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Basketball

🏀 How to save a life

March 12, 2020
How to save a life

The GIST: WNBA superstar Maya Moore has always been a winner on the court, but now she’s a winner in court too. Moore put her All-Star career on pause to help 39-year-old Jonathan Irons get released from prison, and after 22 years in jail, his initial conviction was overturned on Monday.

Whoa! Remind me who she is: You got it. For one, the former Minnesota Lynx star is arguably the greatest winner in women’s basketball history: she’s a four-time (!!!) WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time EuroLeague Women’s champ and two-time NCAA champion at UConn. All she does is win, win, win!

  • And she did it all in style. She’s a six-time WNBA All-Star with three All-Star MVPs, a 2014 WNBA MVP, a 2013 Finals MVP and a two-time college player of the year.

Amazing! Now what’s this about court?: In early 2019, Moore took a sabbatical in order to advocate for relieving Jonathan Irons of a 50-year sentence he received in 1998. He was convicted of burglarizing and assaulting a man with a weapon in his St. Louis, Missouri, home. The homeowner testified against Irons, and he was convicted by an all-white jury without any physical evidence. Irons, who has always maintained his innocence, was just 16 at the time but was still tried and charged as an adult.

Horrible. So how does Moore play into this?: Thanks in part to the effort and attention Moore brought to the case, the judge vacated his convictions for burglary and assault and ordered that he be released from maximum security prison.

  • We think that of all her career victories, this one has to be the most special, and proves why athletes shouldn’t just “stick to sports.”

Incredible! So what’s next?: Following the monumental win, on Tuesday Moore doubled down on her earlier declaration that she’d be missing this upcoming WNBA season, her second in a row, to take time to handle “some of the pressing things” in her life. So, as much as we’d love to see the legend back on the hardwood, it looks like we’ll have to wait one more year. And she’s completely worth the wait.

🏀 I just need some alone time

March 12, 2020
I just need some alone time

The GIST: It just keeps getting worse. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the sports world...kind of did too.

Scary. What’s happening?: Unfortunately, a lot. The biggest news came late last night when the NBA decided to SUSPEND THE ENTIRE SEASON. Take a minute to let that settle in. The league’s Board of Governors had been considering their options in the days leading up to the announcement, but last night’s game between the Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder and the Utah Jazz was the catalyst.

Why?: Well, earlier in the week, the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS made a joint decision to limit media access, restricting entry to locker rooms and asking media to maintain a safe distance from the players.

  • And, in an effort to prove the media ban was unnecessary, Jazz player Rudy Gobert then “jokingly” made a point of physically touching every microphone and recorder after the Jazz’s game on Monday.

That was dumb!: Tell us about it. Gobert was then listed as “questionable” for last night’s OKC-Jazz game due to illness, and seconds before the game was due to start, the Jazz’s team doctor halted play with the news that Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. C’mon, man.

  • The league initially decided to postpone the game, but within an hour, they made the decision to suspend the rest of the NBA season. We’re shook. We have no idea what this means: the league could resume play if things clear up, end the season as is and go right into the playoffs or just cancel it outright. Only time will tell.

Wow, this is wild!: And that's not all! Earlier in the day, the NCAA announced that March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament, will be played without fans. Instead, only limited family members and essential staff will be allowed to attend games. So, so wild.

  • March Madness is one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world. Last season’s tournament brought in $933 million, with ticket revenue accounting for $160 million. You know it’s a BFD when the NCAA is turning down that much dough.

Anything else?: In the NHL, the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets will play their home games in empty arenas for the time being, with the league set to provide an update at some point today, and this week’s BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament (largely considered the “fifth grand slam”) in California and next week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal have been canceled. Just brutal.

And the rest of the world?: In England, players and staff of the Arsenal soccer team are quarantined after being in contact with Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Olympiakos FC. Arsenal played Olympiakos FC last week and Marinakis has since tested positive for COVID-19. Italian soccer player Daniele Rugani, who plays for Juventus with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, has also tested positive.

  • Meanwhile, down in Australia, three Formula 1 team crew members are in isolation after they began to show symptoms ahead of Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne. Luckily, a new season of F1: Drive to Survive just came out, so at least they can binge-watch that while quarantined.

What’s next?: Who knows?! The NFL is still monitoring the situation as it relates to next month’s Draft, and the world is anxiously awaiting a ruling from the International Olympic Committee on the Summer Olympics. Honestly, it’s all a lot to keep up on, so follow along here or keep a close eye on our Twitter for all the biggest updates.

🏀 Crazy train

March 09, 2020
Crazy train

The GIST: As we get closer to the start of March Madness, college basketball is seeing more twists and turns than the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

How are the women doing?: Let’s start with the Big 12 tournament final on Sunday. In a shocking plot twist, No. 2 Baylor was stunned 57–56 by unranked Iowa State thanks to a last-second free throw.

  • The loss also marked Baylor’s first loss to a Big 12 team since February 2017, ending the Lady Bears’ 58-game regular-season and 45-game road Big 12 win streak. But as the great Nelly Furtado once said, all good things come to an end. Meanwhile, this victory was Iowa State’s first win over a ranked team this season and earned them a March Madness bid. Sports, you gotta love ’em.

What about Sabrina Ionescu?: The force known as Sabrina and the No. 3 Oregon Ducks are always exciting AF to watch, and last night’s impressive 89–56 win over the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal was no exception. Sabrina got herself another double-double with 20 points and 12 assists, and the Ducks locked up the Pac-12 tournament championship and likely a No. 1 seed in March Madness. That’s what we’re talking about!

And what about the men?: On Saturday, Utah State became the first team to book a ticket to the “Big Dance,” after senior guard Sam Merrill hit a three-pointer with two seconds left, knocking off No. 5 San Diego State 59–56 and claiming the Mountain West division tournament title. In total, five conference champs earned a bid over the weekend, and we’re just getting started. Selection Sunday can’t come faster.

🏀 A tale of two Hardens

March 09, 2020
A tale of two Hardens

The GIST: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In a 108–99 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets star James Harden somehow pulled off a rare quadruple-double this weekend, in the most Harden way possible.

What’s a quadruple-double?: A quad-double is when a player records double digits in four of the five statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots — in a single game. Technically, Harden only hit a triple-double, putting up 30 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

  • But in this amazing showcase of talent, he also managed a pretty bad stat: 10 turnovers! So yes, this “quad-double” (which, BTW, was the third in his career) is very tongue-in-cheek.

What else is going on in the NBA?: Poor Steph Curry can’t catch a break. Just a few days after returning from a broken hand that caused him to miss 58 games, the Golden State Warrior is back on the injured list with the flu. But don’t panic! It’s a seasonal flu, not COVID-19, so he should be back on the court in no time.

  • Unfortunately, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YONNIS ANDEDO-KOONPO) isn’t as lucky. Last season’s league MVP suffered a minor joint capsule sprain (aka a knee injury) during Friday’s 113–103 loss to the Lakers. Giannis, who just became a dad last month, will miss at least two games.

And what’s this about the Battle of LA?: The LA Lakers and LA Clippers face off four times each season, and the bouts rarely disappoint. Yesterday’s edition, the third of the season, was no exception. Despite being the better team, the Lakers had difficulties with the Clippers in the first two showdowns but came out with a vengeance in this game, winning 112–103.

  • LeBron went OFF, putting up 28 points, while Anthony Davis recorded another 30. With their Friday night win over the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (in which LeBron scored his 34,000th career point!), the Lakers are proving they’re the team to beat in the race for the Larry O’Brien.

🏀 Picking up the pieces

March 05, 2020
Picking up the pieces

NBA: Zion Williamson is still in #BeastMode. The New Orleans Pelicans’ No. 1 draft pick and Rookie of the Year contender put up 21 points against Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks last night. Despite losing in overtime, Zion has now gone thirteen straight games with 20+ points, the only teenager to ever do that. When we were teens we were that productive too…

NHL: Scary news alert. On Tuesday night, New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk took a skate to the face (luckily it avoided his eye) and it took 90 stitches (!!!) to sew him back up.

  • While catastrophic facial injuries happen less often than you’d think in a sport where players strap blades to their feet and fly around the ice at 20 miles an hour, the risk is always there. Take Taylor Hall’s skate to the forehead. Might be time to revisit the cage argument?

Crosby: In much lighter hockey news, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby finally crossed the 800 career assist mark in a 7–3 blowout win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. He got there in 980 games, making him the sixth-fastest player in NHL history to do so, and it couldn’t have come at a better time — “Sid the Kid” helped snap the Pens’ longest losing streak in more than eight years at six games. Whoa!