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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Rafael Nadal to miss U.S. Open; men’s, women’s singles fields named

Rafael Nadal
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Rafael Nadal is not entered in the U.S. Open, joining the recovering Roger Federer in missing the first Grand Slam tennis tournament since the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first time a Grand Slam tournament main draw will be missing both legends since the 1999 U.S. Open.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it,” was posted on Nadal’s social media. “This is a decision I never wanted to take, but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”

The U.S. Open starts as scheduled Aug. 31 without fans. The rescheduled French Open, which Nadal has won a record 12 times, is scheduled to start two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Nadal did not mention in Tuesday’s statement whether he planned to play Roland Garros.

Nadal won his fourth U.S. Open in 2019, defeating Russian Daniil Medvedev in a five-set final. That moved Nadal within one Grand Slam singles title of Federer’s record 20.

Federer previously announced he is out for the rest of 2020 following a right knee procedure.

U.S. Open Entry Lists: Men | Women

The U.S. Open fields are led by top-ranked Novak Djokovic and 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams.

Other notable players not on main-draw entry lists published Tuesday: women’s No. 1 Ash Barty and 2016 U.S. Open winner Stan Wawrinka. Other than Barty, the top 28 women in the world rankings are entered, including defending champion Bianca Andreescu.

Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are the top-ranked men in the field. Djokovic and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, plus first alternate (and wild-card candidate) Andy Murray, are the only male Grand Slam singles champions in the field.

VIDEO: Coco Gauff delivers speech for racial justice

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Why did Shaun White cut his hair? Carrot Top

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Shaun White said a revelatory chat with Carrot Top led to the Olympic snowboarding champion chopping off his flowing red locks more than seven years ago, according to a report.

“I went to an event in Vegas where I run into Carrot Top,” White wrote, according to a Bleacher Report AMA last Wednesday. “We were talking about our hair and he basically looked at me like you could see into his soul and he basically said he was stuck like this. And at that point it was like seeing the ghost of Christmas future. And at that point I was like omg I can change.”

White documented a meeting with Carrot Top on social media in September 2013, but that was 10 months after the haircut. They must have met in 2012, too.

White, formerly known as the Flying Tomato, posted video of the haircut in December 2012, saying he didn’t tell anybody beforehand. He had grown tired of the nickname.

He donated the hair to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for needy children.

White is known for charitable efforts for children, including with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. White was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, requiring two major surgeries before his first birthday.

White, a 33-year-old who recently changed his hair color to blond, announced in February that he ended a bid to make the first U.S. Olympic skateboarding team for the Tokyo Games.

He is expected to compete for a spot in the 2022 Winter Olympics, where he could be the oldest U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider in history.

MORE: White, Shiffrin among dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s

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