The Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on their first championship since 2010, but Anthony Davis insisted he is not looking too far ahead following another stellar performance against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Davis posted 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting from the field as the Lakers defeated the short-handed Heat 124-114 in Game 2 for a commanding 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

The Lakers star joined Kevin Durant (2012), Michael Jordan (1991), Rick Barry (1967) and Hal Greer (1967) as the only players in NBA Finals history to score 30-plus points in their first two career games in the league's showpiece decider.

Davis – a high-profile recruit from the New Orleans Pelicans at the start of the season – also became the first Lakers player with back-to-back 30-plus point games in the Finals since Kobe Bryant in 2010.

But as the top-seeded Lakers near a first title in a decade, Davis is remaining grounded inside the Orlando bubble.

"It's huge," Davis told reporters when asked how important is it to stay in the moment. "This team [Miami] have shown in both games that they are able to fight back. Even when they are down 20, 30, whatever it is, they are able to fight back and make plays.

"So we can't get too high, especially with this team. They didn't even have two of their top scorers, two of their best players. They always have that next-man-up mentality. They come every night, they play hard, they play physical, they play aggressive.

"We came in tonight and said this is a must-win for us. We're going to come in the next game and say it's a must-win, and the next game it's a must-win and so on and so forth.

"We know what this team is capable of. I think they had four guys or five guys with 15-plus. Guys coming off the bench scoring and playing well. We have to lock in on those guys and show them respect, as well, which we do. But this team can play. We have to be wary of that and make sure we come in and be better in our defensive schemes, which is going to help us win."

Lakers team-mate LeBron James also dominated, finishing with a game-high 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Kobe Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and Shaquille O'Neal in 2002.

Amid comparisons to Lakers greats Bryant and O'Neal, Davis said: "Those two guys are obviously special. They are a duo that's special together. They are the best duo we've seen. Multiple championships. They both were so dominant.

"I know they had a little sit-down and they were talking about they were arguing because they both wanted to be so dominant, they both wanted to be great and they both wanted to win, and that's why they jelled together outside of everything else that you might have heard that they were going through.

"But you know, those two guys were selfless. They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win. I think me and Bron are the same way.

"We are two guys who want to win no matter the circumstance. We both want to make sure that we do whatever it takes to help our team win. When you have two guys that are selfless ...

"It's not always going to be pretty. Sometimes we are going to argue and have disagreements, but we know it's coming from the right place. When you have two guys who want to win as bad as we do and want to be dominant every single game, you have games like tonight where two guys, we're able to score the basketball and able to rebound and able to find guys.

"It's rare you see it. We know we have something special with us two and this team, and just trying to capitalise on it."

LeBron James said he was humbled after the Los Angeles Lakers superstar and team-mate Anthony Davis were compared to franchise greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal following Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

James and Davis produced another dominant performance as the Lakers topped the injury-hit Miami Heat 124-114 for a 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

Three-time champion James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while fellow All-Star Davis finished with 32 points in Orlando, where the Lakers are eyeing their first title since 2010.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and O'Neal in 2002.

"Watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective," James told reporters.

"Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well. They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and Anthony, myself and AD -- he's going to kill me -- myself and AD, is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys.

"I grew up admiring Kobe; obviously, a kid coming straight out of high school. Admired that, as a kid when I was young, and obviously got the opportunity. And the force that Shaq played with. It's very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats."

James moved up to sixth on the all-time Finals list for games played after making his 51st appearance, while the 35-year-old also climbed up to fourth for all-time Finals rebounds.

Pressed on the Bryant-O'Neal comparisons and how he and Davis play, James – who was not satisfied with the team's defensive effort against Miami – added: "I guess if you look in the sense of the size and the power and the speed that Shaq at his size played with, you could look at my game throughout the course of my career and say that.

"And then you look at the elegance and the ability to shoot the ball and the ability to play in the paint as well as post up and get to the perimeter, I guess you can say that you can have some of AD's game that could compare to Kobe's game in that sense.

"Obviously, all four of us are all different positions. Kobe was a natural two-guard. I'm kind of a, I don't know, whatever position. Shaq is a center.

"AD is kind of a hybrid, as well. But I guess all four of us, we have a winning mentality and we just tried to make enough plays out on the floor throughout the course of the game that would benefit not only ourselves individually but for the most important thing, for the better of the team.

"I can't even believe I'm up here talking about myself and AD with Kobe and Shaq."

LeBron James insisted the "job is not done" after guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years.

James posted a triple-double as the top-seeded Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 117-107 on Saturday to seal a 4-1 series victory in the Western Conference finals.

The three-time NBA champion had 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers back to the Finals, having not featured in the showpiece since winning their last title in 2010.

But as James prepares for his 10th Finals appearance, after missing the playoffs in his first season with the Lakers, the 35-year-old superstar was grounded post-game in Orlando, Florida.

"The job is not done," said James, whose Lakers will face either the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. "But it's great to appreciate the moments throughout the course of a journey.

"I am extremely proud to be a part of this franchise getting back to where it belongs, playing and competing for championships. This is what I came here for."

It was James' 27th career playoff triple-double as the four-time MVP eyes a fourth championship ring.

All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 27 points for the Lakers, who will make their 32nd Finals appearance.

"In a closeout game, I am just as desperate as the team that we are trying to closeout. I don't want to play another game," James said.

"I am not undefeated in closeout games, but if we have the chance to win I don't want to play another game."

James then recalled the legacy of Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers to their most recent championship a decade ago.

Bryant – the victim of a tragic helicopter crash in January – was crowned MVP as the Lakers beat the Celtics in the 2010 Finals and the NBA legend continues to inspire James and others.

"Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his legacy, you think about him and what he meant to this franchise for 20-plus years and what he stood for both on the floor and off the floor," James added.

"What he demanded out of his team-mates, what he demanded out of himself. We have some similarities in that sense.

"Our games are different. But as far as our mindset and our drive to want to be the best, and our drive to not lose ... just that drive to always want to be victorious. It stops you from sleeping."

Anthony Davis' game-winner for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets was a "Mamba shot", head coach Frank Vogel said.

Davis delivered an incredible buzzer-beating three to lift the Lakers to a 105-103 victory over the Nuggets on Sunday as they moved into a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Vogel said the Lakers wanted to honour the late Kobe Bryant, the NBA great who died in a helicopter crash in January.

And the Lakers coach believes Davis' game-winner was the type of shot five-time NBA champion and former MVP Bryant would have produced.

"Well, we want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honour his memory," he told reporters.

"Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

"That's a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, AD coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it's a Mamba shot."

While the Nuggets rallied in Game 2, Davis (31 points and nine rebounds) and LeBron James (26 points and 11 rebounds) led the Lakers to victory.

Vogel was full of praise for Davis and James as the Lakers close in on a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

"I keep saying, he [Davis] is a big-time player. He really carried us through a stretch where we were struggling to score late in the third," Vogel said.

"The combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is just – if one of them is not going, the other one is. There was a little bit of that tonight.

"When they're both going at the same time, we're near impossible to stop. Those guys both carried each other throughout the game and obviously a big part of the win."

Game 3 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona, but will he regret it?

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner last month announced his intention to leave his only senior club after a dismal 2019-20 season.

But with Barca insisting either Messi or any suitor would be required to pay his €700milllion release clause, their captain will instead remain at Camp Nou.

Messi is far from the first sports star to perform a U-turn when considering his future, though...
 

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Messi's great rival similarly tried to force a move in 2008, albeit Ronaldo was on a high after winning the Champions League with Manchester United.

The Portuguese had his heart set on a transfer to Real Madrid and made his desire clear as he publicly agreed with Sepp Blatter's claim keeping a player at a club against his will was like "modern slavery".

United would not budge, though, and Ronaldo stayed for another year and returned to the Champions League final, this time losing to Messi's Barca before finally getting his dream move to Madrid.

LUIS SUAREZ

Suarez, one of Messi's closest friends and a Barca team-mate, followed Ronaldo in attempting to leave a year before getting a big switch.

In 2013, the Liverpool forward announced his intention to depart Anfield, complaining of the media attention he received in England amid racism and biting scandals. Arsenal made a bid which appeared to activate a £40m release clause, but Liverpool insisted Suarez must stay.

As with Ronaldo, Suarez only stuck around for another season but was inspirational as the Reds came agonisingly close to the Premier League title. He then belatedly left to link up with Messi at Camp Nou.

KOBE BRYANT

Messi is not the first one-team man to come close to a move before backtracking. Lakers great Bryant, who would end his career with five titles in Los Angeles, briefly pushed for a trade in 2007.

Bryant had won three championships at that stage, but none since the final year of their three-peat in 2002, and openly discussed his frustration at the direction of the franchise while fuming at claims he was behind Shaquille O'Neal's exit from the team.

These issues came to a head as Bryant told the media he wanted a trade, but his U-turn proved far swifter than Messi's, quickly continuing his historic Lakers career.

BRETT FAVRE

Messi's return to the Barca fold has at least already proven more successful than Favre's attempted U-turn in 2008. After 17 seasons in the NFL, including 16 with the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback announced he was retiring.

But Favre then decided before the start of the new season he wanted to return to the Packers, who had by now been preparing with Aaron Rodgers – previously his understudy – in the role.

Barca may not have a ready-made Messi replacement, but Rodgers was more than capable of stepping up, meaning Favre had no job to return to. The veteran was instead sent to the New York Jets and failed to make the playoffs.

LeBron James felt "blessed" to star on Mamba Day as the Los Angeles Lakers took a grip on their Western Conference first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

As he remembered Kobe Bryant, James also expressed renewed concern about the safety of African-American citizens in the United States following the shooting by police of Jacob Blake.

That incident on Sunday happened in Kenosha, a city close to Milwaukee, and James said his "prayers go to that family".

Wisconsin state investigators are looking into that incident to determine whether action should be taken against the officers involved.

On the court, James was imperious in grabbing a double-double of 30 points and 10 assists for the Lakers in their 135-115 win that established a 3-1 series lead.

He told NBA on TNT: "It's a wide range of emotions. I am extremely proud of my team, the way we played tonight."

Monday was designated Mamba Day in remembrance of Lakers great Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January - with the 8/24 date chosen to mark his uniform numbers.

"[I am] extremely blessed and honoured to be able to play on 8/24 and continue to remember Kobe Bryant and Gigi Bryant and all the fallen people that were a part of that tragic incident," James said.

"And at the same time having the emotions with what happened outside of Milwaukee with Jacob Blake. It's what we’ve been talking about and it's what we're going to continue to talk about.

"Having two boys of my own and me being African-American in America, and to see what continues to happen with the police brutality towards my kind, continue to see what goes on with the injustice - it's very troubling.

"We play a beautiful game which brings so many great families together and people should be able to rejoice and enjoy it.

"But at the same never lose track of what’s really happening in our world, especially here in America.

"My prayers go to that family and hopefully we can have some change."

Presidential elections are three months away in the US and James said he believes the time for change "starts in November".

"We have an opportunity to make change but it still doesn't stop there," he said, "even with whoever comes next."

LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant for outright third-most triple-doubles in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.

James posted his 22nd triple-double for the Lakers during Tuesday's 100-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series.

The three-time NBA champion moved above the late Bryant (21) and is now behind only Magic Johnson (138) and Elgin Baylor (24) in Lakers history.

The triple-double (23 points, 17 rebounds and a postseason-high 16 assists) was the 24th of James' playoff career.

June 17, 2010 was the date Kobe Bryant got his fifth and final NBA ring.

The Los Angeles Lakers icon, who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, helped his franchise beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

Two years ago Brooks Koepka became a back-to-back champion at the U.S. Open while in 1999 Australia and South Africa played one of the most thrilling Cricket World Cup contests ever.

We take a look at major sporting events that have happened on June 17 in previous years.

 

1999 - Australia edge past Proteas in dramatic semi

Until England's incredible Super Over win over New Zealand in last year's World Cup final, the 1999 semi-final between Australia and South Africa was perhaps the greatest ODI ever.

Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald managed to restrict Australia to 213 and though Shane Warne (4-29) kept his team in the match, South Africa entered the final over nine down but needing nine more to reach the final.

Successive fours from Lance Klusener (31 not out) tied the scores but, with the Proteas needing only one run from their final four deliveries, a mix-up between Klusener and Donald resulted in the latter being run out.

The game finished as a tie but Australia went through to the final because they had a superior run rate in the Super Six stage, with South Africa left to reflect on some all-too-familiar World Cup heartache.

 

2010 - Kobe leads Lakers past Celtics

Boston, who had beaten Los Angeles in the 2008 Finals, were 3-2 up after Game 5 but knew the series would be closed out in the City of Angels.

The Lakers, who were the defending champions, forced a Game 7 and came out on top 83-79 to clinch the franchise's 16th - and to date most recent - championship.

Bryant was voted Finals MVP for the second time in his career and scored a game-high 23 points in the decider.

 

2018 - Koepka wins U.S. Open again

Twelve months after he won by four strokes to claim his first major, Koepka proved to be unstoppable once more at the U.S. Open.

The American began the day in a four-way tie for the lead and his two-under-par 68 on Sunday was enough to earn him a one-stroke success over Tommy Fleetwood at Shinnecock Hills.

Koepka became just the third man since World War II - after Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange - to successfully defend the U.S. Open title.

June 15 is a momentous sporting date that the Detroit Pistons and their fans will not forget in a hurry.

Sixteen years ago on this day, the team earned an emphatic 4-1 win over favourites the Los Angeles Lakers to seal glory in the NBA Finals.

This date also represents the 40-year anniversary of a famous day in golfing history, when Jack Nicklaus broke a record at the U.S. Open.

We look back at some of the top moments to occur on June 15 in the world of sport.


2004 - Pistons top Lakers 4-1 in NBA Finals

The Pistons sealed a stunning 4-1 series win over the Lakers on this day in 2004, with a 100-87 win in Game 5 ensuring they secured glory in Michigan.

Richard Hamilton top-scored with 21 points, Ben Wallace starred with 22 rebounds and Chauncey Billups had a game-high six assists.

Billups was named Finals MVP as coach Larry Brown savoured his first championship, his underdog team having won three straight after going down to an overtime loss in Game 2.

Game 5 was notable as the last game for Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton for the Lakers, who had won previously three straight titles between 2000 and 2002.

This remains the Pistons' most recent NBA title, as they lost a thrilling Finals series 4-3 to the San Antonio Spurs the following year and have not returned since.

The Lakers, meanwhile, reached three straight Finals when coach Phil Jackson returned to the team later in the decade, winning two, including their last triumph in 2010.

Kobe Bryant top-scored with 24 points in a losing effort against the Pistons in Game 5.

He would go on to be named NBA Finals MVP in each of their 2009 and 2010 successes, moving on to five rings in the process.


1980 – Nicklaus sets record in U.S. Open triumph

Jack Nicklaus' fourth and final U.S. Open victory was a special one in 1980.

The American set a new tournament scoring record with an eight-under par score of 272 to win his fourth title at the event, finishing two shots clear of Japanese challenger Isao Aoki.

Nicklaus had started the week with a magnificent 63 to take a share of the first-round lead, and led by two after a more steady effort of 71 on day two.

After moving day, he was in a share of the lead with Aoki while four other players, including Tom Watson, were within two shots.

A thrilling finale was in store for June 15 and Nicklaus delivered with a 68 to claim his 16th major, 18 years after winning his first U.S. Open.

He romped to US PGA glory later that year, before his 18th and final major arrived six years later at the 1986 Masters.
 

1974 - Evert wins first of seven French Opens

American Chris Evert holds the women's singles record with an astonishing seven French Open titles.

She won the first of her Paris crowns on this day in 1974, emphatically defeating the third seed, Russian Olga Morozova, 6-1 6-2.

In the absence of Margaret Court, who had beaten her in a three-set thriller in the previous year's final, top seed Evert thrived.

She went through the whole tournament without losing a set, with German Helga Masthoff, the fourth seed, seen off in the semi-finals in a tougher test than she ended up having in the showpiece.

Evert also won Wimbledon that year as part of a sensational 55-match winning streak.

She successfully defended her French Open title the following year, and her third success in 1979 started a streak of five wins in the space of five years.

The cause of death for all nine victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna has been ruled as blunt trauma, a post-mortem has confirmed.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-coroner on Friday published the results from examinations of those who lost their lives in the incident in Calabasas, California on January 26.

The crash occurred amid heavy fog but an investigation into the cause is ongoing.

A statement read: "On January 28, the cause of death for all nine decedents was certified as blunt trauma. The manner of death was certified as accident."

Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan were on board with the Bryants.

A 180-page report also showed that Zobayan tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was named the league's MVP in 2008, was selected for the All-Star Game on 18 occasions and received All-NBA First Team honours on 11 occasions.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist's jersey numbers of eight and 24 were retired by the Lakers following his death aged 41.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said a hacker was behind a string of racist and insulting posts on his Twitter account, leaving him "disappointed and disgusted".

A series of controversial tweets from the NBA MVP's official account targeted the Milwaukee Bucks and his team-mate Khris Middleton, as well as LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

Insensitive comments were also published about Kobe Bryant, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California in January.

All of the incendiary posts have since been deleted.

In a statement published on Twitter, Antetokounmpo said: "Hey everybody! I'm back and would like to address the social media incident from earlier today! I was hacked and the situation is currently being investigated.

"The tweets and posts were extremely inappropriate and I am so disappointed and disgusted that somebody would say the terrible things that were said!

"I feel terrible that the Bucks, Khris, LeBron and the Curry family were included in the malicious and untrue tweets.

"I feel especially terrible for the Bryant family, during their time of grief they should not be subjected to this type of negativity and foul behaviour.

"Thank you all for always supporting my family and I, and please stay safe!"

A statement from the Bucks read: "Giannis Antetokounmpo's social media accounts were hacked this afternoon and have been taken down. An investigation is underway."

Antetokounmpo's brother Kostas, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, attempted to make followers aware the Bucks star was not behind the comments as they were published.

He later added: "Giannis' twitter, phone, email and bank accounts were hacked!

"He genuinely apologises for everything that was tweeted and he will be back as soon as possible!

"The things that were said by this hacker were extremely inappropriate and disgusting!"

Nearly three months after the NBA great's death, the largest collection of Kobe Bryant memorabilia ever assembled in one place has become available for auction online.

Some of the 86 items available for bidding include game-worn shoes from the NBA Finals, warm-ups, game-used jerseys, NBA championship rings and a 14-karat gold ring featuring eight diamonds that commemorates the United States' 8-0 record and gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.

Five per cent of the auction's sales will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which Bryant's wife, Vanessa, created after her husband and daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash along with seven other people in January.

Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions told ESPN: "We expect the price points in here to go from as low as $500 to potentially over $100,000."

The item with the highest bid as of Thursday was a pair of autographed Adidas shoes that Bryant wore in an NBA Finals Game Five victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001, selling at the time for $28,000.

The championship ring given to the Los Angeles Lakers star after the 1999-2000 season, which Bryant gave as a gift to his mother Pam, was carrying a price tag of $20,000 and features 40 diamonds placed in 14-karat gold.

Bryant had threatened to sue Goldin Auctions in 2013 when the auction house attempted to sell hundreds of items from his parents. The Bryants reached an agreement outside of court, and only six items were sold, including the 2000 NBA championship ring. That auction raised over $62,000 for The Bully Project – a charity Bryant supported.

Goldin Auctions had been collecting rare items for months in anticipation of selling them when Bryant’s induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was announced.

The first win in any winning streak is often the toughest, and that applied on April 13 1957 when the Boston Celtics first landed an NBA championship, going the distance against the St Louis Hawks.

Jack Nicklaus' glory day at Augusta in 1986 turned out to be the last of his 18th majors, while 11 years later Tiger Woods secured a first-time Green Jacket success.

April 13 was a day for farewells for Kobe Bryant in 2016, when the US basketball great played his final game and made it one to remember.

Here, we take a look back at those memorable moments that happened on this day in history.

1957 - Celtics sink St Louis to launch dynasty

The Boston Celtics won their first 11 championships in a 13-season hot streak, starting here at the expense of the St Louis Hawks.

The 1957 NBA Finals proved nip and tuck, all the way to the climax in Boston.

Games 7 went to double overtime as the Celtics snuck a 125-123 win, Bill Russell with 19 points and a remarkable 32 rebounds in the game as the Red Auerbach era had its lift-off moment.

1986 - Jack is back! Veteran Nicklaus lands final Masters Green Jacket

Jack Nicklaus had not won a major since landing his record-extending 17th big one at the 1980 US PGA Championship. He remained a competitive player but the wins were drying up, just two having come on the PGA Tour in the years since that Oak Hill success before he began his 1986 tilt at The Masters.

It was therefore against almost all expectations that Nicklaus, at the age of 46, won the Green Jacket for a record sixth time, 23 years after his first success at Augusta National.

He was nowhere to be seen on the leaderboard at halfway but gradually crept into contention, and a rollicking charge over the final 10 holes on the Sunday brought him glory, with six birdies, an eagle at 15 and just one dropped shot over that stretch enough to see off Tom Kite, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.

1997 - Woods conquers Augusta, launches Tiger era

Eleven years after Nicklaus last ruled the roost at Georgia's most celebrated course, Tiger Woods' time arrived at Augusta.

A year earlier, Woods had missed the cut in his second Masters appearance as an amateur. But this time he slayed the field, becoming the tournament's youngest champion at the age of 21 and winning by a record 12 shots on an 18-under-par 270.

Woods was by now in the professional ranks, and this performance confirmed the arrival of a new main man on tour.

2016 - Kobe signs off with 60-point flourish

If his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates weren't going to raise their game for the big send-off, Kobe Bryant realised he would have to take charge for his last outing before retirement.

At the end of their wretched season, the Lakers looked spent as they trailed the Utah Jazz by 15 points at one stage. But Bryant wasn't done, and he stepped up to levels not seen for several seasons, bagging a 60-point haul in a 101-96 win for LA.

"Mamba out!" he declared, addressing the fans who in 2020 would mourn the death of their hero in a helicopter crash.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar said he was deeply affected by the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

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

Neymar paid tribute to Bryant at the time, wearing a jersey in honour of the five-time NBA champion, while he dedicated a goal to the 2008 MVP by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on the other – referencing the famous number 24 – in a Ligue 1 victory over Lille in February.

Recalling Bryant's death, Neymar told Vogue Men Arabia: "His death affected me a lot because our lives had much in common.

"I met Kobe personally and the times he came to Paris. When you meet the person behind the athlete, it creates a different relationship and with Kobe, it was very special. Sports and society lost a great guy."

Neymar, who continues to be linked with a return to former club Barcelona, has been hampered by injuries since joining PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

"There is nothing worse for a professional athlete than an injury," the Brazilian forward added.

"I really suffered with injuries these last two seasons and I had many moments of questioning myself.

"Half of the success of an athlete is the mind. If the mind is good, the game flows more naturally."

Kobe Bryant has posthumously joined basketball's Hall of Fame, an honour his wife described on Saturday as "the peak of his NBA career".

The Class of 2020 line-up was confirmed by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, with all the finalists announced in February officially named as new inductees.

Bryant, the great Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard, died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna when they and seven others perished in a helicopter crash in California on January 26.

Bryant was 41. He was a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers and an 18-time All-Star, as well as an Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012.

Bryant's Hall of Fame nomination may have been first announced following his death, but his place was a matter of time, and he reportedly was already in line to be inducted this year.

Vanessa Bryant told ESPN: "It's an incredible accomplishment and honour and we're extremely proud of him.

"Obviously we wish he was here with us to celebrate, but it's definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to being here.

"We're incredibly proud of him and there's some solace in knowing that he was probably going to be part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class."

The Hall of Fame ceremony will take place in Springfield, Massachusetts, on August 29.

Bryant's long-time fellow NBA superstars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett also feature in the Class of 2020 - both were 15-time All-Stars in their playing careers - along with college coaching titan Eddie Sutton.

Rudy Tomjanovich, who led the Houston Rockets to two NBA titles, made the grade, together with 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medallist Tamika Catchings, trailblazing women's coaches Kim Mulkey and Barbara Stevens, and FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame president John L. Doleva said: "The Class of 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most historic of all time and the talent and social influence of these nine honourees is beyond measure.

"In 2020, the basketball community has suffered the unimaginable loss of iconic figures commissioner David Stern and Kobe Bryant, as well as the game itself due to COVID-19.

"We have also banded together like never before in appreciation of the game and those who have made it the uniting force it is today. Today we thank the Class of 2020 for all they have done for the game of basketball and we look forward to celebrating them at Enshrinement in August."

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