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Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

Aaron Gordon feels he should have two slam dunk contest wins after being edged out in Chicago on Saturday.

The Orlando Magic's Gordon lost an epic battle with Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., falling short after an incredible final.

Gordon and Jones earned perfect 50s in the final before a dunk-off, in which both scored 50s again before the latter edged it 48-47.

Also beaten controversially by Zach LaVine in 2016, Gordon feels he deserved two wins.

"I feel like I should have two trophies," he told ESPN.

"I still feel like I'm one of the best, if not the best dunker in the world, so I still feel that."

Gordon added: "The third time was a charm, I thought I did what I needed to do to win and I don't think I'm going to do it again."

Derrick Jones Jr. edged Aaron Gordon in an epic slam dunk contest, while Buddy Hield claimed the three-point contest title.

The dunk contest participants put on a show before Miami Heat's Jones was crowned the winner.

Jones and the Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon, who lost a memorable contest against Zach LaVine in 2016, each scored perfect 50s with their two dunks in the final.

After exchanging 50s again to begin the dunk-off, Jones edged Gordon 48-47 despite the latter going over Boston Celtics center Tacko Fall with his effort.

Hield became the second Sacramento Kings player to win the three-point crown, joining two-time winner Peja Stojakovic, with his success in Chicago.

The guard scored 27 points out of a maximum 40 in the finals to edge out the Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (26) and Washington Wizards' Davis Bertans (22).

Joe Harris, the defending champion, and Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young were eliminated in the first round.

There was also another success for Miami with Bam Adebayo winning the Skills Challenge.

The NBA has permanently renamed the annual All-Star MVP award after the late Kobe Bryant, commissioner Adam Silver announced on Saturday.

Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant claimed the trophy a joint-record four times during his highly decorated career and will now forever have his name tied to the trophy.

The 18-time All-Star died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in California last month.

Silver said: "Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game.

"He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world."

The first award linked to Bryant's name will be presented following Sunday's game between Team LeBron and Team Giannis in Chicago.

Team captain and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo paid tribute to Bryant's star power and willingness to support young players.

"Growing up he was my idol," the reigning NBA MVP told reporters. "Not just my idol, probably the whole generation, a lot of people my age's idol. He was the Michael Jordan of our generation.

"He was one of these guys who gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players.

"A lot of people, when they're so great, they don't do that. Whenever I needed something, I could just reach out to him. He was always there."

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo picked Real Madrid over Barcelona when presented with an offer ahead of the NBA All-Star Game.

Antetokounmpo will lead Team Giannis against Team LeBron in Chicago on Sunday.

But the reigning NBA MVP faced a different test on Saturday, when he was offered Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts.

"We've got Real Madrid, who's the player though?" Antetokounmpo said, assessing his options.

"I love both of these players, [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, who used to play with Real.

"But I'll probably go with Real. There you go, Real."

Madrid can restore their three-point lead atop LaLiga when they host Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

Team USA crushed Team World 151-131 in an entertaining Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.

The Charlotte Hornets' Miles Bridges was named MVP after scoring 20 points to go with five rebounds and five assists.

Eric Paschall had a team-high 23 points for USA, Collin Sexton chipped in with 21 and Zion Williamson finished with 14.

RJ Barrett led the way for Team World with a game-high 27 points as both sides put on a show.

USA made it back-to-back wins in the Rising Stars Challenge, with their victory coming thanks to a dominant second half in which they outscored Team World 80-50.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett were named among the finalists to be considered for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.

Bryant died aged 41 in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in California last month.

The Los Angeles Lakers great, an 18-time All-Star and five-time champion, was one of four first-time finalists named on Friday.

Duncan, the former San Antonio Spurs star with 15 All-Star appearances and five championships, and Garnett – another NBA great – are also finalists.

A four-time Olympic gold medallist with the United States, Tamika Catchings is the other first-time finalist.

Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Rudy Tomjanovich are previous finalists also up for consideration again.

"When the nominees for the Class of 2020 were announced in December, we knew this class had the potential of being one of the most historic of all time," Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement.

"The untimely passing of Kobe Bryant has left us in a state of reflective mourning and we're proud to honour his legacy while also recognising seven other individuals who have meant so much to our game.

"We congratulate our finalists and those who have supported them on their journeys, and we look forward to revealing the Class of 2020 at the Final Four in Atlanta."

The announcement will take place on April 4.

Luka Doncic has described Zion Williamson as "a different beast", the like of which the NBA has never seen before.

Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, had back-to-back 30-point games for the New Orleans Pelicans prior to the All-Star Game in Chicago this weekend.

The teenager has scored at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA appearances - with five-time MVP Michael Jordan the last rookie to achieve such a feat - and is averaging 22.1 points after returning from a knee injury that delayed the start of his much-anticipated debut season.

Doncic will face Williamson in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday when Team World face Team USA and the Slovenian has been highly impressed by the Pels forward's adaptation to the NBA.

"You can see he's a beast," Doncic told reporters.

"What's he played - 10 games? He's averaging like 25 [points].

"He's a different beast. I don't think we've seen a player like him. He's going to be an amazing player."

Should Williamson continue to put up huge numbers, he could succeed Doncic in winning the Rookie of the Year award.

The Dallas Mavericks star has enjoyed a fine sophomore season too, averaging 28.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists.

Along with reigning MVP and Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbian center Nikola Jokic, Doncic is one of several international players currently starring in the NBA.

"There's a lot of international players that are really good," Doncic added.

"That's what it shows in this All-Star [Weekend] - there's a lot of international players.

"The world can see that we can play basketball too."

Zion Williamson has expressed an interest in representing the United States at an Olympics, having been left off the country's preliminary roster for the Tokyo Games.

The USA, who have won gold at the last three Olympics, announced their 44-man list for the 2020 Games earlier this week, with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard among the star names included.

However, there is no place for 19-year-old rookie sensation Williamson, while other impressive youngsters like Trae Young and Ja Morant have also been overlooked.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Williamson has poured in at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA games - a feat last achieved by the great Michael Jordan when he was a rookie - and the teenager revealed he is keen to play for USA down the line.

"That is something I would definitely want to do in the future," he told reporters.

"I think there's nothing better than representing your country."

Williamson was speaking ahead of the NBA's All-Star weekend, when he will represent Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Morant, the current Rookie of the Year forerunner, and the Atlanta Hawks' sophomore Young are also on a team that will face a world side that has Luka Doncic and RJ Barrett on its roster.

"It's an honour to be here in my first year, despite being 10 games in," added Williamson, who missed the first three months of the season due to a knee injury.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was also asked which of the game's greats he tries to emulate when he was on the court.

"I don't try to emulate any of them. I just try to bring my own style to the game," he replied.

"I watched a lot of [Michael] Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] clips."

Doc Rivers is concerned Paul George could face another spell on the sidelines after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury during the Los Angeles Clippers' defeat to the Boston Celtics.

George did not emerge for the second half of a 141-133 double-overtime loss at TD Garden on Thursday.

The guard missed 10 NBA matches last month with a hamstring problem and Clippers head coach Rivers fears he may be without the guard again after the All-Star break.

"He just told me that he felt his hamstring again," said Rivers. "He said it wasn't bad. I said, 'You shouldn't have told me that'.

"I don't think he wanted to come out. But once you tell me your hamstring, you feel anything, we have an All-Star break coming up, it's a no-brainer for us."

Asked if he was worried about the injury, Rivers replied: "Yeah, I am. I'm a little concerned about that one because that's the second time now, maybe third.

"Listen, I don't know what to do, but I know rest you have to do and we'll see."

Rivers is hoping for a change of fortune with injuries for the remainder of the season, with the Clippers (37-18) well poised in third place in the Western Conference.

"We had a first half of the season where we basically had more starting line-ups than probably anybody in the league. Our record is pretty solid." Rivers added.

"We've got to get healthy. That's going to be the key for us. And then we've got to play multiple games in a row as a group so we can kind of get some continuity.

"But other than that, I love our spirit, I love how we are. We're good."

The Boston Celtics prevailed 141-133 against the Los Angeles Clippers after double overtime prior to the NBA All-Star break, while the Oklahoma City Thunder also won.

In the final two games before the All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the Celtics and Thunder both celebrated victories on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum, who will play for Team Giannis in Sunday's All-Star Game, led the Celtics with a game-high 39 points and nine rebounds against the Clippers in Boston.

Trailing the Celtics 114-111, Clippers recruit Marcus Morris Sr. made a three-pointer with 46.8 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Clippers guard Landry Shamet then nailed a shot from beyond the arc to level proceedings at 127-apiece as double OT beckoned at TD Garden.

But led by Tatum, Gordon Hayward (21 points, 13 rebounds), Marcus Smart (31 points) and Kemba Walker (19 points), the Celtics finished strong to outscore the Clippers 14-6.

Lou Williams had 35 points for the Clippers, while Kawhi Leonard finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds on the road.

It was a tough night for the Clippers, who lost star Paul George to a strained left hamstring in the first half – the same injury that forced him to miss 10 games in January.

Meanwhile, the Thunder overcame Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118.

Williamson posted 32 points, but the Thunder still won courtesy of Danilo Gallinari's 29 points and Chris Paul's double-double of 14 points and 12 assists.

 

The NBA fined Paul George $35,000 after the Los Angeles Clippers star criticised officials in Tuesday's defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers.

George claimed the Clippers fell victim to some "home-court cooking" following a 110-103 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia.

The six-time All-Star – who was just three of 15 from the field and one of four from three-point range for 11 points – felt the Clippers were up against it in more ways than one, with the visiting side penalised for eight more personal fouls than the 76ers.

And the NBA sanctioned George for his comments on Thursday, the league saying the fine "also reflects his multiple prior violations of the rule prohibiting public criticism of the officiating.''

In his first season with the Clippers since arriving from the Oklahoma City Thunder, George is averaging 22.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

Devin Booker has earned his first selection to the NBA All-Star Game after Damian Lillard was ruled out with a groin strain.

In-form Portland Trail Blazers star Lillard suffered the injury in his team's 111-104 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

Lillard still tallied 20 points and 10 assists in 37 minutes, but his 2020 All-Star absence was soon confirmed.

Commissioner Adam Silver named Phoenix Suns guard Booker to the Western Conference's Team LeBron as Lillard's replacement for Sunday.

Booker, in his fifth season, is averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds this season.

The 23-year-old is also to take Lillard's place among eight NBA stars taking part in the Three-Point Contest, having won the event in record-breaking fashion in 2018.

The Toronto Raptors were like "walking zombies" as their 15-game winning streak came to an end against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, according to Kyle Lowry.

Reigning NBA champions the Raptors' 101-91 loss at Barclays Center was their first defeat since January 12, having been on a run that has seen them surge up to second in the Eastern Conference with a 40-15 record.

Toronto scored just 40 points in the first half and trailed by 12 at the break, failing to reduce the deficit to single figures across the rest of the game.

Lowry had 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, with the team's field goal percentage of 38 their lowest since before the streak started.

"They played well, we didn't play too well. They stuck with their coverages, their game plan, their schemes," said Lowry.

"We were walking zombies. We didn't play well tonight, simple as that. We missed shots, we weren't aggressive. And give them credit, they played their butts off and they beat us. It's only one game."

Head coach Nick Nurse was proud of how his team have performed this season after Kawhi Leonard left in free agency.

He hopes they can launch another deep run in the playoffs when Marc Gasol and Normal Powell return from injuries.

"I think when you look at it in totality, sitting where we are now, I think we're extremely pleased to get to this point," said Nurse. "The good news is I think we'll get Gasol back after the break, Norman Powell is pretty close as well.

"I think our team really battled with a couple of key guys missing. I think we've had a healthy team for two games this season, so we've done a nice job of plugging in and picking up. In the big scheme of things, you look at the overall and where you're sitting, you've got to be pleased with that."

The Raptors head into the All-Star break six and a half games back from the Milwaukee Bucks (46-8) at the top of the East.

Asked if the Bucks are catchable, Nurse said: "I don't know if they are or not and I don't think we've got them in our sights. We want to try to finish as high as we can.

"We've got some growth to do and we need to do it for sure if we want to make a run at [the championship] again."

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