May 20, 2021

By Amanda Scurlock

Sports Writer

 

Lakers Legend Kobe Bryant was one of nine iconic figures who were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class on May 15.

His eldest daughter, Natalia, wore his Hall of Fame jacket while his wife Vanessa said the induction speech on his behalf. Kobe’s role model and NBA icon Michael Jordan presented the Hall of Fame honor.

“Last February, I called Michael and asked him if he could introduce Kobe tonight and graciously accepted,” Vanessa said. “Thank you for being here, Michael.”

 

Vanessa expressed how multifaceted Kobe was and talked about his love and dedication to basketball.

 

“Kobe was one of a kind. He was special. He was humble, off the court,” Vanessa said.

“But bigger than life.”

 

Along with being a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Kobe was savvy in other fields including public speaking. Vanessa recalled how he “winged every single speech.”

In his youth, Kobe would sit in the nosebleed section with his father, Joe Bryant, to watch Michael Jordan play. This had a lasting effect on him as Kobe would always consider his fans even if it meant playing through injuries.

“He had IVs administered during halftime to play through food poisoning and the flu, he played with a broken nose, he had a broken finger and had it snapped back in place just enough to finish the game,” Vanessa said. “Kobe didn’t want to disappoint his fans, especially the ones in the 300 sections that saved up to watch him play.”

Vanessa, along with countless Lakers fans, remembers the day Kobe ruptured his Achilles tendon. Briefly after sustaining the injury, he took his free throws and walked off the court.

“I’ll never forget the look he gave me as he walked off the court that game,” Vanessa said. “As he walked into the tunnel, there was no wink and there was no kiss blown my way, I could see the concerned look on his face. That injury was big, but the comeback from that injury was bigger.”

Kobe worked hard for the Lakers franchise, he holds the Lakers record for most points in a game (81 points against Toronto in January 2006), a season (2,832 during the 2005-2006 season) and career (33,643 points).

 

Vanessa noted how his most esteemed accomplishment was being a girl dad to his daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri.

“Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be,” Vanessa said. “Thank you for always trying to do better.”

Fellow 2020 inductee Tamika Catchings was a childhood friend of Kobe.

Their fathers played pro basketball in Italy at the same time and the two families spent time together.

Catchings and Kobe went on to have successful careers with one franchise.

Inductees Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett acknowledged Kobe during their speeches. All four inductees retired in 2016.

“You’re at your best when you face the best and I want to say thank you to the late great Kobe Bryant, to [Garnett],” Duncan said.

“You guys demanded the best out of me and it brought the best out of me, thank you guys.”

Category: Sports

May 13, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was a prime focus during the 2021 National Golf Day event held virtually on Monday, May 10.

We Are Golf, a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners, usually hosts the event in Washington, D.C., with industry leaders, members of Congress, the Executive branch, and federal agencies.

Because of the pandemic, this year’s event occurred virtually.

The biggest announcement came during the first hour when Neera Shetty, the Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the PGA Tour, announced that the organization is entering a relationship with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association that represents the Black Press of America.

“The Tour has entered into a relationship with the NNPA, which has an outreach to over 230 publications that reach Black and African American audiences, and we are planning to leverage that,” Shetty proclaimed.

“I think that what we’re seeing now, which is different, is just that everybody is coming together and really putting some passion and thought into how we can work collaboratively to try to overcome some of the past issues and really move forward in this area.”

 While National Golf Day celebrates the sport’s more than $84.1 billion annual charitable impact and its environmental and fitness benefits, the event kicked off with a panel discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

“We are not that far removed from when there was a Caucasian-only clause in the PGA bylaws,” Shetty stated, who participated on a panel that included Sandy Cross, the Chief People Officer at the PGA of America, and Laura Diaz, the Director of Foundation Operations with the LPGA.

Shetty noted the Caucasian-only clause existed between 1939 and 1961, and it affected generations of businesses.

“Trying to overcome some of that historical exclusion is what we have to be very intentional about,” Shetty continued.

“We need to make sure that we are not only letting people know from all different backgrounds that they are not only invited, but they are welcome and that we are going to provide that equitable means so that they can participate in golf.”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, socio-economic status, and religion, Diaz interjected.

“Equity is fair treatment, access, and opportunity for advancement and recognizing there are barriers but working to overcome them,” she explained.

“Inclusion is about creating that environment because you want to make sure that individuals and groups not only feel welcome and supported, but that they belong.”

Cross offered that it is critical golf embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We have to understand that what and the why before we collectively, as an industry, can move to the how,” Cross said.

“How do we operationalize diversity and inclusion?”

The PGA Tour has worked diligently over the years to diversify the sport on all levels.

The PGA Tour currently has a 10-year and $100 million commitment to support racial equity and inclusion.

It has highlighted through video and social media individuals like Cameron Champ, one of just a handful of Black pro golfers.

In December, the PGA Tour made a $500,000 donation to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including $100,000 to Prairie View A&M’s men’s and women’s golf teams.

The PGA Tour made the Prairie View A&M donation in the name of Champ’s grandfather, Mack, who wanted to attend Prairie View A&M but went into the military instead.

The PGA Tour also made $100,000 donations to Delaware State’s women’s golf team, Tennessee State’s men’s and women’s teams, Wilberforce University’s men’s and women’s teams, and the Bowie State Golf Classic, an annual fundraiser for the school’s athletic department.

Augusta National also announced two Lee Elder scholarships for the men’s and women’s teams at Paine College, an HBCU in Augusta, Georgia.

“We know we have a lot of work that we are planning to do and will do to make sure that we address [diversity, equity, and inclusion] as an industry,” Shetty remarked.

Category: Sports

May 13, 2021

By Amanda Scurlock

Sports Writer

 

After 43 years, the Orange Blossom Classic (OBC) will return to South Florida on Labor Day Weekend. The resurgence of the postseason clash between two Historically Black Colleges will feature Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Jackson State University (JSU).

The goal of the Classic is to raise awareness of HBCUs in Florida as well as enhance the scholarship funds of the Universities that participate in the future.

“I cannot wait for this event because it’s not just a game, it’s a celebration,” said Jackson State University football head coach and NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. “It’s an opportunity for us to put our players on stage.”

The Orange Blossom Classic was founded in 1933 and it became an annual event in 1947. Black people were allowed to sit in the main stands of the historic Orange Bowl Stadium for the first time during the Orange Blossom Classic. The postseason game evolved to become known as the Black Football National Championship.

FAMU was an opponent in every OBC until the event ended in 1978.

“We all understand how important this game is to South Florida and to Florida A&M,” said FAMU football head coach Willie Simmons. “This has been a staple in our historic legacy for over 80 years.”

The classic will be FAMU’s first game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), they previously competed on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The last time the two schools battled on the gridiron was in 2018; JSU defeated FAMU 18-16.

According to Orange Blossom Classic executive director Kendra N. Bulluck-Major, discussions of bringing back the historic event started 10 years ago. It was scheduled to return in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the football game, there will be events around the time of the game, including a Battle of the Bands between the JSU “Sonic Boom of the South” and the FAMU “Marching 100” marching bands.

The Classic is also spearheading community initiatives including Business Unite, an initiative that looks for various minority-owned businesses to help put on the OBC. Graduating high school seniors of the South Florida area with a minimum GPA of 2.5 who have been accepted into an HBCU will be rewarded with a $1,500 scholarship by the Orange Blossom Football Classic Association Inc.

Sanders, also known as “Coach Prime” has been at the helm of the Jackson State Tigers since September 2020. With their 2020 season pushed to the Spring, the Tigers had a 4-3 overall record.

Simmons was named the head coach of the FAMU Rattlers in 2017. The football team did not compete this spring.

Sanders recently criticized NFL teams as no HBCU players were drafted this year. On April 9, an HBCU combine was held at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff for CFL, NFL, and XFL scouts.

“That doesn’t make sense to have a separate combine,” Sanders said. “I was just trying to get us in, but now that I’m involved and I’m in it, we don’t want separate, we want together.”

Category: Sports

May 06, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

Just as it did when he first arrived in the major leagues 38 years ago, Darryl Strawberry’s name evokes awe.

His picture-perfect left-handed swing that launched 335 home runs and drove 1,000 RBIs, remains one of baseball’s all-time pleasing memories.

But even at the height of his superstardom, the South Central, Los Angeles-born athlete suffered.

“My life was fractured,” Strawberry revealed in an interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Black Press of America’s live morning news program, “Let It Be Known.”

“Like many who come from the inner-city who didn’t have a male figure in their life – I didn’t have a father – my pain led me to my greatness, but my greatness would eventually lead me to destructive behavior,” the candid former slugger revealed.

Strawberry opens up even more in his new book, “Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life.”

In the book that he writes with author Lee Weeks, Strawberry, now an evangelist, explains how individuals heading in the wrong direction can move positively.

He is candid in writing about tragedy, personal failure, and transforming injustice.

Despite winning four world championships with the New York Mets and New York Yankees, Strawberry fell victim to drug addiction, spent time in prison, and battled cancer.

His co-author noted that “Strawberry’s life story is proof that you can overcome life’s adversities one decision, one step at a time. It’s time to turn your season around.”

There were “lots of expectations about me when I first came up to the big leagues in 1983,” Strawberry recalled. “I always tell young people that expectations are not who you are. The only expectations you should have are for yourself and not what others put on you.”

With the sweetest of swings and five-tool talent, Strawberry faced the pressure of mounting expectations even as a teen. “I was the Black Ted Williams, the next Willie McCovey,” he told the Black Press during his 25-minute interview.

“It got to a place where I had to have confidence in myself and just be myself,” Strawberry continued. “You can’t be anyone else. God has made each of us unique.”

Because of his off-the-field challenges, Strawberry didn’t make the Hall of Fame. Now, as focused and determined to help others as he’s ever been, Strawberry shrugs off those who remind him of what he could have accomplished.

“I’m glad for my walk, my road,” Strawberry declared. “People say. ‘you could have been in the Hall of Fame,’ but look at me now. I am an evangelist, and I’m encouraging people about life. It all works out as long as we don’t quit.”

Strawberry’s new book, Turn Your Season Around, is available at most book-sellers, including amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

To watch full interview please visit: https://www.facebook.com/ 296106753794181/videos/552334922419084

Category: Sports

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