Apr 16, 2020

Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! The Axios app is finally here! More info below (see item No. 3).

Today's word count: 1,723 (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏀 Inside the 2020 recruiting class
Data: 247Sports; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

College basketball's regular signing period began yesterday, and with only a handful of players still undecided, the 2020 recruiting class has begun to take shape, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.

By the numbers: The chart above specifically captures the 119 four- and five-star recruits, per 247 Sports.

  • 40 players come from four states: California (14), Georgia (11), Virginia (8), Florida (7).
  • 39 locations represented: 34 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand.
  • 57 schools: The 119 recruits have committed to 57 different schools, while five players are hoping to jump straight to the NBA and six remain undecided.
  • 7 schools: There were seven schools who ended the 2019-20 season in the AP Top 25 but failed to land a single four- or five-star recruit (Dayton, San Diego State, Villanova, Seton Hall, BYU, Butler, Iowa).


  • Top 10 recruits: 1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), 2. Evan Mobley (USC), 3. Jalen Green (undecided), 4. Terrence Clarke (Kentucky), 5. Ziaire Williams (Stanford), 6. Scottie Barnes (FSU), 7. B.J. Boston (Kentucky), 8. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), 8. Greg Brown (undecided), 10. Joshua Christopher (Arizona State).
  • Top 10 classes: Kentucky and Duke lead the way with six four- and five-star recruits each, while North Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, NC State, Oklahoma State and Gonzaga round out the top 10.

The backdrop: College basketball used to be a place where teenage superstars introduced themselves to the world and first became household names.

  • But in an era where star athletes have already built "brands" by the time they graduate high school — and with the one-and-done rule expected to be reversed by 2022 — the role of college hoops is in flux.
  • For some top-tier talent, like No. 10 prospect Christopher, college is merely a mandated pit stop en route to the NBA.

What they're saying: Here's Josh's father, Laron Christopher, speaking with The Athletic (subscription):

"I asked every college that we've spoken to, 'OK, you guys have a platform. We have a brand.' I told them, 'We're not going to stay [in college] forever, so we want to know how you're gonna roll this out. How can we use your platform to increase our brand, as well as your brand? Both are important. They're important to you, they're important to us.'"

P.S. ... This recruiting class is chock full of NBA legacies, with Jamal Mashburn Jr., Kenyon Martin Jr., Jabri Abdur-Rahim (Shareef's son), Makur Maker (Thon's brother) and Marcus Bagley (Marvin's brother) all among the top 100.

2. 💵 How college sports make money
Reproduced from NCAA Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Where does the money come from in college sports? Depends on the division. While football powerhouses bathe in TV money, the lower divisions rely almost entirely on government and institutional support.

By the numbers: In 2018, Power 5 schools made 34.1% of their revenue from media rights deals, 19.5% from ticket sales and 5% from government and institutional support, per NCAA data.

  • As you move down the divisions — and even within Division I, itself — those numbers gradually flip.
  • By the time you get to D-III, 84.1% of revenue is coming from government and institutional support, and ticket sales (0.6%) and media rights (0.6%) are non-factors.

Division I (Power 5)

  • Media rights: 34.1%
  • Ticket sales: 19.5%
  • Gov't/institutional support: 5%
  • Student fees: 1.8%
  • Other: 39.6% (24.2% from donor contributions and endowment; 9.2% from royalties, licensing and advertising)

Division I (non-Power 5)

  • Gov't/institutional support: 36.7%
  • Student fees: 17.9%
  • Media rights: 10.7%
  • Ticket sales: 7.9%
  • Other: 26.8% (12.5% from donor contributions and endowment; 6.2% from royalties, licensing and advertising)

Division I (FCS)

  • Gov't/institutional support: 56.8%
  • Student fees: 13.5%
  • Media rights: 5.3%
  • Ticket sales: 4.1%
  • Other: 20.3% (11.4% from donor contributions and endowment; 2.6% from royalties, licensing and advertising)

Division II (schools with football)

  • Gov't/institutional support: 75.6%
  • Student fees: 10.5%
  • Ticket sales: 1.4%
  • Media rights: 0.7%
  • Other: 11.8% (6.5% from donor contributions and endowment; 1.2% from royalties, licensing and advertising)

Division III (schools with football)

  • Gov't/institutional support: 84.1%
  • Student fees: 4.6%
  • Ticket sales: 0.6%
  • Media rights: 0.6%
  • Other: 10.1% (6.4% from donor contributions and endowment; 0.5% from royalties, licensing and advertising)
3. 🚨 New: The Axios app is here

Graphic: Axios

You asked for it! We're unveiling an Axios mobile app — an efficient, delightful experience:

Why it matters to you:

  • The app's design is elegant simplicity, allowing you to intuitively consume news in Smart Brevity™.
  • The app captures our thinking on the future of news and newsletters — a watch-listen-read experience.
  • You can sign up for push notifications for breaking news, and get exclusive updates from me.

What's next: Please download the Axios app on your iPhone or Android device, and make sure to follow the "Sports" channel once you're inside.

  • We'd love your thoughts: Please reply to this email, or drop me a line at kendall@axios.com.
4. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
  • 🇺🇸 Coronavirus map: The U.S. recorded its worst single-day death toll from COVID-19 Wednesday. More than 2,400 deaths were reported — taking the total to over 30,800, per Johns Hopkins.
  • 🏈 First NFL positive test: Rams center Brian Allen is the first active NFL player to publicly acknowledge that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He began to feel symptoms three weeks ago but is now feeling much better.
  • 🏀 Tina Charles trade: The New York Liberty traded All-Star Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics as part of a three-team deal. The defending champion Mystics are now even better, and the Liberty have five of the top 15 picks in tomorrow's draft, including the No. 1 pick.
  • 💔 Halladay's death: According to a new National Transportation Safety Board report, Baseball Hall of Famer Roy Halladay was doing extreme acrobatics and had high levels of amphetamines in his system when his plane nosedived into the Gulf of Mexico in 2017, killing him.
  • ⛳️ All 50 states: After 20 years, Jim and Emily Mangam of Park Ridge, New Jersey, completed their goal of playing golf in all 50 states. "I really enjoy being with her, watching her hit,” said Jim, a 13 handicap. "And I think I get more excited over her good shots than she does. It's just a great time."
5. 🏈 The century's most valuable NFL draft picks

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

We have a firm grasp of this century's best football players (see: all-decade teams for the 2000s and 2010s), but who are the best picks?

  • The NFL draft is all about finding value, and the following players provided their teams with the biggest returns on investment, according to The Ringer's Robert Mays.

Top 10:

  1. Tom Brady, 2000 (199th pick)
  2. Russell Wilson, 2012 (75th)
  3. Aaron Rodgers, 2005 (24th)
  4. Steve Smith, 2001 (74th)
  5. Antonio Brown, 2010 (195th)
  6. Ben Roethlisberger, 2004 (11th)
  7. Richard Sherman, 2011 (154th)
  8. Dak Prescott, 2016 (135th)
  9. David Bakhtiari, 2013 (109th)
  10. Jason Witten, 2003 (69th)

Full list.

6. April 16, 1987: 🏀 MJ 3000
Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

33 years ago today, Michael Jordan dropped 61 on the Hawks in the Bulls' penultimate game, nudging him past 3,000 points for the season.

  • Why it matters: In just his third year in the league, MJ became the second player in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain) to score 3,000 points in a single season.
  • By the numbers: Jordan played all 82 games and averaged a career-best 37.1 points per game, while shooting 48.2% from the field and just 18.2% from three-point-range (on less than one attempt a night).
  • The big picture: MJ and Wilt own the top six, single-season point totals, with Kobe's 2005-06 season (2,832 points) behind them in seventh place.

The bottom line: With modern load management strategies, it's hard to envision anyone else breaking the 3,000-point barrier, though Harden's amazing 2018-19 season came close (fell 182 points shy).

  • Yes, but: We also never thought we'd see someone like Steph Curry, who can hit five threes a night at a 45% clip, so as the game continues to evolve, who knows what seemingly unbreakable record will be the next to fall.

🎥 Watch: The entire Bulls vs. Hawks game, which included a game-winning jumper by Dominique Wilkins over MJ with 11 seconds left.

7. ⚾️ Kershaw's obsession with time
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

"Clayton Kershaw is waiting for baseball. Will he run out of time?" The latest masterpiece from the great Wright Thompson:

"Every profile ever written about Kershaw includes a list of all the weird stuff that we just accept because he's a ballplayer. If any of our co-workers insisted on, say, taking a sip of water at exactly 6:20, or running on the field at exactly 6:23, or if they got real anxiety if stadium officials changed the time of the national anthem, we'd call human resources to try to get the guy some help.
"I kept reading about this strange and intense ordering of his professional life when something hit me. What do all of those things actually have in common? What is he always trying to control? Do you see it?
"Drinking from a cup of water at the exact same moment. Running onto the field exactly three minutes later. Freaking out over a 90-second delay in 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' Never, ever being late. ... Clayton Kershaw isn't obsessed with control. He's obsessed with time."

Keep reading.

8. The Ocho: 🤹‍♀️ "Jollyclub"


Jollyclub is a mix between volleyball and juggling. After catching the "volley club," you're allowed to do one rotation of juggles before passing to a teammate or returning it.

9. 🏀 NBA draft trivia

In recent years, players like LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton have opted to play overseas rather than in college before entering the draft.

  • Question: Who was the first player to be selected in the NBA draft after skipping college to play professionally in Europe for a year?
  • Hint: 10th pick in 2009.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why sports matter
Dave and his father. Courtesy: Dave M.

Dave M. (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania) writes:

"My parents got off the plane from Alexandria, Egypt, in October 1958. They settled in Central Jersey, where I was born a few years later. They were very Old World, sophisticated and learned, but ... Old World. They liked literature, classical music, poetry — virtually everything that I had no interest in.
"Mom became a high school English teacher, so naturally was more connected to American culture through her students. But my engineer father showed very little interest in or emotion about my world, as was both culturally appropriate for him, and the ethos of the time.
"When I was seven or eight, a family moved in next door with two boys. John, the older boy, was a great athlete and a natural draw to a kid like me who desperately wanted to fit in. He was also a Yankees fan, so I thought to myself, 'that sounds good to me' and from then on, I was a Yankees fan, too.
"One act of engagement/devotion that my father did demonstrate regularly was to take me to Yankees games. We would get on the bus, head into the city and then take two subways to get to the stadium.
"I can still remember the excitement of the subway emerging on the elevated track and Yankee Stadium appearing like a vision. I can also recall my father once sitting though an entire game reading a book on metallurgical engineering.
"He may not have cared about the game, or the Yankees, or sports in general, but he cared about me, and a trip to the ballpark was how he articulated that.
"So sports served two purposes for me: a bridge to the American world and a bridge to my father. Today, in the coronavirus era, that bridge is a little broken, and I'm patiently waiting for it to come back."

✍️ Submit your story: What's your fondest sports memory? Could be anything! Reply to this email letting me know. We'll be telling your stories all month.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "See you in the app" Baker

Trivia answer: Brandon Jennings