Olajuwon backs out of Shaq showdown because of injury
Hakeem Olajuwon was described as embarrassed, disappointed and still hurting yesterday after backing out of his one-on-one matchup with Shaquille O'Neal.
The Houston Rockets center, who appeared healthy and mentioned no injury at a news conference in New York on Thursday, pulled out of the $1 million contest yesterday because of a back injury suffered last week while lifting weights, promoters said. The heavily hyped showdown was scheduled for tonight at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.
"The injury is a bilateral sprain in the lower back," said a statement by Dr. Francis Pflum Jr., an orthopedic specialist who examined Olajuwon yesterday.
Olajuwon was disappointed. "I have been looking forward to this one-on-one challenge against Shaq because it gave us a chance to show the fans our individual skills, in a way they haven't seen."
Promoters said all but 200 tickets in the 4,000-seat arena were sold before the cancellation. The tickets were $50 to $400.
NBA to lock out refs: The NBA announced it will lock out its referees after their union's rejection of a no-strike, no-lockout agreement while a new collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated.
The lockout, which begins tomorrow, comes two weeks after the NBA ended its lockout of the league's players.
The NBA has offered the referees a 10 percent salary increase for the 1995-96 season, and a 30 percent increase over a five-year term in its proposed deal.
The referees are seeking a 70 percent increase for the 1995-96 season alone.
Blazers sign Sabonis: Nine years after drafting him, the Portland Trail Blazers signed 7-foot-3 Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis to a multi-year contract. To make room for the 30-year-old Sabonis, the Blazers renounced the rights to free agents Terry Porter, Steve Henson and James Edwards.
Bowie quitting: Center Sam Bowie, who was chosen before Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft, announced that he was retiring from the after 11 injury-marred years. Bowie, 34, whose contract with the Los Angeles Lakers expired after last season, said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Rockets acquire Bryant: Houston gave Hakeem Olajuwon some front-court help, announcing a multi-year deal with former Portland power forward Mark Bryant.
Stricker's 67 gives him 2-shot lead in Buick Open
Steve Stricker shot a bogey-free 67 and held a two-stroke lead over Glen Day, who also had a 67, after two rounds of the Buick Challenge in Pine Mountain, Ga.
Stricker, a three-year PGA Tour pro in search of his first victory, made four of his five birdies on his back nine.
John Adams tied a tour record with three eagles in one round, shooting a 68.
Graham leads LPGA field: Gail Graham shot a 4-under-par 68 and took a one-stroke lead over first-round leader Hiromi Kobayashi halfway through the LPGA Fieldcrest Cannon Classic in Cornelius, N.C. Kobayashi had a 71.
Irwin leads Vantage:Irwin leads Vantage: Hale Irwin shot a 6-under-par 66 in the first round of the $1.5 million Vantage Championship in Clemmons, N.C., to take a one-shot lead over Mike Hill and journeyman Bob E. Smith.
NHL gives Olympics OK, extends labor contract
Commissioner Gary Bettman got approval from the NHL Board of Governors for league players to participate in the 1998 Olympics at Japan, and also gained an extra two years of labor peace.
A few details involving the world championships and Canada Cup competition still were to be worked out, but it appeared the NHL participation at Nagano was set. As part of the Olympic agreement, both the league and NHL Players Association agreed to waive the reopener clause in their Collective Bargaining Agreement. The original deal allowed either side to reopen the contract after the 1997-98 season. Without it in place, the current agreement stretches until the year 2000.
New Mexico State puts basketball team on probation
New Mexico State placed its men's basketball program on two years' probation for NCAA violations, but cleared coach Neil McCarthy of any wrongdoing in the transfer credits scandal that led to the sanctions. The NCAA is continuing its investigation and could impose additional penalties.
Terps women upset Va.: Christine DeBow scored with 5:15 remaining in the game to lift No. 3 Maryland past No. 4 Virginia, 1-0, in field hockey in College Park. The Terps (8-0) outshot the Cavaliers, 18-2.
Slack sparks Bombers: Reggie Slack scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Wilcox, leading the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 24-20 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL.
Becker ousts Edberg: Top-seeded Boris Becker of Germany beat Stefan Edberg of Sweden, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, to advance to the semifinals of the Swiss Open in Basel. Becker will face Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands and No. 5 Jim Courier of the United States will play Greg Rusedski of Britain.
Werdel-Witmeyer advances: American Marianne Werdel-Witmeyer defeated Joannette Kruger of South Africa to move into the quarterfinals of the $430,000 WTA women's tennis tournament in Leipzig, Germany. Also advancing were Judith Wiesner of Austria, who upset first seed Jana Novotna, Germany's Anke Huber and Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria.
Spirit suspends Rogers: The Baltimore Spirit has placed midfielder Jeff Rogers on the suspended list for failing to report to training camp. Rogers, 30, was acquired in June in an expansion draft deal with the Tampa Bay Terror. He spent the past two seasons with the NPSL's Kansas City Attack.
Coulthard leads qualifying: David Coulthard, who got his first Grand Prix victory last week at Estoril, Portugal, led the field in the first day of qualifying for the European Grand Prix in Nuerburgring, Germany. Damon Hill, Coulthard's teammate, had the second-best time.
The first 200
Name the player who 15 years ago today became the first Oriole to get 200 hits in a season. (Answer, 4C)
Current Orioles coach Al Bumbry.