Jul 15, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

๐Ÿ‘‹ Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,735 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: ๐Ÿ€ Reporting from the NBA bubble

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Vardon is a senior NBA writer for The Athletic and one of the few reporters currently inside the Walt Disney World bubble.

  • ๐Ÿก Current status: Joe (@joevardon) is quarantining in his room at the Coronado Springs Resort hotel all week. The only people allowed through his door are employees from BioReference Labs, who administer daily nasal swab COVID-19 tests.
  • ๐Ÿ“† The outlook: He'll be in the bubble through the end of the first round of the NBA playoffs, into September, when he's to be relieved by a colleague.
  • ๐ŸŽ™ Interview: I spoke with Joe about what his experience has been like so far and how he plans to cover this monumental event.

How's it been so far?

"The thing that is the most surprising is, frankly, how busy I am with work. I've had family and friends reach out suggesting I'm just staring at the walls, and that is not the case."

What have you observed that isn't coming through via social media?

"The food is good. It just doesn't photograph well, and that is in large part because it's packaged in highly sanitary containers."

What were your feelings around taking this assignment?

"There are certain anxieties ... but I really think this is a historic event with huge implications for the NBA, for sports, and for the public. I never hesitated when it came time to do this because I just feel like if you have the job that I have, this is the thing that you sign up for."

How do you plan to cover such a unique event?

"I don't have an exact plan because this is all too new. But I do intend to try to write every day, and I think the rules and setup will dictate that coverage.
"Part of covering sports, and especially the NBA, is this art of cornering players, coaches and front office types in locker rooms, in hallways, in parking lots โ€” and you get your scoops that way. You can't do that here. You just can't."

And all interviews and press events are on Zoom, right? So it's not like you have access that reporters at home don't.

"Yeah, literally everything that is said by any player or coach is widely available on Zoom to any reporter. I'm here representing The Athletic, but I have dozens of colleagues who are beat reporters for these teams writing every day off the Zoom calls at home."

In that sense, you're almost more of a "bubble reporter" than an "NBA reporter," right?

"Yeah, we're here to report on what it's like just to be here in the bubble. What we see, what we hear, what we experience. It's the idea of taking it all in and reporting on that, as opposed to, 'here's what this guy did on the floor' or, 'here's what this guy said.' That's not what this is."

More bubble reporters:

Bonus: ๐Ÿ˜ท Meanwhile, outside the bubble
Reproduced from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

Florida is the new domestic epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and it's on track to keep getting worse, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Go deeper.

2. ๐Ÿ€ Marquette alumni win $1 million TBT prize

Courtesy: The Basketball Tournament

Travis Diener nailed a three-pointer to lift the Golden Eagles, a team of mostly Marquette alumni, to a 78-73 win over Sideline Cancer in the championship game of The Basketball Tournament (TBT) on Tuesday night.

  • Founded in 2014, TBT is a single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament known for the Elam Ending, which eliminates the game clock late in the fourth quarter, leaving the teams to play to a target score.
  • The Golden Eagles, who lost in last year's title game, will split $1 million in winnings, with each player and head coach receiving $90,000.

The backdrop: Due to the pandemic, this year's tournament was limited to 24 teams (down from 65) and was played under quarantine in Columbus, Ohio.

Past winners:

  • 2014: Notre Dame Fighting Alumni
  • 2015-18: Overseas Elite (collection of overseas talent)
  • 2019: Carmen's Crew (Ohio State alumni)

Go deeper: This year, The Basketball Tournament has earned its definite article (The Ringer)

3. ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ CrossFit gets new owner; athletes unionize

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

In the three weeks since CrossFit founder Greg Glassman resigned amid backlash against his offensive remarks on George Floyd's killing, the company โ€” and community โ€” have undergone substantial change, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Timeline:

  • June 9: Glassman resigns as CEO, hoping to assuage the countless sponsors and affiliate gyms who'd begun a mass exodus in response to his comments. Dave Castro, director of the CrossFit Games, takes his place.
  • June 20: Glassman's long history of rampant sexual harassment comes to light, and it becomes clear that merely stepping down as CEO (while still owning the company) won't be enough to placate the CrossFit community.
  • June 24: It's announced that tech entrepreneur and CrossFit affiliate owner Eric Roza will buy CrossFit from Glassman and become the new CEO.
  • July 9: CrossFit athletes form their first-ever union โ€” the Professional Fitness Athletes' Association.

The big picture: Founded in 2000, CrossFit exploded over the last 20 years as both a brand and a fitness regimen to include nearly 15,000 dues-paying affiliates, plus an annual competition called the CrossFit Games.

  • Yes, but: As 10-year CrossFit affiliate owner Mike DeNicola told Insider, "They don't own the workout, they just found a way to market it to people."

What they're saying: To learn more about the industry shake-up, I spoke with Justin LoFranco, founder of Morning Chalk Up, a CrossFit media company.

  • On new CEO and owner Eric Roza: "The guy's a tried and tested CEO. He's been at the top of the business world, whereas everybody in the top brass of CrossFit came from inside CrossFit."
  • On the formation of the union: "This is a direct result of what Glassman said and did, and athletes understanding that now is a pivotal moment for them to finally have a voice."

The bottom line: While CrossFit undergoes its first ownership change, athletes are unifying and aiming for a seat at the table when it comes to the future of their sport.

4. ๐Ÿ“ธ Pic du jour
Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger is back. Here he is during Tuesday's practice round prior to The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village (Dublin, Ohio), which starts tomorrow.

๐ŸŽฅ Watch: The 18 holes of Muirfield (YouTube)

5. ๐Ÿ€ Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 14)
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 atย jeff@axios.com.

14. Denver Nuggets

I desperately wanted to include Spencer Haywood on this roster, given his lone season with the team, as a rookie, saw him average 30 points and 19.5 rebounds in 45+ minutes a night with a league-leading 28 PER and 17.1 WS. But ultimately, they were too deep to allow entry to a one-and-done. Sorry, Spencer.

  • Year established: 1967 (as the ABA's Denver Rockets)
  • All-time record: 2,159-2,128 (.504)
  • NBA Championships: 0
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 4

Starters:

  • Fat Lever, G (17.0 pts, 7.6 reb, 7.5 ast, 19.1 PER/47.9 WS)
  • David Thompson*, G (24.1 pts, 4.3 reb, 3.4 ast, 20.4 PER/56.8 WS)
  • Alex English*, F (25.9 pts, 5.6 reb, 4.4 ast, 20.9 PER/84.2 WS)
  • Carmelo Anthony, F (24.8 pts, 6.3 reb, 3.1 ast, 20.2 PER/53.5 WS)
  • Dan Issel*, C (20.7 pts, 8.3 reb, 2.5 ast, 21.1 PER/94.8 WS)

Sixth man: Nikola Jokiฤ‡, C (16.9 pts, 9.7 reb, 5.4 ast, 24.9 PER/48.0 WS)

Bench:

  • Dikembe Mutombo*, C (12.9 pts, 12.3 reb, 3.8 blk, 17.1 PER/39.3 WS)
  • Kiki VanDeWeghe, F (23.3 pts, 5.3 reb, 2.7 ast, 20.1 PER/30.2 WS)
  • Antonio McDyess, F (18.2 pts, 9.0 reb, 1.7 blk, 18.8 PER/24.3 WS)
  • Marcus Camby, C (10.1 pts, 11.1 reb, 3.0 blk, 18.3 PER/35.9 WS)
  • Andre Miller, G (12.0 pts, 3.8 reb, 6.7 ast, 16.5 PER/33.3 WS)
  • Nenรช, F/C (12.4 pts, 7.0 reb, 1.8 ast, 17.4 PER/51.1 WS)

Notes:

  • Jokiฤ‡ has already put himself in the conversation of greatest passing big men ever, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only seven-footers with at least one season averaging 6.5 assists per game (they've both done it twice).
  • Thompson's 73-point performance in April 1978 is tied for fourth-most all time. Unfortunately, the Nuggets still lost by two.

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

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 15, 2008: โšพ๏ธ The longest All-Star Game

Photo: Michael Heiman/Getty Images

12 years ago today, the AL beat the NL, 4-3, at Yankee Stadium in the longest All-Star Game ever, lasting 15 innings and a record four hours and 50 minutes.

  • Red Sox OF J.D. Drew (game-tying HR in the 7th) earned MVP honors, while Rays LHP Scott Kazmir got the win and Phillies RHP Brad Lidge was saddled with the loss. Rangers SS Michael Young hit a sac fly to win the game.
  • The win gave the Rays home field advantage in the 2008 World Series, but it was no help as they were dominated by the Phillies, 4-1. Lidge closed out Game 5 to give Philadelphia its first World Series since 1980.

Look: 2008 ASG box score (Baseball Reference)

7. ๐Ÿ“š Good reads
Screenshot: @PatrickMahomes (Twitter)

๐Ÿˆ How Patrick Mahomes became the superstar the NFL needs right now (Clay Skipper, GQ)

"'I've always just had the confidence and believed in who I am. And I've known that I'm Black. And I'm proud to be Black. And I'm proud to have a white mom too. I'm just proud of who I am.'"

๐Ÿ€ LeBron James is going back to Disney World (Ben Cohen, WSJ)

"The NBA is returning to the place where he played the biggest game of his young life. More than 20 years after a 'heartbreaking' loss, James has another title in mind."

๐Ÿฅ‡ The rise and fall of the Karolyi Ranch (Bonnie D. Ford and Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN)

"For almost 20 years, top U.S. women gymnasts would ... take a monthly trip that ended with a long drive down a dirt road to a remote compound in a Texas forest. ... Few questioned the wisdom of training children and teenagers in a risky sport at such an isolated venue, far from hospitals and cut off from their families. Why would they?"
8. The Ocho: ๐Ÿ›ถ Canoe polo
New Germany national canoe polo coach Caroline Sinsel. Photo: George Wendt/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Canoe polo, also known as kayak polo, was born in 1970 and combines water polo, basketball and kayaking.

  • How to play: Each team has five players (and up to three substitutes), who compete to score in their opponent's goal, which is suspended roughly six feet above the water.
  • Equipment: The kayaks, which are specifically designed for polo and are faster and lighter than typical kayaks, can be used to tackle an opposition player in possession of the ball, or jostle for position.
Athletes from Malaysia (orange) and Singapore (red) compete in 2018. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

๐ŸŽฅ Watch ... World Championship: Germany vs. France (YouTube)

9. ๐Ÿˆ NFL trivia

Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Myles Garrett and the Browns are finalizing a five-year, $125 million extension that will make him the highest-paid non-QB in the NFL, per ESPN.

  • Question: Since being drafted first overall in 2017, Garrett ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks per game (0.82). Who are the only three players ahead of him?
  • Hint: All three players have a "D" somewhere in their name.

Answer at the bottom.

10. โค๏ธ Why we love sports
Tom and the gang at the 2016 national championship. Photo: Tom C.

Tom C. (New Jersey) writes:

"In 2016, Villanova men's basketball was on a run, and my girlfriend and I were at a bar watching the Elite 8 game against Kansas. As people filled in behind us, we sat transfixed at the TV, willing Villanova to victory with tequila shots.
"After the game (we won), we knew we needed to be in Houston for the Final Four, which Villanova hadn't been to since 2009, when we were sophomores and made the trip to Detroit.
"We booked flights and rooms right there at the bar, and on the walk home we called her Villanova graduate father to convince him to join us. The next day, both he and my girlfriend's mother booked flights, and we were together that weekend in Houston.
"The trip was fantastic, but I had a very important question I needed to ask her father and never ended up alone with him. With a 6am flight the next morning, I hadn't left myself much time to ask when Villanova and UNC tipped off for the national championship.
"As college basketball fans will recall, the game had a historic finish. About 15 seconds after Kris Jenkins hit his buzzer-beating, championship-winning three-pointer, I turned to my girlfriend's father and asked if I could marry his daughter.
Photo: Tom C.
"18 months later at our wedding (Villanova themed of course), my now wife's father gets up to give his toast. In his version, he's jumping up and down after the shot, yelling 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' When I drop the line, 'I want to marry your daughter' he's mid 'Yes' and then goes 'What? No!'
"His delivery was perfect, and if Villanova hadn't won it all that season, I may not have had the chance to ask for my wife's hand in person."
Photo: Tom C.

โœ๏ธ 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 "Dinner's on Diener" Baker

Trivia answer: Chandler Jones (1.02 sacks/game), Aaron Donald (0.96), Cameron Jordan (0.84)

  • Editor's note: Yesterday's trivia question was a mess. I said only four players have been traded twice after winning NBA MVP, but Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett and Bob McAdoo should have also been included. Sorry!