Last Week in Sports | 1/22/18 – 1/28/18
One week to the Super Bowl and the sports world is buzzing with news.
NBA All-Star Team Rosters Announced
While last week the starters from each conference were announced, this week the two team captains, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, took turns picking their squads. LBJ picked up Kevin Durant–Curry’s teammate on the Warriors –and Kyrie Irving, his old teammate from Cleveland. On top of that, LeBron selected Russell Westbrook to join his old teammate in Durant. Curry was able to pick up two of his Warriors teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, along with Western Conference rival James Harden. You can see the full rosters here.
Three NBA Season-Ending Injuries
For fans of any major sport, there’s hardly anything as upsetting as an injury. And among those, season-ending injuries stand apart as so mind-bogglingly frustrating that I’ve seen friends stare at a screen–long after a broadcast has gone to commercial break–with two fistfuls of hair in their hands. That’s only to imagine that for the players, it is so far worse. This week had three of these tough breaks, as Demarcus Cousins, Mike Conley, and Andre Roberson will officially be out for the rest of the season. It’s hard to say which of these is worse for which team. Demarcus might take the cake, being an All-Star and the second-best player on a playoff contending team that had hopes of winning a playoff round for the first time in 10 years. It was announced this week that Paul George would be taking his place in the All-Star game on Team LeBron.
Mike Conley has been injured for a good part of his last four years on the Grizzlies and it’s uncertain if he will every play an NBA season without some form of injury – a baffling but increasingly convincing sentiment about this great NBA point guard. Finally, Andre Roberson, a key part of Oklahoma City’s unit and a source of consistent defense on an otherwise offense-focused team is also a significant and potentially playoff-altering loss. The Thunder will have to continue without the 6-foot-7 small forward and find some defense in their struggling second unit.
The XFL is Coming Back in 2020
WWE founder and avid Donald Trump supporter, Vince McMahon has announced the relaunching of his football league, which played only one single season in 2001 after losing $35 million dollars on an initial $100 million dollar investment. The original XFL was known for its gimmicky brand of sport with flames and aerial photography and invented rivalries not unlike the WWE. In the original XFL, there were brutal hits and no penalties for roughness, practically nude cheerleaders, and an opening trash-talk session before every game. The games themselves featured mediocre football, not even at college level, that was anyway overshadowed by brutality and showmanship.
This time, McMahon says the league will not feature the same excessive violence or sex appeal, and it will be geared toward competing with the NFL. However, there are a few politically interesting caveats. Players with a criminal record will be barred from participating, so where the XFL could have potentially capitalized on players that the NFL won’t touch like Johnny Manziel and Ray Rice, they have excluded them from application. Players will also be required to stand for the national anthem, so count out Colin Kaepernick as well. The XFL sounds like a disaster waiting to happen in 2020, but let’s see if Mr. McMahon can’t prove us all wrong. After all, more football can’t hurt. Can it?
Jason Kidd is Fired
Milwaukee Bucks’ coach Jason Kidd was let go after an above .500 start to the season and leading his team to playoff-contention with only two good players. His superstar, the 22-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo was the one to let him know he was being released and offered to save his job. Giannis, who credits Kidd with helping him become the All-Star he is now, expressed his surprise after the announcement. Kidd was one of five African-American NBA coaches and his firing leads to a further disparity in the ratio of white to black coaches in a predominantly African-American league. Hopefully Bucks’ management will get this one right retroactively and give David Fizdale a shot at the job.
The Pro Bowl Was Actually Fun
With a recent rise in CTE-consciousness, the NFL will have to take clear steps toward making the league safer for players in the future, and the Pro Bowl might be an example of what professional football looks like in a few years. It’s not that the hits are soft, but maybe they’re more strategic. Instead of a head-on collision at one point, Cameron Heyward rolls Jared Goff onto the ground. At another point, Delanie Walker looks like he clearly has the opportunity to tackle Harrison Smith during his pick-6 drive to the end zone but grabs at his waist instead and Smith slips free.
Even with these uncharacteristic moments, the game itself was really good. The AFC, down 20-3 at the half, orchestrated a comeback built on bombs thrown for 40 or 50 yards by Derek Carr, a timely interception, and a strip sack by Von Miller to end the NFC’s final opportunity to get within field goal range and retake the lead. The game was not completely without hard hits, but they were a long way from Sean Taylor’s leveling of Brian Moorman in the 2007 Pro Bowl. After the next couple seasons, we may never see hits like that again in the Pro Bowl or out.
Ronda Rousey Joins the WWE
Ex-MMA Champ and Olympic Bronze-medalist Ronda Rousey has announced a full-time contract with the WWE. After losing her last big bout to Amanda Nunes, her return to the MMA became questionable and this move to wrestling suggests that door might be sealed. Her fall from grace in UFC was surprising, but hopefully Rousey will be able to find a fanbase in an industry that has welcomed numerous MMA fighters in the past including Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and many more.