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Originally published December 26, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Page modified December 26, 2013 at 10:19 PM

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James honored as AP Male Athlete of Year

LeBron James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press’ 2013 Male Athlete of the Year.

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James honored as AP Male Athlete of Year

Even after a year like 2013 — when LeBron James won a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award — he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness. Or, technically, more greatness, since his enormous list of accomplishments just keeps growing.

James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press’ 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating Peyton Manning (20) and Jimmie Johnson (7).

“I’m chasing something and it’s bigger than me as a basketball player,” the Miami Heat star said. “I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero ... those things mean so much, and that’s what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don’t think this is the biggest role that I’m going to have.”

Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Serena Williams was the AP Female Athlete of the Year, announced Wednesday.

James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.


Bidding for Tanaka begins

All 30 major-league teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka started Thursday, according to MLB. Clubs have until Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the 25-year-old right-hander.

If Tanaka and a major-league team come to terms, that franchise is required to pay his Japanese club, the Rakuten Eagles, a posting fee, now capped at $20 million under a deal reached two weeks ago between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball.

Shin-Soo Choo passed his physical with the Texas Rangers, clearing the way for the completion of the outfielder’s $130 million, seven-year deal. The former Mariner will be formally introduced in Texas on Friday.

Former Oriole Blair dies

Paul Blair, the eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Baltimore Orioles win World Series titles in 1966 and 1970, died Thursday in Baltimore. He was 69.

Blair was with the Orioles from 1964 to 1976. He then played for the New York Yankees — winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978 — and the Cincinnati Reds.

He hit .250 in 17 seasons in the majors.


Howard ejected

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was ejected for Everton in the English Premier League for bringing down Ki Sung-Yeung, who then scored from the penalty spot to give Sunderland a 1-0 victory.


Tsonga beats Murray

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray lost his comeback match from a three-month injury layoff in the opening round of the Mubadala Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Murray lost 7-5, 6-3 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

Santa Anita winter meet opens

Shakin It Up beat Central Banker by a half-length in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on the opening day of Santa Anita’s winter meet in Arcadia, Calif. Ridden by David Flores, Shakin It Up ran 7 furlongs in 1:20.53 and paid $36, $15 and $7.80 at 17-1 odds in front of 30,540.


• Spain’s Tommy Robredo has an arm injury and has withdrawn from the Hopman mixed teams tennis tournament in Perth, Australia.

• Providence’s Jon Gillies made 23 saves to help the United States open its world junior hockey title defense with a 5-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Malmo, Sweden. In other games, Anthony Mantha scored three goals in Canada’s 7-2 victory over Germany, Sweden beat Switzerland 5-3 and Russia routed Norway 11-0.

• The Columbus Blue Jackets signed right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks to a three-year, entry-level contract. Bjorkstrand was the 89th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft.

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