⚜️ Happy Mardi Gras! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,588 words (6 minutes).
Photo: Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Hours after speaking at Kobe Bryant's memorial service in Los Angeles, Sabrina Ionescu flew to the Bay Area to rejoin her Oregon teammates — and proceeded to do something never done before in college basketball.
Driving the news: Ionescu became the first player in NCAA history, man or woman, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in No. 3 Oregon's 74-66 win over No. 4 Stanford.
"That one was for [Kobe]. To do it on 2-24-20 was huge. We talked about it in the preseason. I can't put it into words. He's looking down and proud of me and happy for this moment with my team."— Ionescu, per ESPN
Bonus: Ionescu also notched her 26th career triple-double (21-12-12), 14 more than any other player, and helped the Ducks clinch at least a share of their third straight Pac-12 regular-season title. And did I mention she did all of this just 50 miles from her hometown of Walnut Creek?
Why it matters: This monumental achievement cements Ionescu's place among college basketball's all-time greats and puts Oregon in position to write a storybook ending to her career with a national title.
The big picture: Kobe was an ardent supporter of women's hoops, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna looked destined for stardom. For Ionescu — who will forever be connected to them both — to reach this milestone on the same day millions celebrated Kobe and Gianna's lives is just special.
"[Kobe] didn't see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or as some side project, or as a charity case. He saw it as a movement. And he didn't get involved because he just wanted to be a fan of our movement. He got involved because he wanted to be a part of it."— Ionescu in The Player's Tribune
So no, I don't think it's a coincidence that Steph Curry showed up at last night's game to make sure he was there to witness women's sports history.
Looking ahead ... The 2020 WNBA season could be its most exciting ever. A chaotic offseason reshuffled the landscape and created new rivalries, 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart is back after missing all of last season and Ionescu will be a world-famous rookie — in New York, no less (Liberty own the No. 1 pick).
🎥 Watch: Sabrina's speech at Kobe's memorial service (YouTube)
Thousands upon thousands gathered at Staples Center yesterday to memorialize Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
"She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. They were funny, happy, silly and they loved life. ... God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to Heaven together."— Vanessa Bryant
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. ... He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."— Michael Jordan
"[A]s fans exited the building, many wanted to leave something behind. While they waited for the long lines to lead them out, they wrote emotional messages right on the pavement .... The speakers inside the arena got to tell their memories of Kobe and Gigi and say goodbye one last time; this was a way for fans to say theirs."— Paolo Uggetti, The Ringer
Go deeper: The intersection of emotion at Kobe Bryant's memorial (ESPN)
The novel coronavirus is spreading quickly in cities nowhere near Wuhan, China, and has begun impacting a slew of international sporting events as the window to prevent a global pandemic narrows.
What to watch: Japanese officials insist the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go on as planned, but the coronavirus has already begun to affect preparations. Per Intelligencer:
For weeks, the projected top seed line for the NCAA tournament looked the same: two teams from the Big 12 (Kansas and Baylor) and two teams from the West Coast (Gonzaga and San Diego State).
Most projected bids: Big Ten (10), Big East (7), Pac-12 (5), Big 12 (5), ACC (5), SEC (4), American (3), West Coast (3), Mountain West (2), Atlantic 10 (2)
Oregon's win over Stanford impacts the race for the four No. 1 seeds in the women's NCAA tournament, with the Ducks cementing their case and the Cardinal falling slightly out of the picture for now.
Most projected bids: Big Ten (8), SEC (7), Pac-12 (6), ACC (6), Big 12 (4), Big East (3), Missouri Valley (2), American (2), Conference USA (2), Colonial (2)
56 years ago today, a lightly regarded 22-year-old boxer from Louisville named Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston in seven rounds at Miami Beach's Convention Hall to win his first world heavyweight title.
The big picture, per SI's Richard Rothschild:
15 months later ... Ali knocked out Liston in the first round of their rematch, which produced one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century.
NEW ORLEANS — Today, New Orleans turns into a giant Mardi Gras celebration, but the party got started early this week for BMX athlete and Nola-area-native, Broc Raiford, who busted out his skills among the parade floats.
PERTH, Australia — Ashleigh Gardner poses before an Australian Women's T20 (shortened version of cricket) training session at Murdoch University. Love this photo. Good job, Ryan Pierse.
KAWASAKI, Japan — In the land of the rising sun, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is as big as WWE is in America.
Patrick Marleau and Ilya Kovalchuk have combined for 1,003 career goals and zero Stanley Cups, but after being moved at the NHL trade deadline (Marleau to Pittsburgh, Kovalchuk to D.C.), both have as good a shot as they've ever had.
Answer at the bottom.
Kendall "Tiny hands" Baker
Trivia answer: Steven Stamkos (422 career goals)