Michael Jordan reflects on Bulls dynasty, his legacy in new ESPN docuseries

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Michael Jordan has been hailed the greatest basketball player of all time and his unmatched talents on the court will once again be on display in a new documentary series, The Last Dance, that regales his final season with the legendary Chicago Bulls.

The highly anticipated 10-part ESPN and Netflix production with never before seen footage, follows Jordan during the 1997-98 season and gives a glimpse behind the curtain of the team's dramatic road to the epic final showdown that cemented them as one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Jordan, who is currently at his home in Florida with his wife and two of his children, joined ABC News' Good Morning America on Thursday to discuss the upcoming series and share what he remembers most about that final year.

"It was a trying year, we all were trying to enjoy that year knowing that it was coming to an end," he explained. "Phil [Jackson] started off the year by saying, 'this is the last dance,' and we played it that way."

"Mentally it just kind of tugged at you throughout the course of the year, you know, but that this had to come to an end but it also centered our focus to making sure we ended it right," Jordan continued. "As sad as it sounds at the beginning of the year we tried to rejoice and enjoy the year and finish it off the right way."

Jordan spent 15 seasons in the NBA, led the Chicago Bulls to six championships, was a six-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist and 14-time NBA All-Star -- just to name a few of his top accolades.

The retired NBA superstar said the series that serves as a retrospective of his basketball career will also look back to simpler times when he was playing college ball for the Tar Heels at the University of North Carolina.

"You're gonna see a lot of things that people forgot life was that way," he said, recalling times before the era of social media. "The thing that people are going to learn, and my kids laugh about it when they see it, but we used postage stamps back in those days, you know. Where I had to ask my mom to send my postage stamps."

He continued, "you had to live life as it came, you know, and each day you learned the education aspect, spending time with friends and family, it wasn't via the phone, you know, it was actually in presence and you wrote letters."

"My mom, she kept all my letters," he said. "It's somewhat embarrassing, but yet it's refreshing that I took the time to write a letter to say how much I love my mom and, you know, what I needed in college."

ESPN originally planned to release the documentary in June to coincide with what would have been the NBA Finals, but moved up the release two months amid the coronavirus pandemic to provide fans stuck at home with something exciting to watch during these tough times.

The series flashes back to some early career highlights at North Carolina, like his buzzer beater in '82 to win the NCAA title, which he said was the moment he went from Mike to Michael Jordan.

"Up until that point no one knew who I was -- outside the university -- I was just known as Mike Jordan," he said. "And when I hit that shot, my whole name became Michael Jordan. And I think it resonated with a lot of people outside of UNC and I just started piling on that name itself -- from the successes that I endured throughout the rest of my career."

There was no team more dominant in the '90s than the Chicago Bulls led by Jordan, who became a cultural icon on top of his unmatched athleticism.

With teammate Scottie Pippen by his side, the duo commanded the league for nearly a decade and created a legacy for the Bulls as one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.

Jordan became widely known as "Air Jordan" for his prolific slam dunks followed by his signature tongue out celebration, but it was perseverance that his parents instilled in him that he said carried him throughout his career beyond the basketball court.

"They were hardworking people and they instilled that not just in me but in my brothers and sisters," Jordan said. "It just became a part of my nature I always take a negative and turn it into a positive -- that all came from my parents."

He also hailed his brother Larry for his unwavering support and helping him become the man and player he turned out to be.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my brother Larry. Larry pushed me and we used to fight after every game, but through that fight, you know, emerged someone like me," he said. "He supports me and he works for me and the team and I never would have gotten this far without him."

The series debuts on ESPN Sunday at 9 pm ET and will air over five Sundays through May 17 with two 1-hour broadcasts per week.

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Vanessa Bryant says Kobe wanted to use retirement to ‘make up for lost time’

Rob Carr/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- To mark Mamba Day, the fourth anniversary of Kobe Bryant's final NBA game, his widow, Vanessa Bryant, shared footage of his final moments on the court.

In her caption, Vanessa Bryant reflected on the "senseless" deaths of her husband and their daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash in January.

Noting that the NBA legend, nicknamed "The Black Mamba," "worked his ass off for 20 years," she explained that he'd hoped to use his retirement to focus on family.

"All he wanted was to spend time with our girls and me to make up for lost time," she wrote. "He wanted to be there for every single milestone and special moment in our girls' lives."

Kobe Bryant, 42, and Gianna -- known as Gigi -- were among the nine victims killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Southern California. At the time, they were en route to a basketball game at Bryant's Mamba Academy.

Like her famous father, Gigi loved to play basketball, and, according to Vanessa Bryant, "she worked hard and gave her all 7 days a week just like her daddy."

"He only got to enjoy 3 years and 9 months of retirement. We had 2 more daughters, he won an Oscar, he opened Granity studios, he became a 5x best selling author and coached Gianna’s basketball team in that time," Vanessa Bryant wrote. "I wish I could back to that morning, every day. I wish they had a normal local game on 1/26. Life truly isn’t fair."

Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife and three daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 9 months.

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John Krasinski, David Ortiz team up to surprise Boston-based COVID-19 team

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- In the latest installment of his homemade news show, "Some Good News," John Krasinski showed some big-time appreciation for his hometown heroes, the members of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital's COVID-19 unit.

As usual, Krasinski started with a roundup of cheerful headlines in this challenging time, including fan art of his new endeavor.

"This whole internet thing has continued to be a constant source of surprise and living nightmares," he joked, showing one viewer's offering, a four-panel drawing of Krasinski heroically swooping in with good news.

"It's the closest thing I'll get to playing a comic book hero," Krasinski said, before giving a sly nod, alluding to either losing out the Captain America role to pal Chris Evans, or rumors the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Fantastic plans for the star.

Krasinski also showed encouraging footage of dancing nurses, recovering patients and people making the best of their time in quarantine -- like a group of British nuns singing Queen's "We Will Rock You," and a guy who's been projecting classic movies on a building next door.

The actor also video chatted with the COVID-19 unit from his hometown hospital, introducing Red Sox legend David "Big Papi" Ortiz, who gave them free Red Sox tickets for life.

But there were more surprises in store for them.

Krasinski told them to go outside, where one of Boston's famous Duck Boats was waiting to take them to Fenway Park.

The health care workers got to throw out "the first pitch of the 2020 season," to the applause of Red Sox players who were projected live on the stadium's Jumbotron.

Krasinski also let them know that AT&T Wireless was giving front-line nurses and physicians nationwide three months of free wireless service on the company's FirstNet network.

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Report: NBA officials discussing programs, plans for potential return

cmannphoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Will the NBA resume its season this year? That's the question many of the league's executives and employees are debating right now.

Last month, the NBA suspended its season due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The move came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus. Since then, several other players around the league have tested positive, as well.

Now, as May is approaching and social distancing efforts appear to be making a positive impact, league executives and team medical personnel are said to be discussing potential plans to get players ready to take the court again.

Sources tell ESPN one idea that has been brought up is a 25-day program.

"Under the plan, players would go through an 11-day stretch of individual workouts in which they could maintain some measure of social distancing while ramping up training and activity," ESPN reports. "Then, if permitted by medical officials, the idea would be to allow for a two-week training camp with entire teams participating."

It remains to be seen if this program or any other ideas will get a chance to be implemented as the status of the season's resumption is still up in the air.

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Report: Sammy Watkins restructures contract with Chiefs

33ft/iStock(NEW YORK) — Sammy Watkins is reportedly staying put in Kansas City.

A source tells ESPN the 26-year-old wide receiver has agreed to restructure his contract with the Chiefs.

The new deal includes a no-trade clause and $7 million in incentives. It tops out at a value of $16 million, the source told ESPN.

Watkins appeared to confirm the news with a tweet Friday morning.

In his past two seasons with Kansas City, Watkins has appeared in 24 regular season games, catching 92 passes and scoring six touchdowns.

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New England Patriots plane transports 1.7 million N95 masks from China amid pandemic

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has partnered with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to purchase 1.4 million N95 masks from China as the U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to rise.

Kraft also personally purchased an additional 300,000 N95 masks for New York state, which has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The supplies were flown on the Patriots' personal plane.

Kraft wanted to assist New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo out of respect and admiration for his leadership, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News.

“It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission. We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals," Kraft said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

"Multiple organizations across the public and private sectors, all of which were in lockstep with Governor Charlie Baker’s visionary leadership, worked together to execute this mission with the purpose of helping save lives," Kraft added. "I truly hope that in doing so, we can in some way inspire others to find creative ways to give more in support of our doctors, nurses and first responders. It’s nice to care for those who provide such compassionate care for us.”

States have been struggling amid a shortage of personal protective equipment and have had to compete with the federal government and international demand to replenish their inventories.

"No days off. Thanks to some serious teamwork, Massachusetts is set to receive over 1 million N95 masks for our front-line workers. Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen," Baker tweeted Thursday morning, along with a photo of the Patriots plane in China.

Last month, Baker raised this concern directly in a phone call with President Donald Trump during a teleconference with the nation's governors.

Trump had asked governors to purchase their own supplies to battle the virus instead of relying on the federal stockpile.

Baker told Trump on March 19 that his state "took very seriously" the president's instructions to “go out and buy” their own supplies to battle COVID-19, but “on three big orders we lost to the fed.”

The total number of masks transported from China is 1.7 million and the inventory is expected to arrive at Boston Logan Airport on Thursday afternoon. According to the source, the use of the Patriots plane accelerated the process, which could have taken several more weeks.

The 300,000 N95 masks for New York are expected to be transferred via truck to the The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on Friday, which has been converted into a hospital as medical facilities are strained due to the pandemic.

Other leaders in the sports world have also made efforts to address the shortage of protective personal equipment.

Last week, Major League Baseball and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin announced plans to halt the production of MLB uniforms to produce at least 1 million masks and hospital gowns for health care workers and emergency personnel battling COVID-19.

Fanatics, which is based in Easton, Pennsylvania, is the manufacturer of the the official MLB player jerseys.

"We have already begun production of up to one million masks and gowns from the fabric used to make the official MLB jerseys and then donating to hospitals and emergency management personnel throughout Pennsylvania with the goal of expanding to New York and New Jersey," Rubin said in a statement obtained by ABC News last week.

Rubin, who is also a minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, is working with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to distribute the gowns and masks to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.
 
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NBA players who’ve beaten COVID-19 to donate blood for new treatment

cmannphoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- At least four NBA players who have recovered from COVID-19 plan to donate blood for an experimental treatment that could help high-risk patients overcome the virus, according to Dr. Michael Joyner, a member of the leadership team of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

The experimental therapy, called convalescent plasma, utilizes the antibodies in blood donated from recovered patients to potentially curb the virus in the sickest patients.

Joyner, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said Tuesday that his team will work with players to find donation sites.

On Sunday, the NBA league office reached out to team physicians encouraging players who have recovered from the virus to consider opting in to the experimental treatment, according to a copy of the memo obtained by ABC News.

The NBA also donated $100,000 to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project as part of the NBA Together campaign.

The NBA’s donation and plea for players to opt in to the program comes amid criticism that the league coordinated VIP testing of players while other Americans showing symptoms struggled to access tests. Dr. Joyner said that while “testing at many levels will be highlighted” when all is said and done, the players deserve credit for offering their help.

“I think you have to do what's in front of you right now,” Joyner said. “The players themselves had nothing to do with getting into the VIP lane. It's one of those things about celebrities in the United States, and we're not going to solve that problem in the middle of this crisis.”

Marcus Smart, a guard for the Boston Celtics, confirmed through his agent that he is one of the players who will opt in to the program. Smart announced Monday on Twitter that he had been cleared of the virus by the Massachusetts Department of Health.

The identities of the other three players planning to participate are not known.

Joyner said professional athletes could be valuable donors not only for their platform to spread awareness of the disease, but also physiologically.

“These are big men with blood volumes, and as a result have a lot of plasma volume,” Joyner said. “Frequently people who are physically trained also have an increase in their plasma volume from what you would expect from them just being regular-sized guys.”

With an approved vaccine still months away at best, doctors say the experimental treatment offers a ray of hope for medical professionals and patients alike.

“We believe it can be disease-modifying and reduce duration and severity in some patients,” said Joyner said.

Physicians and scientists from 34 institutions in 17 states are investigating the use of convalescent plasma in the current COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

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Tokyo Olympics will open in July 2021

CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The 2020 Summer Olympics officially have a new start date after being postponed a year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Games in Tokyo will kick off on July 23, 2021, Japanese organizers announced Monday. That’s almost exactly a year to the day of when the opening ceremony was originally scheduled for in 2020 -- July 24.

The closing ceremony, meanwhile, will now be held on Aug. 8, 2021.

The organizers also announced Monday that the Paralympics were rescheduled to open on Aug. 24, 2021, and close on Sept. 5, 2021.

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Katelyn Ohashi teams up with gym to help gymnasts work out at home

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- While many fitness centers have closed their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, one gym in the New York City borough of Brooklyn is taking to social media to keep many of their members active at home.

When Gotham Gymnastics, a facility for aspiring young gymnasts, was forced to temporarily close due to government mandates, its CEO and co-founder Daniel Miranda as well as team director and co-founder Ana Nunes came up with the idea to take their workout sessions to Instagram.

"We did this for our girls first," Miranda told ABC News in an interview on Good Morning America.

"We realized with all the posts out there," he continued, "all the girls sharing comments of ideas about what to do, we came across the idea of getting other girls from other gyms to join too. And this thing just grew in two days, it was an incredible response.”

Last week, the two coaches launched #Quaranteams, which they’re calling the largest gymnastics web camp in the world to keep athletes motivated.

It was also their way of responding to the many events and meets that were cancelled amid the pandemic which gymnasts had worked hard preparing for.

"When we saw the championships being cancelled, we thought, oh my gosh, these girls worked really hard to be able to go to the championships, and some of them have senior years, some of them are preparing for the Olympics," Miranda said.

For six days each week, Gotham Gymnastics has scheduled workouts on Instagram live with coaches and professionals who help bring lessons to gymnasts at home. Not only has it sparked interest among gymnasts in Brooklyn, but elsewhere around the world too.

One of the professional gymnasts they asked to join this week's workouts is star gymnast, Katelyn Ohashi, who last year scored perfect 10s for her energetic, viral floor routine while competing for the University of California, Los Angeles.

"To know that these coaches at Gotham are extremely invested in their gymnasts and support them throughout this pandemic is incredible and super cool to see," Ohashi told GMA. "The creativity behind it and to know that they’re working on so many different ways to stay involved and to encourage everyone -- and it’s not just about their gymnasts, it’s also about the world, so that’s even cooler."

"There's just kind of a lot of stuff happening within our world, so we are just trying to be as positive as possible through these times and teach them [gymnasts] as much insight as we can on what to do during our days locked inside the house in quarantine," she added.

Ohashi's workout session, which took place Thursday on Instagram, included a variety of lower body workouts and stretches.

On Sunday, Ohashi, Miranda and UCLA head coach and fellow Gotham Advisory Board Member Valorie "Miss Val" Kondos Field took part in a Q&A that was live streamed on Instagram, where they offered tips for gymnasts on how to stay motivated while self-isolating at home.

"Right now, while it’s a stressful time -- I feel it myself -- we can look at the positive," Miss Val told GMA, regarding working out at home. "You [young athletes] have a time right now to really work on your strengths, but also your weaknesses."

Ohashi also shared that even though it is important to stay active, she also advised that this is a time that many should use to rest. During her Q&A on Sunday, she spoke about the importance of the Sabbath and taking the time to reflect.

"Sabbath rest is extremely important just because, it is OK to let down during this time and have a little bit of relaxation and self-reflection and do things that you don't always get to prioritize," she said. "Really focusing on what you enjoy outside of the sport right now and the things that you can do at home and getting creative and doing certain things -- I just think can help set them up for the future even more so."

While Gotham Gymnastics is one of many gyms across the country who have been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic of the novel coronavirus, Miranda has made it a point to focus on the positive during this time and he hopes athletes will do the same.

"It’s a big hit for not just athletes, but you know for the economy and everything else," Miranda said. "But the message is, you’re not alone. We’re together -- we’re together in this … instead of the internet being a vehicle of posting hate, we should be using it to bring people together in this moment."

"This is going to pass," he added.

You can check out Gotham Gymnastics’ #Quaranteams schedule for the week on their website here.

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How Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte reacted to Tokyo news and what he’s doing to train

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- After four Olympics, 12 medals and another four years of training, Ryan Lochte will have to wait a bit longer to jump back into the swimming pool after the International Olympic Committee announced the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the six-time gold medalist said this is bigger than any of the athletes and they will adjust their training and be ready to compete when the time comes.

"Training will never be perfect, and there's always going to be something like a bump in the road, and that's how us athletes train, and this is just another bump in the road," Lochte told ABC News' Good Morning America via Skype from his home in Florida on Wednesday.

"The Olympics are not canceled. They're just postponed. So now you have to adjust your training for another year, and just -- trust the process," he continued. "Everything happens for a reason."

The games, which were originally set to kick off in Tokyo on July 24, "will be held by the summer of 2021," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday.

"As soon as I saw it I was disappointed. I mean, I have trained four years for this moment, and this is probably one of my biggest Olympics -- that I have ever had in my career," Lochte said. "But this is bigger than me, this is bigger than the Olympians. This is affecting the entire world. And right now our main thing is staying safe and staying healthy."

Until the COVID-19 crisis is resolved, Lochte, 36, said he is spending lots of time "deep cleaning the house," adding more dry land training to his routine and enjoying time with his family during this stay-at-home period.

"We're going on family walks, and since all the pools are closed, I can't be swimming right now, but I'm doing a lot of ab workouts and stuff like that," he said.

The IOC said the historic first-time move to postpone the games was made to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

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