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Auburn’s Sharife Cooper entering 2021 NBA draft

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Auburn freshman Sharife Cooper will declare for the 2021 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility by hiring an agent, he told ESPN.

“This season was a roller coaster filled with many ups and some downs,” Cooper said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even through the bad times I enjoyed every second at Auburn.”

Cooper, the No. 17 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named to the SEC’s All-Rookie team after averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game.

He is considered one of the top point guard prospects in the 2021 draft class thanks to his ability to create offense for himself or teammates. He was one of only two freshmen in the past 30 years of college basketball, along with Oklahoma‘s Trae Young, to average over 20 points and 8 assists per game.

Cooper is intriguing to NBA teams due to his sharp ballhandling skills and his ability to get anywhere he wants on the court with a blazingly fast first step. He accelerates and decelerates past defenders effortlessly, while possessing the vision and creativity to find teammates on the move. According to Synergy Sports Technology data, Cooper led all of college basketball with the 39.6 points per game he created via assists or his own scoring, more than 20% higher than the next best prospect expected to be drafted (IllinoisAyo Dosunmu).

“I believe NBA teams only saw a glimpse of what I can do, whether that be my passing creativity, basketball IQ, leadership, as well as impact on winning,” Cooper said. “I would like to say I have a lot more to show.”

Cooper came to Auburn with significant fanfare, as a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All American. His season was set back when he was held out of Auburn’s first 12 games as the NCAA initially refused to certify his eligibility. Cooper missed 72 days of practice before being cleared to play the night before Auburn’s game against in-state rival Alabama on Jan. 9. Thrown into the fire against one of the top teams in the country, Cooper delivered 26 points, 9 assists and 3 steals in 32 minutes in a narrow loss.

“It was mentally frustrating,” Cooper said. “Working so hard to prepare for your first college season, and a couple months before the season it’s all taken away without knowing why or if it will ever come back.

“On top of that, I couldn’t practice or be in the gym until late at night by myself. The day before we played Alabama, I get a text saying, ‘Lace your shoes up, you’re playing tomorrow.’ It was crazy because I didn’t even practice the plays yet and was supposed to play around 10-15 minutes. But looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful for my coaches, teammates, family and support staff for being in my corner that whole time.”

Auburn self-imposed a postseason ban on its 2020-21 season in November as part of the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into former assistant coach Chuck Person, making Cooper and his teammates unable to play in the SEC or NCAA tournaments.

The 2021 NBA draft will be held July 29, and the league has scheduled its draft combine for June 21, featuring competitive 5-on-5 action “subject to public health conditions.”

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Gains sizable in NBA Finals ratings from last year, but fourth-lowest average since 1997

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NEW YORK — Television ratings for the NBA Finals and playoffs posted sizable increases over last year. But that was the only good news for the NBA as far as viewer numbers.

According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year’s series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997.

The Lakers-Heat series — which was played in October in the Orlando bubble after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months — averaged only 7.45 million.

San Antonio‘s 2007 four-game sweep of Cleveland (9.29 million) and the Spurs’ six-game victory over New Jersey in 2003 (9.83 million) are the other series to average fewer than 10 million since 1997.

The numbers were also down 34.5% compared to two years ago, when the TorontoGolden State series averaged 15.14 million.

Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night attracted the most viewers in the series, averaging 12.52 million. The audience peaked between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EDT at 16.54 million. Only two games in the series averaged 10 million or more.

This year’s playoffs averaged 4.25 million, up 35% over last year but down 18% compared to 2019.

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Two shootings leave 3 wounded in Milwaukee during celebration of Bucks’ NBA championship

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MILWAUKEE — Two shootings in downtown Milwaukee early Wednesday as crowds celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first NBA championship in 50 years left three people wounded, police said.

The shootings both happened about 12:42 a.m. at two locations near Water Street, police said in a statement. TV station WISN had a reporter broadcasting from the scene when multiple shots were heard, prompting people to flee.

The shootings were across the Milwaukee River from Fiserv Forum, where the game was played, and the Deer District plaza, where a crowd of roughly 65,000 had gathered for an outdoor watch party. The area where the shootings took place is on a street heavily populated with bars and restaurants.

During Tuesday night’s game, a police officer was trampled by people trying to get into the Deer District watch party after the area had reached capacity, Milwaukee police Capt. Jesús Ortiz said in an email. The officer didn’t sustain any major injuries but reported being in general pain, Ortiz said.

Following one of the shootings, a 22-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, police said, and a suspect was in custody.

In the other shooting, which police said happened simultaneously, a 19-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries. One person was in custody and other suspects were being sought, police said.

The two shootings, which were in the immediate area of the celebrations, likely were what was heard during the TV coverage, Ortiz said.

The celebrations came after Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

Fans who packed the streets surrounding the arena had cheered and danced all night as they watched the game on giant video screens, and the massive crowd erupted in jubilation as the game ended. A few fans climbed light poles in the plaza and others jumped off a bridge into the nearby river as fireworks exploded above the arena.

Joy Smith, 50, of Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer. “Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another fan, Sabrina Holland, 37, of Milwaukee, called it “epic.” She said: “Everyone who’s anyone is here.“

Before the game, and at the city’s request, Gov. Tony Evers mobilized 150 National Guard members to help in Milwaukee with traffic control and public safety.

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Sports world reacts to Milwaukee Bucks winning first NBA title since 1971

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The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have snapped a 49-year title drought, the league’s fifth longest entering this season.

This ring proved to be hard-fought as Milwaukee is just the third team in Finals history to win four straight after trailing 2-0, joining the 2006 Miami Heat and 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Bob Pettit as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in a finals clincher.

As the franchise and fans celebrate their long-awaited championship, let’s relive some of the best social media moments from the Bucks’ title-clincher.

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in Bucks history to be named Finals MVP. He and his teammates had several notable viewers excited to share their congratulations.




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