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Bubba Wallace says he ‘won’ at Talladega despite 14th-place finish, gas mistake

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June 23 (UPI) — NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace said he “won” at the 2020 Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway despite a fuel shortage, which caused him to finish in 14th place.

The driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet cried on his steering wheel before the race after all of his fellow drivers surrounded and pushed his car in a show of solidarity after a noose was found Sunday in Wallace’s garage.

Federal authorities and NASCAR have launched an investigation into the incident. Wallace — the only black Cup Series driver — recently led a successful push to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR events and facilities.

“All in all, we won today,” Wallace said Monday in Lincoln, Ala. “The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life, from all the supporters, from drivers and crew members and everybody here.

“It’s truly incredible, and I’m proud to be a part of this sport.”

The Geico 500 was scheduled to run Sunday before the event was postponed due to rain. Ryan Blaney won Monday’s race in overtime. Wallace led the field on lap No. 161, but had to make a late pit stop for more gas and couldn’t climb back into contention.

“I know I should have won that race,” Wallace said. “We ran out of gas. The stars just didn’t align for us.”

Wallace jumped out of his car after the race and walked to the catch fence on the edge of the track and greeted fans in the stands. Several of them wore Black Lives Matter shirts.

“It has been tough,” Wallace said. “It has been hectic carrying this weight. The sport is changing. The deal that happened [Sunday]. I wanted to show whoever it was that you aren’t going to take away my smile. I’m going to keep on going.”

Wallace will race in the Pocono Organics 325 at 3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. He ranks 21st in the Cup Series standings with a pair of top-10 finishes in 13 starts.



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Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis channels Kobe with game-winner vs. Denver Nuggets

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Sept. 21 (UPI) — Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis channeled the late Kobe Bryant with a buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets Sunday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers now lead the series 2-0 after the 105-103 triumph in Orlando, Fla. Davis scored a game-high 31 points and had nine rebounds.

“It was a special one for me,” Davis told reporters. “Special one for my teammates. … Right before the [season] hiatus, I missed a shot against the Brooklyn Nets in the same spot [during a] slightly different play. I was upset with myself. And [LeBron James] said, ‘Man, we’re gonna live or die with you shooting that shot.’

“I got the same opportunity tonight. [I was] ready to make it.”

Davis and the Lakers trailed 103-102 after Nikola Jokic hit a hook shot for the Nuggets with 20.8 seconds remaining. Alex Caruso missed a 3-pointer with about seven seconds left in regulation, but the Lakers got an offensive rebound after the attempt.

Rajon Rondo found Davis on the right wing with the inbound bounce pass. Davis caught it and elevated before firing the 3-point shot over Jokic’s outstretched arm. The buzzer sounded just before the shot went through the net to give the Lakers a two-point win.

Davis sprinted up the sideline and yelled “Kobe” as he celebrated with teammates. The Lakers also wore special “Black Mamba” edition jerseys during the game.

“We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, [Davis] coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a ‘Mamba’ shot.”

The Lakers led by as many as 16 points in the game, which featured eight lead changes and was tied four times.

James paced the Lakers with 12 points in the first quarter for an early 29-21 lead and the team outscored the Nuggets 31-29 in the second quarter to earn a 60-50 edge at halftime.

In the third, the Lakers used a 10-2 run to push the lead to 16 points with 8:12 remaining. The Nuggets chipped away at the lead, outscored the Lakers 28-22 and tied the score at 82-82 with 9:58 in the game.

Denver and Los Angeles then exchanged the lead multiple times before Jokic hit his late hook shot for a one-point edge. The Lakers fought for two key rebounds down the stretch before Rondo hit Davis for the decisive shot.

“You’re not going to make them all, but the belief to just take it and live with the results is what it’s all about,” James said.

“[Sunday] was his moment. It was his moment to find a space, hunt the ball down and one of our top 10 assists leaders, Rondo, found him and he knocked it down. A big-time play.”

James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the win. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 11 points apiece for the Lakers and Rondo had three points and nine assists off the bench.

Jokic scored 30 points and had nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray had 25 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, Anthony Davis hits a big three to win the game at the buzzer. We’ll watch the film, see what happened on that last play.

“The message is we’re down 2-0. Let’s go out and win Game 3.”

The Nuggets, however, might have the Lakers right where they want them. Denver came back from a 3-1 series deficit in their first two playoff series against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the only team in NBA history to do it twice in the same postseason.

Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

Moments from LeBron James’ career

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo



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NFL legend Deion Sanders to coach football at Jackson State

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Sept. 21 (UPI) — Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has been named the head football coach at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Sanders, 53, announced the new role Sunday on his podcast 21st & Prime. Jackson State President Thomas Hudson and athletic director Ashley Robinson appeared on the show and confirmed the hire.

“It’s a match made in heaven,” Sanders said on the podcast. “God called me to Jackson State and to these men.”

“We are just so very fortunate to be in this space and have a man like this joining us,” Hudson said.

“It’s very big for Jackson State University,” Robinson said.

The longtime Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys cornerback has never coached a college football team, but has coached at the high school level.

Jackson State is expected to make the announcement at a news conference Monday morning.

Jackson State competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which announced in August that it will play a six-game conference schedule between February 27 and late April. The season was scheduled to begin September 12, but was delayed by five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Grambling, Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Prairie View A&M, Southern University and Texas Southern also compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Sanders isn’t the first hall of famer to set foot on the Jackson, Miss., campus. Legendary Chicago Bears tailback Walter Payton spent four years at Jackson State and rushed for more than 3,500 yards before he was drafted as the fourth overall pick by the Bears in 1975. The school has also produced three others who were ultimately inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jackson State fired coach John Hendrick in August after he posted a 4-8 record in 2019 and ended the season with three consecutive losses. The Tigers haven’t had a winning season since 2013.

Sanders, who played collegiately at Florida State, will finish his tenure as offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas, before he takes over at Jackson State.



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Celtics coach Brad Stevens meets with team leaders after locker room incident

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Sept. 18 (UPI) — Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on Thursday held a late-night meeting with team leaders to clear the air after a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that Celtics guards Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown needed to be separated by teammates after a heated confrontation inside the locker room following the Game 2 loss. According to ESPN, Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Brown and Smart to talk through the issues that led to the incident.

During the locker room spat and the late meeting between Stevens and the players, Smart’s focus had been on increasing the urgency among the team, according to the outlets. Boston has blown double-digit leads in both games of the East finals and trail the Heat 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Another part of the discussion in the late-night meeting was about making sure the team smoothly integrated All-Star forward Gordon Hayward back into the lineup, according to ESPN. The Celtics upgraded Hayward — who has been dealing with an ankle injury — to questionable Friday and are hopeful he can play a role off the bench in Saturday’s Game 3.

After the meeting, the coaching staff and players believed the issues were resolved and preparations could begin for the next game, according to ESPN.

Game 3 of the series is set for 8:30 p.m. EST inside the NBA bubble near Orlando, Fla.



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