👋 Good morning! Today's Axios Sports is a brisk 1,336 words (~ 5 mins).
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
For the past eight seasons, a LeBron James-led team has made the NBA Finals — a streak that officially ends at 9pm ET tonight.
Why it matters: While LeBron remains the NBA's most recognizable star, it's fitting that this year's Finals pit two of his longtime postseason rivals — the Warriors (who he rarely beat) and the Raptors (who he always beat) — against each other in his absence.
The backdrop: In 2010, the Lakers — led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom — beat the Celtics' big three in the NBA Finals. One year later, LeBron took Miami to the promised land.
Timeline: Looking back on the "Finals LeBron" era, which ends tonight.
Photo: Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images
Why yes, that headline is a tongue twister. Now say it three times fast.
After firing a laser off the post with two minutes left in regulation, Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson scored the game-winner on a delayed penalty 3:51 into overtime to give St. Louis a 3-2 victory and tie the series at a game apiece.
What's next: Game 3 is Saturday night in St. Louis. Can't even imagine how loud that arena is going to be.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images
A young girl at last night's Cubs-Astros game in Houston was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Chicago's Albert Almora Jr. and taken to the hospital. (An update on her status hasn't been made public.)
The backdrop: All 30 big league teams extended their protective netting to at least the far end of the dugouts last season after several fans were injured by foul balls in 2017.
The bottom line: "Figuring out a solution — protecting people — is more than well worth whatever time and expense it takes. Stadiums in Japan and Korea feature netting from foul pole to foul pole, so it's clearly possible," writes ESPN's Jeff Passan.
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN — Eden Hazard kisses the trophy following Chelsea's 4-1 win over Arsenal in the Europa League Final. In a postgame interview, the 28-year-old Hazard said "I think it's goodbye," all but confirming that he'll be moving to Real Madrid next season.
PARIS — 30 years ago, 17-year-old Michael Chang (above, wearing hat) won the 1989 French Open, snapping a 34-year drought for American men. Now, he's back in Paris coaching Japan's Kei Nishikori. Go deeper.
FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. — Stanford beat Texas 3-2 yesterday to claim its ninth NCAA men's golf title. A week ago, Duke topped Wake Forest for the women's title, snapping the Pac-12's run of four straight championships.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Private lender SoFi will pay roughly $400 million over 20 years to put its name on the new stadium that the Rams and Chargers will share in Inglewood, Calif., according to multiple reports.
By the numbers: The price is in line with what MetLife pays annually for the rights to the stadium that the Giants and Jets share in East Rutherford, N.J.
The big picture: As noted by Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times, the new Inglewood stadium carries enhanced value that could make the SoFi name synonymous with L.A. in record time.
Photo: Bettman/Getty Images
50 years ago today, Mario Andretti won his first and only Indianapolis 500 race after leading for 116 total laps and finishing with a run time of 3:11:14.71.
The big picture: Andretti is the only driver in the history of planet Earth to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and Formula One World Championship.
Answer at the bottom.
P.S. ... Yesterday's trivia question stated that Kawhi Leonard is the third player in NBA history with at least 11 games of 30+ points in a single postseason. It should have included "prior to the NBA Finals" as a qualifier. Forgive me.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
From Mike Sykes: The Scripps National Spelling Bee finals begin this morning in Washington, D.C. (10am ET, ESPN2).
By the numbers: The field of 562 has been dwindled down to 50 and the remaining spellers are raring to go.
Go deeper: Meet the finalists
See you tomorrow,
Kendall "Can you use it in a sentence, please?" Baker
Trivia answer: David Price