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The Sports Report: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar elaborates on his advice to LeBron James

Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, and Lakers star LeBron James.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP; Ashley Landis / AP)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Dan Woike: Lakers Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Sunday helped unveil a trophy bearing his name and likeness — in the form of his hands on a basketball — for the NBA’s Social Justice Champion Award.

In a nearly 10-minute interview with reporters that followed, Abdul-Jabbar was asked directly about his past criticisms of LeBron James. In addition to crediting James for his work, Abdul-Jabbar called some of James’ actions “embarrassing” and “beneath him.”

Late Sunday afternoon in an email to The Times, Abdul-Jabbar elaborated on his feelings about James and his admiration for his work as an activist:

“Over the years, I’ve been asked to comment on and write about LeBron James. A couple years ago, I wrote an article for Sports Illustrated about LeBron as a Sportsperson of the Year in which I said: ‘[T]his generation couldn’t do any better in the hero department than LeBron James. Part of being a hero is to have both the modesty to feel unworthy of such a heavy word and the strength to accept the responsibility that comes with others looking to you to be that hero. What is a hero but someone who stands up for those who can’t? Who embodies our cherished ideals of sportsmanship: fair play, hard work and compassion? That pretty much describes the LeBron James I’ve watched and come to know since he was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft and was named Rookie of the Year.’ In the two years since wrote that, my respect and admiration has only grown for LeBron as I watched him champion worthwhile causes while maintaining his status as an elite athlete. As he closes is on my all-time scoring record, I have been a cheerleader urging him on, happy to pass the mantle to someone so worthy as an athlete and a person.

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Read the rest of Abdul-Jabbar’s message here.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticizes LeBron James, says he should be ‘embarrassed’

Helene Elliott: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asking LeBron James to ‘be careful’ is a reasonable request

LeBron-less Lakers lose to Nuggets; play-in hopes fading fast

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WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

From Marisa Ingemi: When UCLA junior guard Charisma Osborne scored 31 points during a win at Oregon State that vaulted the Bruins into the WNIT Final Four, it locked in another costly, grueling day of travel.

After 13 hours of travel to get to Brookings, S.D., funded by UCLA, she wasn’t going to let the moment pass without pointing out the inequity of the WNIT that gets far less financial support than the men’s NIT.

“Just talking with the team, I think it’s important to just bring awareness,” she said before the Bruins played South Dakota State. “So that people in the future can have better opportunities than what we have right now.”

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Osborne tweeted after that game, “This needs way more attention! It took us 3 different flights resulting in 13 hours of travel to get to Oregon. There’s no reason the WNIT shouldn’t be receiving the same benefits as the men! Why does the @NCAA own the Men’s NIT but not the @WomensNIT ? Women deserve better!”

Inequity across the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments has become a hot topic as women’s players and coaches began to point out the disparities between the two.

The gap in the men’s and women’s NIT tournaments, though, is likely larger, and UCLA decided to highlight it during its postseason run with the hope it helps future teams enjoy a more equitable experience.

Unlike the men’s NIT, which is run by the NCAA, women’s teams have to hope their respective athletic departments will take on the cost to keep their seasons — and, for seniors and graduate students, their careers — going.

The women’s tournament is operated by Triple Crown Sports, a for-profit company that created the tournament in 1994. The NCAA fronts the cost for men’s NIT teams to charter across the country and pay the schools to participate; the women do not enjoy the same financial support.

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Dawn Staley and South Carolina buttoned up on defense and won their second national championship, stifling UConn for a 64-49 victory Sunday night that ended the Huskies’ undefeated streak in title games.

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Destanni Henderson scored a career-high 26 points, Aliyah Boston added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Gamecocks handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their first loss in 12 NCAA title games.

With Staley calling the shots in a $5,000 letterman jacket, South Carolina took UConn to school on the boards and capped a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1 team in the country in The Associated Press poll. The Gamecocks also won the championship in 2017 with A’ja Wilson leading the way.

NCAA TOURNAMENT

MEN

Title game

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina, 6:20 p.m., TBS

WOMEN

Title game

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No. 1 South Carolina 64, No. 2 UConn 49

CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: One of the inclusions on the Clippers’ scouting report of New Orleans was a little-publicized guard whose defensive strategy is unique, and had become so well known that the NBA recently spliced together his highlights.

When opponents inbound the ball, the slight, 6-foot guard hides himself in the corner of a court, then races up behind a dribbler unaware of his presence to poke the ball away. When Portland coach Chauncey Billups called his friend, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, on Sunday to warn him against the trick that had recently led to several Trail Blazers turnovers, Lue let him know he was already planning to have his team watch film of Jose Alvarado before tipoff against the Pelicans.

Maybe it was Lue’s reminder. Maybe it was his roster’s motivation of knowing what Sunday was worth. But either way, neither Alvarado nor the Pelicans sneaked up and surprised the Clippers in a 119-100 victory that clinched them the Western Conference’s eighth-best record.

In years past, clinching eighth would guarantee a first-round series against the conference’s top seed. In the era of the play-in tournament, it still holds value. The winner of the seven-versus-eight game earns the seventh overall seed while the loser has another opportunity to advance by playing the winner of the nine-versus-10 game.

SOCCER

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored twice and the Galaxy defeated the Portland Timbers 3-1 Sunday in a testy match that saw a pair of players sent off because of red cards.

Chicharito’s early strike and an own goal put the Galaxy up 2-0 in the first 16 minutes. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Galaxy (3-2-0).

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Defender Bill Tuiloma scored the lone goal for the Timbers, who lost for the first time at home and are 1-2-3 in their first five games.

Afterward, Chicharito quickly turned his thoughts to next weekend, when the Galaxy hosts LAFC in the rivalry known as El Tráfico.

“To come here, take the three points, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling as well to bounce back after two very difficult losses. And this result is going to give us a lot of confidence for the Trafico, obviously.”

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: The tension between trainer Bob Baffert and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has been increasingly heightened since he was notified May 8 last year that his then Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for an anti-inflammatory that is legal except on race day.

It was in the hours after Baffert learned of the positive test that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission took the extraordinary measure of recording without consent three phone calls it had with the trainer, which could be a violation of California law.

In transcripts of the calls reviewed by The Los Angeles Times, Baffert proclaimed his innocence, doubted the results, demanded an investigation, and asked that hair and DNA samples be taken of Medina Spirit to prove that this was just a big mistake. He volunteered that he and everyone in his barn would take a lie-detector test in an attempt to exonerate himself and his horse. Baffert was unaware his calls were being recorded as he was driving to Van Nuys Airport to take a private plane to Kentucky. California is an all-party consent state, meaning that all parties have to consent to being recorded and each individual must have a reasonable expectation of not being overheard.

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According to Clark Brewster, Baffert’s attorney, the KHRC did not disclose the existence of any recording or transcript until after Baffert had his hearing with the stewards, nearly 10 months after the phone calls were recorded. The existence of the recording and the possible alleged transgression likely will have no effect on current litigation. The Times has only reviewed the transcripts but not heard the recordings.

ANGELS

From Mike DiGiovanna: It’s an opportunity he has waited his entire pro career for, and the fact that it’s coming so close to home, with a team he grew up rooting for and a manager who values his skill set makes it all the sweeter for Tyler Wade.

“I love it here,” said Wade, an Angels infielder who will open the season in a second-base platoon with Matt Duffy. “I feel it’s like a breath of fresh air for me.”

A trade from the New York Yankees to the Angels last November was like oxygen to the former Murrieta Valley High standout.

Wade spent all of 2020 and 2021 in the big leagues but started only 64 games and accrued 215 at-bats, his path to more playing time blocked by Yankees infielders Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu.

Wade won’t be a full-time starter in Anaheim, but as a left-handed-hitting platoon partner, he should get the majority of starts, at least to begin the season.

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And as a speedy contact hitter in the lineup of Joe Maddon, who stresses on-base ability, aggressive baserunning and situational hitting more than most managers, Wade won’t have to worry about being a Bronx Bomber.

“I think this fits me to a T,” Wade, 27, said. “Small ball, that’s my game. You’re not gonna pay me to hit 30 home runs. You’re gonna pay me to be on base in front of the big boys and steal a base and create runs.”

DUCKS

Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to 13 games, Leon Draisaitl scored his 50th goal of the season, and the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth straight game with a 6-1 victory over the Ducks on Sunday night.

Tyson Barrie and Brett Kulak each had a goal and two assists, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and an assist as the Oilers pulled within one point of Los Angeles for second place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand. Jesse Puljujarvi also scored, and Mike Smith made 31 saves.

The Oilers play at the Kings on Thursday.

Zach Aston-Reese scored for Anaheim, and John Gibson made 40 saves. The Ducks have lost 12 of their past 13 games and were outscored 19-9 as they were swept in the three-game season series.

GOLF

A comeback unlike any other for Tiger Woods might start at the Masters.

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Just over 13 months since Woods damaged his right leg so badly he said doctors considered amputation, he tweeted he was headed to Augusta National on Sunday without yet deciding whether to play.

“I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete,” Woods wrote.

The Masters does not have a firm deadline to commit like regular tour events. It is an invitation tournament, and players typically notify the club only if they do not plan to play. Tee times will be released on Tuesday.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1921 — The NHL champion Ottawa Senators beat the Pacific Coast Hockey Assn. champion Vancouver Millionaires 2-1 to win the Stanley Cup 3 games to 2.

1937 — Byron Nelson shoots a 283 to win the Masters by two strokes over Ralph Guldahl.

1938 — Henry Picard beats Ralph Guldahl and Harry Cooper by two strokes to capture the Masters.

1983 — Lorenzo Charles scores on a dunk after Derek Whittenburg’s 35-foot desperation shot falls short to give North Carolina State a 54-52 triumph over Houston in the NCAA championship.

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1986 — Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky breaks his own NHL single-season points record with three assists to increase his total to 214. He scored 212 points in 1981-82.

1987 — New York’s Denis Potvin, the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history, scores his 1,000th point.

1988 — Danny Manning scores 31 points and grabs 18 rebounds as Kansas wins its second NCAA championship with an 83-79 victory over Oklahoma.

1993 — Sheryl Swoopes shatters the women’s championship game record by scoring 47 points to lead Texas Tech to an 84-82 victory over Ohio State.

1993 — Mario Andretti, at 53, wins the Valvoline 200 in Phoenix to become the oldest driver to win an Indy car race and the first driver to win a race in four different decades.

1994 — Arkansas wins its first men’s national championship with a 76-72 victory over Duke, depriving the Blue Devils of a third title in four years.

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1998 — Mark McGwire ties Willie Mays’ National League record by hitting a home run in each of his first four games. McGwire launches a towering three-run shot in the sixth inning of an 8-6 victory over the San Diego

2001 — Hideo Nomo becomes the fourth pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in both leagues in Boston’s 3-0 victory over Baltimore.

2003 — Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs becomes the 18th player to hit 500 career homers, connecting for a solo shot in a 10-9 loss to Cincinnati.

2004 — Carolina’s Brad Fast beat Florida goalie Roberto Luongo with a wrist shot to tie the game at 6-6 late in the third period. It’s the final tie game in NHL history.

2005 — North Carolina defeats Illinois to win the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. Sean May has 26 points and the Tar Heels don’t allow a basket over the final 2 1/2 minutes to defeat Illinois 75-70.

2011 — Kemba Walker scores 16 points and Alex Oriakhi has 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead Connecticut to a 53-41 win over Butler in the men’s NCAA championship game.

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2015 — The United States defends their women’s world hockey championship with a 7-5 win over Canada.

2016 — Kris Jenkins hits a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift Villanova to the national title with a 77-74 victory over North Carolina — one of the wildest finishes in the history of the NCAA tournament. Jenkins’ shot comes moments after Marcus Paige hit a double-clutch three from beyond the arc to tie the score at 74 with 4.7 seconds left.

And finally

Hideo Nomo throws the second no-hitter of his career. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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