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September 26, 2013

Associated Press


The larger-than-life figure that teased and tormented the Sacramento Kings for so long is now the biggest name to join the franchise’s new ownership group.

The Kings announced Monday that Shaquille O’Neal has acquired a minority stake in the team under new owner Vivek Ranadive. The Kings will introduce the four-time NBA champion at a news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.

During the height of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal fueled the rivalry with the Kings with his play on the court and his personality off of it.

O’Neal handed Sacramento its biggest blow by rallying the Lakers from a 3-2 deficit to win the 2002 Western Conference finals, which is still a sore spot for Kings fans. The 7-foot-1 center even labeled the franchise the “Sacramento Queens” and accused fan favorite Vlade Divac — whom he referred to as “she” at one point — of flopping.

O’Neal was a 15-time All-Star and the 2000 NBA MVP. He played for the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring after the 2010-11 season with the Boston Celtics.

O’Neal, now 41, has worked as an analyst for TNT the last two seasons.

O’Neal is the latest high-profile former player to join the Kings this summer after the franchise nearly moved to Seattle. Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was hired as a consultant to Ranadive — who bought the franchise from the Maloof family in May — and Mitch Richmond is part of the ownership group.

The group includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who is friends with O’Neal. The two partnered in the past to build several gyms, especially in South Florida during O’Neal’s time with the Heat.

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September 26, 2013

Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker has won the WNBA MVP.

Parker will receive the award Thursday night in Los Angeles before the Sparks play the Phoenix Mercury in the opener of their Western Conference playoff series. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

Parker edged out Minnesota's Maya Moore and Chicago's Elena Delle Donne in one of the closest ballots in league history, the person told the AP. Parker finished with 234 points, Moore had 218 and Delle Donne 189. It's the closest the top two players have been in the voting since Sheryl Swoopes edged Lauren Jackson by two points in 2005.

Parker and Moore each received 10 first-place votes from the 39-member national media panel.

The 27-year-old Parker averaged 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in helping the Sparks (24-10) finish second in the Western Conference.

It's the second MVP award for Parker, who won it her rookie year. Parker also won the All-Star game MVP this past July. She was runner-up to Tina Charles last season for the award.

Parker, who is still looking for her first WNBA championship, is the fifth player to earn multiple MVP awards, joining Jackson, Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper.

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September 19, 2013

By Antonio Harvey

Special to the NNPA from the Sacramento Obserever


SACRAMENTO — When Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson became the first Black player to play in Major League Baseball (MLB), he and his wife, Rachel Robinson, were under continuous scrutiny and blatant bigotry, from a section of society that cared not to see change.

Robinson, who played first in the Negro Leagues, went on to smash the baseball color line, when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947.

Other Blacks soon followed him into the majors.

For the most part, a member of the Black press was with the Robinsons chronicling their travails and triumphs, as the reporter himself quietly dealt with his own battles and racial issues, Mrs. Robinson said as she  spoke at the State Capitol earlier this week.

Wendell Smith, a sportswriter with The Pittsburgh Courier, traveled with Jackie Robinson. The baseball great had to stay in separated hotels from his teammates due to Jim Crow laws in the deep south. Robinson had to put up with racism on and off the field, while his writing companion Smith garnered prejudice sitting far outside of the mainstream press rooms.

“Wendell Smith was an amazing source of support  for us,” Mrs. Robinson said of their relationship with the Black reporter.

“There are aspects of that early period (of integrating Major League Baseball) that I don’t know if we could have lived through without Wendell,” she stated.

Mrs. Robinson was invited to the State Capitol by State Sen. Roderick D. Wright and the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) for a day of recognition on the Senate and Assembly floors. She also joined the legislators and elected leaders from Sacramento for a special screening of the film, “42,” at the Crest Theatre.

The movie “42,” the iconic number that Jackie Robinson wore on his uniform, showcases how Robinson was forced to demonstrate his courage and restraint, not reacting to the racism shown him after the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey signed him to make his historical stand.

Indirectly, the film also put a spotlight on Smith’s role as Robinson slowly silenced the critics and gained support of the fans. The Pittsburgh Courier paid for Smith to escort the Robinsons from town to town and from city to city.

At the ballparks, Smith, who covered the Negro Baseball League, could not report or write stories in the mainstream press boxes because of his color and the fact that he was not a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA).

Mrs. Robinson told The Observer that Smith never worried her or her husband about his dilemmas that were just as negative as Jackie Robinson’s. Smith was later accepted as a member in the BWAA and advanced to become a sports reporter for the mainstream press, including the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He (Smith) did not burden us with what he was going through,” Mrs. Robinson told The Observer.

“We really didn’t know much about how he was being treated. But he was like a big brother. He was very close to us. He was a great reporter,” she stated.

Jackie Robinson passed away in 1972 and Smith died one month later.

A year after Robinson’s passing, Mrs. Robinson founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF). The JRF is one of the nation’s premier education and leadership development programs.

The Foundation transcends financial assistance and prepares its scholarship recipients with support services, internship placements, and career guidance.

Mrs. Robinson was accompanied to the State Capitol by Della Britton Baeza, the President and CEO of the Foundation. Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles), on the Assembly floor, introduced House Resolution 24 (HR-24), a bill that would rename Manchester and Firestone Boulevard in Los Angeles after Mrs. Robinson’s iconic husband.

“Hopefully, we will have an 100-percent voter participation from the House in moving that legislature forward,” Bradford said of HR-24.

Mrs. Robinson met Jackie when they both attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1941.

“Isn’t she just fabulous at her age,” Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said of Mrs. Robinson, who just turned 92. “She gives me hope,” said Assem­blywoman Mitchell.

They married in 1946 and became the parents of three children.

Mrs. Robinson pursued a career in psychiatric nursing and was later an assistant professor at Yale School of Nursing followed by a stint as the Director of Nursing at the Connecticut Mental Health Center.

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September 19, 2013

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, who beat Muhammad Ali and then lost a controversial decision to him at Yankee Stadium, has died.

His son says he passed away Wednesday at a local care facility. He was 70.

Norton had been in poor health for the last several years after suffering a series of strokes, a friend of his said.

Gene Kilroy, who was Ali's former business manager, says he’s sure Norton is “in heaven now with all the great fighters,” and Kilroy would like to hear that conversation.

Norton broke Ali’s jaw in their first fight, beating him by split decision in 1973 in a nontitle fight in San Diego. They fought six months later, and Ali narrowly won a split decision.

They met for a third time on Sept. 28, 1976, at Yankee Stadium, and Ali narrowly won to keep his heavyweight title.



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September 19, 2013

Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American


Miami Heat star LeBron James married longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson in San Diego on Saturday.

Sources close to the couple told the Associated Press that the wedding took place at the Grand Del Mar Hotel and included about 200 guests.

James and Brinson have yet to give out any details regarding their ceremony and so the sources spoke under anonymity. They had a three day celebration including the ceremony on Saturday and a brunch on Sunday

James and Brinson have been together since high school and have two sons.

James popped the big question just after midnight on Jan. 1, 2012 in Miami Beach.

The wedding included extreme security measures to keep the specific details from the press and public. Even guests were unclear of the exact details in the days leading up to the event.

The guests arrived with umbrellas to shield their identity and were taken to the wedding area, which was covered in tents.

Heat owner Micky Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra and many of James’ teammates including Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were on the guest list.

None of the guests released any details about the wedding Saturday and word is no cell phones were allowed during the ceremony.

Information from and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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