2012 NBA All-Star Game

LeBron second highest paid athlete in America, Kobe fourth

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The answer is $56.5 million.

If you wondered how much money LeBron James made last year, there is the answer to your query.

That is the second most of any athlete in the United States, according to Sports Illustrated and its annual Top 50 earners report that came out Wednesday. LeBron trailed only Floyd Mayweather ($90 million). But there are a dozen other NBA players in the top 50 — it pays to be very good at basketball. It pays very well.

In LeBron’s case he made $17.5 million in salary (remember he took a little less than the max) and had $39 million in endorsement dollars. As I tried to tell the LeBron haters after “The Decision” — winning cures all ills in American sports and if he won his legacy and endorsements would be virtually undamaged. They are. Last year he picked up a Samsung deal as well as Baskin-Robbins, that is on top of his massive Nike deal.

What’s strange is he doesn’t have a signature commercial right now. Seriously, when was the last good LeBron commercial?

Kobe Bryant comes in at fourth on the SI list, thanks in part to his cap-destroying 27.8 million in salary last season (that jumps to $30 million next season, so expect him back on the list). He also still has $19 million in endorsements. He’s got a sweet Nike deal, too.

Third among NBA players and seventh overall on the SI list is Derrick Rose. And the entire city of Chicago rolled its eyes at once. He made $16.4 million in salary and had $17 million in endorsements thanks to a massive Adidas deal.

The other NBA players on the list (and their rank on the SI standings):

11. Dwyane Wade, $28.7 million
12. Kevin Durant, $27.7 million
16. Carmelo Anthony, $25.3 million
24. Amar’e Stoudemire, $23.5 million
31. Dwight Howard, $21.9 million
33. Chris Paul, $21.6 million
35. Dirk Nowitzki, $21.3 million
37. Pau Gasol, $21.1 million
43. Joe Johnson, $19.95 million
47. Chris Bosh, $18.5 million

For comparison’s sake, there are 25 baseball players and eight football players on the list.

Report: Heat complained to ‘highest levels of the league office’ about favorable calls for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) is congratulated by Jeremy Lin (7) after making a basket against the Sacramento Kings in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Hornets won 127-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Heat and Hornets are clearly tiring of each other, six games of testiness culminating with Game 7 today.

One particular battle line being drawn is over Jeremy Lin (6.3) and Kemba Walker (5.5), who lead players in this series in free-throw attempts per game.

Marc Stein:

ESPN sources say that one of the factors that ramped up the tension between the teams stems from Miami complaints to the highest levels of the league office after Game 4 about what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker.

Lin and Walker relentlessly driven to the basket. That’s why they’ve attempted so many free throws. If Miami wants to keep them off the line, trap them harder on the perimeter.

That said, this is part of playoff gamesmanship. If the Heat plant a seed with referees – through the league office or otherwise – that Lin and Walker are drawing too many fouls, maybe that affects a call today. With the margins so narrow, every little bit helps.

Watch LaMarcus Aldridge drop 38 on Thunder

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Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.

He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?

It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.

NBA: Trail Blazers scored after uncalled illegal screen by Trail Blazers in final minutes

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Should we be preparing for Game 7 of the Trail Blazers-Clippers series today?

If the officials had called the final minutes of the last game correctly, maybe.

Portland won Game 6 to take the series 4-2, but a missed call a key missed call helped clinch.

With 1:45 left, Mason Plumlee got away with offensively fouling Jamal Crawford, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Plumlee (POR) sets the screen on Crawford (LAC) without giving him room to avoid the contact.

A correct call would’ve meant a Trail Blazers turnover. Instead, Damian Lillard ended the possession with two made free throws.

Portland’s advantage when the Clippers began intentionally fouling: two.

Would the Clippers have won if the refs called Plumlee’s offensive foul? Impossible to say. The final 1:45 could’ve played out much differently.

But this missed call, the only error in the Last Two Minute Report, certainly boosted the Trail Blazers’ odds.

Four Things to Watch in two Game 7s Sunday

during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:

1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.

2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.

3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.

4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.