Other Sports

Sports briefs: Dec. 27


LeBron James named AP Male Athlete of the Year

The only thing that keeps LeBron James up at night is basketball, which simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense.

On one hand, he's the game's best player.

On the other, he's rarely impressed with himself.

Even after a year like 2013 — when a spectacular wedding, a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award were among the many highlights enjoyed by the Miami Heat star — he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness.

It was announced Thursday that James was The Associated Press's 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating football player Peyton Manning (20) and race-car driver Jimmie Johnson (7).

"I'm chasing something and it's bigger than me as a basketball player," James said. "I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero ... those things mean so much, and that's what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don't think this is the biggest role that I'm going to have."

Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Serena Williams was named AP Female Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.

James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.

The Chicago Bulls assigned guard Marquis Teague to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League. A first-round draft pick out of Kentucky in 2012, Teague has appeared in 19 games and made two starts this season, averaging 2.4 points and 1.5 assists a game.

Jeff Teague, Marquis' older brother, scored a career-high 34 points, including a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer, to give the Atlanta Hawks a 127-125 win over the host Cleveland Cavaliers in double overtime. Teague's fallaway jumper bounced off the rim five times before falling through the net. Teague fell to the floor after shooting the ball and was mobbed by his teammates. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 40 points, including 12 in the second overtime.


Rodgers set to play for Packers Sunday

Aaron Rodgers has been cleared to return from a left collarbone injury, just in time to start Sunday for the Packers against the Chicago Bears in a game to decide the NFC North title.

With no advance warning and little fanfare, the franchise quarterback received the long-awaited good news at the same time as the rest of his teammates Thursday.

Green Bay (7-7-1) is 2-5-1 since Rodgers went down during the first series of a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to Chicago. The Packers have managed to hang on, with a shot to win a third straight division title with a victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

Jon Kitna will earn $53,000 to serve as the Cowboys' third-string quarterback for one week — and he plans to donate that money to the Seattle-area high school where he's now a coach.

Kitna retired after the 2011 season, his 15th in the league, and was coaching football at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., this season when he heard about Tony Romo's back injury. He sent a text message Tuesday morning to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, and the two talked on the phone for 30 minutes.

He'll suit up Sunday as the backup to Kyle Orton if Romo can't play against Philadelphia in a game that will decide a playoff berth.

Kitna appeared in three games for the Cowboys in 2011 and has started 124 games overall for Seattle, Cincinnati, Detroit and Dallas.

 ACL injuries are down, the NFL has told its Health and Safety Advisory Committee. The league said research showed there were 30 ACL injuries in games through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the season, compared to 39 such injuries in 2012, 35 in 2011, 37 in 2010, and 31 in 2009. Anterior cruciate ligament problems are the most severe knee injuries.

There was an increase in medial collateral ligament injuries, from 74 in 2012 to 89 in games this season through 13 weeks. But there were 106 MCL injuries in 2011, 89 in 2010 and 103 in 2009.

There had been suggestions that knee injuries have gone up since the NFL cracked down heavily on hits to the head and neck, but research doesn't support that.

Buffalo Bills rookie receiver Robert Woods has been fined $15,000 by the league for punching Miami safety Reshad Jones last weekend. Woods and Jones became tangled up during a running play and eventually wrestled each other to the ground. Woods was unhappy with how Jones threw him into a pile of players following the whistle. Jones was on one knee and had his back turned when Woods caught him with an uppercut across the facemask. Woods said he regretted losing his cool and has learned his lesson.


MLB teams can bid on Japanese ace

Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old pitching ace from Japan, is officially up for grabs for America's major league teams. To get him, teams will have to go through Casey Close, the prominent baseball agent at Excel Sports Management who also represents Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, was under contract, but the team relented this week and decided to let him leave. The team that signs Tanaka will have to pay Rakuten $20 million as part of the posting-fee system in place for Japanese players coming to MLB. The window to negotiate for Tanaka's rights will close Jan. 24.

Mike Hegan, a former major league player who was a longtime broadcaster with the Cleveland Indians, died with his family by his side in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 71.

Hegan was a radio and TV broadcaster for the Indians for 23 years and with Milwaukee for 12 years before that. He retired in 2011. The son of former Indians catcher Jim Hegan made the AL All-Star team with the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and helped Oakland win the 1972 World Series. He also played in the 1964 World Series with the New York Yankees. Hegan hit .242 with 53 homers and 229 RBIs in 965 games, playing mostly first base and outfield.

The last word

The NFL might be saying it wants a cold and snowy Super Bowl, but singer Bruno Mars, who will perform in the halfttime show, isn't so crazy about it. What's he going to do about the cold?

"I'm going to wear a beekeeper suit, I don't know. I'm not going to know until I get there ... I'm not trying to hype myself up too much. I know it's going to be cold and I just got to face it."