Jul 20, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Happy Monday! Let's sports.

  • 💵 Wow, that's wild: A LeBron James rookie card sold for $1.845 million on Sunday, the most money anyone has ever paid for a basketball card at auction.
  • 💬 Quote of the day: "The bubble is part summer camp, mixed in with the Olympic village, playing overseas and an AAU tournament with a little bit of college life thrown in." — Sue Bird

Today's word count: 1,908 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏈 The NFL no longer has the luxury of time

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

When the pandemic arrived and upended the world, the NFL was the only major American sports league with the luxury of time.

  • The clock has now run out — and on the eve of training camp, it's still remarkably unclear what the preseason and regular season will look like, particularly in regards to health and safety.

Driving the news: In a coordinated Twitter blitz on Sunday, NFL stars used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay to express their concern — publicly — about the lack of detailed health and safety protocols as rookies begin arriving at camp.

  • Russell Wilson: "I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. NFL training camp is about to start. And there's still no clear plan on player health & family safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones."
  • J.J. Watt tweeted a list of what players do and don't know. "We still do not know if there will be daily testing," he wrote. "We still do not know if there will be preseason games ... We still do not know how a positive COVID test will be handled in regards to others in close contact."

The state of play: The NFL sent a league-wide memo on Saturday confirming that rookies will report to camp today (Chiefs and Texans; season-opener opponents) and tomorrow (all other teams). QBs and injured players report Thursday, while all other players are scheduled to arrive next Tuesday, July 28.

  • The NFLPA wants daily testing, no preseason games and a 45-day "ramp-up" period (21 days of strength and conditioning, 10 days of non-padded practices and 14 days of "contact acclimation").
  • The NFL still wants two preseason games and hasn't agreed to the "ramp-up" period. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the league has the right to impose report dates and teams can fine players if they don't show up.

What's next: The #WeWantToPlay blitz sets the stage for the NFLPA to file a grievance over unsafe working conditions if the union hasn't signed off on protocols by the time players show up at camp.

  • What happens with rookies this week will determine next steps, but the union is prepared to file, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, and that will buy players time to try to finalize terms before veterans arrive next week.

The bottom line: One could blame the NFL and NFLPA for remaining so far apart despite a four-month head start. One could also blame America's botched coronavirus response, which rendered that head start virtually worthless.

Food for thought...

Screenshot: @FareedNBCS (Twitter)
2. ⚾️ Canada says Blue Jays can't play in Toronto
Note: Positive test rate indicates the percentage of positive tests out of total tests. Data: The COVID Tracking Project and Health Canada; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The Canadian government denied the Blue Jays' request to play at Rogers Centre in Toronto this season due to fears about cross-border travel.

  • While the NHL's plan calls for teams to travel to Toronto and Edmonton and stay there, MLB's plan calls for regular travel, with the Blue Jays and their AL and NL East foes frequenting hot spots like Florida and Georgia.
  • Teams would have been arriving in Toronto on a weekly basis, and the government concluded that such frequent back-and-forth "would not adequately protect Canadians' health and safety."

What they're saying: "In Canada you've seen us flatten the curve ... and that is largely attributable to the sacrifices Canadians have made. We can ill afford a step back," said Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

"This is about Canada wanting to continue to distance itself from a dysfunctional neighbour who seems to have lost touch with reality. ... Unfortunately for the Jays, they got caught up in the middle of it."
— Gregor Chisholm, Toronto Star

What's next: The MLB season starts on Thursday, and the Blue Jays do not have a home. They've considered Sahlen Field in Buffalo, home to their Triple-A affiliate, but players are adamant about playing in a big league ballpark. What a mess.

Bonus: 📸 Baseball in 2020
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Photo of the weekend: With cardboard cutouts of fans "watching" from the stands, Yoenis Céspedes takes hacks in the on-deck circle during the Mets' exhibition game against the Yankees on Saturday.

3. ⛳️ Rahm wins Memorial, earns No. 1 ranking

Jon Rahm stands with Jack Nicklaus and the winner's trophy. Photo: Stan Badz/PGA Tour via Getty images

With a three-shot victory at the Memorial Tournament, Jon Rahm vaulted to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career, supplanting Rory McIlroy.

Why it matters: Rahm, 25, becomes just the 24th golfer — and second Spaniard — to sit atop the Official World Golf Ranking since the system was created in 1986.

All 24 top-ranked golfers:

  • 🇺🇸 U.S. (8): Tiger Woods (683 weeks atop the rankings), Dustin Johnson (91), Brooks Koepka (47), Jordan Spieth (26), Fred Couples (16), David Duval (15), Justin Thomas (4), Tom Lehman (1)
  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England (4): Nick Faldo (97), Luke Donald (56), Lee Westwood (22), Justin Rose (13)
  • 🇦🇺 Australia (3): Greg Norman (331), Jason Day (51), Adam Scott (11)
  • 🇪🇸 Spain (2): Seve Ballesteros (61), Jon Rahm (1)
  • 🇩🇪 Germany (2): Martin Kaymer (8), Bernhard Langer (3)
  • 🇬🇧 Northern Ireland: Rory McIlroy (106)
  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Wales: Ian Woosnam (50)
  • 🇿🇼 Zimbabwe: Nick Price (44)
  • 🇫🇯 Fiji: Vijay Singh (32)
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa: Ernie Els (9)

More from Memorial:

4. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Bracket: Axios Visuals
  • ⚽️ NWSL: Upset city in Utah! Three of the four lower-seeds advanced to the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals. Coming Wednesday: Portland Thorns vs. Houston Dash (12:30pm ET); Sky Blue vs. Chicago Red Stars (10pm ET).
  • 💵 College sports: Two of the 10 highest-paid college football coaches have taken pay cuts amid the pandemic (Jim Harbaugh, Lincoln Riley), while four of the 10 highest-paid college basketball coaches have done so (Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Chris Mack, Bill Self), per ESPN.
Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal in 2006. Photo: Steve Spatafore/Sports Dream Foundation via Getty Images
  • 🏀 NBA: Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal are launching a sports agency, per NYT's Marc Stein. If successful, the former All-Stars would become the most prominent players in NBA history to break into the agency business.
  • 🎬 Now streaming: "The Last Dance" is now available on Netflix in the U.S. (and no longer available on ESPN+).
A surfer off the coast of Enoshima Island, Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
5. 🏀 Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 11)
Expand chart
Player data: Basketball Reference; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 NBA teams. Note: Rosters and stats based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at jeff@axios.com.

11. New York Knicks

The Knicks have the NBA's worst winning percentage this century, so the fact that their all-time winning percentage is .484 is a testament to just how great they were in their heyday. At least the modern iteration of the franchise will always have Linsanity.

  • Year established: 1946
  • All-time record: 2,799-2,988 (.484)
  • NBA Championships: 2
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 9

Starters:

  • Walt Frazier*, G (19.3 pts, 6.1 reb, 6.3 ast, 19.3 PER/108.8 WS)
  • Earl Monroe*, G (16.2 pts, 2.6 reb, 3.5 ast, 16.6 PER/43.9 WS)
  • Carmelo Anthony, F (24.7 pts, 7.0 reb, 3.2 ast, 21.8 PER/43.6 WS)
  • Willis Reed*, F (18.7 pts, 12.9 reb, 1.8 ast, 18.6 PER/74.9 WS)
  • Patrick Ewing*, C (22.8 pts, 10.4 reb, 2.0 ast, 21.6 PER/123.0 WS)

Sixth man: Dave DeBusschere*, F (16.0 pts, 10.7 reb, 3.1 ast, 15.4 PER/34.9 WS)

Bench:

  • Bernard King*, F (26.5 pts, 5.2 reb, 2.8 ast, 22.5 PER/27.1 WS)
  • Bill Bradley*, G (12.4 pts, 3.2 reb, 3.4 ast, 12.2 PER/38.8 WS)
  • Harry Gallatin*, F (12.7 pts, 12.1 reb, 1.8 ast, 21.7 PER/72.3 WS)
  • Charles Oakley, F (10.4 pts, 10.0 reb, 2.3 ast, 14.0 PER/67.5 WS)
  • Richie Guerin*, G (20.1 pts, 6.4 reb, 5.3 ast, 18.3 PER/46.0 WS)
  • Allan Houston, G (18.5 pts, 3.1 reb, 2.5 ast, 15.1 PER/45.5 WS)

Notes:

  • Ewing has the seventh-most blocks ever (2,894), as well as the 25th-most rebounds (11,607) and 28th-most points (24,815).
  • King led the NBA in scoring in 1984 (32.3 ppg) while making just one three-pointer the entire season. Over his 874-game career, King sunk just 23 triples.

ICYMI ... 30. Grizzlies, 29. Timberwolves, 28. Hornets, 27. Raptors, 26. Pelicans, 25. Pacers, 24. Clippers, 23. Mavericks, 22. Nets, 21. Cavaliers, 20. Bucks, 19. Hawks, 18. Wizards, 17. Suns, 16. Kings, 15. Magic, 14. Nuggets, 13. Trail Blazers, 12. Rockets

Stats, explained: Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a measure of a player's per-minute productivity (20+ is elite); Win Shares (WS) attempts to divvy up individual credit for team success (6 per season is elite).

6. July 20, 1858: ⚾️ Paying to watch baseball
A 19th century cartoon shows a man watching a baseball game through a hole in the fence while wearing an "I am blind" sign. Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

162 years ago today, the first baseball game to charge admission was played at Fashion Race Course near Flushing, Queens in New York City.

  • The price of admission — 50 cents a person — was meant to offset the cost of transforming the race course into a baseball field.
  • This was an All-Star Game of sorts, pitting the best players from the five New York teams against the best players from the four Brooklyn teams.

The backdrop: "Baseball in 1858 resembled softball on a full-sized diamond," wrote SI's Jack Rudolph.

  • "It was played bare-handed with a ball slightly larger than today's regulation ball. The pitcher tossed it underhand; his function was to dish it up and let the batters take their cuts. Fly balls caught on the first bounce were putouts, not that easy an achievement with a ball full of India rubber."
  • In the end, the New Yorkers overcame an early deficit to win, 22-18. They squared off two more times that summer in baseball's first "World Series," with Brooklyn winning Game 2 (29-8) and New York taking Game 3 (29-18).

The big picture: Four years later, charging admission became a more intentional practice when a fence was erected around the Union Grounds in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to ensure that all attendees were paying customers.

Go deeper: The evolution of major league ballparks (Axios)

7. 📚 Good reads
Workers building an NBA bubble barbershop on Sunday. Courtesy: Tiago Splitter

💈 How the NBA picked the barbers for the bubble (Baxter Holmes and Eric Woodyard, ESPN)

"The barbers are coming from all across the country ... They will be open between 8am and 10pm daily, and players are asked to dial or text to make an appointment in advance."

🏈 A stadium at Iowa State says his name: Jack Trice (Jeré Longman, NYT)

"Iowa State is the only major college football team to have named its stadium after a Black man, a player named Jack Trice who died from injuries sustained in a game in 1923 and whose story resonates amid today's social justice movement."

✍️ For women in sports media, dealing with toxic masculinity is far from new (Ben Strauss and Kim Bellware, WashPost)

"A number of female sports journalists spoke out in the wake of The Post's investigative report into Washington's NFL team, including some who recalled their own experiences."
8. The Ocho: 📊 Meet the mascots
Giphy

FiveThirtyEight has published the mascot deep dive you never knew you needed.

By the numbers: They classified the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and WNBA's primary mascots according to where they can be found: on land, in the sea, in the sky or in the world of make believe.

  • The NBA is "smitten with mascots native to land, the most popular classification across the board." (17 of 26 mascots can be found on land).
  • MLB (10 of 27) and the WNBA (6 of 12) share a preference for mascots that come from the world of make believe.
  • The NFL features a wide assortment but also includes the most teams without mascots (5).
  • The NHL has the most sky-bound mascots (6).

A fun read.

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia
Giphy

Yasiel Puig tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, ending his tenure with the Braves before it could even begin.

  • Question: Puig's electric rookie season saw him finish second in 2013 NL ROY voting. Who finished ahead of him?
  • Hint: NL East pitcher.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Ben and his dad. Photo: Ben I.

Ben I. (Atlanta) writes:

"My dad and I have attended hundreds of sporting events over the years. In fact, I can't think of a single childhood sports memory where we weren't together.
"While we haven't been able to attend as many games since I left for college in 2013 (and of course, none this year), the collective memories we do have are preserved in a massive ticket collection.
"Since I was old enough to remember, my dad always made me keep my ticket from every game we attended. Even in the age of mobile tickets, I've always tried to save a paper copy!
"He told me that one day, I'd want to be able to look back at everything we'd done. Boy was he right. Today, my ticket collection is absolutely one of my most prized collections.
"Every time I open it, I think about how fortunate I am to have a dad that would take me to all those games. So this is a thanks to him and all the other parents out there who have created lasting memories with their children through sports."
Ben's famous ticket collection. Photo: Ben I.

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or an example of sports having a positive impact on your life? If you'd like to share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories until they run out.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Would buy this on VHS" Baker

Trivia answer: José Fernández (RIP)