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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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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