Aug 2, 2019

Axios Sports

Kendall Baker

πŸ‘‹ Happy Friday! Let's sports.

  • Today's word count: 1,392 (~5 mins)
1 big thing: 🏈 The Pro Football HOF Class of 2019

Clockwise, from top left: Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Johnny Robinson, Gil Brandt, Ed Reed, Pat Bowlen, Tony Gonzalez. Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Tomorrow night, eight football legends will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (7pm ET, ESPN). Let's pay homage to some of the best to ever do it.

Champ Bailey, CB

  • Teams: Redskins (1999–2003), Broncos (2004–13)
  • Fun fact: Bailey is the first player from the 1999 NFL draft class to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
  • By the numbers: 12-time Pro Bowler; 52 career INTs (most among CBs during his career); still holds the record for most passes defended (203).
  • Highlight: Bailey's 100-yd INT return against the Patriots in the 2006 playoffs swung the game and set a then-NFL record for longest non-scoring play.

Tony Gonzalez, TE

  • Teams: Chiefs (1997–2008), Falcons (2009–13)
  • Fun fact: Gonzalez is the first tight end to ever be enshrined as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
  • By the numbers: 14-time Pro Bowler (tied for most all-time); 1,325 career receptions (2nd all-time among both WRs and TEs); missed just two games during his 17-year career.
  • Highlight: The NFL recently ranked Gonzalez the 45th-best player in league history. Check out his highlight reel.

Ty Law, CB

  • Teams: Patriots (1995–2004), Jets (2005), Chiefs (2006–07), Jets (2008), Broncos (2009)
  • Fun fact: Law is the nephew of Hall of Fame RB Tony Dorsett.
  • By the numbers: 5-time Pro Bowler; led league in INTs twice (1998, 2005); second-most INTs in a playoff game (picked off Peyton Manning three times in 2003 AFC Championship).
  • Highlight: Law's 47-yard INT return against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI helped the Patriots win their first championship.

Kevin Mawae, C

  • Teams: Seahawks (1994–97), Jets (1998–2005), Titans (2006–09)
  • Fun fact: Mawae served as the NFLPA president from 2008–2012 and presided over the league’s last lockout.
  • By the numbers: Eight-time Pro Bowler; started 117 straight games; blocked for 1,000-yard rushers in 13 of his 16 seasons.
  • Highlight: After breaking his right hand in 2004, Mawae taught himself to snap left-handed and played with a cast for the next six weeks.

Ed Reed, S

  • Teams: Ravens (2002–12), Texans (2013), Jets (2013)
  • Fun fact: Reed is the only player in NFL history to score on a punt return, INT return, fumble return and blocked punt.
  • By the numbers: Nine-time Pro Bowler; 1,590 career INT return yards (most all-time); nine postseason INTs (tied for most all-time).
  • Highlight: Reed's 107-yard INT return against the Eagles remains the longest in NFL history.

Johnny Robinson, S

  • Teams: Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs (1960–71)
  • Fun fact: When the AFL was absorbed into the NFL in 1970, Robinson was one of just 20 player who had played in all 10 AFL seasons.
  • By the numbers: Three-time AFL champion and one-time Super Bowl champion; led AFL in INTs in 1966 (10) and topped NFL in 1970 (10).
  • Highlight: His dominant performance in Super Bowl IV catapulted the Chiefs to the championship.

Gil Brandt, Cowboys executive

  • Fun fact: Before getting into football, Brandt was a baby photographer.
  • By the numbers: From the Cowboys' inception in 1960 until 1989, Brandt was the team's primary talent evaluator, guiding them to two championships and 20 straight winning seasons (1966–1985).
  • Go deeper: The man who devised the formula to find NFL stars (WSJ)

Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner

  • Fun fact: Bowlen also owned the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse and saw them win three championships (2014, 2016, 2018).
  • By the numbers: During Bowlen’s tenure as owner (1984 until his death in June), the Broncos had as many Super Bowl trips (seven) as they had losing seasons.
  • Go deeper: 'This one's for John' highlighted a HOF career (ESPN)
2. The roundup
Source: @KingJames

🚨 Tweet of the day: In a candid SI feature, Pelicans VP of basketball ops David Griffin called his time with the Cavaliers "miserable" and said he doesn't think LeBron is "the same animal anymore about winning." ... Oh no, David, what have you done?! Revenge-mode LeBron is now activated.

πŸ“š Long read: A 13-month investigation by ESPN's Outside the Lines resulted in the arrest of former Olympian turned track coach Conrad Mainwaring, who was accused of molesting 41 boys over a 44-year span. This is journalism.

🏈 Headline of the day: Broncos Coach Vic Fangio Passed His First Coaching Test, But Not His Kidney Stone (WashPost)

πŸ’ Today I learned: The 1919 NHL season remains the only season in North American sports history where the playoffs took place, but there was no champion. Influenza was involved.

⛳️ Watch this: Long-drive champion Maurice Allen crushed a ball across Niagara Falls, accomplishing a feat that many considered to be impossible (John Daly tried and failed in 2015).

3. πŸ€ Chart du jour
Expand chart
Data: Basketball Reference; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 2019–2020 NBA season is poised to be one of most wide open campaigns in recent memory, and teams are spending like it, Axios' Michael Sykes writes.

  • By the numbers: 12 teams have at least two max-level players (25%+ of the cap) and three teams have three (Warriors, Sixers, Trail Blazers).
  • The backdrop: The last time teams distributed their salary like this was during the 2003-04 season when 13 teams had at least two players making 25%+ of the cap.

P.S. … Are you a data nerd? We partnered with Sports Reference on this story, and they have their own stats-centric newsletter. Check it out.

4. 🏈 Clemson tops Coaches Poll


Clemson received 59 of 65 first-place votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, giving the Tigers the top spot in the preseason coaches ranking for the first time ever.

Top 10:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Ohio State
  6. LSU
  7. Michigan
  8. Florida
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Texas

11-25: 11. Texas A&M, 12. Washington, 13. Oregon, 14. Penn State, 15. Utah, 16. Auburn, 17. Wisconsin, 18. UCF, 19. Iowa, 20. Michigan State, 21. Washington State, 22. Syracuse, 23. Stanford, 24. Iowa State, 25. Northwestern


  • Conference breakdown: The Big Ten leads the way with seven ranked teams, followed by the SEC (six), Pac-12 (five), Big 12 (four) and ACC (two). The only ranked Group of 5 team is UCF.
  • Fun fact: Last year's preseason Top 5 was made up of the same five schools: 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Ohio State, 4. Georgia, 5. Oklahoma.
5. πŸƒπŸΏβ€β™‚οΈ Double-amputee hopes to compete in Olympics
Blake Leeper. Photo: Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Blake Leeper, a U.S. Paralympic athlete who was born with legs missing below the knees, wants to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next summer β€” but track's governing body, the IAAF, is fighting to keep him from doing so.

The backdrop: The question of whether a disabled runner could compete against able-bodied runners appeared to be settled when South Africa's Oscar Pistorius was permitted to compete at the 2012 London Olympics.

  • However, in the Pistorius case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the IAAF had failed to prove that he was at a competitive advantage and, thus, could not ban him.
  • The IAAF has since altered its rules, switching the burden of proof from itself to the disabled athlete, meaning Leeper must prove he is not at a competitive advantage.

The debate: Within the track community, it's universally accepted that blades help with straight away speed. But it's also universally accepted that they cause slower starts, so the advantages and disadvantages could ultimately cancel out.

What Blake is saying:

"You know how somebody says walk a mile in my shoes? I tell people to walk a mile in my legs ... [S]ome days my legs are swollen. They're sore. They're bleeding. They're bruised."
"Anybody that faces a disability, to look them in the face and say they have an advantage is just crazy to me. If that's the case, you'd see a lot more people amputating their legs."
β€” Blake Leeper, per WashPost

Go deeper: Two-minute doc about Blake (Vimeo)

6. Aug. 2, 2012: πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈ Phelps makes history

Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

Seven years ago today, Michael Phelps won gold in the men's 200m medley at the London Olympics, becoming the first Olympian to ever win 20 medals.

  • Fun fact: Phelps, who finished his Olympics career with 28 total medals, is the only swimmer to crack the top eight on the all-time list, joining four gymnasts, one cross-country skier, one fencer and one biathlete.
  • Watch: Phelps winning his 20th medal (YouTube)
7. 🏈 NFL trivia

Only two players in NFL history have led the league in rushing yards and won the Super Bowl in the same season.

  • Question: Can you name both players?
  • Hint: Both accomplished the feat in the 1990s.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: ⚽️ Freestyle football


"Freestyle football" is the art of doing tricks with a soccer ball, and for the last 11 years, Red Bull has put on an annual global competition called Red Bull Street Style because of course they have. Classic Red Bull event.

  • How it works: Two players, one ball, three minutes. The players alternate turns every 30 seconds and, once the three minutes are up, the judges choose the winner based on five categories: difficulty, all-around, originality, execution and control.
  • Watch: Highlights (YouTube)
Kendall Baker

Have a great weekend,

Kendall "I miss Phelps" Baker

Trivia answer: Emmitt Smith (1992, 1993, 1995) and Terrell Davis (1998)