Category: Sports

Following the Mayweather Model, Errol Spence Jr. Wants to be Boxing’s Next PPV Star

When you block off almost an hour to sit down and chat with Errol Spence Jr., the first question you ask yourself is: How can it possibly go the distance?

For the briefest of seconds, you’re almost (and I can’t stress almost enough) in the same shoes as the IBF welterweight champion’s overmatched opponents. One of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world hasn’t seen the final round of a fight since 2014. He’s too good, too fundamentally sound, too devastatingly powerful for his bouts to last all 12 rounds these days. But as much noise as he’s generated inside the ring the last few years, outside of it, the 28-year-old from Desoto, Texas, keeps it quiet.

“This man talks with his action,” says Lennox Lewis, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. “He doesn’t need to do much talking.”  

It’s an atypical rainy winter day in downtown Los Angeles when Spence, the best boxer in the sport’s best division, rolls up to the Presidential Suite of the NoMad Hotel. With only two pals in tow, the reserved and soft-spoken champ, rocking designer duds and an absurdly expensive watch that glistens every time he moves his wrist, doesn’t attract too much attention. And that’s just fine with him. One of his idols might be Floyd Mayweather Jr., but you’ll never confuse the two, since Spence doesn’t take social media too seriously, keeps the bragging to a minimum, and almost never calls out another fighter.

But entering the most important year of his career, Spence might have to change his ways. For starters, the mild-mannered pugilist needs to endear himself to a bigger audience than boxing’s hardcore fans before his highly-anticipated fight with Mikey Garcia on March 16 at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. That’s because the bigger goal, for him, is to become boxing’s next pay-per-view star. “I don’t think I’ve officially arrived yet,” says Spence. But entering 2019, he’d like everyone to know he’s on “the brink of my superstardom.”

“When you watch him you’re pleased because he’s doing everything you want a boxer of his caliber to do. He can be a really big superstar.” – FORMER UNIDISPUTED HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION LENNOX LEWIS

If you haven’t been paying attention, Spence has rapidly become one of the baddest men on the planet. His fists either put opponents on the mat or make their corners throw in the towel. A southpaw who is bigger than many welterweights, Spence bristles when people label him a brawler because he prides himself on being a well-rounded fighter. He can counterpunch. He’s a sound defender. His body work usually leaves his opponents buckled. You see the brilliance as he strategically takes them apart. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/01/errol-spence-jr-wants-to-be-boxings-next-ppv-star

Playoff Mode? LeBron James and the Lakers Are Failing to Activate A move West came with dire warnings, but the reality is setting in that a James-led team might miss the playoffs.

LeBron James can’t say that he wasn’t warned.

Lots of us were crowing in the summer, and pretty loudly so, about what would greet the unquestioned Lord of the Eastern Conference if he dared to defect.

Sign with the Los Angeles Lakers if you wish, for the sunnier Hollywood life and all the perks, but brace yourself for the most trying regular season of your career if you decide to go West.

That was the gist of the scouting report — which in retrospect could not have been much more prescient.

On cue: The most daunting and, yes, disappointing season of James’s career is right here, right now, for the biggest name in basketball.

And it appears he will soon have to stomach that it’s going on his ledger in the most permanent ink that he was unable to bring a halt to the longest postseason drought in Lakers history — barring an unforeseen resurrection from a fractured group that sits four and a half games out of a Western Conference playoff berth with 19 games to go.

No matter how much culpability you wish to assign James for what is poised to go down as the Lakers’ franchise-record sixth successive trip to the draft lottery, he’s going to have to own this as much as the front-office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka as well as the under-fire coach Luke Walton.

The LeBron Way, for years and years, has worked something like this: He inevitably gets most of the credit when his team flourishes; his teammates absorb the bulk of the blame when things unravel. But this is different. This would be the jarring sight of James, fresh off his eighth consecutive finals appearance, actually missing out on the N.B.A. postseason for the first time since his second professional season in 2004-5, when he was just 20.

Even though he can rightly point to his recent groin strain as the biggest standings-altering disruption these Lakers have endured, James surely understands that his maiden campaign in Los Angeles is bound to be recorded in many precincts as a failure to make the playoffs that belongs to him. The Lakers are 4-7 since James returned from the groin injury that sidelined him longer (17 consecutive games) than any previous injury in his 16-year career. They have followed up an unsightly road loss to Atlanta in their final game before the All-Star break with harder-to-rationalize road losses to New Orleans, Memphis and Phoenix since the break.

After Saturday night’s humiliation against a 13-51 Suns team, which dropped the Lakers to 30-33, James’s gang only sports a 1.3-percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

They also have the league’s eighth-toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon.com.

We’ll never know if the Lakers, who had risen to a heady fourth in the West at 20-14 when James sustained the groin injury in a Christmas Day rout of Golden State, could have kept building upon that promising start with a healthy LeBron. But we most certainly do know that James’s mere return to the lineup, at 34, wasn’t enough to rescue a roster that has been assailed since conception for its lack of perimeter shooting and its defensive deficiencies. Nor has he been able to galvanize a locker room that was deeply destabilized by the Lakers’ trade pursuit of the New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis, which became all-consuming in late January, and has never recovered.

It obviously doesn’t help that James, after missing two key free throws in the final minute Saturday, is also converting a substandard 66.9 percent of his attempts from the line to give his critics more handy folder.

Leaving his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers last July without the accompaniment of a second superstar meant that James, in a far deeper conference, would have little margin for error just to reach the playoffs. When you combine James’s injury absence with the continuing post-Davis malaise and the team’s declining ball movement since Lonzo Ball (ankle) was sidelined six weeks ago, it adds up rather quickly to a margin that is long gone.

The calls for Walton’s dismissal, as they were in January, remain nonsensical. A coaching change now, much like New Orleans’s decision to fire General Manager Dell Demps shortly after the trade deadline, would have no discernible effect on the Lakers’ short-term prospects beyond providing their frustrated fans with a “See? We did something” sacrifice.

The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless.

Changes are coming, though. It’s an open secret that a big off-season reset looms in Lakerland. James always knew that his new club would not be in the title mix until his second campaign as a Laker, but his patience predictably faded quickly — one more reason desperation has become so palpable around this team.

Many of us know-it-alls in the news media indeed wrote in our preseason forecasts that the playoffs were no certainty for these Lakers, as constructed, but very few of us were actually willing to outright predict that they would miss out. Reason being: It’s not very smart to bet against LeBron Raymone James.

Yet we’ve suddenly reached that unprecedented juncture where it would be wholly irresponsible to advise you that James can extricate himself from this jam just because he’s LeBron. Whether it’s the lingering effects from his groin injury, or his own unmistakably waning spirit in the face of increasingly bleak odds, James has been lacking the zip you associate with his well-chronicled playoff mode — which he assured us on Feb. 21 had been “activated” earlier than usual.

I briefly stood beside James on the floor in Charlotte, N.C., before the All-Star Game tipped off and bought into the idea a surge was coming when he insisted he was eager to embrace “the challenge” of hauling the Lakers out of their hole.

“And I’m getting healthy, too,” James said that night.

A mere two weeks later, it’s already time to start imagining the N.B.A.’s first spring without King James after watching him for eight straight Junes — and wondering how on Earth he’s going to cope with not being a part of it.

Tom Brady vs. Michael Jordan: Who is the Real GOAT?

With the Patriots win over the Rams on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII, Tom Brady has now accrued more rings than any other player in NFL history.

He has also tied Michael Jordan’s mark of six championships.

You can rest assured that barber shops around the country are about to ignite with an all-important sports debate: Which GOAT is greater?

Critics will say that’s an impossible question to answer—you can’t compare two athletes who play totally different games! Nonetheless, you know the conversation is going to happen so we’re here to reduce some subjective uncertainty.

Though there’s no way to create a perfectly valid and reliable comparison between Brady and Jordan, we’ve shed light on the debate by breaking down each player’s key numbers. Afterward, we share our (admittedly imperfect) verdict on whose résumé is superior.

In one corner: TB12, the Cali QB who’s become Boston royalty. In the other: His Airness, the iconic No. 23 with the hoop earring. Let’s get ready to rumble.

Jordan: 6 (in 6 appearances)
Brady: 6 (in 9 appearances)

Jordan’s six-for-six mark is holy ground; that record is the main reason some folks won’t even listen to arguments about LeBron James (who’s gone 3-for-9 in the NBA Finals) being basketball’s best of all time. And there’s no short-selling its impressiveness—seriously, who goes six for six in championship matchups?

The question is, should Brady be penalized for getting close but falling short three times? Jordan made the finals in 6-of-15 seasons (.400). Brady has made the Super Bowl in 9-of-19. (.464). It’s ridiculous to penalize a player more so for losing in the championship than, say, the divisional round of the playoffs.

It should also be noted that Brady now possesses the most Super Bowl victories (six) in NFL history, whereas Jordan is tied for 10th (first-place Bill Russell is way ahead with 11).

Edge: Brady

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/02/tom-brady-vs-michael-jordan-who-is-the-real-goat/championships

The scripted chaos of Stephen Curry

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Like a seasoned yogi realizing he can deepen his stretch, there is a zen-like quality to Stephen Curry’s exacting hunt for the perfect shot.

On Sunday against the Nets, he continued his streak of making at least five threes in the first seven games of the season, breaking the record George McLoud set in 1995. Curry is on pace to shatter the single-season record in three-pointers made, which he set at 402 in 2015-2016, which shattered his own the previous record of 286 in 2014-15, which shattered his own previous record of 272 in 2012-13.

In the offseason, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I might be delusional, but I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.” His personal trainer, Brandon Payne, added that “he’s not even close” to his peak. Together, to hear it from Pablo Torre on ESPN’s High Noon, Curry and Payne devised a drill in which Curry had to hit 20 sets of shots, differing in spot and style, from the perimeter, and swish six of 10 free throws. It was called “Perfection.”

Up against the Warriors’ decadence, tried-and-true theories about the professional athlete’s insatiable drive fall away. It’s hard not to wonder why they’re not satisfied when they’re already deemed unbeatable. What an extravagance. And what do they have left to improve?

But the difficulty of Curry’s shots aren’t mere theatre. If he wants to actually shoot the ball, defenses are going to force the world’s best decoy to chase perfection and master chaos.

Consider: Opponents would rather allow Kevin Durant to play one-on-one against mismatches and let Jordan Bell throw down alley-oops than allow Curry to shoot threes. Hell, they’d rather let him get lay ups: the Warriors often free Curry up by running him off screens as he cuts to the rim, usually as a fake-out before he sprints to the corner pocket. Against the Jazz on Oct. 19, Curry was aggressively chased off the three-point line by Dante Exum and hounded on pick and rolls by Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, whose 7’9 wingspan gave Curry pause. They tugged at his jersey and laid him out with hard screens. Royce O’Neale even gave him a nosebleed. Curry didn’t hit a three until more than halfway through the second quarter, on a uniquely unguardable play illustrated by NBA analyst Jared Dubin.

Curry tried to push the game to devolve into chaos, his high-risk way of forcing the issue: boxing out for offensive rebounds, throwing dangerous outlets, whipping rainbow passes across the floor. But the Jazz’s length, athleticism, and discipline tipped the scales in their balance, up until Jonas Jerebko’s game-winning putback for the Warriors.

As though he took note, Curry had, to put it lightly, more success against the Wizards on Oct. 24, scoring 51 points and drilling 11 threes. The Wizards tried to switch and trap Curry mercilessly, forcing the ball out of his hands. The only problem: he got rid of it by flinging it into the basket.

READ MORE: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/10/31/18047242/stephen-curry-highlights-golden-state-warriors-mvp

LeBron James Loved It When Kendrick Lamar Showed Up At Lakers Practice

Life in Los Angeles for the Lakers is a bit different than in past seasons. There’s always glitz and glamour, but LeBron James makes them a significantly more interesting team than in previous years. That won’t always translate into the win column, as it failed to on opening night against Sauce Castillo and the Trail Blazers. The game began with a few dunks from LeBron, but the final result wasn’t what’s going to get that team into the playoffs.

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Still, the hype is real for James and the Lakers this year. Quavo wrote a song for the Lakers’ opener, and the intersection of music and sports continued for L.A. on Friday night when rapper Kendrick Lamar joined the team after practice to share some words of wisdom.

The Lakers posted about Lamar joining them for their “genius series,” where apparently he addressed the team about, what else, staying humble.

It’s not clear exactly what he said, but the words certainly resonated with James, who posted the group photo the Lakers shared and also said what the meeting meant to him on Instagram later that evening.

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“The homie @kendricklamar came in today and blessed us all with mad game talk, inspiration, drive and what it means to get to the mountain top from the bottom and remain there throughout it all,” James said on Instagram. “Appreciate you brother!”

Playing in Los Angeles makes these kinds of interactions easy for James, and the “genius series” certainly makes these kind of talks a bit more common for the team.