👋 Happy Monday! So much happened this weekend that it would have been humanly impossible to fit it all into a newsletter. But I tried anyway!!!
Today's word count: 1,756 words (6 minutes)
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A single tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey escalated into a geopolitical crisis over the weekend, pitting America's democratic ideals and the NBA's progressive brand against the influence of Chinese money.
The backdrop: On Friday night, Morey tweeted an image that read "Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong" in reference to the pro-democracy protests that have been going on there for months.
The backlash: The Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and multiple Chinese businesses have severed ties with the Rockets.
The stakes: The NBA views China as the key to future international growth and has significant business interests there.
"I understand financial/political realities at work here. But Morey was simply advocating for civil/humanitarian rights — the same values the NBA regularly espouses and purportedly stands for. If the league allows a team official to be fired for doing so, it undermines it all."— B/R's Howard Beck, via Twitter
The NBA's response: NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be in China this week to watch the Lakers and Nets play 2 preseason games, so this story could develop quickly. For now, here's the league's official statement:
What they're saying:
The bottom line: A high-stakes showdown with a foreign government is far beyond anything the NBA has had to navigate in the past, but there's no running from this — and the league's actions over the next few days will speak volumes.
Coming up: Next week is loaded with Top 25 matchups.
Go deeper: Bowl projections (ESPN)
There's a full slate of playoff baseball coming your way today, with the Astros, Braves, Dodgers and Yankees all 1 win away from advancing to the next round.
Astros at Rays, 1:05pm ET (MLBN)
Braves at Cardinals, 3:07pm ET (TBS)
Dodgers at Nationals, 6:40pm ET (TBS)
Yankees at Twins, 8:40pm ET (FS1)
PITTSBURGH — In the scariest moment of the day, Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph was knocked unconscious after a helmet-to-helmet hit during the Steelers' OT loss to the Ravens. Thankfully, it sounds like he's OK.
KANSAS CITY — The Colts used a balanced pass rush to upset Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, 19-13, on Sunday Night Football. Coming into the game, Kansas City had scored 26+ points in an NFL-record 25 straight games.
HOUSTON — Will Fuller IV (14 rec, 317 yds, 3 TD) and DeAndre Hopkins (7 rec, 88 yds) were blessed by Deshaun Watson's presence, as he became just the 3rd QB in the Super Bowl era to record a perfect passer rating, 400 yards and 5 TD. Unreal.
Elsewhere: The Raiders ran all over the Bears in London ... Panthers QB Kyle Allen improved to 4-0 ... Teddy Bridgewater looked awesome ... Buffalo's defense looked dominant ... the Cardinals got a win ... and even Tom Brady thought it was ridiculous how many Patriots fans were at a Redskins home game.
League MVP Elena Delle Donne overcame a herniated disk/pinched nerve in her back to help the Mystics beat the Sun, 94-81, and take a 2-1 lead in the WNBA Finals.
Carlos Vela set the new single-season MLS scoring record with 34 goals, breaking Atlanta United Josef Martinez's record of 31, which he set last year.
Gennadiy Golovkin improved to 40-1-1 with a win over Sergey Derevyanchenko at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, but it didn't come easy.
Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images
35 years ago today, Bears RB Walter "Sweetness" Payton passed Jim Brown as the NFL's all-time rushing leader. Here's the footage.
The big picture: Payton held the top spot for nearly 2 decades before Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith passed him in 2002. Meanwhile, Brown — who only played 9 seasons — has fallen out of the top 10.
All-time rushing leaders:
On Saturday, Joe Burrow became just the 6th QB in LSU history to throw 20+ TD in a season, while also moving within 6 of tying the school record (28).
Answer at the bottom.
A poker player named Mike Postle is under investigation for cheating during live-streamed poker games, and the fallout has produced one of the most fascinating gambling scandals in years.
Go deeper: Here's The Ringer's David Hill after spending hours traveling down that wormhole:
Kendall "Song of the day" Baker
Trivia answer: JaMarcus Russell (2006)