Johnny Ludden

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Johnny Ludden is the NBA editor for Yahoo! Sports

  • LeBron James leads Heat to second straight NBA championship with Game 7 victory over Spurs


    MIAMI – Not one, not two… A little more than three years ago, LeBron James stood on that stage here, the smoke swirling about him, and made one of the most audacious declarations the NBA had ever heard. He had just joined with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the most star-powered triumvirate in the league, and now he was promising the Miami Heat fistfuls of titles.

    Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…

    Tim Duncan walks off the court while the Heat celebrate. (USA TODAY Sports)James crowed, and he was mocked fast and hard for the boast, for the spectacle of a welcome party the Heat had thrown for him, for his narcissistic "I'm-taking-my-talents-to-South-Beach" cable TV special. He hadn't won anything yet, of course. He just acted like he had, arriving here full of pompousness and entitlement, well on his way to becoming one of the sporting world's great villains.

    Somewhere in all that braggadocio, James' point was clear. He hadn't left his home state of Ohio to come to Miami to win a championship. He was here to build a dynasty,

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  • LeBron James, Ray Allen rally Heat to Game 7 of NBA Finals with wild win over Spurs

    MIAMI – LeBron James had drifted through much of Tuesday night. Confused, a little self-doubt perhaps starting to creep into him, he looked more like the shell-shocked, ineffective star who lost a season-ending Game 6 to the Dallas Mavericks here two years ago than the bold, cocksure leader who has dominated the NBA ever since.

    After losing Game 5 of these NBA Finals in San Antonio, James said he embraced the challenge of having to win consecutive games at home to claim his second straight championship. Only, the pressure, once again, appeared ready to swallow him whole, the enormity of the moment too big for him to grasp.

    LeBron James scored 18 of his 32 points against Tony Parker's Spurs after the third quarter. (AP)The San Antonio Spurs had worn on James, and as they hiked their lead deeper and deeper into the second half, the Miami Heat's championship reign moved that much closer to expiring.

    In the end, maybe that was all James needed to jolt him. His season, his legacy, at a crossroads, the NBA's best player finally took charge, rallying these Heat – with the help of a

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  • Manu Ginobili, Spurs push Heat to the brink, win NBA Finals Game 5

    SAN ANTONIO – For two days, Manu Ginobili had heard all the doubts, including possibly a few from within himself. He had labored in these NBA Finals. That much was true. Long one of the game's great clutch performers and an icon here in South Texas, he had played unsteady, looking every bit of his 35 years.

    This was not the Manu the San Antonio Spurs knew, and even some of them likely wondered: Was the magic gone? Were all those big-game moments Ginobili had delivered for much of the past decade just memories? Moments to be treasured and remembered, but no longer duplicated?

    Manu Ginobili totaled 24 points and 10 assists in the Spurs' Game 5 victory. (USA Today Sports)So, Ginobili stood there on the day before Game 5 of the Finals, surrounded by reporters, peppered by question after question, each of them implying the same. Are you done?

    Not yet, it appears.

    Ginobili dug deep once again, and when he was finished late Sunday, he had pushed the Spurs to a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat, pushed them to the brink of another NBA championship. Ignited by his first start in more

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  • Dwyane Wade, LeBron James combine for 65 points, Heat beat Spurs in NBA Finals Game 4

    SAN ANTONIO – For all the talk that the Miami Heat's championship reign rested squarely on the shoulders of LeBron James, that these NBA Finals would turn on how well or poorly the King played, Dwyane Wade knew the truth. If the Heat were going to beat the San Antonio Spurs, he would need to play better, too.

    Dwyane Wade hadn't scored 32 points since he had 32 against Minnesota on March 4. (AP)James wore his shooting shirt like a cape to the Heat's practice on Wednesday, making a show of his declaration to lead his teammates into Game 4. Turns out, Wade preferred to wait until tipoff to put on the real one.

    Looking like the Wade of old instead of Old Wade, he totaled 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and six steals to lead the Heat to a 109-93 Game 4 victory over the Spurs Thursday night at the AT&T Center. The victory squares the series at 2-2 and assures the Finals will return to Miami for a sixth game, if not also a seventh. If the Spurs are going to dethrone the Heat, they will have to win at least once more on the Heat's court.

    For that, the Heat can thank Wade

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  • Team USA fights off Spain to win gold medal in Olympic rematch

    LONDON – Somewhere in the midst of their relaxing afternoon stroll to the gold medal, Team USA looked up and found themselves in a fight. Spain rained 3-pointers over the Americans' heads. Pau and Marc Gasol bullied the U.S. frontline. And after U.S. center Tyson Chandler became entangled with Sergio Rodriguez in the second quarter, the little Spanish point guard stepped up and jabbed his right index finger into Chandler's face.

    Rodriguez's message was clear: For all your NBA talent, for all your American dominance, you will not push us around.

    Yes, Team USA's gold-medal rematch with Spain proved nearly as difficult as their battle in Beijing four years ago. Just like in 2008, the Americans finally separated themselves from Spain in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, holding on for a 107-100 victory that gave them their second straight Olympic gold medal.

    [ Photos: Team USA fights off Spain for gold ]

    Mike Krzyzewski coached his final game for Team USA, joining Henry Iba

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  • Team USA advances to Olympic gold-medal game on Dwight Howard's day

    LeBron James goes up for a dunk over Carlos Delfino during the Men's Basketball semifinal (Getty Images)LeBron James goes up for a dunk over Carlos Delfino during the Men's Basketball semifinal (Getty Images)LONDON – Kobe Bryant and the United States will meet Pau Gasol and Spain for the Olympic gold medal, a historic rematch of the 2008 Beijing Games when Bryant helped Team USA hold off the Spaniards in a fierce, thrilling … wait … what? Oh. Never mind.

    Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers!

    London Games organizers still decided to play Friday's semifinal games for the Olympic men's basketball tournament, but all anyone wanted to talk about – the U.S. press, at least – was the titanic trade that sent Howard to the Lakers and potentially shifted the NBA's balance of power. Gasol helped rally Spain past Russia 67-59, and Bryant helped Team USA roll past Argentina 109-83 to deliver the gold-medal rematch, but that was a story for another day.

    Inquiring minds wanted to know what Bryant and Gasol thought of their new Lakers teammate. Gasol had barely stepped onto the court when he was hit with his first question about Howard. TNT's Craig Sager, working as a sideline reporter for NBC,

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  • Kobe Bryant scores 20 second-half points as U.S. holds off Australia to reach Olympic semifinals

    LONDON – These Olympics have not been Kobe Bryant's finest work. At 33, he is Team USA's oldest player by four years, and he's looked like it for long stretches of the tournament. He missed all but one of his seven shots in Team USA's too-close victory over Lithuania last week, and Wednesday's quarterfinal game against Australia didn't start much better. After stepping out of bounds for one turnover, he dribbled his way into another. Kobe Bryant (10) puts up a shot as Australia's Matt Nielsen (14) defends on Wednesday. (AP)Kobe Bryant (10) puts up a shot as Australia's Matt Nielsen (14) defends on Wednesday. (AP)

    Perhaps Bryant had just been waiting for these London Games to give him some drama. After the Aussies scored 11 straight points to open the second half – giving the fans at North Greenwich Arena a few fleeting thoughts of witnessing a monumental upset – the ball inevitably found its way into Bryant's hands. Bryant, as he often has in such tense moments, delivered.

    Bryant buried a 3-pointer over Australia's defense, came up with a steal then quickly pulled up to drill another 3-pointer. The rout was on, and Team USA was well on its way to a 119-86

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  • Serena Williams completes Golden Slam, beating Maria Sharapova in Olympic gold-medal match

    WIMBLEDON, England – Serena Williams has cheerfully talked about how much she's enjoyed her week here during the London Games. No longer is the All-England Club all-white. Its pomp and circumstance have been painted over with a splash of bright colors. The crowds have been louder and the tennis brisk and entertaining. In a word, Williams said, her Olympics experience has been fun.

    And, yet, when Williams took the court for her gold-medal match against Russia's Maria Sharapova, there was nothing cheerful about her performance. It was the type of brutish dominance tennis fans have long been accustomed to watching. Sharapova never stood a chance, as Williams blasted her way to a 6-0, 6-1 victory that took all of 62 minutes, making her the first woman to complete the career Golden Slam since Steffi Graf.

    [ Photos: Serena Williams crushes Sharapova to win gold ]

    Williams blistered one more serve past Sharapova to close out the match, raised her arms in triumph then began hopping

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  • Roger Federer keeps gold-medal hopes alive with epic win over Juan Martin del Potro

    WIMBLEDON, England – They had fought some four hours and 26 minutes, an epic duel on the fabled grass at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club that ranked as the longest three-set match in Open history. It was an exhausting, thrilling afternoon on Centre Court that neither Roger Federer nor Juan Martin del Potro seemed willing to let end, and somewhere in the midst of the madness, tennis's greatest player allowed himself a small moment of clarity.

    "I got a sense," Federer would later say, "that this was something special."

    In an Olympics that have been staged at some of England's most historic venues, Federer and del Potro delivered a match for the ages, an exhausting 3-6, 7-6 (5), 19-17 battle that gave the first week of these London Games one of their most memorable moments. Once del Potro scuffled a backhand into the net in the eighth point of the 58th game to finally close the match, Federer looked over to the stadium box holding his wife and raised his arms in

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  • Fresh Take: U.S. men's basketball

    LONDON – It wasn't long into their opening game at these London Olympics that Team USA's stars realized they were being forced out of their comfort zone. Not so much by France. It was the Olympic basketball arena that made the Americans adjust.

    The 12,000-seat facility is much smaller than NBA arenas, most of which hold 19,000 to 20,000 fans. Thefans also are set back from the court at the Olympic venue, giving it a more spacious feel and confusing the sight lines for the Americans.

    U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said teams were only allowed to spend about an hour of time in the venue before the walk-up to the Games. And Team USA forward Kevin Love admitted that both teams' poor shooting in the opening quarter probably had something to do with them getting acclimated to the arena.

    "The fans are pretty removed," Krzyzewski said. "You'd think they would want to put more people closer."

    The facility is temporary and might even be used for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The unique

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