Red Sox hiring Bianca Smith as first Black female pro baseball coach

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Bianca Smith smiles wearing a baseball jersey

Bianca Smith is making baseball history.

The Red Sox are hiring Smith as a minor league coach, according to the Boston Globe.

MLB confirmed to the Globe that Smith will be the first black woman ever to coach baseball at the professional level.

Smith, who most recently was an assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator at Carroll University (Wisc.,) will primarily work with infielders at the Red Sox’s minor league facility in Fort Meyers, Fla.

“She was a great candidate coming in,” Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett told the Globe. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skill set and development herself.”

Smith has interned in the baseball operations departments of the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds and worked in amateur administration for MLB. She played softball at Dartmouth from 2010-12 before working as director of baseball operations at Case Western Reserve University from 2013-17 and as an assistant coach with University of Dallas in 2018, according to the Globe.

Smith’s hiring is a barrier-breaker.

“It’s a meaningful, meaningful thing for the organization,” Crockett told the Globe.

The San Francisco Giants made Alyssa Nakken baseball’s first full-time female major league coach earlier this year, promoting her to assistant coach. She became the first woman to coach on-field in an MLB game in July, coaching first base during an exhibition game.

Continue on to The New York Post to read the complete article.

“Michael Jordan never faced a superteam like LeBron James” Lakers star will be the GOAT if they beat the Nets

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Collage of LeBron James and Michael Jordan

By The Sports Rush

In the wake of the James Harden trade, the pendulum has swung decisively in LeBron James’ favor in terms of the GOAT debate with Michael Jordan.

NBA fans are suggesting on Twitter that James will be the undisputed GOAT if the Lakers beat these Nets. They definitely have a valid point. In terms of singular offensive firepower, there are few teams that compare to today’s Nets. We’ve never had 3 all-time great iso players on the same team.

(Image Credit – The Sports Rush)

In addition, the Nets are also deep in terms of their wing spots. Although their center rotation is now shaky in Jarrett Allen’s absence, they can remedy that by the trade deadline. There really are very few scenarios right now in which the Nets aren’t de facto favorites in the East.

Did Michael Jordan face worse competition than LeBron James?

This FiveThirtyEight article suggests that through the course of their numerous playoff campaigns, Jordan’s average competition was better than LeBron’s. Although this came out in May 2020, the comparisons are still valid since James didn’t face a great team last year.

Over the course of Jordan’s 13 playoffs, his team averaged 58.38 regular season wins. His opponents, meanwhile, averaged 53.54 wins. Through 24 playoff series in which Jordan’s Bulls were the higher seed, they never lost a series. Essentially, Jordan never blew homecourt advantage in his career.

LeBron, on the other hand, has played on inferior teams than Jordan on an average. His teams averaged 55.44 wins, while his opponents averaged 51.77. Thus, the difference in quality between James’s teams and his opponents is smaller than that in Jordan’s case.

Read the full article at The Sports Rush.

LeBron James, Naomi Osaka and Patrick Mahomes among 5 “activist athletes” honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year

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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, U.S. Open tennis champ Naomi Osaka, Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart and Kansas City Chiefs teammates Patrick Mahomes and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff are being honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year for their athletic achievements and activism.

The five athlete-activists were honored in a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, racial tensions, and presidential election. In a Sports Illustrated video narrated by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he described the athletes as “champions in their sport and of causes that seek to level society’s playing field.”

“In a year seemingly designed to divide physically, emotionally, politically, they found ways to unite, to inspire, to rebuild the shared experience sports usually provides, even in the most unusual circumstances,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “They are athletes, they are activists.”

Following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, James led a group of Black athletes and entertainers to form More Than A Vote, a nonprofit focusing on fighting voter suppression. The organization helped recruit more than 42,000 poll workers for the presidential election and helped nearly 300,000 people vote at arenas. The group is (Image Credit: CBS NEWS)                                                            currently involved with the Georgia Senate runoffs.

On Monday, James also won the 2020 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in honor of his social activism, which in addition to More Than a Vote also includes opening up a school in his hometown. “It’s an honor that I will never ever forget to be linked with such a great human being in Muhammad,” James told SI. “Hopefully he’s looking down on me and saying that I’m continuing his legacy,” he added.

Read the full article at NBC NEWS.

Washington hires Jason Wright as NFL’s first Black team president

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Jason Wright headshot

Washington has hired Jason Wright as team president, making him the first Black team president in NFL history and only the fourth former player to ascend to that role.

More than any historic aspect, Wright said that what excites him is the convergence of his two worlds: football and business.

“It’s a huge moment to bring those two worlds together,” he told ESPN. “What other job would they come together at such a unique time for an organization at the point our team is? I’m just happy I landed in this role at that time. There are other reasons it’s historic, but that’s a byproduct of me being the right and qualified candidate at this time. All of that is just icing on the cake.”

But Wright said he understands the significance of his hiring.

“What it tries to signal is that, at least in this organization, the hindrances that tend to be in place around Black talent in other places are breaking down,” he said, “and that should send a signal more broadly to the shift in culture that Dan and Tanya Snyder, Coach Rivera and myself are now trying to make.”

Washington had been without a president since Bruce Allen was fired after the 2019 season. The team hired coach Ron Rivera and gave him full power, as owner Dan Snyder said he wanted a coach-centric approach.

Wright’s hiring won’t change that, as he won’t be involved in the football side like Allen was during his 10-year reign. Wright, 38, will focus only on the business side, including operations, finance, sales and marketing. Like Rivera, he will report directly to Snyder.

“[Rivera] is the chief executive of everything that happens on the football side, and I run the business side,” Wright said. “It’s super clear.”

Wright said he began talking with Snyder fairly recently about the job and called it a whirlwind.

“You could say there’s a lot going on, you sure you want to take this on? Yeah, absolutely,” Wright said. “Their actions] made me really confident I could come in here and effect change, that I’d have the ability and autonomy to make real change.”

He also embraces the challenge of coming to the NFL while facing the obstacles of a pandemic and at a time when “the Washington Football Team is at a unique moment, and the NFL, for better or worse, is at the center of so much important dialogue around the role of sport, the players finding their voice about the things they care about.”

Wright will be tasked with helping to change the culture in Washington. Another challenge will be to help locate an area to build a new stadium. Washington has been trying to find a spot in Virginia, Maryland or the District of Columbia for several years. The lease on the land at FedEx Field expires after the 2027 season.

Continue on to ESPN to read the complete article.

The I PROMISE Village: How Lebron James is Helping His Hometown

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LeBron James wearing #23 jersey standing on basketball court smiling

Despite the current circumstances of the world and the approaching NBA season, professional basketball star Lebron James has found another way to give back to his hometown of Akron.

Citing his hometown as an essential part of his success, James founded “The Lebron James Family Foundation” to give back some of his success to his Ohio hometown. For years, the organization has utilized tools in education to help the citizens of Akron, but as of late, has taken on one of its most ambitious projects yet: to help the disadvantaged families of the city.

On July 22, The Lebron James Foundation opened up the I PROMISE village, a transitional building set to provide families of an immediate home in the case of abuse, homelessness or other emergencies. The building will finally be opening after six months of refurbishing in partnership with 23 other companies.

Besides providing a space where families can feel safety of having a roof over their heads, the village will also be providing meals, community engagement, and life skill classes to help their tenants get back on their feet.

“This is about more than just getting kids to school,” the foundation executive director, Michele Campbell announced. “This is about keeping them alive. We’re seeing families struggling every day with very real and oftentimes unexpected issues that turn their worlds upside down. This will allow the family time and opportunities to grow while not worrying if they’ll have a roof over their heads.”

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes now part owner of Royals

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Patrick Mahomes on football wearing the red #15 jersey smiling

Patrick Mahomes, the star quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs and reigning Super Bowl MVP, has become a member of the new ownership group of the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals announced Mahomes’ partial ownership Tuesday, noting that he “spent a lot of time in clubhouses as a kid.”

“He loves football, but he also grew up loving the game of baseball,” said John Sherman, principal owner of the Royals. “We look forward to many years of a winning partnership.”

Mahomes is the son of former major league pitcher Pat Mahomes, who pitched in more than 300 big league games, mostly as a reliever.

“I’m honored to become a part-owner of the Kansas City Royals,” Mahomes said in a statement released by the team.

“I love this city and the people of this great town. This opportunity allows me to deepen my roots in this community, which is something I’m excited to do.”

Earlier this month, Mahomes signed a 10-year extension with the Chiefs that ties him to Kansas City through the 2031 season. League sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the deal is worth $450 million over the 10-year period and could be worth up to $503 million.

The extension includes a $140 million injury guarantee, as well as a no-trade clause.

Continue on to ESPN to read the complete article.

Meet UCLA’s First African American Athletic Director

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Martin Jarmond in a suit speaking at a conference

Martin Jarmond, the first and most recent athletic director at Boston College and the youngest director to ever be in the Power Five Conferences, will be breaking another record with his newest position.

On May 17, it was announced that Martin Jarmond will become the new athletic director of UCLA. This will make Jarmond the first African American man to hold the position in the school’s 101-year history.

Having an extensive background in sports both on the court and in his studies, Jarmond has quickly been able to move up the ladder of sports administration and is speculated to be the perfect fit to help UCLA fix the financial debt of the previous year’s $18.9 million deficit.

Continue on to the L.A. Times’ Website to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Stephen Senne/Associated Press

Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP Award named for Kobe Bryant

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NBA Award All Star Game is shown on a table during announcement by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

CHICAGO – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently announced that the Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP Award has been permanently named for the late Kobe Bryant, an 18-time All-Star who won a record-tying four All-Star Game MVP awards.

The Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 16 at the conclusion of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, where the league is celebrating the lives of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people who tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” said Silver. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

Bryant made his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998 at age 19 – the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. That appearance marked the first of his 18 All-Star selections, second most in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19). Bryant holds the NBA record for consecutive All-Star selections as he was honored 18 straight times from 1998-2016.

Bryant was named the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 2002, 2007, 2009 (co-winner with Shaquille O’Neal) and 2011. The only other player to win four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards is Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Pettit.

A five-time NBA champion, Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He earned the 2007-08 Kia NBA MVP Award, two Bill Russell Finals MVP awards and 15 All-NBA Team selections. Bryant ranks fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 33,643 points.

Continue on to NBA.com to read the complete article

MVP Patrick Mahomes is now part of the legendary black quarterback fraternity

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Patrick Mahomes Chiefs Quarteback Super Bowl

Patrick Mahomes capped a breakthrough season for himself and African-American quarterbacks Saturday night when he was named the NFL’s MVP.

In accepting his award, Mahomes thanked his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the team’s organization and told fans, “This is just the beginning, we got a long way to go.”

He could easily have been talking about the continuing evolution of African-American quarterbacks in the NFL.

A record five African-American quarterbacks led their teams into this postseason, though none of them reached the Super Bowl.

Most experts predict that the style and flair with which they play will become a staple in the NFL over the next 10 years.

Mahomes, 23, became the second African-American quarterback to win the NFL’s MVP award outright. Steve McNair shared the award with Peyton Manning in 2003.

He is the youngest quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season and tied for the youngest to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

Quarterback legends Warren Moon, Doug Williams and James Harris discussed the significance of Mahomes winning the award. They represent three important pillars of the African-American quarterback evolution in the NFL.

In 1969, Harris became the first black quarterback to start the regular season at quarterback; in 1974, he became the first to start a playoff game. Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship on Jan. 31, 1988.

In 2006, Moon became the first black quarterback to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1990 and the AFC Offensive Player of the Year that same year.

Moon, Williams and Harris shared some of what they think about Mahomes’ play this season.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MAHOMES WINNING the MVP AWARD

DOUG WILLIAMS:

“When you think about this league and the quarterbacks who are in this league, for a guy that young to have the season he’s had — and to be consistent. That’s the key: He’s not inconsistent at all. He might have had a bad spot here and there, but you’re talking about a young guy who has picked up on this game probably quicker than anybody I’ve seen in this league — in his second year. … To do what he’s done, it’s incredible.”

WARREN MOON:

“For a kid to be in his first year as a starter and to do something only three guys have done — throw 50 touchdown passes — throw for over 5,000 yards, then lead his team to the AFC championship game, that pretty amazing. Everybody was looking for him to have that rookie nosedive during the season — it never happened. The kid just kept playing. He was consistent the whole year. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s special.”

Continue on to The Undefeated to read the complete article.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gives Kids a Shot That Can’t be Blocked

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on a stage dressed in a suit smiling

By Brady Rhoades

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — NBA Hall of Famer, best-selling author, renowned columnist, historian, philanthropist— is laser-focused on underprivileged kids.

The key to empowering them?

Education.

Through his Skyhook Foundation and Camp Skyhook, he’s on a mission to give inner city kids a “shot that can’t be blocked” at careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math; many educators have added arts to the concept and use the acronym STEAM).

“The feedback from the kids is always a highlight for me,” he said, in an interview with STEAM Magazine. “They are enthusiastic, grateful, and excited about the experience. Horace Mann once said that ‘a house without books is like a room without windows.’ Before attending Camp Skyhook, many of our students couldn’t see themselves pursuing a STEM-related career. We’re building windows so they can see more possibilities for their future.

“Our students often come from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “They’re used to running the race of life with weights attached to them. Their shot at equal opportunities — whether in education, jobs, health care, etc. — is blocked by systemic social inequalities. We try to create a path where their shot at life can’t be blocked because of those disadvantages. We’re trying to even the playing field.”

Abdul-Jabbar is so committed to this venture that he’s sold personal memorabilia, such as championship rings and MVP plaques, in order to raise $2.8 million – a portion of which was donated to Camp Skyhook.

“Looking back on what I have done with my life, instead of gazing at the sparkle of jewels or gold plating celebrating something I did a long time ago, I’d rather look into the delighted face of a child holding their first caterpillar and think about what I might be doing for their future,” he said. “That’s a history that has no price.”

Kareem out in community visiting with a young boy in the library
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out in community visiting with a young boy in the library

So what exactly are the Skyhook Foundation and Camp Skyhook?

The Los Angeles non-profit helps public school students in the city access a free, fun, weeklong STEM education camp in the Angeles National Forest. Every week throughout the year, in cooperation with the Los Angeles Unified School District, groups of fourth and fifth graders attend Camp Skyhook at the Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center. The hands-on science curriculum encourages students to study nature up close. They also get to hike, swim and sing songs around campfires.

Currently, there’s a six-year waiting list for students to get into the camp.

“I’m happy we’re doing what we are, but I’m frustrated because we want to do even more,” said the six-time NBA champion and six-time MVP. “This program gives students STEM-based activities in an environment they rarely experience: the natural world. It also inspires their curiosity and sense of wonder.”

Abdul-Jabbar said it’s paramount to increase opportunities in STEM, especially for minorities.

“African-American men make up only 3 percent of science and engineering occupations versus 49 percent white men,” he said. “Black women have only 2 percent versus 18 percent for white women. Part of the reason is that a STEM education doesn’t seem like a real possibility to many minority children educated in inferior schools. We can turn that around. We have to turn it around.”

One of the iconic photos in UCLA basketball history taken by Norm Levin: Lew Alcindor, the 7-foot-2 big man who would one day wind up as NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, getting all of the ball for a blocked shot against the University of Minnesota on Dec. 27, 1967
One of the iconic photos in UCLA basketball history taken by Norm Levin: Lew Alcindor, the 7-foot-2 big man who would one day wind up as NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, getting all of the ball for a blocked shot against the University of Minnesota on Dec. 27, 1967.

A native of Harlem, Abdul-Jabbar was a three-time NCAA champion and three-time Player of the Year at UCLA, where he played under legendary coach John Wooden.

He played 20 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record 19-time NBA All-Star.

For Lakers fans, he is, perhaps, most beloved for his dominating performance in the 1985 finals against the Boston Celtics. The Lakers broke a decades-long losing streak to the Celtics and Abdul-Jabbar was named finals MVP.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995 and named one of the 50 greatest players in league history in 1996. A statue showing him wielding the greatest weapon in basketball annals – the skyhook – was unveiled outside of Staples Center in 2012.

Since his stellar professional career, he has gone on to become a celebrated New York Times-bestselling author, a filmmaker, and a columnist for The Guardian and the Hollywood Reporter. He writes insightful and in-depth columns about pop culture and social justice.

His curiosity is nothing less than feral.

Did you know he’s huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and his latest writing project — co-authored by Anna Waterhouse — is a mystery novel? It’s called Mycroft and Sherlock, The Empty Birdcage.

On top of all that, President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama.

of Freedom in 2016.

“I can do more than stuff a ball through a hoop,” he said. “My mind is my greatest asset.”

The same can be said of the children he’s helping, even if they don’t know it yet.

The Skyhook Foundation — the website for information and donations at https://skyhookfoundation.org/ — is demonstrably effective. Did you think for a second Abdul-Jabbar wouldn’t track the results?

“We know it’s effective because our follow-up research shows that students have increased interest in science, engineering and the environment,” he said. “In practical terms, it means they take more science classes and feel more confident in the classroom asking and answering questions. Former participants who are now adults tell us this was their most memorable elementary school experience.”

It’s widely agreed-upon that Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook was unstoppable—virtually unblockable. He shot thousands upon thousands of them, and tallied 38,387 points in his career. He is the greatest scorer in the history of professional basketball. Nobody’s ever re-created that magnificent hook shot.

Abdul-Jabbar’s message to kids: Develop a shot that can’t be blocked.

The game of life is played on a surface supremely larger than the 94-x-50-foot chunk of wood hoops players play on.

The winning play? Give yourself a shot to be an all-star in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

Simone Biles Makes History by Nailing Two Signature Moves — and One Is Now Named After Her

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Simone Biles posing on gymnatict floormat after performance smiling with hand in the air

Simone Biles has done it again!

The decorated gymnast made history on Saturday at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, by successfully landing the triple-double during her floor routine and then the double-double dismount on the balance beam.

The moves earned Biles, 22, huge applause from the audience. USA Gymnastics confirmed on Twitter that the impressive feat ensures the triple-double will be named the Biles II, in honor of the athlete.

Biles already has two moves named for her, one in the floor exercise and one on a vault, according to CNN.

Last week, the gymnast explained why she refrains from calling herself a “superstar” gymnast despite her incredible success.

“If I were to label myself as a superstar, it would bring more expectations on me and I would feel pressured, more in the limelight, rather than now,” Biles explained during a press conference before the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Germany.

“I just go out there and compete,” she added. “I try to represent Simone… not ‘Simone Biles’ whenever I go out there, because at the end of the day, I’m still a human being before I’m ‘Simone Biles, the superstar.’”

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

LL COOL J hosts his 15th Annual Jump & Ball Youth Camp

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LL Cool J posing the Jump Ball team

Over the weekend, LL COOL J returned to his hometown in Queens to host the closing ceremonies of the 15th Annual Jump & Ball Community Camp. LL was greeted by the more than 200 youth who participated in the month long camp and residents of the neighborhood where he grew up.

Launched in 2005 by LL COOL J, Jump & Ball is a free and fun-filled camp every Saturday & Sunday during the month of August for hundreds of kids from Southeast Queens.

The program was developed as an opportunity for the kids in the community to not only learn the game of basketball but also learn team building and leadership skills critical to life off the court.

LL has always been an avid philanthropist involved in numerous causes including literacy for kids as well as music and arts programs in schools. Celebrating its 15th Anniversary this year, LL’s charity “Jump & Ball” – which takes place every August in his hometown of Queens, New York – aims to give back to his local community by offering a five-week athletic and team building program dedicated to bringing wholesome fun to young people.

Guests enjoyed lie music courtesy of Rock the Bells, LL COOL J’s curated Sirius XM channel featuring classic hip hop, a special performance by the Harlem Globetrotters, free food, free back to school haircuts and more.

LL and youth at Jump and Ball

Looking to Be the First Woman in the NFL

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Toni Harris headshot

Antoinette “Toni” Harris aims to be the first woman to play in the National Football League (NFL). “If it doesn’t happen, I can just pave the way for another little girl to come out and play, or even start a women’s NFL,” Harris said in a recent interview with NBC News, following her decision to sign with the Central Methodist University football team. Harris, a 5-foot-7 free safety, is on track to become the first female football player in school history as well as the first female skill position player to sign a letter of intent to play college football on a scholarship.

Harris chose Central Methodist over five other offers. “I picked Central Methodist because of the resilience within the school itself and how Coach Calloway had been communicating with me,” Harris said.

The endeavoring NFL player gained national notoriety after starring in a Super Bowl commercial for Toyota earlier this month and has been interviewed by the likes of CNN, NBC News, and Sports Illustrated. She spent two seasons at East Los Angeles College and says she felt Coach Calloway had her best interest at heart during the recruiting process.

“Sometimes you have to pick and choose,” said Harris. “I feel that Central Methodist will be the perfect place for me.”

Sources: becauseofthemwecan.com, cmueagles.com

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