LeBron James called out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred over the handling of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros.

The Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams en route to winning the 2017 World Series, as well as for part of the 2018 campaign.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team in January after they were initially suspended for the entire 2020 season by the league, while the Boston Red Sox dismissed manager Alex Cora.

The fallout from the scandal continued on Tuesday after New York Yankees star Aaron Judge labelled the punishment "weak" and NBA icon James weighed in via social media.

James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – tweeted: "Listen I know I don't play baseball but I am in Sports and I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be f****** irate! I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do!

"Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your players speaking today about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this.

"Literally the ball is in your court [or should I say field] and you need to fix this for the sake of Sports! #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay."

James' comments came after he announced his first children's book will be released in August.

The 35-year-old – who is also set to feature in the next 'Space Jam' movie – has teamed up with HarperCollins Publishers for the picture book titled 'I Promise'.

"Books have the ability to teach, inspire, and bring people together. That's why these books, and the opportunity to get children and parents reading together, mean so much to me," James said.

"Most importantly, we wanted to make sure these stories are ones that every single kid can see themselves in."

LeBron James felt Kobe Bryant's presence throughout his team's win over Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

Team LeBron edged Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago in an entertaining clash as Bryant was honoured.

James said the presence of the Los Angeles Lakers great – who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month – was felt.

"We wouldn't be All-Stars if we weren't competitors," he told a news conference.

"We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in a position to win every night so guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight.

"But you could definitely feel Bean's presence just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24.

"He was definitely here."

Kawhi Leonard claimed the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award after contributing 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Team LeBron.

Kawhi Leonard dedicated his NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award to the Los Angeles Lakers great on Sunday.

Leonard's 30 points helped Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago and the Clippers star was named MVP.

The award was renamed in honour of the Lakers great, who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month.

Leonard thanked Bryant, telling NBA on TNT: "It means a lot to me.

"Words can't even explain, just making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he done for me, all the long talks, the workouts, thank you.

"This one is for him."

Leonard added: "They did a great job with the format this year. They had us come out playing hard in the fourth quarter and competing for a total points score.

"That's pretty much how we got to competing out there."

Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in the revamped NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.

Unlike previous years, every quarter counted in the name of charity at the United Center, where the new format was unveiled for the showpiece event.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

The cumulative score of the first three quarters was 133-124 in favour of Team Giannis. The final target score was set by taking the leading team's cumulative score and adding 24 – the 24 representing Kobe Bryant's jersey number.

LeBron James and his team earned bragging rights in the 69th edition of the All-Star Game – hometown hero and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis (20 points) making one of two free throws to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo's side.

While Davis scored the winning point, Kawhi Leonard (30 points) received the All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, renamed in honour of the five-time NBA champion.

Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month, was honoured prior to tip-off.

Magic Johnson led an eight-second moment of silence for Lakers legend Bryant and former commissioner David Stern as both All-Star teams came together to hold hands, before delivering a heartfelt speech.

Team LeBron made a fast start, outscoring Team Giannis 53-41 in the first period before the latter won the second period 51-30.

Neither team could be split in the third, though Team Giannis went into the fourth quarter leading Team LeBron – who rallied to win for the third successive year.

James and Chris Paul finished with 23 points each, while Ben Simmons (17) and James Harden (11) were also in double-digits for Team LeBron.

Team Giannis were led by Antetokounmpo (25 points, 11 rebounds), Joel Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds), Kemba Walker (23 points) and Rudy Gobert (21 points, 11 rebounds).

LeBron James moved up to second on the all-time list for NBA All-Star Game appearances on Sunday.

James – leading Team LeBron against Team Giannis in Chicago – surpassed Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant with his 16th appearance.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the All-Star record with 18.

Lakers superstar James also eclipsed Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list last month, a day before the five-time champion's tragic death.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash, along with seven others in Calabasas, California.

Magic Johnson led tributes for Bryant, the Lakers great making a speech at the United Center as the lights went down.

"We'll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe," said Johnson, who led an eight-second moment of silence for Bryant – the number the 2008 MVP wore during the early stages of his illustrious career. "Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships.

"But what I'm really proud about when we think about Kobe Bryant, there's millions of people in Los Angeles that don't have a home. Kobe was fighting to get them homes and shelter every single day. He was passionate about that.

"He was also passionate about being a great father, husband, filmmaker. Young man won an Oscar. So we all are hurting. This is a tough time for the whole NBA family."

LeBron James insists the Los Angeles Lakers are not thinking about locking down the top seed in the Western Conference after taking a four-game lead over the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers claimed a 120-116 overtime victory against the Nuggets at Pepsi Center on Wednesday, with James putting up 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds to send his team into the All-Star break on the back of an important triumph.

While he would relish having home-court advantage in a first postseason with the Los Angeles franchise, the 16-time All-Star claims there has been no discussion about their potential seeding within the team.

"We don't talk about it. At the end of the day I think every Western Conference team that will make the playoffs can win on someone else's floor," said James.

"For us, we would love to play in front of our home fans as much as we can. We love being there with our Laker faithful.

"But at the end of the day, you go out and play each and every game like it's its own game. You can't worry about what could happen the following day. You can only live in the present."

He added: "We are where we need to be. We'll come back off the break and get ready for the final stretch of the regular season.

"You don't put too much into it. You understand you played some good basketball along the way, played some not good basketball. But you want to continue to get better and continue to trust the process.

"We look forward to when we get back, getting back on the floor and see how far we'll continue to grow."

The Lakers have not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season and James thought the win over the Nuggets provided a taster of what is to come.

"Every opportunity we get to play in a close game against a tough opponent, it's a learning experience for all of us," he said.

"It prepares us for a postseason game where it's going to be back and forth, back and forth. I thought tonight was a playoff atmosphere, the teams being number one and number two in the Western Conference, jockeying for position."

LeBron James says there are multiple factors that will determine whether he ends up playing at the Olympic Games this year.

The Los Angeles Lakers star is one of 44 finalists for a place in the United States men's basketball team and he acknowledged his "name is in the hat".

By early June, that group will be cut down to a final 12 to play at the Olympics in Tokyo and, should he feature, James will join Carmelo Anthony as the second player to represent Team USA at four separate Games.

The 12-team basketball event will run from July 25 until August 9 and James is unsure over his participation at this stage of the NBA season.

But he was thrilled to see five Lakers players make the initial group, with Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard and Javale McGee also included.

"Spectacular, it's amazing," said the 35-year-old. 

"We're very well represented with the Lake Show representing the red, white and blue. So it's a pretty cool thing."

On his participation, James added: "It's always predicated on: one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season – I hope to make a long playoff run.

"And then where my mind is and then where my family's head is. So it's a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat."

James was speaking after the Lakers cruised to a 125-100 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, a fourth win from five games moving them to 40-12 for the season.

Davis had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo impressed from the bench with 23 points as Howard added 14 points and 15 rebounds.

James, meanwhile, narrowly missed a triple-double with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Lakers reached 40 wins before the All-Star break for the first time in nine years.

"It was a great game for our bench," said James.

"Rajon had great pace all night and he was taking all the looks he was getting. Dwight controlled the glass."

Suns coach Monty Williams added: "We dared Rondo to shoot from the perimeter and he made us pay."

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were among the 44 finalists for a place in the United States men's basketball team for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Three-time Olympic medallist James and nine of the players from the successful 2016 campaign in Rio were included on the list announced by USA Basketball on Monday.

Should the Los Angeles Lakers star make the final 12-man roster, he will join Carmelo Anthony as the second player to represent Team USA at four separate Games.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson won gold in Brazil four years ago and have made the cut despite being yet to play a minute in the NBA this season due to respective Achilles and knee injuries.

Curry was named despite being sidelined since October with a broken left hand.

All 12 members of the USA's 2019 FIBA World Cup team remain in the running, with 21 NBA franchises represented in the 44-man list.

Head coach Gregg Popovich said: "I'm looking forward to coaching the U.S. Olympic Team, and I'm excited about the potential and possibilities this team has.

"Anyone who follows international basketball knows there are many really good players from all around the world, and therefore there are many excellent national teams.

"International basketball has improved so much from the days of the 'Dream Team'. The Olympics in 2020 will be a true competition, and there are many teams that will have a legitimate shot at capturing gold."

 

Finalists for the USA's Tokyo 2020 team:

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Mike Conley (Utah Jazz), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs), Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics), Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

LeBron James referenced the film 'The 6th Man' to explain his unintended tribute to Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last month.

During Thursday's 121-111 home loss to the Houston Rockets, James slammed a double-clutch reverse finish off a fast break, a play that looked identical to a dunk performed by Bryant against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center in November 2001.

When asked about the similarities, the four-time NBA MVP referred to a movie in which a basketball player's dead family member and team-mate comes back as a ghost to help him achieve success.

"Ever see the movie 'The 6th Man'? Kobe came down, put himself in my body and gave me that dunk on that break," said James after a 125-120 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

"I didn't really predetermine that either until I jumped. I just jumped and kind of figured it out, and then ... it's crazy how it's like the same exact dunk, the same exact hoop that Kobe did [it on] – what, 19 years ago or something like that? That was nice."

The Lakers tweeted a video showing the two dunks playing out simultaneously and it has been viewed over 24 million times.

"Our great social media team put that together, and I was like, 'That's really, really good.' And then my son did the same thing in his warm-up, he didn't do it in a game but he did the same dunk in his warm-up. Kobe is in all of us right now," said James.

"It's crazy, it's crazy. For that to now be a part of my history, that correlation between me and Kobe and that play, I think it's pretty, pretty, pretty awesome. I'm glad I did it in a Laker uniform."

A spectacular image of James' dunk was caught by NBA photographer Andrew D Bernstein and the 16-time All-Star intends to make it a permanent fixture in his house.

"When I saw it for the first time, I was like, 'Holy s***, that is an unbelievable photo,'" James said.

"And then when I found out how it was taken: Andy literally had one snap on his remote to get that, and when I saw the video of it, when I was in the air, you can see the flash in the background.

"I was like, 'Oh … He's the real MVP, for sure.' That was crazy. To catch that moment, like I'm walking on air, it's pretty cool. It'll be hung up in my house."

Russell Westbrook paid tribute to "mentor, friend and brother" Kobe Bryant after inspiring the Houston Rockets to victory at the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA great Bryant, who spent his entire career with the Lakers, and his teenage daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash last month.

Westbrook grew up in California and put up 41 points as the Rockets ran out 121-111 winners at Staples Center on Thursday.

Speaking to TNT post-game, Westbrook dedicated his performance to Bryant.

"Man, it's a blessing. I don't take this game for granted," Westbrook said. 

"Kobe was a mentor, a friend, a brother to me and every time I step on this floor it's definitely going out to him. 

"Every night I step on the floor, I keep him and his family in my thoughts."

LeBron James contributed 18 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds in the Lakers' losing effort and he believes Westbrook, now 31, has mixed pace and strength with smarter play.

"Of course [his pace and strength are still there], and [he's] smarter - that's what it's all about," James told reporters. 

"We can continue to get older and age in this game, but we continue to get smarter. 

"Russ is a much more complete basketball player right now, he has the ability to use speed and strength but also do things with his brain which helps out a lot."

Russell Westbrook scored 41 points as the new-look Houston Rockets upstaged the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers 121-111 in NBA action.

While Rockets team-mate James Harden struggled, Westbrook was red hot in a stunning performance to take down rivals the Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Robert Covington made his debut for the Rockets, who traded away center Clint Capela prior to the deadline in a bid to become smaller and faster on the court, and he impressed with 14 points – including four three-pointers.

Double-doubles from LeBron James (18 points, 15 assists) and Anthony Davis (32 points, 13 rebounds) were not enough for the Lakers.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks defeated the struggling Philadelphia 76ers 112-101 earlier on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo produced another dominant performance with 36 points and 20 rebounds as the Bucks improved to 44-7 for the season.

Antetokounmpo had 30-plus points and 15 or more rebounds for the fifth consecutive game and the 14th time this season. Antetokounmpo also became just the fifth player in Bucks history to record a 30-20 game and the first since 1996.

 

Zion flexes muscles… again

Zion Williamson continues to star. The 2019 number one pick posted his fourth consecutive 20-point game – the longest streak among rookies this season. Williamson finished with 21 as the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Chicago Bulls 125-110.

Damian Lillard put up 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the San Antonio Spurs 125-117.

 

More woes for 76ers & Embiid

Much had been made about Philadelphia's form on the road and their chemistry, or lack thereof. And the 76ers crashed to their fourth straight loss – dropping to 9-19 away from home. Joel Embiid put up 19 points and 11 rebounds but it was a rough night for the All-Star. Cutting a dejected figure, Embiid was just six of 26 from the floor and three of 10 from three-point range. The 76ers struggled with 37.4 per cent shooting, hitting just 37 of 99 shots.

Harden was far from his best in Los Angeles. Harden was three of 10 from the floor and one of six from beyond the arc for 14 points in 35 minutes.

 

LeBron with the reverse jam!

James turned back the clock with a monster dunk against the Rockets.

 

Thursday's results

New York Knicks 105-103 Orlando Magic
New Orleans Pelicans 125-119 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 112-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-117 San Antonio Spurs
Houston Rockets 121-111 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Raptors at Pacers

Can the red-hot Toronto Raptors (37-14) extend their winning streak to 13 games? The defending champions are on the road against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers (31-20) on Friday.

LeBron James joined John Stockton and Chris Paul as the only players in NBA history with 18,000 points, 9,000 assists and 2,000 steals.

James joined the exclusive club during the Los Angeles Lakers' clash with Western Conference rivals the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

Last month, three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP James surpassed Lakers great Kobe Bryant to become the league's third-highest scorer of all time.

James, 35, has been averaging 25.2 points, 10.7 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Lakers this season.

Prior to Thursday's game, the Lakers topped the west with a 38-11 record, ahead of city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (36-15).

Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard headline Team LeBron, while Team Giannis includes Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam for the NBA All-Star Game.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo finalised their teams for the showcase event, which will take place at the United Center in Chicago on February 16.

James used the number one pick to draft Los Angeles Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis to Team LeBron, while reigning MVP Antetokounmpo countered by selecting Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Team LeBron's starting five consists of James, Davis, Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard, Dallas Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic and Houston Rockets star James Harden.

Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Toronto Raptors star Siakam, Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker and the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young are the starters for Team Giannis.

Team LeBron reigned supreme last year – James' squad winning 178-164 over Team Giannis in Charlotte.

 

Team LeBron

Starters: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Reserves: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)

Team Giannis

Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
Reserves: Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

Gregg Popovich quipped all you can do is "get good pictures" when LeBron James is in full flow after the Los Angeles Lakers superstar blew the San Antonio Spurs away on Tuesday.

James scored a game-high 36 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds in a resounding 129-102 victory for the Lakers at Staples Center.

The four-time NBA MVP was mobbed by his team-mates after landing a fifth three-pointer in the space of just three minutes during the fourth quarter.

Spurs coach Popovich had a short and sharp answer when asked what can be done when James is in that sort of form.

He said: "Make sure you get good pictures? We tried to prevent it. If we could prevent it, we would have."

Anthony Davis lapped up his team-mate's masterclass. 

"When the guy gets hot like that, it's always fun to watch him," said the forward.

He added of the impromptu Lakers celebration: "It wasn't the plan. We all just kind of ran over there and jumped on him."

Defeat for the Spurs came on the back of a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and DeMar DeRozan is concerned by the impact the defeats will have.

"As a competitor, it's what you want to play against," said DeRozan, who poured in 28 points.

"I don't look at it like it's being tough. It's part of the job, part of the game, and as a competitor you want to compete against the best. You worry about the toll afterwards."

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