The Champions Classic is in the books, with Michigan State surviving against Kentucky and Jabari Parker defeating Andrew Wiggins (historical footnote: Kansas would win the actual game), and, in the true spirit of college basketball, it was both joyous and aggravating. The basketball was transcendent at times, in a way we don't often see at the college level, but the referees were steadfast in calling handchecks and arm bars and other contact fouls to the extent that Duke-Kansas, originally scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. ET start, didn't finish until nearly 1 a.m.
Let's explore the full range of the good, the bad, and the ugly, from what might be the best night in the sport at least until January.
In case you were busy convincing friends and family that your Movember mustache should probably stick around through Mocember, here's what you missed on sports on Tuesday:
In a battle of the nation's best freshmen, Jabari Parker outshone Andrew Wiggins, but Wiggins's Kansas Jayhawks pulled away late, beating the Duke Blue Devils 94-83. Coming up with nicknames for the scintillating Parker is the task du jour for college hoops fanatics, so I'm going to throw a few out there; feel free to use any or all of them as you see fit. JaStarry Parker (Parker is a star). JaStarry Starker (seriously, the guy's a star). JaBobri Barker (the price is right for Duke, as college athletes are unpaid). Jaleel Parker (did he do that?). Jab-Ari Gold (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Entourage movie). JaBerry Parker (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Jamba Juice movie that's still happening, right?). Jerk-bari Parker (for NC State fans). Jerk-bari Jerker (for UNC fans). JABARI PARKER! (for Dick Vitale). Jay Parker (it's shorter to say Jay than Jabari). Danny Ferry (for people suffering from long-term amnesia). Shane Battier (for people suffering from mid-term amnesia and a rare disease that prevents them from differentiating between levels of raw athleticism). Jabari Plumlee (for people who don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). Mason Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). And finally, Marshall Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players, but at least want to make up a fake Plumlee name wait a second Marshall Plumlee is real? What the hell, Duke?).
Since we last spoke, the Andrew Wiggins hype cycle has continued to spin like a possessed electric dryer. There have been more magazine covers and a shirtless spread in GQ. His native country’s national sports network, TSN, has made arrangements to broadcast every Kansas game live throughout Canada, and the start of a new NBA season means the “Riggin' for Wiggins” among the NBA bottom-feeders has begun in earnest. As of Tuesday morning, though, one of the world’s most famous 18-year-olds had not yet accumulated a single statistic for Kansas. It’s not hard to imagine the pressure.
Given that I'm a fourth-generation Jayhawk, it should be no surprise to you that I have no goal, personal or professional, that takes precedent over living long enough to watch this year’s highly anticipated Jayhawks basketball season. To that effect, and in honor of Andrew Wiggins making the cover of Sports Illustrated, I’m making some large life changes to ensure that I’ll be able to view the entire slate of games, which begins October 29 with an exhibition against Pittsburg State. Below, I’ve outlined some of the things I’ll be doing to attain proper mind, body, and spirit; though this regimen applies to the forthcoming, Wiggins-ed out Jayhawks season, you can easily replace the major proper nouns for your own favorite teams or players, unless you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, in which case you should jump off the nearest cliff.
In case you were out learning that what you thought was Oscar Fever is actually just an untreated strep infection, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
In their first game since the death of longtime team owner Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics, 113-99, at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant, who led a ceremony in Buss's honor before the game, was somber afterward, saying, "He's not gone, man. You can't just get rid of a guy like him. He's still here, with us, in this locker room. In fact, he's in my locker right now, waiting to scare me, like I'm a fool. But I'm not a fool. He's the fool, and he's way out of line." Dwight Howard then emerged sheepishly from Bryant's locker holding a blonde wig and a Jerry Buss mask.
James Harden had a career night against his former team, scoring 46 points as the Houston Rockets edged the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-119. After the game, Kevin Durant was distraught in the locker room, telling coach Scott Brooks, "He was my best friend. Now he moves away, and he acts like he doesn't even know me. This is your fault! We never should've let him move! It's not fair!" Brooks nodded gently, before saying, "Do I feel guilty, Kevin? A little. Honestly, I do. I didn't want you two to have to be apart. But sometimes decisions are made, and while they hurt, they're right decisions in the long run. Plus, you like hanging out with Kevin [Martin], don't you?" Durant shook his head, fighting back the tears. "I hate Kevin! I hate everyone!" Brooks scowled at his forward, "You don't mean that, Kevin. Tell Kevin you're sorry." Durant looked at his teammate, as his lower lip started to quiver. "I'm sorry, Kevin. I like you. It's another Kevin that I don't like right now: me." Martin patted his teammate on the back, "I get it, man. The trade wasn't easy for me either. And, hey, [Thunder Assistant Coach] Mo Cheeks is gonna take me out for ice cream later. You wanna come?" Durant couldn't help but let himself smile. "Ice cream with Mo? Yeah, man. I'll be there."
In case you were busy making a fool of yourself mixing up the accomplishments of Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The NBA All-Star Game pitted the best players in the game against each other in Houston this weekend, with the West coming out on top, 143-138. L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, who was named the game's MVP after getting 20 points and 15 assists, said, "I'm just so excited to help secure home court in the Finals for the West, because this time it counts!" When told that the game in no way counted, Paul went on to say, "Really? Is that why no one else was passing or playing defense until the end? Damn, I could have scored so many more points if I had known that."
Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross won this year's NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest with his throwback tribute to former Raptor Vince Carter. First, he amazed the crowd with a display of world-class dunks. Then he limped off the court, petulantly burning bridges with his teammates and the people of Toronto. He plans on returning to next year's competition to complete his performance by not competing at all. "I can't believe it," said runner-up Jeremy Evans, who dunked over a painting of himself dunking over a painting of himself. "How the hell did I got out-meta-ed?"
In case you were busy settling up with Alamo Rent A Car after just driving, man, went horribly awry, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers' troubled season continued, as forward Pau Gasol has been ruled out for at least six weeks after tearing his plantar fascia. Back in the Lakers' locker room, a frustrated Mike D'Antoni was confused by the diagnosis. "Oh, first Dwight is in and out of the lineup with undiagnosable shoulder pain, and now Pau tears a damn ribbon, and he won't play?" said D'Antoni, whose native tongue is Italian. "No, coach," interjected Lakers point guard Steve Nash, "I'm pretty sure fascia in English refers to the frieze of a building. Or like, the space around a column? His home must have suffered some cosmetic exterior damage, and that can be a real pain to deal with." D'Antoni countered, "Well, that's no reason to miss six weeks; with the amount he's paid, that's one week out tops." Metta World Peace then chimed in: "I don't mean to be a bother, but fascia can also mean 'bandage' in Latin. Perhaps we should give the Spaniard the benefit of the doubt and assume that he ripped a bandage, and then got one of those antibiotic-resistant infections." A dark hooded figure then emerged from the corner of the room, and bellowed, "Stai zitto!" A hush fell over the room until World Peace asked, "What's that mean, Kobe?" Bryant, deflated, responded, "It means 'shut up,' Ron. In Italian. Man, why'd you have to ruin my badass entrance. Whatever. All that matters is that Pau is feeling pain. Do we know whether or not he's feeling pain?" At this point Gasol himself got up from the trainer's table and said, "Uh, guys, I'm right here, and it's just a foot injury. I should be back in March." But his rational explanation came too late, as Kobe had already decided he was owed pain.
Before the season started, many experts identified Thomas Robinson as Kansas' key player, noting that there were concerns about whether Thomas could handle all the weight on his shoulders. Last year, Robinson played behind the Morris twins and assumed more of a reserve role on the Jayhawks roster. Five games into the season, the concerns were put to rest, as he has scored in double digits in each game so far, however there are some issues that are starting to appear as well.