🎉 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,738 (7 minutes).
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
If (when) she's taken with the No. 1 pick in tonight's 2020 WNBA draft (7pm ET, ESPN), Sabrina Ionescu will become the face of a rebuilding project in America's biggest market — a role she's uniquely suited to play.
The big picture: Ionescu redefined women's college basketball and will enter the WNBA with as large a profile as any player in recent memory.
"I'm definitely, hopefully excited for the opportunity to play there at Barclays Center, and just the marketability that there is in New York. ... [T]he hustle and bustle is something that I think could be not only beneficial to myself as a person but as a brand and for women's basketball."— Sabrina Ionescu, via WSJ
What to watch: The draft will be held virtually, and ESPN has sent players lighting kits and tripods so they can be interviewed following their selections.
Top 10 prospects:
Go deeper: Latest mock draft (ESPN)
Photo: John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Jalen Green (above), a consensus top-three recruit in the class of 2020 and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, is skipping college and taking his talents to the G League.
Driving the news: Green will be the centerpiece of a new one-year developmental program designed to prepare young players for life in the NBA, per multiple reports.
What they're saying: After two top recruits in the 2019 class (LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton) chose to play professionally in Australia over the G League, the NBA sweetened the pot to lure players uninterested in college basketball.
"We have kids leaving the United States ... to go around the world to play, and our NBA community has to travel there to scout them. That's counterintuitive. The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn't have to go somewhere else to develop for a year. They should be in our development system."— Shareef Abdur-Rahim, G League president, via ESPN
What to watch: Isaiah Todd (below), a five-star recruit once committed to Michigan, is expected to sign with the G League and join this same "select team."
The bottom line: The game just changed. We'll explore this further on Monday.
Go deeper: Inside the 2020 recruiting class (Axios)
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
DraftKings is one step closer to going public, after the SEC approved its reverse merger with blank-check acquisition company Diamond Eagle and sports betting enterprise solution SBTech, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
Background: DraftKings was founded in 2012 as a platform for daily fantasy sports (DFS) — a market already dominated by FanDuel, which launched three years earlier.
The bottom line: Despite the global economy grinding to a halt, the environment surrounding this deal should allow the business to flourish in the long run.
"The Last Dance" finally begins airing this Sunday night (9pm ET, ESPN), with back-to-back, hourlong episodes each Sunday for the next five weeks.
💬 Latest from MJ:
Yesterday was National High Five Day, but it's never too late to celebrate, right?
Jeff writes: Astros manager Dusty Baker is credited with inventing the high five, though he's always been sure to note he was merely on the receiving end of the inaugural celebration offered by his teammate, Glenn Burke.
The backstory: The year was 1977, and on the final day of the season, the Dodgers were one Dusty Baker HR shy of becoming the first team ever with four 30-HR mashers.
Driving the news: With high fives on hiatus at the moment, Dusty's trying to make the magic happen again with #TheNextHighFive, a social-media-fueled partnership with SC Johnson and Save the Children.
"Think about the feeling you get when you give someone a high five. I had that feeling before everybody else."— Glenn Burke
🎬 Go deeper: 30 for 30 Shorts: "The High Five" (ESPN)
69 years ago today, a 19-year-old right fielder named Mickey Mantle made his major league debut for the Yankees, going 1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in a 5-0 win over the Red Sox.
By the numbers:
Fun fact: Though Mickey's debut was on Opening Day, his first game in New York was actually three days earlier for the then-annual Yankees-Dodgers preseason series. In the booth for the Dodgers that day? 23-year-old Vin Scully.
🏰 Why Walt Disney World would be the ideal spot for the NBA to salvage its season (Keith Smith, Yahoo Sports)
"Unlike many of the other locations mentioned as single-site candidates, Walt Disney World is private property. That includes not only the hotels and [ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex], but the immediate surrounding area as well. In effect, Disney can create a bubble ... with relative ease."
⚽️ Boardroom infighting in Barcelona shakes team (Tariq Panja, NYT)
"Six resignations, a social media scandal and accusations of corruption shine an ugly light on FC Barcelona, the Lionel Messi-led soccer team."
🏈 The NFL has more QBs than it knows what to do with. How did this happen? (Kevin Clark, The Ringer)
"As many as four QBs could be taken in the first round of the draft. Cam Newton and Jameis Winston are still without a team. Suddenly, there's an oversupply of competent passers in the league."
Smolball is another in the long line of wonderful, accidental inventions, like Champagne or potato chips.
In the 54-year history of the Super Bowl, only once has there not been a favorite (i.e. the spread was even and it became a pick 'em).
Answer at the bottom.
Vincent L. (Florida) writes:
"My dad attended Notre Dame when it was still synonymous with college football, so despite growing up in Miami Hurricanes territory in South Florida, Notre Dame football got priority over just about everything on Saturdays in our house.
"My dad always said the 1988 'Catholics vs. Convicts' game (Notre Dame vs. Miami) was the most satisfying win he'd ever experienced. So you can imagine his delight when, as a senior in high school, I began dating a future Hurricane.
"Notre Dame and Miami didn't play regularly anymore, which was good because I didn't want to have to choose between my girlfriend and my dad. But they met again in South Bend on Oct. 29, 2016.
"While the world wasn't paying much attention to a 4-3 Miami team play a 3-4 Notre Dame team, this was the biggest game of my life. My sister was a senior at Notre Dame, my girlfriend was about to become my fiancé and my dad had just undergone 10 rounds of chemotherapy.
"At the tailgate, we were together as a family outside of a hospital room for the first time in what seemed like years. It was one of those perfect cloudless afternoons, and we were practically running into the stadium before kickoff.
"Notre Dame ended up winning on a Justin Yoon field goal in the final 30 seconds, and my girlfriend — the only Miami fan in a sea of blue and gold — snapped a photo of us to memorialize our win (see above).
"My dad and I walked out of the stadium that night together, with our arms over each others shoulders, for what would be the last time. He passed away eight months later.
"What I have left of him are the memories of looking to the sidelines after I scored a goal in youth soccer and seeing him losing his mind. The memories of competing in backyard pool basketball and never figuring out how to beat him in ping pong. And the memory of celebrating Notre Dame beat Miami one last time.
"In every crowd, there is a son, a daughter, or a friend creating a memory with someone they love — and oftentimes it has nothing to do with whether or not there's a trophy on the line. Some people say sports don't matter. Well, I'd argue they matter an awful lot."
✍️ Submit your story: What's your fondest sports memory? Could be anything! Reply to this email letting me know. We'll be telling your stories all month.
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "Ball don't lie" Baker
Trivia answer: Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 (Patriots 28, Seahawks 24)