🎉 Happy Friday! I got WAY more selfies/replies than anticipated yesterday (which is awesome), so I need a few days to go through them all. I'll share the final result on Monday.
🙏 Get well, David: Former NBA commissioner David Stern underwent emergency surgery after a "sudden brain hemorrhage" yesterday afternoon. Prayers to David and his family.
Today's word count: 1,751 words (6 minutes)
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
With the NBA season roughly a quarter of the way through, I've put together my Western Conference and Eastern Conference All-Star teams.
The intrigue: With 2019 All-Stars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Victor Oladipo sidelined and Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Blake Griffin and Nikola Vucevic missing significant time, the door is open wider than usual for first-time selections.
Reserves: Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), Devin Booker (PHX), Damian Lillard (POR), Donovan Mitchell (UTAH), Paul George (LAC), Nikola Jokić (DEN), Brandon Ingram (NOP)
On the bubble: Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Rudy Gobert (UTAH), C.J. McCollum (POR), Montrezl Harrell (LAC), Russell Westbrook (HOU)
Reserves: Jimmy Butler (MIA), Trae Young (ATL), Andre Drummond (DET), Malcolm Brogdon (IND), Ben Simmons (PHI), Jayson Tatum (BOS), Domantas Sabonis (IND)
On the bubble: Bam Adebayo (MIA), Spencer Dinwiddie (BKN), Zach LaVine (CHI), Khris Middleton (MIL), Graham (CHA)
Since the demise of the federal ban on state-authorized sports betting 18 months ago, 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have joined Nevada in legalizing sports wagering.
Driving the news: New Jersey sports bettors wagered $562+ million in November (86% via online bets), eclipsing the state's previous record of $487 million, set in October. Overall, sports betting has generated $4+ billion in wagers for New Jersey this year.
The four-team College Football Playoff is bound to expand, and according to multiple reports, details are now being openly discussed among conference commissioners and fellow wielders of power.
Driving the news: A Power 5 AD told SI's Ross Delenger that a "specific 8-team playoff model is circulating around the CFB world that would incorporate bowls, including a bowl-sponsored national championship game."
The model: Five automatic bids for the Power 5 champions, two at-large bids and one Group of 5 bid. That means this year's playoff would have looked like this:
Note: The debate would have been over the No. 7 seed. I chose Baylor, which finished No. 7 in the final CFP rankings, but Florida (ninth in CFP rankings, sixth in AP poll) would have been in the conversation.
ICYMI ... The 29th annual College Football Awards were last night, and Joe Burrow (three wins) and LSU dominated. See all the winners.
BALTIMORE — 22-year-old Lamar Jackson (15/23, 212 yds, 5 TD; 8 car, 86 yds) broke Michael Vick's single-season record for rushing yards by a QB in the Ravens' AFC North-clinching 42-21 win over the Jets.
MEXICO CITY — 20-year-old Dončić (41-12-11) recorded his second career 40-point triple-double in the Mavericks' 122-111 win over the Pistons in Mexico City. All other players under the age of 21 in NBA history have a grand total of one (LeBron James).
Only five D-I men's college basketball teams remain undefeated: No. 3 Ohio State (9-0), No. 12 Auburn (8-0), No. 25 San Diego State (10-0), unranked Liberty (11-0) and unranked Duquesne (8-0).
Let's talk about Duquesne: The Pittsburgh-based program is off to its best start in nearly half a century, and while the schedule hasn't been all that difficult, the Dukes have overcome a rather unique challenge: no home gym.
What they're saying: Without their own locker room (they've retrofitted an old racquetball court), Duquesne players typically throw on sweats after practice and shower at home.
P.S. ... Adding to the intrigue surrounding Duquesne is the fact that Dambrot was LeBron James' high school coach.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
10 former NFL players, including Redskins great Clinton Portis, face felony charges for allegedly defrauding one of the league's retiree health care benefit programs out of $3.4 million by seeking reimbursements for medical equipment that was never purchased.
How it worked: The players targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses not covered by insurance.
The big picture: There are more than 20,000 retired NFL players, many of whom lawfully rely on — and desperately need — these reimbursements. They're the real victims here, especially if the plan loses its tax-exempt status, as prosecutors suggest it could.
The bottom line: These players are accused of conspiracy, wire fraud and health care fraud, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 or 20 years.
36 years ago today, the Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets, 186-184, in triple-overtime. The 370 combined points — despite there being only four three-pointers attempted all game(!) — are the most ever scored in an NBA game.
By the numbers: Isiah Thomas (47-17-5) led the way for Detroit, while Denver's Kiki VanDeWeghe scored a career-high 51 points to go along with nine boards and eight assists. In all, 12 players scored in double figures.
The above photo is from an international netball tournament that just wrapped up in New Zealand. I am fascinated by this sport — which feels like a combo of basketball, handball and ultimate frisbee — and will be going deeper on Monday.
In the meantime ... Here's a cool NYT article from 2011 about the netball scene in Brooklyn. Read: "The sisterhood of netball."
Alexander Ovechkin has 255 career power play goals and needs just one more to pass Teemu Selänne for third on the all-time list.
Answer at the bottom.
Caption: "The handwritten notes of BBC radio reporter Nick Barnes sit ready in the press box before the Sky Bet League One match between Gillingham and Sunderland in Gillingham, England."
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "Lamar or Luka?" Baker
Trivia answer: Dave Andreychuk (274) and Brett Hull (265)