive win over the Lakers in Shaq’s final game with the purple and gold.

  • The legacy of the 2004 Finals on Carmelo Anthony and future stars

2014 Game 5 | 9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN/ESPN App

The Spurs rout the Heat in LeBron’s final game with Miami.

  • How Spurs’ majestic 2014 Finals performance changed the NBA

Full schedule

All times EST and all games airing on ESPN and the ESPN App.

April 8

  • 7 p.m. | 2013 NBA Finals Game 6 | Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

  • 9:30 p.m. | 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 | Heat vs. Spurs

April 15

  • 7 p.m. | 2009 NBA Finals Game 5 | Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic

  • 9:30 p.m. | 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 | Lakers vs. Celtics

April 22

  • 7 p.m. | 2008 NBA Finals Game 4 | Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

  • 9:30 p.m. | 2008 NBA Finals Game 6 | Celtics vs. Lakers

April 29

  • 7 p.m. | 2004 NBA Finals Game 5 | Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers

  • 9:30 p.m. | 2014 NBA Finals Game 5 | San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat

Image credits: Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Getty Images; Bruce Yeung/NBAE/Getty Images; Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images; Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images; Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

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Michael Jordan documentary: When will ‘The Last Dance’ be released? How to watch

The Last Dance goes behind the scenes of the Michael Jordan’s sixth and final championship season with the Chicago Bulls. The series also features interviews with Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and other key members of the Bulls’ squad of that era.

The documentary was initially scheduled to air in June to coincide with the NBA finals, but it has been brought forward to fill the gap in the sporting calendar.

The NBA season, like many sporting events around the world, has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jason Hehir, who directed the series, said: “Michael Jordan and the ’90s Bulls weren’t just sports superstars, they were a global phenomenon.

“Making ‘The Last Dance’ was an incredible opportunity to explore the extraordinary impact of one man and one team.

ALSO SEE – Sport and coronavirus: Which sports stars have COVID-19?

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Peh9Yqf1GXc

“For nearly three years, we searched far and wide to present the definitive story of an era-defining dynasty and to present these sports heroes as humans.

“I hope viewers enjoy watching our series as much as we enjoyed the opportunity to make it.”

When will The Last Dance be released?

The documentary is comprised of 10 episodes, which will be dropped two-at-a-time over fives weeks.

READ MORE

  • NBA season SUSPENDED after coronavirus positive test

ESPN will be screening the first two episodes of the series on Sunday, April 19, in the United States at 9pm and 10pm ET.

In a statement, ESPN said: “As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience.

“We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that.

“This project celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fans.”

Fans outside of the US will be able to watch the show on Netflix from 12.01am PT (8.01am BST) the following day.

News of the series’ new release date has been met with huge excitement from fans on social media.

One wrote on Twitter: “There will obviously never be another MJ, but there will also never be another NBA team with as much swagger.

“Best team of that era? Absolutely. Best team ever? Very possible.”

Another commented: “Finally some good sports news: ESPN is moving up the launch date of “The Last Dance”, the 10-part, 20-hour documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, to Sunday April 19. Can’t come soon enough.”

Even Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James got involved, tweeting: “April 19th can’t come fast enough. I CAN NOT WAIT!!”

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Kobe moment Kevin Hart will ‘never forget’

Kobe Bryant’s bittersweet admission to the NBA Hall of Fame has had plenty of reaction as the basketball world still mourns the legend’s death.

His passing in a helicopter crash in January that also claimed the life of his daughter Gianna and seven others may feel like forever ago amid the coronavirus crisis, but when he was named for the Hall of Fame, it has brought some of the strong emotions back up again.

The emotion was clear on the face of Bryant’s wife Vanessa when she, alongside daughter Natalia, were interviewed on ESPN when it was announced he’d been elected to the Hall of Fame.

"It's an incredible accomplishment and honour, and we're extremely proud of him," Vanessa said. "Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate. But it's definitely the peak of his NBA career, and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here.

"We're incredibly proud of him, and there's some solace in knowing that he was probably going to be a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class."

Another big win for Kobe Bryant.Source:AFP

It seemed inevitable for Bryant, who had won five championships, two NBA finals MVPs, 2008 MVP and 18-time All-Star.

But others new greatness was near long before he stepped onto the NBA court for his remarkable 20 year career.

Hart took to Instagram to share a story of when he knew Kobe was special, and when his NBA dreams were dashed.

At a junior basketball camp in Philadelphia, coach Speedy Morris called the camp for not putting in the effort, with Kobe being pointed to as the only exception.

“Head coach of the basketball team at the time addressed the camp ‘I’m watching you guys show up every morning and I’ve got to say I’m not impressed’,” Hart said.

“‘I don’t feel like you campers are working hard enough. You guys need to get some work ethic. You need to show up here and want to become better. Look at Kobe Bryant; he shows up here every day and he works. Kobe Bryant hasn’t put the basketball in his right hand since he’s been in camp’.

“He’s here to only work on his left hand. Kobe Bryant approached the camp to only work on his left hand. He never shot the ball with his right hand. He never dribbled the ball with his right hand. Kobe Bryant played us left-handed. The opportunity that I thought was gonna be the biggest of my life turned out to be a goddamn practice pad for Kobe Bryant.

“The moments where I thought I was playing some of the hardest defence ever were moments where Kobe Bryant was just counting in his head, ‘one dribble, two dribble, three dribble, four …’”

Safe to say Hart looked up to Bryant.Source:Getty Images

It was then Hart knew Bryant was special — and without words, he was able to put the comedian in his place.

“The man was above and beyond the word ‘good’, he was great then, we didn’t even know he was practising on us until the head coach made us all feel stupid for not working as hard as he was,” Hart recalled. “Needless to say, that’s when my NBA dreams were shattered because one night I talked to Kobe and said ‘hey man, where do you thing I’m probably going to end up going – like D1-wise, where do you think I should go’. Kobe just looked at me and laughed and walked away.”

Hart said it was a “moment I’ll never forget”.

It was one of the best reactions to Bryant’s inevitable ascension to the Hall of Fame.

But the Lakers also paid tribute to the late legend.

“No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers,” Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss said. “Kobe was not only a proven winner and a champion, he gave everything he had to the game of basketball.

“His fierce competitiveness, work ethic and drive were unmatched. Those qualities helped Kobe lead us to five titles – and have now brought him to the Hall of Fame, where he will be enshrined with the greatest to have ever played the game. No one deserves it more.”

Kobe and Gianna.Source:Getty Images

Similarly, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who was also Bryant’s former manager and best friend, also said Kobe wasn’t one to toot his own horn.

“This one is so well deserved — for all the hard work, sweat and toil,” Pelinka said. “Now, a part of you will live in the Hall with the rest of the all-time greats, where your legend and spirit will continue to grow forever.”

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WWE-obsessed Rick Pitino proposes wager with son over Iona-Minnesota scheduling

Rick Pitino is back in the college basketball coaching circuit after he left Louisville following the 2016-17 season amid an FBI corruption investigation that implicated his program.

While his Iona job is lower profile than his stint with the Cardinals, he still has a flair for grabbing headlines. On Saturday he challenged his son, Richard Pitino, to a wager over future scheduling based on WrestleMania 36: If Brock Lesnar defeats Drew McIntyre Sunday under the bet, then Richard Pitino’s Minnesota squad would need to visit Iona for a game. If Lesnar loses, then Iona would travel to Minnesota.

Richard Pitino, though, wants the sides to be reversed and get behind Lesnar (a Minnesota product who won a heavyweight wrestling title for the Gophers in 2000). Rick Pitino has not yet confirmed whether he’s good with that change.

Rick Pitino has been all-in on WWE this weekend, tweeting eight times about wrestling since Saturday morning.

When the coronavirus pandemic ends and his focus eventually turns back to basketball, Pitino will lead an Iona team that is accustomed to participating in March Madness: The Gaels have made six of the past nine NCAA Tournaments. Pitino made it in 10 of his final 11 years at Louisville.

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Vanessa Bryant reacts to Kobe Bryant joining 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

To no one’s surprise, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will induct Kobe Bryant posthumously later this year. Bryant will join Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and six others as part of the 2020 class, but the ceremony will obviously be bittersweet.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, was understandably emotional when speaking to ESPN’s Rece Davis on Saturday after the Hall of Fame revealed Bryant was part of the star-studded class.

“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we’re extremely proud of him,” Vanessa said alongside her daughter Natalia. “Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate. But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career, and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here.

“We’re incredibly proud of him, and there’s some solace in knowing that he was probably going to be a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class.”

The Lakers superstar spent his entire career in Los Angeles, winning five NBA championships and earning 18 All-Star selections.

“No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers,” Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said in a team statement. “Kobe was not only a proven winner and a champion, he gave everything he had to the game of basketball. His fierce competitiveness, work ethic and drive were unmatched.

“Those qualities helped Kobe lead us to five titles — and have now brought him to the Hall of Fame, where he will be enshrined with the greatest to have ever played the game. No one deserves it more.”

Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who was Bryant’s agent for years before shifting to a front office role, said the induction is an honor that Bryant would “deeply appreciate.”

“The highest of congratulations to you, dear friend,” Pelinka said. “This one is so well deserved — for all the hard work, sweat and toil. Now, a part of you will live in the Hall with the rest of the all-time greats, where your legend and spirit will continue to grow forever.”

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UCLA’s last national title and the program trajectory moving forward

UCLA beat Arkansas 89-78 on April 3, 1995, for the program’s 11th men’s basketball national championship. The Bruins have not won a national championship since.

That memorable night, when Ed O’Bannon scored 30 points in the upset against the defending champion Razorbacks, is the last in the Bruins’ illustrious history.

The Pac-12 isn’t much better — the conference hasn’t won the NCAA Tournament since Arizona’s 1997 title. The conference had one Final Four appearance in the 2010s. UCLA had a 19-12 record under first-year coach Mick Cronin before the Pac-12 tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.

When asked whether he’s surprised at UCLA’s 25-year title drought, Pac-12 analyst and former UCLA forward Don MacLean offered a mixed response.

“Yes and no,” MacLean told Sporting News before the Pac-12 tournament was canceled. “It’s hard to sustain success for that long. Going back to Coach (John) Wooden, that was way longer than 25 years ago. I think with (Jim) Harrick winning it in ’95 — you thought there would be some more after that.”

MacLean played for Harrick from 1988-92 and helped revive the program after a similar drought after Wooden — who led UCLA to 10 national championships — retired after 1974-75. The Bruins burned through five coaches with two Final Four appearances before Harrick arrived. Cronin is UCLA’s fourth coach since Harrick was fired in 1996.

Why has the national championship drought continued for a quarter-century?

“In terms of the landscape of college basketball, UCLA has gone through some transitions. They’ve had coaching changes and it’s been kind of stop-and-start ever since,” MacLean said. “When you have that unlike Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State, their coaches have been there for a while. You expect them to have that success.”

The Bruins had three consecutive Final Four appearances under Ben Howland from 2006-08. MacLean said Howland’s run is easy to gloss over, but it also led to a self-examination of the program.

“It took some time to get off of, ‘We’re UCLA, we’re a blue blood because of former success,'” MacLean said. “Well, you kind of have to keep up with the times along the way.”

The talent isn’t the issue. UCLA has 38 NBA Draft picks — including 18 first-round picks since 1995. That includes top-five talents such as Baron Davis (1999), Russell Westbrook (2008), Kevin Love (2008) and Lonzo Ball (2017).

The resources to compete with the other blue bloods are the next part: UCLA now has a state-of-the-art practice facility. The third part is Cronin, who won Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors in his first season. There still is a long way to go to catch back up to the blue bloods.

“He is embracing the challenge,” MacLean said. “Not that recent coaches haven’t, but he’s saying things that are a little bit different that makes you think that he wants to get it back. He doesn’t want to have success for him and for now. He feels a responsibility to get UCLA back to where it should be.”

Will that end the drought? Some perspective is needed. The Yankees have not won the World Series since 2009. Notre Dame football hasn’t won a national championship since 1988. The Bruins are stuck in between, and they’re a two-part answer to the conference’s struggles on the national stage. Oregon made the Pac-12’s last Final Four appearance in 2017.

MacLean said UCLA’s self-check appears to be working. Within a few years, Cronin might just have this team in the mix for the Final Four — and that elusive national championship that hasn’t happened since that night in 1995.

“Let’s see what happens now,” MacLean said. “They are operating like a big-time program. Let’s see what happens from here. I wouldn’t be surprised if that success comes because they finally figured it out.”

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