👋 Good morning! Japanese organizers and the IOC decided this morning that the Tokyo Olympics will now open on July 23, 2021, and run through Aug. 8.
Today's word count: 1,778 words (7 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Sports are on pause and there's no timetable for their return. In the interim, leagues, teams and athletes are getting creative with ways to keep fans engaged.
Driving the news: The BIG3 has joined forces with Endemol — producers of popular reality shows like "Big Brother" and "Biggest Loser" — to create a hybrid reality show and preseason tournament, starring 16 quarantined players.
How it will work: After receiving a negative test result, 16 players and a set number of referees will be quarantined in a Los Angeles-area home where they will live together and compete in a three-week tournament.
The big picture: While leagues all around the world wait until it's safe to return to sports, the BIG3 is creating the safe conditions themselves. Whether that's admirable, smart, opportunistic or irresponsible — or some combination of the four — is a question worth asking. So I did. Here's Kwatinetz's answer:
"Ice Cube and I, we entertain. That's what we do. It's certainly not as important as what doctors or others do, but that's our contribution to society. So, if we can keep people healthy and safe and also give them things that make them happy — like sports and entertainment — we're going to do it."— Jeff Kwatinetz, BIG3 co-founder
What to watch ... As the NBA weighs how to resume play in a safe and timely manner, it's considering its own version of quarantine basketball.
When the Premier League season was suspended, Liverpool had a 25-point lead atop the standings and was two wins away from securing the league title, which would have been the club's first in 30 years.
Driving the news: Multiple Premier League clubs want to end the current campaign immediately and replay it in full once it's deemed safe, which would deny Liverpool the league trophy it so clearly deserves, The Athletic's David Ornstein reports (subscription).
The state of play: A voided season would present the Premier League — and all soccer leagues that participate in international competitions and use promotion/relegation systems — with some unique challenges.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Joel Embiid. Pascal Siakam. Serge Ibaka. Those are three of the 15 active NBA players from Africa, and they represent an ever-strengthening link between African talent and American hoops.
What they're saying: The Africa-to-U.S. basketball trail "is littered with corrupt fly-by-night high schools and shadowy middlemen and academies that mislead families, run roughshod over immigration rules and sometimes commit federal crimes," per SI, which published an accompanying report.
How it works: For African teens to come to the U.S. legally, they must secure an I-20 visa, which allows them to study at a specific high school. But only certain institutions — like the since-shutdown Evelyn Mack Academy in Charlotte — are authorized to distribute these visas, making them hubs of illicit recruitment.
Looking ahead: The "60 Minutes" investigation, which helped lead to the closure of Evelyn Mack and the conviction of its owner, was undoubtedly a boon to kids like Christian and Blessing, and the NBA's soon-to-launch Basketball Africa League will hopefully bring more transparency and integrity to this pipeline.
Yesterday was the 18th straight day without MLB/NBA/NFL/NHL games, the longest stretch since Aug. 12–Sept. 3, 1994, during the MLB strike.
🔙 Time machine: This is what the world looked like in August 1994, the last time American sports fans went this long without sports...
FORT WORTH, Texas (virtually) — Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead sang the National Anthem remotely, Troy Aikman told drivers to start their virtual engines and Timmy Hill took the checkered flag at NASCAR's second virtual race on Fox. With the sports world leaning into simulations, the ultra-realism of racing sims appears to be giving motorsports an advantage.
"Tom Brady doesn't play 'Madden' to get ready for a game. But Denny Hamlin, if his team doesn't have practice time and he needs to get ready for a race, he'll use iRacing. That realism is appealing to sports fans who are thirsty for content. If you told me a week ago that these races would draw 900,000 viewers, I would have laughed at you. There's something here."— Scott Warfield, NASCAR managing director of gaming
HALLANDALE, Fla. — Gulfstream Park ignored a Broward County executive order closing nonessential businesses and kept races going through the weekend, arguing that horses must remain active to stay healthy.
ACROSS THE U.S. — To avoid golfers having to reach their hands into holes to retrieve their balls, some golf courses are raising the cups out of the ground and telling golfers to putt until they hit the elevated cup.
19 years ago today, a young Michael Phelps set the first of his 39 world records with a 1:54.92 in the 200m butterfly at the 2001 World Championships qualifiers in Austin, Texas.
Fast forward: Just last year, Hungary's Kristóf Milák set a new WR in the 200m fly with a 1:50.73 at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Rewind: Between Phelps' 1:54.92 in 2001 and Hungary's Kristóf Milák's 1:50.73 last year, the 200m fly WR was re-set seven times — all by Phelps.
🎥 Watch: Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and the greatest relay in Olympic history (YouTube)
3 ... 2 ... 1 ... send it.
Answer at the bottom.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The NCAA will vote today on how to handle eligibility relief for Division I student-athletes who participated in abbreviated spring sports seasons.
Click to vote: What do you think they'll decide?
Coming tomorrow: We'll dive into the NCAA's decision and what it means.
Kendall "OMG that photo of Phelps" Baker
Trivia answer: Dee Gordon (330)