Wizards

Kelly receives a hero's welcome in Philly

Kelly receives a hero's welcome in Philly

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Torn between loyalty to his players and accepting a new challenge, Chip Kelly ultimately chose the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles.

He just needed more time to make the decision.

``The hardest thing for me to do was to leave Oregon,'' Kelly said Thursday at a news conference introducing him as the 21st coach in team history. ``I knew it was a great fit, but it was whether I could leave what I have. I love those guys and it had to be a special place for me to leave.''

The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, giving him a five-year contract and ending an exhaustive search to replace Andy Reid. The offensive innovator was lured away from Oregon, where he went 46-7 in four seasons and turned the program into a national powerhouse.

From the start, Kelly appeared to be Philadelphia's top choice. But two days after a nine-hour meeting in Arizona with owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski, Kelly chose to stay at Oregon.

The Eagles continued interviewing other candidates, and were close to offering the job to Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Tuesday night. But Kelly changed his mind after thinking harder about making the move and talking to several people, including Reid who quickly moved on to become Kansas City's coach.

``I knew this was the best spot, but there's so much more to it,'' Kelly said. ``What happens when I leave? Who becomes the next head coach? What happens to those players? You're not making reservations for dinner. You are changing not only your life, but a lot of other people's lives.''

Kelly said he became emotional when he told players in a meeting that he was leaving, and added that he cried more than they did.

He went from a warm and fuzzy environment in Eugene, Ore. to a hero's welcome in the city of Brotherly Love.

Fans greeted him at the airport when his plane arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday night and a sign reading ``Our Chip's Come In'' was hung on two trees outside the team's practice facility on Thursday morning. A few fans drove down Pattison Avenue honking their horns to salute the hiring.

``It's a really exciting time for me. It was a difficult decision. There's not many opportunities to coach in the National Football League, and every one of them is special,'' Kelly said. ``But this is an iconic franchise with an outstanding owner. I knew what this place was all about, and this is where I wanted to be. It was just a matter of figuring out how to do it the right way.''

The Eagles interviewed 11 candidates in slightly more than two weeks. While fans became anxious waiting for a new coach, the team emphasized a patient approach.

Perhaps they were waiting for Kelly to reconsider.

``The key was to find the right leader, not make the fastest decision,'' Lurie said. ``We never took `No' as a full `No.' We knew he was torn. And we knew there was no competition for Chip. It was just, did he want to stay or did he want to come to us?''

Though Kelly has no previous NFL experience, the Eagles are banking on him to turn around a franchise that has just 12 wins in the last two years and zero playoff victories since 2008.

``Chip is a trendsetter,'' Roseman said. ``People are following him. He's not a disciple of anyone. When you are trying to find greatness, you have to find the people on top.''

Kelly built quite a reputation for being one of the sharpest football minds in college while leading Oregon to four straight BCS bowl games - including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago - and three conference championships.

Some aspects of his hurry-up, spread offense are used by New England and Washington. Patriots coach Bill Belichick even brought Kelly in to get advice on his offensive philosophy.

But Kelly has a challenge in Philadelphia. His flash-and-dash offense needs a leader under center. Nick Foles, a third-round pick last year who replaced Michael Vick, is a dropback quarterback who said himself that he doesn't fit Kelly's zone-read style

Vick, who will be 33 when the season starts, isn't coming back for the $16 million he's scheduled to make next year. The Eagles have to make a decision on giving him a roster bonus of $3 million within three days after the Super Bowl.

``I haven't watched even film to make any decision on anybody,'' Kelly said, adding that he's a ``huge fan'' of Foles.

Kelly also talked about adapting his system to fit the players on the team, a quality that impressed Roseman in their first interview.

``When you meet with Chip, you realize very quickly that Chip is not about whether his offense is going to translate to the NFL,'' Roseman said. ``It's about his vision for a program, it's about how he sees the entire aspect of a football organization and Jeffrey outlined in that first press conference: I want a leader, I want a presence, and so if you had any doubt about Chip Kelly's offense, you left and said this isn't about Chip Kelly and the spread, this is about how Chip Kelly approaches football, and that was incredibly, incredibly impressive.''

The Eagles were 3-1 this season after a 19-17 win over the New York Giants on Sept. 30. They then lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish in last place in the NFC East. Reid was fired the day after the season ended, ending a 14-year tenure in which he won more games than any coach in franchise history and went to the playoffs nine times, including five conference championship games.

But the Eagles are still seeking their first Vince Lombardi Trophy and first NFL title since 1960.

``We have one goal, and that's to get to the Super Bowl,'' Kelly said. ``It's not an `I' deal, it's a `we' deal. Our players will understand that.''

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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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