LeBron James, Derek Jeter lead praise for retiring Yankees legend CC Sabathia

LeBron James and Derek Jeter led the tributes after veteran New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia confirmed that the 2019 MLB season will be his last.

Sabathia, who will turn 39 in July, signed a one-year contract in November and made it clear he would be finishing his career this season, his 19th in the majors. 

The left-hander held a news conference joined by his family, team-mates and members of the Yankees organisation at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and took the opportunity to thank everyone who has helped him throughout his career.

"I just wanted to make this announcement that 2019 is my final season," said Sabathia, a six-time All-Star and 2009 World Series champion.

"I want to thank a lot of people. I wouldn't be here today, 18 years in the big leagues, without so many different people. 

"All I've ever wanted for people to remember me as is just a good team-mate, and that means a lot to me for you guys sitting here today."

NBA great James was among those to praise Sabathia's contribution to baseball.

"I want to congratulate CC on an incredible Major League career," the Los Angeles Lakers star said.

"Not only is he one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, but he'll also go down as one of the greatest competitors to ever pick up a baseball.

"His genuine love of the game and his undeniable passion have brought so much joy for 19 seasons. It's been an honour to watch him play and I'm excited to see what he'll take on next. Congrats my friend."

Former team-mate and Yankees legend Jeter added: "I had the pleasure of competing against CC and also with him and have always considered him one of my favourite team-mates.

"He rose to and exceeded many expectations and pressures, especially during his time with the Yankees and was key piece to the 2009 championship team."

Steve Kerr, who has coached Golden State Warriors to three NBA titles in four seasons, added his praise.

"I've been an admirer of CC for a long time and have marvelled at the work he has done both on and off the field," he said.

"Any pitcher that wins close to 250 games and a Cy Young Award is certainly ticketed for the Hall of Fame. He's had an incredible career." 

In 29 starts last season, Sabathia was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA. In 18 seasons, mostly with the Cleveland Indians and Yankees, Sabathia is 246-153 with a 3.70 ERA.

He needs 14 strikeouts to reach 3,000 for his career but will miss the first five games of the 2019 season as he is suspended for hitting the Tampa Bay Rays' Jesus Sucre with a pitch in late September and then yelling a profanity in the direction of their dugout. 

Sabathia is pencilled in to make his first start April 3 against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

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