In case you were busy trying to figure out if the Xbox One is a prequel to the original Xbox, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
LeBron James scored an extraordinarily efficient 35 points on 14 shots as the Miami Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 107-92. He did so despite a strange moment when James called over an official and yelled, "Xbox! Turn the difficulty up!" before realizing he was actually playing basketball and not a next-gen copy of NBA 2K14.
Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco's offense finally got rolling in the 49ers' 27-6 win over Washington. "They dared me to throw the ball," Kaepernick explained after the game. "And at first I was all like, 'Nuh-uh,' and they were all like, 'Double dare,' and I was all like, 'Nuh-uh,' and then they were all like, 'Double dog dare,' and I was all like, 'No way,' and they were all like, 'Triple dog dare,' and that was unorthodox 'cause they totally skipped triple dare, and also they start Josh Wilson in their secondary, so I don't know why they were daring me to throw at all."
This year of college hoops is already ridiculous. Everyone is fun, the good teams are all stacked, and there are too many stars to even keep track of on any given night. This is why I was huddled over a laptop at 5:30 in the afternoon in L.A. yesterday, watching two grainy ESPN3 feeds at the same time and going nuts for Joel Embiid. We kicked things off with that fever dream in Chicago, but Freshman Watch got real this week.
Every big name played Tuesday, giving us a nice little slice of the madness to come.
I had a chance to be in Chicago on Tuesday night to cover the college basketball games for Grantland, and I said no for two reasons. First, because most early-season college basketball showcases are sloppy and a little bit depressing. Second, because after the months of obsession over Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle, there's no way they could possibly live up to it.
People were comparing Wiggins to Durant and McGrady. Jabari Parker was supposed to be Paul Pierce and Glenn Robinson, and Julius Randle was the closest thing people had seen to LeBron.
There were 80 NBA scouts in attendance last night, which is a reminder that (a) NBA teams probably waste SO MUCH money scouting players they'll never have a chance to draft, and (b) this has all gotten kind of ridiculous. The United Center sold out the stadium Tuesday, and tickets for what was basically a preseason basketball exhibition were going for $750 apiece. We were due for a letdown.
But then all the players in Chicago made me look like an idiot.
If we’re going off StubHub, which is the objective arbiter of all things hype, last night’s Champions Classic was one of the most anticipated basketball showcases in recent history. So while the basketball turned out so good that people seem to be overlooking the fact that the games were choppy whistle bonanzas, I was there for more anthropological reasons. To Chicago:
College basketball is back, and life finally makes sense again. Questions like "Where did all my money go?" and "Why am I such a disappointment?" and "How did I end up in this Dumpster?" no longer matter. Nothing matters, actually. Our salvation has arrived, and if you think I'm being overly dramatic, then you can get the HELL out of my Dumpster, pal.
As the headline on this post suggests, I recommend that you all take out the paper calendars you use to help remember when to watch sports (mine is the flip kind with autumnal photos above each month), and find a good, reliable pen, because you'll want to write this down. Below, I've listed the best possible games from each of the next seven days, along with some honorable mentions. Consider this your weeklong immersion guide. And it starts, as it should, in the mecca of the sport …
A sterling combined effort from a trio of rookie pitchers led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox, evening up the World Series at a game apiece. The game hinged on the Cardinals' aggressive baserunning and a clutch hit from veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, once again proving that the same things that won big games in the mid-'60s will still win them today.
Carping about the clothes at the NBA draft is a lot like complaining that onesies make your baby look fat. It's too soon! These guys have the rest of their careers to figure it all out. With the draft, what you're hoping for, at the very least, is that some of these players have been talked into putting on an interesting garment. At most, you're hoping for an indication that maybe just one guy knows what he's doing, that he's on to something.
It turns out that they're officially on to us. They all know we're looking. They might even know now what we want — excitement, cool, spectacle, a little glamour — and they're not taking any chances. The clothes are becoming conversation-stoppers.
After months of waiting on Andrew Wiggins, the best high school basketball player in the country, to make his college-destination decision and set off an aftershock throughout college hoops and beyond, we are finally (almost) there. On Sunday, his high school coach at Huntington Prep (West Virginia) announced the announcement (isn't recruiting fun?!).
Andrew Wiggins will sign Tuesday at around 12:15. He will not hold a press conference type ceremony. Just classmates, family and friends
In case you were busy wondering what living Nicolas Cage's life would feel like, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The NCAA tournament got under way in Dayton as North Carolina A&T edged Liberty, 73-72. The win was a clear victory for Revisionist Bracketologists, who are well aware of the infringements on liberty that occur when advanced technology mechanizes our agricultural processes. However, the day's other game, in which the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders fell to St. Mary's, was a triumph for Conservative Bracketologists who respect religion's place in society and who do not support raiding, regardless of the color it takes. Fortunately, both groups found common ground in Kentucky's first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris, as John Calipari is both an affront to those who desire a more equitable distribution of finite economic resources and God.
In a Western Conference showdown, the Denver Nuggets proved their recent winning ways are no fluke beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 114-104, on the road. "It's not fair," said Thunder forward Kevin Durant after the game. "It's our house. They should have to play by our rules." Scott Brooks lent his star forward a sympathetic ear, saying, "I hear you, Kevin, but be honest, what rules did they break?" Durant fought back tears as he said, "All of them." "Well, that's true," Brooks granted, before asking, "but were they punished for their infractions? Huh? How many free throws did you shoot tonight?" Durant was silent. "Come on, Kevin," Brooks implored. "How many?" "Sixteen," Durant said with a shake of his head. Brooks kept pushing. "And how many did you make?" "Fourteen," Durant said with a grin. Brooks rubbed Kevin's head. "That's pretty good, isn't it? Maybe they just came in here and played really well. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn from this and give ’em 'what for' come playoff time. Does that sound good?" Durant's grin stretched into a broad smile, as he stood up, visibly reinvigorated. "Yeah, Coach, it sure does!"
I want to make a bold statement today, but first, let's have some fun and check out the highlights from what I'm calling "Seth Curry's Wonder-Half." In the first 20 minutes against North Carolina on Saturday night, he went 8-for-10 from the field, scored 18 points, and propelled the Blue Devils to a 42-24 halftime lead that became a blowout 69-53 win over North Carolina.
[Editor’s note: An old friend called and asked if he could take over today's column. He sounded really sad and desperate on the phone, so I agreed.]
In case you were too busy NOT being the greatest shortstop AND third baseman of all time, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Hey guys, future Hall-of-Famer Alex Rodriguez here. Spike asked me to take ALN off of his hands for the day, and I generously agreed. I figured I could use humor to start getting back into America's good graces after a not so great day of news for me. Hey, it's like they always say, when life gives you deer poop, kill the deer and drink the liquefied remains of their antlers. Hehe. OK, let's go.
We're going to start with my favorite sport other than baseball, and that's NBA basketball. Last night the Los Angeles Lakers of Los Angeles played the New Orleans Hornets at home. (Oh wait, I wrote Los Angeles twice. How do you erase words that you already wrote? I guess it's not technically wrong I'll leave it.) Before the game, I gave my best friend Kobe Bryant like 15 phone calls to be like, "Hey, bud, how's it going?" cuz I could really use a pick-me-up, but he must've been busy or something because he never answered. Anyway, he's a great friend, and the Lakers won, 111-106.
In case you were busy preparing to confess your sins to Oprah for some reason, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Wisconsin notched their 11th straight win against Indiana, upsetting the no. 2 Hoosiers, 64-59, in Bloomington. After the game, Indiana head coach Tom Crean said, "Oh, those rascals got us again, but wait until next time when we deploy our secret weapon," gesturing at a large wooden crate labeled "Acme Explosive Basketballs." Crean then picked up one of the basketballs and started to cackle, only to have it explode in his hands, leaving his grimacing face covered in soot.
Despite missing Chris Paul for a second straight game, the Los Angeles Clippers continued their torrid play, beating the Houston Rockets on the road, 117-109. Though the Clippers' captain told the media "I'm really happy for those guys, and I'm glad they're able to get some W's without me" after the game, a visibly downtrodden Paul was seen making a Spotify playlist called "Better Off Without Me," featuring both "Stay" by Lisa Loeb and "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.
Kentucky avoided a second straight SEC defeat, notching a 75-65 home win against Tennessee. Kentucky head coach John Calipari remained upset with his team after the game, telling the media, "With what those guys get paid, avoiding losing streaks is not good enough." When asked to elaborate, Calipari declined, saying, "Nice try, but I'm not going to incriminate myself wait, what did I say just a second ago? Like right before this?" A particularly sweaty Calipari then proceeded to tell the gathered media that the entire press conference was off the record, and if they told anyone about it, he would totally deny everything.
The Lakers won their second straight game, topping Milwaukee, 104-88, at Staples Center with Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant scoring 31 points apiece. "Point brothers," Howard said after the game, slapping his teammate Bryant on the back. "Pretty neat, huh Kob-meister?" Bryant did not respond to Howard at the time, but was later seen disdainfully muttering "Kob-meister" as he watched the first half-hour of a bootlegged copy of Zero Dark Thirty on repeat.
The Chicago Bears took their head coaching search north, hiring Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman to replace Lovie Smith. Trestman, considered a quarterbacks guru, prepared Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, Jason Campbell, Tim Tebow, and current Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for quarterbacking in the NFL. "Wait, are you serious?" said Bears General Manager Phil Emery after being shown the list. "Oh, no. I swear he only mentioned Jay. He didn't say anything about those other guys. I really should've done my due diligence on this one."
The San Diego Chargers introduced former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as their new head coach. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers responded to the news by saying, "Oh, man, I never thought I'd escape being coached by Norv Turner. It's like I'm Fantine and this McCoy guy is Jean Valjean, you know? Here, I'll show you." Rivers then proceeded to sing a mournful rendition of Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables, before laboriously drawing out the parallels between the lyrics of the song and his plight as a famous athlete playing for an underachieving team. A particularly hoarse Rivers then proceeded to tell the gathered media that the entire song was off the record, and if they told anyone he sang it, he would totally deny hitting that high E.
Australian Sam Stosur crashed out of the Australian Open, losing her second-round match to China's Zheng Jie, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. "Lemme guess," said golfer Greg Norman when approached by a reporter on his way to his car Wednesday morning, "you want to know what I'd say to Samantha. I'd say, 'Get deeper in the tournament before you choke next time, so maybe The Shark won't be the Australian on call anytime one of his countrymen blows chunks under pressure.'" Sadly for Norman, the reporter had been there to profile his charity work, but after the unpleasant encounter, ran with the unexpected Norman-Stosur feud angle instead.
Former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano signed a two-year, $28 million contract with the Washington Nationals. "To all the Washington fans out there, I'm here to earn my contract, and not be another Jayson Werth," said Soriano upon his introduction. Werth, who was watching the press conference alone from his palatial estate, hung his head upon hearing Soriano's words. "I wasn't that bad last year when I played … eh, who am I kidding? No one wants to be another Jayson Werth. Not even me." A single tear then trickled down Werth's cheek, which a servant wiped off his face before Werth had a chance to launch into his own mournful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."
Wednesday, January 9, will go down in infamy as the Night of Two Dunks. It started with Illinois' Brandon Paul trying his luck against Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe:
On any other night, that would easily be the top jam. It was so good that if you had to nominate 10 dunks for some kind of Dunk of the Year award, it would be an automatic entry. There's no way there will be nine better in the entire season. The idea of topping it that same night was ludicrous; at most, you might have a dunk that looked exactly the same, but it wouldn't be quite as cool because it came second.
And then San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin did this:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times and ended his record streak of 54 straight games with a touchdown pass in a 23-13 win over the Saints. In a weird coincidence, popular rabbi Andrew Altman, a.k.a. "Drew Briss," also had his own streak — 54 straight successful outdoor circumcisions — snapped by a falcon yesterday.
I'm one of those people who adhere to a strict famine-and-feast diet on Thanksgiving Day. I'll starve myself throughout the day, trying to not let the aromas floating in from the kitchen drive me insane, just so I can gorge myself like a crazed animal when 4 p.m. rolls around. From an informal poll of friends and family, it seems like this is a pretty common tactic. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to eat an apple to hold myself over at noon, but otherwise I held firm. And the feast was glorious. I didn't stop eating until midnight, when my wife hit me with a pan and knocked me into a deep, 18-hour slumber.
The whole Thanksgiving situation is a lot like the first two weeks of college basketball. The morning starvation is the offseason, when you want to avoid lesser temptations like recruiting updates or NCAA investigations or Tony Parker's eight-month press conference. Sometimes you need to check in on those things just to hold off the hunger, like with my apple. And then, when the season finally arrives, it's a delicious cornucopia of tournaments, amazing matchups, surprising players, and crazy upsets. I can't stop watching. I can't, and I won't! I've now binged on college basketball for two straight weeks, and from the depraved den of hoops gluttony, I bring you my 25 November epiphanies.