2020, The Most Unthinkable Year In Sports

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, Anish Dhondi, Rohan Krishnan, & Nikhil Pradeep

2020, who saw this coming? A worldwide pandemic, systemic racism across the world, an election that tore people apart from each other, horrifying tragedies, yet through all the challenges we faced, all the sacrifices every one of us made, we, whether we know it or not, prevailed. We grew braver, grew an appreciation and gratitude for the people we had, the objects we possessed, the values we hold. One of the biggest things that kept us going all year was sports. Whether it was an ugly Sunday Night Football game between the Eagles and Cowboys, an NBA Bubble playoff game, whatever the spectacle may have been, sports brought people together, and at times, made us escape the reality we were facing in our world. We saw the power athletes had not just through playing their sports, but with their voices, with their actions, with their perseverance, that it inspired us to do the same, and it lifted us during these difficult times. Here are some of the monumental moments that we saw in 2020:

The Day Sports Came to a Halt by Saransh Sharma

On August 26th, 2020, we saw the Milwaukee Bucks boycott their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot 7 times in the back and killed while unarmed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just 30 miles away from Milwaukee. The fallout led to the cancellation of two other NBA playoff games that day. The rest of the MLB games on that night were postponed, and tennis star Naomi Osaka announced that she would not play in her Western & Southern Open Semifinals match, set for August 27th, the next day. On the 27th, many NFL teams had canceled their practices in tribute to Blake, and all seven major league sports in the United States went to a halt. We also saw the NBA nearly boycott the remainder of the season. Players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard favored the motion to boycott unless a plan to keep the conversations to help end racial injustice. A plan was put in place by the NBA of initiatives to support throughout the NBA bubble, and thanks to the help of Former President Barack Obama, the NBA was able to get back and continue the season.

These actions led to many players having their forms of silent protest before their games or matches, such as taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a mask or shirt with the names of victims killed by police due to racial injustice across the country. Overall, it brought more awareness to the injustices going around our country into the sports world, as fans learned of the importance to push for changes for this country. Had it not been for the events that transpired on August 26th, which led to a full day without any sports nationwide on the 27th, we as a country would be in a much different position.

NBA Season Dropped for the Second Time in the Last Ten Years by Pranav Thiriveedhi

In 2011, the NBA season under commissioner David Stern saw a league-wide lockout, allowing for the absence of professional basketball across the country. Many people thought that the issues present under David Stern would not be a problem under incumbent commissioner Adam Silver, but on March 11th, 2020, the NBA season was suspended. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz All-Star Center and two-time Defensive Players of the Year tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the postponement of their game against the OKC Thunder. Gobert’s positive test led to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Word of this terrible news spread like fire across the United States, even while NBA games were being played that day. Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was devastated to hear about the season suspension moments after coming out with a win over the Denver Nuggets. With so much emotion and tragedy going across the NBA world, and even after the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, the suspended season was the worst thing for many to hear. 

But we are not quitters. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single person not only around the country but around the world, making us rethink and reinvent our old ways. After the NBA’s indefinite hiatus, and after a struggle to make it work, on June 4th, the NBA board of governors approved for the resume of the season in a competitive bubble format on July 30th, 2020. And you guys know how the rest went. The Orlando bubble proved to be very successful, all the way from the last eight regular-season games to the NBA finals, which helped show that the 2019-2020 NBA season was the most historic and craziest professional basketball season ever. 

The ‘Flex My House’ NFL Draft by Rohan Krishnan

The National Football League was preparing to have their annual draft at Las Vegas this year, and the plans were so extravagant that it included a stage on the water at Bellagio Fountains. Players would be taken by boat to the main stage to be drafted. This spectacle would have made for one of the most memorable drafts of recent memory. Due to the pandemic, however, it became a TV-only event. Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, started the Draft from his basement and behind him was a huge video screen, showing the fans for each team and reactions from players and their families. It was a weird experience for prospects and fans as they did not get to walk up to a stage and get the customary hug from Goodell. Nothing is the same without a huge crowd to cheer or boo for their team’s selection. However, the first night had stellar ratings, drawing a record 15.6 million viewers.

The NFL did a fantastic job of not having any technical issues and proved that in the face of a crisis, a Draft can be done from home. It was also fun to see the memes pop up on social media, giving plenty of memorable moments. Roger Goodell looked like he was about to fall asleep on Day 2 of the Draft, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury did the Draft from his $4.45 million mansion, as he dunked on everyone else’s draft setup, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was chilling on his yacht. Watching the event was a welcome distraction for all fans across the country since it was one of the very few live sporting events since the pandemic started in mid-March. It was also special to watch the draft prospects hanging out at home with their loved ones and showing their reactions to the world as they start a new chapter in their lives. 

The Struggle of the Bubble by Anish Dhondi

After the NBA shut down in March, the NBA planned its way back to a restart in July. The process was strange for both players and fans. The world had to go months without sports, one of the largest forms of entertainment. When the NBA restarted again, players were in an unorthodox situation. They were restricted to their hotel ‘bubble’ in Orlando, where after they played games, they could see their opponents walking around in the same bubble, which gave a unique experience. The style of the game also changed with no fans, the games for the players were very quiet. Watching on TV, we did not notice as much as they add in fan audio, but the players could hear every little thing that they all were saying. This led to players on the bench getting more technical would than usual, as any chatter on the bench could be heard very clearly by the referees. At the end of the NBA Playoffs and Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were the NBA Champions. Strangely, people will find any reason to discredit a LeBron James ring, calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse Ring.’ In reality, winning the championship was more difficult than fans realize. Portland Trail Blazers star, Damian Lillard, came out and said that playing in the bubble was a lot harder competition-wise. Traditionally, the season and playoffs require a lot of traveling to satisfy homecourt advantages along with other distractions, Dame said that in the ‘bubble life’ was just eat, sleep, and ball. NBA players were also fully rested as they did not have to deal with any travel or jet lag and could recover their bodies for the next game much faster than usual. Overall, the bubble was a huge success, with no positive cases that required a second shutdown. Credit to Adam Silver, one of the best, if not the best commissioner in sports, for creating the safest environment possible for players and teams. After this strange bubble experience, it was not over for 2020. 

The 2020-21 NBA season had to begin to avoid future seasons from being delayed. Teams that played in the bubble received the shortest offseason (72 days for the defending champion Lakers) of all-time, while players outside of the bubble received the longest. The shortened offseason has resulted in players taking additional rest during the regular season to avoid injuries, like Westbrook, Kyrie, Kawhi, and Kevin Durant periodically sitting out games. No fans, along with the difference in rest have made a big difference, as teams that received the most rest are seemingly starting the season on fire. The Magic and the Cavs are surprise teams in the East who were well-rested and started the season with wins that no one expected. In the bubble, we saw a whole different type of play from some players who went off like TJ Warren, Devin Booker, and Damian Lillard with no fans to cheer or boo at them. As many described, it felt like playing at an empty practice gym. 

As the vaccine is slowly getting pushed out, I truly hope that the NBA can start incorporating fans into the games safely because, without fans, the game does not feel as exciting to watch or play.

A New Injury Designation in the NFL by Nikhil Pradeep

Most avid viewers of the NFL know that injuries are simply part of the game, and no matter how far medical and biophysical science goes to improve safety equipment, that fact is not going to change. The sheer amount of force, power, and most importantly, the heart that NFL players play with is just too much for injuries not to be an integral part of the league. In 2020 however, a new type of injury designation showed up in the game-day rosters and fantasy team news articles for those associated with the NFL: the COVID-19 identifier. In these unprecedented times, there were insane circumstances that left NFL general managers scratching their heads and fantasy football players livid. The prime example that inevitably will go down in history is the Denver Broncos having no available QBs to play Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints, a situation that some believe to be poorly handled by the league office and commissioner. There was no exception granted to the Broncos after having pleaded their case for excruciating circumstances, with the game played with Kendall Hilton, a practice squad wide receiver, at quarterback. The result of the game needs no explanation, but the event itself shows the frailty of the NFL’s plan to get their league running again during the time of this virus. Couple this with the league’s handling of the Ravens’ multiple weeks long COVID-19 spread, which resulted in the shifting of games throughout the weekend schedule, and you start to see how bad of a job the league did in handling this year’s rollout of the NFL season. Compare this to the NBA bubble that was deemed a complete success by many within the media, and you begin to wonder how Roger Goddell and his team thought their plan would suffice in the first place.

But we are talking about 2020, and anything that could have happened did happen this year. All things considered, it might have been necessary to play this year and steamroll through multiple COVID-19 cases to even have a league to play in for years in the future. The NFL is by no means a graceful sport, and maybe the methods the league office takes to run it are the same way. All in all, there were not an absurd amount of cases, especially not an amount that endangered a significant portion of people’s lives, and it resulted in a rather entertaining season in a rather dreadful year. On the positive side of things, there were not games completely canceled, all 256 games were fully played. That being said, there are ways to improve the handling of an unforeseen event like this in the future. The NFL will not be praised for their forward-thinking in handling this virus, but at the end of the day, the league, players, and personnel will all benefit.

The Dak Prescott Contract Conundrum

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

The Dak Prescott contract conundrum is something that I feel has been talked about for ages, and with the Coronavirus pandemic also going on, it feels like this story is only getting dragged out more and more. There are so many different contract offers being thrown around and so many different perspectives on the deal, but we are here to get you guys situated and all caught up on the latest on the Dak Prescott situation and our predictions, from everyone’s point of view.

The Dallas Cowboys’ Perspective by Rohan Krishnan:

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been in talks for a long term contract for a while now, so what is taking so long? The problem is that the front office and Dak both have different contract numbers they are looking at. Dallas is definitely willing to make Prescott the highest paid quarterback in the league, but they want more years. Also, a recent interview with COO Stephen Jones told us that Dallas wants to make sure their salary cap is divided up in a way that helps Dallas win. “There’s all sorts of analytics out there that show if your quarterback takes up too big a percentage of your salary cap, that it decreases your chances to win. We’re just trying to figure out the right fit”, Jones said recently. The Cowboys want $35 million per year for 5 years, and Dak will do $37 million per year for 5 years according to a recent report from Mike Fisher, as he wants $45M in the fifth year because he believes that with the inflated market then, that is what he will be worth. That being said, he is only going to be 31 when the contract is over, so he will get another big contract yet again, and that seems solvable for both sides. Prediction: I believe that Prescott will stay a Cowboy and sign a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 NFL season.

Dak’s Perspective by Pranav Thiriveedhi

As previously mentioned, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been negotiating for a while about the contract that Dak receives and how much he will get paid. Initially, Dak Prescott, who thinks he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a leading part of one the best NFL offenses, asked Dallas to pay him a lot of money for him to stay a Cowboy. From Dak’s perspective, he in some way deserves this money, based on the production he has stirred up for the Cowboys in the last few years. In the last season, Dak Prescott has thrown for a whopping 4,902 yards, along with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Even though the Cowboys missed the playoffs in a grudge match that is the NFC East, it can be very believable to see that the Dallas Cowboys will perform exceptionally with Prescott as the leading horse in the years to come. After a lot of time, the Cowboys matched his ask and offered him a 5 year, $175 Million contract, that comes to around $35 Million a year. This contract would make Dak Prescott the most paid QB in the entire league. Mike Fisher reported that Dak Prescott only wanted to be under this contract for 4 years, and this makes sense for Dak. The league is changing and players are playing under bigger contracts that last shorter amounts of time and Dak believes this should pertain to him as well. Dak Prescott and his team took this offer into thought and came back saying that if he came back for his 5th year he would need to be paid $45 Million! Obviously from Dak Prescott’s perspective, this is something he really wants and is adamant about, but in the end this money is coming from the Cowboys. Prediction: So after Dak plays all his cards and runs out, I predict that before the start of the 2020 NFL season, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott will sign a 5-year deal, but the money will be on the Cowboys terms.

The NFL’s Perspective by Saransh Sharma

The Coronavirus pandemic is going to take a hit on the NFL in terms of money, as no fans will mean they are losing all of that revenue they would have made from those people, especially season-ticket and VIP/box seat holders. Teams will need to be compensated and therefore that could lead to a salary cap reduction. But what does this have to do with Dak Prescott? Well, if there is a sense that the NFL will indeed lower the salary cap, after this season, then even paying Prescott the 4-year, $140M deal ($35M/year) would be too much, because Prescott would take up such a huge chunk of the cap space, and they just signed Amari Cooper for $22M/year, and Ezekiel Elliott is on a $15M/year deal. Over the next few years, guys like Leighton Vander Esch, Demarcus Lawrence, and Michael Gallup will all be up for extensions, and if Dak is on a long 4-5 year contract eating up lots of cap space, the Cowboys might not even be able to bring back one of those players mentioned. Now, I understand that the cap will eventually increase to even higher than what it is right now, because at some point things will go back to normal and even get better after this pandemic, but because of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contract would work, this would probably last at least 3 seasons, which would not go through the entirety of Prescott’s contract. This is more of a hypothetical, but definitely something that Dallas is considering every time Prescott wants a higher number in terms of salary. Prediction: Prescott will take the 4-year deal at $140M ($35M/year), but 2-3 years in, there will be restructuring of the deal which will allow for the Cowboys to assess the market then, and allow for Dak to get paid his current market value (so he could get the $45M per year on his contract later). Either way, unless he gets traded, Dak is a Cowboy for Life.

‘The Last Dance’ Review, Recap, and Reaction

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

The 5-week, 10 episode docu-series on the greatest run by a team in a decade in the history of sports, concluded today, with the ending being capped off with the 1998 NBA Finals victory by the Chicago Bulls to win their 6th championship in 8 years, thus completing ‘The Last Dance,’ which was what coach Phil Jackson called this last year quest for the dynasty. So much happened behind the scenes and off the court that we really did not know until now, and the fact that we got the chance to capture all of that and see Michael revisit and talk about these moments was truly remarkable. There are so many big pieces to the ‘98 Championship run from so many different past seasons, whether it be playing against Dennis Rodman and losing to him and the Pistons constantly and then eventually recruiting him to the team, and also Jordan having retired for baseball, then coming back and getting back in shape, Scottie Pippen’s role, Jerry Krause’s ignorance, MJ’s winning mentality being described as ‘disrespectful,’ and so much more. Here is the big review, recap, and reaction all-in-one to all the events, details, decisions, descriptions, and much more, of how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out to be successful, both as the ‘98 season, and as the critically-acclaimed docu-series.

Saransh’s Reaction

Michael Jordan’s Competitive Nature

The competitiveness of Michael Jordan is second to none not just amongst basketball players, but amongst athletes. Whether it was an NBA Playoff game, golfing with his dad, or just a simple ‘coin toss across the room’ game with the team security guard like in Episode 6, everything was a competition to Mike. The most impressive thing about his competitive nature was what motivated him to compete at such a high level. Sometimes it was as simple as just losing, like it was for him against Detroit and Orlando, seeing them celebrate in Chicago and winning against him in a series, but sometimes it was just one action or comment by someone that was their downfall, and Michael’s rise. When Charlotte stole a game from Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference in 1996 and B.J. Armstrong talked a little trash, it was over for Charlotte. The next 4 games went to Chicago and they even swept Orlando in the Conference Finals.

Then there was the side of Jordan which I think a lot of people were surprised to see and hear about, which was the ‘not-so-nice guy’ side of him. The stories of him at practices are honestly as legendary as you can think of. He punched Steve Kerr after a practice after Kerr did not back down from him when Jordan got mad at Phil Jackson for putting Kerr on him and making fun of him. He then proceeded to apologize and talk it out on the phone with Kerr, and as they were both competitive guys, they understood why it got heated. But even as great as Michael was, there were still people that did not like his ways as a teammate. Former Bulls Point Guard John Paxson talked about how he would be scared at times, and Power Forward Horace Grant apparently could not eat after games because Jordan did not let him. But at the end of the day, this made Jordan the greatest, the tough love. It was so hard for him to talk about his teammates, that he started tearing up talking about it and hearing about how some of his teammates felt sometimes. But in the end, the hard truth was that it was his way of gaining trust of them, and making them realize what he expected of them. If he did not go so hard on Kerr, Jordan would not have trusted him to take the Finals-winning jumper, he would not have trusted Scottie Burrell to be such a great role player, or Dennis Rodman to go out and skip practices, or even let guys like Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who got overlooked, be vital pieces of the team in every title run. What made Jordan so great was that he involved his teammates through his trust in them and instilling his mental fortitude into them, and if you did not want that, you did not have to play with Michael and enjoy the great journey.

The Legend of Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr was a man who came from a humble beginning. Kerr was born into a family of UCLA professor Malcolm Kerr, and eventual professor Ann Kerr. As they were both professors, Steve’s family had Steve and his brother very academically-minded and focused, as the only time the TV would be on from Monday through Thursday would be for big basketball games. Malcolm being at UCLA, loved basketball and got Steve into it by taking him to UCLA games, and at that time, the John Wooden coaching era was going on, and the greatest college basketball teams ever were there for Steve to witness live and in-person. Steve played all through high school as well, but did not receive offers until the very last minute, when Arizona offered him a scholarship. At this time, Malcolm had gone to American University at Beirut, along with his wife and Steve’s brother. However, the story of Malcolm being shot and killed was truly heartbreaking, and really drove Steve to be the person and competitor that he is. 

When Kerr got to Chicago, he brought that competitiveness that he gained that drove him after having lost his father, into the championship culture of Chicago. He challenged Jordan, did not back down, did not let himself get brought down by Jordan’s competitive edge at practice, which sometimes Jordan took too far, including the time he punched Steve. From that time forward, however, their trust levels and understanding of each other was like no other. It led Steve to be trusted by Jordan to hit the Finals-winning shot in ‘97, just like MJ trusted John Paxson in ‘93 to do the same thing, whom Steve learned from and mentored. He not only won his rings with Chicago, but also in San Antonio as a player in 2000 and 2002, and a coach of the Golden State Warriors dynasty from the past 5 seasons. All in all, Steve’s competitive edge and love for basketball came from his father, who instilled in him the game, life values, and a hard-working nature into Steve.

Phil Jackson’s Resilience, Even When MJ Left

I think it is taking it a bit too far to say that Phil Jackson was overlooked throughout this whole run, but the work he did definitely can get a bit lost in the shadows when your players are as good as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Jackson was asked to make the Chicago Bulls into NBA Champions after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had been asked to make them relevant. He took over as the head coach in 1989 after Doug Collins was fired in Chicago, which, given the success he brought to Chicago, where he took the team from nothing to the Eastern Conference Finals with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the firing was a bit surprising, but Collins had been with the Bulls for a while, so therefore warranted his way out the door. Jackson took over the team when they were very close to ending the dynasty of the Detroit Pistons, and in his first year, he nearly did that. Had Game 7 been in Chicago and not Detroit, Jackson would have ended the dynasty in his first year with the Bulls, but the next year, Eastern Conference Finals rematch yet again, the Bulls swept, and won the 1991 NBA Finals over the Lakers, and then proceeded to win in ‘92 and ‘93. Then, out of nowhere, Michael Jordan retires.

Jackson did not back down or let Jordan’s retirement get in the way of him coaching this team. The team might have lost the greatest to ever play the game, but the team was pretty darn good even without Jordan. In 1994, the team won 55 games and if it were not for a blown call in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, they could have tried for their 4th straight championship. The year after that, the Bulls struggled a bit, but getting Jordan back got them a healthy seeding in the playoffs, but Orlando stole the series thanks to Horace Grant, the former Bull. He then allowed Jordan to be able to retrain his body back into basketball form and he helped the team add talent, such as Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, and they helped go 72-10 and win the NBA Finals, and start another 3-peat. And then he did it again, going 3-peat with LA from ‘01-’03, and back-to-back in ‘09-’10. Phil Jackson is, in my mind, the greatest basketball coach of all-time, and it all started not when he won his first 3-peat with Michael, but the seasons he endured without him.

Nikhil’s Reaction

The 1992 Olympics Dream Team

For the first time, the United States sent a team of mainly NBA players to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to compete in the Men’s Basketball tournament. This allowed the likes of Jordan, Bird, and Johnson to play on the same team, and form the inevitable Dream Team, the likes of which has gone down in history as one of the most legendary teams ever. What came as an initial shock was the exclusion of Isiah Thomas, and the sports media at the time associated Jordan’s icy relationship with him as a defining factor of this decision. Jordan, when interviewed for the filming of the documentary stated that he had no influence on the formation on the team, but did concede that had Thomas been selected, the flow and camaraderie of the team would have changed. Regardless, the cohesion of the team that did end up competing in Barcelona was second to none, and this is what elevated them above the rest. Their practices were some of the most competitive in existence, and this culminated in the infamous scrimmage in Monte Carlo. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan captained their respective sides in an anything-goes, trash-talking, no-holds-barred grudge match. At one point Magic’s team was up 8, and he felt the need to tell Jordan that if the famous ‘Air Jordan’ didn’t show up, they were gonna blow him out. As Saransh alluded to earlier, Jordan took this personally, and instantly made Johnson eat his words. He proceeded to score around 10 unanswered points, and won the game for his team. Those within the team recollected the tension in the air during the bus ride home as suffocating, but the instant Johnson cracked a joke with Charles Barkley, the team’s camaraderie rose back to prominence, albeit with Michael Jordan firmly at the helm of the ship. 

During the Olympics, the Dream Team faced off with Croatia, and the newly drafted Bull, Toni Kukoc. There was some friction between Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc, given that Jerry Krause placed a great amount of praise on the shoulders of the Croatian, and seemingly devalued the accomplishments of the current Bulls roster at the time. In the first game against Croatia, Jordan and Pippen seemed to go after Kukoc during the game, shutting him down defensively, and thus making every effort to make Krause look bad. However, the second time around during the Gold Medal game, Kukoc surged back and showed his worth even though they lost. The Dream Team took home the gold, and Jordan’s legacy started to take meaningful shape.

I found it very interesting to hear Kukoc’s side of this story, especially given the context of his situation before arriving in the league. Having hailed from Croatia, at the time a war-torn state of Yugoslavia, he, along with his teammates during the Olympics, all had an amazing amount of strength and focus that Team USA simply didn’t account for. To trash-talk, abuse, and target Kukoc doesn’t really faze him, simply because it isn’t comparable to the fight for his literal will to live. It just goes to show that no one’s story can be understood from a distance, and that everyone has certain traits that make them unbreakable, no matter what the circumstances are.

Jordan’s Stint in the MLB

The tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father in many ways defined Jordan’s career path, starting with his first retirement from basketball. At the time, Jordan’s reasoning was that he had produced 3 championships, and had given everything he had to the city of Chicago, so he figured that since he had no more challenges and no more motivation to play basketball, he should call it quits. The drama escalated and peaked during a White Sox playoff game, during which Jordan was present. The information of Jordan’s retirement leaked during the game, and the swarm of reporters and fans ensued. The media ran rampant with headlines up until the official press conference the next morning, in which Jordan stated that he was at peace with his decision, and also left the door open for anything down the road. What ensued was a list of allegations seemingly connecting the death of Jordan’s father, the presence of his gambling problem, and the progression of his career to his retirement. Some outlets even told a narrative that David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, veiled this retirement as a secret ban from the NBA due to his gambling. This is beyond absurd given that Jordan was the best thing to happen to the NBA financially, socially, and internationally. What is certain however, is that the retirement was of his own accord.

Jordan transitioned to baseball during his retirement period, and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. This was one of his dreams that he had as a kid, and in many ways it follows his father’s dream to play in the MLB. The issue was that since Michael Jordan was such a polarizing figure all over the country, the facilities apparent in the lower levels of the MLB league system simply could not accommodate the amount of hype that he drew in. Due to this he was placed in the minor leagues Double A league, where the sufficient amount of fans could be accounted for. Couple this with the fact that Jordan had not played baseball properly since he was 17, and it was a seemingly disastrous fate. What no one expected however was how good he was. He started out with a 13-game hitting streak, and after a while opposing pitchers started to throw breaking balls rather than fastballs, the latter of which was never thrown for nearly a month. Jordan’s dry spell resulted in a media sandstorm, calling him out on his poor play, and labeling his decision as faulty. The most striking of these was the Sports Illustrated magazine cover of him missing a pitch, and labeled him as an embarrassment. As we all know, this lit the fire in Jordan’s mind, and he kept getting better and better as the season went on, to the point where it was speculated that he could’ve made it to the major leagues. The MLB had a strike that year, so that element of his career was cut short, and thus he returned to Bulls. What can be said however, is that he made a lasting impact in his reputation as the greatest ever.

Krause’s demolition of the Bulls: Good or Bad?

Jerry Krause has been documented throughout the course of the Bulls dynasty as a dictator type of general manager that would put prospective over his current players and even his own family to an extent. When the Bulls won their 6th championship, there was already huge speculation about what the Bulls would do and whether or not the team would get blown up. Jerry Reinsdorf, the team owner, states that he asked Phil Jackson to come back for the next year, which he turned down. He also states, that it would be suicide to keep the players they had due to injury, egos, etc. Jordan retorted that any player and coach would’ve been happy to sign the one-year contract to chase that 7th championship, and states that it’s “maddening” because it definitely could’ve happened. Following the 6th ring, Jackson, Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, and Jordan all left the Bulls organization, and the Bulls embraced a rebuild that can be argued to have progressed to the current-day.

I know that the immediate gut reaction to this is to have let Jordan and the team chase the 7th ring. But just to play devil’s advocate in this scenario, let’s look at the benefits of how things played out. Given that Jordan himself stated that he was physically drained following the season’s end, and that Pippen had struggled with injuries during the Finals run itself, it is almost a guarantee that someone essential to the teams success would sustain a lengthy injury during the season, jeopardizing a Finals run. This along with the fact that some players would inevitably ask for more money, and some key pieces would get moved around due to the nature of the business, all equates to a significantly lesser change of even getting to the endgame, let alone succeeding. In my mind there isn’t anything wrong with how the Bulls dynasty ended, because they went out on top. Doing so cemented their lasting legacy as the greatest dynasty to grace the NBA, and affirms Michael Jordan’s candidacy for the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.

 

 

NFL Best Free Agents Remaining: But Why Are They Here?

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

This year’s NFL Free Agency has been the best in NFL history, but the craziest part of all of this is that there are still elite players left as free agents right now. Players like Cam Newton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Everson Griffen still see their names on the market and not on a team. Here are the top 12 free agents, and our predictions for where they will go:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE

This one to me is actually mind-boggling considering his production. Now, to be fair, the Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the value of guys like Clowney, because the outside linebacker position was one that had an abundance of talent in this year’s NFL Draft, so teams could bank on a younger, cheaper player to develop and become a good linebacker. He was hurt last season and only played 13 games and only had 3 sacks, but he forced 4 fumbles, had his first interception and pick-6, deflected 3 passes, and had 13 QB hits, which is an average of 1 per game, which is pretty solid. The problem is that the idea of waiting a season and going for a small contract for this upcoming season, and then cashing out after next season is not as viable an option as it used to be due to the impacts of Coronavirus. That being said, Clowney is open to waiting for the summer to roll around and sign a big deal if it comes then.

Prediction: Jets Sign Clowney on 3-year, $52.5M deal, $39M Guaranteed

  1. Cam Newton, QB

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, Cam Newton was coming off of a 15-1 MVP season, and a near Super Bowl victory. Now, Newton, having dealt with a few injuries, has been released by the Panthers and is now struggling to get a contract as even a backup for this upcoming season. Honestly, I think that Cam Newton is definitely starter material, but he just has to do his due diligence and wait it out this year and be a backup. Newton surely can still play at a starter level and play at a high level as well, I just do not see it being this season.

Prediction: Steelers Sign Newton on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal

  1. Everson Griffen, DE

Now this is a player who I understand why he is unsigned. 2 years ago, when the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game, Griffin had 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. In the next 2 seasons combined, he has 13.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and no forced fumbles. The only number that has been near the same in 2017 is the QB hits, which he had 24 just this past season after 25 in 2017. Granted, in the 2018 season, Griffen did only play 11 games, so the stats look unusually low, but these past 2 seasons, Griffen’s low number of sacks really is costing him now come free agency time. 8.0+ sacks is something Griffen is used to doing, so seeing him now barely being able to get that is strange, and the health issues have not helped either. That being said, Griffen’s talent still warrants him getting a 1-year ‘prove-it’ deal, and then signing onto another deal of a bigger salary with the same or different team. 

Prediction: Seahawks Sign Griffen on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal to Replace Clowney

  1. Larry Warford, OG

Larry Warford was a surprise release a week ago by New Orleans, but a lot of it apparently had to do with the fact that he put on some weight and New Orleans did not like that it was happening during this offseason, so they let him go, and they also have a young, worthy replacement for him at Left Guard in Andrus Peat, who got a 5-year, $57.5M extension a few weeks back. Warford, despite the weight concerns, is still capable of being an elite left guard in the NFL.

Prediction: Warford Goes Back to Detroit, Signs with Lions on 3-Year Deal

  1. Jason Peters, OT

Jason Peters has been a monumental piece of the Philadelphia Eagles offense since 2009, protecting various NFL quarterbacks who achieved stardom through their years in Philly such as Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz. Jason Peters is a Super Bowl champion who is decorated with achievements such as being a 9x Pro Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro, 4x Second Team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 2010’s decade team is now at an older age of 38, but still has the fire to play into his 40s. He is currently a free agent coming off an average year at a price of $3.5 million, but is still holding strong communication with the Eagles and is being eyed on by the Broncos, Jets, and Browns as well, who all would perform much better with his veteran status.

Prediction: Peters re-signs with the Eagles to a 1-Year or 2-Year Deal

  1. Logan Ryan, CB

Logan Ryan is one of the NFL’s most elusive and underrated cornerbacks coming off an amazing season with the Tennessee Titans. The 29 year old is a sharp veteran, who has the ability to force turnovers and provide pass breakups during crucial plays. In 2019, finishing his contract with $9.5 million left for the year, Logan Ryan combined for 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 force fumbles. Teams that would benefit from Logan Ryan include the Dolphins, Eagles and Jets. Logan Ryan has commented about the Jet’s interest in him and how signing with the team he shared practiced fields with in college would make sense for him, but he is adament that he wants to sign with a “contender.”

Prediction: The South Jersey native signs with the Eagles to a 1-year Deal

  1. Carlos Hyde, RB

Carlos Hyde is one of the best players from the 2014 NFL Draft and also one of the best running backs to play the game in his time so far. After another 1000 yard season, this time with the Houston Texans (Carlos Hyde has jumped over a lot!), the free agent running back is looking for another team to call home for the 2020 season. After rejecting the Texan’s offer, Hyde sees interest coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, who need a veteran running back to mentor Miles Sanders. I don’t really see other teams very interested in him and there is major competition between three running backs to sign with the Eagles.

Prediction: Hyde stays a FA into the start of the season or signs a small deal with a rebuilding team

  1. Markus Golden, LB

Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s most underrated 3-4 edge rushers coming off a good season with the New York Giants. Last year, playing all 16 games, Golden acquired 72 tackles, 10 sacks, a force fumble and 1 defensive touchdown. When Markus Golden is healthy, he poses as a legitimate threat to any offense and will finish every season with double-digit sacks to his name. As of now, the Giants and Lions see interest in signing the electric edge rusher. 

Prediction: Markus Golden signs a 3-year deal with the Lions, fixing up that faulty pass rush

  1. Taylor Gabriel, WR

Gabriel is seen as a speedy playmaker but did not live up to the hype in Chicago. In two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel managed just 96 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also dealt with concussions and as a result Chicago released him to clear cap space. However, he is currently the top option on the WR market because he is still a talented player and has the speed to hurt defenses deep. He could be very serviceable to a team that needs a deep threat to complement their best receiver. 

Prediction: Gabriel signs a 1-year deal with the Packers to help stretch the field

  1. Cordy Glenn, OT

Cordy Glenn has been a solid player for the majority of his career. He is 30 years old and could be a great veteran presence for a team looking for a tackle. However, his 2019 season was suspect as he only played 6 games and had a tumultuous relationship with the Bengals which led to his release. He was suspended by the team at one point for “internal disciplinary reasons” and dealt with concussions which probably explains why he has not been signed yet. I can definitely see a team taking a gamble on him though because he was great when he played and is a serviceable starter. 

Prediction: Glenn signs a 1-year deal with the Vikings

  1. Mike Daniels, DT

Mike Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season with Detroit. He played nine games due to foot and arm injuries and finished with nine tackles and just 1 sack. It is clear that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. Before signing with the Lions, Daniels was one of the Packers best defensive players and an emotional leader. He can help mentor younger players, provide some solid IDL depth, and help stuff the run. 

Prediction: Daniels signs a 1-year vet min deal with the Cowboys and reunites with Mike McCarthy

  1. Delanie Walker, TE

Delanie Walker is another player who has been dealing with different injuries the past few seasons and was cut by the Titans due to the rise of young tight end Jonnu Smith. Walker has had a lot of success with Tennessee however and was the greatest tight end to ever play for them. He is 36 and is entering his 15th season in the NFL but I think he still has some left in the tank. He has always been productive for Tennessee when healthy and can provide endless options as a receiver and a blocker to change an offense. He could bring some good value to a team with a young tight end group.

Prediction: Walker signs a 1-year deal with the Patriots to help mentor Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi

The Last Dance: Episodes 3 and 4 Reactions

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

Dennis Rodman just casually took a vacation for 3 days in the middle of an NBA season and went to Las Vegas, and when he came back, he went right to work to get back in shape, and no one said a word after that. I mean, can you imagine if a guy in today’s NBA just went to Vegas to vacation and party midseason and no one would care, not even his own team? Social media would have a fun time with that one. Seriously, the way the Chicago Bulls handled Dennis Rodman was what made them the great team that this documentary is based off of. In fact, he was a huge impact to the Bulls’ dynasty even before he was on the Bulls. Before the Bulls, he was on the Detroit Pistons, longtime rivals of the Bulls whom everyone in the East was trying to chase for years, until 1991 when Chicago swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Rodman who made the team the physical, fearful, and tenacious that they were for years, but it was also Rodman whose physical play was counteracted by Chicago and helped them win them gameplan for a way to end Detroit’s run as King of the East. However, the biggest story of that series might not be the fact that Chicago was beginning to start a dynasty of their own, but more so the reaction from Detroit:

Saransh’s Reaction: No Handshakes by Detroit After Getting Swept

What if I told you, that the end of the dynasty was not marked by losing, but by the lack of sportsmanship after it? That, my friends, is the story of the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons and how their dynasty ended. When Detroit realized they were too far behind in Game 4 to win and that the series was over, Pistons players Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas told their teammates to leave the court and not shake hands with Chicago players, and simply just go to the locker room after the loss. After not shaking hands, you can see Laimbeer smugly smiling and shaking hands with a security guard, and Thomas high-fiving fans. So, you have no regrets about the handshakes? Well, Thomas said on Monday on ESPN’s ‘Get Up’ that he does indeed regret not shaking their hands, and that he feels ‘worse’ about it today than he did back then. To be fair, he has had 29 years to think of a response to this question, so it is not like it is surprising to hear him say this. 

When Boston tried not to shake their hands after losing in the playoffs a few years back, Thomas literally pulled Celtics Forward Kevin McHale and forced him to shake his hand, and yet somehow Thomas had the audacity to do what McHale did just years later, except McHale actually did shake his hand.  Still, if you are going to dodge a handshake, do not regret it in 30 years. Bill Laimbeer did not care, straight up. He owned it, and even called Jordan a ‘whiner’ just a few days ago. Jordan, on camera, was seen live laughing at Thomas’ response, called him an a**hole, and his then-teammate Horace Grant called them ‘straight up b**ches’. The rivalry is still primetime TV even 30 years later and we love every second of it, because that hate and rage for each other is still there amongst these guys. What I love about the rivalry is that it is still a rivalry today, everyone still hates each other, and everyone is ready to play ball against each other as if it was in the ‘90s, and play just as hard as they did back then.

Going back to Isiah’s interview on ‘Get Up,’ he made a very interesting comment along the lines of ‘it cost me being on ‘The Dream Team’,’ stating that since Jordan was the main guy whom the 1992 US Basketball Olympic team was centered around. He believes that since Jordan was the centerpiece and the guy that wanted every in on ‘The Dream Team’ idea and wanted to win the Gold in the most emphatic way possible, he assembled a team that resembled such that many thought it was invincible. They were indeed invincible, winning their average game by 30+ points and getting the Gold, but again, Thomas was not a part of it, and he believes it is because of that. The Olympics were just a year after the Pistons were swept by Chicago, so by Thomas’ belief, Jordan may have already been in the process of assembling ‘The Dream Team,’ but even with that being said, it is the coaches’ decisions on which players are part of the team, and the coach of ‘The Dream Team’ was Coach Chuck Daly, who was Thomas’ coach in Detroit. All in all, Thomas is trying to rescue himself from something that he, unlike his Pistons teammates, actually regrets, but is using factors that do not help his case, as reasons for why the rest of his career went south. 

Nikhil’s Reaction: Rodman’s Effect on Chicago

The loose cannon that was Dennis Rodman stated his persona perfectly at the start of Episode 3: “I could’ve been a bomb, I could’ve been in jail, I could’ve been dead.” The antics, the media attention, even the hair are all referenced by himself to be part of the monster he created, and in many ways that monster was equally apparent on the court. However, no one from Rodman’s team seemed to complain when the game was going on; Rodman was integral to the Bulls’ championship run, and it can be said with fair confidence that the team would not have been as successful as it had been without him. He gave them the grit and grind mentality that the likes of Jordan and Pippen didn’t have in excess, and thus, he was the league’s leading rebounder even in an era with the likes of Shaq, Barkley, among others. So it’s hard to imagine such a character starting out his career in Detroit as a shy, quiet rookie that was committed to his rather humble and survival oriented upbringing, especially on a team like the Bad Boy Pistons. And it’s equally as hard to imagine such a timid character having a rebounding IQ higher than most, to the point where Jordan himself cited Rodman as the smartest teammate he’s ever had. But what’s most outlandish is how he turned into the monster referenced before. While with the Pistons, he was found in his truck with a gun at The Palace, and was soon dealt to San Antonio afterwards. 

There he started to push his boundaries, act out and subsequently the outfits, the hair, the piercings, the tattoos followed. The Bulls took him out of this bad situation, and figured that he would thrive under the leadership and respect of Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson, and they guessed right. He fit every need the team needed, and elevated them to the next level. And in the time that Scottie Pippen was out due to injury, Rodman was credited by Phil Jackson with keeping the team together, and continuing in their winning ways. However when Pippen returned, Rodman seemed to return to his rambunctious ways and started to drink and party again. His situation peaked when Rodman requested a vacation, something that NBA players just don’t do. Jackson let him go for an agreed upon 48 hours, and Rodman returned 72 hours later after having been found by Jordan, having satiated his need to let go. From there however, Rodman and the Bulls put their heads down, and never locked back. 

Personally, I never knew of Dennis Rodman’s charisma, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be this wild. His tenure in Chicago in my eyes can be described as always hanging in balance, he could either be one of the best players in the league, or he could be a deranged maniac wishing for a death sentence. In this sense, Chicago was given a national spotlight outside of Jordan, one that wasn’t characterized by greatness. It gave the media something to pick at in terms of the Bulls internal structure, and thus placed WAY more pressure on them to win. The fact that they did in spite of all this shows how legendary the Bulls coaching staff, roster, and culture was. They managed to win even with one of the most captivating characters on their team, and even with all eyes on them.

NFL Draft 2020: What to Watch For This Weekend

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:

Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?

Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.

The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.

In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.

Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?

Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination. 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft. 

Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?

Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams. 

The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…  

 

TB12 to TB: How Brady’s Move Down South Affects His Legacy

Tom Brady might not have shocked the world by saying he was leaving the New England Patriots just two days back, but if you said that to me after he signed a 2-year, $41 million extension in 2016 after a season where Brady was one drive away from yet another Super Bowl appearance, I would have said you were crazy. If you said that his destination would be Tampa Bay, I would think you were even crazier. Either way, Brady in 2020, did just that, but he earned that right. Since that extension, Brady went to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, and won 2 of them. Though he just left New England, here’s when the dominos started to fall, which led to the door opening for Brady to leave:

The First Fallen Domino: Jimmy G

Through all that, he endured the Deflategate suspension, nagging injuries to guys like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, a new face in town in Jimmy Garoppolo, whom coach Bill Belichick loved, and much more. Keep that name in mind, however. A guy who was drafted in the second round in 2014 by New England after having won another Super Bowl, their first in 10 years. When Brady accepted his 4-game suspension in 2016, however, Belichick put in Jimmy G, who won his first 2 games, and then led the Pats to a third straight win before getting hurt and handing the ball over to rookie QB in Jacoby Brissett. But Belichick seemed to have fallen in love with Jimmy G and found his successor to Brady. Brady felt disrespected, and it fueled him to win another Super Bowl, in the infamous 28-3 blown lead by the Atlanta Falcons.

The Second Fallen Domino: The Unsung Hero, Danny Amendola

I wrote back after Super Bowl LII that New England’s demise had begun, as Brady had lost to backup QB Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in what is, in my opinion, the best Super Bowl I have ever seen. That offseason, he ended up losing receivers Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks in free agency. The big name here is Amendola. Amendola for years had been the ‘third guy’ behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but he may have been the unsung hero for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Through the Super Bowl runs where New England beat Seattle and Atlanta, and lost to Philadelphia in an epic, Amendola was the one whom Brady used to always find in the clutch, his ‘Ol’ Reliable’, per se.

To me, I thought New England made the mistake of letting Amendola go instead of Julian Edelman or Chris Hogan because Amendola was a guy Brady counted on and was close with on and off the field. Amendola seemed to be the guy that would make the big catches and touchdowns in 4thquarters of close ballgames, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game in 2017 to save Brady from being beaten by… Blake Bortles. Funny, right? Amendola wound up going to Miami, then Detroit with former Pats Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia, and he’s still there now. Looking back on the past two years, however, and seeing how the offense played, Brady could have used Amendola in many clutch moments.

The Third Fallen Domino: Antonio Brown

I understand what Bill Belichick was thinking back in October 2018 when Antonio Brown got released. Great player, but we need to know if this guy is well-minded. The last thing Belichick wanted was to get a guy on his team that would be a distraction to the team, like Aaron Hernandez. At the time, AB had been lashing out many times on social media, such as with his former teammates in Pittsburgh, and at that time, when he hired marketing agents to get himself off the Oakland Raiders. Safe to say that Belichick doesn’t normally think players like AB would fit in ‘The Patriot Way’, but somehow, he signed him. AB lasted 11 days on the team before getting released again after sexual assault allegations (which had been going on when Belichick signed him).

But Brady grew a chemistry with AB in the short time. While the stats did not show it, their love on Twitter certainly has, when Brady showed respect for AB even after his departure from New England, and even now, with Brady now in Tampa, Antonio Brown still shows up on Brady’s radar. But this was where it all fell down for Brady in New England. Brady was not happy that a guy with the talent of AB was released, but by ‘The Patriot Way’, he was not the right guy. But with Gronkowski retired and AB gone (along with Chris Hogan gone in free agency and Demariyus Thomas traded midseason), Brady just had Edelman and James White to rely on. Those guys did not stay relatively healthy, the offensive line Brady relied on got hurt as well, and Brady wilted under the pressure a bit after the 8-0 start. He had a great last season in New England, but the team had no pieces around him to keep him from leaving.

So, Tampa is Home. Now What?

Well the legacy of Brady does not require him to win a Super Bowl necessarily. Like LeBron James when he went to the LA Lakers, Brady is putting himself in the toughest position possible, going into an NFC South division with Super Bowl contenders like the New Orleans Saints, who by the way, are led by Drew Brees, a top 5 QB of all-time, an Atlanta Falcons team that just signed Todd Gurley, and a young Carolina Panthers team. Brady easily just put himself in the most stacked division in the NFL, and with the new 14-team playoff (so 7 per conference), all 4 of these teams can be playoff and Super Bowl contenders in Brady’s way. Not to mention that the NFC also has Aaron Rodgers, another top 5 QB of all-time, a near-MVP in Carson Wentz, and the defending NFC Champs in San Francisco. (Side Note: My top 5 All-Time QBs are: Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Drew Brees). Brady is definitely not expected to win a Super Bowl, but as a 43-year old who has shown he can still win 10+ games every year and win Super Bowls, the expectations are high. Brady will probably have to at least get Tampa Bay to the playoffs, something they haven’t done since ’07, and then a playoff win (or more). This is a team that before Brady never had hope, but he brings it. Fans are already flocking to get season tickets, players want to play for Tampa, life is good in Tampa right now. I mean, warm weather, a stadium with a pirate ship, and Tom Brady, what more do you need?

To me, Tampa can contend for a Super Bowl with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as Brady’s weapons, his best since he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but the task is rather daunting. It’s hard to keep expectations low with Tom Brady, so I believe that he probably will take Tampa to at least one NFC Championship Game throughout his current contract (he signed a 2-year deal for $50M, fully guaranteed, with $9M available in incentives) to keep his legacy cemented as it is right now, which is as the Greatest of All-Time.

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

Super Bowl LIV: Does Speed Kill, or Defense Win Championships?

I know that it is very late to be writing this, with the Super Bowl less than 24 hours away, but I’ll blame it on the flu. Anyways, better late than never, I guess. Let’s get into the game and my prediction:

Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, 6:30PM EST, FOX

The talk of the week has bene about the difference in styles of these teams. Kansas City, whom I predicted to be in the Super Bowl since the preseason, is a very fast-paced, Olympic track-star studded-type of team with the guy who may become the Greatest Player of All-Time one day in Patrick Mahomes. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a team that uses the clock, but slow and steady is what wins them the race. The most run-heavy team in the NFL ran so much that in the NFC Championship Game, QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball just 8 times (out of which he only completed 4), but lucky for them, Raheem Mostert had 220 yards on 29 carries and FOUR touchdowns. The defense of San Francisco is the best in the NFL no doubt, with the most ferocious pass-rush of them all, led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, DE Nick Bosa, and former Chiefs LB Dee Ford. Their defense is led by a Super Bowl champion in Richard Sherman, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks and their vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ defense. Sherman hopes to get his team to that level this year and win this game. But his matchup, Tyreek Hill, might present him with some serious challenges.

To beat the Chiefs is doable, but to truly slow down Patrick Mahomes has only effectively been done once this season. In Week 9, the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, and Mahomes was held to under 200 yards passing in the game and had multiple turnovers and his only touchdown was on the ground in a 19-13 loss. The Colts won that game through playing lots of zone, but mixing it up a ton, whether the type of coverages, or the personnel packages. The 49ers can do that very well, especially under their current Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, but going back to Tyreek Hill, he is the one whom I think will break the game open. In the NFC Championship Game, despite the emphatic win, Packers WR Davante Adams had 9 catches for 165 yards receiving, and Sherman really struggled guarding him, mainly on the 69-yard catch-and-run that started the comeback for Green Bay. As great as Adams is, he’s no Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, and Sherman, who has been criticized all season for his lack of speed despite his great talent, he might have trouble with Hill. I mean, Hill said he will try out for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics for the US Track Team, so you know this guy is a problem for him. I think that alone is going to be how the 49ers defense is beaten. Of course, TE Travis Kelce is there and no one can cover him, but Hill will be the difference. Also look out for WR Mecole Hardman, another track star-type of talent. Kansas City will score a lot of points.

All that being said, can such a run-heavy offense actually slow down Kansas City’s rapid-fire scoring. Well, no, to beat Kansas City, Jimmy G will need to throw more than 8 passes, but San Francisco can definitely slow momentum from Kansas City down with long, time-consuming drives. Jimmy G will be using guys like TE George Kittle and WRs Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders a lot in the passing game, but they need to make big plays downfield to keep San Francisco in it. The run game led by Mostert could be a little slower than expected, as Titans RB Derrick Henry was held to just 69 yards rushing on 19 carries, so the 49ers will desperately need their receivers to step up. The good thing to note is that the 49ers came on top of another high-scoring team earlier in the season in New Orleans, when they won 48-46 in the Bayou, where Sanders had 157 and a touchdown on 7 carries, and Jimmy G threw 35 passes and had 349 passing yards.

All that being said, I think that the Chiefs offense simply has too much talent to handle, and Patrick Mahomes is unstoppable right now, and I do not see the 49ers slowing him down anytime soon. Prediction: 41-34, Chiefs.

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:

#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC

To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.

While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.

Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.

So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.