Dec 18, 2019

Axios Sports

πŸ‘‹ Good morning! College football's Early Signing Day period runs today through Friday and will see ~80% of the 2020 class sign letters of intent. Here are some names to know.

Today's word count: 1,286 (5 minutes)

1 big thing: πŸ€ The rise of the deep three

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Thanks to long-range specialists like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard, the deep three (aka, a shot from at least three feet beyond the arc) is on the rise in the NBA and has quickly become one of the most influential shots of the decade.

Why it matters: Within a matter of years, the deep three has changed the way NBA games are played β€” stretching defenses, opening up clear driving lanes and, perhaps most importantly, influencing the next generation.

By the numbers: "Go to an NBA game in 2019 and you're more than twice as likely to see a 27-foot jumper than a 16-footer," writes ESPN's Kirk Goldberry. "In 2013-14, those numbers were complete opposites."

  • Most deep threes in 2013-14: Lillard (1.4 per game), Kendall Marshall (1.2), Curry (1.1), Kyle Lowry (0.9), Jordan Crawford (0.9)
  • Most deep threes in 2019-20: Trae Young (6.3 per game), Luka DončiΔ‡ (6.2), James Harden (5.9), Eric Gordon (4.9), Lillard (3.9)

The impact: NBA teams are increasingly taping down makeshift four-point lines on their practice courts to prepare their defenses for players willing to fire from there, while also encouraging better overall spacing habits.

The big picture: "Just as a young Kobe Bryant wanted to be like Mike, the prodigies of today seek to shoot like Curry and Lillard," writes Goldberry. "That means one thing for the future of the NBA: more deep-range splashes."

Go deeper: Three-pointers are leading the sports analytics revolution (Axios)

2. 🏈 Ravens dominate Pro Bowl selections


The Pro Bowl is meaningless, but the selections β€” which the league released last night β€” help tell the story of the season, highlighting the NFL's most consistent performers and its most dominant athletes.

King Lamar: MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson β€” who leads the league in TD passes (33) and ranks eighth in rushing yards (1,103) β€” received 100,000 more Pro Bowl votes than the next highest player (Russell Wilson). So many kids are going to be unwrapping his jersey in a few days.

β€œIf he gets to 35 to 40 touchdown passes and what he's done running the ball, Lamar has to be in the conversation of the best season by a quarterback. ... How many times can we say a player transcended the way the game is played? He has."
β€” Former MVP Kurt Warner, per ESPN

More takeaways:

  • Ravens coming in hot: Baltimore tied an NFL record with 12 selections: Jackson, RB Mark Ingram, FB Patrick Ricard, TE Mark Andrews, T Ronnie Stanley, G Marshal Yanda, LB Matt Judon, CB Marcus Peters, CB Marlon Humphrey, S Earl Thomas, K Justin Tucker and LS Morgan Cox.
  • Three or more selections: The Saints had the second-most Pro Bowlers (7), followed by the Chiefs (6), Eagles (5), Steelers (5), 49ers (4), Cowboys (4), Texans (3), Patriots (3), Bears (3), Vikings (3) and Bucs (3).
  • GOAT watch: Tom Brady, who is tied for the most-ever Pro Bowl selections (14), wasn't picked for the first time since 2008, when he tore his ACL. Meanwhile, Drew Brees, who leads the NFL in passer rating (115.3), earned his 13th berth despite missing five games.
  • Bosa bros: 49ers rookie Nick Bosa received the most fan votes of any defensive end in the NFC, while the Chargers' Joey Bosa topped the AFC.
  • Missing in action: The Giants and Dolphins were the only two teams not to have a player chosen.
3. πŸ“Ί Olympics, election hold up falling TV empire
Expand chart
Data: MAGNA Advertising; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

If it weren't for the 2020 Olympics and the 2020 election, TV advertising sales would be down again next year, according to advertising firm MAGNA, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Engaged live audiences have become a commodity for advertisers, and they are willing to spend big.
  • Driving the news: NBC Sports has sold $1 billion in national ad sales for the 2020 Tokyo Games, executives said on a call last week, and the company is on track to beat its prior record of $1.2 billion in domestic ad sales, set in 2016.
4. πŸ“Έ Pic du jour
Photo: Michel Cottin/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

COURCHEVEL, FRANCE β€” Italy's Federica Brignone (pictured above) won her first women's World Cup giant slalom in more than a year, passing USA's Mikaela Shiffrin for first place in the World Cup Standings.

  • Shiffrin, who opened the season with four straight podiums and two wins, finished a disappointing 17th.

πŸŽ₯ Watch: Brignone's winning run (YouTube)

5. ⚽️ Checking in on the FIFA Club World Cup

Photo: Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

The semifinal round of the FIFA Club World Cup is currently underway in Doha, Qatar.

  • Yesterday: Copa Libertadores winner Flamengo (Brazil) beat Asian Champions League winner Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), 3-1, to advance to the final.
  • Today: UEFA Champions League winner Liverpool (England) plays CONCACAF Champions League winner Monterrey (Mexico) at 12:30pm ET on FS2.

How it works: The tournament features the winners of the UEFA Champions League (Europe), Copa Libertadores (South America), CONCACAF Champions League (North America), AFC Champions League (Asia), CAF Champions League (Africa) and OFC Champions League (Oceania).

  • The host nation's national champions contest a playoff against the Oceania champions, and the winner of that game joins the champions of Asia, Africa and North America in the quarterfinals.
  • The quarterfinal winners then go on to face the European and South American champions, who enter at the semifinal stage.

P.S. ... In related news, the Champions League Round of 16 draw was released on Monday. Here are the pairings for the knockout stage, which begins in February:

  • Liverpool (England) vs. AtlΓ©tico Madrid (Spain); Chelsea (England) vs. Bayern Munich (Germany); Real Madrid (Spain) vs. Manchester City (England); Tottenham (England) vs. RB Leipzig (Germany)
  • Borussia Dortmund (Germany) vs. PSG (France); Napoli (Italy) vs. Barcelona (Spain); Lyon (France) vs. Juventus (Italy); Atalanta (Italy) vs. Valencia (Spain)
6. πŸ“Š By the numbers
Screenshot: @kingjames (Instagram)

πŸ”₯ 1,172 emojis

LeBron James used 1,172 emojis on Instagram in November (the fire emoji topped the list with 282 uses), per NYT's analysis. "All told, James averaged 26.3 points and 78.1 emojis a game for the Lakers" last month.

πŸ‘Ÿ 2 marathons in 51 days

2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden is running the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in February β€” and the 2020 Boston Marathon in April. That's two marathons in 51 days. I've run zero in 10,453 days.

πŸ€ 13 straight losses

The Pelicans fell to the Nets in overtime last night, their franchise-worst 13th straight loss. Could head coach Alvin Gentry's time in New Orleans be coming to an end? Will he ever get to coach Zion?

7. Dec. 18, 1949: 🏈 Philly beats L.A. in the mud

Photo: Vic Stein/Getty Images

70 years ago today, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 14-0, in the 1949 NFL Championship Game.

The backdrop: All-night rain had turned the field into a mud pit β€” the second straight championship game played under horrible conditions. In 1948, the Eagles won the title in a Philadelphia blizzard. One year later, they faced an L.A. flood.

"The field conditions really were horrible. ... What I remember is covering punts. In '48, the ball would disappear in the snow. In this game, it would actually sink out of sight in the goo."
β€” Eagles guard Duke Maronic, via Golden Football Magazine

Fun facts:

  • Eagles head coach Earle "Greasy" Neale didn't like to fly, so the team traveled to the West Coast by train, stopping in Illinois for a workout at the University of Chicago's Stagg Field, per the Chicago Tribune archives.
  • Thanks to the weather, only 22,245 of the expected 70,000 fans showed up, ruining the players' dreams of a big payday (they got a big cut of ticket sales). In the end, the Eagles got $1,090 apiece and the Rams got $789.


8. The Ocho: 🎯 Woman makes history in London

Photo: Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Yesterday, Fallon Sherrock became the first female darts player to beat a man at the PDC World Championship, the sport's flagship event.

  • Recap: "Sherrock, a former runner-up at the women's world championship, recovered from losing the opening set to beat Ted Evetts 3-2 in front of a raucous crowd at Alexandra Palace in London." (ESPN)
  • By the numbers: The 25-year-old Englishwoman made six 180s (a perfect score over three darts) and had a match average of 91.12.

πŸŽ₯ Watch: Sherrock's match-clinching throw (Twitter)

9. πŸ’ NHL trivia

Penguins star Evgeni Malkin last night became the eighth active NHL player to reach 400 career goals.

  • Question: Can you name the other seven active players with 400+ career goals?
  • Hint: Their last names start with the letters O, M, C, K, T and S (two players)

Answer at the bottom.

10. πŸ—“ Vote: Should I review the year or the decade?


For our New Year's Special Edition, would you prefer a look back on 2019? Or a look back on the 2010s?

Click to vote:

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "The Knicks scored 143 points" Baker

Trivia answer: Alexander Ovechkin (679), Patrick Marleau (557), Sidney Crosby (451), Ilya Kovalchuk (436), Eric Staal (429), Joe Thornton (413), Steven Stamkos (406)