👋 Happy Thursday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,285 words (5 minutes)
Cute pic, you guys!!! Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
As the league's top teams move away from a "Big Three" structure to one defined by "Big Twos," they're faced with a decision.
How it's playing out:
The backdrop: "Staggering is a strikingly new approach," writes The Ringer's Zach Kram. On average, the highest-scoring duos this century played 83% of their minutes together, and Westbrook and Kevin Durant were up near 90% in Oklahoma City.
What to watch: We'll get our first glimpse of the Clippers' "Big Two" tonight, with Paul George expected to make his long-awaited debut against the Pelicans.
Coming up (full schedule):
Rafael Nadal pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks of his career at the ATP Finals, beating Daniil Medvedev, 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4)
Why it matters: The win gave Nadal's hopes of finishing as the year-end No. 1 a significant boost, putting him 640 points ahead of Novak Djokovic, who must beat Roger Federer today to give himself a chance.
P.S. ... In other tennis news, the Bryan brothers — widely recognized as the greatest men's doubles team ever — announced that they will retire at the 2020 U.S. Open.
RICHMOND, Va. — VCU took down former coach Will Wade (whose face was plastered on signs throughout the arena in light of the recent FBI investigation) and No. 24 LSU, 84-82.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Coach Jay Wright and No. 10 Villanova got smoked by Duane Washington Jr. (14 points) and No. 18 Ohio State, 76-51.
MINNEAPOLIS — Former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins — who many pundits had all but given up on — is lighting it up this year, averaging 25.9 points per game (11th in NBA) and just 1.5 turnovers, the fewest of any player averaging 21+ points.
I've been thinking about horse racing a lot lately, which feels like it's at a tipping point in the U.S. ... while remaining culturally and economically significant around the globe ... and sitting at the forefront of the sports betting industry. There's a lot going on.
Go deeper: These links will provide a nice primer on the industry as a whole. If you only have time for one, read Bloomberg's piece on the gambler. Mind-shattering.
At 5:38pm ET on Monday, the official Oregon Ducks Nike store tweeted that Sabrina Ionescu jerseys were (finally) available. By 7:40pm ET, they were sold out.
The major league minimum salary will rise to $563,500 next season, an increase of $8,500 from last year ($555,000).
Zlatan Ibrahimović and the LA Galaxy have mutually agreed to part ways following a two-year stint that saw him score 52 goals.
76 years ago today, Chicago Bears QB Sid Luckman became the first player in NFL history to throw seven TD passes in a game in a 56-7 drubbing of the New York Giants.
Why it matters: Nearly eight decades later, Luckman's record still stands. Seven players have matched it, but not a single QB has ever thrown more.
All-around player: Less than two months later, Luckman led the Bears past the Redskins, 41-21, to win the 1943 NFL championship. He tossed five TD, out-rushed the entire Washington Redskins team, returned two punts, intercepted two passes and even handled the punting duties.
Go deeper: When Sid thew seven (SB Nation)
Axios Sports reader Richard Rosen recently published a book about Luckman's incredible career and tragic family past. Figured I'd share here if you're in need of a new book/want to support a fellow member of the community.
"I used to play touch football across the street from the home of the retired Luckman when I was a kid in Highland Park, Ill. For Bears fans, he was a god, the Tom Brady of the 1940s.
"So when I read an obscure reference to his father's murder on the internet, I jumped on the story, which touches so many subjects: my own childhood, pro football, organized crime and a terrible, terrible family secret."— Richard Rosen tells me
VICE followed two New York-based air guitar enthusiasts, Matt "Airistotle" Burns and Brittany "Georgia Lunch" Diaz, as they competed in the Air Guitar National Championship in Nashville last week.
Watch on YouTube: How is this real?!
Justin Verlander (Astros) and Jacob deGrom (Mets) both won their second career Cy Young Awards last night.
Answer at the bottom.
In the early 2000s, life in the WNBA for Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird paled in comparison to the lavish treatment they received in Russia's pro league, courtesy of team owner Shabtai Kalmanovich, a mysterious billionaire and former spy.
"The ESPN personality formerly known as the Most Hated Man in Sports Media has become something altogether new: a star we can agree on."
According to The Athletic, sophomore Emoni Bates is the best high school hoops player in America, regardless of class. The 15-year-old Michigan native recently graced the cover of SI and might be the best prospect since LeBron.
Kendall "All aboard the Andrew Wiggins hype train" Baker
Trivia answer: Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw