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AP source: Swisher, Tribe reach $56M, 4-year deal

AP source: Swisher, Tribe reach $56M, 4-year deal

CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians' pitch to bring Nick Swisher ``home'' worked.

Two people familiar with the negotiations said Swisher has agreed to a $56 million, four-year contract with the Indians, who used the free agent outfielder's deep Ohio connections to convince him to join the club. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because Swisher must take a physical before the deal can be finalized. The Indians are expected to announce Swisher's signing after Christmas, one of the people said.

The Indians will not comment until Swisher completes his physical.

``Wow! What a crazy few weeks,'' Swisher said on Twitter. ``Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home!''

Swisher's deal includes a $14 million option for 2017 that could become guaranteed based on plate appearances the previous year.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was excited about the club's newest addition.

``Welcome to the Tribe (at)nickswisher, pumped to get ya,'' Kipnis tweeted.

The 32-year-old Swisher spent the last four seasons with the New York Yankees, taking advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. A switch-hitter, Swisher hit .272 this season with 24 homers and 93 RBIs.

Swisher will fill an outfield hole for the Indians, who traded Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Swisher will play right, with recently acquired Drew Stubbs likely taking over in center with Michael Brantley shifting from center to left field.

Swisher, who was born in Columbus and played at Ohio State, visited the Indians earlier in the week. The club used Swisher's ties with the Buckeyes to convince him to join a team that won just 68 games last season following an historic collapse in August.

During his tour of Progressive Field, Swisher watched a video presentation on the stadium's giant scoreboard that featured messages from current Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Thad Matta, who urged him to sign with the Indians. Later, Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, had lunch with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who was at the school when Swisher played there.

Swisher's signing is a significant win for the Indians, who have been in the market for an outfielder throughout the offseason. During the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., they offered Shane Victorino a $44 million, four-year contract before he agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal with Boston.

Seattle, Texas and Boston were believed to be interested in Swisher, an All-Star in 2010 who was regarded as the second-best free agent hitter this offseason behind Josh Hamilton. The Indians have been desperate to add power and Swisher, who has hit at least 22 homers in each of the past seven seasons, will bolster the middle of new manager Terry Francona's lineup.

Swisher's value may have been damaged by several poor postseasons with the Yankees. He batted .162 in the postseason for New York with seven RBIs and 38 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.

Swisher spent four seasons with Oakland and one with the Chicago White Sox before joining the Yankees.

The Indians will lose their second-round pick in next year's amateur draft as compensation for signing Swisher, and the Yankees will get an extra selection following the first round.

It's been a busy offseason for Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who is trying to fix a team that has lost at least 93 games in three of the past four seasons.

Antonetti fired manager Manny Acta and replaced him with Francona, the former Boston manager who has spent the past few weeks meeting with his new players. Antonetti also signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds and was part of a three-team, nine-player deal that sent Choo to the Reds for Stubbs and brought Cleveland prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from Arizona.

The signing of Swisher will take some pressure of Antonetti, who has been criticized by fans for several moves in recent years.

His agreement was first reported by the New York Daily News.

Now that they've landed Swisher, the Indians are expected to focus on improving their starting pitching. The club agreed to terms with left-hander Scott Kazmir to a minor league deal this week, pending a physical. The Indians still need to add a designated hitter and there remains interest in Travis Hafner, who was limited to just 66 games last season because of injuries and remains an unsigned free agent.

---(equals)

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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Remembering Kobe Bryant's 55-point game against Michael Jordan, Wizards

Remembering Kobe Bryant's 55-point game against Michael Jordan, Wizards

As the basketball world mourns the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, memories of his career and the highlights that made us fall in love with him are surfacing. One of the most well-told narratives of Bryant’s 20-year career was his pursuit of Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time. 

Bryant idolized Jordan and was relentless in his pursuit of at least matching Jordan’s six championships. He competed like Jordan, scored like Jordan, berated teammates and opponents alike like Jordan and came up one title short of his idol’s total.

On one night, however, Bryant did get the best of His Airness -- in their last of eight head-to-head matchups. 

On March 28, 2003, a Friday night in Los Angeles, Bryant put on a show, scoring 55 points in what would stand as his highest scoring total ever against the Washington Wizards.

The Lakers defeated the Wizards, 108-94. Jordan, who had just turned 40 that February and was less than a month from ending his legendary career, finished with a team-high 23 points in over 40 minutes.

Bryant was in a different zone, though, dropping 42 points in the first half alone. Through the first two quarters, he made 14 of 19 shots from the field, including 8 of 11 three-point attempts. While he cooled off in the second half, shooting just 1-for-10, he added to his point total by knocking down 10 free throws. The performance stands as the ninth-highest scoring total of Bryant’s career, and his three-point shooting that night -- 9-of-13 -- is the biggest reason the Wizards are the only team he shot over 40 percent from three against in his career.

Going into that game, Bryant was already a three-time NBA champion at 24 years old and seemed to have gained Jordan’s respect as a player. But Jordan may have inadvertendly fueled Bryant's performance that night. Ex-Wizard Gilbert Arenas told a story on "The No Chill Podcast" of MJ telling Bryant he could never fill his shoes after the Wizards defeated the Lakers earlier in the season. Arenas claims Bryant didn't talk to his teammates for two weeks leading up to the rematch. He internalized the jab from Jordan and turned it into the 55-point game he put up against the Wizards.

After learning of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jordan released a statement through his spokeswoman saying Bryant was like a little brother to him.

“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe -- he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply -- and took pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”


Jordan and Bryant exchanged some fun and memorable banter in not only that game but in several of their meetings towards the latter part of Jordan’s career. Just a month earlier, the two went head-to-head in the 2003 All-Star Game. Each started and clocked 36 minutes in the double-overtime game, Bryant scoring 22 points for the winning Western Conference, while Jordan scored 20 for the East.

Bryant actually finished his career with a 5-3 record head-to-head against Jordan -- four of those matchups coming against the Wizards. Jordan averaged 24.5 points in those games and Bryant averaged 22.8 points. Whether Bryant actually surpassed Jordan or other legends as the greatest basketball player is debatable, but most agree that Bryant’s style and how he approached the game was as close to Jordan as any other player.

There was no better example than this March night in 2003.

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Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Kobe Bryant's popularity stretched far beyond the United States. He was a global icon and especially loved in Asia. 

Following the NBA star's shocking death on Sunday, the entire sports world grieved and shared fond memories of Bryant all over social media. 

Rui Hachimura grew up in Japan idolizing Bryant, so he took to Twitter a day after the accident to share his thoughts on his hero.  

"I was very shocked to hear of this incident," Hachimura said. "I really can't believe it. I can't speak. Kobe is also a hero to me, and I've seen [him] a lot since I was little. I have met him only once.

"Three years ago, during [the] Final 4, [Bryant gave] a special pair of shoes as a surprise to the team," he said. "Not only that, he talked about what Mamba Mentality is and what people should be before basketball players. 

"He was more than just a basketball player," he said. "It is really sad that this accident was like this. I wish good luck to his family and those who have been involved in this accident. Thanks, Kobe."

After Michael Jordan retired, Bryant became the most popular player in Japan. Along with Hachimura, he inspired players like Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe to play the game of basketball in the first place. 

Similar to what made Bryant so popular in the United States, Japan loved him for his tireless work ethic and killer instinct on the court. That's what earned him 15 All-NBA selections and five NBA titles, and along with his efforts off the court post-retirement, earned him the love and respect of so many people around the world. 

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