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Giants outlast Vikings 31-24 for 1st playoff win in 11 years

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — First-year head coach Brian Daboll had his upstart team fully prepared. Daniel Jones played at a level well beyond his experience.

The New York Giants came confidently into Minnesota’s raucous stadium and beat the tight-finish masters at their own game.

Jones passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 78 yards in his first career playoff game for the Giants in a 31-24 wild-card round victory on Sunday that gave the Vikings their first loss in 12 one-score games this season.

“A cornerstone franchise like this with such a rich history, this is what we’re supposed to do,” wide receiver Darius Slayton said. “We’re supposed to go to the playoffs. We’re supposed to be a winning team. We’re just going to keep trying to live up to the legacy that’s been here.”

Saquon Barkley rushed for two scores, including the tiebreaker midway through the fourth quarter. Jones became the first quarterback in NFL history to hit these thresholds in a postseason game: 300-plus yards passing, two-plus passing touchdowns and 70-plus yards rushing.

“He’s a special player,” said Barkley, who had 109 total yards on only 14 touches. “This is where you can create your legacy in the playoffs, and what a way to start it off.”

The defense finished off the franchise’s first playoff win since the Super Bowl 11 years ago by swarming tight end T.J. Hockenson at midfield after a 3-yard reception from Kirk Cousins on fourth-and-8 to force a turnover on downs with 1:44 to go and no timeouts left for the Vikings (13-5).

The Giants (10-7-1) advanced to play No. 1 seed and NFC East rival Philadelphia in the divisional round next Saturday night. They converted seven of 13 third downs and had their way with a Vikings defense that has been vulnerable all season, averaging 8.3 yards per play in the first half.

“I think we’ve had some of our better games recently and found some stuff that works for us,” said Jones, who had touchdown passes to Isaiah Hodgins and Daniel Bellinger. “So we’ll keep doing it. I thought the coaching staff did a great job having us prepared.”

Cousins went 31 for 39 for 273 yards and two scores and a rushing touchdown to cap the game’s opening possession, the too-short throw to Hockenson his one glaring mistake. Cousins was more upset by his placement on the third-and-8 pass to K.J. Osborn — who had a first-half touchdown catch — that was knocked down by Cor’Dale Flott.

“There was always belief. I think that’s why it hurts, because you expect to find a way, especially the way this team has gone all year,” said Cousins, who called this “probably the toughest loss” of his 11-year career after going an NFL-record 11-0 in one-score games in the regular season.

Five years and one day after Case Keenum’s 61-yard last-play touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs gave the Vikings a 29-24 victory over New Orleans in the divisional round, Cousins finally got a postseason game in Minnesota in his fifth season with the team.

The Vikings stayed on brand by facing 10-point deficits late in the second quarter and again early in the third quarter.

Cousins, who delivered all kinds of on-target throws as he was knocked to the turf by the blitz-fueled Giants defense, hit Irv Smith Jr. for a touchdown that brought the Vikings within 24-21.

Then came the unusual — the defense got a stop.

Danielle Hunter’s sack forced the first Giants punt, and the Vikings went the other way for the tying field goal. They left behind some crucial points, though, when Cousins ran successful sneak on fourth-and-1 at the 15 that was negated by a false start on left tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Jones converted a penalty-free fourth-and-1 sneak on the next drive for the Giants. Barkley chugged into the end zone for the lead with 7:47 to go.

“There were real tears in there,” first-year coach Kevin O’Connell said outside the locker room. “There are guys that expected to have a chance to win a world championship. You’ve got to give the Giants a lot of credit.”

JACKSON VS. JEFFERSON

Cousins targeted Hockenson 11 times for 10 receptions and 129 yards, but after Justin Jefferson had four catches on the opening touchdown drive he had only three more the rest of the way and just one in the second half.

The NFL’s leading receiver, who had 133 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions in the 27-24 win over the Giants last month, almost always had a safety following him and was deftly covered by Adoree’ Jackson in the cornerback’s return from a seven-game absence to a knee injury.

“I always believe in myself, but it’s always gratifying and it’s appreciated when others believe in you,” Jackson said.

INJURY REPORT

Giants: OLB Azeez Ojulari (quadriceps) was hurt in the second quarter and ruled out at halftime. … Backup FS Jason Pinnock (abdomen) left on a cart after covering a kickoff in the fourth quarter and went to a hospital for evaluation. He rejoined Giants in the locker room and was flying home with the team.

Vikings: LB Brian Asamoah II (concussion) was injured covering a kickoff late in the second quarter. … Backup CB Cameron Dantzler Sr. (personal) was inactive after missing practice all week.

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/new-york-giants-nfl-super-bowl-sports-daniel-jones-9857c3c0a58090ba9251bd8cdd681ba0

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LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids.

Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she received from the LeBron James Family Foundation. “He’s life-changing,” Smiley said.

For all his accomplishments on the basketball court — four championships, 19 All-Star Game nominations and an imminent coronation as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — it is James’ ambitious pursuits off-the-court that may ultimately distinguish his legacy from other superstar athletes’.

James co-founded a successful media and entertainment company, bought stakes in storied professional baseball and soccer franchises and, with a big assist from product endorsements, his net worth is estimated to have grown above $1 billion. The off-court achievement that James is most proud of, he says, is working to uplift the lives of people like Smiley in his hometown of Akron.

Many athletes have excelled in one or more of these areas. But few have done all of them as well as James, who is closing in on passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record.

“His goal, I believe, is to have 10% of his wealth go to causes and support communities, which is an amazing goal,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University. “I would say he’s maybe above and beyond others, just on that aspiration alone.”

James is, by any measure, an overwhelming success. And he makes Smiley — one of the many people in Akron who have received financial support from his foundation — believe that she can be a success as well.

“If I did not have the LeBron program, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to college. I would be living in a not-so-positive environment,” said the 19-year-old Smiley.

“His ability to help people’s futures,” she added, “is what makes LeBron a great person.”

James, who entered the NBA straight after high school in 2003, planned early on to use his talents, fame — and, yes, his growing financial resources — to have on impact on the world beyond basketball.

“Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” said James. Although James bounced from home to home during his childhood, and experienced financial insecurity for many of those years, he also was given enormous support from friends, neighbors and educators.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, founded in 2004, at first gained local attention by giving away bikes and backpacks. Then it began looking at after-school programs, with students scattered across several dozen schools, and eventually created a public school currently serving about 575 third through eighth graders. Today the school includes a family resource center that provides a wide-range of services to parents, including mental health, financial literacy, legal aid and GED courses.

Just down the street from the school, the foundation provides rent-free housing to as many as 16 different families — when needed — and it has plans to build 50 units of affordable housing.

“I couldn’t have guessed how much it would grow,” James said in late January. “But we got here by listening and responding to our community and what they need.”

James has made over $400 million in NBA salary during his time with Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. Another $100 million is on the way in the next 2-1/2 years or so.

James is a pitchman for Nike, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Britain’s Liverpool football club. His entertainment company, SpringHill — named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in — is valued at $725 million and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.

“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in 2018, a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James puts so much focus on giving back to Akron because of the help people there gave to him and his family. “He’s never lost sight of that,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation. “I think that keeps him grounded.”

Just how down to earth “King James” really was got called into question in 2010. That’s when he went on television to announce that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami. Billed as “The Decision” — and broadcast on ESPN — the live event was widely ripped as egotistical. But from James’ perspective, the broadcast raised around $4 million for charity, a fact was largely overlooked.

Just a couple of years later, James would use his star power to help draw attention to a cause bigger than himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin — a Black Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer — James tweeted a photo of Heat players wearing hoodies and bowing their heads that included the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

In 2020, James helped lead the “More Than A Vote” movement, which included registration and early-vote drives and stressed the need for people — particularly Black voters — to get to the polls to fight disenfranchisement.

Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, James was one of the players calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.

“Everything I do,” James said late last year, “has to have a purpose.”

James has all the money and all the fame that he ever wanted or needed. His NBA records, including the scoring title, are going to last for a very long time.

As will his off-court endeavors.

“His ability to help others and put others first is what makes him a great person,” Smiley said. “Not the baskets he shot.”

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Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios had suffered severe depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia in the past, a psychologist told a court on Friday when the Australian tennis star pleaded guilty to pushing a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Jane Campbell didn’t record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, and was not premeditated.

Campbell described it as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, didn’t speak to reporters as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes in the past and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument at 10 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston. He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger side door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon charged with pointing gun at woman

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been charged in a warrant with pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her, according to court documents.

Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, according to the documents, which were filed Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court and obtained by The Associated Press. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

According to the warrant, Mixon pointed the gun at the woman and told her, “You should be popped in the face. I should shoot you, the police (can’t) get me.”

The incident occurred on Jan. 21, the day before the Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round playoff game.

The 26-year-old Mixon rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns this season, his sixth. He also had 60 receptions for 441 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.

A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has spent his entire career with Cincinnati and rushed for career highs of 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

In 2014, when he was 18, Mixon punched a female Oklahoma student in the face, an attack captured on surveillance video. He was suspended from the football team for a year and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. He received a deferred sentence and was ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling.

The incident hurt his standing in the draft, with several teams saying they passed on him because of concerns about his character.

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