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NBA All-Stars celebrate Kobe as Team LeBron edges Team Giannis in playoff-like affair

Players were taking charges, bodies were hitting the floor, calls and non-calls were being screamed about on both ends. The fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star Game was as intense as the final moments of a playoff game, with the biggest stars in the league holding absolutely nothing back.

And in the end, Anthony Davis was a hometown hero by making a free throw.

Kobe Bryant — ever the competitor — would have simply loved the way this night went.

“That was pretty damn fun,” a sweat-soaked, exhausted LeBron James said at the end.

Davis made a game-ending free throw to give Team LeBron a 157-155 win over Team Giannis in the revamped NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night, the format overhauled to put in elements for charity and ensure that someone was going to hit a shot to end the game.

That someone was Davis, the Chicago native who missed the first free throw and made the second to end the NBA’s mid-season showcase that went down as the closest All-Star Game since the Eastern Conference topped the Western Conference 141-139 in 2010.

Kawhi Leonard, the game’s MVP and the first recipient of the trophy now named for Bryant, scored 30 points for Team LeBron, while James — his team’s captain — and Chris Paul each scored 23, and Davis finished with 20.

“This one’s for him,” Leonard said, speaking of Bryant afterward.

WATCH | Kawhi Leonard wins Kobe Bryant MVP Award:

Kawhi Leonard won the first ever Kobe Bryant MVP Award in Team LeBron’s 157-155 victory over Team Giannis in Chicago. 2:16

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who captained his team, led his squad with 25 points, Kemba Walker had 23 for Team Giannis, Joel Embiid scored 22 and Rudy Gobert added 21.

“I think it was really interesting,” said Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. “It was really fun, each and every quarter, from a coaching standpoint.”

The finish was frantic, and then some. James tried a layup that would have put his team one point away — it was blocked by Antetokounmpo, called a goaltend at first but ruled a clean block after review. Team LeBron controlled the resulting jump ball and James tried a 40-footer to end it but missed.

James Harden then had a chance to win it for Team LeBron, and his 3-pointer went in — but it was waved off by Kyle Lowry taking a charge against the NBA’s scoring leader. James got a dunk not long afterward to make it 156-153, and Embiid made two free throws to cut Team LeBron’s lead to one.

With that, it was next-basket-wins time.

“Really cool,” Nurse said.

Davis was fouled on the next trip, got the free throw to win it, and that was that.

“I told my team I was going to miss the first one to put a little more pressure on myself here at home,” Davis said.

‘Kobe’s presence felt’

James’ team wore blue jerseys, all with the No. 2 for Gianna Bryant. Antetokounmpo’s team wore red, every player wearing No. 24 on the back for Kobe Bryant. And on their right shoulders was a black circular patch with nine stars, one for each victim of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Bryant, his daughter and their seven friends on Jan. 26.

“His presence was felt,” James said.

And with the new rules, the teams went at it in the fourth: Antetokounmpo got out to block a shot by James, Lowry took a charge from his former Toronto teammate in Leonard, elbows got up in collisions for rebound positioning, Paul was screaming encouragement to Team LeBron teammates in a time-out — all adding up to an intensity hardly ever seen in All-Star Games.

“To me, probably the best All-Star game ever,” Embiid said. “Guys competed, it came down to basically the last shot, but I don’t think you should be able to win on a free throw. But overall it was a lot of fun.”

It was the first All-Star Game with a new format: The teams played a mini-game in each of the first three quarters, the scores starting at 0-0 in each of those periods and the winning team in each one earning $ 100,000 US for their Chicago-area children’s charity.

James’ team won the first quarter 53-41, Antetokoumpo’s team won the second quarter 51-30.

The third quarter had down-to-the-wire, big-money drama with $ 100,000 on the line. But the teams finished the quarter tied 41-41, putting $ 300,000 — the undecided $ 100,000 from the third and $ 200,000 more for the win — at stake in the final period.

The cumulative score at that point was Team Giannis 133, Team LeBron 124 going into the untimed fourth quarter — with another new twist. The NBA decided, as part of the series of Bryant tributes, that the winner of the All-Star Game would be the team that added 24 points, a nod to his jersey number, to whatever the leading total score was after three quarters.

That meant the target score was set: 157. The game clock was off. The shot clock stayed on. The stage for drama was perfectly set, and the All-Star Game — oft-maligned in recent years for a lack of competitiveness — was entertaining again.

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Pink Makes 2019 People’s Choice Awards a Family Affair As She Accepts Champion Award: Pics!

Pink Makes 2019 People’s Choice Awards a Family Affair As She Accepts Champion Award: Pics! | Entertainment Tonight

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Jets drop wild affair to Rangers as leaky defence begins to show

Brett Howden broke a tie with 4:09 remaining, and the New York Rangers beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-4 in a wild season opener on Thursday night.

Mika Zibanejad had a goal and three assists, Jacob Trouba had a goal and two assists, and Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist for New York. Marc Staal also scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist — making his 14th consecutive opening-day start — stopped 43 shots.

On the go-ahead goal, Jesper Fast fired a shot from the left point that was blocked by former Ranger Neal Pionk. The puck went to Howden, who scored to give New York its fourth lead of the game.

The Jets went on their fifth power play with 1:37 left, and were skating with a 6-on-4 advantage when but Brendan Smith scored into the empty net with 17 seconds remaining to seal the Rangers’ win.

Blake Wheeler had two goals, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor also scored and Nikolaj Ehlers had three assists for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck finished with 26 saves.

WATCH | Trouba scores as Rangers down Jets

Jacob Trouba netted his first goal as a Ranger in New York’s 6-4 victory over the Jets at Madison Square Garden. 1:34

Connor gave the Jets their first lead of the game, 4-3, with a power-play goal at 2:41 of the third as he tipped Josh Morissey’s shot through Lundqvist’s legs. Patrik Laine also had an assist on the goal.

Zibanejad, who had 30 goals last season, got a pass from Trouba, broke in on Hellebuyck and beat the goalie to tie it at 5:04.

With the Rangers on a power play carrying over from the end of the first period, Panarin — signed to a seven-year, $ 81.5-million US free-agent deal on July 1 — got his first goal for New York just 27 seconds into the second. Zibanejad’s shot from the right point was stopped by Scheifele, but the puck ended up in front and Panarin fired it in to put the Rangers up 2-1.

WATCH | Where do Jets stand among 7 Canadian squads?

Rob Pizzo looks at which teams have the best chance to win Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993. 3:43

The Jets tied it just 30 seconds later as Ehlers brought the puck up the left side on a rush, and sent it across to Wheeler, who quickly scored.

Trouba, acquired from Winnipeg in the off-season trade that involved Pionk, gave New York a 3-2 lead off a pass from Kreider at 6:03, but Wheeler tied it again just nine seconds later as he cut through defence and beat Lundqvist.

Lundqvist made two great saves on Scheifele and Laine on consecutive chances midway through the middle period, and had several nice stops on a Winnipeg power play late in the period — including an attempt by Jake Roslovic in front.

Staal, scoreless in the final 42 games last season, got the Rangers on the scoreboard first. Off a give-and-go with Zibanejad on the left side inside the blue line, Staal went around the back of the net and stuffed the puck past Hellebuyck with 8:25 left in the first.

Scheifele tied it for Winnipeg late in the first. Ehlers got the puck behind the net and sent an pass in front between the circles to Scheifele who fired it in off Lundqvist’s shoulder with 2:37 remaining,

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Biden calls on Congress to investigate Trump’s ‘abuse of power’ in Ukraine affair

U.S. President Donald Trump personally ordered his staff to freeze nearly $ 400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before a phone call in which he pressured the Eastern European nation’s leader to investigate the family of Democrat Joe Biden, a revelation that comes as more Democrats move toward impeachment proceedings.

Biden, in his first formal news conference to address the allegations a week after a whistleblower complaint emerged — reportedly related to the president and Ukraine — said the matter was not a partisan issue.

“If we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever,” the Democratic presidential candidate said from Wilmington, Del., calling Trump’s actions an “abuse of power.”

Trump tweeted on Tuesday afternoon he had authorized the release of a transcript of the call, which is to come out Wednesday.

“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” Trump said.

Democrats were quick to point out that the complaint encompassed more than a single phone call.

“We need the complaint,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. “Simply to release the transcript is not going to come close.”

Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is set to testify Thursday before the House.

Biden called on the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump if the administration does not co-operate fully with all ongoing investigations and subpoenas.

If it leads to impeachment, that would be “a tragedy of his own making,” Biden said.

“We have a president who believes there’s no limit to his power, said Biden, bidding for the presidency for the third time.

Former U.S. vice-president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden hit back on some of the allegations made in the developing storyline involving the president’s interactions with Ukraine on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware. (Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters)

Trump, in remarks to reporters at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday morning, said he held up the aid to fight corruption and urge European nations to share in helping out Ukraine.

“I’d withhold again,” Trump said. “And I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.”

It was an explanation that Trump had not put forth over a number of social media statements and answers to reporters in the days immediately following media reports of the whistleblower complaint.

Trump named Germany and France among the countries that should “put up money.” The European Union and countries including Canada have provided millions in aid to Ukraine, in fact.

Pelosi position shifting?

The matter has sparked questions about whether the president improperly used his office to pressure a foreign country to help his own re-election prospects. It has galvanized Democrats, with more warming to the prospect of impeaching the president. They include a group of moderate House freshmen in competitive districts, as well as Rep. John Lewis, the former civil rights leader from Georgia.

“I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come. To delay or to do otherwise would betray the foundation of our democracy,” said Lewis from the House floor.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has resisted calls for impeachment proceedings for months, is expected to speak at 5 p.m. ET, after she meets with the Democratic House chairs and the members of the party’s caucus.

Pelosi said at an event earlier in the day that Trump was “making lawlessness a virtue.” While being noncommittal to questions about impeachment, she said the party’s actions will be directed by what is allowed in the Constitution.

U.S. President Donald Trump gave what appeared to be a new explanation for his interactions with Ukraine while speaking to reporters alongside wife Melania at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. (Yana Paskova/Reuters)

Meanwhile, House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff said the whistleblower may be moving closer to going public and appearing before Congress.

In a July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump is said to have pushed for investigations into Biden and his son. In the days before that call, Trump ordered that aid to Ukraine be frozen, according to two people familiar with but not authorized to discuss private conversations. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any requests for help in procuring damaging information about the Bidens were tied to the aid freeze.

Multilateral effort to oust Ukraine prosecutor

Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate Biden and his son Hunter in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv.

“I knew when I decide to run this president would attack me and anyone else who’s a threat to his winning again,” said Biden.

Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice-president or his son. The evidence appears to indicate that the push to remove a controversial Ukraine prosecutor predated Hunter Biden’s appointment, and was part of a multilateral effort that included countries such as Britain and Canada.

The United States began providing military aid to the government of Ukraine shortly after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. With Ukraine’s new president still grappling with separatist rebels in the east, the aid has long been viewed as a measure of Washington’s determination to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday he wants to stay out of the domestic political battle in Washington and any attempt by either side to take advantage of Ukraine would damage relations. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

The administration of Zelenskiy, the comic actor-turned-president, has tried to steer clear this week from commenting on the matter.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have urged the White House to be open about Trump’s actions. But with no new information from the administration forthcoming, more than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.

Seven Democratic House freshmen, who include a former navy pilot, soldiers, officers and intelligence analysts, wrote in a joint op-ed in the Washington Post this week that the allegations against Trump “are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent.”

Trump has stressed that foreign leaders should feel free to speak frankly with an American president without fear the details of their conversations will later be disclosed.

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Trump recorded discussing paying for Playboy model's story of affair

A secretly recorded tape of Donald Trump by his longtime personal lawyer was played on CNN Tuesday night in which the two can be heard talking about a potential payment for a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair and the soon-to-be president is heard discussing whether to "pay with cash."

The audio recording, surreptitiously made by Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen two months before the 2016 presidential election, was provided to CNN by Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis.

The conversation between Trump and Cohen came weeks after the National Enquirer's parent company reached a $ 150,000 deal to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair, which it never published, a tabloid practice known as catch and kill. Trump denies the affair ever happened and his campaign had said he knew nothing about the payment.

Trump and Cohen appear to be discussing buying the rights to McDougal's story from the Enquirer's parent company.

'We'll have to pay'

Cohen can be heard on the tape saying that he needed to start a company "for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," a possible reference to David Pecker, Trump's friend and president of the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc.

When Cohen begins to discuss financing, Trump interrupts him and asks, "What financing?"

The audio, which was secretly recorded in 2016, was provided to CNN by Lanny Davis, who represents Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, pictured, and was played on CNN Tuesday evening. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

"We'll have to pay," Cohen responded.

The audio is muffled, but Trump can be heard saying "pay with cash," though it isn't clear if he is suggesting to pay with cash or not to pay with cash. Cohen immediately says, "No, no, no" and Trump can then be heard saying, "check" or "cheque."

'The president wanted to do it the right way'

Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press that he's had an expert enhance the recording and the president says "don't pay with cash."

"It clearly indicates that the president did not want to pay with cash. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous and is inconsistent with the rest of the conversation, during which it was discussed doing it through a corporation," Giuliani said.

President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Cohen, as Trump's lawyer, thought it would be best if he could buy the rights to Karen McDougal's story. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Giuliani said Cohen, as Trump's lawyer, thought it would be best if he could buy the rights to McDougal's story and the recording captures the two of them discussing how to do that.

"Cohen says I have to pay him. The president brings up cash and says don't pay with cash and says 'cheque,' He wants it memorialized," Giuliani said. "Cohen then says 'No, no, no, no' and he cuts off the tape. He obviously cuts it off in mid-sentence and that in itself is suspicious."

"The president wanted to do it the right way. If you wanted to hide something, you would not do it by corporation or check," he said.

'Listen to the tape'

The payment was never made and Giuliani said he didn't know why that was the case and hadn't discussed it with Trump.

"Listen to the tape. Donald Trump is not shocked money is being paid about someone named Karen McDougal," Davis said during an interview with CNN.

Davis said his client — who is under investigation by federal officials in New York — "has been disparaged and insulted and called all kinds of things."

"He's got truth on his side and he'll continue to tell the truth," Davis said.

Davis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP on Tuesday night.

A dozen audio recordings

American Media, Inc.'s payment effectively silenced McDougal through the election, though days beforehand news of the deal emerged in The Wall Street Journal. At the time, a Trump spokesperson said his campaign had "no knowledge of any of this."

The FBI raided Cohen's office, home and hotel room in April, searching in part for information about payments to McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006 — which Trump denies — and was paid $ 130,000 as part of a non-disclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election.

Karen McDougal is shown at a 2004 event in Hollywood, Calif. (Cherie Steinberg/Getty Images)

A dozen audio recordings seized during those raids were forwarded to federal prosecutors last week after lawyers dropped challenges on attorney-client privilege grounds.

Giuliani said those recordings captured Cohen discussing the president with third parties, who he would not identify. They are also being enhanced by experts, he said.

Trump and Cohen can also be heard on the recording released Tuesday discussing other legal issues, including fighting a request by The New York Times to unseal court records concerning Trump's divorce from his first wife, Ivana.

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In 60 Minutes interview, Stormy Daniels says she was threatened over alleged Trump affair

Adult film star Stormy Daniels says she was threatened to keep silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006, telling her story in a highly anticipated interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday.

Daniels said she was threatened by an unidentified man in Las Vegas to keep quiet about her alleged relationship with Trump, an incident that she said also involved a threat to her young daughter. She said in the interview that she had one encounter of consensual sex with the future president.

“He knows I’m telling the truth,” said Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

The adult film actress provided little new evidence of her alleged 2006 affair with Trump, but said she faced intimidation tactics aimed at ensuring her silence in 2011.

Daniels said she was in a parking lot when the man told her: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” She says he then looked at her daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

Trump team denies affair

Daniels received a $ 130,000 US payment days before the 2016 presidential election for her silence and has sought to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement.

Trump, through his representatives, has denied the allegations. His attorney, Michael Cohen, has said Trump never had an affair with Daniels. Cohen has said he paid the $ 130,000 out of his pocket.

Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Clifford and he was not reimbursed for the payment.

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