Around The Nation (Feb. 17): Current stars celebrate Jordan at 50

Associated Press Published:

BASKETBALL

MJ turns 50 as current stars reflect on legacy

HOUSTON -- Michael Jordan turned 50 on Sunday, giving this year's All-Stars a chance to reflect on his illustrious career and how much he still means to the sport.

In a weekend filled with the NBA's greatest players, Jordan was the topic no one could stop talking about. Though he hasn't played since the 2002-03 season, Jordan's influence still permeates the league and its players.

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade says, "everything he did was groundbreaking."

Jordan won six titles and picked up five MVP awards during a career spent mostly with the Bulls that began in 1984.

Jordan was in Houston this weekend, and celebrated his birthday early with a private bash on Friday at the Museum of Fine Arts with guests including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

TRACK AND FIELD

Pistorius' agent calls off all schedules races

JOHANNESBURG -- Oscar Pistorius' agent has canceled all future races the athlete was contracted to take part in and says his "key focus" is now defending himself against the murder charge.

Peet van Zyl says there is "no option" but to cancel Pistorius' track dates indefinitely "to allow Oscar to concentrate on the upcoming legal proceedings."

Pistorius was arrested and charged with the Valentine's Day murder of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

He is being held at a police station in Pretoria, where agent Van Zyl visited him Sunday before announcing the double-amputee Olympian's track career is now on hold.

Van Zyl says Pistorius' sponsorships, including with big-name brands Nike and Oakley, are safe for now. He says "all parties are supportive and their contractual commitments are maintained."

Girlfriend of Pistorius set for Tuesday funeral

JOHANNESBURG -- The family of Reeva Steenkamp said Sunday her body was back in her hometown of Port Elizabeth after the model and reality TV contestant was shot dead inside the house of Oscar Pistorius. A private funeral will be held on Tuesday.

Adam Steenkamp, the brother of Pistorius' late girlfriend, told The Associated Press "Reeva is back home."

The family said that Steenkamp, who was shot multiple times and killed at the double-amputee Olympic athlete's home early Thursday, will be cremated in a ceremony closed to the public and the media in the city on South Africa's southern coast.

Pistorius was charged with her murder and is expected to make a second court appearance -- also on Tuesday -- for the start of his bail hearing. He remains in custody in a police station in Pretoria ahead of that hearing.

The 29-year-old Steenkamp was seen laughing and smiling on South African television Saturday night after national broadcaster SABC chose to air the first episode of a reality TV show in which she was featured. Her family said it did not oppose the program being aired because Steenkamp wanted people to see it and a short tribute to her was shown before the episode.

A fellow contestant on the "Tropika Island of Treasure 5" show told AP Television News that Steenkamp "was always making sure everyone was OK."

"Fun, crazy, loving, beautiful, gorgeous. She really was an angel and I still haven't come to terms with what happened," Katleho Molai said of Steenkamp. "I haven't really eaten, I'm struggling to sleep. So it's been really hard to come to terms with what's happened to her."

SOCCER

Galaxy says Donovan set to return in March

CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan plans to rejoin the Los Angeles Galaxy during the final week of March after a break of almost four months.

The 30-year-old midfielder and forward, a veteran of three World Cups with the United States, had said last fall he was uncertain whether he wanted to continue playing.

"After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said in a statement Sunday.

"We understand this arrangement is not ideal, but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season," Arena said.

Donovan has a team-record 92 goals during eight seasons with the Galaxy, who have won the last two Major League Soccer titles. He has a record 49 goals in 144 appearances for the United States.

Los Angeles opens its MLS title defense when it hosts Chicago on March 3, and Donovan also figures to miss at the very least league matches against Chivas USA on March 17 and Colorado on March 23, and possibly several more. He would be absent for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Costa Rica's Herediano on March 7 and 13.

BASEBALL

Clemens fires back at Piazza after comments

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens shrugged off Mike Piazza's comments in his autobiography that he took karate lessons after he was beaned by the pitcher, just in case they had another confrontation.

The former New York Mets catcher discussed Clemens in his autobiography "Long Shot," which was published last Tuesday.

Clemens, at spring training as a special instructor with the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., discussed the book Sunday.

"He needs to go get with Jesse Owens or somebody on his speed, I think," Clemens said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "He chased some dude around the spring training site one time, didn't he, or something?"

The altercation Clemens apparently was referring to came during an exhibition game when Piazza was with the Mets. After getting hit by a pitch from Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota, Piazza tried to confront Mota after leaving the field.

Piazza wrote about the tension between him and Clemens in 2000, when Clemens beaned Piazza with a pitch during a regular-season Subway Series game between the Mets and Yankees in July. Leading up to that, Piazza had been hitting well against Clemens.

"Like I said, there was no intent there," Clemens said of the beaning, according to the Chronicle. "And Mike's a good hitter and I think he hit every breaking ball I threw to him and he hit them hard. But he's not the first power hitter who's got me. So, we had some good times."

Then in Game 2 of that year's World Series, Piazza fouled off a pitch in the first inning, his bat splintered and Clemens picked up the shard of wood and threw it angrily in front of Piazza as he ran toward first, missing the slugger by about 2 feet.

Clemens said Piazza wasn't the only player who had a problem with him -- including some of his own teammates.

"He'd have to stand in line. I think there was about three guys on the Yankees that wanted a piece of me more than (he) did," Clemens said, according to the Chronicle. "He'd probably have to get in line. But in all seriousness ... I've gotten to know him at golf events. Todd Zeile, another good guy, and Robin Ventura -- I've been friends with him. Some of these guys, once you get to know some of them, they're fine.

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