👋 Good morning! We have an absolutely jam-packed edition today, complete with two scoops and an interview. See you at the bottom.
Today's word count: 2,036 words (8 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Private equity has long dabbled around the edges of professional sports, but now has its first firm dedicated to buying into teams, writes Axios' Dan Primack.
The state of play: MLB late last year changed its ownership rules to permit funds to be part of team ownership groups, leaving the NFL as America's only major sports league to still prohibit them.
What to watch: Baseball is likely to be Arctos' top target, due to its glut of small limited partners, but also expect the fund to focus on NHL and MLS teams where its fund size could make a more significant impact.
Daishen Nix, the 15th-ranked player in the 2020 class, has joined fellow five-stars Jalen Green (No. 3) and Isaiah Todd (No. 11) in opting to forego college in favor of the NBA G League's new professional pathway program, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
Why it matters: This signals the NBA's intention to more forcefully take the reins on developing its own future talent, while shining a spotlight on the rapidly maturing G League.
The backdrop: The G League began operating in 2001 as the eight-team National Basketball Development League and later became the D-League (Developmental). In 2017, Gatorade became the title sponsor (hence, G League) and the league has expanded to 28 teams.
The state of play: The G League's professional pathway program that Green, Todd and Nix have entered is an evolution of last year's "select contract" experiment.
The big picture: The advent of this new program, combined with the expected reversal of the one-and-done rule prior to the 2022 NBA Draft, will fundamentally alter the basketball landscape going forward.
The bottom line: This is all about the NBA showing its might; believing it's the best developmental option for top prospects and putting its money where its mouth is.
Major League Baseball sees midsummer as the likely best case for opening the season, probably with no fans in the stands, sources tell Axios.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
As we discussed yesterday, the battle for the future of women's hockey is between one side (NWHL) that wants to stand on its own and another side (PWHPA) that wants to be affiliated with the NHL, similar to how the WNBA is affiliated with the NBA.
By the numbers: In the midst of the best WNBA era to date, seven of the league's 12 teams are independently owned and have no NBA affiliation — proof that owners see value in the product on its own.
Between the lines: The NBA's "what's mine is yours" business approach was a boon in the WNBA's early days, but now that the league has the star-power and brand recognition to attract sponsors of its own, it can hurt business.
In other words: "When the NBA leverages its relationships, it helps. When the NBA tosses the WNBA in as a sweetener for its own deals, it hurts," writes The IX's Erica Ayala.
The bottom line: The "independent" model vs. the "aligned with established men's league" model are often presented as the only two paths forward for women's sports. But it's a lot more complicated than that.
Rachel Jacobson, former NBA senior VP of global partnerships, has been named the Drone Racing League's new president — a statement hire for a league with visions of a more mainstream future.
🎙 I spoke with Rachel about her new role...
KB: With most sports shut down, DRL is moving ahead with plans for the 2020 season. Anything you can share on that front?
"The government has talked about one of the first things that will come back is playing in empty stadiums. We're already having discussions with arenas who are salivating over the opportunity to host a drone race — right now — even without fans."
KB: What's at the top of your to-do list right now?
"Sports and entertainment does such an amazing job of banding together for the greater good of society, so getting involved in philanthropic programs like the ALL IN Challenge is a priority for us. We're also supporting children at home with STEM programs."
KB: On a personal note, what has the experience been like coming onboard as DRL president amid a global pandemic?
"Now more than ever I'm leaning into getting to know our team personally, and focusing on the human side — health, wellbeing, family. That has made me feel connected to the team very quickly, as has the need to over-communicate and just the camaraderie of everyone wanting to help out."
34 years ago today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Bo Jackson with the first overall pick in the 1986 draft.
Setting the stage: Jackson was a stud on both the diamond and the gridiron at Auburn, but during his junior year, he realized baseball was his true passion and decided not to pursue the NFL.
The big picture: Ultimately, everything worked out for Bo (that is, until it didn't).
🎬 Watch: "30 for 30: You Don't Know Bo" (ESPN)
"The Ocho," spawned from the 2004 movie "Dodgeball" and made even more famous by extremely good looking and talented sportswriter Kendall Baker, will air on ESPN this Saturday, with 11 hours of programming scheduled.
Full slate (all times pm ET):
Scottie Pippen and Tim Duncan are two of the five players in NBA history who have made the All-Defensive Team at least 10 times.
Answer at the bottom.
Gary K. (Washington, D.C.) writes:
"Like most kids growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I played Little League Baseball. But the sport I associate with my youth is hockey — mostly because my Southern-born father caught the bug in the mid-1960s, right before the Kings were part of the NHL's first expansion beyond the Original Six.
"Dad took me to Kings games starting when I was about six. We had a subscription to The Hockey News, and I learned the names of players and read the box scores in the L.A. Times every morning at the breakfast table.
"Then, when I was nine, my Dad signed me up for a youth hockey league in Van Nuys. Even though the rink was always teeth-chatteringly cold, I think my Dad enjoyed being there — even at 5am — as much as I enjoyed playing.
"After I had played for a year or two, my Dad decided he needed to learn how to skate. Keep in mind, he grew up in rural Georgia and was about 40 at the time. I can remember him saying to me as he grabbed onto the boards to get around the ice, 'How do you propel yourself on these things?'
"Eventually, he learned well enough to justify getting his own set of skates, and somehow he cobbled together enough equipment to act as an assistant coach during practice.
"The team's coach was a French Canadian named Guy Fournier, and it's amusing to think about these two fathers with dramatically different accents somehow working together to help kids play a game they loved.
"Dad died at the age of 57, but through the memories of those cold Saturday mornings at Iceland Skating Center in Van Nuys, every time I've watched a hockey game I think of him."
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Kendall "Dads are the best" Baker
Trivia answer: Kobe Bryant ❤️, Kevin Garnett, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar