Articles By Nathan Rush
Mo’ money, mo’ problems — for NFL quarterbacks. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt signed a six-year,$100-million contract with $51.876 million in guaranteed money this offseason. And instead of resting on his laurels, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has taken his game up a notch.
“Like I said all along, the goal is to always be great,” said Watt. “I don’t want to be that guy that people say got money and shut down. I want to work hard every day — whether it is workouts, practice, games — and improve.”
Improvement is a scary thought for the towering 6'5", 289-pound 25-year-old, who terrorized Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins during a 17–6 win that snapped the Texans’ 14-game losing streak and gave the franchise its first victory since an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 15, 2013.
Watt notched one sack, along with five knock-downs of RG3 (one of which resulted in an intentional grounding penalty), one fumble recovery as well as his signature “J.J. Swatt” on both a blocked extra-point attempt and pass deflection.
“I guess the only thing he didn’t do was intercept a pass and run it back,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “J.J. was unbelievable.”
Watt’s performance in Week 1 was just the first step in proving he is worth every penny of his new deal. But, in many ways, it was also just business as usual for a defensive force who is on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
In 49 games, Watt has 37.5 sacks — including a league-leading 20.5 in 2012 — along with 28 pass deflections and eight forced fumbles. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, take a look at Watt’s playoff stats. In four career postseason games, he’s notched five sacks, three pass deflections and an INT returned 29 yards for a touchdown.
“Watt is obviously a hell of a football player,” said Texans first-year coach Bill O’Brien. “There’s no other way to put it. He’s just a great player.”
Watt helped O’Brien win his NFL head coaching debut and ruined the first game of Washington boss Jay Gruden’s NFL head coaching career. But those who have been around the league weren’t at all surprised.
“He’s the man. He just got the hundred mil. He got it for a reason, you can see that,” said Texans safety D.J.
Swearinger, who has given Watt a new nickname. “J.J. is ‘The Hundred Mil,’ so he’s supposed to do that.”
Watt has worked hard to become the $100-million man. Rated a two-star prospect by recruiting websites Rivals and Scout, the Pewaukee (Wis.) High School product took official recruiting visits to Central Michigan, Colorado and Minnesota before signing with the Chippewas.
Watt played one season as a tight end at Central Michigan, catching eight passes for 77 yards in 2007. Unhappy with CMU, Watt decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin.
During the time between attending CMU and UW, Watt worked as a pizza delivery man. A tall tale has grown from his days ringing doorbells and passing out pies. Legend has it that Watt was recognized by a kid inside the house on one of his delivery stops. Afterwards, an emotional Watt returned to his car and cried, vowing to get back on the field and back on track.
Although that’s a heartwarming rags-to-riches story, it’s not exactly 100 percent accurate.
“I never cried,” Watt told the Houston Chronicle. “What was going through my mind was, this kid once saw me as the greatest, someone he looked up to. When I saw the look on his face, that for that split second he didn’t see me as that anymore, that hurt. … It re-instilled the drive in me to become great again, to become that kid’s role model again.”
Watt bounced back with two solid seasons as a defensive end at Wisconsin before becoming the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. After an award-winning start to his pro career in Houston, Watt doesn’t have to deliver pizzas anymore — unless it’s part of a national ad campaign for NFL sponsor Papa John’s.
But don’t think for a second that the change in tax bracket has changed Watt, who seems to be struggling to adjust to his unreal riches.
“I Googled, ‘What do rich people buy?’ because I don’t feel like a rich person, and I don’t really try to act like a rich person, so I don’t know what they buy,” Watt said in a postgame interview with FOX reporter Laura Okmin.
“I didn’t really like the stuff I saw, so I’m gonna stick with my humble lifestyle and just keep working out.”
It’s been said that money makes a man more of what he already was. If that’s the case, Watt is about to cement his status as the most dangerous defensive player in the game today.
Seven NFL teams will be under new leadership for the 2014 season. Of the latest crop of head coaches, four are rookies as it applies to the pro level, while three are getting a second chance to head up an NFL team. Last season, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and San Diego's Mike McCoy wound up in the postseason in their first season as an NFL head coach, while Cleveland's Rob Chudzinski went 4-12 and promptly got fired.
So which members of the coaching class of 2014 are most likely to succeed or potentially be interviewing for a new job sooner rather than later? Here's a breakdown (alphabetical order) of the NFL's newest head coaches.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
Pros: Tony Dungy’s successor-in-waiting with the Colts went 24–8 over his first two seasons as an NFL head coach, with an upset loss to Drew Brees and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Those, however, were the final two years of the Peyton Manning era in Indy. After a three-year run with the Colts, Caldwell was hired as QB coach of the Ravens. He then was promoted to offensive coordinator following the midseason firing of Cam Cameron. With Caldwell calling the plays, Joe Flacco threw 15 TDs and only one INT — leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl XLVII “Harbaugh Bowl” victory over the 49ers.
Cons: The 59-year-old Caldwell went 2–14 in his one season without Manning in Indy and 26–63 in eight seasons as the coach at Wake Forest. The Motor City is bringing in a retread who may not be capable of producing the high-performance results fans have expected since the 10–6 run of 2011.
Final Analysis: The hiring of Caldwell is the most depressing news at Ford Field since Nickelback played at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day game.
Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Jay is Jon Gruden’s brother and, as a result, the subject of hilarious Frank Caliendo impressions like the recent instant classic “Gruden vs. Gruden QB Camp.” Jay won Super Bowl XXXVII as an offensive assistant for his older brother. He also coached the Orlando Predators to two ArenaBowl championships after winning four ArenaBowl titles as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm. After leaving the AFL for the NFL, Gruden was the offensive coordinator of the Bengals, making the playoffs each of his three seasons.
Cons: Jay is not Jon Gruden and, as a result, may disappoint fans expecting a Super Bowl-winning, live-wire head coach. Also, most of Jay’s success has come in the Arena Football League, which is played indoors on fields that are 50 yards long with starting lineups of eight players on each side.
Final Analysis: Since taking control of Washington in 1999, owner Daniel Snyder has hired six coaches — Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan and Gruden. Three of those were proven NFL head coaches; the other three — Gruden included — were ex-quarterbacks with zero NFL head-coaching experience.
Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
Previous job: Head coach, Penn State
Pros: In his first head-coaching gig, O’Brien did an admirable job after inheriting a disaster at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and the death of Joe Paterno. The 44-year-old went 15–9, with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, and he swept the Big Ten Coach of the Year awards in 2012. The quarterback guru has extensive experience in the NFL with the Patriots, as an offensive assistant who worked his way up to offensive coordinator — losing Super Bowls XLII and XLVI to Eli Manning’s Giants along the way.
Cons: O’Brien is the eighth Bill Belichick assistant to become an NFL head coach, joining Al Groh, Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Jim Schwartz and Charlie Weis. Once out from under the protection of the short-sleeve hoodie, disciples of Belichick not named Saban have struggled. And even the great Saban — who has enjoyed tremendous success on the collegiate level — went only 15–17 in two NFL seasons.
Final Analysis: The third coach hired by Bob McNair follows in the footsteps of Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak, who delivered the 13-year-old franchise’s only two playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 before tanking to 2–14 in his final season. O’Brien has been handed a playoff-ready team in what was the league’s weakest division in 2013. The pieces are in place for immediate success.
Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns
Previous job: Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
Pros: Since the expansion Browns rejoined the NFL in 1999, the franchise has hired seven different head coaches and enjoyed just two winning seasons. Butch Davis in 2002 is the only one of those coaches to reach the playoffs. Expectations are low, despite the fact that the original Browns (now the Ravens) have won two Super Bowls since leaving Lake Erie. Pettine arrives alongside Johnny Manziel, whose personality and playing style likely will make or break his head coach.
Cons: Owner Jimmy Haslam's truck-stop company, Pilot Flying J, agreed in July to pay $92 million in fines following a federal investigation related to customer fraud. Last year’s coach, Rob Chudzinski, was fired after only one season. The expansion Browns have a cumulative minus-1,399 point differential over 15 seasons. Simply put, this is one of the worst jobs in pro sports.
Final Analysis: Pettine is the son of legendary Pennsylvania high school football coach Mike Pettine Sr. and the one-time right-hand man of Rex Ryan. If the Johnny Football experience goes well, the 47-year-old Pettine could be the franchise’s longest-tenured coach since Bill Belichick coached the final five seasons of the original Browns from 1991-95.
Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Previous job: Head coach, Chicago Bears
Pros: The 56-year-old Smith is a familiar face re-hired by the Glazer family, having served as the Bucs’ linebackers coach from 1996-2000. He helped Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin perfect the Tampa-2 defense while coaching Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Smith then served as the defensive coordinator for the Rams, losing to Tom Brady and the underdog Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. After taking over the top spot for the Bears in 2004, Smith posted an 81–63 record with three NFC North division titles and a 3–3 postseason mark, including a loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Cons: Smith doesn’t inspire cannon fire; his personality is more Dungy than Jon Gruden. The lack of fireworks likely contributed to Smith’s firing in Chicago, despite a 10–6 record in his final season.
Final Analysis: The 2005 AP Coach of the Year has had just three losing seasons in nine years as a head coach. There’s less style but plenty of substance with Smith, who has assembled a strong staff led by Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator), Jeff Tedford (offensive coordinator) and Bucs legend Hardy Nickerson (linebackers).
Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers
Pros: A former tight end with seven years of NFL experience under his belt, Whisenhunt was a Super Bowl XL-winning offensive coordinator with the Steelers — famously calling the only TD pass thrown by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history, with Antwaan Randle El tossing a 43-yard scoring strike to Hines Ward to seal the victory over the Seahawks. After being hired as head coach of the Cardinals in 2007, Whisenhunt turned around and lost to his former team in Super Bowl XLIII.
Cons: Whisenhunt’s tenure in Arizona got off to a hot start before burning out, or maybe just fading away. A 27–21 record with two playoff appearances in his first three years was followed by an 18–30 mark. The coach failed to develop Matt Leinart — a jilted passer who recently claimed Kurt Warner, not Whisenhunt, should be credited with the Cards’ early offensive success.
Final Analysis: The 52-year-old Whisenhunt is the first coaching hire in Oilers-Titans history made by someone other than franchise founder Bud Adams (1923-2013). And unlike predecessors Mike Munchak and Jeff Fisher, Whisenhunt doesn’t have Oilers-Titans blue blood. Whisenhunt is bringing a new tune to Music City.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Previous job: Defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Zimmer has weathered a few storms in his day. He survived four coaching tenures — Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells — over 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl XXX as defensive backs coach. He spent one fateful season as Bobby Petrino’s defensive coordinator with the Falcons before joining the Bengals, where he coached for six seasons and made four trips to the playoffs.
Cons: The 58-year-old Zimmer has made a name for himself on defense. But he was hired as a head coach only after serving as the defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis, who is a defensive mastermind in his own right — having coordinated the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV-winning defense before taking over the top spot in Cincy.
Final Analysis: After interviewing for the Browns job last offseason and being on the short list of several openings this year, Zimmer has finally earned his shot . But he’s never been a head coach on any level, and the NFL is a tough place to learn on the job.
(Bill O'Brien photo courtesy of Houston Texans' Web site, www.houstontexans.com; Jim Caldwell photo by Stuart Zaas, courtesy of Detroit Lions' Web site, www.detroitlions.com; Mike Pettine photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns' Web site, www.clevelandbrowns.com, Ken Whisenhunt photo courtesy of Tennessee Titans' Web site, www.titansonline.com)
First, Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” mic Richard Sherman went all Tony Montana on Erin Andrews. “I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman ranted after the NFC title game. “Don’t open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.” Then, Arizona Cardinals’ triple-threat Patrick Peterson became the Internet’s highest-paid troll after becoming the league’s richest cornerback. Even the New York Jets’ delusional Dee Milliner “ain’t gonna say that somebody else is better.”
These days, every cornerback who backpedals for a living is fluidly flipping their hips and running their mouth at 4.3 speed claiming the title of “NFL’s best.” But really, who is the top cover man in an increasingly pass-happy league? It’s not Deion Sanders anymore, that’s for sure.
Here are the top 10 cornerbacks in the GIF game today, when factoring in size, speed, age, health, proven production and 2014 potential to cover the full spectrum of downfield receiving threats — from monsters like “Megatron” Calvin Johnson (6’5”, 236) to track stars like DeSean Jackson (5’10”, 178).
1. Richard Sherman, 26, Seattle Seahawks
6’3”, 195, Stanford (No. 154 pick, 2011)
48 G, 167 T, 57 PD, 20 INT for 227 yards (11.4 ypr), 2 TDs, 4 FF, 1 SK
You mad, bro? Don’t be. Sherman is in his loud-mouthed, lockdown prime. He’s got a Super Bowl ring and a fat new four-year, $56 million contract. The big-play maker made his biggest splashes on the biggest stages and arguably deserved to be named 2013 Defensive Player of the Year after recording eight INTs for 125 yards (15.6 ypr) and a 58-yard pick-six — his second straight eight-INT, one-TD season. Plus, Sherman allowed only one TD for the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense. Floyd Mayweather is the champ. But Sherman has the CB title belt.
2. Darrelle Revis, 29, New England Patriots
5’11”, 198, Pittsburgh (No. 14 pick, 2007)
95 G, 344 T, 109 PD, 21 INT for 367 yards (17.5 ypr), 3 TDs, 5 FF, 2 SK
Bill Belichick is looking forward to an extended vacation on Revis Island, where defensive schemes are much easier to gameplan with one side of the field on lock. After a Lost-like couple of seasons dealing with injury and contract issues in New York and Tampa Bay, Revis is likely to return to his all-time prime this year in New England.
3. Patrick Peterson, 24, Arizona Cardinals
6’1”, 219, LSU (No. 5 pick, 2011)
48 G, 161 T, 42 PD, 12 INT for 124 yards (10.3 ypr), 1 SK
Money talks. And five years, $70 million currently has the floor. Peterson has the potential to top this list — and likely will, sooner than later. But as of this season, one of the game’s best all-around athletes needs his cover skills to catch up with his walk-off punt return highlight reel and even bootleg passing ability.
4. Joe Haden, 25, Cleveland Browns
5’11”, 195, Florida (No. 7 pick, 2010)
57 G, 234 T, 67 PD, 13 INT for 222 yards (17.1 ypr), TD, 3 FF, 2 SK
Who knew Cleveland had an NFL team before Johnny Football? The Browns have the league’s top left tackle in Joe Thomas and a realistic shot at having the best cornerback in Haden, who makes very few mistakes by the lake — but would probably have trouble guarding LeBron James, though.
5. Aqib Talib, 28, Denver Broncos
6’1”, 205, Kansas (No. 20 pick, 2008)
77 G, 242 T, 70 PD, 23 INT for 348 yards (15.1 ypr), 4 TD, 2 FF
Clearly, he feels like a boss, which is necessary to run with the likes of A.J. Green and Dez Bryant. A volatile young Buc, mellowed ex-Patriot turned big-money Bronco, Talib has struggled to stay on the field. But when he’s on, there are few with the size, speed and swag necessary to match Talib’s talents.
6. Desmond Trufant, 23, Atlanta Falcons
6’0”, 190, Washington (No. 22 pick, 2013)
16 G, 70 T, 17 PD, 2 INT (0 ypr), 1 FF
Following in the high-steps of Deion and DeAngelo Hall — who also wore No. 21 at cornerback for the Falcons — the third Trufant brother to play in the NFL (along with big bros Marcus and Isaiah) had an incredible rookie season and appears to be the next elite cover corner. And you can’t knock his hustle, unless you’re C.J. Spiller.
7. Alterraun Verner, 25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5’10”, 187, UCLA (No. 104 pick, 2010)
64 G, 288 T, 50 PD, 11 INT for 124 yards (11.3 ypr), TD, 2 FF
One of the big winners of the offseason, Verner snagged a four-year, $26.5 million deal and will be heading from Tennessee to Tampa Bay, where he will play for defensive guru Lovie Smith. Verner is a ball-hawk who has never missed a game (64-for-64) and continues to add veteran moves to an already dangerous arsenal.
8. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 28, N.Y. Giants
6’2”, 193, Tennessee State (No. 16 pick, 2008)
92 G, 246 T, 98 PD, 19 INT for 409 yards (21.5 ypr), 5 TD, 3 FF, 1 SK
DRC isn’t the toughest guy on the block but he’s not a punk, either. A cheap shot from Michael Floyd — who outweighs DRC by roughly 30 pounds — deserves to be answered with another cheap shot. What he lacks in physicality, DRC makes up for in speed, length and cocky attitude, which often borders on arrogant (just ask Kirk Cousins).
9. Brent Grimes, 31, Miami Dolphins
5’10”, 190, Shippensburg (Undrafted, 2006)
75 G, 314 T, 73 PD, 17 INT for 257 yards (15.1 ypr), TD, 1 FF
A blue-collar scrapper, Grimes doesn’t fit in with the rest of this list and may be a one-time-only inclusion. But the undrafted free-agent deserves mention heading into 2014, following a couple standout campaigns that bookended an injury-shortened 2012 season.
10. Vontae Davis, 26, Indianapolis Colts
5’11”, 207, Illinois (No. 25 pick, 2009)
70 G, 245 T, 51 PD, 13 INT for 150 yards (11.5 ypr), TD, 1 FF, 2 SK
Vernon Davis’ little brother has all the raw talent in the world but his production never matched his potential until last season. The tools were always there, however. And since his brother was a late-bloomer before exploding onto the scene, maybe Vontae will follow Vernon’s lead-block and vault up these rankings in the near future. There’s no doubt Davis can run with anyone, taking over routes for greats like Andre Johnson.
(Editor’s note: Apologies to Honey Badger, Pacman, Nickell and all the nickelbacks covering the slot. You’re doing great work chasing Wes Welker, but the best of the best are on an island on the outside. Plus, Nickelback gets no respect.)
The upcoming NFL season marks the kickoff of everyone's real favorite sport — fantasy football. Only one team in your league will be crowned Super Bowl champion. But it just takes a dirty joke or some well-crafted Johnny Football trolling to cash in on the best fantasy football team name. Here are a few suggestions for this season:
Drake's New Favorite Team
Waka Flacco Flame
U Mad Bro?
Taste My Rainbow
12th Man Records
Bout That Action, Boss
Harbaugh's Dad Pants
Vince Young's Steakhouse
Cry Me a Rivers
Hernandez Hit Men
The Gronk Abides
Party Like a Gronk Star
Wilfork Dance Party
Mr. UGG Boots
Jay-Z's My Agent
Off to Tennessee the Whiz
Remember the Titans
I Don't Want Your Life
Bud Kilmer's Coyotes
Kissing Suzy Kolber
Smokin' Jay Cutler
Dirty Sanchez Butt-Fumblers
Purple Jesus Juice
All Day 2K
J.J. S.W.A.T.T. Team
Clowney Question Bro
Eli Looking at Things
You Down With JPP?
Peyton Manning's 5-Head
Mile High Manning
Welker, Texas Ranger
Sherman's Last Rant
The Boldin the Beautiful
Call Me the Brees
Jimmy "WR" Graham
Jason Garrett's Ginger Boys
Monte Kiffin's 401K
Dez Does Dallas
80% Mental, 40% Physical
Show Me the Money
Super Bowl Quadruple-Check
Prime Prep Two-Step
Don Beebe's Hustle
Big Ol' Bortles
Not Racist Redskins
Hard Knocks Life
Eat a Damn Snack
Suh Girls, One Cup
Boy Named Suh
Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe
K.C. Kool-Aid Man
Turn Your Head and Coughlin
Tampa Bay Terminators
Polk High Panthers
JaMarcus' Purple Drank Diet
Jim Haslem's Accountants
Illiterate Read Option
Forgetting Brandon Marshall
Ron Mexico's Perro
It's Always Runny in Philadelphia
Favre Dollar Footlong
Van Buren Boys
Makin' It Wayne
Red Hot Julius Peppers
Show Me Your TDs
Slow White Bronco
Wham, Bam, Michael Sam
Straight Cash Homey
Gruden vs. Gruden
The 2014 World Cup has narrowed its field from 32 nations in the Group Stage down to the 16 teams that advanced to the single-elimination Knockout Stage, which kicks off Saturday, June 28. But before we move on with the tournament, let's take a quick look back at the insanity that took place in Brazil over the past couple of weeks. These are a few of the highlights and lowlights from the 2014 World Cup Group Stage:
First goal of 2014 World Cup is Marcelo own goal
Oops. The host nation scored its first-ever World Cup own goal in the opener against Croatia, as Brazil's talented left back Marcelo accidentally scored on his own side for the first goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Clint Dempsey’s first-minute goal vs. Ghana
A good omen to start the party for the USMNT. America's best and brightest player sent shockwaves back home with an electric goal to start what has been a fun, albeit unexpected, run through the Group of Death and the Group Stage on to the Knockout Stage.
Lionel Messi’s 90th-minute goal to beat Iran
The beautiful game's most beautiful player was able to bend a beautiful ball for a last-minute match-winning goal. Messi has four goals, tied with Brazil's Neymar and Germany's Thomas Muller for most in the Group Stage.
Robin van Persie’s diving rainbow header vs. Spain
It would have taken devine intervention for "Saint Iker" Casillas to stop this incredible first-touch diving rainbow header from van Persie in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands.
Guillermo Ochoa’s clean sheet in draw vs. Brazil
Mexico beat a Neymar-led Brazil squad in the Olympic gold medal match in London two years ago. But a 0-0 draw in the Group Stage of the World Cup may have been even sweeter. Ochoa had six ridiculous saves in easily the best display of goaltending thus far.
Luis Suarez biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini
Third time is a charm — unless you're biting opponents on the pitch, Suarez-style. After battling back from injury and scoring two goals, Suarez really left his mark on the World Cup with another ugly incident for the Uraguay villain.
Teddy Goalsevelt and Will Ferrell firing up fans
If a pair of former U.S. President impressionists can't get you fired up, then you're not a red-white-and-blue-blooded 'Merican.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s “please excuse” form letter
Coach Klinsmann had a plan. It didn't include Landon Donovan, but it did include advancing to the Round of 16 in style — with an excused absense from work, thanks to the boss of the USMNT.
Cristiano Ronaldo both villain and hero for USA
The world's richest, prettiest and floppiest striker may not have been in tip-top shape but he made the most of what gas he had in the tank — ripping the collective hearts out of the USA with an assist on a stopage-time equalizer one game before scoring the winning goal against Ghana, which resulted in the USA advancing to the Knockout Stage.
Spain, Italy, England, Portugal failing to advance
Europe's traditional powers couldn't take the sweltering Amazonian heat of the World Cup in Brazil. The quartet comprised of a billion dollars worth of club talent was unable to produce for country on the sport's biggest stage.
ESPN camera crews’ ability to find hot fans in crowd
Uncanny. The Worldwide Leader had a sixth sense for finding a diamond in the rough, no matter how rough-looking the crowd might appear to be from the untrained eye. Expect more knockouts in the Knockout Stage. It is Brazil, after all.
As soon as Commissioner Adam Silver tipped off the 2014 NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the hilarity was on a fast-break pace. ESPN’s crew was highlighted by pro’s pro Reece Davis, length-loving Jay Bilas and the hot-and-heavy bromance of Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons at the big desk, while globetrotting European expatriate Fran Fraschilla told tales of scouting the south of France and motorcycle wreck Jay Williams wiped out during every post-draft interview. These are just a few highlights from the telecast.
Andrew Wiggins’ Three Amigos fashion sense
The No. 1 overall pick of the Cavaliers is the second consecutive Canadian drafted with the top spot, following the Anthony Bennett shocker last year. There have now been three Canadians drafted in the top-5 all-time, with all three picked by the Cavs. And after seeing what the wide-smiling Wiggins was wearing on draft night, Cleveland’s Canadian trio of Wiggins, Bennett and Tristan Thompson might as well be called the “Three Amigos” — if Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short don’t mind, that is.
Joel Embiid’s ESPN reaction to getting drafted
It’s been a rough few weeks for the 7-foot, 20-year-old Embiid. First it was a stress fracture in his back. Then it was a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot. Finally he was stung by the tape-delay bug, sitting with a blank look on his face after being drafted No. 3 overall by the 76ers. ESPN’s cameras zoomed in for an awkward few seconds of instant-classic draft footage.
Dante Exum’s Foot Locker and Adidas commercials
The 18-year-old Australian combo guard went No. 5 overall to the Utah Jazz, but his real highlight reel was during commercial breaks during the draft. Exum — whose father, Cecil, was a teammate of Michael Jordan and James Worthy on North Carolina’s 1982 national title team — played up his “international man of mystery” status and stateside anonymity in a series of ads for Foot Locker and Adidas. Whether he was mistaking bills for fan mail, practicing his autograph or wanting to avoid the paparazzi, Exum stole the show within the show.
Toronto drafting “Brazilian Kevin Durant” Bruno Caboclo
By far the craziest pick of the draft came when the Raptors took the 6’9”, 18-year-old Caboclo with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round. Frascilla declared the so-called “Brazilian Kevin Durant” as “two years away from being two years away.” Bilas seemed to think Toronto may have had more success making “Bruno Mars” the first “Bruno” selected in draft history. While the Raptors are hoping they’ve landed the next “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the rest of the hoops-watching world is laughing.
Bill Simmons’ reaction to Heat getting Shabazz Napier
The Sports Guy loved the Celtics’ picks of Marcus Smart (pronounced Maaaacus Smaaaat from now on) and James Young — who prompted a fist pump from Simmons and marked the official end of the Kentucky basketball season, according to John Calipari — at Nos. 6 and 17, respectively. But Simmons is sick of teams “helping the Heat,” which is what he thought went down when the Bobcats traded LeBron James’ favorite player in the draft, two-time UConn champ Shabazz Napier, to two-time champ Miami.
Adam Silver and the NBA “drafting” Isaiah Austin
On a much more serious note, Silver continued to show a Midas touch when dealing with delicate matters. A 7-footer out of Baylor, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome — a connective tissue disorder that can affect the heart, lungs, eyes and spinal cord — during pre-draft medical evaluations. As a result, Austin’s basketball career was effectively ended. But at the halfway point of the draft, Silver called Austin on stage as a draft pick of the NBA. It was a poignant moment of genuine emotion that even a smug Internet troll draft critic could respect and appreciate. Well played, sir.
The 2014 NBA Draft tips off Thursday, June 26. But before Commissioner Adam Silver receives his annual standing ovation — in what will be his first draft since taking over the top spot from David Stern — there will be plenty of rumor-mongering and internet-trolling. After all, this draft is headlined by the Canadian Tracy McGrady, Mormon Carmelo Anthony, Cameroonian Greg Oden and Australian Penny Hardaway.
Here’s a rundown of the top pre-draft rumors and predictions heading into what should be one of the most hectic nights on the league calendar, as all 30 teams look to make themselves more attractive for LeBron James’ pending “Decision Part Deux.”
No. 1 pick is Andrew Wiggins — not Jabari Parker
The high-flying Wiggins is less polished but has top-of-the-backboard upside thanks to his reported 44-inch vertical leap. Parker may be more NBA-ready on draft night, but the Cavaliers (or whichever team trades up to No. 1) will be drafting for the long-term future — not a post-draft pickup game.
Joel Embiid falls out of top-5 due to back and foot injuries
The 20-year-old 7-footer out of Kansas was considered the top prospect in the entire draft until he was revealed to have a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot — an injury similar to those suffered by Yao Ming, Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and other big men with bad wheels. Oh, and the big fella also had his season cut short at KU due to a stress fracture in his back.
Dante Exum shocks draft by being selected in the top-3
His dad played ball with Michael Jordan at North Carolina in the early-80’s! He’s the greatest Australian player since Luc Longley, who also played ball with Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-90’s! This kid is practically Michael Jordan — who, come to think of it, was selected at No. 3 overall 30 years ago. Eerie.
Noah Vonleh gets drafted ahead of injured Joel Embiid
The Indiana freshman has a 7’4” wingspan and the second-biggest hands (11.75”) in Chicago draft combine history. In Vonleh’s one season in Bloomington he led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and hit 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from 3-point range. When all is said and done, Vonleh might have the best NBA career of anyone in this year’s class.
Magic love Marcus Smart at No. 2 in 2013 or No. 4 in ’14
Orlando likely would have taken the Oklahoma State combo guard over Indiana guard Victor Oladipo at No. 2 overall in last year’s draft. Sitting at No. 4 this year, the Magic will be tempted by Embiid or Aussie 1.5-guard Dante Exum, but will stick with the opinion they’ve held for two years now.
Jazz trade No. 5 pick and Derrick Favors for No. 1 or 2 pick
No need to take a private jet to Las Vegas, it’s party time in Salt Lake City. Expect the Jazz to roll the dice and push their chips on the table with a trade package that includes their best big man (Favors) and their top pick (No. 5) in exchange for a chance to acquire Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Celtics do not draft Julius Randle — but the Lakers do
Kentucky’s go-to guy is a polished lefty with nasty Z-Bo-style post moves and a foot that may or may not be about to break (again), depending on who you talk to. Randle skipped a second workout with the C’s to do a fashion interview with GQ. He may have a promise from the Lake Show or the Dallas native may have already gone Hollywood. Either way, he’s a future Laker, even if only for one night.
Kings trade out of No. 8 pick for overpriced veteran
Sac-town has DeMarcus Cousins locked up for the next four years and needs to make the most of their time with the young big man. Look for the Kings to go for broke with a blockbuster trade for either Josh Smith’s radioactive contract in Detroit or maybe a placeholder pick for a sign-and-trade max contract for Eric Bledsoe (DMC’s college buddy) in Phoenix.
Canada Tube gets drafted ahead of Dougie McBuckets
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Creighton’s Doug McDermott are the consensus top-two shooters in the draft. And while McDermott was everyone’s national player of the year — and reason for Kate Upton to “Dougie” — it will be the Canadian Youtube sensation Stauskas who hears his name called first, possibly earlier than anticipated.
Celtics take Dario Saric as draft-and-stash at No. 17
Croatia’s latest uberstar just inked a three-year deal in Turkey, but don’t expect that to prevent the 6’10” versatile forward from being a first-round draft-and-stash for an NBA team looking to either save money or cash in on the value of a potential top-10 talent falling down the board. Saric wants to be a Celtic or Laker, so expect Danny Ainge to make a splash with his second first-rounder.
Michael Jordan drafts Horace Grant’s nephew at No. 24
What was old is new again. His Airness has brought back the Charlotte Hornets name and colors, throwing away the Bobcats name — which was maybe the most egotistical in sports history, as the namesake of previous owner Robert “Bob” Johnson. In another “back to the future” move, expect MJ to draft Syracuse forward Jerami Grant, the nephew of former Bulls teammate Horace Grant and son of former NBAer Harvey Grant.
Kevin Love will not be traded to the Warriors or Bulls
Despite endless speculation that Golden State is willing to include Klay Thompson (or are they?) and that Derrick Rose would prefer to play with Love over Carmelo Anthony in Chicago, there will be no Love exchanged on draft night. Minnesota was swindled in the Kevin Garnett deal and will almost certainly suffer the same fate with Kevin Love. Rather than collect assets from one of the deepest drafts in history, the T-Wolves will wait… and wait… and wait… until it’s too late.
With the 2014 World Cup set to kick off in Brazil, we thought it made sense to get our readers up to speed on the teams. To make it easy, we put things in college football terms. Here's a look at each of the 32 countries competing, as well as what we perceive their American college football counterparts are north of Rio. After all, football is a religion all around the globe, whether it involves slide-tackling or a wrap-up technique. (All odds provided by Bovada.com and indicate odds of winning the World Cup outright.)
Brazil (3:1) = Alabama
The backups for A Selecao and Bama could probably contend.
Mexico (125:1) = Texas
Mexico futbol and Texas football are about equal right now.
Croatia (150:1) = Penn State
James Franklin could coach Vatreni to the Knockout Stage.
Cameroon (500:1) = Texas A&M
Samuel Eto'o a.k.a. Samuel Fo'otbo'ol or Sammy Football.
Spain (6:1) = Florida State
Reigning champs have support of Spanish and Seminole cowgirls.
Netherlands (25:1) = Oregon
Oranje, Oregon. Gotta wear sunglasses the colors are so bright.
Chile (40:1) = Baylor
Are the best days behind or ahead of La Roja and Baylor?
Australia (500:1) = Miami
Australia and Miami. Socceroos and Hurricanes. All night long.
Colombia (33:1) = Stanford
The Stanford Band and Tree are running - from Los Cafeteros?
Ivory Coast (125:1) = Ole Miss
Is this finally the year for Les Elephants and Colonel Reb?
Japan (150:1) = Wisconsin
Samurai Blue and Bucky Badger could make a surprise run.
Greece (200:1) = Michigan
Remember when Greece and Michigan were contenders? Ancient history.
Italy (22:1) = Auburn
Mario and Luigi could lead Azzurri to the promised land. War Eagle!
England (22:1) = Georgia
The Three Lions and the Dawgs underachieve with elite talent.
Uruguay (25:1) = South Carolina
Don't be surprised if La Celeste or Ol' Ball Coach advances.
Costa Rica (1,000:1) = North Carolina
Pretty sure Rashad McCants is a high-ranking FIFA member.
France (25:1) = LSU
Les Bleus in Baton Rouge yelling Geaux Tigers! Mardi Gras?
Switzerland (125:1) = Florida
Will Muschamp likes Nickelback and Switzerland.
Ecuador (150:1) = Clemson
La Tri and the Tigers must regroup to stay competitive.
Honduras (1,500:1) = Virginia Tech
Los Catrachos is Chupacabra meets Hokie.
Argentina (4:1) = Oklahoma
Lionel Messi is in Adrian Peterson prime form.
Bosnia & Herzegovina (150:1) = Missouri
First trip to World Cup for Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Nigeria (250:1) = Louisville
Super Eagles and Cardinals look to air for scoring.
Iran (1,500:1) = Iowa
"What are four-letter places where I don't want to go, Alex?"
Germany (11:2) = Ohio State
Group of Death: Die Adler and Ohio Hate could win it all this year.
Portugal (25:1) = USC
Cristiano Ronald is Hollywood. USC Trojans? Also Hollywood.
USA (100:1) = Notre Dame
Egomaniacal coach? Check. Overhyped program? Check. Envied by all? Check.
Ghana (200:1) = Arizona State
Black Stars have been Sun Devils to USMNT in World Cup.
Belgium (18:1) = UCLA
Do all the women in Belgium look like Bruins cheerleaders?
Russia (100:1) = Michigan State
The Fightin' Putins are shirtless Spartans on horseback. No?
South Korea (300:1) = Washington
Seattle's got Seoul. What else do you need?
Algeria (1,000:1) = Nebraska
"Al Jazeera?" asks Bo Pellini. Bo clearly does not know.
From the moment Roger Goodell was first booed, the 2014 NFL Draft was everything fans expected and/or didn’t expect. As usual, trades, tears and tacky suits dominated the first round. But there were a few wild and crazy moments of note from the NFL’s prime time must-see Thursday night TV reality show.
Johnny Football’s long fall
Even Jerry Jones passed on Johnny Manziel, who fell all the way down the board to the Cleveland Browns at No. 22 overall — the exact same spot mistakes by the lake were made on quarterbacks Brandon Weeden (2012) and Brady Quinn (2007) not so long ago. But Johnny Dawg Pound is a different breed; he’s planning to make “taking the Browns to the Super Bowl” more than just a euphemism.
Jon Gruden commentary
ESPN’s crew of booming blow-hard Chris Berman, “Who the hell is” Mel Kiper and first-time long-time Ray Lewis wouldn’t have been the same without the many faces of Jon Gruden, whose love affair with Johnny Laceless Football was in full bloom on draft night. Even Frank Caliendo couldn’t do justice to Chucky’s performance, which gave the simulcast edge to ESPN over NFL Network — which was highlighted by Marshall Faulk’s oversized bowtie.
Blake Bortles’ girlfriend
Were ESPN and NFL Network in cahoots? Why was the lovely Lindsey Duke not given more airtime? After all, her man Blake Bortles was the No. 3 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team down the road from the University of Central Florida. Instead of Duke, it was Taylor Lewan’s mom who showed off some MILF cleavage while her son rocked a Macklemore-inspired hairdo.
Sammy Watkins’ selfie
The Buffalo Bills splashed the hot-wing sauce by trading up from the No. 9 overall pick to the No. 4 spot — trading away their 2015 first- and fourth-rounders in order to secure Clemson playmaker Sammy Watkins. The top wideout in the draft was also the top Instagram man, pulling a Chain Smokers move by taking a selfie after his bro-bear-hug with Commissioner Goodell.
Browns’ Draft Day drama
Kevin Costner did it again. First, he bamboozled Buffalo for future picks. Then, he moved the Browns up from No. 26 overall to No. 22, beating the Minnesota Vikings to the spot to take Johnny Manziel. Wait? It wasn’t Costner? It was first-year GM Ray Farmer doing what embattled owner Jimmy Haslam wanted — or was told by a homeless man to do, according to our pal Sal Paolantonio. Either way, Cleveland rocked the draft, if not the box office. As Johnny's OVO would say, "YOLO."
While most athletes are content to enjoy the limelight on the field of competitive sports, many have tried to bask in the bright lights of Hollywood. Here are 30 athletes who made their mark in the movies; some as classic characters in blockbusters and others in forgettable box office disasters.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator (1984)
The four-time Mr. Universe and International Powerlifting Champion from Austria went on to become the greatest action hero of his — or any — generation. Schwarzenegger’s signature role was the Terminator sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of unborn revolutionary leader John Connor. Although he speaks only 18 lines in the James Cameron classic, Arnold utters his most memorable quote — “I’ll be back.”
Other notable films: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Predator (1987), Total Recall (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994)
2. Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
A five-time gold medalist swimmer and bronze medalist water polo player, Weissmuller starred in 12 Tarzan films from 1932-48. Although he was the sixth actor to portray the Edgar Rice Burrough character, Weissmuller added arguably the most important element to Tarzan — the ape-man’s ululating yell.
3. Jim Brown, 100 Rifles (1969)
Arguably the greatest running back (and lacrosse player) in history, Brown retired from the NFL during the prime of his career to become a movie star.
“To leave at 29 years old, MVP, having won the championship in ’64 and played for it in ’65,” Brown told Esquire in 2008. “To go into the movies and break the color barrier and be in a sex scene with Raquel Welch. To get to be in The Dirty Dozen with some great actors. To make more money in one year than you damn near made in nine years of football. Everything about it was ingenious.”
Other notable films: The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Running Man (1987), Mars Attacks! (1996), Any Given Sunday (1999)
4. O.J. Simpson, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
The Juice was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC and the only running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in only 14 games. But he was also the bumbling klutz Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun franchise.
Nordberg: “All right, listen up everyone! I want you to calmly file towards the exits. That’s it, that’s it! Nobody runs, just walk. Single file. That’s it. Now if we just stay calm, no one’s gonna be harmed by the huge bomb that’s gonna explode any minute.”
But O.J.’s best acting scene came during his 1994-95 trial for double-homicide — when he was given black gloves and the stage in one of the greatest legal dramas ever.
Other notable films: The Towering Inferno (1974), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! (1980)
From sky hook to fly boy, Kareem was co-pilot Roger Murdock — flying alongside a very Jerry Sandusky pilot played by Peter Graves — in the comedy classic Airplane! He also fought Bruce Lee during his film debut in Game of Death.
Roger Murdock: “Listen Kid! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”
Other notable films: Game of Death (1972), Fletch (1985)
6. Carl Weathers, Rocky (1976)
Before he was iconic heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in the Best Picture Academy Award-winning Rocky, Weathers played football at San Diego State, then four seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the CFL’s B.C. Lions.
Apollo Creed: “Southpaw nothing. I’ll drop him in three. Apollo Creed meets the Italian Stallion. Now that sounds like a damn monster movie.”
Other notable films: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Predator (1987), Happy Gilmore (1996)
7. Mike Tyson, The Hangover (2009)
The youngest fighter (20 years, 4 months, 22 days) to unify the heavyweight title belt (WBC, WBA and IBF), Iron Mike was a terror in the ring — going 37–0 before losing to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
A surreal caricature of a man, Tyson infamously did hard time, bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear, got a face tattoo and speaks with an effeminate voice that contradicts his baddest man alive persona. Already bordering on a fictional existence, Tyson took his act to the big screen, singing Phil Collins’ classic “In the Air Tonight” in the bachelor party flick Hangover.
Tyson: “By the way man, where you get that cop car from?”
Stu Price: “We, uh, stole it from these dumbass cops.”
Tyson: “Nice! High five there! That’s nice!”
Other notable films: Rocky Balboa (2006), The Hangover Part II (2011)
8. Bob Uecker, Major League (1989)
One of Uecker’s 14 career home runs in MLB was off of the legendary lefty Sandy Koufax. But the backup catcher was known more for his play-by-play commentary — both in real life as the five-time Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers and in film as the hard-drinking Harry Doyle with the Cleveland Indians in the Major League trilogy.
Harry Doyle: “So, here is Rick Vaughn, the one they call the ‘Wild Thing.’ So, he sets and deals. (Vaughn throws a wild pitch) Just a bit outside, he tried for the corner and missed. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 4. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 8. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”
Other notable films: Major League II (1994), Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco (1996), Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)
9. Alex Karras, Blazing Saddles (1974)
An Outland Award winning defensive tackle at Iowa and a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, Karras was the perfect fit for the horse-punching Mongo in the Mel Brooks wild Western satire Blazing Saddles.
Mongo: “Mongo only pawn … in game of life.”
Other notable films: Porky’s (1982), Victor Victoria (1982), Against All Odds (1984)
10. Andre the Giant, The Princess Bride (1987)
The 7’4”, 530-pound Frenchman was one of the greatest acts in WWF history before playing the lovable strongman running mate of Inigo Montoya in the rom-com fairy tale The Princess Bride.
Fezzik: “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”
Other notable films: Conan the Destroyer (1984), Micki + Maude (1984)
11. Bubba Smith, Police Academy (1984)
“Kill, Bubba, Kill” was chanted by fans at Michigan State before Smith became the No. 1 overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft. The 6’7” Smith was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Baltimore Colts and a member of the Super Bowl V champions and Super Bowl III runners-up. But to many, he was Lt. Moses Hightower of the Police Academy series.
Hightower: “I was a florist.”
Mahoney: “A florist?”
Hightower: “Yeah, you know, flowers and shit.”
Other notable films: Police Academy 2-6 (1985-89)
12. Vinnie Jones, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
A real deal hooligan, Jones was a footballer who captained the Welsh national team before becoming a typecast movie tough guy.
Other notable films: Snatch (2000), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Swordfish (2001), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
13. John Matuszak, The Goonies (1985)
“Tooz” was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft and a two-time Super Bowl champion (Super Bowls XI and XV) before playing the deformed “Sloth” in The Goonies.
Other notable films: North Dallas Forty (1979), Caveman (1981)
14. Jason Lee, Almost Famous (2000)
The former professional skateboarder has carved his way to becoming one of the top goofy-foot grinders in the acting game, turning a wicked 360 flip into mainstream big (and small) screen success.
Other notable films: Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Vanilla Sky (2001), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
15. Cam Neely, Dumb and Dumber (1994)
“Kick his ass, Sea Bass!” has made its way into the vernacular thanks to the Hockey Hall of Famer who hockey-ed a loogie on Jim Carey’s hamburger in the cult classic.
Sea Bass: “What the hell? Who’s the dead man that hit me with the salt shaker?”
Other notable films: D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Me, Myself & Irene (2000), What’s the Worst That Could Happen (2001)
16. Roger Clemens, Kingpin (1996)
Clemens, like Neely, is an athlete-actor in Farrelly Brothers comedies. Another intimidator, Clemens plays the role of Skidmark, who doesn’t like it when he finds Amish bowler Ishmael dancing with his girl.
Ishmael: “Hi Mr. Skidmark.”
Other notable films: Cobb (1994), Anger Management (2003)
17. Ray Allen, He Got Game (1998)
Ray plays Jesus Shuttlesworth — Denzel Washington’s son, based loosely on the life of Stephon Marbury — in the Spike Lee joint He Got Game. The perky perks of college basketball recruiting, as well as its financially and politically charged shady side, are in the spotlight.
Other notable film: Harvard Man (2001)
18. Ray Nitschke, The Longest Yard (1974)
The iconic two-time Super Bowl (I and II) champion Green Bay Packers middle linebacker makes this Burt Reynolds original where the prison inmates play against the guards.
Other notable film: Head (1968)
19. Lawrence Taylor, Any Given Sunday (1999)
Another of the NFL’s all-time great linebackers stretches his acting chops by playing football in a film. Coached by Al Pacino, L.T. is a veteran risking his life to play another Sunday for the Miami Sharks.
Other notable films: The Waterboy (1998), The Comebacks (2007), When in Rome (2010)
20. Mike Ditka, Kicking and Screaming (2005)
One of two men to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Ditka may have been able to beat a Hurricane — according to Bill Swerski’s Superfans on Saturday Night Live — but he was no match for Will Ferrell.
21. Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer (1984)
After scoring a record 100 points in a single NBA game, Wilt the Stilt teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look out, ladies.
22. Jesse Ventura, Predator (1987)
Another Arnold Schwarzenegger castmate, “The Body” was hunting and hunted by a Predator monster in the jungles of Central America. The duo would go on to become governors, with Ventura taking over Minnesota and Arnold becoming the “Governator” of Call-ee-forn-ee-a.
Other notable films: The Running Man (1987), Demolition Man (1993), Batman & Robin (1997)
23. Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch (2006)
The four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback plays the husband of Kathy Bates and father of Matthew McConaughey, a 35-year-old still living with his parents. Spoiler alert: Bradshaw bares all.
24. Brett Favre, There's Something About Mary (1998)
Cameron Diaz is a Niners fan, but Brett and Warren are friends.
Favre: “Hi, Mary!”
Pat Healy: “What the hell is Brett Favre doing here?”
Favre: “I’m in town to play the Dolphins, you dumb ass.”
25. Dan Marino, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
Ray Finkle blames Marino — “Laces out!” — for losing Super Bowl XVII and ruining his career. The Jim Carey vehicle is funnier than Isotoner commercials, which is saying something.
26. Lance Armstrong, Dodgeball (2004)
After convincing Ben Still to Live Strong, Lance has since taken his ball and gone home.
Armstrong: “I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho, ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.”
Peter La Fleur: “Uh, actually I decided to quit, Lance.”
Armstrong: “Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals?”
27. Derek Jeter, The Other Guys (2010)
He’s a biracial angel.
28. Gheorghe Muresan, My Giant (1998)
The 7’7” Romanian sensation wasn’t just Billy Crystal’s giant, he was everyone’s giant.
29. Michael Jordan, Space Jam (1996)
Bugs Bunny owes us all an apology. You too, Michael.
30. Shaquille O'Neal, Kazaam (1996)
Shaq would probably spend all three of his wishes to wipe out this boombox genie flop.
The best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament. Many of greatest rosters ever assembled failed to cut down the nets in the one-and-done, single-elimination Madness of March. These are the 15 best teams that never won the NCAA Tournament.
1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four
Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.
2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers
(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight
Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.
3. 1983 Houston Cougars
(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game
Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.
4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas
(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game
The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.
5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels
(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16
On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistants coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.
6. 1993 Michigan Wolverines
(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game
The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.
7. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks
(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16
KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.
8. 1973 NC State Wolfpack
(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play
David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.
9. 1974 UCLA Bruins
(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four
The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.
10. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats
(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate
Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.
11. 1999 Duke Blue Devils
(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game
One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.
12. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes
(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game
Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.
13. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks
(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game
Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and 1956. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.
14. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats
(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game
In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.
15. 1979 Indiana State Sycamores
(33–1, 16–0 Missouri Valley)
Coach Bill Hodges
Lost to Michigan State, 75–64, in NCAA title game
The Legend of Larry Bird sprouted from the Sycamores undefeated 33–0 run to the NCAA title game, where Bird vs. Magic made the contest the highest rated college basketball game in history.
Johnny Manziel’s Pro Day at Texas A&M was easily the most-watched in NFL history, thanks to NFL Network’s live coverage and America’s insatiable appetite for all things Johnny Football. College Station hosted a who’s who of Lone Star State dignitaries — including former President George H.W. Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush and Governor Rick Perry (an A&M alum) — as well as representatives from 30 of 32 NFL franchises. But it could have been so much more entertaining. Here are four things we wish had happened at Johnny Pro Day’s big day.
1. Johnny Manziel had worn a Houston Texans helmet
Unlike most prospects who work out in a tee-shirt and shorts on their Pro Day, Manziel wore a matte black helmet and black No. 2 jersey with pads on underneath — because, as he told Gil Brandt, “Isn’t the game played with them on?” Instead of generic gear, the Kerrville, Texas, native should have broken out a Houston Texans helmet. His fans would have loved it, he would have put the spotlight back on himself as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick and he could have trolled the internet trolls who love to bash him. Plus, he’s already threatened the Texans:
“It would be the worst decision they ever made,” Manziel told The Houston Chronicle, of the Texans not selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick. “I want them to say absolutely, without a doubt, with 100 percent certainty, that I’m who they want. I want everybody from the janitor at Reliant Stadium to the front office executive assistant all the way up to (owner) Bob McNair to say, ‘This kid is 100 percent, can’t miss. This is who we want being the face of our program. We want the Texas kid staying in Texas and leading the Texans.’”
2. Jacksonville Jaguars WRs replaced Mike Evans
As usual, the Heisman Trophy winner shined as the main event in the three-ring circus, completing 61-of-64 passes in the scripted workout, including two dropped “catchable” balls and one caught pass out of bounds. But he was completing passes to his own guys, which included stud Aggie wideout Mike Evans — a 6’5”, 231-pounder with 4.5 speed and the potential to be a top-10 pick in his own right. But that’s unrealistic. What if Johnny Jaguar goes No. 3 overall to Jacksonville and has to play pitch-and-catch with London’s favorite receivers? Manziel probably wouldn’t have completed 95 percent of his Pro Day passes with Jaguars as targets, even against a defense of thin air.
3. Cleveland Browns sent LeBron James to scout
The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns were reportedly the only two teams in the NFL that did not send a scout, assistant, coach or executive to take a first-hand look at A&M’s Pro Day. Obviously, Chicago has big money locked up at QB and WR. But Cleveland? Not only do the Browns own the Nos. 4 and 26 overall picks, but one of Johnny Famous’ celebrity friends is a former (fictional) member of the Dawg Pound. LeBron James could have represented Ohio. After all, the Heat had an off day on Thursday and King James was obviously watching (and Tweeting) about all the action.
4. Barbara Bush’s dogs were pit bulls, not Maltipoos
First Lady (and First Mother?) Barbara Bush took her family dogs for a high-profile walk on the field at the Pro Day. The two Maltipoos — light brown Bibi and white Mini Me — also sat with President Bush and the First Lady in their golf cart on the sidelines during the on-field drills. But how much more intimidating would it have been had Mrs. Bush’s dogs been pit bulls? Or bulldogs? Or Doberman Pinschers? Barbara Bush’s tenacity is legendary. Will Ferrell as George W. Bush told us all about her toughness during the HBO special “You’re Welcome, America.” Don’t let the Maltipoos mislead you. There’s a reason both her husband and son rose to President of the United States. With Barbara Bush on his side, Johnny Football too could go all the way to the top.
Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll dominate the most shocking confessions in sports history — which range from life-or-death to too much information to inconsequential yet unnerving.
1. Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement
The 32-year-old smiling face of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, Magic was a larger-than-life, five-time NBA champion and 11-time All-Star when he held a press conference on Nov. 7, 1991 to announce his intentions to leave the NBA after discovering that he had contracted HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). The subsequent shockwaves of the news reverberated throughout the world — not just the world of sports — as the seemingly invincible superhero Magic Johnson became the exceedingly vulnerable human Earvin Johnson. Thankfully, Johnson remains healthy at age 54 and has a reported net worth of $500 million.
2. O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It” book
The O.J. Simpson murder “Trial of the Century” captivated the nation from the Ford Bronco chase on June 17, 1994, until the not-guilty verdict was read on Oct. 3, 1995. As lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran famously (infamously?) said, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” But that didn’t stop the Juice from penning a 2006 novel depicting a “fictional” account of the murders ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Rightfully infuriated, the Goldman family took O.J. to court and were awarded the rights to the book as part of their wrongful death civil trial settlement.
3. Tiger Woods’ apology press conference
“Hey, it’s Tiger. I need you to do a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. Just have it as a number on the voicemail. You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.” That was a voicemail that could have been received by any porn star or Perkins waitress across the country following Tiger’s Thanksgiving weekend 2009 car wreck, when his web of lies and mistresses unraveled. Tiger overly scripted apology press conference was tame compared to the shock value provided by leaked voicemails and text messages — not to mention the parade of bleached out bimbos.
4. Lance Armstrong’s Oprah interview
Anyone who follows cycling could not have been shocked by Armstrong’s admission of blood doping en route to his champagne reign of seven consecutive victories (1999-2005) in the Tour de France. But since almost no one stateside follows the sport and Armstrong had been so steadfast in his denial — following a well-publicized battle with cancer and an extremely popular charitable “Livestrong” campaign, complete with trendy yellow bracelets (which happen to be the same color as the yellow jersey awarded the Tour de France leader and/or champion) — many Americans felt cheated and betrayed when Lance gave an unapologetic confession to Oprah in Jan. 2013.
5. Tim Tebow’s SEC Media Day sermon
Through both hype and hyperbole, Southeastern Conference football has been described as a religion by many who worship the greatest college football league the universe has ever been blessed enough to witness. But take a three-step drop back for perspective’s sake and there is actual religion, a subject which Tebow — a devout Christian unafraid to spread the gospel — has never been shied away from. Tebow’s beliefs and values were thrust into the spotlight during the circus of SEC Media Days in 2009, when shock jock Clay Travis asked the Heisman Trophy winner if he was indeed a virgin. Yes he is/was. He is/was waiting until marriage. Given the talent in the Gator Nation, that’s a shocker.
6. Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend Deadspin exposé
“Never has there been a tale of more woe, than this of Lennay Kekua and her Te’o.” Shakespeare wrote that, I think. Tragically, Te’o’s girlfriend, Kekua, was a catfish story created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. She never existed. She didn’t go to Stanford. She didn’t die of cancer. And Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy runner-up middle linebacker did not honor her through his play on the gridiron. The narrative told and retold by news outlets of note such as Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, was exposed by Brett Favre’s favorite blog Deadspin, in a mind-blowing piece of well-written, in-depth, actually researched journalism.
7. Michael Sam’s Sports Illustrated story
The SEC Defensive Player of the Year isn’t a BMOC self-proclaimed virgin and doesn’t have an AWOL imaginary girlfriend. Nope. Sam is just an ordinary gay man who happens to play football. That’s not so shocking, at least not to most iPhone-carrying, Netflix-watching modern Americans. But Peter King was freaked out. What would Bill Parcells have thought in 1989? King quoted unnamed knuckle-dragging league sources when SI and MMQB broke the news in February 2014, jumping the gun on a story that was groundbreaking but not nearly as shocking as Sam’s slow-motion 4.91 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
8. Hollywood Henderson’s Super Bowl party
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson co-authored, along with Peter Knobler, an autobiography appropriately entitled “Out of Control.” The highlight (lowlight?) of the book is Hollywood’s admission of using a cocaine-laced inhaler on the Dallas Cowboys sideline at the Orange Bowl during a Super Bowl XIII loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I pulled out my inhaler. The Orange Bowl holds about 80,000 screaming fans, plus there were about 200 million watching worldwide on TV, and there I was on the sideline taking a couple of major snorts in front of them all,” Henderson said. “We lost that day. I lost that day. I was out of control.”
9. Andre Agassi’s phony ponytail tell-all
Another autobiographical tale, so to speak, was told in Agassi’s book, “Open.” The eight-time Grand Slam champion tennis star, Nike spokesman and Canon camera shooter discussed the dark days of meth use and dating Barbara Streisand. But the most disturbing admission of the rebel from Las Vegas was that his famed punk ponytail was actually a fake attachment to whatever baseball cap he was wearing. He wore wigs during the 1990s while simultaneously being known for his long, crazy hair. Double-fault. No soft tennis clapping for this shocking confession. Hopefully it’s a lie about a lie used as a marketing ploy just to sell books.
10. Will Muschamp’s love of Nickelback
“I listen to Nickelback. Although I couldn’t name a song,” Muschamp said during a Monday press conference on Sept. 30, 2013. This news came after the Florida Gators coach was accused of just such musical treason on ESPN’s College GameDay, when a Tennessee Volunteers fan held up a sign that simply declared: “Will Muschamp Listens To Nickelback.” At the time, we all laughed. That’s funny. Of course no self-respecting, Gator-chomping, jorts-wearing, domestic beer-drinking HEAD FOOTBALL COACH would ever listen to the Canadian band that has sold more than 50 million albums to the lowest common denominator. So what’s worse? Posting a 22–16 record at one of the best jobs in the nation — or listening to Nickelback?
The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books. And as usual, March Madness tipped off with a bang. Cinderellas were busy Big Dancing to the Sweet 16, while traditional powerhouses were belly-flopping and Bracket-busting all the way to Warren Buffett's nearly $60-billion bank account. Since, shockingly, no one has a flawless Billion-Dollar Bracket, here's a look at the other most disappointing moments of the NCAA Tournament thus far.
1. Lord have Mercer! The Dookies went one-and-done
Coach K and the mighty Duke Blue Devils lost in the Round of 64 for the second time in three seasons — falling to Mercer this year after being upset by Lehigh in the 2012 Tourney. Unfortunately for internet trolls and Duke haters alike, Coach K was classy in defeat, visiting the Bears locker room after the tough loss. "You have a hell of a basketball team," the four-time NCAA champ and two-time Olympic gold medal-winning head coach said. "I love the game and you guys play the game really, really well and your coach coaches it well. If we had to be beaten, I'm glad that we got beaten by a hell of a basketball team. So, good luck to you." That's disappointing.
2. Clock operator in North Carolina loss to Iowa State
Tar Heels joined Blue Devils to cry in their beers on Tobacco Road following a surreal finish to UNC's 85–83 defeat to Iowa State. Cyclones clutch guard DeAndre Kane hit a sweet go-ahead bucket with 1.6 seconds to play. Then all Heel broke loose. The clock operator failed to push the all-important "button that starts the clock" following a panicked inbounds pass. When time-out was finally granted Roy Williams, as the ball reached halfcourt, it was too late. Officials huddled. Coach Roy grabbed his knees and hung his head. Game over.
3. Dougie McDermott's lack of Tourney McBuckets
Sadly, Mr. 3000 didn't teach anyone how to Dougie in this year's Big Dance. The nation's leading scorer and favorite to win every national player of the year award saw his brilliant college career end not with a bang but a whimper. Dougie McBuckets scored 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting, going 0-of-3 from downtown and just 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, during Creighton's 85–55 blowout loss to Baylor.
4. Marcus Smart's sophomoric season finally ends
Oklahoma State's go-to guy famously (infamously?) shunned the weak 2013 NBA Draft in favor of returning to play for the Pokes and roll the dice with the historically strong 2014 NBA Draft. After a disappointing 8–10 Big 12 season that included a three-game suspension following a not-so-Smart physical altercation with a fan in the stands at Texas Tech, Smart's amateur hour is over. The combo guard didn't show the shooting touch NBA scouts are concerned with, going 5-of-14 from the field, 1-of-5 from 3-point range and 12-of-19 from the free-throw line in a 89–77 Round of 64 loss to Gonzaga.
5. Mayor Hoiberg apologizing for Sweet 16 dance moves
After Iowa State took down North Carolina, Cyclones coach Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg broke it down in the Iowa State locker room with a few dance moves that would make Michael Jackson proud. So why did he apologize to his daughter and son via Twitter? There should be no shame in your game, Mayor. No reason to apologize, even as a formality. Own it, baby. You deserve to dance after advancing to Iowa State's first Sweet 16 since 2000.
6. Nebraska' Big Ten Coach of the Year Tim Miles ejected
There is a coach that should be embarrassed by his moves, these coming on the court. After being picked last in the Big Ten preseason, Miles led the Huskers to their first NCAA berth in 16 years. But the coach appeared to be out of his element, picking up an early technical foul before being tossed in the second half after running out onto the floor to (correctly) point out that the shot clock was not running. "The official came over and T'd me up. I said, 'It's the shot clock. It never ran,'" said Miles. "I'm like, 'I'm just trying to get the game in line, that's a correctable error.' He's like, 'It's too late. You're gone.'"
7. Kansas State walk-on assessed pregame technical foul
Sure, Brian Rohleder only saw 31 minutes on the court for K-State this season. But that didn't stop the sophomore walk-on from costing the Wildcats in a tough 8-9 matchup with preseason No. 1 Kentucky. Unlike LeBron James' NBA pregame dunk contest routine, it is against the rules to dunk during pregame layup lines at the college level. Rohleder, however, threw down a two-handed hammer prior to KSU-UK tipoff. He was spotted and T'd up. Kentucky's Andrew Harrison sunk the free throw and K-State started the game trailing 1–0.
8. Other Gumbel brother fails to identify other Miller brother
You would think Greg Gumbel would sympathize with famous brothers being misidentified as their more famous sibling. How many times do you think Greg has been confused for Bryant? But that personal experience didn't stop Greg from confusing Dayton coach Archie Miller with his more accomplished older brother, Arizona coach Sean Miller. CBS pulled the plug on the interview after it got weird — because it didn't take a "Gumbel 2 Gumbel" detective duo to figure out the obvious error. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
9. Grant Hill's "white on white hate" analysis of Duke
In an interview with Bleacher Report, the two-time Duke national champion and NCAA Tourney analyst introduced a new theory on why there is so much nationwide schadenfreud when his alma mater loses. "The funny thing is — and I played with Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner and they were despised when we went on the road," said Hill. "But you look into the crowd and it was nothing but white students at the games, so it was white on white hate. It’s sad."
10. Aaron Craft unable to hustle his way to Sweet 16
Does that explain why Craft gets treated like he goes to Duke? Because he's white? Well, it's all over for the hustle-haulic from Ohio State. No more rabid defense or GPA updates. Nope. The Buckeyes' Goliath fell to Dayton's David in a classic in-state Round of 64 showdown that produced an incredible local headline, which went viral immediately. There's plenty of reasons to have loved the college career of Craft. Even in crushing, disappointing defeat, he left us all an enduring Meme of his postgame reaction after missing the potential game-winner.
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, especially in sports — and politics and entertainment and mysteriously lost Malaysian Airlines flights. When Michael Jordan unexpectedly retires? Conspiracy. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race after his daddy died? Conspiracy. When Louisville and Michigan State both get a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Double-dog conspiracy. But none of those tongue-in-cheek cheats made this list. These are the top five conspiracy theories in sports history:
1. 1919 World Series — Chicago Black Sox Scandal
“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
Eight members of the Chicago White Sox — “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Claude “Lefty” Williams, Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg and Oscar “Happy” Felsch — were banned from baseball for conspiring with gamblers and gangsters (notably New York’s Arnold Rothstein) to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The plan worked, as the heavily favored White Sox — one of the era’s highest profile teams and arguably one of the most talented squads of all time — fell to the Reds, 5-to-3, in the best-of-nine series.
Strangely, “Shoeless Joe” hit the 1919 World Series’ only home run and led all batters with a .375 average (12-for-32), six RBIs and five runs scores. But Jackson’s implication in the scandal ended his career at only 32 years old, with a .356 career average and three top-5 finishes in AL MVP voting.
As a result of what would become known as the “Black Sox Scandal,” Kenesaw Mountain Landis was named the first “Commissioner of Baseball” in 1920.
2. Super Bowl III — New York Jets upset Baltimore Colts
“We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.”
Joe Namath backed up his famous guarantee with the New York Jets upsetting the Baltimore Colts, 16–7, in Super Bowl III. But since “Broadway Joe” trotted off the field pointing No. 1 to the sky, there have been more than a few rumblings that the Colts took a dive against the Jets.
The legitimacy of the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 was greatly aided by the AFL’s win in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. The fact that the game was won by New York — a massive media market with a coverboy quarterback — was icing on the cake. In hindsight, it could be argued that the Jets’ win over the Colts was a triumph worth not just millions but billions of dollars for the league.
“That Super Bowl game, which we lost by nine points, was the critical year (for the AFL),” Colts defensive end Bubba Smith famously told Playboy. “The game just seemed odd to me. Everything was out of place. I tried to rationalize that our coach, Don Shula, got out-coached, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if any of my teammates were in on the fix.”
Baltimore had a 13–1 record in 1968 and dominated the Cleveland Browns, 34–0, in the NFL title game. Meanwhile, New York went 11–3 and barely escaped with a 27–23 win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL title game — thanks in large part to a fluke play late in the fourth quarter, when the Jets recovered a lateral fumble that the Raiders thought was an incomplete pass.
The Colts committed five costly turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Earl Morrall. One interception was particularly suspicious. With Colts receiver Jimmy Orr wide open near the end zone, Morrall checked down to running back Jerry Hill only to throw an errant pass intercepted by Jets safety Jim Hudson.
“I’m just a linesman but I looked up and saw Jimmy (Orr) wide open,” said Colts center Bill Curry, currently the head coach at Georgia State.
Baltimore coach Don Sula — who would later coach Morrall with the Miami Dolphins — may have the most damning non-quote of all. Smith wrote in his autobiography, “Kill, Bubba, Kill,” that he believed the fix was in at Super Bowl III. Shula’s response was the classic husband-caught-cheating reply.
“I think it’s too ridiculous for me to comment on,” said Shula.
3. Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston — “Phantom Punch”
“Get up and fight, sucker!”
Muhammad Ali stood over Sonny Liston shouting at him to get up, while ringside photographer Neil Leifer captured the iconic moment in what many have called the greatest sports photograph in history.
Ali-Liston II was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, 1964 at the Boston Garden. But the fight was postponed after a pre-fight injury suffered by Ali. Rumors of organized crime connections to the fight promotion caused the city of Boston to reject the fight. Then, amid continued fixed fight talk, the city of Cleveland followed suit and also denied the fight.
Finally, on May 25, 1965, the heavyweight championship bout took place at St. Dominic’s Hall in Lewiston, Maine, and was refereed by former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott. The fight did not last long, however. Liston went down in the first round — as rumors swirled that Liston owed money to the mafia and/or had been threatened by the Nation of Islam.
Worst of all, Ali was reportedly overheard asking his corner crew a crucial question about the so-called “phantom punch.”
“Did I hit him?”
4. 1985 NBA Draft Lottery — Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks
In 1985, Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was a “can’t miss” NBA prospect. Ewing lived up to his advanced billing, as an 11-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. He never won an NBA championship, primarily due to the greatness of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. But Ewing was the centerpiece of 13 playoff teams for the New York Knicks — a team that acquired the 7-footer via the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery.
After watching the footage, several oddities stand out. When putting the seven envelopes into the drum, the fourth envelope is noticeably thrown against the side of the clear sphere — bending one corner of the envelope — while the other six are simply dropped into the bottom of the drum. Then, Commissioner David Stern lets out a stressful deep breath before diving his hand into the drum, passing over several envelopes and drawing what turned out to be the New York Knicks — Stern’s self-proclaimed favorite team. Along with the bent-corner theory, many have speculated that the Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the drawing.
Since the Ewing scandal, the NBA Draft Lottery has cleaned up its act. The ping-pong ball lottery takes place in a room with no cameras, then the “results” are announced by opening the envelopes on television. Stern is nowhere near the event. Who has been involved? The trustworthy employees of Ernst & Young, whose honest oversight experience also includes the fraudulent accounting practices of Lehman Brothers.
It’s all on the up and up. The Bulls received the right to draft Chicago native Derrick Rose, despite only a 1.7 percent chance of “winning” the Lottery. The Orlando Magic won back-to-back No. 1 picks, including Shaquille O’Neal. The New Jersey Nets won the No. 1 pick in Rod Thorn’s first draft running the Nets, after 15 years of Thorn being Stern’s right-hand man in the league office. The Cleveland Cavaliers got the top pick the year the best player in state history (LeBron James) was available and the year after King James left town. The most recent Lottery was won by the New Orleans Hornets — a team owned by the NBA during the 2011-12 season, before being sold to Tom Benson.
If the real lottery were run the way Stern runs the NBA Draft Lottery, no one would buy a ticket. And the right to draft Ewing, Shaq, LeBron, etc., is worth more than the PowerBall.
5. 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 6 — Sacramento Kings at L.A. Lakers
Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee from 1994 to 2007, officiating in 772 regular season games and 20 playoff contests. But rumors of fixing games caused Donaghy to resign in July 2007. Concrete evidence presented by the FBI resulted in Donaghy pleading guilty to federal charges and being sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
After being released, Donaghy began telling tales of NBA officiating, gambling and controlling the outcome of games. His legal team even filed loosely veiled allegations against the NBA in U.S. District Court.
Although he does not name team or referee names, it is clear that Donaghy’s attorney is referring to Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.
“Referees A, F and G were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 and 6 in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 victory that night would have ended the series.
“However, Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men,’ always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series. Referees A and F heavily favored Team 6.
“Personal fouls (resulting in obviously injured players) were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the Referees. Conversely, the Referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6. Their foul-calling also led to the ejection of two Team 5 players.
“The referees’ favoring of Team 6 led to that team’s victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series.”
The referees that May 31, 2002 night were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Steve Javie. The Kings led the Lakers, 3–2, in the best-of-seven series. A Kings win would send Sacramento to the NBA Finals, where it would face the New Jersey Nets. A Lakers win would force a Game 7 and keep alive the dynasty dreams of the two-time defending champions.
Kings centers Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out of the game. Pollard picked up two fouls in 14 seconds, fouling out with 11:34 remaining in the fourth quarter; Divac fouled out with 2:56 remaining. Kings forward Chris Webber picked up three fouls in the fourth quarter, his fifth foul coming with 3:07 to play.
The Lakers led the Kings in free throw attempts, 40-to-25. In the fourth quarter, L.A. went 21-of-27 from the free throw line, while Sacramento was 7-of-9 in the final period. And in a symbolic display of unfairness, Kings guard Mike Bibby was called for a foul after being elbowed in the nose by Kobe Bryant.
After the game, Ralph Nader called for investigation. But Lakers fans smiled all the way to a 106–102 Game 6 win, a 112–106 Game 7 victory and a four-game sweep of the overmatched Nets in the NBA Finals, en route to a star-studded three-peat led by Shaq, Kobe and Phil Jackson.
“I’m not going to say there was a conspiracy,” said Pollard. “I just think something wasn’t right. It was unfair. We didn’t have a chance to win that game.”
The NCAA Tournament is about to tip off. And while only one person will win your office bracket pick 'em pool — probably the girl who makes her picks based on colors, mascots and hot dude-bros, not the nerd alert with KenPom.com bookmarked — everyone can have a funny March Madness bracket team name. Here are 68 names that should get a chuckle from the First Four to the Final Four.
99 Problems, Embiid's Back Is One
When I Think About You I Touch Bill Self
Not In Kansas Anymore
Shock It To Me
Shock and Awe
March Mad Men
Fast Breaking Bad
Ball So Hard University
Definitely In My Izzone
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Boom Shaka Shaka
One Man Wolf Pack
Teach Me How to Dougie
Anthony Benedetto's Wahoos
I Left My Heart in Charlottesville
Church of Bracketology
Stretch Final Fours
Jim Boeheim's Jacket
Horace Grant's Nephew
Rakeem Christmas Present
Two Ferns, One POTUS
POTUS > Clark Kellogg
Billy the Kid is the Man
Greatest Recruiting Class Ever
Calipari's Recruiting Budget
Big Bluegrass Nation
Pitino's 15-Second Drill
Italian Sausage Stuffed Snapper
Coach K's Stool
Jay Bilas Follows Me
F--- 'Em Bucky
Jerry's House Party
Oracles of Omaha
Warren Buffett's Bracket
Full Metal Bracket
Big Dancin' For Money
One Shining Moment
The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine a.k.a. the “Underwear Olympics” may not have gotten as crazy as the Sochi Winter Olympics, but there were still plenty of memorable, GIF-able, troll-able moments at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — where all the powdered wigs and stop-watch watchers scouted the top prospects going harder, better, faster, stronger. These are a few of the more memorable crazy moments from the Combine.
Adam Muema’s exits early, “following God”
The San Diego State running back has gone AWOL, as a healthy scratch. Despite being invited to audition for the NFL’s millionaires club, Muema exited early, saying God told him he would go on to play for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks if he left. “(God) told me to sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace,” Muema told the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Michael Gehlken. Hopefully everything works out for Muema, but he’s crazy if he thinks he’ll be taking Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” carries anytime soon.
Warren Sapp’s reaction to Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney came down from Mount Olympus to run a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash — a time that was unofficially sub-4.5 when first reported. That caused Hall of Fame, Super Bowl-winning, former Defensive Player of the Year turned NFL Network sideline dude Warren Sapp to lose his mind. “There’s something in the steroids. I mean, something in the milk. Something. Cause these kids are way bigger than I ever remember,” Sapp said. Clowney, for the record, weighed in at 6’5” and 266 pounds.
Internet trolls questioning Clowney’s “motor”
After watching the potential No. 1 overall pick tear up the track in Indianapolis, many took to their keyboards — which are presumably perched atop a very high horse — to question whether or not Clowney has the “motor” or “drive” or “will” or “love of the game” or, as the Ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier infamously said, “work ethic” to succeed at the next level. Do you want Jadeveon Clowney on your favorite team? I do.
Michael Sam’s overcrowded press conference
Last year, Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o had a three-ring circus in Indy to discuss his imaginary girlfriend and love of phishing. This year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam had even more of a crowd on hand to hear his presser, which was a non-event thanks to the prepared poise of Sam — but a crazy crowd all the same. Sam lived up to his “instant hero in the gay and lesbian community” status bestowed upon him by Commissioner Roger Goodell’s brother Michael, who also happens to be gay.
Mike Mayock’s No. 1 pick? Khalil Mack!
Gelled hair Mel Kiper has been yelling about the NFL Draft for the longest, but the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock is the best in the business right now. So when Mayock says he’d take Buffalo’s Khalil Mack over Clowney, that sends shockwaves over the airwaves. “He’s explosive off the edge, he’s tough, he’s twitchy, he’s got a little edge about him,” Mayock said. “He dominated Ohio State like nobody I’ve ever seen dominate them. … You talk about a kid like (Jadeveon) Clowney, who’s just got superhuman abilities, versus this kid. And if I had a choice between the two, I think I’m taking Mack.”
Johnny Football’s height, hands and hype
Johnny Manziel’s larger-than-life persona Johnny Football may stand over six feet tall wearing cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat, but he’s only 5’11.75” in his underwear. After claiming to be 72 inches “on the dot” prior to being measured, Manziel was a shade under the six-foot mark in Indy. Johnny Football did have huge hands, however, measuring at 9 7/8”. Those big mits match his reportedly size 15 shoes. Look out, NFL. Johnny Extremity is coming to a town near you.
Can't lie archer had the boi nervous— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) February 23, 2014
Chris Johnson’s tweets about Dri Archer
In 2008, Johnson skyrocketed up draft boards into the first round after running an electronically timed record 4.24 in the 40-yard dash. So CJ2K is all about CJ4.24 when the NFL Scouting Combine rolls around. Lately, he’s reached 1972 Miami Dolphins’ champagne-popping proportions. When the last 40-yard dash has been run, Chris Johnson almost certainly pops a bottle of Moet. Another year, another retained title belt. Although it was close. Kent State flash ran a 4.26 that had CJ sweating.
Rich Eisen’s personal best 40-yard dash
Sure CJ and Dri are fast. But NFL Network host Rich Eisen must be hailed as the victor of this year’s 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Michigan man ran his first sub-six-second 40 since his annual “running of the 40” took over the internet in 2005, when he ran a 6.77. Even in running shoes, however, the 44-year-old Eisen isn’t as fast as 331-pound nose tackle Louis Nix, who beat him by a solid five yards with a 5.42 compared to Eisen’s 5.98. Still, it’s a fun way to close out a crazy few days of football job interviews.
The NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 22-25) is crossing the finish line on another so-called “Underwear Olympics.” The Combine is just one step in the job interview process leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft (May 8-10). But make no mistake, millions of dollars are on the line during the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap, broad jump, cone drills, Wonderlic test and BOD Pod tests.
With all 32 teams bringing a who’s who of owners, general managers, head coaches, coordinators and scouts to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, some players shrink in the spotlight. But these 15 prospects were workout warriors who aced their tests at the NFL Scouting Combine.
1. Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn – 1985
The two-sport tall tale weighed in at a chiseled 6’1”, 230 pounds before running an unofficial hand-timed 4.12 in the 40-yard dash — a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring effort that is still a part of Combine folklore.
2. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State – 1989
In hindsight, the most impressive thing the “Incredible Bulk” did was pass his steroid drug screening during the Combine. At 304 pounds, Mandarich ran a 4.65 in the 40, exploded for a 30” vertical and 10’3” broad jump, and ripped off 39 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
3. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland – 2006
Davis looked like a body builder or, at the very least, an actor from an Under Armour commercial en route to running a 4.38 in the 40, skying for a 42” vertical, 10’8” broad, and slamming 33 reps on the bench press.
4. Mike Mamula, LB, Boston College – 1995
After all these years, Mamula remains the go-to cautionary tale of the Combine. The BC beast vaulted up draft boards after a 4.58 in the 40, 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, a 38” vertical and a 49-of-50 on the Wonderlic Test. Mamula never looked as good in pads as he did in shorts.
5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – 2012
The fastest quarterback in Combine history — faster than uber athlete Cam Newton and draft classmate Andrew Luck — RG3 was a track star on the fast track to NFL and commercial superstardom, with a blistering 4.41 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a dunk contest-worthy 39” vertical.
6. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis – 2012
While the Heisman Trophy-winning RG3 was a high-profile, pretty boy quarterback looking like a million bucks in Indy, Poe was a relative unknown fat boy nose tackle making himself who knows how many millions with his effort at the Combine. The 6’4”, 346-pound heavyweight ran a 4.98 in the 40 and powered through 44 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
7. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina – 2008
Before he became CJ2K, the gold-grilled CJ4.24 was the gold standard official record-holder in laser-timed 40-yard sprints, posting a 4.24 and hitting the first-round finish line in-stride. CJ has not, however, been able to set up a race against Usain Bolt.
8. Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State – 1989
The ultimate showman (and show-boater), Deion showed up fashionably late (and probably fashionably loud) to the Combine, then ran his 40-yard dash only once — in a time between 4.19 and 4.29, depending on whose hand-timed stop watch you trust. But Prime Time didn’t stop running once he hit the finish line; Sanders ran out of the building to a limousine waiting to take him to the airport.
9. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech –2007
With his draft stock holding strong near the top of the class, Johnson planned on kicking back and watching the festivities. But once the fireworks started, Megatron’s competitive juices started flowing and he decided he wanted to run after all. The only problem? He didn’t bring any track shoes. So Johnson borrowed a pair of spikes from East Carolina’s James Pinkney — then proceeded to run a blistering 4.32 in the 40.
10. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama – 2011
With everyone in the building looking for the “next Megatron,” Julio gave scouts a sneak peak at the new model of NFL wideout — weighing in at 6’3”, 220 pounds before flying for a 4.39 in the 40, skying for a 38.5” vertical and exploding for an 11’3” broad jump.
11. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin – 2011
In hindsight, the numbers that Watt put up at the Combine were a window into his dominant Defensive Player of the Year future. At 6’5”, 290 pounds with 11 1/8” hands and 34” arms, Watt ran a 4.84 in the 40, soared for a 37” vertical and 10’ broad jump, and threw up a long-armed 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
12. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma – 2013
A high school quarterback turned college tight end turned NFL top-5 pick offensive tackle, Johnson took an unorthodox route to the league. But the 6’6”, 303-pounder put on an incredible display of athleticism, with a tight end-style 4.72 in the 40, a 34” vertical and 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench.
13. Matt Jones, QB/WR, Arkansas – 2008
Another change-of-position guy (albeit with far less success), Jones was a 6’6”, 237-pound quarterback with questionable mental makeup but 4.37 speed in the 40. The Jaguars thought he could play wide receiver. As usual, Jacksonville was wrong.
14. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State – 2008
One of the main reasons teams remain skeptical of off-the-charts Combine stats, Gholston was the classic “look like Tarzan, play like Jane.” In shorts and a muscle shirt, Gholston ran a 4.67 in the 40, had 37 reps on the bench and lifted off for a 35.5” vertical and 10’5” broad jump.
15. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – 2014
The ghost of Gholston haunts every team leery of every physical freak at the Combine. Clowney has a Julius Peppers meets Zeus frame of 6’5” and 266 pounds. After essentially taking off his junior season, Clowney came down from on high long enough to run a brilliant 4.53 — faster even than Johnny Football — and post a 37.5” vertical and 10’4” broad jump. His 21 reps of 225 pounds were a potential red flag, if only because the lower-than-expected number woke the trolls who question Clowney’s motor. No one questions his athletic ability.
Only one team will win your fantasy baseball league, but everyone can have a funny fantasy baseball team name. These are 150 suggestions for the baseball nerds, Internet bird dogs, Sabermetric mathematician-magicians, jersey chasers and MLB Extra Innings subscribers who comprise fantasy baseball leagues around the world.
Costas Stink Eye
Jeter Del Boca Vista
McCann Man Code
CC’s MPH Diet
Short Porch Party
Prince Bigger in Texas
Dead Ted’s Head
Tampa Bay Carly Raes
Willie Mays Hays
JUST a Bit Outside
Kansas City Lordes
Blurred Foul Lines
Blurred Outfield Lines
Wrecking Ball Four
San Diego Rotisserie Chickens
Grand Theft Votto
Cubs Mascot Dong
Balco Black Sox
Ain’t Over Til It’s Over
Deja-vu All Over Again
Vin Scully’s Homeboys
Mr. Kate Upton
Yu Da Man
Dick Pole’s Staff
Jeter’s Gift Baskets
Griffey Jr.’s Tonic
New York Knights
No Crying in Baseball
All the Way Mae
Old Hoss Radbourn
Cobb Co. Braves
Hall of Shamers
Big League Choo
Manny Being Manny
Come Sale Away
Say It Ain’t So, Joe
Bud Selig 401K
Clown Question Bros
Back Back Back
Chris Berman Sucks
Fire Joe Morgan
Ken Burns Baseball
Wrigley Blue Ivy
Kung Fu Pandas
Say It Ain’t Sosa
El Paso Chihuahuas
Atlanta Black Crackers
Bob LOB Law
Crack That WHIP
Outfield Fly Rule
Smoak a Swisher
The Bourn Supremacy
The Price Is Wrong
Thome Don’t Play
Uncle Charlie Hustle
Houston Colt .45s
Hot Pocket Corner
Men of Steal
My Big Unit
Who’s Your Daddy?
The The Angels Angels
California Penal League
Cuckoo for Coco Crisp
Honey Nut Ichiro’s
Ethier Said Than Dunn
Horse Walks Into Aybar
Man Walks Into a Bard
The main event of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, ladies figure skating, is upon us. The sport’s top 30 diminutive divas will soon be toe-looping, lutzing, Salchow-ing and spinning at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Short programs will be performed Wednesday, Feb. 19, with the top 24 skaters advancing to the free skate on Thursday, Feb. 20. All eyes will be on these 10 world-renowned skaters, ranked here by their betting odds from gambling website Bovada.com.
1. Yuna Kim, 23, Korea (Odds: 1/1)
The “Queen” is the reigning Olympic champion, winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a world record score of 78.50. Kim’s signature jump combination is the triple lutz, triple toe loop as seen in the GIF above. But it is the vivid facial expressions and vibrant arm movements that make Korea’s top Olympian figure skating royalty. Another gold medal would make Kim the first repeat winner since East Germany’s Katarina Witt won at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and 1988 Calgary Olympics.
2. Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, Russia (Odds: 6/5)
Young Yulia is poised to become Russia’s first-ever ladies singles figure skating gold medalist, which would also make the 15-year-old the youngest gold medal winner in the sport’s history, as she is six days younger than American golden girl Tara Lipinski was at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Lipnitskaia is a spinning top with her brilliant Biellmann position and gymnast-style contortions on the ice. The Sochi crowd — which will certainly include President Vladimir Putin — will be on Lipnitskaia’s side as she attempts to spin and bend her way into Olympic lore in front of her home nation.
3. Mao Asada, 23, Japan (Odds: 9/2)
The silver medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is the only skater with a triple axle (followed by double toe loop in the frame-by-frame breakdown above) in her arsenal. Asada has cut down the difficulty in her routine in favor of a more free-flowing program — with only one triple axle rather than two. Asada will be the 30th and final skater in the short program but will likely be near the top of the standings heading into the free skate.
4. Carolina Kostner, 27, Italy (Odds: 14/1)
Making her third Olympic appearance, Kostner hopes to improve upon her seventh-place finish at the 2010 Vancouver Games and her 11th-place finish at the 2006 Turin Games. Known more for her stylish ice dancing than her technical skill, Kostner has the unenviable task of following Russian ice princess Julia Lipnitskaia in the short program, which is arguably the worst draw of the 30 slots.
5. Gracie Gold, 18, USA (Odds: 16/1)
With a Grace Kelly smile and Gold medal first place last name, Gold has become the unofficial face of the red, white and blue in Sochi. The Chicago native is the USA's Cover Girl, stopping by The Tonight Show and doing People Magazine profiles. She’s the 2014 U.S. Championships gold medal winner and aiming to join Sarah Hughes (2002 Salt Lake), Tara Lipinski (1998 Nagano), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992 Albertville), Dorothy Hamill (1976 Innsbruck), Peggy Fleming (1968 Grenoble), Carol Heiss (1960 Squaw Valley) and Tenley Albright (1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo) as the eighth American gold medalist in Olympic figure skating history.
6. Adelina Sotnikova, 17, Russia (Odds: 28/1)
Although countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia is spinning her way to the headlines and highlights, Sotnikova is the reigning Russian Championships gold medalist, European Championships silver medalist and a legitimate medal contender in her own right.
7. Kanako Murakami, 19, Japan (Odds: 28/1)
If you believe Japan’s second-best medal hopeful, the island nation’s “very scary” moms are the reason for their success. “It’s not just the coaches who crack the whip but those mothers,” she says.
8. Ashley Wagner, 22, USA (Odds: 33/1)
It’s been a long fall for the 2013 U.S. Championships gold medalist turned skating meme. The thrill of victory and agony of “bull$#!*” scoring from stingy skating judges have become a popular internet juxtaposition joke.
9. Akiko Suzuki, 28, Japan (Odds: 33/1)
The elder stateswoman of Japanese skating, Suzuki finished 11th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She teams with Mao Asada and Kanako Murakami to give Japan arguably the top trio of skaters in the competition.
10. Polina Edmunds, 15, USA (Odds: 50/1)
The San Jose, Calif., native follows in the Olympic footsteps of former Archbishop Mitty High School alums Brandi Chastain (soccer) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) — who have a combined five gold medals between them.
Prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics there were plenty of concerns swirling around the Games of the XXII Olympiad. Whether it was melting snow, stray dogs, dirty water, government spying or a shirtless president on horseback, paranoia ran rampant. Would Vladimir Putin and Co. be able to competently host 2,850 Olympians from 88 countries, plus fans and media?
The games are now midair. And while there hasn’t been a major international incident, there have been some odd moments in Sochi so far. Here are a few highlights and lowlights from the 2014 Winter Olympics at just past the halfway point.
Olympic ring fail
Sochi staggered right out of the gates at the Opening Ceremonies. Although Russian police did sing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” — which was not quite the Grammy Award-winning Pharrell version, but still — the unveiling of the Olympic rings went all wrong. Luckily, that part of the broadcast was able to be censored out of the Russian telecast.
Bob Costas’ pink eye
Since the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Costas has been anchoring the NBC coverage of the Summer and Winter Games, either late night or in prime time. But this time around, the Peacock Network’s most visible plumage turned pink. Costas came down with a nasty case of pink eye, which spread from his left eye to his right, forcing Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira to step up in place of the spectacled eight-time National Sportscaster of the Year.
Julia Lipnitskaia’s spinning
Russia’s 15-year-old ice princess and its 31-year-old rock star Evgeni Plushenko led a gold medal charge in the Olympics’ first-ever team figure skating competition. Lipnitskaia — who met the age qualification of the Olympics by just 25 days — stole the show with her mesmerizing spins.
Ashley Wagner’s meme
While Lipnitskaia was busy winning over even the most hardened of hearts, America’s own gold medal figure skating hopeful made a meme to remember. Call Wagner the McKayla Maroney of the Winter Olympics. She was certainly “not impressed” by her scores in the team competition.
Bode Miller’s raw emotion
After Miller earned bronze in the super-G, NBC reporter Christin Cooper relentlessly asked the alpine skier about his recently deceased brother, Chelone, who was found dead in a van following an apparent seizure last April. There was immediate backlash from fans who thought Cooper’s line of questioning went too far.
Under Armour speedskating suits
Speed skater Shani Davis entered Sochi with back-to-back gold medals in the 1000 meters and a pair of silvers in the 1500 meters. After failing to medal in either event, there was rampant speculation that Davis was slowed by Under Armour’s new Mach 39 speedskating body suits. Apparently, vents on the back of the suit that were designed to allow heat to escape actually allowed air to enter and create a drag on the skaters.
Shiva Keshavan luge recovery
India’s premier luger wiped out, fell off his sled, stayed calm and got right back on to finish an unbelievable run like nothing ever happened. The five-time Olympian is the face of the new Indian Olympic presence, following a 14-month ban by the International Olympic Committee for corruption.
Johnny Quinn’s problems
“…With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out. #SochiJailBreak,” Quinn tweeted on Feb. 8. Two days later, “No one is going to believe this but we just got stuck in an elevator,” he tweeted. Quinn’s bobsled training — and door apparently made of cardboard — was enough to free him the first time. But no amount of Olympic training can prepare a man for a Russian steel cage death trap a.k.a. an elevator in Sochi.
Russia’s disallowed goal
Not quite an Al Michaels miracle on ice but Team USA will take it. During a 3–2 win over Russia in a preliminary round match, a third-period Russia goal was disallowed by American official Brad Meier. The goal would have given the home nation a 3–2 lead. Instead, the game went to a scoreless overtime and subsequent shootout, which launched the star of Team USA’s T.J. Oshie — and his girlfriend, Lauren Cosgrove.
“Even if the judge was wrong, we mustn’t stick labels on anybody,” said President Putin. “We can’t forget that sport takes courage, but also luck.”
The 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contests lifts off on Saturday, Feb. 15, in New Orleans. The Raptors' defending Slam Dunk Contest champion Terrence Ross, Pacers’ 360 windmill man Paul George, Wizards' John Wall, Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, Warriors' Harrison Barnes and Kings' Ben McLemore will follow in the flight paths of MJ, Dr. J and Dominique.
With that in mind, we judge all 23 Slam Dunk Contest champions since the ABA introduced the competition in 1976 and the NBA brought it back in 1984.
One-name icons with star power, style and the ability to jump out of the gym — or from the free-throw line, as it were — no one in history has had the hang time or staying power of these four fly guys.
1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1987, 1988)
“Air” Jordan was an aerial artist who transcended the act of putting a ball through a rim.
2. Julius Erving, New York Nets (1976 in ABA)
“Dr. J” was the originator — complete with an Afro and red-white-and-blue ABA ball.
3. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (1985, 1990)
The “Human Highlight Film” windmilled and tomahawked his way into dunk history.
4. Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors (2000)
“Half Man, Half Amazing” could jump over French dudes and through 10-foot hoops.
There’s just something about watching a sub-six-footer or near-seven-footer take over the Dunk Contest that adds to the spectacle of Saturday night’s three-ring circus.
5. Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks (1986)
The shortest (5’7”) champ ever beat his teammate in front of his hometown crowd.
6. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (2008)
Superman’s hand missed the rim on his most famous dunk, but it was out of this world.
7. Nate Robinson, New York Knicks (2006, 2009, 2010)
The only three-time champion in event history was 5’9” of Kryptonite for Dwight.
Big Names, Bigger Air
No matter how great the dunks are it’s always better when there is a name that matters on the marquee. Lately, the lack of cachet has taken the air out of the slam-dunk sails.
8. Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns (1984)
The underrated Nance could get high in his high socks, winning the NBA’s first contest.
9. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (2005)
The ATL native paid homage to Nique with a throwback jersey to go with pogo hops.
10. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (1997)
Remember when Kobe was bald, Brandy was his girl and Adidas was his shoe of choice?
11. Kenny Walker, New York Knicks (1989)
“Sky” Walker could rise with the best of them, rocking Knicks No. 7 before Carmelo did.
12. Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors (2002, 2003)
One of three repeat champs in history, along with Michael Jordan and Nate Robinson.
Props Plus Hops
The All-Star Game sideshow has featured its fair share of gimmicks, third parties and prop comedy that almost always ends in winning over the crowd and the trophy.
13. Dee Brown, Boston Celtics (1991)
Brown Pump-ed up his Reeboks and covered his eyes with his arm to take the title.
14. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (2011)
Jumping over a car — the type of Kia he endorses — was Griffin’s modus operandi.
15. Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns (1992)
Ceballos put on a blindfold that he may or may not have been able to see through.
To contest connoisseurs, these are two of the more exciting dunkers. Each had a signature dunk that every kid who ever had an eight-foot goal attempted over and over.
16. Harold Miner, Miami Heat (1993, 1995)
“Baby Jordan” matched his namesake with two Slam Dunk Contest statement wins.
17. Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves (1994)
Wild child “J.R.” went between the legs midair in front of the Twin City crowd.
White Man Can Jump
His dad Granny-shot free-throws but Bones could throw down like no one this side of Woody Harrelson — and he remains the only white guy to win it all in event history.
18. Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers (1996)
Not quite from the free-throw line, but Barry did take off from near the charity stripe.
Hi and Bye
Who are you? And why are you here? Okay, you can dunk. Nice job. But I still wish the field had more star power. After all, literally every player in the NBA can dunk…
19. Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors (2013)
Wearing a Vince Carter jersey does not make you Vince Carter.
20. Gerald Green, Boston Celtics (2007)
Sure this wasn’t the NBDL Dunk Contest?
21. Desmond Mason, Seattle SuperSonics (2001)
The Sonics? Is that a WNBA team?
22. Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers (2004)
You mean the character from Scooby-Doo?
23. Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz (2012)
Is that the Ray Bandit who stole sunglasses?
Some of the world's greatest athletes weren't just one-sport players; instead, they excelled in two (and sometimes in several). Of course, some athletes probably should have stuck with their main sport. Here's a look at the top 33 two-sport athletes of all time, ranked in order of their second best sport.
1. Jim Thorpe, track (Best sport: football)
One of the all-time great athletes, Thorpe is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and has been immortalized via the Jim Thorpe Award — given annually to the top defensive back in college football. But Thorpe was also a gold medalist in both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
2. Jim Brown, lacrosse (Best sport: football)
Arguably the greatest running back in history, Brown is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The 6’2”, 230-pounder is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and is considered by many to be the best athlete to ever play the sport.
3. Bob Hayes, football (Best sport: track)
“Bullet Bob” Hayes won the fastest man in the world, winning gold medals in the 100 meters and 4x100 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Hayes then strapped on a helmet for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl VI and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Bo Jackson, baseball (Best sport: football)
Only Bo knows what might have been. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was a Pro Bowl running back for the L.A. Raiders and an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals — hitting 32 HRs and 105 RBIs in just 135 games in 1989 — before a hip injury derailed the out-of-this-world athlete.
5. Charlie Ward, football (Best sport: basketball)
Sure, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA — starting at point guard for the New York Knicks’ Eastern Conference champs in 1999. But most know him as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback at Florida State in 1993.
6. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, track (Best sport: golf)
A 10-time LPGA major champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mildred Ella — better known as “Babe” — won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw as well as a silver medal in the high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
7. Duke Kahanamoku, surfing (Best sport: swimming)
The Big Kahuna won three Olympic medals in the 100-meter freestyle — taking gold at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and 1920 Antwerp Olympics, and silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics — as well as a gold (1920) and silver (1912) in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. But Mr. Hawaii was also the “Father of Surfing,” popularizing the longboard en route to becoming a member of the Surfing, Swimming and U.S. Olympic Halls of Fame.
8. Deion Sanders, baseball (Best sport: football)
A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Prime Time is considered the greatest cornerback in NFL history. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Sanders also played with the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series and played parts of nine lightning-fast seasons in MLB.
9. Gene Conley, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A four-time MLB All-Star and 1957 World Series champion with the Milwaukee Braves, the 6’8”, 225-pound Conley also won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics — becoming the only athlete in history to win world titles in two of the big four pro leagues.
10. Danny Ainge, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The Wooden Award winner at BYU, Ainge won two NBA championships with the Celtics and was an All-Star in 1988. He also had a cup of coffee with the Toronto Blue Jays, playing three seasons from 1979-81.
11. Brian Jordan, football (Best sport: baseball)
A one-time MLB All-Star who played in the bigs for 15 years, Jordan played three seasons (1989-91) as a safety in the NFL before making his debut in The Show in 1992.
12. Jackie Robinson, track (Best sport: baseball)
The 1949 NL MVP and 1955 World Series champ is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a civil rights pioneer. But he was also the 1940 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Long Jump champion at UCLA.
13. Lolo Jones, bobsled (Best sport: track)
A pair of Summer Olympic heartbreakers in the 100-meter hurdles — including a fall at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics — led to Lolo joining Team USA's bobsled team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
14. Jonathan Ogden, shot put (Best sport: football)
The 6’9”, 345-pound Ogden was the 1996 NCAA Men’s Indoor Shot Put champion at UCLA, before becoming an 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXV champion left tackle with the Baltimore Ravens.
15. Jeff Samardzija, football (Best sport: baseball)
The Shark was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist, finishing his Notre Dame football career as the Irish’s all-time leading receiver prior to becoming a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
16. Darin Erstad, football (Best sport: baseball)
The 1995 Golden Spikes Award winner was also the starting punter on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team before going on to play 14 seasons in MLB.
17. Joe Mauer, football (Best sport: baseball)
Before Mauer was the 2009 AL MVP and three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins, the 6’5” athlete with a cannon for a right arm was USA Today’s High School Player of the Year as a quarterback.
18. Dave Winfield, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A 22-year MLB veteran and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Winfield played college basketball at the University of Minnesota — where he helped lead the Golden Gophers to the 1972 Big Ten title.
19. Kenny Lofton, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A six-time All-Star, five-time stolen base champ and four-time Gold Glove center fielder, Lofton’s first love was basketball. He played point guard for the University of Arizona, making the Final Four in 1988.
20. Tony Gwynn, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gwynn was a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champ with a career .338 batting average and 3,141 hits. But Gwynn was also a solid point guard, setting San Diego State records for assists in a season and career.
21. Marion Jones, basketball (Best sport: track)
Once a golden girl, Jones’ reputation has since been tarnished by PED use and jail time. Before the fall, Jones won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after a standout hoops career at the University of North Carolina — where she was a member of the 1994 NCAA champion Tar Heels.
22. Antonio Gates, basketball (Best sport: football)
Led Kent State to its first MAC championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament before becoming an eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers.
23. Jimmy Graham, basketball (Best sport: football)
Played four years of basketball at the University of Miami but just one season of football at The U. No big deal, the 6’6”, 260-pound power forward has evolved into one of the NFL’s best tight ends (or wide receivers, if you're his agent lobbying for more franchise tag money).
24. Tony Gonzalez, basketball (Best sport: football)
Gonzalez round-balled at Cal-Berkeley before becoming a 14-time Pro Bowl tight end with 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs over 18 seasons (playing 238-of-240 games) for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
25. Julius Peppers, basketball (Best sport: football)
The pass-rusher was a glass-crasher at University of North Carolina, where he came off the bench for the Tar Heels’ 2000 Final Four squad.
26. Walter Ray Williams Jr., horseshoes (Best sport: bowling)
The seven-time PBA Player of the Year also owns six Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching titles.
27. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, football (Best sport: wrestling)
The WWF wrestler was a member of the University of Miami’s 1991 national championship team, where he played with future NFL stars like Warren Sapp.
28. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, boxing (Best sport: football)
A three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and Super Bowl XII champion, the 6’9” Jones had a scary 88-inch reach as a boxer — going 6–0 with five KOs in 1979.
29. Herschel Walker, mixed martial arts/bobsled (Best sport: football)
Known for always being in peak condition, Walker started his MMA career as a 48-year-old. The fifth-degree Taekwondo black belt is 2–0 with two TKOs on punches. Years before that he participated in the two-man bobsled competition at the 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh. Oh yeah, Walker, who played several years in the NFL, also won the 1982 Heisman Trophy at Georgia and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
30. Scott Burrell, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The only athlete selected in the first round of two of the big four sports’ drafts — Burrell went No. 20 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in the 1993 NBA Draft and No. 26 overall to the Seattle Mariners in the 1989 MLB Draft.
31. Chris Weinke, baseball (Best sport: football)
The BCS national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida State hit 69 HRs and drove in 402 runs as a minor league baller after being a second-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.
32. Jameis Winston, baseball (Best sport: football)
Another BCS national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida State, Winston will also serve as the Seminoles baseball team's 90-plus-mph flame-throwing closer.
33. Michael Jordan, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
His Airness is undeniably the greatest basketball player of all-time and arguably the greatest athlete ever. However, in 127 games playing for the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons, Air Jordan hit just .202 with three HRs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.
The Sochi Winter Olympics are the Games of the XXII Olympiad. They are also shaping up to be a potential dumpster fire on all fronts — politically, socially and athletically. The infrastructure to host 2,850 Olympians from 88 countries, plus fans and media, doesn’t appear to be in place. The government is playing by its own rules, as usual. And there are 17 days to make it through before breathing a sigh of relief for a job, well, done.
Collectively, everyone is rooting for Sochi to stick the landing, so to speak. But these are five things to keep an eye on during the 2014 Winter Olympics:
1. Vladimir Putin
Russia’s President is a real life James Bond villain. The 61-year-old former KGB Lieutenant Colonel rides shirtless on horseback, hugs snow leopards and is rumored to have a lovechild with reported girlfriend Alina Kabayeva, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics. She’s like Kate Upton if she could put her leg behind her head. Well played, Putin.
There is nothing Putin could do that would be shocking. The man is scheming a $50 billion Winter Olympics in Sochi, whereas the 2010 Vancouver Olympics cost only $7 billion. Brilliant. Putin loves “sport” — he hunts, skates, shoots and scores — so the Sochi stage could provide an opportunity for another surreal photo-op or GIF from the larger-than-life (and terrifying) character.
2. Toilet Humor
Don’t flush the toilet paper. Try not to bother the person sitting on the toilet next to you, even though there may or may not be a dividing stall wall. Don’t go fishing in the toilet. These are just a few of the key rules when going to the bathroom in Sochi. And it’s just the beginning of the tweets and Instagram photos exposing the underwhelming facilities.
Much has been made of the lack of human and civil rights in Sochi — which, according to Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, has no gay people in the town of nearly 400,000 people. Despite the propaganda and paranoia, the government is showcasing Russian pop duo t.A.T.u., a pseudo-lesbian act most well known for kissing each other in a school-girl outfitted, wet tee-shirt contest music video 10 years ago.
In December 2013, two suicide-bomb attacks at Volgograd train station — some 14 hours north of Sochi, but still — killed 32 people and injured nearly 100. The state government believes the criminal mastermind in charge of the jihadist group was killed earlier this week. But ominous threats were made by members of the group and, on the day of Opening Ceremonies, a passenger attempted to hijack a plane headed for Sochi. The Olympics are intended to be a peaceful gathering of nations. Hopefully there will be no rogue attacks (especially with toothpaste bombs). But the threat of terrorist activity is definitely a dark cloud lingering over these games.
Team USA’s highest profile snowboarder, Shaun White, injured his wrist training on Sochi’s slopestyle course and immediately withdrew from the event, saying “the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympic goals on.” White’s not the only athlete who has already been injured on the slopestyle course; there have been broken collarbones and injured knees.
Since Sochi has a subtropical climate, there is concern that the course — which is roughly 656 feet long and includes jumps 18- and 72-feet high — was overbuilt in anticipation of melting. If Putin doesn’t flex his muscles, the toilets don’t overflow, there are no hate crimes or terrorist activity, there could still be ACLs popping and wicked, life-threatening spills taken to cement the legacy of the Sochi Olympics.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are finally here. After months of hearing about Vladimir Putin, homophobia, double toilets, sub-tropic climates, IOC corruption, lack of infrastructure and threats of terrorism, the Games of the XXII Olympiad are hitting the ice and snow for what should be a memorable month, for better or worse. As usual, the USA is bringing a star-studded field of gold medal hopefuls. These are 10 USA Olympians who will dominate Sochi, whether it’s on the medal stand or on NBC’s television coverage.
1. Lolo Jones, bobsled
Nearly 400,000 Twitter followers — plus plenty of NBC cameras — will be watching Lolo Jones’ every move in Sochi. The highest profile brakeman in bobsled history, Jones was also in the spotlight at the last two Olympics; they just happened to be Summer Games. The gold-medal favorite in the 100-meter hurdles at both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics, Jones had a pair of disappointments that made her one of the most talked-about (and polarizing) Olympians in recent memory. After stirring a minor controversy by beating out bobsled veterans for the final spot on Team USA, Jones hopes her third Olympics proves to be a charm. And although she’s representing the red, white and blue, Lolo wants #Gold.
2. Gracie Gold, figure skating
Some of the most memorable American Olympians have been women’s figure skaters. Names like Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen are historic. But there may never have been a name more perfect for the Olympic stage than that of 18-year-old Gracie Gold — who will attempt to live up to her last name and prevent South Korea’s Yuna Kim from becoming the first repeat gold medalist in the most-watched event since East Germany’s Katarina Witt (1984 Sarajevo, ’88 Calgary).
3. Ryan Suter, hockey
“Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” Al Michaels’ iconic call of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” will certainly be replayed in Sochi, probably with Suter’s face on-screen. Suter’s father, Bob, was a member of the Team USA squad that upset the Soviet Union and went on to win the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics. Thirty-four years later, a second-generation Olympian is hoping to bring home the family’s third medal. The 29-year-old Minnesota Wild defenseman was an alternate captain and silver medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — which was only the second hockey medal Team USA had won (silver, 2002 Salt Lake City) since the “Miracle.”
4. Shani Davis, speed skating
The first black athlete in Winter Games history to win individual gold, Davis is the two-time defending 1000-meter gold medalist and two-time defending 1500-meter silver medalist, having taken the podium twice in 2006 at Turin and in 2010 at Vancouver. The 31-year-old Chicago native is already the second-most accomplished long track speed skater, behind five-time gold medalist Eric Heiden. Another strong showing in Sochi would only add to his legacy.
5. Julia Mancuso, alpine skiing
This wild child will undoubtedly wear her trademark tiara on the medal stand in Sochi. If you have a problem with that, you know what? You can kiss her tiara — or “Kiss My Tiara,” the name of her line of lingerie. The 29-year-old snow bunny is not afraid to let the world know how she feels. In fact, she doesn’t appear to be afraid of anything, whether it’s flying down a mountainside or daring to bare her body in the pages of GQ magazine, which she did recently. The three-time Olympic medalist is one the best, brightest and most beautiful athletes in Sochi. She will dominate on all fronts.
6. Mikaela Shiffrin, alpine skiing
Don’t call Shiffrin the “next” Lindsey Vonn or Julia Mancuso, even though the 18-year-old is clearly on the cusp of claiming the alpine throne. The youngest American skier to be World Cup champion is slaloming her way to stateside stardom but is already a one-named phenom in Europe — where “Mikaela” is Madonna in ski boots. And while the Material Girl was known to go platinum worldwide, Mikaela is hoping to go gold in Russia.
7. Shaun White, snowboarding
Shaun White’s band, Bad Things, recently released its debut album. But the red-headed lead guitarist has long been a rock star on the slopes, where the world’s most famous snowboarder is the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist on the halfpipe. The biggest stop on White’s world tour will likely feature old hits like his “Double McTwist 1260” — the move White used to clinch gold four years ago. Unfortunately the 27-year-old will not be playing some of his new stuff, as promised. White notably withdrew from the slopestyle — a first-time Olympic event in which White has won eight medals (including five gold) at the Winter X Games — citing safety concerns.
8. Sarah Hendrickson, ski jumping
The women will be flying high for the first time in Olympic history, as ski jumping goes coed, so to speak, in Sochi. Men have been ski-jumping in the Olympics since 1924. It’s about time women were invited to the party. The biggest star will likely be 19-year-old Hendrickson, who is coming back from knee injury but is expected to be in tip-top shape at the Olympics. The 2013 World Ski Championships gold medalist will be the favorite to dominate the 300-foot slope at roughly 65 miles per hour. Look out below.
9. Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, hockey
The Lamoureux twins may not be as well known as the NHL’s Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, but they might come close in Sochi. The blonde forward tandem starred on the silver medal-winning Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The duo is aiming for gold this time around. If Team USA has any chance at ending Canada’s streak of three straight gold medals, Monique and Jocelyne will need to light up the nets in Sochi. A gold medal would be the USA’s second ever, having won at inaugural gold medal game over Canada at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
10. Bode Miller, alpine skiing
A five-time Olympian, Bode was ripped to shreds in the media — and on the late night talk show circuit — for a lackluster effort eight years ago in Turin, when he infamously told the Associated Press: “I got to party and socialize at the Olympic level.” Expectations have been tempered since and the five-time Olympic medalist may have even mellowed at the old age of 36. Hide all the vodka in the Russian Olympic Village and dude bro Bode might just become the life of the medal stand party in Sochi.