When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to future Paralympian

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In 1987, Eric Barber, 16, wrote to an NBC show called Sports Fantasy to pitch his dream: to play Michael Jordan one-on-one. The caveat: It would be in wheelchair basketball.

Jordan accepted. He would play Barber, who was born with scoliosis and lost the use of his legs at age 3.

They dueled in front of a gym crowd at Jordan’s basketball camp at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. Barber was confident, predicting victory and detailing his strategy before the event.

“Pretty much just to go around him. Keep him off balance. Shoot from like 15 feet. If I miss, get a rebound before he gets there,” he said on NBC.

The stakes: first to 20 points for a Coca-Cola, decided as the two had a 45-minute conversation beforehand. Barber went up 16-4 before Jordan closed to 18-14.

“You know how competitive Michael is,” game referee Larry Labiak said, according to the Chicago Tribune in 1999. “He started sticking his feet in Eric’s spokes to slow him down. But it was all in fun.”

Barber then drained the winner, later chalking up the victory to Jordan’s lack of experience.

“His basketball skills transferred, but he didn’t get the hang of the moving chair, so I took advantage of him,” Barber said with a smile, according to the Chicago Tribune in 2001. “I didn’t feel too badly because he had been taking advantage of people with his superior skills for a while.”

Barber went on to make four U.S. Paralympic wheelchair basketball teams, starting in 2000 and earning two bronze medals.

In the recent ESPN series “The Last Dance,” Jordan had another interaction with a future Paralympian. In video from 1998, Steve Emt was shown greeting Jordan after a Chicago Bulls game. Emt’s connection: He was a practice player for the University of Connecticut in 1992-93, going up against future Bull Scott Burrell.

In 1995, Emt was paralyzed in a car accident. He later took up wheelchair curling and made the 2018 U.S. Paralympic team.

MORE: Why Michael Jordan skipped 1996 Olympics

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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