👋 Good morning! Luka vs. Zion tonight (9:30pm ET, ESPN).
Today's word count: 1,910 words (7 minutes).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
With public support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues are reducing restrictions and punishments — though the NBA lags behind the other three.
By the numbers: Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is permitted in 33. 101 0f the 123 teams (82.1%) across the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL play in those states.
The holdouts: Only 22 teams are located in states where neither type of usage is legal, and over a third of them (8) are in Texas.
Go deeper ... Marijuana and the NBA: Erasing the stigma and healing the league (NBC Sports)
As the coronavirus spreads across the U.S. (105 cases, nine deaths), the sports world is taking all necessary precautions — but there have yet to be any large-scale postponements or cancellations like we've seen abroad.
Meanwhile, overseas: In Asia and Europe, where the majority of confirmed cases and deaths have occurred, multiple events have been postponed or canceled, and games are frequently being played without fans.
Go deeper: All the sports events hit by coronavirus (Reuters)
Josh Speidel was a highly-touted basketball prospect before a nearly fatal car accident during his senior year of high school put him in a coma and left him with a traumatic brain injury.
What he's saying: In a postgame interview, Josh acknowledged his fellow seniors — "I know I scored, but this night wasn't about me" — then joked that he considered missing so he could log an offensive rebound. "But ya know, I figured I might as well go 1-for-1 and shoot 100% in my college career."
The bottom line: I love sports, I love Josh Speidel and I love you.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With Gregg Popovich sidelined due to personal reasons, Tim Duncan served as head coach of the Spurs, leading them to a 104-103 win over the Hornets.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk immediately went down to the ice after taking a blade to the face, before skating off in pain.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers improved to 18-1 at home (school record for home wins) and bolstered its NCAA tournament hopes with a 78-67 win over No. 9 Maryland. The Scarlet Knights are now 8-0 against the spread vs. ranked opponents this season.
Adam Hansmann (left) and Alex Mather, co-founders of The Athletic. Courtesy: The Athletic
"Sportswriting's future may depend on The Athletic, which is either reassuring or terrifying," writes WashPost's Ben Strauss.
The big picture: The range of outcomes for the company and its massive newsroom still varies widely, but investors "believe its future hinges on a sale."
27 years ago, Jim Valvano delivered his iconic "don't give up, don't ever give up" speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards.
In related news ... Maura Mandt, the longtime executive producer of the ESPYs who grew it from a small show into one of the sport's calendars signature events, died unexpectedly last Friday. She was 53.
"Maura treated every year as a new chance to create moments that would inspire ... It was Maura who convinced 140 of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse survivors to come to Los Angeles ... It was Maura who crafted unforgettable tributes on the show to heroes like Pat Tillman ... It was Maura who honored Caitlyn Jenner in her first major appearance in the world, in many ways amplifying a conversation about shifting gender norms in our society."— Aaron Cohen, The Ringer
Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that actually predates standard tenpin bowling and is found mostly in New England and Eastern Canada.
How it works: There are two main differences between candlepin and tenpin bowling: the equipment and the gameplay.
What they're saying: Here's Slate's Elizabeth McCracken, who grew up playing candlepin bowling, on why it's harder (and better) than tenpin:
"Because both the pins and balls are lighter, play is unpredictable. People have been bowling perfect games in tenpin since the turn of the 20th century; nobody has ever bowled a perfect game of candlepin."
"In other words ... tenpin is easier. This is a statistical fact. Tenpin is a game of brute force and pure slapstick. Candlepin is full of heartbreak and poetry and luck. The pins dance and dodge. Sometimes they fall over when you least expect it. Sometimes they persevere."
Go deeper: The rules of candlepin bowling (YouTube)
Answer at the bottom.
Texas Tech, Kentucky and Minnesota are the most popular college basketball teams by county, according to a map powered by Vivid Seats ticket sales data.
By the numbers: Texas has by far the most counties of any state, including a number of sparsely populated ones near Texas Tech, so that's a big reason why the Red Raiders top the list. In 119 counties, they're the most popular team.
Kendall "Big Lebowski edition (weed + bowling + golf)" Baker
Trivia answer: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) and Jon Rahm (Spain)