In the latter half of LeBron James' time in Miami, Dwyane Wade's performances appeared to decline sharply. With the ball out of his hands, Wade was scoring less, and he functioned more like a participant of the Heat offense than the main engine driving the team.

Now, LeBron is gone. Suddenly, Wade is back to his old self. According to the Miami Herald, Wade knows exactly why:

“I got the ball in my hands."

It's a somewhat surprising revelation since James bolted South Beach for Cleveland. While Wade's career seemed to be in serious decline -- his scoring dropped, and he missed 28 games in last year's regular season to keep his knees and body fresh for the playoffs -- Wade now seems like his old self.

That lends credibility to the notion that squeezing three superstars onto one team can dull the full impact of their respective skills. Teammate Chris Bosh has made comments in the past that playing with James kept him from affecting the game as much as he was capable of.

This season, Wade has seemed to shave years off of his career. He's averaging almost 20 points and leading the Heat in assists. Wade is also very efficient, shooting 51 percent from the field.

After ranking 128th in the league last season in touches per game, Wade is now 25th. And he's still keeping his minutes low, averaging around 32 per game. It's worked for the Heat, who are off to a 5-2 start.

Compared that to LeBron's Cavaliers, who are 3-3 and still struggling to fit their starring pieces together.

Wade also credits a dietary change over the summer that helped him cut weight and take some of the stress off of his knees. He also adopted a new training routine that so far is paying dividends.

And while he savors the two rings he won with LeBron's Heat, Wade seems content to move on to a new chapter of his life.

"I'm just enjoying life right now,” Wade told the Herald. "I'm enjoying this team and enjoying the opportunity to play in the NBA once again for another season, and sometimes you realize how blessed you are and don’t take things for granted."

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No wonder Tom Brady had such a rough outing earlier this year on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. As it turns out, that game was played well past his bedtime.

The game in question, on Sept. 29, started at 8:30 p.m. ET. That, according to New England receiver Julian Edelman, is Brady's bedtime. Brady went 14-for-23 for 159 yards to go along with two interceptions and one touchdown in that loss. Since then the Patriots have won five games in a row and are now all alone in first place in the AFC East (only one of those games, on Oct. 16 against the Jets, was played at night.)

In a recent column ESPN's Bill Simmons says Edelman told him that Brady is so adamant about his football longevity that he goes to bed well before people twice his age.

Brady confirmed that habit during his weekly radio interview on Boston's WEEI:

"I do go to bed very early because I'm up very early," Brady said, according to Business Insider. "I think that the decisions that I make always center around performance enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that's what I eat or what decisions I make or whether I drink or don't drink, it's always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day. I want to be the best I can be every week. I want to be the best I can be for my teammates. I love the game and I want to do it for a long time. But I also know that if I want to do it for a long time, I have to do things differently than the way guys have always done it."

Perhaps this is why, at 37, Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks around. Through nine games he's on pace to throw for 4,252 yards and 39 touchdowns.

While his sleeping habits may help his productivity, unfortunately for Brady he tends to miss some important events because he's in bed. Two years ago Brady was asked by reporters whether he felt an earthquake that rocked the Northeast. He said he did, and that it happened at 7 p.m., right before he went to sleep.

"7:15 I was asleep," Brady said. "Trying to get bright-eyed and bushy-tailed."

Landon Donovan is the biggest name in American soccer. In his final playoff run with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he's dominating the opponents to the degree that some wonder if it's really time for him to hang up his cleats.

The attention is deserved, but it overshadows another person just as important to the Galaxy's success this year: Fellow forward Robbie Keane.

On the Galaxy, Donovan and Keane are something of a dynamic duo. Their most recent performance spurred the Galaxy to a 5-0 win over Real Salt Lake to advance in the MLS playoffs. Donovan notched a hat trick in the game, which by the end felt like a celebration of the American star.

But if Donovan's role is as the Galaxy's finisher, Keane must be credited as the creator. For all of Donovan's impressive footwork and precise shooting, Keane functions as an under-appreciated artist on the field, using his positioning and passing to create the space in which Donovan works.

So while Donovan's three-goal performance took the spotlight after the team's most recent win, Keane walked off the field three assists richer, with his own goal to boot.

During the regular season, Keane was just as instrumental, scoring 19 goals and 14 assists in 34 games -- marks that rank him third and second in the league, respectively. Donovan remains the star, but Keane is a veritable MVP candidate in his fourth MLS season.

Keane is also two years older than Donovan. At 34, the Irishman is dominating Major League Soccer with a veteran savvy that understands how to win the mental battle on the pitch.

Such examples were rampant in the Galaxy's 5-0 win. Keane's goal came on a play in which a counterattack was sprung with the forward far offside. Keane scrambled back onside, running full-speed against the flow of the game, and then took a cross in to score an easy goal.

It wasn't just Keane's speed that created the opportunity -- it was his awareness of exactly where to place himself. Keane's awareness of the defense placed him in a perfect spot in front of Salt Lake's goal, where no defender was able to contest his shot.

Later, Keane sprung Donovan for a one-touch breakaway goal with a pass that employed perfect placement and arc. It's the kind of opportunity that could only be created with world-class field vision.

This is no surprise to Irish soccer fans, who have been admiring Keane's performances since he joined Ireland's national team in 1998. In his sixteen-year international career, Keane has scored 64 goals in International play while excelling in the world's top professional soccer leagues.

While Major League Soccer fans are witnessing an older, slightly slowed Keane, his mental game remains as sharp as ever. This brilliance is most evident in the way Keane springs the Galaxy's offense loose.

Sometimes, it's teammates like Donovan that wind up in the spotlight. But he wouldn't be there without Robbie Keane.

An old grainy YouTube video is the only visual evidence we have.

George Johnson, a slender 6-11 center, steps to the free throw line. He dribbles the ball three times, takes a breath, and in a simple, fluid motion, flings the ball underhand toward the hoop. The ball swishes so gently it's like the net's apologizing for being there.

"It was after practice one day and a teammate and I were messing around," Johnson recalls. "Rick [Barry] watched me shoot a few underhand and said to me, 'George, if you're interested in learning, I'll teach you.'"

Attempting his free throws overhand, Johnson shot 53 percent his first two years in the NBA, hovered around 65 percent the next two, and then allowed Rick Barry to teach him his patented underhand floater during the 1976-77 season.

After only a "month or two" of working with Barry after practice, Johnson started shooting free throws underhand in games, and by the end of the season, was making 80 percent of his attempts.

"I remember that first night clearly," Johnson says. "Instead of putting the ball over my head, I spread my feet shoulder length apart, I remembered everything Rick told me: Cock the wrists, take the ball, line up the seams, and aim just above the rim. So I did that, and it wasn't a swish, but I made it. The confidence grew from there."

If you don't remember Johnson's game, he was an athletic, defensive-minded big man known for his shot-blocking ability, leading the NBA three times in 1978, 1981 and 1982. He set screens, grabbed rebounds, threw outlet passes, and rarely, if ever, had a play called for him.

Johnson was, for all intents and purposes, the DeAndre Jordan of his generation. An alley-oop catching, rim protecting 7-footer of awe-inspiring athleticism.

Minus the occasional jump hook, the George Johnsons and DeAndre Jordans of the NBA score their points in two ways: Dunks and free throws.

DeAndre Jordan shot 374 free throws last season. He missed 214.

"It took George Johnson one season to go from a poor free throw shooter, to an 80 percent free throw shooter," Barry says. "It took me working with him roughly one full season. There is a better way to do it. It comes down to a pride issue."

That point was perhaps best articulated by Shaquille O'Neal, another brutal foul shooter, who once said, "I will shoot 30 percent before I shoot underhand, I promise you that."

It's a mentality that Barry cannot grasp.

"You're doing a disservice to yourself, a disservice to your team, if you aren't making these shots," he says. "I can't understand how anyone can live with themselves if they can't shoot 80 percent from the free throw line."


I wonder how many times, during the course of NBA history, a team executuve did this math:

If Player X makes 75 percent of his free throws instead of 55 percent, our team would win X additional games per year.

For whatever reason, basketball's hierarchy doesn't seem to care much about free throws, even though it's the only part of the game where the variables are the exact same, every single time.

If they cared, really cared, they'd try anything possible, right? They'd do some research, take a "maybe On-Base Percentage is a more relevant statistic than Batting Average" approach to what seems a very fixable problem.

Fifteen feet. One ball. No wind. Inflatable clapping sticks in the background half the time. Cool. Let's do this.

But over the last 35 years, not one NBA team has ever reached out to Rick Barry. The sixth best free throw shooter of all-time who also shot the ball in a completely different fashion than everyone else.

And while Barry's not exactly known for his modesty, it's hard to argue with his results.

"If you look at my statistics, and analyze them, my last six years, when I made a change in my technique, refined it, I shot over 92 percent," Barry says. "My last two seasons I think I only missed 19 free throws in both seasons.

This is true. Barry went 303 for 322 those two seasons with Houston.

"I shot 94.7 percent and 93.5 percent, and I was only shooting about two free throws a game," he says. "Had I had that technique earlier in my career when I was shooting 10-12 free throws a game, I think the numbers over the course of my career would've been staggering."

Which brings us to DeAndre Jordan and the numerous other professional basketball players who have shown zero improvement shooting free throws overhand (or overhead, if you prefer) throughout their careers.

What basketball people don't realize is that there's a reason big men like DeAndre, Andre Drummond, Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard, and the NBA's long list of atrocious free throw shooters spend thousands of hours practicing free throws, waiting for their inner Mark Price to emerge, but never see results.

The problem isn't mental, it's physical, and as long as these players continue shooting overhand, they will never, no matter how many hours they spend in the gym, improve.


Dr. Larry Silverberg has studied many important things. He's published papers on, "Transpermanent magnetic actuation for spacecraft pointing, shape control, and deployment," "Autonomous coordination of aircraft formations using direct and nearest-neighbor approaches", and "Cellular growth algorithms for shape design of truss structures," to name a few.

But Silverberg, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at North Carolina State, has also spent an exorbitant amount of time studying how basketballs go through hoops.

His basketball-related publications include "Optimal targets for the bank shot in men's basketball," "Numerical analysis of the basketball shot," and in 2008, he published, "Optimal release conditions for the free throw in men's basketball" in the Journal of Sports Science.

"In an overhead shot, the motion of the body starts with the legs, torso, arms, hands, in a complex sequence of motions," Silverberg says. "The beauty of the underhand shot, although you're releasing it farther from the basket in a sense, because you're releasing it lower, is that you have one smooth motion."

"One motion is much easier than four that have to be sequenced. So when you perfect it, you'll end up with a release speed that has lower statistical variation than the overhead."

OK, time for a little science. Don't worry, it'll be quick.

Silverberg says that what Barry and others have observed is that they can make quick progress in building "kinesthetic" memory with the underhand shot. In free throws, the most important variable is the release speed of the ball, which is a "kinematic" variable (the other variables -- height of release, release angle -- are geometric).

Release speed requires kinesthetic memory and needs to be consistent for shots to fall, which is why the underhand shot makes so much sense. The motion can be learned and cemented in a players' kinesthetic memory in weeks, whereas an overhand shot for a 7-footer is an incredibly complex motion that most athletes, due to their lack of coordination and poor fundamentals, will never be able to execute consistently.

It's important to note that the guys who struggle with free throws aren't trained shooters. Dirk, Durant, and Aldridge are big guys that make their money shooting the ball, but why does a defensive-minded big man need to shoot the ball overhand?

Andre Drummond doesn't need to hit 20-footers. He needs to grab rebounds, block shots, make layups, and when the other team wraps him up and makes him go to the line, he needs to put points on the board.

Detroit was a below-average team last year, but Drummond and Josh Smith combined to make only 297 of their 629 foul shots (47 percent). If they shoot 70 percent, that's an extra 143 points. How many additional wins do those 143 points net the Pistons? How many skin cells does Mo Cheeks save from not fiercely rubbing his temples every time Smith lofts two shots off the back of the rim?

What if Drummond had started shooting underhand at 16? Where would he be percentage-wise now?

The most important takeaway is this: If DeAndre or Drummond started practicing the underhand stroke today, there's a strong likelihood that they'd improve their free throw percentage by 20 percent to 40 percent by playoff time -- it doesn't take years, it takes months.

"If someone were interested, I would certainly be happy to teach them what I know, but Rick was really good at it," says Johnson, who consistently shot free throws with percentages in the 70s after adopting the underhand method. "It took me a minute to get my head around it and it apply [the technique], but once I did, it became easier and easier to shoot, and I used to look forward to getting fouled so I could go to the line, instead of the reverse."


There's only one guy that can teach the underhand free throw (two, if you include Johnson), and Rick Barry's not wildly popular in NBA circles.

"I ran into Shaq's shooting coach outside the Staples Center one time," Barry says. "He said, ‘So we tried the underhand free throw and it didn't work.' I remember looking at him thinking, 'What do you mean you tried the underhand free throw? Who's gonna teach him my technique? You?'"

But one thing Rick Barry can do better than 99.9 percent of human beings on the planet is shoot a basketball, and it's shocking, considering his unique method and statistics, that nobody has thought to hire him to work with the Andrew Boguts of the world.

The main reason for reluctance, of course, is that in a game of panache, the underhand free throw is probably the least "sexy" thing you can do on a basketball court.

Even Johnson admitted, "I don't think big strong guys like Andre [Drummond] would want to put the ball between their legs and aim it as the basket."

But I refuse to believe that if Doc Rivers went up to DeAndre Jordan tomorrow at practice and said, "Look, DeAndre, we got this old cranky guy coming in that's going to teach you how to shoot free throws underhand. Kevin Garnett is going to talk a lot of s***. A lot. Other guys will too. But we're confident we can get you above 60 percent by March, maybe higher, and have you shooting above 70 percent the rest of your career, maybe as high as 80 percent. We have a chance to win an NBA championship, and I want you on the court during crunch time, not on the bench because you're unwatchable from the foul line. It's only going to take an extra hour or two every day after practice. Now let's get out of here. Blake and Chris are waiting for us at Tender Greens."

What would DeAndre Jordan say to that?

"I felt empowered by [the underhand free throw]," says Johnson, who shot a career-best 81.5 percent from the line in his second-to-last season in the NBA. "It made me stand out."

And DeAndre Jordan likes to stand out. He wants the same endorsement deals as Blake Griffin, wants the attention, and most importantly, wants to win.

Because if DeAndre Jordan starts swishing free throws underhand, the next wave of big men coming up through the AAU circuit will do the same.

And if he makes 75 percent of his free throws, the Clippers chances at a championship go up by X percent.

How many chances does a player have to revolutionize his sport?

What if DeAndre Jordan put his feet shoulder length apart, lined up the seams, and in one motion, made the underhand free throw "cool"?

Perhaps even more important than what students learn in a particular course is figuring out how to balance all their classes with other activities. Life is a juggling act of priorities, and a nice case study is this look at the UCLA golf team.

Regardless of sport, media coverage of training camp will inevitably describe how Athlete X spent the offseason hitting the weight room to bulk up. But what's the smartest way to do this? Trainer Travelle Gaines and our panel of fitness experts explain how the proper approach:

Fitness, Tools

Daryl Johnston played all 11 of his NFL seasons in Dallas. During that 1989-1999 stretch, the Cowboys won three Super Bowl and made the playoffs eight times. Johnston played with five future Hall of Famers, notably quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin.

"It was amazing," Johnston says. "I think when you look around the league today, or even historically, when you around the NFL, it's a cool trio to have played with."

As for the past decade and a half of Cowboys football, success is limited. In the 14 seasons since Johnston's retirement, the Cowboys have won one playoff game in just four postseason appearances.

In 2014, the Cowboys are headed in the right direction. After dropping the season opener at home against the 49ers, Dallas won six straight against such teams as the Seahawks, Saints and rival Giants. However, the Cowboys followed with two home losses, to the Redskins while losing Tony Romo to a back injury, and to the Cardinals.

"Every team is going to face adversity at some point in the season," Johnston says. "Through the first seven games, I think things were relatively smooth sailing for the Dallas Cowboys. They run into adversity Monday night against the Redskins. Tony Romo's out of the lineup the next week against Arizona and all of a sudden, you're on a two-game losing streak."

One player who gives the Cowboys hope to get back on track is DeMarco Murray. The running back is a midseason MVP candidate with 1,133 rushing yards under his belt. Arian Foster is second in the NFL with 822 rushing yards and the two Texas running backs lead the league with seven rushing touchdowns.

As a former fullback, Johnston can appreciate Murray's tricks. He thinks Cowboys fullback Tyler Clutts and others should be excited to get out in front of Murray.

"It's not just the fullback, but everybody in the blocking scheme, the offensive line and the tight ends," Johnston says. "He runs with some power and drive. You're going to be the guy who's downfield more because you're never going to know if he's going to break through on that run."

Perhaps the highest praise Johnston can give to Murray is comparing him to the Hall of Famer Moose lined up in front of.

"Emmitt was the same way, being able to break through on any play," Johnston says. "He was more vision-based and had the ability to make people miss in open spaces. It forced you to get downfield to spring a second block. DeMarco does the same thing."

Even without Romo, the Cowboys are not without weapons. Johnston points to Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as some of the other pieces in Dallas' arsenal. As a part of the "Kenny, Moose and Goose" Fox Sunday broadcast team with Kenny Albert and Tony Siragusa, Johnston sees NFC teams every week.

"We've seen this a lot throughout the course of the season," Johnston says. "In St. Louis, the Rams lost Sam Bradford before the season started. They now have Austin Davis as their quarterback. He has wins against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers."

Moose's teams did not find success without barriers. Steve Young's 49ers, Brett Favre's Packers and Jim Kelly's Bills proved formidable opponents.

"Adversity will come," Johnston says. "The most important thing is to keep everything in perspective. You just competed a six-game winning streak. Let's go back and see what we were doing there. Obviously you have a different quarterback, but you have a lot of weapons on this team."

That quarterback was having a career year through eight games. In his ninth season as the Cowboys' starter, Romo had a 103.6 passer rating that was on pace for a single season-high. Romo was rolling and the Cowboys were winning.

"I think right now they're not leaning on him as much for success offensively," Johnston says. I think that's played to his advantages. Number one, he's got to get back on the field and get healthy. Then he's got a nice supporting cast around him that he hasn't had in a couple years to help him make a run."

Romo has had lived a roller coaster ride in Dallas for the better part of the last decade. Off the field, he dated Jessica Simpson and married Candice Crawford, a former Miss Missouri USA and Dallas-area news reporter. On the field, he has been expected to bring another title back to Dallas. Winning is a challenge for Romo, who has just one playoff win.

"You're always going to be compared to Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman," Johnston says. "Those are two Hall of Famers and two very difficult careers to live up to. He's had a lot of statistical success, but has not been able to translate that into playoff victories and championships. That's one thing he has to learn how to do. This league measures itself based on championships. There's individual statistics that may help you in other areas, but to be considered one of the best, you have to win."

Despite other superstars coming through Dallas during Romo's tenure, the quarterback has taken the brunt of the criticism (although, Terrell Owens came to Romo's defense). Romo's play is sometimes criticism for his high-profile lifestyle -- he went on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, with Simpson during the Cowboys' 2008 wild-card round bye week. Johnston believes at the end of the day, Romo and his long-time Cowboys teammates would exchange anything for a Super Bowl ring.

"Jason Witten has a similar situation," Johnston says. "He'll go down as one of the best. I'm sure he'd tell you he would trade in those statistics for a championship."

This past week, Johnston was in Houston calling the Texans host arguably the Cowboys' chief rival, the Eagles.

"They faced their own sort of adversity," Johnston says of the Eagles. "With Nick Foles getting injured, Mark Sanchez came in and actually played well."

Johnston says one of the most common questions he is asked is about his objectivity in the broadcast booth. As a former player who only wore Cowboys' colors, fans are surprised to see Johnston steer away from a Texas-sized biased.

"I like to see good football," he says. "I don't see the color of the uniform. I just see good football or poor technique. I love a close football game. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the athletes out there. I've actually done a Dallas-Philadelphia game and come out of that game with people saying I was overly critical of the Dallas Cowboys. If Philadelphia's winning the game and they're playing well, there's not a lot of positive things to say about Dallas."

In the booth, the "Kenny, Moose and Goose" team has gained a sort of cult followings among NFL fans. One distinct characteristic of the group is Siragusa is more than just a sideline reporter.

"A lot of people are surprised Goose actually has a live microphone the entire time," Johnston says.

Siragusa does indeed keep his microphone open, while he is followed around by a camera. It makes for a bit of a unique setting on the call among the three broadcasters.

"Over time, we've been able to develop a rapport between each other where we don't step on each other's toes and don't talk over each other, but that came with a year and a half of stepping on each other's toes," Johnston says with a laugh.

Despite Siragusa playing as a defensive tackle for the Colts and Ravens around the same time Johnston played fullback for the Cowboys, the two never faced-off in an NFL game. Even before that, both went to then-Big East schools, Johnston at Syracuse and Siragusa at Pitt, but age difference and injuries prevented the future broadcast partners from taking the field together.

"I always let him know I never lost to Pittsburgh, though," Johnston says.

Johnston is long removed from playing with Aikman, Smith and Irvin, but his work with trios is not done. Johnston is partnering with T.G.I. Fridays to help unveil the new Rib Flight Trio. The three new flavors, Applewood Bacon Crust, Chipotle Smoked BBQ and Sweet Memphis Rub, join existing flavors, Fridays signature Jack Daniel's and Tennessee BBQ.

Kevin Durant is the reigning NBA MVP. He's a six-year veteran, a global superstar.

And yet, says producer Jamie Patricoff, most people don't know anything about him.

"Where did Kevin play high school basketball?" Patricoff says. "Where did Kevin play college basketball? Why do we know so much about LeBron and we don't know anything about Kevin?"

If Durant's relative obscurity is a failure of brand marketing, consider HBO's new documentary the prescribed remedy. Titled "The Offseason," the new documentary follows Durant from the moment he wins his first MVP award last spring through a long, difficult summer filled with intensive workouts, endorsement obligations, travel and other busy work most fans don't associate with the words "summer break."

The documentary, which was produced in part by Durant's Roc Nation agent, Rich Kleiman, takes fans along with Durant as he starts focusing on a title run for the 2014-15 season.

While it's clear the documentary was designed as a marketing tool to build fan recognition while nurturing Durant's brand, the 50-minute HBO special -- which premiers Tuesday night -- also dispels some common misconceptions about how professional athletes spend their offseasons.

"The average fan does think it’s their time off, but [the offseason] is really their time on," Patricof says. "All great athletes, their days are packed. Everything from working out, to training with new basketball coaches, to trying different strengthening methods, to eating healthy ... they’re doing most of it [in the offseason].

"Seeing somebody go out there and play 82 basketball games, that's just a small fraction of what it takes to be a professional athlete."

Patricof says the most surprising thing he learned while producing the documentary is the way Durant pushed himself to keep improving. Even after winning the MVP award, the Oklahoma City Thunder star spent time trying to add new moves and elements to his game.

Where some would be content to stay in shape, Durant devoted the summer months to getting better.

Even so, and despite widespread belief that he and LeBron are the two best players in the NBA, Durant has been a figure often resigned to the periphery while LeBron, along with more flashy stars like Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, get the greatest degree of fan attention.

That's a trend "The Offseason" hopes to correct.

"Most people don’t know anything about Kevin Durant, and that’s what you’re seeing in the documentary," Patricof says. "They get to finally see who he is."

Bradley Roby is enjoying a strong rookie season as a defensive back with the Broncos. Roby was Denver's first-round pick, but his high draft status wasn't always a given because of injuries. Trainer Travelle Gaines and our panel of fitness experts explain how they trained Roby to excel at the NFL Draft combine:

One of the biggest questions in the upcoming NBA season is how well Kobe Bryant can perform after sustaining two major leg injuries in the past 18 months. Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon on April 12, 2003. Then on Dec. 17, 2003, he suffered a fracture in his left knee.

Taking into account the injuries and the recovery process, our roundtable of fitness experts analyze Bryant's situation. Here are Travelle Gaines, personal trainer for many professional athletes; Dr. Patrick Khaziran, a specialist in helping athletes recover from injury; and AJ Diggs, a basketball skills instructor:

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