May 21, 2019

Axios Sports

👋 Happy Tuesday morning! And happy Tuesday night...

  • 8pm ET: Sharks at Blues (STL leads 3-2)
  • 30 minutes later: Bucks at Raptors (MIL leads 2-1)
1 big thing: 🏀 Too many Lakers in the kitchen
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Photos: Getty Images; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Former do-it-all point guard and current Twitter analyst Magic Johnson joined ESPN's "First Take" yesterday morning to explain his decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations last month.

What happened: Throughout the interview, Magic described an organization lacking a true chain of command and in desperate need of a more organized power structure.

  • He mentioned people like controlling owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and COO Tim Harris, but one look at the Lakers' front office reveals just how many more cooks are in this kitchen.
  • More cooks: Linda Rambis (manager of special projects) is Jeanie's best friend and has been described as a "shadow owner"; her husband Kurt (senior basketball adviser) has emerged as a powerful voice; and then there's all the family members and Lakers royalty on the periphery.

Between the lines: Magic's main target yesterday was Pelinka, who he claimed was talking negatively about him behind his back — specifically telling people that he wasn't working hard.

  • The word "betrayal" was used and when asked if there were others involved in this "backstabbing," Magic responded with, "No, just Rob." It honestly felt like a scene straight out of a middle school principal's office after two kids got in a fight at recess.
  • Magic seemed to respond to Pelinka's criticisms (which Pelinka denies he said) by suggesting that him not being at the office shouldn't have been a problem because he told Jeanie before she hired him that he was going to be "in and out" due to his other businesses and she was fine with that.
  • He went on to say that the "straw that broke the camel's back" was him wanting to fire Luke Walton and Jeanie flip-flopping on it and looping in people like Harris, who Magic didn't think should be involved in basketball decisions.

The bottom line: We should take these comments with a grain of salt, as we're only getting Magic's side of the story and I sense he was a much bigger part of the problem than he realizes. Overall, though, this is the crux of the issue:

"Jeanie needs to empower someone. … What happens is everyone has their opinions and there is so much information coming at her. When I say, 'We have to do this,' she can't make a decision because people are saying, 'Don't go Magic's way, go left.' … You can't run a corporation like this. You can't let everyone think they can have a voice or opinion about the final decision."
— Magic Johnson

P.S. ... Is this the most disrespectful question of all time? I can't stop watching.

2. 🎰 Nasdaq is more than a stock exchange

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spotlight Series: Each day this week, we'll be highlighting a sports-related company that's worth knowing more about. Yesterday we covered Fanatics. Today we'll be covering Nasdaq.

When you think of Nasdaq, chances are you think of the U.S.-based stock exchange. However, the company has numerous other lines of business, none more interesting than their foray into sports betting.

What Nasdaq does: In addition to operating its own stock exchange in New York, Nasdaq is a technology provider for other global marketplaces. One of its core customers: sports betting operators.

  • "We've partnered with two of the world's leaders in horse racing to dramatically change what they do in terms of a product offering," Scott Shechtman, Nasdaq's head of New Markets, told me.
  • One of those customers is the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which sees 50% more money wagered on horse racing each year than the entire U.S. (and Hong Kong has just 7.8 million people).
  • Mind-blowing fact: The Jockey Club is such a massive business that 8% of the Hong Kong government's revenue comes from the taxes that it pays.

The backdrop: The rise of in-play betting (ability to place bets after events have started) has taken the systems that were built for the retail or very early online eras, and it has completely overwhelmed them. Everything has been digitized and, in the process, sped up.

  • "As an operator, you increasingly need more data and you need it fast, you need bets to run through your system quickly and you need to be able to handle peak times. Well, guess what? That sounds a whole lot like a stock exchange," said Schechtman.
  • "So we took this technology called Longitude that was born in the financial markets and had its heritage in trading, and we re-engineered it to work for sports betting because it was based on similar principles."
  • And let's not forget: Just like stock markets must police themselves to prevent manipulative trading or anything else nefarious, sports betting operators have those same challenges. Nasdaq's technology helps monitor all of that, too.

The bottom line: The same changes that have happened to the financial markets over the past few decades are happening to the sports betting markets, too, making Nasdaq an ideal partner for sports books around the globe.

3. The wide world of women's sports


College softball: Trine University (Indiana) advanced to the Division III Women's College World Series after executing the hidden-ball trick of the century. You have to see this.

College softball (cont'd): Meanwhile in Division I, top-seeded Oklahoma was one of seven seeded teams facing win-or-go home games on Sunday. All seven prevailed.

Media: With the WNBA set to tip-off on Friday, The Athletic just announced that its expanding its coverage to give readers on-the-ground access to all 12 teams. Love to see it.

Hockey: A month after the Canadian Women's Hockey League folded, over 200 of the world's top players have formally launched the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association in an effort to help create a "single, viable women's professional league in North America."

Soccer: Lyon (France), the gold standard in women's club soccer, beat Barcelona 4-1 on Saturday to claim its record fourth straight Champions League title.

Track and field: Championship sprinter Dutee Chand, 23, has become India's first openly gay pro athlete, less than a year after the country's top court overturned a longstanding ban on gay sex.

4. 🏀 Warriors stage another comeback; sweep Blazers

Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images


  • Final: Warriors 119, Trail Blazers 117 (GSW wins 4-0)
  • Recap: The two-time defending champs overcame a double-digit deficit for the third straight game to advance to their fifth straight NBA Finals.
  • MVPs: Draymond Green (18-14-11) and Steph Curry (37-13-11) became the first teammates to record triple-doubles in the same playoff game.

Go deeper:

5. 🎮 NCAA decides not to govern college esports

From Mike Sykes: After months of internal discussion, the NCAA has opted not to govern and hold championships for collegiate esports, Sports Business Journal reports.

The backdrop: The NCAA hired a consulting firm to research what esports would look like under their umbrella. Long story short, they don't really know.

  • It was unclear how an esports championship would work and whether winnings would affect college scholarship opportunities. The board also wasn't sure if esports would be considered a fall, winter or spring sport.

Why it matters: Had the NCAA decided to get into esports, it would have instantly provided much-needed infrastructure for an industry that lacks a true talent pipeline. So this stings a little bit.

  • The other side: The NCAA may have blocked players from earning prize money, which is a huge aspect of professional gaming. Plus, the industry is already attempting to create professional pathways on its own, so it might not need the NCAA.

The bottom line: The NCAA is done with esports for now, leaving third-party organizations to continue growing the industry and establishing leagues and competitions.

6. 🏒 May 21, 1979: Canadiens complete four-peat

Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images

40 years ago today, the Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final to win their fourth consecutive championship.

  • Fun fact: This wasn't the Canadiens' first four-peat. From 1956 to 1960, they won five straight titles.
  • The big picture: The Canadiens lead the NHL with 24 championships, but haven't been to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993.

🎥 Watch: Trophy ceremony

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Mike Trout is one of six AL players to hit 250 homers before their age 28 season.

  • Question: Who are the other five?
  • Hint: Their initials are AR, JF, KG, MM and JG.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images

BALI, INDONESIA — Carissa Moore of Hawaii exits the water after a freesurf session at the 2019 Corona Bali Protected, a World Surf League event. Go deeper.

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — Rafael Alba of Cuba competes against Maicon Siqueira of Brazil in the semifinal of the Mens +87kg during Day 5 of the World Taekwondo Championships. See all the medal winners.

Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

ONTARIO, CALIFORNIA — Cyclists during Stage 6 of the 14th Amgen Tour of California, the only World Tour race in the U.S. Cool video showing the routes the men and women took.

9. 🎰 Tonight's Pick 3

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Axios Pick 3 is powered by The Action Network, your one-stop shop for all things sports betting. Download the app today.

1. 🏀 Will the Bucks (-2.5) cover the spread against the Raptors?

  • Know this: The Bucks are 22-1 straight up and 19-4 against the spread after a loss this season, covering the spread by 7.2 PPG.

2. 🏒 Will the Sharks score over or under 2.5 goals against the Blues?

  • Know this: The Sharks are averaging three goals per game in the playoffs.

3. 🏀 How many combined points and rebounds will Giannis have tonight?

  • Know this: He's averaging 26.1 PPG and 13 RPG in the playoffs.
  • Multiple choice: 32 or less, 33-37, 38-42, 43-47, 48 or more.

🎰 Play now: Make your picks (cutoff time: 8pm ET)

Yesterday's results: 25.2% correctly predicted that the Warriors (-3.5) would NOT cover the spread … 41.7% correctly predicted that Warriors-Trail Blazers would go over 220 points … 8.3% correctly predicted that Jake Arrieta would surrender 1 run against the Cubs.

  • Five players nailed all three: Sandra Smith (Philadelphia); Bret Ritter (Troy, Ohio); Dylan Rye (Longmeadow, Mass.); Jacob Milligan (Carlisle, Penn.); Victor Cooper (Atlanta)

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Poor Frank" Baker

Trivia answer: Alex Rodriguez, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle and Juan Gonzalez