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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Manu Ginóbili is one of the best basketball players from Argentina.
Now, he’s playing like one of the best in the world in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward from Bahía Blanca was named an All-Star for the second time in his nine seasons in the NBA this month. He’ll play in the league’s All-Star game on Feb. 20 in Los Angeles. But that’s just a small measure of the attention Ginóbili has earned for leading the San Antonio Spurs, league’s top team.
Ginóbili is averaging 18.5 points, 4.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game for the Spurs, who have an NBA-best record of 42-8. His fantastic play is the reason his team is contending for the top overall seed in the playoffs. He’s also in contention for his first Most Valuable Player of the Year award.
“Yeah, I’m happy,” he said at a media conference. “It’s a great thing to be selected by the coaches, and it’s a good thing. I’m not a player who has played in [the All-Star Game] 10, 12 times, so the second time making it is a pleasure.”
And don’t expect Ginóbili to let his play slip after earning the All-Star nod. In the second half of a blowout win over Sacramento last week, he took an elbow to the lip that drew blood as he went hard for a rebound.
“I was very upset because the Lakers game was tough for me. I got hit a lot and everything was sore,” said Ginóbili, who played in his first All-Star Game in 2005. “I thought I was taking this game kind of easy [at the end of the game]. We were up 15 or 20 and nothing was going to happen today and then on my last play – boom, I got hit.”
Ginóbili didn’t need stitches, but the elbow to his face caused so much pain, he visited a doctor the next day.
“My teeth started hurting, my jaw hurt, the lip all swollen,” Ginóbili said. “The dentist said it would heal if I give it four or five days.”
MMA: Silva defeats fellow Brazilian Belfort
LAS VEGAS – It took Anderson “The Spider” Silva a mere three minutes, 29 seconds of the first round to claim his 13th consecutive Ultimate Fighting Championship victory to improve his record to 28-4 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Feb. 5.
Raising his left leg, Silva delivered a crushing kick to the jaw of former training partner and fellow Brazilian Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort to retain his middleweight title in UFC 126.
Knocking him to the canvas, Silva (28-4) pounced on his dazed opponent and delivered a pair of shots to the mouth before the referee stopped the fight to protect a defenseless Belfort (19-9). It was Silva’s record eighth straight successful title defense.
“He faked to the body and kicked the head,” said Belfort in the post-fight media conference. “Anderson is a great fighter. I used to train with him; he was kicking my butt in the gym. I promised to put up a fight. He caught me and that’s what happened.”
With the victory, Silva set up a potential showdown with UFC star Georges St. Pierre. The two are considered the best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighters on the planet and would almost certainly draw a record pay-per-view audience.
If St. Pierre wins his next fight, a matchup between the stars will “happen this year,” UFC president Dana White told reporters.
“I’m not actually planning on moving up or down in weight,” Silva said in the post-fight media conference. “I’m planning to maintain my position in the middleweight division and prepare myself for the next combat.”
Baseball: Manny Ramírez to star for Tampa Bay
TAMPA, U.S.A. – Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Manny Ramírez has a new home.
The mercurial hitter known best for his quirky antics on the field and trademark dreadlocks has signed a one-year, US$2 million deal with the defending American League East Division champion Tampa Bay Rays.
Ramírez made about US$10 million last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but due to a slew of recent injuries it was tough to find a team to pay the same salary for the native of the Dominican Republic who hit just .298 last year with nine home runs and 42 runs batted-in.
Ramírez has hit .313 with 555 home runs and 1,830 runs batted-in during a 17-year career. He has made more than US$170 million since 2001.
Still, Ramírez said he has plenty left in the tank.
“I want to show people that I can still play,” he said at his introductory media conference in Florida.
Watch Uruguayan national team star Luis Suárez score his first goal for Liverpool.
LIVERPOOL, England – It took Uruguayan national team star Luis Suárez just 16 minutes to make his impact felt for Liverpool.
The dynamic striker was subbed-in late in a tight game last week against Stoke City and scored in his first game for the Reds to secure a 2-0 victory on Feb. 2.
Suárez, 24, was acquired late last month from Netherlands-based Ajax for a reported US$37 million.
“It went through my mind after the game against Stoke that now I have scored my first goal the pressure has eased a little,” he said, according to the team’s official website. “As a striker, you do think about scoring goals but that is not going to worry me now. I hope that I can settle in here very quickly both on and off the pitch, but I have never been the type of person to let pressures off the field affect my game. As soon as I step out on the park the only thing I concentrate on is the next 90 minutes. It has always been like that for me from an early age.”
Liverpool is in sixth place in the Barclays Premier League with 38points, 16 behind league-leading Manchester United (54) and 12 behind second-place Arsenal (50).
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is pleased with Suárez.
“Fantastic for him and great for the supporters,” Dalglish said at a media conference. “He will be all right, and there will be no problem with him. He has not even trained with the players yet because of the paperwork and work permit, so that is something to look forward to.”