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Michael Jordan says he was ‘a little brother to me’

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The news of Kobe Bryant’s death continues to shock not only the National Basketball Association but the sports world in general.

Athletes from New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady to boxing legend Mike Tyson shared their reactions to Bryant’s passing on social media, joining many who were completely stunned and saddened by the passing of one of the world’s most celebrated athletes.

Bryant was confirmed dead after a helicopter carrying the former Los Angeles Lakers legend, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers crashed around 10 a.m. Sunday morning in Calabasas, near Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Bryant was 41.

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.

“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability,” Silver’s statement continued. “He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization, and the entire sports world.”

Bryant, who played all 20 of his NBA seasons with the Lakers, shared his last social media message via Twitter when he congratulated current Lakers superstar LeBron James for passing him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. With 33,655 career points, James moved past Bryant (33,643) to place third.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644,” Bryant tweeted at 10:39 p.m. after the Lakers fell to the Philadelphia 76ers, 108-91.

A well-known mentor of Bryant’s, NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, labeled Bryant “a little brother” after learning of his death.

“We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much,” Jordan said in a statement. “He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”

As the world learned of Bryant’s death, some teams honored him during early afternoon NBA games. The San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors each used their first possessions to purposely violate the 24-second shot clock as a tribute to Bryant, who wore No. 24 from 2007-2016, after switching over from the No. 8, which he wore since being drafted 13th overall by the Lakers in 1996.

“We all feel a deep sense of loss for what he meant to all of us in so many ways,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters following Sunday’s contest. “So many millions of people loved him for so many different reasons. It’s just a tragic thing; there are no words that can describe how everybody feels about it. We all think about the family and the process that they are going to be going through now. That’s where all of our thoughts should be.”

The son of former NBA star Joe Bryant, Kobe’s death comes days after his 14th anniversary of becoming the closest player to finish a game scoring near Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 100 points in a single game. Bryant scored 81 points back on Jan. 22, 2006, finishing the game 28-of-46 shooting from the field. In that same outing, Bryant also surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s 78-point game set back in December 1961.

For his career, Bryant, who retired in 2016, played 48,637 minutes (the eighth-most in NBA history) and appeared in 1,346 games (ranking him at 15th) in a career most certainly headed for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

But as much as Bryant meant to the NBA, his legacy is also cemented and well respected in Lower Merion, a small suburb outside of Philadelphia where he attended high school.

Bryant dominated as a high school basketball player, finishing his career as the Aces’ all-time leading scorer with 2,883 points. Following his playing days in the area known as the Main Line, the school named its gymnasium after Bryant in December 2010.

“That’s obviously where playing in the NBA kind of became a realistic goal,” Bryant told ESPN in 2010. “I put a lot of work in, a lot of hours in that gym.”

Bryant’s high school coach Gregg Downer, who coached him from 1992 to 1996, could not be reached for comment but issued a quote that said: “Aces Nation has lost its heartbeat.”

Bryant also led the Aces to a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class AAAA State Championship in 1996.

“The entire Lower Merion School District community sends its deepest condolences to Mr. Bryant’s family,” the Lower Merion School District said in a statement. “Our basketball teams will no doubt pay tribute to Mr. Bryant as this season continues, but at this time, as a District, we will concentrate on supporting those in our community – including Coach Downer and English teacher Jeanne Mastriano – whom Mr. Bryant credited for sparking his love of writing.”

Asked what Bryant meant to him growing up playing basketball, current Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum said, “Outside of my brother and father, Kobe was it. Loved his work ethic, his story, his approach to the game, and his tenacity.”

Billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, issued a statement praising the man who called himself the “Black Mamba,” saying Bryant was an “ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon.” Cuban went on to add the team will officially retire the No. 24 in honor of Bryant.

“He was the closest player ever to mimic MJ,” NBA agent Cervando Tejeda of Athlete Sports Management told CNBC. “He kept the drive and toughness in the game; the belief that if you work hard, success will come. He meant a lot to the world. Today is a sad day; today should forever be named ‘Mamba Day.'”



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Streaming TV’s Boom Is a Mixed Blessing for Some Hollywood Writers

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LOS ANGELES — It seemed like a good deal. At first.

Last April, Netflix offered Kay Reindl and her longtime writing partner a substantial sum — in the mid-six figures, Ms. Reindl said — to oversee 10 episodes of a new sci-fi series, “Sentient.” It sounded like a lot of money for what they figured would be less than a year of work.

Ms. Reindl and her writing partner, who have worked steadily as TV writers since the 1990s, would be executive producers, instead of staff writers on someone else’s show. That would mean a lot more responsibility and much longer hours, but it seemed worth it. They found office space and hired a few writers.

Then came a surprise: they learned that “Sentient” would actually take 18 months from start to finish. When Ms. Reindl did the math, she realized that, under the new timetable, she would be making roughly the same weekly pay as the writers she was overseeing.

“It was a very bad day,” Ms. Reindl said.

Netflix declined to comment.

The rise of streaming has been a blessing and a curse for working writers like Ms. Reindl, who said she and her partner had ultimately left “Sentient” because of creative differences unrelated to the length of the series. On-demand digital video has ushered in the era of Peak TV, meaning there are more shows and more writing jobs than ever. But many of the jobs are not what they used to be in the days before streaming.

“All this opportunity is great, but how to navigate it and keep yourself consistently working and making your living has been the challenging part,” said Stu Zicherman, a writer and showrunner whose credits include “The Americans” on FX and HBO’s “Divorce.”

When Ms. Reindl got her start, network series had 24 episodes or more a season. The typical TV writer’s schedule looked something like this: Get hired by May or June, write furiously for most of the year, and then take a six-week hiatus before the process started again.

The seasonal rhythms that had been in place for TV writers since the days of “I Love Lucy” started to change more than two decades ago, when cable outlets put out 13-episode seasons of shows like HBO’s “The Sopranos” and, later, AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Streaming platforms have revised that model further: eight-episode seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian”; six-episode seasons of Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag”; three- and six-episode batches of Netflix’s “Black Mirror.” Cable has replied in kind, offering fewer than 12-episode runs of shows like “Atlanta” on FX and “Silicon Valley” on HBO.

“I think they’re experimenting with the shortest product they can still call a TV series,” said Steve Conrad, the president of Elephant Pictures, a production company in Chicago. “I couldn’t keep this company together if it was fewer than eight, and it’s coming.”

In addition to shortening season lengths, the streaming platforms have ignored the school-year-style calendar of television’s network days, with its premieres in the weeks after Labor Day and finales late in the spring. Netflix has served up new seasons of its most-watched program, “Stranger Things,” in July. Apple TV Plus unveiled one of its most-hyped shows, “Little America,” in the middle of January.

The rise of streaming has fattened the wallets of superstar writer-producers like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, while also giving chances to unproven writers. But the medium’s shorter seasons and unpredictable cadences have made it harder for writers in Hollywood’s middle class to plot out a year’s work in a way that doesn’t leave them nervous when mortgage payments are due.

Complicating the issue is that streaming platforms have been known to take more time to make an episode than their network and cable counterparts. For many writers, that meant less money for more hours, and they complained to their union representatives.

“Five years ago, it grew from an isolated problem to a dominant problem,” said Chuck Slocum, the assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West. “We had half of our members wake up and realize one day that they’re making half the money that they were making.”

The union worked out some protections for its members. Since 2018, studios are sometimes required to pay writers extra when filming runs longer than expected.

That change kicked in too late to help Lila Byock, a writer whose credits include HBO’s “The Leftovers” and Hulu’s “Castle Rock.” She said she was hired on a scripted series that she figured would last 10 months. Instead, it took nearly 18 months, which caused her to pass on other writing jobs.

“It gets tricky,” Ms. Byock said. “That wasn’t what I had budgeted for two years of my life.”

On the flip side, streaming seasons that require a short time commitment — say, eight months — can also wreak havoc on a writer’s schedule. “You’re not being paid by the studio for five months of the year, but that’s not enough time to take on another show,” said Mr. Conrad, of Elephant Pictures.

The old TV calendar is not quite dead. Major producers of network shows, like Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre, still must come up with at least 22 episodes per season of shows like NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” and CBS’s “Young Sheldon.” But with new streaming platforms like NBCUniversal’s Peacock and HBO Max set to start in the spring, the lives of many TV writers are likely to get more chaotic.

“I have friends working in network television and it’s like they’re on a different planet,” said Harley Peyton, a writer and co-executive producer of “Project Blue Book,” a History Channel series with 10 episodes a season.

He described staff positions on network shows as “the last full-time jobs in this business,” adding that “those jobs are extraordinarily difficult to get.”

The 10 established Hollywood writers who discussed the changes in the industry with The New York Times were careful to point out that they were still able to make good money, even amid the digital disruption of their industry. And yet, they said, it is common for veteran writers these days to be paid as if they were rookies.

Jonathan Shikora, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents actors and writers, suggested that longtime TV writers were now underpaid. “Should I be getting the same as some new writer whose script I’m rewriting because their work is so green and new and I’m teaching that person?” he asked.

The new economy has some writers thinking twice about moving up the ranks to the position of executive producer. “What I’m starting to see is a lot of friends being like, ‘Why would I ever want to be a showrunner?’” Ms. Byock said, referring to the hands-on executive producer in charge of the writers’ room. “If you’re making the same amount you could be making doing a much less stressful job, why wouldn’t you just do that?”

Rob Long, once a writer and an executive producer of the long-running NBC sitcom “Cheers,” said he had tried to make allowances for the changes when he was in charge of “Sullivan & Son,” a TBS sitcom.

That show had 10 episodes in its first two seasons and 13 in its third, a significant change from the 28-episode final season of “Cheers.” That was fine with the financially secure Mr. Long, who said, “I got to be honest, I thought it was fantastic.” The difficulty came when he was hiring staff writers.

“I was making deals with younger writers just starting out,” he said, “and I was doing the math.”

It took eight weeks to write the scripts and prepare for shooting. An additional 15 weeks brought the staff to the end of the production. The schedule meant that “Sullivan & Son” would eat up nearly six months of staff writers’ time.

Under the terms of their contracts, they had to give priority to “Sullivan & Son,” meaning that, if the show got renewed, they were obligated to go back to it even if they were working on another project.

“It was a de facto way of locking you up,” Mr. Long said.

So he came up with an informal solution that he has used on other shows since then.

“We make a private, handshake deal with our writers,” he said. “We tell them that if you get on another project, or you sell a pilot or something else happens, I will let you out of your contract,” he said.

In other words, Mr. Long added, “I promise to fire the writer.”



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'Mardi Gras! Galveston' Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade : Feb 22, 2020

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Intuit Is Expected to Buy Credit Karma in $7 Billion Deal

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Intuit, the home of TurboTax and Mint, is nearing a deal to buy Credit Karma, a start-up that grew to fame by offering consumers free access to their credit scores, for about $7 billion in cash and stock, two people briefed on the matter said on Sunday.

The deal, which could be announced as soon as Monday, points to the value of the financial data of ordinary Americans. Credit Karma grew to be worth billions of dollars by selling credit card offers to its customers after building their credit profiles.

Intuit has long helped businesses and consumers manage their financial data, but it has often been slow in adapting to a new era in which that data is profitably used to attract advertisers.

Credit Karma has been at the leading edge of a large group of start-ups in the financial technology sector over the last decade. It says its customers include a third of all Americans who have a credit profile.

The company, which has over 1,100 employees and is based in San Francisco, had been expected to pursue an initial public offering. But after the rocky I.P.O. of Uber and the failure of WeWork’s planned offering, some companies have instead pursued the surer path of a sale rather than face potentially skeptical investors.

Last month, another successful fintech start-up, Plaid, sold itself to Visa for $5.3 billion rather than stage an I.P.O. Plaid’s business is also focused on consumer data, serving as the middlemen between the big financial firms that have that data and the start-ups that need it.

The deal negotiations were earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Credit Karma was started in 2007 by Kenneth Lin, the current chief executive, and two co-founders, after Mr. Lin had trouble acquiring his own credit score. Until about a decade ago, consumers generally had to buy a credit score directly from the three major credit bureaus. Otherwise, the most likely opportunity for individuals to get a sense of their creditworthiness came just as they were applying for a loan — when it was too late to do anything to improve their lot.

Signing up for the site became a rite of passage for Americans looking to get their credit score in shape to apply for a mortgage. In addition to providing credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax, Credit Karma offers advice on how the scores could be improved by doing things like lowering credit card balances.

The company made its money by offering its customers new credit cards and online loans, based on their credit scores. When customers accepted the offers, Credit Karma would receive payments of a few hundred dollars, though it closely guarded the details of these deals.

Over time, though, Credit Karma’s success invited imitators, and today most digital financial firms offer their customers free credit scores.

Credit Karma has branched out by offering other services that give it access to even more financial data. Its biggest recent product introduction was a free tax return offering that put it into direct competition with Intuit’s TurboTax.

(The Wirecutter, which The New York Times owns, also aims to earn money via affiliate relationships with lenders.)

Intuit’s business has long been based on charging businesses and customers for its software offerings, like QuickBooks and TurboTax. But the company, which is valued at more than $77 billion, has been trying to shift to the new world in which software is free and paid for by deals for consumer data.

TurboTax now offers a free version of its tax-filing service. And Mint allows customers to create free budgets, with the service paid for by credit card ads, much as Credit Karma does.

There is a potentially significant business opportunity for Intuit if it completes a deal. For example, Intuit could try to match all the tax data its TurboTax customers provide with the credit-scoring data that Credit Karma holds.

That could let Intuit serve up better customer prospects to credit card issuers — and eventually let Intuit charge lenders more for access to its hoard of data.

Sheel Mohnot, a venture capitalist who focuses on fintech start-ups, suggested that the combined company could become a sort of Facebook for financial services.

“They would have all of this rich information, and they would basically be an ad network,” he said. “You’re almost forced to advertise with them.”

Ron Lieber contributed reporting.



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