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No debate LeBron James is perfect winner for these important times



A champion for our times.

With his fourth ring — earned with his third team in his 17th season — LeBron James has inched that much closer to matching Michael Jordan, his only other rival for GOAT status. Depending on how you are scoring at home he may have pulled even or got his shoulder past basketball’s ultimate icon. There are strong cases for both men, the defining players of the modern era — the years following the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.

Jordan will always have his clean sheet: six NBA Finals appearances; six titles and six Finals MVP awards to go along with five league MVP awards — and there should have been more.

James has his fourth Finals MVP — and counting — and having made his 10th Finals appearance can challenge not only Jordan’s peak performance but will likely retire – if and when he ever does — with the longest prime of any basketball player ever. Already James has been as dominant as Jordan for as long as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time champion who won his sixth MVP award at 33 in 1980 and his last Finals MVP five years later at 38.

Jordon vs. James is a lively debate, with plenty of room for parsing and comparing. Is Jordan’s perfection more impressive than James taking three different franchises from the high lottery — where the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers were residing before their No. 23 arrived — to an NBA title?

Please discuss.

But what’s not up for argument is that at this moment, after this most bizarre season, buffeted by historic events with global reach, James was the right person at the right time as he led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th title with a dominant performance in a dominating Game 6 win over Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat Sunday night.

Concerns about the mental and emotional toll of being isolated from friends, family and the simple comforts of home have been legitimate as the NBA hunkered down on campus at Walt Disney World resort for what ended up being 101 days — James said he had a calendar and would check off his time served in velvet-lined confinement. Even with five-star service, the isolation was enough to undermine the hopes of teams with less fortitude. The Los Angeles Clippers, for example, were widely projected to be the Lakers’ most likely rival to come out of the West but their collection of hothouse flowers withered.

James wasn’t immune but seemed to get stronger as bubble time went on. And the Lakers followed his lead.

“I think you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have ups and downs in the bubble,” he said while enjoying a post-championship cigar. “At times I was questioning myself, should I be here? Is this worth sacrificing my family? So many things. I’ve never been without my family this long. Missing the days of my daughter being in kindergarten, even though it’s through Zoom. Missing my son’s 16th birthday, which we all know is a big birthday if you have kids. Seeing my middle child continue to grow and be who he is.

“Absolutely, I’ve had ups and downs throughout this journey. For some odd reason, I was able to keep the main thing the main thing. When I talked about all the stuff that I missed, they understood that, too, and that made it a lot easier for me.”

As his fourth title came into focus, James got better still. With a chance to close out the series in Game 5, he turned in an epic performance — 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for a GameScore of 39.1, the 10th-best in his 260 career playoff starts — that fell short only when Danny Green failed to convert James’ pass into a series winner.

In Game 6 James signalled his intentions early by putting up 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half alone as the Lakers sprinted out to a 64-36 lead. He finished the night with his 11th Finals triple-double with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a blowout win. It’s a tribute to his single-mindedness that even with the possibility of returning home a brightening light in a long tunnel, James’ focus was unshakable.

“It’s a growth mindset,” he said. “You just figure it out. I kept the main thing the main thing, and everything else took care of itself.”

Almost no one has ever done it better. Less than three months before his 36th birthday, James’ Finals line reads like he was 25 again as he put up 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists on 59.1 per cent shooting while connecting on 41.7 per cent of his three-pointers. His average GameScore — a bundled stat from expressing overall performance — was 27.5, the third-highest Finals mark of his career. His ability to astonish has never aged.

“I have always believed in LeBron James,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “He’s the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen, and if you think you know, you don’t know, okay? Until you’re around him every day, you’re coaching him, you’re seeing his mind, you’re seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group. You think you know; you don’t know.”

But when the credits role on James’ fourth title to add to his bulging on-court resume, it’s what the best player of his generation and quite possibly any generation has come to stand for off the floor that makes him so perfectly suited for a year when it feels like the world is teetering on a razor’s edge and the centre is barely holding.

In response to the social unrest that became a unifying theme following the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, James not only lent his defining baritone to the cause, but even before the NBA re-convened he had committed to action, lending his name and organizational heft to More Than a Vote — an initiative aimed at combatting voter suppression within the Black community and otherwise rallying political support behind progressive causes.

Once he arrived in the bubble, he didn’t stop.

“Being here and having the opportunity to talk about these issues and continuing to understand that this world is not just about basketball, even though we live in a small piece of the game of basketball,” James said earlier this week. “There are so many bigger things and so many greater things going on. If you can make an impact or you can make a change or you can have a vision, it just helps out so much not only in your community but all over the world.

“I know I do my part, as much as I do, on continuing to create change, continuing to educate, continuing to enlighten my community and communities all over the world that listen to me and follow me throughout my journey.”

What would Jordan have done?

It’s probably not a fair comparison, given the difference in time and place, but it’s hard to avoid making it.

Jordan was determinedly apolitical. His focus was purely on being both the greatest basketball player of his time and creating a new standard of business savvy and brand-building for a Black athlete, taking the opportunities afforded him by an earlier generation of trailblazers to their logical conclusion.

“I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player,” Jordan said in his documentary The Last Dance. “I wasn’t a politician. I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft.”

“Was that selfish? Probably,” Jordan added. “But that was my energy.”

Jordan’s position — at least as a player — was best defined by an off-hand joke he made about why he wouldn’t publicly endorse Black democratic senate Harvey Gantt in North Carolina in his effort to defeat Jesse Helms, a Republican with a checkered racial record back in 1990.

“Republicans buy sneakers too,” was Jordan’s line.

Keeping his business interests front-and-center worked for him. In addition to his on-court dominance, Jordan amassed a nearly unrivalled athlete’s fortune, enough to become the only Black majority owner in the league when he purchased the Charlotte Hornets.

Their divergent political and social justice efforts during their respective playing days don’t necessarily settle any GOAT debates, but that James can still comfortably dominate on the floor while acting as an umbrella under which so many other crucial interests can gather makes him indisputably the man of the moment.

“I will not shut up and dribble,” James said at the 2018 All-Star Game when Fox News tried to chastise him for wading into the political arena. “I mean too much to my family and all these other kids that look up to me for inspiration and try to find a way out.”

Be it his early support of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 or opening his life-changing I Promise School for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio in 2018, James’ example resonates, and there is no reason to expect his influence to diminish any time soon.

In Anthony Davis he has a teammate who can nearly match his on-court brilliance and given Davis is 27 and James’ seeming agelessness, there is no reason he and the Lakers won’t have a couple of more cracks at adding to their shared championship legacy. The fire still burns.

“Personally, thinking I have something to prove fuels me,” James said, while standing on top of the mountain once more. “It fueled me over this last year and a half (with) the injury [a groin strain that limited James to a career-low 55 games in 2018-19]. It fueled me because no matter what I’ve done in my career to this point, there’s still little rumblings of doubt or comparing me to the history of the game and has he done this, has he done that.

“So, having that in my head, having that in my mind, saying to myself, why not still have something to prove, I think it fuels me.”

For that we should count ourselves fortunate. True greatness is usually fleeting, with age, injury or other circumstances eventually catching up to even the very best. James’ ability to extend his brilliance across nearly two decades is a gift to anyone watching.

For everyone concerned the hope can only be that his next title will be earned in a more familiar environment — in a packed arena, followed by a parade — and in a gentler, calmer time for everyone.

But that this one came this way — with the world upside down, the NBA gathered in a bubble for months on end and the pandemic and the fight for social justice almost washing the season away before it could ever finish — makes James the perfect winner.

Once more the right man for the job.

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Ryan, Falcons avenge earlier loss to Panthers with road victory – TSN



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This time, the Atlanta Falcons finished.

Matt Ryan threw for 281 yards and ran for a touchdown, Younghoe Koo made four field goals and the Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 25-17 on Thursday night behind a strong defensive performance to avoid a series season sweep.

The Falcons (2-6) have had a penchant for squandering leads, coming into the game 1-3 when leading entering the fourth quarter. Carolina was driving late, but Atlanta stopped the rally when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted Teddy Bridgewater near the Falcons’ 10-yard line with 1:04 remaining.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about, ending games with either sacks or interceptions and the guys went out today and did exactly that,” Falcons coach Raheem Morris. “The ball went up in the air and Blidi came down with it and it was awesome.”

Todd Gurley grinded out 46 yards rushing and a touchdown, Julio Jones added 137 yards receiving against a banged-up Panthers secondary and the Falcons defence limited the Panthers to 2 of 10 on third down conversions to improve to 2-1 since Morris replaced Dan Quinn as head coach.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said it felt like Bridgewater was constantly under duress.

“We had a hard time blocking their front,” Rhule said. “We weren’t able to get our receivers involved. We were 2 of 10 on third downs and we can’t live like that.”

Bridgewater tried to spur Carolina to a comeback in front of a sparse crowd of 5,240 due to COVID-19 after Koo missed an extra point that would have made it a two-possession game.

Bridgewater, who was knocked out of the game for two possessions with a neck injury following a late hit by Charles Harris — one that resulted in him being ejected — took over with the Panthers down by eight points with less than 3 minutes to play. He completed a 35-yard strike to D.J. Moore on third and 18 to move the Panthers into Falcons territory. But his final pass was easily picked.

Bridgewater was limited to 176 yards passing as the Panthers (3-5) lost their third straight game without injured Christian McCaffrey.

“I don’t think any of us played real well tonight,” Rhule said of Bridgewater’s performance.

Said Bridgewater: “Tough loss and we have to find ways to finish the game. That can’t be the common thing around here — coming up short.”

The Falcons avenged a 23-16 loss to Carolina 18 days ago in which Bridgewater threw for 313 yards and two scores and Mike Davis piled up 149 yards rushing. Davis was held to 77 yards this time on a wet field where players routinely swapped cleats to adapt to the changing conditions.

But Jones didn’t play in the first meeting.

He was a huge difference in this one, setting the tone by hauling in catches two catches for 52 yards on the game’s first two plays. Playing against a Panthers secondary that was already without two starters and lost another when Donte Jackson reinjured his toe in the first half, proved to be easy pickings for Jones.

“It’s fun, no question about it,” Ryan said of having Jones in the lineup. “The way we started the game is when we’re at our best, play-action pass. I hope it’s the start of something. I really feel like, although we’re 2-6, we’ve been in some tight ones.”


The Panthers had opened a 14-6 lead in the second quarter when Bridgewater found Curtis Samuel for a 29-yard touchdown pass on a well set up flea flicker. It was Samuel’s second TD of the half, scoring earlier on a 12-yard run up the middle to give Carolina its first lead.

The 24-year-old Samuel has three career games with a TD rushing and receiving, which trails only Jerry Rice (5) among wide receivers in the Super Bowl era.


Ryan said he wasn’t sure if he would get to the end zone on a 13-yard TD run in the first half but knew he had a chance when cornerback Troy Pride slipped while trying to chase him down.

“Just fast enough,” Ryan said. “I feel like I’ve always been that way throughout my career, just fast enough to make them pay sometimes on third downs. It was a big score for us there. We really needed it.”

When asked about the reactions of his teammates, Ryan said, “I can’t tell if they’re laughing at me or just having a good time and excited for it.”


Falcons: Wide receiver Calvin Ridley left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury after making a reception in the red zone and did not return. Morris offered no update on his status after the game. … Cornerback Kendall Sheffield left the game early with a head injury, but did return.

Panthers: Cornerback Donte Jackson’s lingering toe injury forced him to leave the game early again, and the banged-up Panthers secondary had to finish with rookie Troy Pride and Corn Elder at cornerback spots.


Falcons: Host the Broncos on Nov. 8

Panthers: Open the second half of the season at the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Nov. 8.


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TNF: Carolina Panthers vs Atlanta Falcons 10/29/20 NFL Picks, Odds, Predictions – Sports Chat Place



Atlanta Falcons (1-6) at Carolina Panthers (3-4)

NFL Football: Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 8:20 pm (Bank of America Stadium)

The Line: Carolina Panthers -2.5 — Over/Under: 49
Click Here for the Latest Odds

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The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers meet Thursday in week 8 NFL action at Bank of America Stadium.

The Atlanta Falcons look for their second road win to rebound from a ritual 1-6 start to the NFL season. The Atlanta Falcons have won five of their last seven road games. Matt Ryan is completing 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,181 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Ryan has one or less touchdown passes in four of his last five games. Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones have combined for 1,062 receiving yards and eight touchdowns while Russell Gage has 31 receptions. The Atlanta Falcons ground game is averaging 105.4 yards per contest, and Todd Gurley II leads the way with 485 yards and seven touchdowns. Defensively, Atlanta is allowing 29.6 points and 425.9 yards per game. Foyesade Oluokun leads the Atlanta Falcons with 49 tackles, Grady Jarrett has 2.5 sacks and Blidi Wreh-Wilson has one interception.

The Carolina Panthers look for a spark of consistency after splitting their last six games. The Carolina Panthers have lost six of their last seven home games. Teddy Bridgewater is completing 72.2 percent of his passes for 1,930 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Bridgewater has two touchdown passes in three of his last four games. Robby Anderson and DJ Moore have combined for 1,207 receiving yards and four touchdowns while Mike Davis has 37 receptions. The Carolina Panthers ground game is averaging 105.4 yards per contest, and Davis leads the way with 284 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Carolina is allowing 24 points and 351.1 yards per game. Shaq Thompson leads the Carolina Panthers with 60 tackles, Brian Burns has three sacks and Donte Jackson has two interceptions.

Wonder who the Top Experts Picked? Click Here To Find Out

The Falcons are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 road games, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Panthers are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 home games, 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games as a favorite and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The over is 4-1 in Falcons last 5 road games. The under is 4-1 in Panthers last 5 games overall. The Falcons are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings. The home team is 11-5 ATS in their last 16 meetings.

The Atlanta Falcons continue to blow fourth quarter leads and at this point players have to be ready for the season to be finished. Frustration has to be setting in and confidence can’t be high, and the Falcons remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league, ranked 31st in total yards and passing yards. The Panthers continue to be hit or miss, but one of their three wins this season was a seven-point win on the road against the Falcons and they just took the Saints down to the wire as big underdogs last week. Neither of these clubs are worldbeaters, but the Panthers have no question shown more fight this season and look like a decent team overall. Not sure how anybody backs the Falcons with confidence given the constant collapses. 

I’ll lay the small chalk with the Panthers at home.

See Who The Experts Picked To Win This One

Randy’s Pick
Carolina Panthers -2.5

The pick in this article is the opinion of the writer, not a Sports Chat Place site consensus.

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Byfield named to Hockey Canada WJC select camp roster –



The camp will be held at Westerner Park Centrium from Nov. 16-Dec. 13 in Red Deer, Alberta.

Alexis Lafreniere, chosen No. 1 by the New York Rangers in the 2020 draft, was not one of the 46 invitees that includes 26 forwards, 15 defensemen and five goalies. The forward played for Canada in the 2019 and 2020 WJC, and he was named the tournament most valuable player in 2020.

Lafreniere could still be added to the team; the Rangers want Lafreniere to attend NHL training camp, but Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney said more clarity on Lafreniere’s status is expected in about 10 days.

“(Rangers general manager) Jeff Gorton and I had a good chat,” Renney said, “and [I] gave Jeff the opportunity to understand our timetable of what might be coming up with respect to this camp … and well beyond that. With that being said, Jeff was certainly open-minded to the idea, was hoping that his player would have the opportunity to join the NHL team in New York as of now, actually, to begin skating with the club.” 

The event is the final step in picking the team that will play for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. The tournament, to be held Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, 2021, will be played entirely at Rogers Place in Edmonton without fans in attendance in a secure-zone bubble, similar to what the NHL used for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The IIHF initially was going to utilize Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta as joint hosts.

“I think having an opportunity to be together for 51 days will be special,” Canada coach Andre Tourigny said. “Fortunately for everyone, we’ll have time to be really well prepared so we’re really grateful for it. the coaches spent so many hours on video for scouting and getting prepared. Close to 90 players had been scouting through video and I think we’re really excited and really confident with the group we will have in Red Deer. We can’t wait to get into the bubble.

“This has never happened in the past where Team Canada had the chance to meet together for this long (in a selection camp) and to grow their structure and to grow their chemistry for that long. I think it will be unique, and it will be an outstanding opportunity for us.”

Byfield, a forward, is one of six returnees who helped Canada finish first at the 2020 WJC, along with defensemen Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche, 2019 NHL Draft, No. 4) and Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks, 2020, No. 6) and forwards Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres, 2019, No. 7), Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals, 2019, No. 25) and Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils, 2020, No. 18).

To ensure the health and safety of all participants and the community, Hockey Canada will be adhering to enhanced measures around testing and team protocols.

“Although this has been a difficult year for our athletes and staff, we are excited to unveil the 46 players who will compete for a spot on Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams for Hockey Canada. “We know our athletes are excited for the opportunity to defend gold on home ice this year, and we expect a highly competitive selection camp with a number of difficult decisions to be made when it comes time to select the players who will wear the Maple Leaf in Edmonton in December.”

The selection camp will include practices, three intra-squad games and six games against a team of U SPORTS all-stars before the team enters the bubble in Edmonton in preparation for the 2021 WJC. The camp will take place in a bubble and will be closed to the public and media.

Canada will be in Group A, along with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B will include the United States, Russia, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic. Canada plays the opening game of the round-robin portion against Germany on Dec. 26. 

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.

Canada, which defeated Russia 4-3 in the 2020 championship game at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic, finished first at the event for the 18th time. 

Vancouver (Western Hockey League) coach Michael Dyck and Saskatoon (WHL) coach Mitch Love will be assistants under Tourigny, the coach of Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. Love and Tourigny were assistants to coach Dale Hunter at the 2020 WJC.


GOALIES: Brett Brochu, London, OHL (2021 draft eligible); Dylan Garand, Kamloops, WHL (New York Rangers); Taylor Gauthier, Prince George, WHL (2021 draft eligible); Triston Lennox, Saginaw, OHL (2021 draft eligible); Devon Levi, Northeastern, HE (Florida Panthers)

DEFENSEMEN: Justin Barron, Halifax, QMJHL (Colorado Avalanche); Bowen Byram, Vancouver, WHL (Colorado Avalanche); Lukas Cormier, Charlottetown, QMJHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Jamie Drysdale, Erie, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert, WHL (Montreal Canadiens); Thomas Harley, Mississauga, OHL (Dallas Stars); Daemon Hunt, Moose Jaw, WHL (Minnesota Wild); Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna, WHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Mason Millman, Saginaw OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (Minnesota Wild); Owen Power, Michigan, BIG10 (2021 draft eligible); Matthew Robertson, Edmonton, WHL (New York Rangers); Braden Schneider, Brandon, WHL (New York Rangers); Donovan Sebrango, Kitchener, OHL (Detroit Red Wings); Jordan Spence, Moncton, QMJHL (Los Angeles Kings)

FORWARDS: Adam Beckman, Spokane, WHL (Minnesota Wild); Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan, QMJHL (Dallas Stars); Quinton Byfield, Sudbury, OHL (Los Angeles Kings); Graeme Clarke, Ottawa, OHL (New Jersey Devils); Kirby Dach, Saskatoon, WHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Tyson Foerster, Barrie, OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Gage Goncalves, Everett, WHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Ridly Greig, Brandon, WHL (Ottawa Senators); Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Edmonton Oilers); Seth Jarvis, Portland, WHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Peyton Krebs, Winnipeg, WHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (Washington Capitals); Connor McMichael, London, OHL (Washington Capitals); Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (New Jersey Devils); Alex Newhook, Boston College, HE (Colorado Avalanche); Jakob Pelletier, Val-d’Or, QMJHL (Calgary Flames); Cole Perfetti, Saginaw, OHL (Winnipeg Jets); Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (Pittsburgh Penguins); Jack Quinn, Ottawa, OHL (Buffalo Sabres); Jamieson Rees, Sarnia, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Cole Schwindt, Mississauga, OHL (Florida Panthers); Xavier Simoneau, Drummondville, QMJHL (2021 draft eligible); Ryan Suzuki, Saginaw, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Philip Tomasino, Oshawa, OHL (Nashville Predators); Shane Wright, Kingston, OHL (2022 draft eligible); Connor Zary, Kamloops, WHL (Calgary Flames)

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