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Hawks owner Bruce Levenson selling stake in team after revelation of racist email

Nelly-Bruce-LevensonAtlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson announced on Sunday morning that he will sell his stake in the team after the revelation of a racially-charged email he sent in 2012. Levenson and NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the news with statements.

In the email, Levenson made several comments stereotyping African-American fans.

“Over the past several years, I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with low attendance at our games and the need for the Hawks to attract more season ticket holders and corporate sponsors,” Levenson said, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. “Over that time, I’ve talked with team executives about the need for the Hawks to build a more diverse fan base that includes more suburban whites, and I shared my thoughts on why our efforts to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide seemed to be failing.

“In trying to address those issues, I wrote an email two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”

Silver said the league was made aware of Levenson’s email in July and launched an investigation. Considering the revelation came just months after Donald Sterling’s racist audio recording was released, Levenson’s decision to sell his less than 50% share in the Hawks is not a surprise.

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself, too,” Levenson added. “It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.”

You can read the full text of Levenson’s 2012 email here.

LeBron James backs Eric Bledsoe, tells Suns to ‘break bread’

LeBron James Eric Bledsoe

LeBron James expressed his support for Eric Bledsoe in an Instagram post on Friday where he told the Phoenix Suns to pay the man.

James shared the photo seen at top on Instagram that shows him working out with Bledsoe. He also included the following caption:

“Great work today lil bro @ebled2!! Future All-Star in this league in no time. PHX break bread. #Klutch #Work #GymRats #StriveForGreatness”

Bledsoe is the only remaining unsigned restricted free agent in the NBA. Bledsoe’s agent wants a max contract for his client but they have not received any max offers. The Suns have offered a 4-year, $48 million contract, but that’s not enough for Bledsoe’s agent.

With very little leverage and no offers coming, Bledsoe might have to sign a qualifying offer this year and become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Charles Barkley explains rift with Michael Jordan

Charles-Barkley-Michael-Jordan-BobcatsMichael Jordan and Charles Barkley used to be close buddies but are no longer good friends. Barkley says that is due to MJ getting offended by Chuck’s criticism of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Barkley did an interview with Yahoo!’s Graham Bensinger and was asked about his friendship with Jordan, which dates back to their time together in the NBA, on the Dream Team and in the movie “Space Jam.” Barkley still has a lot of love for Jordan.

“Michael has always been like a brother to me,” Barkley said. “He’s been a great mentor to me in the business world and he’s been a great friend.”

When pressed about where things soured, Barkley said his criticism of MJ’s performance as owner of the Bobcats was upsetting to His Airness.

“I think that Michael was upset by some of the things I said about the Bobcats – which, number one, they were true. I told you earlier, I’m going to be honest, and I’m going to be fair,” said Barkley.

“First of all, he’s doing a much better job. But a couple years ago, I want to say three years ago, when they were vying for the worst record in NBA history, Michael had not done a good job. He took it personally.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it’s because we went through this in 2012. Back in March 2012, Barkley criticized some of Jordan’s draft picks. A few months later, Barkley said MJ was angry with him over that criticism. Apparently not much has changed in their relationship since then.

Barkley also addressed another urban legend concerning the two. The story always was that Jordan used to have meals or play golf with opponents in the playoffs to soften them up. Barkley downplayed that notion.

“That’s one of the biggest misconceptions ever,” Barkley told Bensinger. “I’ve heard that story. Me and Michael never played golf or had dinner during the Finals. We understand it was a competition.

“I’ve heard this before that Michael took me out and buttered me up on the golf course or at dinner. I would just kind of laugh at it. We would just laugh at it. We were friends during and we were friends after.”

But they are no longer close friends.

What’s even more interesting than that is the story of why Barkley and Tiger Woods are no longer friends.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Business opportunities factor in Carmelo Anthony’s return to Knicks

Carmelo Anthony KnicksWhen Carmelo Antony opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks, many expected him to return to the Big Apple after testing the free agent waters. That’s exactly what happened when Anthony signed a five-year, $124 million contract to return to stay in New York after visits with the Bulls and Lakers.

Anthony mentioned his desire to win and belief in Phil Jackson among the reasons he decided to remain with the Knicks. The first part of that was met with sentence was met with laughs and snickers considering the Bulls presented a better opportunity to be successful in the immediate future.

The money Anthony will make over the life of his new contract was obviously played a part in re-signing, but so did interests outside of Madison Square Garden. Speaking a business summit in Manhattan, Anthony talked about business interests in New York and how they weren’t ignored during decision making process.

“I just couldn’t leave from that perspective,” he said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in Manhattan via Newsday. “There were so many opportunities that I started to build upon here in New York City, business opportunities, different situations.

“I just felt if I was to leave, I would have to start all over in the next place, meet new people, build that foundation up once again, and it took me a lot to build that foundation and get it up and going to where it’s at right now.”

If you want to build yourself into a brand, there aren’t many better places to do so than in New York City. Those ventures will be of use when Anthony’s playing days are over and it’s never to early to start thinking about life after basketball.

As for the winning part, Anthony may have to wait a bit for that. Derek Fisher will be in his first year as head coach during the upcoming season so we will have to see how that works out and the team will gain salary cap space in 2015, but what they do with it is yet to be determined.

H/T Eye On Basketball

Kyrie Irving hip injury doesn’t appear serious (Video)

Kyrie Irving left Team USA’s win over the Ukraine at the FIBA World Cup of Basketball on Thursday after taking a hard fall under the basket. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard drove to the lane and looked like he was trying to pass when the ball was deflected and he lost his balance. Irving’s left side slammed on the floor.

Irving was unable to get his hand down to break the fall, and he ended up limping off the court very gingerly.

Kyrie-Irving-hip-injury

Fortunately, the 22-year-old tweeted after the game that he is “all good” and is looking forward to Team USA’s next game.

Again, we are reminded of why NBA team owners like Mark Cuban despise international play. Irving is a huge part of what the Cavaliers plan to do this season with their revitalized team led by LeBron James. They can’t afford to lose the player that they expect to be the quarterback of their offense. The Indiana Pacers know all about what that’s like.

GIF via Ben Golliver
Photo via NBA on ESPN

Derek Fisher hires ‘Kevin Durant’s guy’ Brian Keefe as Knicks assistant

Kevin DurantIf the New York Knicks are looking to make a run at Kevin Durant if and when he becomes a free agent in 2016, they may have taken a step in the right direction with one of their recent hires. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Durant is “very close” with new Knicks assistant coach Brian Keefe.

Keefe, who was hired this week, spent the past seven seasons with the Oklahoma City — five as an assistant coach and two as a developmental coach.

“He’s Durant’s guy,” a league source told Berman.

Durant mentioned last season how Keefe called him out on his body language and attitude, so he obviously has a great deal of respect for the coach. KD also has a close relationship with Fisher, whom he played alongside with the Thunder. Durant was vocal in backing Fisher as a candidate for the Knicks head coaching job and reportedly helped sell Carmelo Anthony on playing for him.

It’s quite possible the Thunder will sign Durant to an extension before he hits free agency, but the stars are certainly aligned for the Knicks to be a top contender for KD’s services should he become a free agent.

Russell Westbrook and girlfriend Nina Earl engaged

Russell Westbrook girlfriend Nina Earl

Russell Westbrook took a big step in his life by getting engaged to longtime girlfriend Nina Earl.

Both Westbrook and Earl announced the happy news via Instagram on Wednesday.

“Nothing even matters..” @ninamari3_ forever my lady! LOVE YOU!!!!” Westbrook wrote on Instagram.

“My life! I love you like XO @russwest44″ – wrote Earl.

The two even received congratulations from Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Kevin Durant:

Here’s another up-close look at Earl’s engagement ring:

Russell Westbrook girlfriend Nina Earl

Westbrook and Earl met at UCLA. Here’s what Russ had to say about Nina in a 2013 interview with ESPN:

“But she’s a smart girl. She’s in school right now, trying to get her master’s in psychology. She knows what she wants to do in life, which is great. That’s easy for me to cope with.”

Clearly he found a keeper.