Articles By Nathan Rush
NFL Week 2 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Bears (1-0) at Packers (0-1)
Titletown was stunned by the 49ers in the opener. The Packers must regroup in a hurry, with the Bears coming to town for a Thursday night showdown in the NFL’s oldest rivalry. The 185th meeting of a series that dates back to 1921 won’t lack for drama. Green Bay is riding a four-game winning streak over Chicago, but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are out to take Aaron Rodgers’ NFC North title belt.
Packers by 4
Buccaneers (1-0) at Giants (0-1)
Former Rutgers boss Greg Schiano heads back to his old recruiting ground to face the G-Men, who will have had 10 days to boil over after being upset by the Cowboys.
Giants by 6
Raiders (0-1) at Dolphins (0-1)
The replacement referees will have their hands full in this race to the bottom between two once-proud AFL franchises.
Raiders by 1
Texans (1-0) at Jaguars (0-1)
Jacksonville is on a three-game slide against AFC South rival Houston and there is no reason to think that will change. But expectations are low; if there are Jags fans in the stands wearing fake mustaches, it will be a “win.”
Texans by 10
Browns (0-1) at Bengals (0-1)
As a 28-year-old rookie, Brandon Weeden was expected to bring an NFL-ready maturity to the struggling Browns. Instead, Weeden posted one of the worst debuts in history — completing 12-of-35 passes (34.3 percent) for 118 yards, zero TDs and four INTs for a 5.1 passer rating during a winnable 17–16 loss to the Eagles. Bengals sophomore signal-caller Andy Dalton is undefeated in the Buckeye State Bowl — winning 27–17 at Cleveland in Week 1 and 23–20 at home in Week 12 last season.
Bengals by 7
Chiefs (0-1) at Bills (0-1)
Kansas City and Buffalo allowed a combined 88 points in Week 1. Set your fantasy lineups — but probably not your DVR.
Bills by 1
Ravens (1-0) at Eagles (1-0)
If Michael Vick plays like he did in the opener, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata will have Philly shock jocks calling for Trent Edwards.
Ravens by 1
Saints (0-1) at Panthers (0-1)
After being stunned by phenom du jour Robert Griffin III in the opener, New Orleans will take on last year’s wunderkind Cam Newton — who was 0–2 against the Saints last season.
Saints by 5
Cardinals (1-0) at Patriots (1-0)
New England party animal Rob Gronkowski struggled with his touchdown celebration spike in the opener. Expect the Gronk to shake off the rust in the end zone at least once vs. the Cards.
Patriots by 15
Vikings (1-0) at Colts (0-1)
The No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, makes his home debut in Indy after a forgettable Week 1 losing effort at Chicago. After being abused by the Monsters of the Midway, Luck will need to watch his back against Jared Allen and Co.
Colts by 1
Redskins (1-0) at Rams (0-1)
RG3 must have worn his Heisman Trophy-winning Superman socks in Week 1, because he leapt over the Saints in a single bound.
Redskins by 5
Cowboys (1-0) at Seahawks (0-1)
Tony Romo returns to the scene of arguably his lowest moment as a Cowboy — when he botched the hold on a 19-yard potential game-winning field goal that would have given Dallas its first playoff win since 1996.
Cowboys by 5
Jets (1-0) at Steelers (0-1)
The Steelers hope to have more luck against Tim Tebow’s new team than they did against his old team — or Tebow in the playoffs.
Steelers by 6
Titans (0-1) at Chargers (1-0)
San Diego rushed for only 32 yards, while holding Oakland to 45 yards on the ground in the nightcap of the Monday double-header. Enter Chris Johnson, who mustered just four yards on 11 carries in the Titans’ loss to the Patriots.
Chargers by 5
Lions (1-0) at 49ers (1-0)
Postgame handshakes and back slaps will be in the spotlight when Detroit’s Jim Schwartz and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh square off on Sunday night for the first time since the duo’s infamous Week 6 run-in last season — after the Niners beat the Lions, 25–19.
49ers by 7
Broncos (1-0) at Falcons (1-0)
Peyton Manning plays his second prime time contest in as many weeks, hitting Atlanta on Monday night after taking down Pittsburgh last Sunday night. The four-time MVP will look to become just the fourth quarterback to defeat Atlanta’s Matt Ryan at the Georgia Dome — where “Matty Ice” holds a 26–4 record.
Falcons by 3
Season: 10–6 // Last week: 10–6
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Peyton Manning played his first meaningful game since Jan. 8, 2011. But even after missing an entire season, enduring four neck surgeries and switching teams during the offseason, the four-time MVP didn’t miss a beat — completing 19-of-26 passes (73.1 percent) for 253 yards, two TDs and zero INTs for a 129.2 passer rating during a 31–19 win over the Steelers.
“It definitely is a special win,” said Manning. “I know how hard I’ve worked and how many people have helped me in this process. I’m grateful, and I’m definitely appreciative of the moment and the opportunity.”
On the other side, Pittsburgh was playing in Denver for the second straight game, having ended last year with a 29–23 loss in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. And although the opposing starting quarterback has since changed, the results were eerily similar nine months later.
Last season, the Steelers lost on an 80-yard “Mile High Miracle” pass from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime. This time around, Manning found Thomas for a 71-yard catch-and-run the vaunted Steel Curtain defense was yet again unable to predict or stop.
“We weren’t thinking an 80-yard touchdown — maybe a nine-yard gain is kind of what I was thinking. So it sure was a nice surprise,” said Manning. “Of course, Demaryius did the majority of the work and really turned it on with great speed. Just a huge play.”
The dramatic scoring strike was Manning’s first TD pass as a Bronco and the 400th of his 15-year career. The third quarterback in history to throw 400-plus TD passes, Manning joins Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) in the record books — although he needed 18 fewer games and 473 fewer pass attempts to become a member of the elite fraternity.
“Dan Marino and Brett Favre are two of my favorite players of all time — two of the best quarterbacks of all time,” Manning said. “I don’t really feel comfortable being in that company, but to be mentioned amongst them is truly humbling and quite an honor. It’s not one I take lightly.”
The game also included a few blasts from the past. Denver’s sack master Von Miller celebrated the first of his two sacks by “Tebowing” to show a “little love” to Denver’s former QB. And cornerback Tracy Porter — the man responsible for the most memorable lowlight of Manning’s career — sealed the win for the Broncos with a pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger, just as Porter did against Manning as a member of the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
But in the end, all that mattered was Manning’s triumphant return. It was as if No. 18 never left at all.
“What can you say?” said Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. “I mean, he’s Peyton Manning.”
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 30 two-sport athletes of all time, ranked in order of their second best sport.
1. Jim Thorpe, track (Best sport: football)
One 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. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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, with 1,310 yards and 11 TDs for the New Orleans Saints in 2011.
23. Tony Gonzalez, basketball (Best sport: football)
Gonzalez round-balled at Cal-Berkeley before becoming a 12-time Pro Bowl tight end with 1,149 catches, 13,338 yards and 95 TDs over 15 seasons (playing 238-of-240 games) for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. 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.
As Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick heads to the Cleveland Browns' "Dawg Pound" on Sunday in Week 1, journalist should watch what they write and say. Here's our quick list of 10 things writers should avoid before covering the game.
Headlines to Avoid
1. “Vick Electrifies Dawg Pound”
2. “Vick Shows Killer Instinct at Dawg Pound”
3. “Vick Bad Newz for Dawg Pound”
Words to Avoid
Subjects to Avoid
9. Michael Vick’s dogfighting conviction
10. The Cleveland Browns’ chances in 2012
Topic of Conversation That Might Actually Work Better
• Art Modell’s death
A game-by-game betting preview (against the spread) for each of the 15 NFL games on Sunday and Monday in Week 1. Here are the teams to pick and the ones to stay away from.
Locks of the Week
These NFC South favorites are on the road, but should cover low numbers against a pair of teams with first-year coaches and quarterbacks coming off down 2011 seasons.
Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers
Cam Newton and Carolina crushed Tampa Bay twice last season — winning 38–19 in the Bucs’ boat in Week 13 and then 48–16 in Cat country in Week 16. Expect the Panthers to ruin Greg Schiano’s debut in the Bay.
Falcons (-3) at Chiefs
Atlanta’s “Matty Ice” Ryan takes on K.C.’s Matt “On Thin Ice” Cassel. The atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium won’t be enough to slow down the Dirty Birds’ aerial attack led by Julio Jones, Roddy White and former Chief legend Tony Gonzalez.
Don’t be afraid of a big spread. Last season, 10 of the 16 games in Week 1 were decided by eight or more points. Take advantage of wide margins of victory before the market adjusts.
Saints (-7.5) vs. Redskins
New Orleans’ Drew Brees will be a fantasy stud, while Washington’s Robert Griffin III learns the harsh reality of the NFL.
Lions (-7.5) vs. Rams
St. Louis lost by at least 7.5 points in nine of its 14 defeats last season. Ram tough coach Jeff Fisher will attempt to squeeze the air out of the ball, but his O-line won’t be able to keep Sam Bradford upright long enough to move the chains and keep the clock running.
Eagles (-9.5) at Browns
Mike Vick at the Dawg Pound?
Bears (-10) vs. Colts
Andrew Luck’s debut will be no match for Jay Cutler’s reunion with Brandon Marshall.
Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs don’t look as good as Kate Upton’s Twitter pics, but they look good.
Steelers (+2) at Broncos
Peyton Manning will need the grace of Tim Tebow to take down the Steel Curtain under the lights on Sunday night.
Bills (+3) at Jets
Gang Green’s locker room cancer will spread if New York, New York loses to upstate New York.
Stay away completely. These games are meant for local yokels who always bet on their home team, or who for degenerates who always have to have action.
Seahawks (-3) at Cardinals
For the birds.
Vikings (-4) vs. Jaguars
Bad teams, second-year quarterbacks, running backs with no preseason…
Packers (-5) vs. 49ers
Enjoy this strength vs. strength (Green Bay O vs. San Fran D) potential NFC title game matchup — but don’t bet on it.
Patriots (-6) at Titans
Tom Terrific will be fine, but a young Patriots defense may allow more points in a closer-than-expected opener.
Texans (-12.5) vs. Dolphins
Could be the first of many weeks where the Fins are nearly two-TD dogs.
There are two games to wager for those who have to “get back” or “let it ride” this week.
Raiders (-1) vs. Chargers
A coin-toss contest. The Bolts are 1–3 against the Silver-and-Black over the past two seasons. “Just win, baby.”
Ravens (-6.5) vs. Bengals
Baltimore beat Cincy twice last season — taking a 31–24 win in the town the late Art Modell called home in Week 11 and a 24–16 triumph in the state Mr. Modell left in Week 17.
NFL Week 1 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Colts (0-0) at Bears (0-0)
The Colts’ Andrew Luck era begins with a trip to Soldier Field, where Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says it’s a “done deal” he will play.
Bears by 6
Eagles (0-0) at Browns (0-0)
Michael Vick will wear a new flak jacket to protect his sore ribs. Cleveland fans will wear the traditional Browns paper bags over their heads.
Eagles by 7
Rams (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
Jeff Fisher’s first game as a Ram is against his former D-coordinator, Lions boss Jim Schwartz.
Lions by 8
Dolphins (0-0) at Texans (0-0)
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill returns to the Lone Star State, where he played at Texas A&M.
Texans by 11
Falcons (0-0) at Chiefs (0-0)
Atlanta’s “Matty Ice” Ryan faces off against K.C.’s Matt “on thin ice” Cassel in a battle royale.
Falcons by 5
Jaguars (0-0) at Vikings (0-0)
Second-year signal-callers Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder both wish their All-Pro runners were in game shape — but neither will be.
Vikings by 3
Redskins (0-0) at Saints (0-0)
RG3 vs. Drew Brees could be a fantasy field day — or a reality check for Washington fans.
Saints by 7
Bills (0-0) at Jets (0-0)
The Wild Tebow formation will steal the show whether it is effective or not.
Jets by 1
Patriots (0-0) at Titans (0-0)
Jake Locker’s first start comes against Tom Brady, who passed for 517 yards and four TDs in Week 1 last season.
Patriots by 6
Seahawks (0-0) at Cardinals (0-0)
This battle of the NFC West birds will headline the league’s two least likely starting QBs — Russell Wilson and John Skelton.
Seahawks by 3
49ers (0-0) at Packers (0-0)
A potential NFC title game preview features the Niners’ solid gold D vs. the Pack’s passing attack.
Packers by 3
Panthers (0-0) at Buccaneers (0-0)
Cam Newton will look to build upon the legend of his rookie season against the new-look Bucs.
Panthers by 2
Steelers (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)
Peyton Manning takes the field against the Steelers in prime time on Sunday night in his first meaningful action since Jan. 8, 2011.
Steelers by 3
Bengals (0-0) at Ravens (0-0)
Last year was a breakthrough, but Cincy did go 0–4 vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh — losing to the Ravens 31–24 on the road in Week 11, and 24–16 at home in Week 17.
Ravens by 5
Chargers (0-0) at Raiders (0-0)
The Raiders open their first full season without Al Davis since 1966 as the Monday nightcap.
Raiders by 1
The 2012 NFL season kicks off with a Wednesday night showdown between the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants and their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys — in the first of 256 regular season games that span from Sept. 4 until Dec. 30.
Before a snap has been taken, Athlon Sports looks into our crystal ball in an attempt to predict who will be award-worthy after the dust settles this season.
Most Valuable Player
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
A-Rodg will look to defend his league MVP award — although he would almost certainly prefer to add another piece of Super Bowl MVP hardware to his trophy case. Last season, Rodgers had career bests across the board — completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards, 45 TDs and six INTs for a 122.5 passer rating in 15 games. He also rushed for 257 yards and three trips to the end zone on the ground. Since taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers has averaged 4,259 yards, 33 TDs and nine INTs, while scrambling for another 284 yards and four scores. Those are title belt (and MVP) stats.
Offensive Player of the Year
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Megatron has become a big play machine, tallying 96 catches for 1,681 yards (17.5 ypc) and 16 TDs last season. The 6'5", 236-pounder will turn 27 years old on Sept. 29, so his best days should be ahead of him — a terrifying thought for NFC North defensive backs.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
JPP’s jump from his rookie year to his sophomore season had to be seen to be believed, as he vaulted from a 4.5-sack, 30-tackle situational end to a 16.5-sack, 86-tackle force to be reckoned with. If the third year is a charm for Pierre-Paul, he will be the best in the business.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Trent Richardson, RB, Browns
Offseason minor knee surgery is reason for minor concern. But T-Rich was back at practice and expected to play in the Browns’ season opener. A healthy Richardson has the power, vision, balance and speed — not to mention a solid O-line to run behind — to take the league by storm.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Mark Barron, S, Buccaneers
The rookie safety out of Alabama was selected No. 6 overall thanks to his combination of hard hitting, ball-hawking and Nick Saban-approved football IQ. The young Buc got off to a good start, intercepting Tom Brady and returning the pick for a TD during the preseason.
Comeback Player of the Year
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
The four-time MVP missed the 2011 season due to (at least) four neck surgeries. And after 14 seasons as an Indianapolis Colt — which included 54,828 yards, 399 TDs and a Super Bowl XLIV victory and MVP — Manning is changing horses in mid-stream. The 36-year-old is now a Denver Bronco, following in the footsteps of two-time Super Bowl champion John Elway — Manning’s new boss and inspiration. Elway won his two Vince Lombardi Trophies at age 37 and 38, respectively.
Coach of the Year
John Fox, Broncos
After deftly dealing with the “Mania” of Tim Tebow’s tenure as well as Peyton Manning’s arrival, Fox deserves to be rewarded if the Broncos are able to put together a repeat playoff run this year.
Executive of the Year
Phil Emery, Bears
In his first offseason as the GM in Chicago, Emery acquired Pro Bowl-caliber receiver Brandon Marshall (who was Jay Cutler’s favorite target when the two were teammates in Denver), re-signed running back Matt Forté and added quality depth through free agency and the draft.
As every fantasy football player knows there's a lot of risk that goes into drafting certain players. If the players make it on the field, your fantasy team will thrive. If they're hit with an injury, you're in trouble. Here's a look at 20 NFL players who offer varying degrees of risk with potentially big rewards.
Stay away completely; you’re wasting a roster spot on a future disappointment.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
Keep in mind Mojo’s 2011 knee issues when debating whether a back who wants a new contract, would be fine with a trade, and plays for arguably the worst franchise in football is worth drafting.
Mike Vick, QB, Eagles
Unless you’re playing in a Madden 13 video game fantasy football league, avoid the oft-injured Vick — who has already taken a beating in limited time this preseason.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
Witten reportedly will not need surgery on his injured spleen. But there are too many other tight ends out there to risk drafting a guy with such a potentially serious internal problem.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins
Don’t let the perfect storm of 1,000-yard 2011 season and "Hard Knocks" hype fool you. No matter how many USC visions dance in your head, this injury-prone runner's best days are behind him.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
A broken pinky finger and a torn Achilles have limited Thomas to just 21 games over his first two seasons. Plus, Thomas’ raw route running is more suited to Tim Tebow’s heave-ho go-route game than it is Peyton Manning’s precision passing attack.
Too much downside; don’t rely on any of these guys for more than a bench spot.
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Expectations for the four-time MVP are unfair. Manning is 36 years old, fresh off at least four neck surgeries and playing for a new team. He also missed a full season and may not be able to make all the throws in the route tree yet.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
Sure, when he’s healthy DMC looks like the second coming of Adrian Peterson or Eric Dickerson. And McFadden teased fantasy owners with 1,664 total yards and 10 total TDs in 2010. But his other three years have produced a combined 1,470 rush yards and nine rush TDs.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
The heir to L.T. fractured his collarbone and is expected to be out until at least Week 3. Even if healthy, however, Mathews has been an over-drafted fantasy bust his entire career. What’s to like?
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
A brutal blow was dealt to fantasy owners across the globe last year when Charles — a consensus 2011 first-round pick — was lost for the season with a left knee injury in Week 2. The speed demon may or may not have lost a step, and he may or may not lose a few carries to Peyton Hillis this year.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans
Multiple knee surgeries and problems between the ears have made Britt one of the worst headaches in fantasy football. Britt is just as likely to be suspended (or arrested) as he is to be a dominant fantasy receiver this year.
It’s a risk, for sure. But the reward should ultimately be worth the gamble.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Despite suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 16 last December, Peterson appears to be on track to return to the field early on in 2012. Remember Peterson’s rookie year, when he was the RB2 on nearly every fantasy championship team? That could be the case again in 2012.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
A china doll who played a total of 13 games over his first two seasons, Stafford played all 16 last year and threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs. With Megatron in his prime, Stafford’s 2011 numbers are repeatable.
Trent Richardson, RB, Browns
The curse of the new Browns continues to plague Cleveland. Richardson had his sore left knee scoped in early August. But 21-year-olds heal fast and T-Rich has the power, speed, patience and explosiveness to be one of the premier backs in the game.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
A sprained MCL ended Forte’s season after 12 games last year. Prior to that, however, the versatile Forte 48-of-48 games over his first three seasons. Plus, he’ll be eager to prove his worth after signing a long-awaited contract extension.
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers
An early August concussion, coupled with a sprained MCL late last season make Jennings reasonably risky. But with Aaron Rodgers pitching, a healthy Jennings could put up Jordy Nelson numbers.
Don’t worry too much about injury issues, draft these guys and feel good doing so.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans
A nagging hamstring issue caused Foster to miss two of the first three games of 2011. He also played through a torn meniscus in 2010. But after posting 2,177 total yards and 15 total TDs in 15 games (including playoffs) last year, Foster has earned his status as the consensus No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
After injuring his ankle in the AFC title game, “The Gronk” hobbled his way through the Super Bowl. But the 6’6”, 265-pounder has had seven months to heal and is coming off a 90-catch, 1,327-yard, 17-TD season. The Patriots may want Bibi Jones’ favorite player to tone it down, but no one should tone down the fantasy love for Gronkowski.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
A groin injury slowed Johnson in late July and he only played seven games in 2011 due to multiple hamstring issues. Although Johnson has an injury-risk reputation, he has a solid track record. In nine seasons, he has played all 16 games five times, in 13 games twice and missed significant time only twice — playing nine games in 2007 and seven games last year.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Tight hamstrings dogged Jones as a rookie, causing him to miss three games and limiting his availability in several others. But when the 6’3”, 220-pounder was on the field, he was a beast — with 959 yards (17.8 ypc) and eight TDs. With Roddy White lined up on the other side, Jones is poised for a breakout sophomore season.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
Plantar fasciitis — which affects the connective tissue on the sole of the foot — has been a lingering issue for Gates, who missed a combined three games from 2003-09 before missing nine total games the last two seasons. With Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham going early, the fantasy legend that is Gates could be one of this year’s best values.
Highlights from the action-packed NBA offseason that included the Nets moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn, Dwight Howard being traded to the Lakers, Jeremy Lin re-signing with the Rockets and Ray Allen joining the enemy Heat.
Brooklyn Nets: Ball So Hard
Luxury tax? What luxury tax? Brooklyn re-signed Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace for a combined nine years and nearly $139 million, then traded for Joe Johnson, who is owed $89 million over the next four years. Owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z don’t care about the luxury tax. The new-look Nets are moving into the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn and need to bring a team with them. These are the “Core Four” the Nets are advertising:
“Hello Brooklyn, I’m #8, Deron Williams, three-time NBA All-Star and father of four.”
“Hello Brooklyn, I’m #7, Joe Johnson, six-time NBA All-Star and lifelong Razorback.”
“Hello Brooklyn, I’m #11, Brook Lopez, 20-point scorer and Batman’s biggest fan.”
“Hello Brooklyn, I’m #45, Gerald Wallace, All-NBA Defender and offseason fisherman.”
L.A. Lakers: Superman Returns
This isn’t the first time the Lakers have brought in a larger-than-life center whose nickname was “Superman” and whose greatest team accomplishment was losing in the NBA Finals as a member of the Orlando Magic. First, there was Shaquille O’Neal — who won three straight NBA titles after joining the Lakers. This time around, Dwight Howard is heading to Hollywood to team with Kobe Bryant. After months of well-known secrets and thinly veiled lies, Howard was finally traded in a four-team blockbuster that sent Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the 76ers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, and Moe Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and three protected first-round picks to the Magic.
L.A. Lakers: Rated PG
The old got older when the Lakers acquired 38-year-old two-time MVP Steve Nash to play alongside 33-year-old two-time Finals MVP Kobe Bryant. As usual, trade speculation continued to swirl around 7-foot All-Stars Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. In the end, Bynum was shipped across the country to Philadelphia, while Gasol remained in L.A. — capping a strange year that started with him being traded, then un-traded in the Commissioner-vetoed Chris Paul deal.
Houston Rockets: Lin-sanity Redux
Jeremy Lin-sanity will continue in Houston, which is a huge relief for general manager Daryl Morey — who took the blame for cutting the phenom and will take the credit (or blame) for signing him to a three-year, $25.1 million deal.
“We should have kept @JLin7” – Daryl Morey tweet on Feb. 9
Miami Heat: Jesus to Judas
Ray Allen, the actor who played Spike Lee’s Jesus Shuttlesworth — Denzel Washington’s son, loosely based on Stephon Marbury — in the movie "He Got Game," left the Celtics for the defending champion Miami Heat. The move caused many Boston fans to label Allen a traitor, and added fuel to the fire in one of the NBA’s hottest rivalries.
Boston Celtics: Jet Fuel
Without Ray Allen standing in the corner or coming off screens late in games, the C’s needed another clutch 3-point shooter for their last hoorah with old timers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Enter the “Jet,” Jason Terry, who was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2009, an NBA champion with the Mavericks in 2011 and an NCAA champion with Arizona in 1997.
A quick overview of the high school football teams around the country with the brightest futures under the lights on Friday nights:
1. Trinity (Louisville, Ky.)
The Shamrocks split last year’s mythical national title with Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) in most major polls. After going 14–0 to clinch the 6A state title, the Rocks return a loaded senior class — including appropriately named wideout James Quick (right), USC commit defensive end Jason Hatcher and running back Dalyn Dawkins (nephew of former Eagles All-Pro Brian).
2. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
The No. 1 player in the nation, 6’5”, 260-pound defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, leads a wave of Clemson commits — including running back Wayne Gallman and defensive back David Kamara — for a Rams squad that went 15–0 and won the 5A state title last season.
3. Carroll (Southlake, Texas)
Dual-threat quarterback Kenny Hill, a Texas A&M commit, and the Dragons are riding a wave of momentum into this season after shocking Dallas Skyline in an epic playoff comeback en route to a 16–0 season and 5A-I state title.
4. Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.)
Size in the trenches and dynamic quarterback play from Mississippi State commit Cord Sandberg will make the Hurricanes tough to take down.
5. Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
With Elite 11 quarterback and Nebraska commit Johnny Stanton (a.k.a. “Johnny Tebow”) running the show, the Eagles could be the best in the West this season.
6. Skyline (Dallas, Texas)
The Raiders — powered by the explosive duo of quarterback DeVante Kincade and receiver Ra’Shaad Samples — should be motivated for redemption after a controversial playoff loss to Southlake Carroll abruptly ended a 14–1 season in 2011.
7. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada)
The Las Vegas powerhouse will go all-in to open the season on ESPN in a nationally televised contest against fellow football factory Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.). A win will vault the Gaels into the national title picture.
8. Booker T. Washington (Miami, Fla.)
The Tornadoes play a brutal schedule — with Miami Northwestern, Miami Central and a Texas road trip to Cedar Hill as three of their first four games.
9. De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Coach Bob Ladouceur enters his 34th season with a 384–25-3 career record, 16 California state championships and five USA Today national titles.
10. Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.)
Junior quarterback Shuler Bentley, son of former Byrnes coach and current play-caller Bobby Bentley, leads a young Rebel squad ready to make noise nationally.
It's fantasy football time, which means millions of fans will be drafting their teams over the next few weeks. Here's a look at 15 sleeper picks that could mean the difference between winning or losing your league this season.
These guys are fringe big names, so don’t sleep on them for too long.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
With Roddy White and Julio Jones — and, to a lesser extent, Tony Gonzalez — as playmaking targets, Ryan may vault into fantasy football’s elite echelon this season. “Matty Ice” could be Tom Brady Lite at a much cheaper price.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
It’s put up or shut up time for the triple-threat who was the No. 9 overall pick in 2010. Fans in Buffalo (and Toronto?) think the light has finally come on for the former Clemson superstar.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers
With a sluggish start to his career in the rearview mirror, Benson has produced three consecutive 1,000-yard, six-TD seasons, all with the Bengals. Now the 29-year-old back joins one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens
A second-year deep threat coming off a 50-catch, 841-yard (16.8 ypc), seven-TD rookie campaign, Smith has tremendous upside and should be snatched up after the big dog receivers are gone.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
The 12th-year pass-catcher turns 34 in November and is coming off his worst season since 2003. But in his seven previous seasons, Wayne averaged 92 catches for 1,264 yards and eight TDs. He could bounce back to that norm with Andrew Luck at quarterback.
In standard 12-team leagues, these guys will likely fall for a while.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers
The young Bucs added 6’5” wideout Vincent Jackson as well as veteran tight end Dallas Clark this offseason. And remember (because most drafters have already forgotten), Freeman threw for 3,400 yards, 25 TDs and just six INTs in 2010.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
Many are scared off by the Saints’ loaded backfield. But, if healthy, the former Heisman Trophy winner brings a skill set unmatched by anyone else in New Orleans.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions
After suffering a torn left Achilles in August 2011, Leshoure missed his entire rookie season. With Jahvid Best on the PUP list, Leshoure has an opportunity to become Motown’s feature back.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Denver’s Eric Decker could be a poor man’s Wes Welker this year. But Thomas has huge play ability — which he showed with a combined 10 catches for 297-yards and a TD in two playoff games.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins
Robert Griffin III’s go-to guy will likely be Garcon, who signed a five-year, $42.5 million deal this offseason. If RG3 plays as well as expected, Garcon will post a career year statistically.
DEEP LEAGUE, DEEP SLEEPERS
Flying well below the radar, these guys are worth a late-round flyer.
Jake Locker, QB, Titans
The second-year dual-threat gunslinger is battling Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job in Tennessee. When (not if) Locker takes over the Titans, make sure he’s on your roster.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
Quizz’s size (5’6”, 196) has always been a drawback. But he’s cat quick, more powerful than given credit for and a blur with the ball in open spaces.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Fumble-itis could derail Cobb. But there’s enough upside for the receiver-returner who has a chance to line up just about anywhere on the field for the potent Packers.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants
An athletic freak at 6’6” and 265 pounds, Bennett never lived up to his potential during four seasons in Dallas. But the former basketball player has a chance to break out and dunk over a few goal posts in New York.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
Christian Ponder may not be able to get the ball downfield vertically. But he will be able to go down the middle to his safety net Rudolph.
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1. NBC’s tape-delaying, video-stream buffering coverage
NBC could not get it right at the 2012 London Olympics. Their tape-delayed coverage included lowlights such as Bob Costas nonchalantly spoiling Michael Phelps’ Olympic medal record-breaking race, a “Today Show” promo spoiling the Missy Franklin race set to air and an ill-timed “Animal Practice” sitcom promo featuring a monkey doing gymnastics immediately after Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win gold in the women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition. Online coverage wasn’t much better, with the live-streaming video buffering during the middle of the men’s 100-meter dash — causing Twitter to declare Usain Bolt “faster than the internet.”
2. Lolo Jones finishing fourth in 100-meter hurdles
America’s sweetheart heading into London, Jones finished a painful fourth in the 100-meter hurdles — four years after tripping over the ninth of 10 hurdles with the lead in Beijing. Worse, a scathing N.Y. Times article declared Jones’ publicity “was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.” It was a disappointing Olympics for Lolo, to say the least.
3. Jordyn Wieber failing to qualify for individual all-around
Entering London, Wieber was the face of the USA’s “Fierce Five” women’s gymnastics team. But the reigning World Champion failed to qualify for the individual all-around competition — despite having the fourth-highest score among all gymnasts following preliminary qualifying. Due to a rule limiting each country to only two competitors in the individual all-around, Wieber was forced to sit out while teammates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman represented the USA. Adding injury to insult, Wieber suffered a stress fracture in her leg while in London.
4. McKayla Maroney winning silver in vault; McKayla is not impressed
Maroney had one of the greatest vaults of her life while helping the “Fierce Five” join 1996’s “Magnificent Seven” as the only USA women to claim Olympic team gold. The overwhelming favorite to win individual gold in the vault, however, suffered a fall that forced her to settle for silver. Her disappointed reaction to silver sparked a viral meme — “McKayla Is Not Impressed” — and made Maroney more of a household name than she would have been otherwise.
5. Ryan Lochte letdown following “next Michael Phelps” hype
The pre-Games heartthrob devolved into a grill-wearing disappointment in London. Lochte lost his highly anticipated head-to-head showdown with Michael Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley, finished third in the 200-meter backstroke and failed to medal in the 200-meter freestyle. He also let down his teammates, losing the lead as the anchor leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay. After entering with Phelps-sized expectations, Lochte was far from the gold standard in London.
6. Brazil losing to Mexico, failing to win first Olympic gold
Brazil allowed a Mexico goal just 29 seconds into the men’s soccer Gold Medal Match. After falling behind 2–0, Brazil’s Hulk scored his first goal of the tournament in stoppage time. Trailing 2–1 in desperation mode, Hulk beautifully set up teammate Oscar — whose header sailed high over the crossbar. Shortly after, the whistle blew, the match was over and Brazil was still 0-for in the nation’s quest to win Olympic gold in men’s soccer.
7. Australia barely cracking top 10 in Olympic medal count
Despite the pre-Games hype surrounding James Magnussen and Stephanie Rice, no Australian claimed individual swimming gold for the first time since 1972. In total, the Aussies won just seven gold medals, their fewest since 1992. Add 16 silver and 12 bronze to the count and Australia still only managed to finish 10th in the Olympic medal count — after finishing sixth, fourth and fourth in the three Games prior.
8. USA women’s indoor volleyball losing gold to Brazil
For the second consecutive Olympics, the USA lost to Brazil in the women’s indoor volleyball Gold Medal Match. Destinee Hooker led the top-ranked USA squad on an impressive run until losing 3–1 to Brazil with gold on the line. The USA has failed to win gold since indoor volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964.
9. No baseball or softball in Summer Olympics
Baseball became an official sport in 1992, while softball followed in 1996. The USA won gold in baseball in 2000, and took bronze in 1996 and 2008. Meanwhile, the USA softball program was dominant, winning gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004 before losing to Japan and settling for silver in 2008. Both sports were considered American strengths but were discontinued prior to the 2012 London Olympics.
10. Closing ceremonies featuring Spice Girls, George Michael
Even the Queen and James Bond could not have saved London’s Closing Ceremonies — which included hip entertainment like the Spice Girls, George Michael, One Direction, Russell Brand and Tinie Tempah.
1. The match is Saturday at 10 a.m. EST at Wembley Stadium
There will be no need for NBC to tape delay the Gold Medal Match. Brazil and Mexico kick off on a Saturday at a reasonable hour stateside. “The Venue of Legends” hosts one of the more anticipated events of the London Olympics. Wembley Stadium is the second largest stadium in Europe, with a 90,000 seating capacity.
2. These are Under-23 National Teams with three age exemptions
The Olympic rosters of Brazil and Mexico are not the same as their World Cup lineups. The Olympics are a U-23 tournament. Brazil’s age exceptions are defender-captain Thiago Silva (age 27), left-footed left back Marcelo (24) and superhero striker Hulk (26). Mexico’s age exceptions are goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona (31), defensive midfielder Carlos Salcido (32) and forward Oribe Peralta (28).
3. Neither Brazil nor Mexico has won Olympic gold in soccer
Brazil has won five World Cup titles (2002, 1994, 1970, 1962, 1958) but Selecao has failed to place any better than silver at the Olympics — losing 2–1 to the Soviet Union in 1988 and 2–0 to France in 1984. Brazil also took home bronze in 2008 and 1996; and lost the bronze to the Soviet in 1976. This is Mexico’s first Olympic medal match ever.
4. Brazil’s Neymar is the most exciting footballer at the London Olympics
The 20-year-old samba sensation is a rock star in shin guards. He may not be better than Lionel Messi, as Pele has suggested. But he is certainly the most exciting footballer in the London Olympics. Blessed with remarkable speed, deft touch and incredible creativity, Neymar has already had more than his fair share of highlights — including a give-and-go header goal and behind-the-back assist. And he might just save his best for last.
5. Mexico defeated Brazil, 2–0, at Cowboys Stadium in June
Jerry Jones’ Palace in Dallas, Cowboys Stadium (in Arlington), witnessed a preview of the Gold Medal Match on June 4. Mexico won, 2–0, in front of a partisan crowd — with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos scoring. In fairness, neither will be suited up against Brazil on Saturday. But Mexico does enter the match with the confidence of having taken down Brazil recently.
6. Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos will miss the match with injury
Mexico’s leading scorer and arguably its best player, dos Santos will be forced to sit out the Gold Medal Match due to a serious right hamstring injury. Dos Santos is the son of former Brazilian footballer Zizinho. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder would have provided yet another interesting storyline as well as a valuable offensive spark for Mexico.
7. Brazil’s Leandro Damiao leads the race for the Golden Boot
The Golden Boot is awarded to the player with the most goals at the end of the tournament. The striker — who wears the No. 9 of Ronaldo, the leading goal scorer in World Cup history — has six goals in only four matches. He is being chased by teammate Neymar (3 goals) and the Mexican duo of Giovani dos Santos (3) and Oribe Peralta (2).
8. Brazil and Mexico are the Olympics’ highest scoring teams
Brazil and Mexico are the only teams who have scored double-digit goals in the Olympics. Brazil leads the way with 15 goals for, while Mexico has put 10 balls in the back of the net. Not surprisingly, they are also the leading shot-takers of the Games of the XXX Olympiad — Brazil with 82 shots on goal, Mexico with 78. Both teams are also 1-for-1 on penalty kicks.
9. Mexico’s Jose de Jesus Corona has allowed only three goals
Corona has been the top goalkeeper in the Olympics, allowing just three goals in five matches. Only Spain’s David de Gea allowed fewer — but his two goals against came in only three matches for La Roja, who failed to score a goal of their own. A strong Mexico defensive front features Israel Jimenez, Diego Reyes, Nestor Araujo and Darvin Chavez; but Corona is minding the net brilliantly right now.
10. Brazil’s goaltending is suspect; its defense is strong
Original keeper Rafael was scheduled to start for Brazil before a right elbow injury knocked him out of the Olympics. Neto stepped up as the new starter but was replaced by 19-year-old Gabriel in net. Both have looked shaky between the posts. Luckily, whoever starts will have capable defenders Thiago Silva, Juan Jesus, Rafael da Silva and Marcelo patrolling, and the offense controlling possession. Still, if Brazil loses to Mexico, it likely will be due to lackluster goaltending.
Gold Medal Match Prediction:
Brazil 3, Mexico 2
Germany's Jana Berezko-Marggrander with the ball during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around competition.
Kentucky Wildcats basketball fans are known as the “Big Blue Nation.” But what if the Big Blue Nation were an actual sovereign nation eligible to compete in the 2012 London Olympics? How would an Olympic team comprised solely of Kentucky alums fare against the medal favorites like the USA, Spain and Argentina?
Here’s a hypothetical rundown of what UK in the UK would look like.
Managing Director – Pat Riley
Head Coach – John Calipari
Assistant Coach – Dan Issel
Assistant Coach – Travis Ford
Student Assistant – Enes Kanter
Riley and Calipari would serve as the unquestioned leaders of the Cats. Riles would oversee the Big Blue Nation basketball program, in a czar role similar to Team USA’s Jerry Colangelo. Coach Cal would pace the sidelines a la Coach K for the USA.
Flag Bearer – Ashley Judd
Anthem – “My Old Kentucky Home”
The lovely Miss Judd would serve as the beautiful face of the Commonwealth during the Opening Ceremonies, with the classic Kentucky Derby standard, “My Old Kentucky Home” as the anthem to be played should Kentucky win gold.
C – DeMarcus Cousins
Age: 21 (Aug. 13, 1990)
Height/Weight: 6-11, 270
Drafted: 2010, Sacramento Kings, No. 5 overall
2011-12 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.2 bpg (NBA)
DMC was one of the final cuts made by Team USA. Boogie would bring the type of interior toughness that Spain has in the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, and that the USA lacks outside of Tyson Chandler.
F – Anthony Davis
Age: 19 (March 11, 1993)
Height/Weight: 6-10, 220
Drafted: 2012, New Orleans Hornets, No. 1 overall
2011-12 Stats: 14.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.7 bpg, 1.4 spg (NCAA)
Much like Kentucky early in the Civil War, the reigning NCAA Player of the Year, Final Four MOP and No. 1 overall NBA draft pick might be on the fencepost deciding whether to play for the USA or UK. But the unibrow-ed Uni-blocker would be a perfect running mate for the brutish Cousins down low.
F – Tayshaun Prince
Age: 32 (Feb. 28, 1980)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 215
Drafted: 2002, Detroit Pistons, No. 23 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 35.6 3P% (NBA)
A gold medal winner with the Redeem Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2004 NBA champion, Prince provides valuable length defensively, veteran leadership and a history of making clutch 3-pointers in pressure situations.
G – John Wall
Age: 21 (Sept. 6, 1990)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 195
Drafted: 2010, Washington Wizards, No. 1 overall
2011-12 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.4 spg (NBA)
Playing off the ball while Rondo runs the point, Wall would be charged with going toe-to-toe with the USA’s Kobe Bryant and Argentina’s Manu Ginobili. Turning defense into fast break offense would be a likely strength of the lightning quick backcourt of Wall and Rondo.
G – Rajon Rondo
Age: 26 (Feb. 22, 1986)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 185
Drafted: 2006, Phoenix Suns, No. 21 overall
2011-12 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 11.7 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 spg (NBA)
The 2008 NBA champion was the assists leader in 2012 and steals leader in 2010. A defensive menace and one-of-a-kind playmaker, Rondo would play with a massive chip on his shoulder against Team USA and Heat rival LeBron James.
F – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Age: 18 (Sept. 26, 1993)
Height/Weight: 6-8, 230
Drafted: 2012, Charlotte Bobcats, No. 2 overall
2011-12 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 spg (NCAA)
The defensive specialist would get an early taste of tangling with LeBron, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
G – Jodie Meeks
Age: 24 (Aug. 21, 1987)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 210
Drafted: 2009, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 41 overall
2011-12 Stats: 8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 90.6 FT%, 36.5 3P% (NBA)
A designated shooter and spark off the bench, Meeks’ free-throw shooting would also be a valuable asset on a team that might struggle at the line.
F – Terrence Jones
Age: 20 (Jan. 9, 1992)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 250
Drafted: 2012, Houston Rockets, No. 18 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.3 spg (NCAA)
The enigmatic talent would likely run hot and cold on the international stage. But Coach Cal would have the luxury of only playing Jones when he had a hot hand.
G – Brandon Knight
Age: 20 (Dec. 2, 1991)
Height/Weight: 6-3, 190
Drafted: 2011, Detroit Pistons, No. 8 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.2 rpg, 38.0 3P% (NBA)
Another ball-handler and shooter, Knight would see limited floor time behind Wall and Rondo but would be a nice option off the bench.
G – Doron Lamb
Age: 20 (Nov. 6, 1991)
Height/Weight: 6-5, 210
Drafted: 2012, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 42 overall
2011-12 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 46.6 3P%, 82.6 FT% (NCAA)
Lamb would be a better option than even Knight. The sharpshooter with a savant’s basketball IQ would play essentially the same role with this team that he did with the 2012 NCAA champions.
F – Chuck Hayes
Age: 29 (June 11, 1983)
Height/Weight: 6-6, 250
2011-12 Stats: 3.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg (NBA)
A mauler down low, Hayes would provide muscle and hustle, providing the most value banging with the USA’s LeBron, Melo and Kevin Love, as well as Argentina’s Luis Scola.
C – Josh Harrellson
Age: 23 (Feb. 12, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-10, 275
Drafted: 2011, New Orleans Hornets, No. 45 overall
2011-12 Stats: 4.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 33.9 3P% (NBA)
“Jorts” would be the token white guy, the chief cheerleader and a valuable stretch-4 whose game might be better suited for international rules than for those of the NBA or NCAA.
G – Eric Bledsoe
Age: 22 (Dec. 9, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 195
F – Patrick Patterson
Age: 23 (March 14, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 235
C – Nerlens Noel
Age: 18 (April 10, 1994)
Height/Weight: 6-11, 215
The depth at point guard bumped Bledsoe, who shined playing alongside Chris Paul during the playoffs. Patterson isn’t as athletic as Jones, as tough as Hayes or as energetic as Harrellson. Incoming freshman Noel would have provided the best hair of the tournament — with his signature high top fade — but the young buck is still too green to run with the “national team” from the Bluegrass State.
If Kentucky fielded a team in the 2012 London Olympics, it would not have the depth to match Team USA. But the Wildcats’ length, speed and defense would be too much for the likes of Spain and Argentina. The Big Blue Nation would bring the silver medal back to Lexington.
by Nathan Rush
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third straight gold medal in beach volleyball on Wednesday night in London, defeating fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in straight sets, 21–16, 21–16.
The two best friends won gold in Athens and Beijing before defending their crown in London — which is scheduled to be the duo’s final Olympic appearance.
“We played the toughest competition in the world and we’ve withstood every challenge to be hanging out on top,” Walsh Jennings told the Today Show, on the morning after their historic victory.
The 35-year-old May-Treanor is married to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor and plans to start a family following her third gold. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Walsh Jennings already has two sons — born in 2009 and 2010, following the Beijing Games.
The “Turtle” and “Six Feet of Sunshine” dug in to win and are now riding off into the sunset. The sport of women’s beach volleyball will never be the same.
America's sweetheart, Lolo Jones, failed to medal in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing fourth as the rain fell in London. The result was especially painful for Jones, who was seeking redemption after tripping over the ninth of ten hurdles with the lead in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, rather than experiencing the thrill of victory, Twitter's favorite track star suffered the agony of defeat.
Brazil’s 20-year-old samba sensation Neymar is a rock star in shin guards.
Clearly the premier footballer at the London Olympics, the electrifying striker entered the tournament surrounded by unchecked hype. Legendary Brazilian star Pele set the tone by declaring the Mohawk-ed wunderkind as the world’s best player — ahead of reigning two-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
“Some are saying that Messi is better than Pele. Well, he has to be better than Neymar first, which he isn’t yet,” said Pele, speaking at the centennial celebration of his former club and Neymar’s current club, Santos.
From there, Argentine icon Diego Maradona retorted: “My God, that is just stupid. … Maybe Neymar is the best player in the world, but only if you say that Messi is from a different planet.”
Despite what appeared to be premature praise for the then-teenaged talent, Neymar has since found a way to exceed expectations at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
A yellow blur with the ball, Neymar’s pace, skill and imagination on the pitch have led to two goals, one assist and countless breathtaking runs en route to Group stage wins over Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand.
Heading into the knockout stage of the Olympics, Neymar is aiming to match Messi, who led Argentina to gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A win in the under-23 tournament (which also allows for three over-age exemptions) would be Brazil’s first-ever gold medal.
Brazil has won five World Cups (2002, 1994, 1970, 1962, 1958) and will serve as the host country for both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But the nation has failed to take the top prize in the Olympics, with only a pair of silvers (1988, 1984) and bronzes (2008, 1996) to show.
This year, the “Selecao” is on a mission to drape Olympic gold over their signature canary yellow jerseys. With Neymar leading an attack that also includes Chelsea midfielder Oscar, Real Madrid defender Marcelo, winger Hulk and defender-captain Thiago Silva, Brazil is the overwhelming favorite to win it all in London.
Quarterfinals (Saturday, Aug. 4)
Japan vs. Egypt
Mexico vs. Senegal
Brazil vs. Honduras
Great Britain vs. South Korea
Semifinals (Tuesday, Aug. 7)
Bronze Medal Match (Friday, Aug. 10)
Gold Medal Match (Saturday, Aug. 11)
Jordyn Wieber did not qualify for the women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition at the 2012 London Olympics. Despite finishing with the fourth-highest score during qualifying, the reigning World Champion and favorite to win Olympic gold failed to make the cut due to a rule that limits the number of bids to two per country — known stateside as the “Wieber Rule” until further notice.
Without Wieber, the individual all-around competition — which consists of all four apparatus (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise) — is any girl’s game. The following is a rundown of the top 10 contenders heading into the meet on Thursday, August 2.
1. Gabby Douglas, USA
Age: 16 (Dec. 31, 1995)
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.
Weight: 90 pounds
Best event: Uneven Bars
Worst event: Floor Exercise
The “Flying Squirrel” is an uneven bars ace and a live wire with the upside to win it all. Douglas claimed uneven bar gold at the 2012 Visa Championships in St. Louis, where she earned silver in the all-around — behind gold medal winner Jordyn Wieber.
Having already graced the covers of TIME Magazine and Sports Illustrated, respectively, Gabby is no stranger to the Olympic spotlight. And her commitment is unquestioned after moving from Virginia Beach to West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2004 to train with Liang Chow — who also coached 2008 Beijing Olympics all-around silver medalist Shawn Johnson.
If Gabby can stay poised under pressure, she has the raw talent to join Nastia Liukin (2008), Carly Patterson (2004) and Mary Lou Retton (1984) as the only American women to win Olympic gold in the individual all-around.
2. Viktoria Komova, Russia
Age: 17 (Jan. 30, 1995)
Hometown: Voronezh, Russia
Weight: 76 pounds
Best event: Uneven Bars
Worst event: Floor Exercise
“Vika” was the top qualifier at the Olympic preliminaries. Winner of the individual all-around silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo — behind USA gold medalist Jordyn Wieber — Komova is another uneven bars whiz, taking gold at both the 2012 European Championships and 2011 Worlds.
3. Aliya Mustafina, Russia
Age: 17 (Sept. 30, 1994)
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Weight: 112 pounds
Best event: Uneven Bars
Worst event: Balance Beam
NBC labeled her the latest Russian diva, and "Musty" does have the attitude, style and talent to win gold. Mustafina won the individual all-around gold medal at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, while also taking silver in the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. However, a knee injury at the 2011 European Championships raised serious questions heading into the 2012 London Olympics. But Musty appears fit, which means she will be fierce competition.
4. Aly Raisman, USA
Age: 18 (May 25, 1994)
Hometown: Needham, Mass.
Weight: 115 pounds
Best event: Floor Exercise
Worst event: Uneven Bars
Aly — a.k.a. “Alexandra” — has gotten a raw deal. After Raisman clinched one of the USA’s two spots in the individual all-around, not only did NBC’s cameras focus more on Wieber crying but the producers also gave her Polo-wearing parents (Ricky and Lynn) nearly as much air time as their daughter.
Make no mistake, Aly could go from underdog to the medal stand. She won individual all-around bronze medal, along with gold medals on floor and balance beam, at the 2012 Visa Championships in St. Louis, and also earned bronze medal on floor at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.
The oldest member of Team USA, the captain has already proven clutch on the floor exercise — where she nailed her routine to clinch her spot in the individual all-around competition.
5. Larisa Iordache, Romania
Age: 16 (June 19, 1996)
Hometown: Bucharest, Romania
Weight: 82 pounds
Best event: Floor Exercise
Worst event: Uneven Bars
Romania faked out the gymnastics world by announcing that Iordache had had plantar fasciitis — a painful inflammation of the connective tissue on the sole of the foot — just days before preliminary qualifying. But their young star looked just fine in London, and is a threat to make a name for herself in the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
6. Linlin Deng, China
Age: 20 (April 21, 1992)
Hometown: Fuyang, Anhui, China
Weight: 79 pounds
Best event: Balance Beam
Worst event: Uneven Bars
A member of China’s gold medal winning team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Deng was also a gymnast whose age has been debated. In order to compete in the Olympics, gymnasts must turn 16 years old during the year of the games. Deng was either an illegal 14 years old or 16 years old in Beijing; making her either 18 or 20 this time around. No matter how old she is, Deng is still a tiny 4’6”, 79 pounds and brilliant on the balance beam.
7. Qiushuang Huang, China
Age: 20 (May 28, 1992)
Hometown: Xiangfan, Hubei, China
Weight: 95 pounds
Best event: Uneven Bars
Worst event: Floor Exercise
Huang was not a member of the Chinese national team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she was part of the bronze medal winning squad at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. In a down year for China, Huang joins Deng as the top threats.
8. Vanessa Ferrari, Italy
Age: 21 (Nov. 10, 1990)
Hometown: Genivolta, Cremona, Italy
Weight: 97 pounds
Best event: Floor Exercise
Worst event: Uneven Bars
The name of the games, the compact Italian Ferrari is a ball of energy with the ability to dominate on the floor and on the beam. The 21-year-old veteran will put on a show but may not have the individual all-around game to medal.
9. Asuka Teramoto, Japan
Age: 16 (Nov. 19, 1995)
Hometown: Komaki, Japan
Weight: 66 pounds
Best event: Vault
Worst event: Floor Exercise
One of the surprises in qualifying, Teramoto was more steady than spectacular. In fact, the miniature Japanese gymnast was the highest qualifier (eighth) who posted no score higher than a 14.600.
10. Rebecca Tunney, Great Britain
Age: 15 (Oct. 26, 1996)
Hometown: Manchester, United Kingdom
Weight: 77 pounds
Best event: Uneven Bars
Worst event: Balance Beam
The local legend will have the crowd behind her. Tunney is the brightest star on Great Britain’s roster and she’s too young to know just what an opportunity she has at the 2012 London Olympics. If she medals, Tunney could be next in line to jump out of a plane with James Bond and the Queen. Of course, she’d stick her landing.
Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Schedule
Tuesday, July 31 – Team Competition
Thursday, Aug. 2 – Individual All-Around
Sunday, Aug. 5 – Vault
Monday, Aug. 6 – Uneven Bars
Tuesday, Aug. 7 – Floor Exercise
Tuesday, Aug. 7 – Balance Beam
The qualifying results from the preliminary competition held Sunday, July 29.
Team Qualifying Scores
1. USA (181.863)
2. Russia (180.429)
3. China (176.637)
4. Romania (176.264)
5. Great Britain (170.656)
6. Japan (170.196)
7. Italy (168.397)
8. Canada (167.696)
All-Around – Qualifying Rank. Gymnast, Nation (Score)
1. Viktoria Komova, Russia (60.632)
2. Aly Raisman, USA (60.391)
3. Gabby Douglas, USA (60.265)
4. Jordyn Wieber, USA (60.232) *
5. Aliya Mustafina, Russia (59.966)
6. Linlin Deng, China (57.998)
7. Vanessa Ferrari, Italy (57.932)
8. Asuka Teramoto, Japan (57.865)
9. Larisa Andreea Iordache, Romania (57.800)
10. Qiushuang Huang, China (57.707)
11. Sandra Raluca Izbasa, Romania (57.532)
12. Anastasia Grishina, Russia (57.332) *
13. Jessica Lopez, Venezuela (56.665)
14. Elisabeth Seitz, Germany (56.466)
15. Rebecca Tunney, Great Britain (56.391)
16. Ana Sofia Gomez Porras, Guatemala (56.132)
17. Hannah Whelan, Great Britain (55.699)
18. Dominique Pegg, Canada (55.657)
19. Celine van Gerner, Netherlands (55.632)
20. Carlotta Ferlito, Italy (55.500)
21. Jennifer Pinches, Great Britain (55.266) *
22. Jinnan Yao, China (54.798) *
23. Giulia Steingruber, Switzerland (54.715)
24. Emily Little, Australia (54.498)
25. Aurelie Malaussena, France (54.399)
26. Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Poland (54.365)
27. Rie Tanaka, Japan (54.333)
28. Ashleigh Brennan, Australia (54.232)
* Did Not Qualify Due to “Wieber Rule”
Vault – Qualifying Rank. Gymnast, Nation (Score)
1. McKayla Maroney, USA (15.800)
2. Sandra Izbasa, Romania (15.316)
3. Maria Paseka, Russia (15.049)
4. Oksana Chusovitina, Germany (14.808)
5. Yamilet Pena Abreu, Dominican Republic (14.699)
6. Janine Berger, Germany (14.483)
7. Brittany Rogers, Canada (14.483)
8. Elsabeth Black, Canada (14.366)
Uneven Bars – Qualifying Rank. Gymnast, Nation (Score)
1. Elizabeth Tweddle, England (16.133)
2. Kexin He, China (15.966)
3. Viktoria Komova, Russia (15.833)
4. Jinnan Yao, China (15.766)
5. Aliya Mustafina, Russia (15.700)
6. Gabby Douglas, USA (15.333)
7. Qiushuang Huang, China (15.266) *
8. Elisabeth Seitz, Germany (15.166)
9. Koko Tsurumi, Japan (15.033)
* Did Not Qualify Due to “Wieber Rule”
Balance Beam – Qualifying Rank. Gymnast, Nation (Score)
1. Lu Sui, China (15.400)
2. Viktoria Komova, Russia (15.266)
3. Gabby Douglas, USA (15.266)
4. Linlin Deng, China (15.166)
5. Aly Raisman, USA (15.100)
6. Kyla Ross, USA (15.075) *
7. Kseniia Afanaseva, Russia (15.066)
8. Catalina Ponor, Romania (15.033)
9. Anastasia Grishina, Russia (14.900) *
10. Diana Laura Bulimar, Romania (14.866)
* Did Not Qualify Due to “Wieber Rule”
Floor – Qualifying Rank. Gymnast, Nation (Score)
1. Aly Raisman, USA (15.325)
2. Sandra Izbasa, Romania (15.066)
3. Vanessa Ferrari, Italy (14.900)
4. Kseniia Afanaseva, Russia (14.833)
5. Lauren Mitchell, Australia (14.833)
6. Jordyn Wieber, USA (14.666)
7. Catalina Ponor, Romania (14.600)
8. Aliya Mustafina, Russia (14.433)
The official 2012 London Olympic headshots have to be seen to be believed. And even then, they don’t seem real. Here’s a few of the world’s worst photos of the world’s finest athletes.
The 14-time Olympic gold medalist was forced to put down the bong, exit the hacky sack circle and take a picture.
Roddick’s wife, swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, has never taken a bad picture. Looks like Roddick has, though.
Apparently, the reigning 100-meter and 200-meter Olympic champ submitted his high school yearbook photo.
The beautiful game’s 20-year-old prodigy usually rocks a Mohawk, but decided mop-top bangs were a better look.
The face of her sport, May-Treanor almost certainly has a better driver’s license photo in her purse.
Judging by this retouched image, if the girl with the butterfly tattoos were a mail-order bride, she’d arrive via email.
Insert your own joke here.
The blonde bombshell posed nude for ESPN’s Body Issue, then showed up naked for her Olympic photo shoot.
Everyone wants to know how to get in Hantuchova’s jeans and how to stop the spreading of the Filipovic’s genes.
Pre-drag’s other brother, Post-drag, did not qualify for the Olympics as a race walker due to his high heals.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s fencing star is giving Conan O’Brien’s famous coif a run for its money.
Did Shota take this shot under water? Or did he bring his own blue-green colored gel to cover the Olympic lens?
You just don’t see power suits with shoulder pads like you used to. No doubt about it, Juravleva remembers the 1980s.
When the Zombie Apocalypse finally hits, Rodriguez’s speed will make her one of the most dangerous running dead.
Borat should follow Margarita around for cultural learnings of London for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan.
Who knew late-90s-era Slim Shady qualified for the Olympics? Is “rowing” slang for something else? Probably.
And early-90s-era Vanilla Ice is also competing? There is about to be a white boy rap battle — British style.
Part of “Rapuzel” Rejepova’s cardio training for the London Olympics was jumping rope with her pigtails.
Yik Chun Tang
The smoking hot ladies in Olympic Village better brace themselves for this 4x100-meter relay runner-slash-playboy.
FYI, Dutt has a custom-made bowl for his hair-styling and a tailor-made powder blue jumpsuit for just styling.
The bizarro farmer’s tan consists of a painfully red face surrounded by a pasty white forehead and body.
Appropriately nicknamed “Harry Potter” (seriously) this lady ping-pong pro must cast spells on her opponents.
If Andre the Giant and an ogre from the desert had a kid, he’d probably be an Olympic wrestler — if not WWE wrassler.
Even Ndamukong Suh doesn’t want to mess with Opeloge when she’s mad, tired, hungry or just posing for a headshot.
Young Jade is shocked that real cameras even exist; she thought only iPhones were capable of taking pictures.
Joe Dirt’s long lost sister has it all, especially a sweet mullet and irresistible throwback bangs.
The last time I played Clue, it was the count or baron or whatever, in the kitchen with an Olympic rifle.
Someone should have warned poor Linda just how provocative and dirty Terry Richardson photoshoots can be.
Yong Sim Choe
DPR of Korea
The face of North Korea’s women’s soccer team is obviously disappointed by the news that Kim Jong-un is married.
Convincing people he’s Michael Phelps with a mustache will be Kabush’s hobby once he gets off the bike in London.
More purple eye shadow, Marta! How many times do you need to be told? More purple eye shadow, Marta!
Joan Tomas Roca
Roca shot down the last man who made a Juan Valdez joke. He won’t tolerate even a reference to coffee or donkeys.
Creepy contacts or vampire? Tough call. Stanley does compete indoors, away from the sunlight, however.
If Pau Gasol thinks he has the neck-beard market locked down, he’s in for a surprise this summer in London.
Peppermint Patty’s new hairstyle helps, but the constant bike riding in Birkenstocks is still an issue.
Decided to use the photo already hanging in the post office as his official Olympic mug shot. It’s a branding thing.
Gollum is played by Ron Howard’s brother in this revisioning of the Lord of the Rings.
Anthony Davis’ unibrow is tame compared to Kat-daddy’s thicker, more aggressive black brow(s).
The Korean Justin Bieber will feel like he ran a marathon after wading through the mobs of fans in London.
Andy Warhol’s style isn’t just about Campbell’s soup and Marilyn Monroe prints; there’s also swimming involved.
Sure, Yauheni the Hut has an unstoppable mullet. But the wispy mustache on the corners of his mouth is the best.
Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair will be pissed when they find out Monty used his cover photo as an Olympic headshot.
The turtle neck is just not enough. Better wear a wide-neck over-sweater, just to be safe.
X-Y axis? Proportional? What are you talking about? Herrera's head is naturally shaped like a soccer ball.
Never look directly at the Northern Lights — your face will be seen through the prism of a carnival-mirror.
by Nathan Rush
Olympians over 30 years old are often overshadowed by teen sensations and twenty-somethings. But the 2012 London Olympics will have plenty of older, wiser and more accomplished athletes to watch at the Games of the XXX Olympiad. Here are 10 such Olympians, listed from oldest to youngest.
Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, Japan equestrian
The oldest athlete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — where he finished ninth in the team Dressage and 35th in the individual Dressage events — Hoketsu retains his title as the 2012 London Olympics’ eldest statesman.
At 71, he is just months shy of becoming the oldest Olympian in history. That distinction belongs to 72-year-old Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.
Hoketsu first competed as a 22-year-old in his hometown at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was an alternate at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was set to compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was unable to due to his horse, which was quarantined due to illness.
A graduate of Keio University in Tokyo and Duke University — where he earned a graduate degree in economics — Hoketsu had a successful career at Johnson & Johnson as well as Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics before retiring in 2002.
In 2003, Hoketsu started training full-time in Germany with coach Ton de Ridder. The rest is history — or near-history, at least. Hoketsu, along with his horse Whisper, will be making plenty of noise in London this summer.
And with any luck, Hoketsu will break Swahn’s record to become the oldest Olympian in history four years from now at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Giovanni Pellielo, 42, Italy trap shooting
While gold has been elusive for the 42-year-old Italian sharpshooter, Pellielo has been on the medal stand in each of the past three Olympics — winning silver in 2008 and 2004, along with bronze in 2000. He will face familiar competition in London, battling 2008 gold medal-winning 37-year-old Czech shooter David Kostelecky.
Jessica Crisp, 42, Australia windsurfing
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a 14-year-old Crisp competed in what was then a demonstration event. The prodigy turned into a world champion and will be making her fourth Olympic appearance in London at the age of 42, having already took sail in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
Meb Keflezighi, 37, USA marathon
A refugee from Eritrea, Keflezighi competed collegiately at UCLA, where he won four NCAA championships — cross-country, 10,000-meters (outdoors) and 5,000-meters (indoors and outdoors) — in 1997. Keflezighi is also a three-time winner of the USA Cross Counry Championships (2001, 2002, 2009).
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Keflezighi won a silver medal in the men’s marathon (2:11:29) — becoming the first American man to medal in the marathon since 1976. Four years later, Keflezighi failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after battling dehydration and a broken hip at the Olympic Trials.
In 2009, Keflezighi became the first American to win the New York City Marathon (2:09:13) since 1982. He topped that time earlier this year, becoming the oldest winner of the Olympic Trials (2:09:08).
In London, the 37-year-old will attempt to run 42.195 km (26.6 miles) faster than his much younger competition.
Fabiola Molina, 37, Brazil 100-meter backstroke
The beautiful Brazilian gets nearly as much attention out of the pool, modeling her own swimwear line, as she does in the water as a world-class swimmer. At 37 years old, Molina has definitely still got it.
After enduring a six-month ban for testing positive to methylhexaneamine in April 2011, Molina bounced back to qualify for the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:00.74. This will be the third Olympic appearance for Molina, who also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ryan Bailey, 36, USA water polo
The oldest member of the USA men’s national water polo team is a 6’6”, 245-pound center forward. The 36-year-old Bailey will compete in his fourth Olympics. Bailey scored seven goals en route to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, marking the first medal for Team USA since 1988. Overall, Bailey has scored 12 Olympic goals. He also owns team records for both the bench press (385 pounds) and fastest shot (54 mph).
Cadel Evans, 35, Australia cycling
“Cuddles” became the oldest post-war winner of the Tour de France, wearing the yellow jersey and drinking champagne down the Champs-Elysees in 2011. Despite a disappointing seventh-place finish at this year’s Tour de France, Evans enters his fourth Olympics in search of his first medal — looking to beat his fifth-place road race finish of 2008.
Misty May-Treanor, 35, USA beach volleyball
The 35-year-old May-Treanor and 33-year-old teammate Kerri Walsh are reigning two-time Olympic gold medalists on the beach. And the dynamic duo enters London with their sights set on a three-peat to cap their Olympic careers.
Being the best is nothing new to May-Treanor, who was USA Today’s high school girl’s volleyball player of the year in 1994 and the captain of the NCAA’s first undefeated team at Long Beach State in 1998. Since then, she has dominated professional beach volleyball with teammates Holly McPeak (1999-2000), Walsh (2001-09, 2011-12) and Nicole Branagh (2010).
But after suffering a torn Achilles tendon while training for ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” shortly after winning gold in 2008, May-Treanor has finally started to show her age. A third straight Olympic gold medal, however, would quiet her few critics and be a fitting end for the longtime face of the sport.
Kobe Bryant, 33, USA basketball
The graybeard on Team USA, Kobe is the veteran leader of a red, white and blue triumvirate that also includes 27-year-old LeBron James and 23-year-old Kevin Durant. After boasting that this year’s squad could beat the 1992 Dream Team, the 33-year-old Bryant — a five-time NBA champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist — will have to back up his big talk on the court in London.
Abby Wambach, 32, USA soccer
The second leading scorer in USA Women’s National Team history — behind the legendary Mia Hamm — was forced to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to a broken leg. As a result, the 32-year-old Wambach is champing at the bit to run onto the pitch at historic Wembley Stadium, where the Olympic Gold Medal Match will be played.
Could the 2012 Team USA beat the 1992 Dream Team? Kobe Bryant thinks so, but Michael Jordan laughs at the idea. First things first, this year’s squad must win the gold medal — and do so in historic style — in order to challenge the throne.
Here’s a rankings rundown of the 16 USA men’s basketball teams in Olympic history:
The USA has claimed the gold medal in 13 of the 16 Olympics in which Americans have competed.
1. 1992 Barcelona
With 11 future Hall of Famers and one college legend, the original “Dream Team” changed the global landscape of basketball.
“It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together,” coach Chuck Daly said. “Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars.”
Until further notice, the first team of NBA players remains the best.
USA ppg: 117.3
OPP. ppg: 73.5
Avg. Margin: 43.8 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Croatia (117–85)
Coach: Chuck Daly, Detroit Pistons
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Michael Jordan, G (14.9 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.6 spg)
Charles Barkley, F (18.0 ppg, 71.1 FG%)
Karl Malone, F (13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Scottie Pippen, F (9.0 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.9 spg)
Patrick Ewing, C (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg)
Magic Johnson, G (8.0 ppg, 4.1 apg)
Larry Bird, F
David Robinson, C
Chris Mullin, F
Clyde Drexler, G
John Stockton, G
Christian Laettner, F
2. 2008 Beijing
The “Redeem Team” had arguably the most athletic roster in Olympic history — with a young LeBron, D-Wade, Dwight and Melo, and a young-er Kobe.
USA ppg: 106.2
OPP. ppg: 78.4
Avg. Margin: 27.8 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Spain (118–107)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
LeBron James, F (15.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 apg)
Dwyane Wade, G (16.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.25 spg)
Kobe Bryant, G (15.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Dwight Howard, C (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Carmelo Anthony, F (11.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Chris Bosh, F (9.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Chris Paul, G (8.0 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.6 rpg)
Jason Kidd, G
Deron Williams, G
Tayshaun Prince, F
Carlos Boozer, F
3. 1996 Atlanta
It would be hard for any Team USA to deal with the size of this host nation roster — which included David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone.
USA ppg: 102.0
OPP. ppg: 70.3
Avg. Margin: 31.7 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Yugoslavia (95–69)
Coach: Lenny Wilkens, Atlanta Hawks
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Charles Barkley, F (12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 81.6 FG%)
David Robinson, C (12.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Scottie Pippen, F (11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg)
Reggie Miller, G (11.4 ppg, 17-of-41 from 3)
Shaquille O’Neal, C (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Penny Hardaway, G (9.0 ppg, 4.4 apg)
Karl Malone, F (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Grant Hill, F (9.7 ppg)
Gary Payton, G
John Stockton, G
Hakeem Olajuwon, C
Mitch Richmond, G
4. 1984 Los Angeles
Three future Dream Teamers (M.J., Ewing, Mullin), plenty of NBA-ready size (Tisdale, Perkins) and solid guard play (Roberton, Alford, Flemming) makes Robert Montgomery Knight’s squad the top Olympic college roster of all-time.
USA ppg: 95.4
OPP. ppg: 63.3
Avg. Margin: 32.1 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Spain (96–65)
Coach: Bob Knight, Indiana University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Michael Jordan, G (17.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Patrick Ewing, C (11.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg)
Chris Mullin, F (11.6 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.5 rpg)
Wayman Tisdale, F (8.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Sam Perkins, F (8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Alvin Robertson, G (7.8 ppg, 2.1 spg)
Steve Alford, G (10.3 ppg)
Vern Flemming, G
Leon Wood, G
Joe Kleine, F
Jon Koncak, C
Jeff Turner, F
5. 1960 Rome
With three of the NBA’s top 50 players — the Big O running the show, the Logo shooting from the outside and Lucas down low — it’s hard to deny that Rome witnessed one of the most talented, balanced, albeit top-heavy, USA rosters ever.
USA ppg: 101.9
OPP. ppg: 59.5
Avg. Margin: 42.4 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Soviet Union
Coach: Pete Newell, University of California
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Oscar Robertson, G (17.0 ppg)
Jerry Lucas, C (17.0 ppg)
Jerry West, G (13.8 ppg)
Terry Dischinger, F (11.8 ppg)
Adrian Smith, G (10.9 ppg)
Walt Bellamy, C (7.9 ppg)
Robert Boozer, F
Lester Lane, G
Darrall Imoff, C
Jay Arnette, F
Burdette Haldorson, F
Allen Kelley, G
6. 2000 Sydney
Vince-anity jumping of French 7-footer Frederic Weis was the highlight of this roster — which was the first Team USA that elite NBA players (looking at you, Shaq and Kobe) thought they were too cool to play on.
USA ppg: 95.0
OPP. ppg: 73.4
Avg. Margin: 21.6 ppg
Gold Medal Game: France (85–75)
Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston Rockets
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Kevin Garnett, F (10.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Vince Carter, F (14.8 ppg)
Alonzo Mourning, C (10.2 ppg)
Ray Allen, G (9.8 ppg, 10-of-19 from 3)
Jason Kidd, G (6.0 ppg, 4.4 apg)
Allan Houston, G
Antonio McDyess, F
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, F
Vin Baker, F
Steve Smith, G
Gary Payton, G
Penny Hardaway, G
7. 1976 Montreal
The electric Dantley was flanked by undefeated 1976 Hoosiers (May and Buckner) and coach Dean Smith’s Tar Heels (Kupchak and Ford), giving this team even more built-in chemistry than most.
USA ppg: 97.3
OPP. ppg: 83.3
Avg. Margin: 14.0 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Yugoslavia (95–74)
Coach: Dean Smith, University of North Carolina
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Adrian Dantley, G (19.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Scott May, F (16.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Mitch Kupchak, C (12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Phil Ford, G (11.3 ppg)
Quinn Buckner, G
Kenny Carr, F
Tom LaGarde, C
Phil Hubbard, F
Walter Davis, F
Ernie Grunfeld, F
Tates Armstrong, G
Steven Sheppard, G
8. 1956 Melbourne
As always, Russell — an 11-time NBA champion, two-time NCAA champion and gold medalist — turned defense into offense, en route to the greatest average margin of victory in USA men’s basketball history (53.5 ppg).
USA ppg: 99.1
OPP. ppg: 45.6
Avg. Margin: 53.5 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Soviet Union (89–55)
Coach: Gerald Tucker, Phillips 66ers
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Bill Russell, C (14.1 ppg)
Robert Jeangerard, F (12.5 ppg)
Ron Tomsic, G (11.1 ppg)
K.C. Jones, G (10.9 ppg)
Charles Darling, C (9.3 ppg)
James Walsh, G (9.1 ppg)
Burdette Haldorson, F (8.6 ppg)
Dick Boushka, F (8.0 ppg)
William Evans, G
William Hougland, F
Gilbert Ford, G
Carl Cain, F
9. 1964 Tokyo
Iba’s first of two golds (and one silver medal) leading Team USA. Bradley and future bronze-winning coach Brown headline a relatively boring roster.
USA ppg: 78.2
OPP. ppg: 48.2
Avg. Margin: 30.0 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Soviet Union (73–59)
Coach: Henry Iba, Oklahoma State University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Jerry Shipp, G (12.4 ppg)
Bill Bradley, F (10.1 ppg)
Luious Jackson, F (10.0 ppg)
Joe Caldwell, G (9.0 ppg)
Larry Brown, G
Walt Hazzard, G
Jim Barnes, C
Melvin Counts, C
George Wilson, F
Pete McCaffery, F
Richard Davies, G
Jeff Mullins, F
10. 1968 Mexico City
The inside-outside duo of Haywood and Jones might have trouble against some of the USA’s deeper rosters.
USA ppg: 82.1
OPP. ppg: 56.1
Avg. Margin: 26.0 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Yugoslavia (65–50)
Coach: Henry Iba, Oklahoma State University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Spencer Haywood, C (16.1 ppg)
Jo Jo White, G (11.7 ppg)
Michael Silliman, F
Charles Scott, F
Bill Hosket, F
Calvin Fowler, G
Michael Barrett, G
Glynn Saulters, G
Donald Dee, F
Ken Spain, C
John Clawson, G
James King, F
11. 1948 London
Adolph Rupp served as an assistant coach on a team that preferred to squeeze the air out of the basketball and feed the post with Groza, Kurland and Barksdale.
USA ppg: 65.5
OPP. ppg: 32.0
Avg. Margin: 33.5 ppg
Gold Medal Game: France (65–21)
Coach: Omar Browning, Phillips 66ers
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Alex Groza, C (11.1 ppg)
Robert Kurland, C (9.3 ppg)
Don Barksdale, F (9.0 ppg)
R.C. Pitts, F
Raymond Lumpp, G
Wallace Jones, F
Gordon Carpenter, F
Vincent Boryla, G
Jesse Renick, G
Lewis Beck, G
Kenneth Rollins, G
Clifford Barker, F
Ralph Beard, G
Jack Robinson, G
12. 1952 Helsinki
NIBL coach Warren Womble had a team that revolved around Lovellette — the first player in history to win championships at the NCAA, NBA and Olympic levels.
USA ppg: 70.3
OPP. ppg: 50.8
Avg. Margin: 19.5 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Soviet Union (36–25)
Coach: Warren Womble, Peoria Caterpillars
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Clyde Lovellette, F (14.1 ppg)
Robert Kenney, G (10.9 ppg)
Robert Kurland, C (9.6 ppg)
Ronald Bontemps, G
Dan Pippin, G
Marcus Freiberger, C
William Hougland, G
Wayne Glasgow, G
William Lienhard, F
Frank McCabe, F
Howard Williams, G
Charles Hoag, G
John Keller, F
Melvin Kelley, G
13. 1936 Berlin
The first Team USA is the worst gold medal squad in history. In fairness, the game has evolved quite a bit since the Olympics’ top team averaged less than 40 points per game.
USA ppg: 38.0
OPP. ppg: 17.3
Avg. Margin: 17.0 ppg
Gold Medal Game: Canada (19–8)
Coach: James Needles, Universal Pictures
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Joe Fortenberry, C (14.5 ppg)
Frank Lubin, F (11.0 ppg)
Francis Johnson, G (10.0 ppg)
Sam Balter, G
Willard Schmidt, C
John Gibbons, G
Carl Shy, G
William Wheatley, F
Jack Ragland, G
Carl Knowles, F
Art Mollner, G
Ralph Bishop, G
Don Piper, G
Duane Swanson, F
The only Team USA to lose a Gold Medal Game refused to accept their silver medals.
14. 1972 Munich
Controversy reigned supreme, as biased officiating led to the fist loss in USA Olympic men’s basketball history.
USA ppg: 77.3
OPP. ppg: 44.6
Avg. Margin: 32.7 ppg
Loss: Soviet Union (51–50)
Coach: Henry Iba, Oklahoma State University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Thomas Henderson, G (9.2 ppg)
Bobby Jones, C (9.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Mike Bantom, F (7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Jim Brewer, F (7.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Doug Collins, G (7.3 ppg)
Tom McMillen, F
Ed Ratleff, F
Kevin Joyce, G
James Forbes, F
Dwight Jones, C
Tommy Burleson, C
Kenny Davis, G
Unlike the 1972 squad, these two disappointments have no excuse for failing to even advance to the Gold Medal Game.
15. 1988 Seoul
Team USA was no match for a Soviet Union roster of grown men — including 7-footer Arvydas Sabonis and wingman Sarunas Marciulionis.
USA ppg: 91.6
OPP. ppg: 61.3
Avg. Margin: 30.3 ppg
Loss: Soviet Union (82–76)
Coach: John Thompson, Georgetown University
Player, Pos. (Stats):
David Robinson, C (12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
Dan Majerle, G (14.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Danny Manning, F (11.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Mitch Richmond, G (8.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Hersey Hawkins, G (8.8 ppg)
Charles E. Smith, G
Charles D. Smith, F
Vernell Coles, G
Jeff Grayer, G
J.R. Reid, F
Willie Anderson, G
Stacey Augmon, F
16. 2004 Athens
Larry Brown used the same starting lineup for all eight games — riding Iverson, Marbury, Odom, Jefferson and Duncan to an embarrassing 5–3 record while the 22-and-under crew of LeBron, D-Wade, Carmelo and Amare spent most of their time on the bench. After all, Brown is notorious for not playing young guys. He showed them. He showed us all.
The 2004 Athens Olympics was easily the worst showing in Team USA history.
USA ppg: 88.1
OPP. ppg: 83.5
Avg. Margin: 4.6 ppg
Losses: Puerto Rico (92–73), Lithuania (94–90), Argentina (89–81)
Coach: Larry Brown, Detroit Pistons
Player, Pos. (Stats):
Allen Iverson, G (13.8 ppg, 37.8 FG%)
Tim Duncan, C (12.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Stephon Marbury, G (10.5 ppg, 3.4 apg)
Shawn Marion, F (9.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Lamar Odom, F (9.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Richard Jefferson, F
Dwyane Wade, G
Carlos Boozer, F
LeBron James, F
Amare Stoudemire, C
Carmelo Anthony, F
Emeka Okafor, C
by Nathan Rush
America loves a winner and Americans cherish every opportunity we have to prove we’re the best in the world. As a result, the USA has developed a Ricky Bobby complex when it comes to competition — “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Nowhere will this be truer than at the 2012 London Olympics, where gold will certainly be the only medal worth its weight in TV time, Q Scores and endorsement dollars.
Our greatest Olympians have been dipped in gold. Mark Spitz is remembered for wearing his then-record seven gold medals from the 1972 Munich Olympics in an iconic photo that has since been paid homage to by Michael Phelps — who wore his record-setting eight golds from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Michael Johnson took it up a notch when he wore gold shoes while sprinting for gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Four years ago in Beijing, host country China trumped the USA, 51-to-36, in the gold medal count. But America took home the most gold in the previous three Olympics — in Athens, Sydney and Atlanta, respectively.
This time around in London, several of the USA’s traditional gold medal events are in jeopardy. Here’s a rundown of the countries the USA will need to beat out in order to stand atop the medal stand, play the “Star Spangled Banner” and, most important, win Olympic gold.
Jamaica Track (100m, 200m, 4x100m)
Who is the fastest in a foot race? It doesn’t get more basic than that in the Olympics. Lately, everyone has been chasing the winged-feet from the island of Jamaica.
Usain Bolt, 25
The 100-meter and 200-meter gold medal-winning, world record shattering Bolt is chasing “living legend” status. A long-striding 6’5” physical specimen, Bolt currently owns the world record times in the 100 meters (9.69) and 200 meters (19.30).
He is also the anchor leg of Jamaica’s 4x100-meter relay team — along with Yohan Blake, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter — which set a new world record (37.04) at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea. At that same event, Bolt was disqualified from the 100 meter final following a false start, but won gold in the 200 meters and 4x100 relay.
There are rumors of a lingering hamstring issue entering London, but Bolt is the man to beat until he proves otherwise on a global stage.
Yohan Blake, 22
“The Beast” is Bolt’s training partner and chief competition, having won gold in the 100 meters (9.92) at the 2011 World Championships. Blake also outran Bolt in Olympic qualifying heats in Jamaica. The young buck could make a splash by dethroning his countryman in London.
For the USA, Walter Dix, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin remain the most likely medalists. Dix finished second to Blake and Bolt, respectively, at the 2011 Worlds. Gatlin won gold in the 100 at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In the relay, dropped baton passes — like the one at the 2011 World Championships — have become more of an issue than speed.
Veronica Campbell-Brown, 30
The Jamaican women will also be tough to keep up with. Campbell-Brown enters her fourth Olympic Games as the reigning World and Olympic champion in the 200 meters. Her top rivals from the USA are Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix. At the 2011 Worlds, Jeter won gold in the 100, while VCB took silver; VCB won gold in the 200, while Jeter and Fox settled for silver and bronze.
Spain Men’s Basketball
America’s game is on the hardwood and anything but gold would send shockwaves stateside. Clearly, Team USA is the overwhelming favorite. But with a rash of injuries to the USA and so many NBA stars playing for other countries, there is an outside chance of falling short.
Pau Gasol, 32 (7’0”, 250)
Marc Gasol, 27 (7’1”, 265)
Serge Ibaka, 22 (6’10”, 235)
There is no denying that Spain has more size up front than does the USA. The 7-foot Gasol brothers are NBA All-Stars and Ibaka led the NBA in blocked shots this season. The Spaniards also have talented guards and a total of eight players with NBA experience.
Recently, Team USA struggled to an ugly 80–69 scrimmage win over Brazil — a poor man’s Spain, with big men Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter, but relatively little skilled guard play. That was not a good sign of things to come against Spain, the silver medal winners at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Still, with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant leading the way on the court and Coach K on the sideline, Team USA should be able to bring home another gold medal.
Russia Women’s Gymnastics
China won a controversial women’s all-around team gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the Russian women are once again the stiffest (and most limber) competition for the USA, winners of the gold medal at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo — over both Russia (silver) and China (bronze) — and silver medalists at the Beijing Olympics.
Viktoria Komova, 17
Runner-up to American sensation Jordyn Wieber in the individual all-around competition at the 2011 World Championships, Komova also claimed gold on the uneven bars.
Aliya Mustafina, 17
Battling back from injury, Mustafina won gold in the individual all-around at 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam. At that same competition, Mustafina also claimed silver on the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise.
The past two individual all-around champions have been American women — Nastia Liukin (2008 Beijing) and Carly Patterson (2004 Athens). Shawn Johnson also earned a silver in Beijing. But the USA has only one team gold medal in history, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics — with a squad that included Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug.
Brazil Women’s Soccer
In the brief history of Olympic women’s soccer, the USA has never finished outside of the top two — claiming three gold medals (2008, 2004, 1996) and one silver (2000). The last two gold medal matches have come against Brazil, with the USA taking a 2–1 win in Athens and a 1–0 victory in Beijing.
Arguably the beautiful game’s top talent, Brazil’s top striker is a five-time World Player of the Year (2006-10) and two-time Olympic silver medalist. Should there be a rematch (three-match?) of the past two gold medal matches, Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo will have her hands full attempting to keep Marta off the score sheet.
by Nathan Rush
From the time men’s basketball tips off on July 29 at the 2012 London Olympics until the Gold Medal Game on August 12, there will be NBA players suiting up in jerseys other than the red, white and blue of Team USA.
International stars whose collective resumes include NBA championships, All-Star appearances, Sixth Man of the Year awards, a Rookie of the Year award and All-Defensive Team honors will compete against Team USA’s one-name global icons like LeBron and Kobe.
On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Dream Team, here’s a look at the NBA talent that will compete in the Olympics for countries other than the USA.
Country (Best Olympic result)
Player, Height, Pos. (NBA team)
Spain (Silver: 2008, 1984)
The Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, are joined by Congolese shot-blocker Serge Ibaka — who was recently nationalized by Spain — to give the Spaniards the best frontcourt in the tournament. La Roja would be even more dangerous if 21-year-old pass-first point man Ricky Rubio (knee) were healthy enough to play.
Spain lost 118–107 in the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Gold Medal Game and trailed by only four points with just over two minutes to play. In order to remain as competitive without Rubio running the show, Spain must capitalize on its inside edge. They will attempt to take the air out of the ball, slow down Team USA’s fastbreak tempo and play an inside-out halfcourt style that relies on the Gasol brothers in the post and 3-point marksmen on the outside. Size matters, and Spain’s frontline is gigante.
Pau Gasol, 7-0, PF (Lakers, 4-time NBA All-Star)
Marc Gasol, 7-1, C (Grizzlies, 1-time NBA All-Star)
Serge Ibaka, 6-10, F/C (Thunder, 2012 NBA blocks leader)
Rudy Fernandez, 6-6, SG (Nuggets)
Jose Calderon, 6-3, PG (Raptors)
Victor Claver, 6-9, PF (Blazers)
Sergio Rodriguez, 6-3, PG (Knicks, 2010)
Juan Carlos Navarro, 6-3, SG (Grizzlies, 2008)
Argentina (Gold: 2004)
The Argentines return essentially the same squad that won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics — albeit eight years older, wiser and slower.
In 2004, Argentina defeated the USA, 89–81, in the semifinals, led by Manu Ginobili’s 29 points. After shocking Larry Brown’s Team USA — whose starting five consisted of Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom and Richard Jefferson — La Albiceleste routed Italy, 84–69, in the Gold Medal Game.
Manu Ginobili, 6-6, SG (Spurs, 2-time NBA All-Star)
Luis Scola, 6-9, PF (Rockets)
Carlos Delfino, 6-6, G/F (Bucks)
Andres Nocioni, 6-7, F (76ers)
France (Silver: 2000, 1948)
Tony Parker will rock a pair of sweet shades after suffering an eye injury in the Drake-Chris Brown NYC nightclub melee. But Eva Longoria’s ex-husband will play for Les Bleus. But without wild child big man Joakim Noah (ankle), France will have little chance against Team USA.
Tony Parker, 6-2, PG (Spurs, 4-time NBA All-Star)
Nicolas Batum, 6-8, SF (Blazers)
Boris Diaw, 6-8, PF (Spurs)
Ronny Turiaf, 6-10, C (Heat)
Kevin Seraphin, 6-9, C (Wizards)
Nando De Colo, 6-5, SG (Spurs)
Brazil (Bronze: 1964, 1960, 1948)
This samba is a warm-up for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil looks better on paper than it does on the court. But who knows? Maybe Neymar or Pele will show up to take in another beautiful game.
Leandro Barbosa, 6-3, SG (Pacers)
Anderson Varejao, 6-11, C (Cavaliers)
Nene, 6-11, F/C (Wizards)
Tiago Splitter, 6-11, F/C (Spurs)
Great Britain (No Olympic Medals)
Ben Gordon (shoulder) bailed on the host country, leaving a banged-up Luol Deng (wrist) to lead Great Britain.
Luol Deng, 6-9, SF (Bulls, 1-time NBA All-Star)
Joel Freeland, 6-10, F/C (Blazers)
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, 6-9, PF (Hornets, 2011)
Lithuania (Bronze: 2000, 1996, 1992)
Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis aren’t walking through that door. But basketball geeks will get a chance to scout the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, 20-year-old center Jonas Valanciunas — who will make his NBA debut on this side of the pond (but north of the border) for the Raptors in 2012-13.
Linas Kleiza, 6-8, PF (Raptors)
Jonas Valanciunas, 6-11, C (Raptors)
Russia (No Olympic Medals)
Even the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Soviet Union gold medal robbery won’t be enough to push Russia over the top.
Andrei Kirilenko, 6-9, SF (Jazz, 2011, 1-time NBA All-Star)
Timofey Mozgov, 7-1, C (Nuggets)
Australia (No Olympic Medals)
The Boomers will miss 7-foot former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Bogut (ankle).
Patrick Mills, 6-0, PG (Spurs)
David Andersen, 6-11, C (Hornets, 2011)
Nigeria (No Olympic Medals)
Ranked No. 21 in the world, Nigeria is just happy to be here.
Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-9, PF (Hornets)
Ike Diogu, 6-10, PF (Spurs)
China (No Olympic Medals)
Yo, where’s Yao?
Yi Jianlian, 6-11, PF (Mavericks)
Sun Yue, 6-9, G/F (Lakers, 2009)
Wang Zhizhi, 7-0, C (Heat, 2005)
How the 12 Olympic qualifiers advanced to the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
USA – FIBA World Championship (winner)
Spain – FIBA EuroBasket (winner)
France – FIBA EuroBasket (runner-up)
Argentina – FIBA Americas Championship (winner)
Brazil – FIBA Americas Championship (runner-up)
China – FIBA Asia Championship (winner)
Tunisia – FIBA Africa Championship (winner)
Australia – FIBA Oceania Championship (winner)
Russia – FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Lithuania – FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Nigeria – FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Great Britain – Olympic Host Nation Automatic Qualification
by Nathan Rush
As always, the NBA Draft started at breakneck speed. Commissioner David Stern came out from behind his almighty Oz curtain and was greeted as he has been for years — with aggressive booing from the Prudential Center crowd.
“Thank you for the warm reception,” Stern said, in a tone normally reserved for Jim Rome.
From there, the parade of bad suits, embarrassing family and awkward TV could not be stopped.
1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky
John Calipari’s best recruiting tool is the NBA Draft. The man has produced three of the past five No. 1 overall picks. Kids putting on caps is old hat for Coach Cal, who had one last huddle with the “Uni-blocker” and MKG.
“You hug mom, you hug dad, then you hug me, and I spin you around for the camera,” Calipari told the duo, who became the first teammates to go 1-2 in draft history.
2. Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
The new-look, Bob-less Cats take a Gerald Wallace-type hustle guy just one year after trading away the original Gerald Wallace.
3. Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
The BB gun celebrates his 19th birthday in the green room. Meanwhile, the SEC becomes the first conference to boast the top three picks in the NBA Draft since 1986 — a cursed draft that saw Len Bias die almost immediately after being picked No. 2 overall by the Celtics.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
The first shocker of the night. The “most NBA ready guard” Jim Boeheim has ever coached becomes the highest drafted Orange-person since Carmelo Anthony went third overall — behind LeBron and Darko, but ahead of D-Waiters most-comped pro, D-Wade — in 2003.
5. Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Heather Cox sets female sideline interviewers back several decades during a butchered conversation with T-Rob’s nine-year-old little sister — asking her if she’s ever seen her brother cry (“No”) and what she thinks about moving from D.C. to California (“It's far away from home”).
She saved the train wreck by telling the little girl that Sacramento is close to Disneyland. That’s right, it’s an easy seven-hour drive, just around the corner from Sac-town. Are we there yet?
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Introducing the next Antonio Daniels.
7. Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
Former No. 1 high school recruit joins Bay Area 3-point shooting contestants Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. “Moneyball” has a different meaning for this ABA crew neighboring Billy Beane.
8. Toronto Raptors
Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
One of many players wearing checkered dress shirts that look like picnic tablecloths. Ross also rocks the lime green bow tie to cap his geek chic disaster.
9. Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
The Drummond family is in tears. Soon, the Pistons fan base will weep over the next Kwame Brown.
10. New Orleans Hornets
Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
Doc’s son has Coach K’s blessing and now Anthony Davis’ protection. The charmed life continues.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Listen close and you can already hear Bill Walton yelling “Throw it down, big man!”
12. Houston Rockets
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
Lots of guys cry after they get drafted. Lamb is the only one that looks like he’s near tears during his college highlights.
13. Phoenix Suns
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Steve Nash’s heir apparent will take over immediately or learn from the two-time MVP for a few seasons, depending on the Canadian icon’s free agent decision.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson, PF, North Carolina
The last pick of the lottery needs to immediately go on a Wisconsin diet of beer, brats and cheese.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Maurice Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Went by “Mo” until yesterday, when “his people” let it be known that Harkless is now to be referred to as “Maurice.” Sure, whatever Mo.
16. Houston Rockets
Royce White, SF, Iowa State
Afraid of flying, struggles with anxiety issues, lacks a clearly defined position; Houston may have a problem.
17. Dallas Mavericks
Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
Traded to Cavaliers. “Your older brother won the D-League championship,” Tyler is told after becoming the fourth Tar Heel taken in the first round. Would have been better off leading with, “Your little brother Cody is better than you, right?”
18. Houston Rockets
Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
The Rockets complete their trifecta of head cases. The law firm of Lamb, White and Jones specialize in malcontent malpractice.
19. Orlando Magic
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Canadian is a softer version of Ryan Anderson — just the type of pick that should convince Dwight to stay.
20. Denver Nuggets
Evan Fournier, SG, France
The lone international prospect selected in the first round is a French slasher who may or may not have been part of Tony Parker's entourage at the Drake-Chris Brown Rihanna glass fight.
21. Boston Celtics
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Big Sully brings his below-the-rim, old man’s game to the graybeard gang in Boston. Could be a rich man’s version of Big Baby if his red-flagged bad back holds up.
22. Boston Celtics
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
The Brazilian big replaces the hotheaded unpredictability and “Flagrant 2” potential the C’s lost after the terrible Kendrick Perkins trade.
23. Atlanta Hawks
John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
J3’s shooting range already extended from Nashville to Atlanta; now it’s official.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jared Cunningham, SG, Oregon State
Traded to Mavericks.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington
26. Indiana Pacers
Miles Plumlee, PF, Duke
Larry Bird goes out with his hand raised like he just won a 3-point contest. The Pacers’ strategy of “best available stiff white guy” continues to dominate on draft day.
27. Miami Heat
Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
Traded to 76ers.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Perry Jones III, SF, Baylor
The player everyone was afraid to take and afraid not to take goes to the team that never seems to make a mistake in scouting. If learning from Kevin Durant doesn't maximize PJ3's potential, nothing will.
29. Chicago Bulls
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
With Derrick Rose recovering from knee surgery, Jeff’s little brother could see major minutes in Chi-town.
30. Golden State Warriors
Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
The Nigerian nightmare locks down the last guaranteed contract of the night as the final pick of the first round. Stern is booed one last time, then steps aside as Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is greeted with a standing ovation.
31. Charlotte Bobcats
Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Somewhere, Cats owner Michael Jordan told everyone at the poker table to shut up so he could watch the draft and see who Charlotte took.
32. Washington Wizards
Tomas Satoransky, SG, Czech Republic
Last year, Jan Vesley made out with girlfriend in the green room after being drafted by the Wiz. This year probably got just as hot when JV’s Czech mate Satoransky was picked.
33. Cleveland Cavaliers
Bernard James, C, Florida State
Traded to Mavericks.
34. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jae Crowder, SF, Marquette
Traded to Mavericks.
35. Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State
Chris Broussard tells the world that Magic Johnson “loves” the pick of his fellow Spartan. Clyde Drexler is just waiting for Green to die.
36. Sacramento Kings
Orlando Johnson, SG, UC Santa Barbara
Traded to Pacers.
37. Toronto Raptors
Quincy Acy, PF, Baylor
38. Denver Nuggets
Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
Back-to-back Quincys from Baylor are taken; too bad neither wore neon suits like the highlighter yellow Baylor uniforms from the highlight-er reel.
39. Detroit Pistons
Khris Middleton, PF, Texas A&M
40. Portland Trail Blazers
Will Barton, SG, Memphis
41. Portland Trail Blazers
Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Kansas
Traded to Nets.
42. Milwaukee Bucks
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
43. Atlanta Hawks
Mike Scott, PF, Virginia
44. Detroit Pistons
Kim English, SG, Missouri
45. Philadelphia 76ers
Justin Hamilton, C, LSU
Traded to Heat.
46. New Orleans Hornets
Darius Miller, SF, Kentucky
The fifth-year senior Wildcat makes history as the sixth Kentucky player selected in the first two rounds — the most ever for one school.
47. Utah Jazz
Kevin Murphy, SG, Tennessee Tech
48. New York Knicks
Kostas Papanikolaou, SF, Greece
49. Orlando Magic
Kyle O’Quinn, C, Norfolk State
50. Denver Nuggets
Izzet Turkyilmaz, PF, Turkey
The Turkish spelling bee begins now.
51. Boston Celtics
Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse
52. Golden State Warriors
Ognjen Kuzmic, C, Bosnia
53. Los Angeles Clippers
Furkan Aldemir, PF, Turkey
Could you use the word in a sentence?
54. Philadelphia 76ers
Tornike Shengelia, SF, Georgia
Traded to Nets.
55. Dallas Mavericks
Darius Johnson-Odom, SG, Marquette
Traded to Lakers. Mark Cuban probably wouldn't have yelled at this Odom from the stands. After the trade to L.A., Odom is in the market for a Kardashian reality show.
56. Toronto Raptors
Tomislav Zubcic, C, Croatia
57. New Jersey Nets
Ilkan Karaman, PF, Turkey
Are there any alternate definitions of the word?
58. Minnesota Timberwolves
Robbie Hummel, SF, Purdue
After two ACL injuries, Hummel celebrated gingerly on draft night.
59. San Antonio Spurs
Marcus Denmon, PG, Missouri
60. Los Angeles Lakers
Robert Sacre, C, Gonzaga
Mr. Irrelevant hopes to have an Isaiah Thomas-type impact with the Lake Show. Or at least learn the art of neck-beard from Pau Gasol.
by Nathan Rush