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Entries in Basketball (6)

Thursday
Feb282013

Dennis Rodman Is First American to Meet with Kim Jong Un

Jim Rogash/Getty Images(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- When Google CEO Eric Schmidt and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson visited North Korea last month, they did not get an audience with leader Kim Jong Un.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, got to spend Thursday in Pyongyang with Jong Un watching an exhibition basketball game staring some of the Harlem Globetrotters, making him the first American to meet with North Korea's new leader since Jong Un assumed power in December or 2011 after the death of his father.

Jong Un, 30, is a longtime fan of the flamboyant athlete, and sat courtside with his sports hero while four Globetrotters and twelve North Korean players played ball.

Foreign diplomats were invited to watch the game, but foreign journalists were not allowed in to cover it.

The game split the Globetrotters and North Korean players into two teams, and ended in a 110-110 draw.

Rodman thanked the North Korean leader for the invitation.

“Although relations between the two countries are regrettable,” he said following the game, “personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong Un and the DPRK people,” according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.

“You have a friend for life,” Rodman, unassisted by translators, told Jong Un.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec122011

New Jersey Nets Owner Running for President of Russia

Mike Stobe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets announced Monday he would run for president in Russia's presidential elections in March. That will pit Mikhail Prokhorov against former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin, generally considered the most powerful man in the country and a shoo-in for another presidential term, and likely two.

Prokhorov called it, “the most important decision of my life,” saying he is running because, “society is waking up…Those authorities who will fail to establish a dialogue with the society will have to go.”

The 6-foot-9 businessman was referring to last week’s protests against Putin and recent parliamentary elections that have been widely accused of being fraudulent. Tens of thousands turned out in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia on Saturday in the largest protests since the days of the Soviet Union.

Forbes puts Prokhorov’s wealth at $18 billion, ranking him third in Russia. His wealth comes largely from banking and the sale of his stake in a mining company, forced to sell after he was arrested at a French ski resort in 2007 for providing prostitutes for his guests. He was held for four days, but no charges were filed.

The question now is how genuine is Prokhorov’s run. He is not known s a fierce critic of the Putin regime and until September, he was head of Just Cause, a Kremlin-sanctioned liberal party. But when he was ousted from Just Cause, he accused top Kremlin official Vladislav Surkov of being a “puppeteer” and the Kremlin of orchestrating “a raider’s attack.”

“I can solve that problem by becoming his boss,” Prokhorov said Monday of Surkov.

Prokhorov now has to get 2 million signatures to get on the ballot.

“It is not in my nature to stop halfway,” he said. “So for the last two and a half months we sat and worked, very calmly and quietly, and we created all the infrastructure to collect 2 million signatures.”

The last time a billionaire challenged Putin politically, he was arrested and imprisoned. Prokhorov was asked Monday if he feared a similar fate to that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in prison since 2003 for tax evasion and embezzlement.

“I’m not doing anything illegal,” he responded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug222011

Basketball Brawl Makes Georgetown Hoyas a Hot Ticket in China

YangShiZhonh-China Daily/AFP/Getty Images(SHANGHAI, China) -- Georgetown basketball was the hottest ticket in Shanghai Sunday, but nobody was anticipating it more than Hoyas head coach John Thompson III.

"It would be misleading if didn't say that the last couple of days have been trying and stressful," Thompson told ABC News.  "But for me as coach and for the players it's good to get back on the court."

The game in Shanghai was the Hoyas' first since their now infamous brawl in Beijing with the Chinese army team, the Bayi Rockets.

The Georgetown team is on a two-week goodwill tour of China.  However, the recent full court melee that occurred on the Olympic Sportscenter Stadium hardwood even overshadowed Vice President Joe Biden's diplomatic overtures to lunch at a local Beijing fried liver restaurant.

Images of the fight spread so quickly through social media, people treated the fight like an international incident.  The Chinese propaganda department even reportedly issued directives to local media outlets against mentioning it in news reports.

The two teams themselves, however, have made up.

"We both felt that for our team and their team that it was important that we got in a room and sit down and acknowledge it's time to move on," said Thompson, speaking exclusively with ABC News.  "At the end of the day it was a competition that turned into a conflict.  You can use that to grow and learn."

Even after most of the team had left Beijing for Shanghai Friday, Thompson and two of his players met privately with the Bayi coach and two of his players to reconcile.  The two teams exchanged autographed basketballs.

But there was no doubt that the incident had clearly drummed up interest in Sunday's exhibition game at a Shanghai sporting event aiming to promote sports to Chinese youths.  After all, it was billed to be a Bayi-Georgetown rematch.

Half an hour before game time, the venue was already packed. James Burbridge, an American expat living in Shanghai, was looking for a way into the game.

"I wanted to watch the Bayi team play Georgetown again," Brubridge told ABC News.  "I'd figure it would be a scrappy game."

But due to a scheduling change, which had nothing to do with the fight, fans had to settle for another professional Chinese team -- the Liaoning Dinosaurs.

The Hoyas ended up trouncing the Dinosaurs 92-68 in a match that was, perhaps not surprisingly, without incident.

Gene Wang, sportswriter for the Washington Post, who was the only reporter on scene for the Bayi-Hoyas fight in Beijing, noticed something immediately at the Shanghai event.

"The officials definitely had control of this game from the start," Wang said.  "You could tell they weren't going to let it get anywhere near out of control."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug192011

Georgetown Hoyas Continuing to Shanghai after On-Court Brawl

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision(BEIJING) -- The Georgetown Hoyas basketball team will continue on to Shanghai where they are scheduled to meet China's Bayi Rocket again this weekend following an all-out on-court brawl between the two teams.

On the official Twitter feed set up to follow their trip to China, the team tweeted on Friday: "After a tough night, we really look forward to the opportunity to continue our trip. Off to Shanghai. #HoyasInChina."

According to Georgetown coach John Thompson III, the team will continue with the remainder of its itinerary.

The two teams are scheduled to meet again Sunday night following the massive fight that erupted on court and forced the Hoyas to leave and end the game.

The coaches of both teams and several players met early Friday morning at the Beijing Airport before the Hoyas left for Shanghai.  Both coaches talked about their teams and leagues as well as their families, and discussed possible future exchanges and Chinese players coming to Washington, D.C.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister confirmed Friday at a press conference that the two teams have made up, saying "the sun has come out again."

Thursday's scuffle at Beijing's Olympic Sports Center Stadium began over a loose ball on court with nine minutes left in the game and the score tied at 62.  Soon both benches emptied as members of the Bayi Rockets threw chairs at the Hoyas and full water bottles were tossed at the Hoyas' heads from the stands, while one Georgetown team member was kicked on the ground.

Coaches and fans joined the tussle.  One Chinese player wielded a chair over his head while another was seen repeatedly punching an American.

"The benches emptied, the next thing I knew I saw people with chairs in their hands…it was complete bedlam," said the Washington Post's Gene Wang, who was inside the arena during the brawl.  "People were not fearing for their lives, but fearing for their bodily health."

"I have been covering sports for 20-plus years, I have never seen officials do a worse job than they did," he said.

Wang pointed out that the match was heated throughout, with referees calling 28 fouls on Georgetown and 11 on Bayi by halftime.  He estimated that there were half a dozen individual altercations on the court Thursday.

Coach Thompson eventually had to pull his team off the court.  He and the team then huddled in the locker room before asking for -- but not receiving -- a police escort back to their hotel.

The Hoyas are on a 10-day goodwill trip to China meant to "highlight the global context in which basketball is played today," according to university President John J. DeGioia.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug182011

Georgetown Basketball Team Brawls in China

Patrik Giardino/Blend Images(BEIJING) -- At the same time that Vice President Biden is in China to work on relations with that country, another American institution, the Georgetown men’s basketball team wasn’t helping the cause.

An exhibition game between Georgetown and the Chinese professional team Bayi Rockets "deteriorated into a melee during which players exchanged blows, chairs were thrown and spectators tossed full water bottles as Hoyas players and coaches headed to the locker room at Olympic Sports Center Stadium," according to the Washington Post’s Gene Wang.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pulled his players off the court with less than ten minutes left in the game and the scored tied at 64.

The team is on a 10 day trip, according to the university.  Team members were briefed by state department officials in advance about what to expect in Beijing and Shanghai and about the status of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. Before the trip, head coach John Thompson III commented on the goals.

“There are as many people playing basketball in China as there are in the United States, and that's an amazing statistic,” Thompson said. “From an institutional standpoint, we're getting a chance to represent Georgetown and increase our reputation in China. President John J. DeGioia has focused on reaching out to other countries as a global institution, and this trip is part of that work.”

After the game, Thompson had to make a different kind of statement.

“Tonight two great team played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams,” Thompson said in a statement. “We sincerely regret that this situation occurred.”

A Twitter account set up to follow the Hoyas’ trip to China noted during the game that ended in fighting that “Coach is getting animated -- Hoyas all about grabbing the W,” and that he threw a towel.

Vice President Biden attended a Georgetown basketball exhibition match with a different Chinese team the night before.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Biden Catches Georgetown Hoyas Basketball Game in China

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Vice President Joe Biden, fresh off a 21-hour flight to Beijing, made a surprise visit Wednesday to a Chinese gymnasium to cheer on the Georgetown University men’s basketball team in an exhibition match with the Shanxi Brave Dragons.

An animated Biden sat in the front row behind the American bench, according to press pool reports, where he was joined by new U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and Georgetown University President Jack DeGoia.

Biden told reporters many Hoyas had asked him to attend the “friendship match” given the coincidental convergence of their schedules.  

The vice president is starting a week-long, three country swing through East Asia, just as the Georgetown team begins its 10-day cultural and athletic tour of China.

Biden stayed through the first half of the game, leaving for the hotel with the Hoyas up by double-digits over their opponents, but facing a resurgent challenge from the Chinese team.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio