Sports

Hot Shot proves size no issue for Harlem Globetrotters

LITTLE BIG MAN. Hot Shot may be just 4-foot-5 but he's earned recognition as the "Michael Jordan of dwarf basketball." Photo by Don Emmert/AFP

NEW YORK, USA - Known as the "Michael Jordan of dwarf basketball," Jahmani Swanson is only 4-foot-5, but he's now a Harlem Globetrotter, electrifying fans in the culmination of a childhood dream.

Signing with the world-famous exhibition team earlier this month for their 2018 world tour, the 32-year-old was mobbed on court by dozens of fans queueing for a photo or an autograph after his first appearance.

Born and bred in Harlem, the Globetrotter nicknamed "Hot Shot" made his debut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and proved that he is already the team's most popular player.

A social media sensation with a litany of YouTube videos dubbed "Mani Love," "Lil Engine" or "The Athlete" that showcase his unique style of play, dribbling the ball between the legs of challengers, thrashing actor Jamie Foxx in a one-on-one or shooting a hoop from all angles.

"I think he's a nice addition, just because of his size. That brings a lot of attention to him," says Kenyon Pickering, who watched the game with his children. "He's definitely going to sell a lot of tickets."

Swanson, who is at least 8 inches shorter than any other Globetrotter ever, is excellent advertising for the entertaining team who have dazzled millions around the world with basketball wizardry.

But if he'll take part, along with the rest in the entertainment, then "Hot Shot" is anything but a curiosity - he is a real basketball player through and through.

Questions and doubts about his abilities are nothing new - he grew up with them, being stared at, pointed at and made fun of.

"I'm proving myself everyday," he smiles.

"Every gym, every city I walk into, people are staring down, some are laughing, asking 'who is little dude? What can he do?' And that first shot, or that first move, people are going crazy."

Born to a dwarf mom and an average height dad, Swanson learned to dribble and walk at the same time, recalls mom Sabrina.

'Feel 7-foot tall'

He quickly became inseparable from the ball, keeping a portable hoop and playing day and night, driving the neighbors crazy. "I used to read my book and dribble the basketball at the same time," he says.

When he started playing organized basketball at the age of eight or nine, Sabring says "they wanted to treat him a little different. I told them: 'no, treat him like everybody else'."

But if he had to work 10 times harder than anyone else, Jahmani proved himself a formidable player, mastering the basketball and shooting a hoop designed for players at least well over a foot (40 cm) taller.

His mom only ever treated him and his brother as though they were average size people. "She prepped us... That's how I live my life. When I'm walking the street, I feel like I'm seven foot tall."

His role models were not dwarf players or the smaller men in the NBA, but the towering legend of them all - 6-foot-6 Michael Jordan.

"Everything he did, I practiced," he says. Sometimes he even sticks out his tongue, Jordan-style as he goes to the basket.

Fifty-year-old Sabrina couldn't be prouder.

"He didn't make the NBA but he's entertaining and inspiring the whole world on how you could do anything you want if you put your heart and soul to it," she says.

"We don't want to let it go to his head. That's why I stay around."

Her son is enjoying every moment.

"I dreamed of this moment as a kid," he says. "I never thought I'd be a Harlem Globetrotter. It makes this a Cinderella magical story. It's just amazing. The journey. The work. Practicing everyday. Overcoming adversity. Proving to people that I could be here, that I could play." – Rappler.com

Geraint Thomas returns to Paris-Roubaix in 2018

Team Sky rider back at the Classics ahead of Tour de France

After skipping the Classics in 2017, Geraint Thomas will return to take on Paris-Roubaixand Liège-Bastogne-Liège next season.

The Welshman, who confirmed his participation and leadership hopes for next year’s Tour de France in an interview with Cyclingnews last week, has also outlined the rest of his early season ambitions.

Unlike in previous years, he will not begin his season in Australia at the Tour Down Under, and will instead make a later debut at the Volta ao Algarve in the spring. Tirreno-Adriatico will also feature on his programme, before he returns to altitude training.

He will miss the bulk of the early spring cobbled races, including the Tour of Flanders, but will return for Paris-Roubaix in a Team Sky line-up that will also include Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon.

"There are a lot of big races in the build up to the Tour, so I’ll start with Algarve, then do Tirenno and then do some training camps. Then I’ll come back and ride Paris-Roubaix, which is exciting. With the cobbled stage in the Tour it’s a good excuse to go back and ride that Monument," he told Cyclingnews.

"It’s a race that I love, along with Flanders, but I’ll be in Tenerife then. It won’t be ideal preparation but everyone knows that anything can happen in Roubaix. I just want to be there in the final and help Stannard and Moscon. That’ll be exciting. Then I’ll do Liège, [the Tour de] Romandie, the [Critérium du] Dauphiné and then Tour. It’s a lot of big races. I’m raring to go."

Thomas sat down with Team Sky’s management last week to finalise his programme. He will have a free role at the Tour de France but a lot will depend on Chris Froome’s future, with the four-time winner currently building a defence after returning an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at the Vuelta a España. Froome could be cleared but he could also face up to two years out of the sport with a ban.

For now, Thomas is just focusing on the element he can control.

"I left the meeting excited. They said that if I’m looking better and feeling stronger then they will support me," he said.

"Time will tell with that, I guess, but I’m excited about the Tour and the races leading up to that."

Ravena impresses anew for NLEX in win over GlobalPort

NLEX rookie Kiefer Ravena drives past GlobalPort's Michael Juico during the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier's Christmas game at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. | PBA Images
BOCAUE, Bulacan — Kiefer Ravena is the gift that kept on giving for NLEX.

Besting his debut of 18 points, Ravena finished with 20 markers to power the Road Warriors past GlobalPort Batang Pier, 115-104, in the Christmas Day tussle at the Philippine Arena, Monday.

"We just gave ourselves and our supporters a really nice gift on Christmas day. Being able to carry our winning momentum, it’s going to be a two wk break but we’ll keep on practicing through the holidays,” Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao said of the win.

Ravena, in 29 minutes of action, dished out five assists and registered four steals to go with his team-best scoring. But the highlight of his performance — as if giving everyone in attendance a holiday present — was a booming triple at the final 1:57 mark of the contest and a breakaway dunk as the game wound down.

"Kiefer will take care of himself. He knows how to take care of himself in the league. It’s giving guys like Michael Miranda and Fonzo Gotladera some time,” the fiery mentor said of his prized rookie.

JR Quiniahan added 19 more points in the scoring effort as veteran marksman Larry Fonacier made his presence anew with 12.

Sportshub ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Stanley Pringle led the way for GlobalPort with 33 points. Sean Anthony chipped in 19 more to keep their opponents within reach in their first outing in the Philippine Cup.

But the Batang Pier were clearly missing hotshot guard Terrence Romeo, who is still recovering from a knee contusion.

"Nabanggit ko nga, swerte rin kami because Terrence is not playing. Just with Stanley Pringle we have a handful. It’s really difficult containing Pringle, what more kung andyan pa si Terrence. We’re just taking advantage of the rbeaks we’re getting at the same time, it’s giving us time to jell."

"Winning and being able to use a deep rotation is big. Merry Christmas,” Guiao closed.

The Road Warriors are now 2-0 in the all-Filipino conference. They take on the Phoenix Fuelmasters next on Jan. 7, 2018, at the Big Dome.

The Scores:

NLEX 115 — Ravena 20, Quiñahan 19, Fonacier 12, Tiongson 10, Alas 9, Baguio 8, Gotladera 8, Miranda 8, Mallari 6, Monfort 5, Rios 5, Taulava 3, Al-Hussaini 2.

GLOBALPORT 104 — Pringle 33, Anthony 19, Grey 13, Nabong 9, Araña 8, Elorde 5, Guinto 4, Juico 4, Taha 4, Flores 2, Sargent 2, Gabayni 1.

Quarters: 25-25, 50-45, 84-76, 115-104.

Slaughter powers Ginebra to 'Manila Clasico' win over Magnolia

Barangay Ginebra big man Greg Slaughter towers over his defender during the Gin Kings' Christmas Day "Manila Clasico" clash at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The crowd favorite Ginebra won, 89-78. | PBA Images
BOCAUE, Bulacan — Barangay Ginebra reasserted their mastery over its Manila Clasico rivals, beating the Magnolia Hotshots, 89-78, in their Christmas Day clash at the Philippine Arena here.

Greg Slaughter, as if to make up for the many Philippine Cup games he missed, scattered 24 points and hauled 12 rebounds to help the season-debuting Gin Kings in their wire-to-wire conquest of the Hotshots.

LA tenorio and Japeth Aguilar added to the effort with a one-two punch of their own, combining for 27 points.

“I’m really surprised with how well we played,” Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone said. “We weren’t perfect out there but we really played with good energy."

“This is really his conference,” Cone said of Slaughter.

Magnolia, which was coming off from a win last week, leaned on Ian Sangalang to keep their foes within striking range. Skipper Paul Lee and veteran PJ Simon churned out 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Sportshub ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

But all that was for naught as the Gin Kings proved to be too deep.

Jervy Cruz tallied 12 points while Mark Caguioa added seven.

Ginebra, which scored its third straight 'Clasico' win, is now 10-1 over their opponents during Christmas Games. They take on Blackwater next on Jan. 12, 2018, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:

GINEBRA 89 — Slaughter 24, Tenorio 15, J. Aguilar 12, Cruz 12, Caguioa 7, Ferrer 7, Thompson 6, Mariano 4, Taha 2, R. Aguilar 0, Manuel 0.

MAGNOLIA 78 — Sangalang 25, Lee 16, Simon 15, Pingris 6, Barroca 4, Dela Rosa 4, Gamalinda 4, Herndon 2, Melton 2, Ramos 0, Brondial 0, Pascual 0.

Quarters: 22-17, 48-37, 66-60, 89-78.

Gerry Peñalosa warns Manny Pacquiao about Aussie champ

Manny Pacquiao
MANILA, Philippines — Former two-time world boxing champion Gerry Peñalosa said yesterday he wasn’t impressed by WBO welterweight titlist Jeff Horn’s recent 11th round stoppage of British challenger Gary Corcoran in Brisbane but warned Manny Pacquiao that in the event of a rematch, the Filipino icon must be 100 percent ready.

Horn had to shed 7.8 pounds in 24 hours to make the welterweight limit for the Pacquiao fight last July and cut down 8 pounds, also in 24 hours, for Corcoran. He’s been advised to relinquish the welterweight crown and move up to superwelterweight because of weight issues. But Horn said he won’t leave the 147-pound division at least until after defending against unified superlightweight ruler Terence Crawford for a $5 Million payday.

Horn was paid only $750,000 for halting Corcoran in the first defense of the WBO crown he wrested from Pacquiao. Only 4,000 fans watched the bout, a major slide from the attendance of 51,025 for the Pacquiao fight. Horn’s guaranteed another $750,000 for his next defense unless a promoter offers an upgrade. Pacquiao dangled a $3 Million invitation for a rematch in Manila but Horn refused, opting to face Corcoran instead for a much lower purse. Clearly, Horn wants nothing to do with Pacquiao.
Peñalosa said Horn’s only chance to beat Crawford is if the American tires out in the late rounds. “If the fight happens, I expect Crawford to start strong and go for an early knockout,” he said. “If Horn survives, Crawford could get tired and that will open an opportunity. It’s Horn’s style to run you over.”

Against Corcoran, Peñalosa said Horn tried to do what he did to Pacquiao. Twice, he threw down Corcoran. But Corcoran, who looked bigger, gave Horn plenty of trouble in the early going until he ran out of steam. With his face a bloody mess, Corcoran was defenseless when his corner threw in the towel. Peñalosa described Corcoran an ordinary fighter and Horn average. He said Horn appeared more confident against Corcoran than when he fought Pacquiao.

“If Manny fights Horn in a rematch, he has to be prepared,” said Peñalosa. “In their first fight, Manny almost knocked out Horn in the ninth round but after that, he was out of gas. I left the stadium when I saw Manny looking exhausted after the ninth and went to a restaurant where the fight was on TV. I couldn’t watch. Horn’s nothing special. But he’s younger and bigger than Manny. The only way Manny can beat Horn is if he has the stamina to go 12 rounds without tiring. That will mean taking time off from his duties at the Senate to train like he used to for his fights against (Oscar) De la Hoya, (Marco Antonio) Barrera and (Erik) Morales.”

Horn has been offered a $2 Million purse to face another Australian Anthony Mundine but he’s chasing Crawford to mark his Las Vegas debut. Pacquiao isn’t in his sights at the moment even if the price is more than right. Pacquiao hasn’t fought since losing to Horn. He’s hinting of returning to the ring in April, possibly in China. No opponent has been mentioned. It appears that Pacquiao will self-promote his next fight as his contract with Top Rank has expired.

Serena Williams sorts out baby teething issues, hints at return

MOMMY PROBLEMS. Serena Williams solves baby problems while hinting on coming back for the 2018 Australian Open. File photo by Peter Parks/AFP

MIAMI, USA – Serena Williams says she has struggled with her baby daughter's teething pain even as she tweeted a photo hinting she might be working on a comeback to defend her Australian Open title.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world number one drew sympathetic replies to Sunday tweets about baby daughter Alexis Olympia's teething issues, complete with a photo. She posted another picture Monday, December 18, of an empty tennis court looking set up for the start of a workout.

The next Australian Open begins on January 15 in Melbourne, which would be barely beyond 4 months after Williams gave birth to her daughter on September 1.

Williams began her latest tweets on Sunday, December 17, with a plea for help on how to ease the torment of teething.

"Teething – aka the devil – is so hard," tweeted Williams. "Poor Alexis Olympia has been so uncomfortable. She cried so much (she never cries) I had to hold her until she fell asleep. I've tried amber beads...cold towels...chew on mommies fingers...homeopathic water (lol on that one) but......"

"Nothing is working. It's breaking my heart. I almost need my mom to come and hold me to sleep cause I'm so stressed. Help? Anyone??"

Among the advice she received – "try a wet washcloth for the baby let her chew it."

On Monday, there was no mention of teething, but a photo of the open court, a racquet bag leaning on a stool with towels and a bicycle nearby serving notice that Williams might have found a cure for herself with the next Grand Slam tournament only 4 weeks away.

Williams has said she intended to defend the crown she won earlier this year while unknowingly pregnant but has not confirmed any firm plans to play in Melbourne since the birth of her daughter. – Rappler.com

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