LeBron improves case versus Jordan as all-time NBA best

James was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the fourth time. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 October 2020

LeBron improves case versus Jordan as all-time NBA best

  • James captured his fourth NBA title in his 10th finals appearance when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday
  • James is only the fourth player in history to reach 10 career NBA Finals

LOS ANGELES: As the first player to lead three different teams to NBA titles, LeBron James has revived the question of whether he or Michael Jordan is the league’s greatest-ever superstar.
“I don’t know,” James said. “I’m going to let you guys talk about it.”
James captured his fourth NBA title in his 10th finals appearance when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday to close out the series 4-2.
James was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the fourth time. The only player with more finals MVP awards is Jordan with six.
Jordan won six titles in six NBA Finals appearances for the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s, taking most of two seasons off between two three-peats to pursue a baseball career after his father’s death.
Jordan’s game evolved over time, the high-leaping playmaker who could single-handedly dominate foes giving way to a veteran who could get the most from every teammate and help carry the load during his second title trilogy.
Taking full advantage of the era of big money and free agency that Jordan largely created, James maximized his money and turned multiple teams into champions, his role evolving over the years as did his supporting cast.
Where James is clearly king is off the court. His education initiatives and social activism are a far cry from Jordan’s infamous comment that “Republicans buy sneakers too,” when asked why he was not more politically active.
If mere titles alone decided the greatest NBA player, dominant 1960s Boston big man Bill Russell would own the tag with 11, more than Jordan and James combined, in 13 seasons.
However, it was Jordan who took the NBA global by leading the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” to Barcelona gold, with James responding to a sub-par bronze effort in 2004 by sparking US gold medal runs in 2008 and 2012.
James is only the fourth player in history to reach 10 career NBA Finals. Only Russell and teammate Sam Jones have played more, but James is only 4-6 in the finals.
Does the purity of Jordan’s 6-for-6 feat beat the longevity and diversity of James’s success? Does it even matter? Can’t each be king of his era?
“The best and most ‘complete’ player I have seen in my lifetime is @KingJames on and off the floor,” long-time Jordan nemesis Isiah Thomas tweeted Thursday. “He passed the eye test and the numbers confirm what my eyes have seen in every statistical category. #GOAT let it be known!“
Thomas is hardly a neutral observer, the bad blood between himself and Jordan clear to see in the Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” that became a global TV hit during the coronavirus shutdown this year.
Kendrick Perkins, a 2015 teammate of James in Cleveland who won an NBA crown with Boston in 2008, cast his vote in the debate with LeBron also.
“My separator from Bron and everybody else is PRESSURE,” he tweeted. “Goat expectations from day 1 at 18 years old, carry the city from day (1), comparisons to legends from day 1. All expectations EXCEEDED!“
James has won his latest title at 35, the same age when Jordan won his last crown. But James is just getting started with the Lakers.
“This never gets old,” he said.
After teen prodigy James was the 2003 NBA Draft top pick, he led Cleveland to the NBA Finals at age 22, his high-leaping, slam dunk, Jordan-esque moves unable to stop the Cavs from being swept by San Antonio in 2007.
After dumping the Cavs in 2010 for Miami, James led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals and won two titles as part of the “Big Three” with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
James returned to Cleveland in 2014 and with a rebuilt roster brought a title to his home region in 2016, denying a 73-win Golden State team a run of four consecutive titles. His Cavs made the finals four years in a row but only won once.
James is the all-time playoff scoring leader, has played a record 260 playoff games, and ranks third on the NBA all-time scoring list. He’s a 16-time NBA All-Star and a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player while Jordan is a 14-time NBA All-Star and a five-time NBA MVP.

While Jordan was no activist, he was a pioneer off the court, from sealing landmark deals with Nike and others to pushing the global growth of the game. His efforts helped build a foundation from which James could be more outspoken.
James and his More Than A Vote initiative helped register voters and recruited 10,000 election poll workers. He has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump and supported racial justice policies in the wake of George Floyd’s death last May.
“I do my part on continuing to create change, continuing to educate, continuing to enlighten communities all over the world that listen to me,” James said.
“You control what you can and what you can’t, sometimes as much as it hurts, you just try not to worry about it.”


Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

Updated 55 min 19 sec ago

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

  • Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time
  • This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions

DOHA, Qatar: How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup?
Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion.
The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset of powerful South Africa in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
Japan was the underdog against four-time champion Germany, but it will be a strong favorite in its next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a victory could move Japan into the knockout stage with a game to spare.
A loss by Costa Rica on Sunday would eliminate it from advancing. Costa Rica faces Germany in its final match and Japan goes against Spain.
Costa Rica is reeling from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain in its opener, and it’s anyone’s guess how the Ticos will respond. With a population of just over 5 million, the tiny Central American country is appearing in its sixth World Cup. It reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.
Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018. It lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.
It was eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkiye 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu has spoken often about going farther this time and breaking the “final-16 hex.”
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany — they both play in Germany’s Bundesliga — to lead Japan to the upset. Asano got the winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball behind German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very sharp angle.
Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28 percent of the possession. It would also face the same problem against Japan, which is able to hold the ball for long spells, and is also a quick, counterattacking threat.
“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of the Spain loss.
The Ticos will have to do much more against Japan.


Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

Updated 26 November 2022

Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia have concluded their preparations to face Poland on Saturday in the second game of the World Cup in Qatar.
The Saudi players conducted a training session at the Celine Resort Stadium, under the supervision of their head coach Herve Renard.
The training comes after the Green Falcons produced the World Cup’s shock win against Argentina 2-1 at Lusail Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.


The exercise started with a warm-up training then squares’ exercise before they split into two groups and played against each other.
Meanwhile, captain Salman Al-Faraj and Riyad Sharahili have continued their treatment programs with medical staff for injuries suffered in the Argentina game.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said that the Green Falcon’s delegation will travel to Doha on Friday night to prepare for Saturday’s match at Education City Stadium.
Argentina’s defeat to Saudi Arabia was their first against an Arab or Asian team in the World Cup finals.
Argentina took the lead after only 10 minutes through a Lionel Messi penalty. Saudi Arabia however fought back in the second half with strikes by Saleh Al-Shehri in the 48th minute and star man Salem Al-Dawsari five minutes later.
Solid defending and a man-of-the-match performance by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais saw the Green Falcons secure a historic win in their opening Group C fixture.


Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

Updated 26 November 2022

Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

  • Draw between Ecuador, Netherlands left hosts at bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing
  • Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal

DOHA: The World Cup hopes of Qatar were dashed after a 3-1 loss to Senegal and a draw between Ecuador and Netherlands left them bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing, just five days after they opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.

The Qataris needed Ecuador to win but they fell behind to an early Cody Gapko goal, and though they equalized it wasn’t enough to prevent Qatar from becoming the first side mathematically eliminated from a final they have spent a reported $200 billion to host.

Qatar showed some flashes of exciting attacking play, but the reigning Asian champions were undone by sloppy defending that was harshly punished by a Senegalese side that was just that little bit better in every department.

The Senegal fans brought color and noise with rhythmic drumming throughout, while the home supporters turned out in maroon shirts, with many of the men opting for the traditional Middle Eastern thobe, a pristine white ankle-length tunic.

Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal and should have had a penalty when Ismaila Sarr bundled over Akram Afif, but Spanish referee Antonio Mateu waved away their pleas and VAR did not intervene.

With Qatar defending well, it was going to take either a moment of magic or a catastrophic mistake for Senegal to break the deadlock and unfortunately for Qatar defender Boualem Khoukhi it turned out to be the latter.

His attempt to clear a routine low pass into the box by Krepin Diatta went disastrously wrong as he fluffed his clearance, allowing Boulaye Dia to pounce, and he rattled home the opening goal just before the break.

With the Qatari crowd thinned out somewhat at the start of the second half, Famara Diedhou doubled Senegal’s advantage with a brilliant glancing header from an Ismail Jakobs corner in the 48th minute.

QATAR SCORE

The missing home fans were soon back in their seats and rewarded with some superb attacking play as the hosts registered their first efforts on target in the tournament, with Ismail Mohamad forcing a superb reflex save from Edouard Mendy.

Muntari reduced the deficit in the 78th with a bullet header from Mohamad’s cross for Qatar’s first ever goal at a World Cup in their debut tournament but Senegal were unruffled as they continued to out-muscle their opponents in midfield.

Six minutes after Muntari’s strike, Bamba Dieng swept home a pass from fellow substitute Iliman Ndiaye for the African side’s third to consign Qatar to the bottom of Group A with no points, while Netherlands and Ecuador have four points and the Senegalese three.

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez told reporters that he and his team had never expected to set the world on fire, despite being at home.

“Expectations were set to give a good performance and organize a good World Cup, and that is the case,” he told a news conference, praising his players for their efforts.

“We wanted to show what we could do on the pitch — most of our opponents are ahead of us in many ways, but we managed to show what we can do.”

The 46-year-old Spaniard pointed out how being a small country with a small population had hindered the national team, and said that qualifying for the tournament for a second time would prove hugely beneficial.

First, though, they must meet the Netherlands in what will be their final game at this event.

“We have to prepare for the Netherlands, and we know it’s going to be an even tougher game against them — a great opponent, with some great players,” Sanchez said.


Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

Updated 26 November 2022

Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

  • Southgate's men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game
  • Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time

AL KHOR, Qatar: England missed a chance to book their place in the World Cup last 16 as Gareth Southgate’s side produced a limp display in their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday.
Southgate’s men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game of the tournament, but they rarely troubled a determined US team.
Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time.
They managed just one shot on target and could easily have conceded in the first half when the US were in control for long periods at the Al Bayt Stadium.
For the third time in three World Cup meetings with the US, England failed to live up to their status as favorites.
After a shocking defeat in the 1950 tournament and a 1-1 draw in 2010, this was another defiant American effort against England, cooling some of the hype around the Three Lions following the Iran rout.
Although it was an extremely underwhelming performance from England, they are still in control of their own destiny.
A draw in their final group game against Wales on November 29 would ensure England progress to the knockout stages, while a victory would seal first place.
The US, who have drawn their first two games, play Iran on the same day knowing a win would send them into last 16.
Gregg Berhalter’s group are the second youngest team at the World Cup, but a day after America celebrated Thanksgiving they left sluggish England looking like they were the ones who had indulged in too much turkey.
With Harry Kane and Harry Maguire recovered from an ankle injury and illness respectively, England named an unchanged team for the first time since the 2018 World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia.
But, whereas England dominated possession against timid Iran from the opening moments, they found the US far more willing to press higher up the pitch.
The US desire to engage England briefly left space in behind them and Jude Bellingham’s buccaneering run and pass freed Bukayo Saka down the right side of the US area.
Saka’s cross reached Kane, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman.
That near-miss proved a mirage in the desert for England as Hajji Wright, a surprise selection in place of Josh Sargent, had the Americans’ first sight of goal with a well-timed run into the area for a header that whistled wide.
It was a warning that the US could trouble England and moments later Weston McKennie should have put them ahead.
Timothy Weah’s cross from wide on the right eluded the flat-footed England defense and the unmarked McKennie pulled the trigger from 10 yards, only to fire just wide of the relieved Pickford’s goal.
Showing no signs of being intimidated by England, Berhalter’s side were inches away from turning the enterprising display into a stunning lead when Christian Pulisic jinked into space and lashed a rising drive against the crossbar from just inside the area.
Giving the ball away far too easily and labored in their build-up play, England looked rattled and Pulisic tested their fraying nerves with a header that glanced wide.
In a rare moment of menace from England, Saka’s pass found Mason Mount and the Chelsea’s midfielder low drive from 20 yards brought a first save from US keeper Matt Turner.
Epitomising the US spirit that was such a contrast to England’s lethargy, Tyler Adams crunched into a tackle on Saka, winning the ball and roaring in delight afterwards.
England remained stuck in first gear yet Kane nearly snatched an undeserved winner in stoppage time when he headed wide from Luke Shaw’s free-kick.


Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming

Updated 26 November 2022

Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming

  • Germans were hammered by some observers for losing focus on the football when they should be concentrating on avoiding a second successive group stage exit in a World Cup
  • “Really, our focus is 100 percent on football, nothing else,” Havertz said in a pre-match press conference

DOHA: Just one match into the Qatar World Cup, Germany face what amounts to a must-win clash against Spain on Sunday, a team they have not beaten in a competitive fixture since 1988.
Before Germany were stunned 2-1 by Japan in their opening match, the team faced heavy criticism for backtracking on a promise to wear a rainbow “OneLove” armband in support of diversity and human rights.
Their response was powerful — a team photo before the Japan match in which all 11 players covered their mouths, suggesting they had been silenced by FIFA, who had threatened on-field sanctions for anyone wearing the armband.
But after Japan scored two late goals to beat Hansi Flick’s team, the Germans were hammered by some observers for losing focus on the football when they should be concentrating on avoiding a second successive group stage exit in a World Cup.
On Friday, Chelsea striker Kai Havertz said the players were holding onto their beliefs but knew the challenge ahead, especially against a Spain team that steamrollered Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game.
“Everyone knows our point of view and how we think,” Havertz said in a pre-match press conference.
“Really, our focus is 100 percent on football, nothing else. We just said what we think, what our point of view is, everyone knows that, and now it is about playing football.”
With supermarket chain Rewe pulling their sponsorship and with TV ratings for the Japan game the lowest in Germany for a World Cup in more than 30 years, Havertz recognized that the challenges were not just on the field, saying: “I know not everyone is behind us.”
Havertz revealed the squad and Flick held a wide-ranging team meeting on Thursday, admitting “it was time to tell ourselves the truth.”
Havertz said “everyone left the meeting knowing what’s going on.”
Sitting alongside Havertz, midfielder Julian Brandt said “we had a very good exchange. All of us left the conversation feeling like we had the determination to win the game.”
The importance of the Spain match at the Al Bayt Stadium cannot be underestimated — national squad manager and 1996 Euros winner Oliver Bierhoff has asked what another early exit would mean for the future of football in Germany.
Speaking with Germany TV network ARD on Friday, Bierhoff said losing “our first final” in Qatar would have widespread ramifications for the sport.
“What does it mean for German football? For the further development?” Bierhoff asked.
“And if you go a little deeper: (what does it mean) for the investment we have to make to stay competitive (and) to have new players in eight or ten years?“
Far from being haunted by the ghosts of their early exit in Russia however, Havertz said the match could represent “a turnaround” for the under-fire side, saying “we all dreamed of playing these games.”
“Now we are in a bad moment, but I think that can switch around quite fast — if we win the game on Sunday.”
Captain Manuel Neuer on Friday said Sunday’s match was “a huge chance,” emphasising the side could learn from Russia “we blew it once and now we know how not to do it.”
Brandt agreed.
“Spain come to the stadium on Sunday on the back of a 7-0 victory but it is a chance, on Sunday, a chance to change the atmosphere.”