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Kobe Bryant endorses Turkish Airlines, Los Angeles Armenian community protests

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Turkish Airlines is going to start non-stop service from Los Angeles to Istanbul next March, and they wanted to raise their profile in America and abroad with an international star as an endorser.

Meet Kobe Bryant. He’s big worldwide and pretty much the king of Los Angeles, so the two sides inked an endorsement deal. Kobe will appear in a promotional film for the airline, make visits to Turkey and get paid for the use of his image to promote the primary airline of Turkey.

Which has enraged the sizeable Armenian community in Los Angeles (maybe half a million people). They have promised protests and maybe a boycott.

The Turkish/Armenian feud date back to World War I and the final days of the struggling Ottoman Empire. This is a basketball blog, we’re not going to play politics here. The Armenian community and most scholars called what happened over a three-year period when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed a genocide; Turkey has always vehemently protested that label saying civil strife at the time caused deaths on both sides.

Armenians in Southern California are angry about Kobe’s endorsement and want him to drop it, as the Turkish Journal details.

“Armenian-Americans hope that Kobe would balance what clearly looks to be a profitable business deal with a strong moral statement against Turkey’s violations of human rights, including, of course, its ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide,” the Armenian Youth Federation said in a statement on its website.

Bryant should drop the endorsement or back the resolution (in the House of Representatives recognizing what happened as a genocide), Hamparian said. “This is not simply a private firm,” he said. “This is a firm that’s majority owned by the Turkish government.”

This is not going away in Los Angeles — the local Fox affiliate had it as part of their newscast last night including reactions from local Armenians. Maybe the most famous local Armenian family are the Kardashians — as in Khloe, Lamar Odom’s wife.

There could be more protests. It could get loud and it will be interesting to see how Kobe Bryant handles this.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.