🎉 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
- Congrats to the winners of our most recent NFL jersey giveaway contest, Mike K. and Jeremy P. from Idaho. Mike's getting a Matt Paradis Panthers jersey and Jeremy went with a Russell Wilson Seahawks jersey.
- Join us on Sunday: Overtime, our new community for Axios Sports readers, goes live on Sunday. To join, refer 3 friends to this newsletter using your unique link below (very bottom of email).
- FIBA World Cup: USA lost to Serbia, guaranteeing their worst-ever finish. … Marc Gasol (33 pts) and Spain just beat Patty Mills (34 pts) and Australia in double-OT to advance to the final, where they'll play Argentina or France (playing now).
Today's word count: 1,392 (5 minutes)
1 big thing: ⚾️ The wild-card stretch run
Plenty of teams are still in the hunt. 15ish games left for everyone. Buckle up...
American League: The Yankees (up 10 games on the Rays) and Astros (up 7.5 games on the Athletics) are virtual locks to win their divisions, while the Twins and Indians (3.5 games back) battle it out in the Central.
- Wild card: With less than 3 weeks left, it's a 4-team race between the Athletics, Rays, Indians and Twins.
- Starting tonight: The Twins visit the Indians for a massive 3-game series that could decide the division and greatly impact the wild card race. The Indians lead the season series 9-7.
- Toilet bowl: The Orioles have been the laughingstock of baseball this season, but here's the thing: The Tigers have been even worse!!! They meet in Detroit this weekend, with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft on the line.
National League: The Dodgers have already clinched the West, and the Braves hold a comfortable 8.5-game lead in the East. Things are much tighter in the Central, where the Cardinals are just 4 games up on the Cubs and Brewers.
- Wild card: Here are the playoff odds for every team still in the hunt: Nationals (97.7%), Cardinals (91.1%), Cubs (51.9%), Brewers (33%), Mets (20.8%), Phillies (3.6%), Diamondbacks (1.9%).
- Starting tonight: The Brewers visit the Cardinals for a 3-game set that could change everything. P.S. ... Brutal remaining schedule for the Cards: MIL (3 games), WAS (3 games), @CHC (4 games), @ARI (3 games), CHC (3 games).
- Players to watch: The suddenly unhittable Yu Darvish (Cubs); the history-making Juan Soto (Nationals) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves); emerging superstar Jack Flaherty (Cardinals); Christian Yelich's replacement, Trent Grisham (Brewers); and Pete Alonso, who shaved his mustache mid-game last night.
2. 🏀 Spencer Dinwiddie just broke my brain
Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is turning his 3-year, $34 million contract into a "digital investment vehicle," per Shams Charania of The Athletic (subscription).
- Flashback: Former NFL RB Arian Foster did something similar in 2013 when he listed himself as a private stock.
How it works, per Deadspin's Chris Thompson:
- "Dinwiddie plans on starting a company that would sell bonds — in this case in the form of digital tokens — that would entitle purchasers to some cut of Dinwiddie's $34 million contract with the Nets, plus interest."
- "The reason to do this would be to raise a lump sum of cash all at once … Dinwiddie could then use that cash-in-hand to generate investment income — he'd be giving up a portion of his future salary, but would be banking on the rate of return from his investments more than making up the difference."
The bottom line: If there are any galaxy-brain readers out there who want to explain the intricacies of this to me, my inbox is open.
P.S. … Dinwiddie just bought the highest penthouse in Brooklyn. This guy!!!
3. 🏈 NFL: By the numbers
53 total yards
Yesterday, I highlighted Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey and Bucs LB Devin White ahead of their Thursday Night Football matchup. McCaffrey was held to 53 total yards and White left with a knee injury. I'll see myself out.
- Go deeper: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 14 (box score)
The NFL just announced the NFL Helmet Challenge — a contest to see who can create the safest possible helmet. Engineers, manufacturers and others will compete for $3 million ($1 million prize, $2 million grant to build a prototype).
- Go deeper: The football helmet industry is being disrupted (Axios)
Entering the season, the Patriots had the easiest projected schedule in the NFL, which seems like a sick joke. Welp, now that Jets QB Sam Darnold is out indefinitely with mono, it just got even easier.
- Looking ahead: The Pats face the tanking Dolphins this week and a Darnold-less Jets team at home next week. Next 4 games after that: Bills, Redskins, Giants, Jets again (Darnold likely still out).
4. 📸 Athletes 'round the world
🎾 Tennis: Former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, 36, announced yesterday that she's coming out of retirement for the 2nd time. The Belgian mother of 3 said tennis-playing moms like Serena Willams inspired her.
- Clijsters: "For the past 7 years, I've been a full time mum. And I love it. … But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So, what if I tried to do both? ... Let's do this. Let's come back one more time. See you in 2020." (Twitter)
🥊 Boxing: 20-year-old American Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KO) takes on Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KO) for the WBC interim lightweight title at Madison Square Garden tonight (7pm ET, DAZN).
- Mayweather 2.0? "Despite different roads traveled, the comparisons to pound-for-pound great Floyd Mayweather persist. Yes, Haney and Mayweather are both African-Americans who possess mega-watt smiles ... but the similarities don't end on the surface level." (The Athletic)
🚲 Cycling: The 74th Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) — the third and final Grand Tour of the summer race season — is currently underway. Here's the race map.
5. 🏈 Saturday's best games
No. 1 Clemson (-27.5) at Syracuse
- Time: 7pm ET, ABC
- Storyline: Syracuse's blowout loss to Maryland last week has caused this game to lose its luster. Still, the Orange are one of just 2 teams to beat Clemson over the past 2 seasons — and they were up late last year before the Tigers came back.
- Betting stat to know: Clemson is 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in its last 5 games against Syracuse.
No. 19 Iowa (-2.5) at Iowa State
- Time: 4pm ET, FS1
- Storyline: "GameDay" heads to Ames for the first time to witness an in-state rivalry that tends to be close: 5 of the last 8 games have been decided by less than a TD.
- Betting stat to know: The over (currently at 43.5) has hit in each of Iowa's last 7 road games.
Pittsburgh at No. 13 Penn State (-17)
- Time: Noon ET, ABC
- Storyline: This series was dormant for years, but entertaining games over the last 3 seasons have reinvigorated the rivalry. Tomorrow will be the 100th meeting between the 2 schools (Penn State leads 52-43-4).
- Betting stat to know: Penn State has covered the spread in 7 of its last 8 home games, while Pitt is just 1-6-1 ATS in its last 8 games against the Big 10.
6. 📚 Good reads
⚾️ Home Runs Are Soaring. Could Declining Backspin Be A Factor? (Travis Sawchik, FiveThirtyEight)
"The spin rate of the baseball has been a focus of late, but primarily in regard to pitching. ... It turns out that spin rate matters for hitters, too — a little less of it might help."
"The Raiders are set to host the Chiefs on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum in their final home game before the end of the World Series. With the Coliseum the last stadium left that hosts an NFL and baseball team and the Raiders set to move [to Las Vegas], no more players will have to deal with the travails of infield dirt."
⚽️ George Best And The Soccer Battle Of The Sexes That Changed … Well, Nothing (Paul Brown, Deadspin)
"Fifty years ago, on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in Manchester, Eva Haraldsted played soccer against George Best. ... The game was a comic sketch rather than a sporting contest, because the only women's soccer that was allowed in England in 1969 was the kind that was a joke."
7. Sept. 13, 1992: 🏈 NFL's first no-punt game
27 years ago today, the Bills beat the 49ers, 34-31, in a shootout that featured a combined 1,086 yards, 8 TD and, for the first time in NFL history, no punts.
"You just do your normal routine, get ready, get ready, get ready, and hope they make a first down. Eventually, you just look at the clock and say, 'I guess I'm not going to punt today.'"— Bills punter Chris Mohr, per ESPN
The big picture: There have only been 3 other no-punt games in NFL history.
Bonus: 🏀 Basketball trivia
Yesterday's loss to Serbia marked the first time that Team USA has lost 2 straight tournament games with NBA players since 2002.
- Question: Who was Team USA's head coach at that time?
- Hint: He ranks No. 6 on the all-time wins list.
Answer at the bottom.
8. The Ocho: 🔥 Spikeball ... on fire
Do not recommend.
Go deeper: How Spikeball became mainstream (ESPN)