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Serena Williams may have been defeated in the Wimbledon finals, however, that did not minimize her victory during the post-match press conference. A reporter asked Williams a very insensitive and narrow-minded question. In a nutshell, the reporter asked Williams how does she respond to comments made by others suggesting that she stop being a celebrity and fighting for equality and focus on tennis? Williams tackled the question head-on with the perfect answer. She eloquently responded by stating: “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.” With that response, Williams reaffirmed her unrelenting commitment to fighting for equality.
Serena Williams - G.O.A.T. Post 2019 Wimbledon Ladies Championship Match - YouTube
The reporter’s question is filled with undertones of a narrow-minded belief that his held by many sports fans.
The Shut-Up and Dribble Mentality
Many sports fans have the “shut up and dribble mentality”. They believe that athletes should simply stick to sports and essentially shut up and dribble. Such fans are against athletes using their athletic platforms to shed light on societal ills or political debates. They contend that athletes should simply focus on providing entertainment for fan viewing pleasure. These contentions may sound familiar as they were repeated over and over by dissenters of Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.
Some go as far as to contend that an athlete’s celebrity status shields them from the stereotypes and systemic prejudices of being a part of the demographic group(s) of which they belong. They spout out ignorance like what can a multi-million dollar athlete have to complain about. Serena Williams is a multi-million dollar athlete with 23 Grand Slam Finals wins. According to this logic, what could she possibly have to complain about? What issues could she possibly feel the need to be so vocal about? There is no way that she could possibly be a victim of discrimination or inequality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Serena Williams has plenty to be vocal about.
Serena Williams has Every Reason to Champion for Women’s Rights
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has dealt with negative commentary about her body. She has been shamed because of her muscles with comments from people saying that she was “born a guy“. Serena and her sister Venus have been referred to at the “Williams brothers“. Serena Williams’ body has even been compared to a monster truck. In 2018, Williams was arguably singled out when the French Tennis Federation announced their ban on catsuits shortly after Williams wore one to the FrenchOpen. Serena Williams wore the catsuit for health reasons from complications she suffered during childbirth. However, the Federation stated that players “must respect the game and the place.”
With all of the criticism that Williams has endured during her career, it should come as no surprise that she is a champion for women’s rights. Her celebrity status and her seven-figure salary was no shield for the incendiary comments from critics and tennis fans throughout her career. Her celebrity status was certainly not a shield to protect her from the blood clot issue she suffered during childbirth. All of the criticism Williams has endured coupled with the general struggles she as endured as a woman makes the reporter’s question all the more insensitive and her answer all the appropriate.
However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. This assumption is certainly not true for Serena Williams who has endured much criticism for being a superior black female athlete.
After all, professional athletes make millions of dollars. What could they possibly have to complain about?
In 2017’ just as LeBron James was embarking on his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals, a racial slur was spray-painted on his home in California. King James is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player ever and by some as one of the greatest athletes in the world. He has three NBA titles and has represented the United States on Team USA three times. However, all of his accomplishments was not enough to shield him the prejudices that are often directed to black men in this country. How is an athlete supposed to stick to sports when racial epithets are spray-painted on their home?
Many college sports fans support amateurism. They support it even when it defies all manners of common sense and logic. This was seen in various fans’ reactions to the injury that freshmen phenom Zion Williamson suffered in the UNC/Duke game on February 20, 2019. Leading up to and during that game, fans witnessed the sham of amateurism play out right in front of them. Fans saw the amount of money everyone is allowed to make, except the athletes. Additionally, fans witnessed how quickly an athlete can suffer an injury that could be detrimental to their potential professional careers.
However, many fans have still chosen to continue to ignore the injustices of the college sports system. Such fans willfully support the NCCA’s theory of amateurism. They act as though college athletes cannot be compensated above their scholarships and remain college athletes. They act as though making money and attending college are mutually exclusive. Such fans completely ignore the fact that every other student is able to attend college and make money at the same time. Why are fans so willing to ignore the unfairness of the college sports system?
UNC/Duke Game is the Perfect Example of Why College Athletes Should be Compensated Above a Scholarship
The UNC/Duke game provided a total picture of the injustices that plague the college sports system. The game exposed amateurism for the farce that it is. First, the exorbitant ticket prices proved that amateurism is a farce. The cheapest ticket sold for almost $3,000. This is the ticket range for the Super Bowl. How does an “amateur” sport in which people only engage for the love of the game reach $3,000 for the cheapest ticket”?
Second, the injustices to the athletes manifested itself when Duke University freshman, Zion Williamson, sprained his knee just seconds into the game. Williamson, who is slated to be the number one NBA draft pick, suffered a minor knee injury. Even though his injury is minor, it still showed just how quickly an athlete’s career can take a turn for the worst. Furthermore, it showed the risk that college athletes take while being precluded from earning the full value of their work. His injury made every reasonable person ask one simple question. Is it really fair for college athletes to subject themselves to injury while essentially playing for free in a game where coaches other sports administration officials make millions?
The answers to these questions are relatively simple. College basketball and sports, in general, are not amateur. The fact that the tickets sold for thousands of dollars show that there is nothing amateur about DI men’s college basketball. Also, it is not fair to preclude college athletes from making money for their athleticism above a cost-of-attendance scholarship. Even with all of this coming to light, there are still fans who refuse to acknowledge amateurism for the sham that it is.
After the UNC/Duke Game Fans Still Support Amateurism…Why?
In the wake of Williamson’s injury, many took the opportunity to point out the unfairness of the college sports system. People criticized the fact that college athletes give their all and risk a career-ending injury for very little compensation when compared to the billions of dollars their labor generates. Even current NBA players called out the system and urged Williamson not to return to college sports.
Contrarily, various fans supported the college sports system and voiced vastly different opinions, as can be seen in the comments below.
Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game…. and these players get none of it…. and now Zion gets hurt… something has to change @NCAA
Supporters argued that a scholarship is enough compensation. Additionally, supporters argued that if athletes want to be paid they should not to go to college. They suggest that such athletes go overseas and play professionally until they are eligible for the NBA. However, those arguments are flawed for several reasons.
Flaws in the Argument Against Paying College Athletes
One flaw is that those arguments support the false narrative that college athletes should have to choose between pursuing their education or receiving the full value for their athleticism. Athletes should not be forced to choose between education and compensation. They should be able to pursue both. The NBA created a new program in its G-League for basketball players who may not wish to attend. However, even that forces players to choose between education and compensation. Why does anyone think that choice is fair? That choice is not fair. It is possible for athletes to pursue education and athletics at the same time. A new day is coming as basketball players will soon have that option with the creation of the Historical Basketball League (HBL). The HBL’s aim is to educate and compensate its players.
Another flaw is the assumption that potential college athletes do not want to go to college. This simply is not true. For example, Zion Williamson stated that even if the NBA did not have the one-and-done rule, he still would have opted for college. This totally dispels the notion that top collegiate athletic talent does not want to be in college. Besides, why does attending college have to mean that athletes have to give up all rights to profit off their athleticism? At the very least, college athletes should be able to profit of off their own name, image, and likeness. Athletes should be able to seek and accept endorsement deals. How would the ability to do that harm the institution? If athletes were allowed to do so, they could receive more value for their athleticism and it would not cost the schools nor the NCAA a dime.
Possible Reasons Fans Continue to Support Amateurism
When considering the totality of the college sports system, it is really difficult to understand how anyone can continue to support the current system. How can fans, who live in a capitalistic society support a system that keeps others from realizing their full economic potential? Perhaps some fans really believe in amateurism. Perhaps some fans harbor an implicit bias against the very athletes they love to watch every March Madness and Bowl Season. Regardless of the reason, it is time for the system to change. In order to effectuate change, all fans must be willing to open their minds an acknowledge amateurism for the sham that it is.
In Field of Dreams, Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones, who voices Mufasa in The Lion King, gave a passionate speech about the power of nostalgia when Ray was about to sell his farm. Mann said, “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They will turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. ‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. ‘It’s only twenty dollars per person.’ They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack.”
Nostalgia is a powerful concept. Channel it correctly and people will react without even thinking. As Mann said, “They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it.” That is exactly how I feel about the live-action version of The Lion King. There could have been zero well-known actors in the new remake and yet people would still rush to the theaters to see Simba become King.
The summer box office may be down from 2018, but the studio that continues to make money at an alarming place is Disney. The Disney machine keeps on churning out box office success after box office success. This year, Disney has the four highest-grossing films domestically (Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, and Aladdin). It’s safe to say that The Lion King will join those films in a short amount of time.
The Lion King is the latest Disney animated film to receive the live-action* treatment. Directed by Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Iron Man), it’s the first Disney live-action film to have no human characters. That being said, the visuals are absolutely stunning. The visual effects are groundbreaking and so lifelike that it’s a masterclass in technical precision. Watching animals speak didn’t always work. At times, the sound did not match with the animal’s facial movements. However, sometimes you don’t have to critically analyze the jaws and mouths of computer-generated animals. At the end of the day, animals talking is pretty cool to witness onscreen. Five-year-old me and twenty-six-year-old me were very entertained.
*There is an argument to be made that this version of The Lion King is not live-action because of its lack of human characters. Every character was built on a computer so, therefore, it’s still an animated film.
The Lion King Official Trailer - YouTube
Once the sun rises and the first note of “The Circle of Life” is heard, the nostalgia strings are violently pulled inside anyone who has ever seen the film. The main plot in 2019 remains the same as it did in 1994. Simba, who after the murder of his father, Mufasa, by his uncle, Scar, must return to the Pride Lands and claim his role as King. The 2019 version of The Lion King stays almost exactly to script as 1994 original, which is not always a good thing. Most viewers are going to be satisfied with the plot remaining the same (which is where I fall), but there was a missed chance to develop a few more characters besides Nala.
Although The Lion King lacked some originality, the star power of the cast was extraordinary. Highlighted by Donald Glover as Adult Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Adult Nala, and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, the cast was an eclectic collection of stars across all mediums.
For the most part, every actor did an acceptable to a slightly above average job, but the two standouts were Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa. The comedic duo had the most chemistry between characters in the film and perfectly played off of each other. It can’t be understated how charming they were especially Eichner. Following up Nathan Lane, who voiced Timon in the 1994 version, was no easy task, but Eichner gave an admirable new twist to the character. Who knew he had a great voice?
Speaking of voices, what can’t be denied is the music of Elton John and Tim Rice still holds up 25 years later. “Circle of Life,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Be Prepared (most underrated song of the film),” “Hakuna Matata,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” all still draw huge reactions from the crowd. Plus, having accomplished singers and performers like Donald Glover and Beyoncé to sing familiar anthems is a cheat code.
Despite the similar plot, The Lion King‘s visuals and music carry this live-action film that will win over audiences and become an immediate box office triumph.
What are your thoughts on The Lion King? Leave them in the comments or tweet at us, @Unafraidshow.
The year is more than halfway over and the field for Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars is hazy, to say the least. Most of the films that are drawing buzz have not premiered yet at major film festivals, which means their theatrical release date will be in the fall. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing,” but this year, in particular, has more questions than answers.
Where are all of the contenders in the first half of the year? If you’re looking for this year’s Get Out or Mad Max: Fury Road, which both hit theaters before June in their respective years, your search will come up short. That’s not to say there haven’t’ been any critically acclaimed films or box office success that will garner awards consideration. Us, Apollo 11, Toy Story 4*, and The Farewell have all been lauded by critics across the board. However, the likelihood that these films receive Best Picture nominations is slim.
*Toy Story 3 was the last animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. Depending on how the back half of the year goes will determine if Toy Story 4 can sneak into the Best Picture race.
The lack of Best Picture buzz for the first half of the year is concerning, but not problematic. The majority of films looking to be in awards contention position their release dates between September and December/early January so they stay fresh in voters’ minds and can be seen at the box office while the awards are happening. In fact, the last film to win Best Picture that had its release date before July was The Hurt Locker, which had its release in late June 2009.
Although the first half of the year provided little hope, the future is still bright. The film community won’t have to wait until September to see a contender. In fact, the first film that will receive major Oscar buzz premieres on July, 26. That film is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube
If you could draw up the perfect film to receive awards consideration, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be the blueprint. It includes huge movie stars like Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Leonardo Dicaprio, who is returning to the big screen for the first time since his Oscar-winning performance in The Revenant. The film involves a well-known and well-received director in Quentin Tarantino, who previously won two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. Plus, the Academy loves films about Hollywood that capture the true essence of cinema, which is the very nature of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 5/5 stars and said it’s “entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant.”
Speaking of festivals, there are three major ones that typically serve as launching pads for the Best Picture race. They are the Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). All three festivals will occur over the course of a few weeks at the end of August through the middle of September. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book, premiered at TIFF. In 2017, The Shape of Water premiered at Venice. In 2016, Moonlight premiered at Telluride. It’s no secret as to why films with awards’ aspirations premiere at these three major festivals. If a film has a strong premiere at one of the three festivals, it’s odds for entering the Best Picture conversation dramatically increase.
According to Variety, Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, Bradd Pitt’s space epic Ad Astra, Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts, Fernando Meirelles’ The Pope, and The Burnt Orange Heresy starring Mick Jagger are all rumored to be showing at Venice. Since 2014, at least one film has been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that was shown at Venice so expect the same to happen this year. The lineups have not been announced for Telluride or Toronto, but it’s a guarantee that films from the festival will draw Best Picture hype.
JOKER - Teaser Trailer - YouTube
Films that should also accumulate serious Best Picture conversations: Martin Scorsese’s star-studded The Irishman, Ford v. Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the musical adaptation of Cats featuring Taylor Swift, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Goldfinch starring Ansel Elgort, Ang’s Lee Gemini Man starring Will Smith, and Jay Roach’s Fair and Balanced about the former head of Fox News, Roger Ailes.
There’s bound to be at least a few films not previously mentioned that sneak up on the film community and join the Best Picture race. That being said, here are my best guesses for Best Picture nominees at the 2020 Oscars as of July 17.
Best Picture Predictions
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Fair and Balanced
Ford v. Ferrari
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Toy Story 4
Only time will tell as to which films receive nominations. However, with an abundance of films premiering these next five months, the Best Picture race is about to take off.
If you missed this year’s rendition of the Home Run Derby, the premier pre- MLB All-Star game event, then you missed one hell of a ride. Two rookies, Pete Alonso (Mets) and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (Blue Jays), put on an absolute show, blasting home runs left and right and shattering previous derby records.
Of course, for the first time, the derby actually had a massive prize: a cool $1,000,000. Even to professional athletes, that’s a lot of cash.
However, because of baseball’s archaic rules that prevent rookies from getting paid big money until six years into the league, this year’s winner, Pete Alonso, only has a salary of $555,000 this year. His performance in the derby ended up earning him double what he will get paid for the rest of the season with the Mets – even though he is an All-Star and potential MVP candidate.
This begs an interesting question, that was originally discussed on the Effectively Wild Podcast: Could the home run derby survive as its own ‘sport’? After all, watching players blast home runs off pitches right down the middle during a timed event is completely unlike real baseball. The only similarity is the equipment and the field – both things that could be altered in a theoretical new league.
Who Would Participate?
Would people pay to see players participate in a home run derby on a regular basis? Hard to say. Clearly, a startup league would struggle to pull professional players from the major leagues into a new derby league. So the talent level probably wouldn’t be there right away. There are certainly plenty of recently retired players or players who didn’t make the major leagues – but who had serious home run power – who could probably excel in a sport dedicated exclusively to hitting dingers.
If the league could get guys like Jose Canseco, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter, David Wright, and the Barry Bonds types to come out of retirement to blast some home runs, perhaps fans would tune it on a semi-regular basis. And with a cash prize, it’s not impossible to think some of these guys would do it.
Other Home Run Derby Innovations
However, eventually, people would get bored watching the same event over and over, even if they were attached to the performers. But what about having a derby on a football field? Over a lake? In the Grand Canyon? These are pretty ridiculous ideas, but if enough fans showed up and cared about watching, maybe they could pull this off.
Fans have proven that the best part about sports is watching people hit or throw a ball as far as possible. The home run in baseball, the three-pointer in basketball, hail mary’s in football, long goals in soccer, whatever it is, humans tend to love their feats of strength.
A sport dedicated to the home run derby probably wouldn’t survive, but the concept is there if they found the right people and the right gimmicks to make it last without the MLB All-Star game.
In what should only be referred to as epic, incredible, amazing, and awe-inspiring, Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon against tennis hero Roger Federer. For anyone who watched the match, this very well could be the greatest tennis match they have or will ever witness. Move aside Stranger Things. There’s a new talk in town!
It was two giants on the court, each refusing to surrender. Federer was at his best. His footwork and position was all-time and he utilized a serve-and-volley strategy to put Djokovic on his back heels. Djokovic, not to be outdone, was also on his game. Tirelessly extending points, placing the ball near the paint and displaying unmatched stamina.
Ultimately, there had to be a winner. And after 65 games and 3 tie-breakers, Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon and ousted legendary Roger Federer. He held his ground, defended his Grand Slam championship and won his fifth Wimbledon final. In winning this Grand Slam in such dramatic fashion against a legendary opponent, Novak further placed his name into the conversation for the tennis GOAT.
Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon Final in Record Length
As the last ball hit off of Federer’s racket, the final time of the match was an impressive 4 hours and 55 minutes long. This final broke Federer and Nadal’s 2008 Wimbledon record to become the longest Wimbledon final in men’s tennis history. Winning a classic like this is what truly exemplifies champions. The best of the best are able to grind out the longest and most difficult wins. When Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon yesterday, he showed that he has the stamina to outlast his opponent in the most extreme circumstances.
Surprisingly, Novak Djokovic did not appear to be the better player for the majority of the match. Just counting games and not tie-breakers, Federer outnumbered Djokovic’s total 36 to 29. Federer also shifted his strategy to a serve-and-volley tactic and utilized his net positioning throughout the match. He forced Djokovic to pass or lob him. To his credit, Federer has a double match point in the 15th game. 40/15 against the World’s number-one ranked tennis player and the returning Wimbledon champion. However, due to both error on Federer’s part and impressive resilience by Djokovic, Djokovic rallied back and broke Federer’s serve.
Also difficult was the clear crowd advantage. It was not difficult to see that the noise of the Wimbledon audience was in favor of the 37-year-old legend, Roger Federer. Each point he won was met with raucous applause, while Djokovic was made to be the enemy. The crowd wanted Federer to win. Federer was on his game. He had the crowd. But still, Djokovic won Wimbledon.
Breaking Federer’s serve, winning three separate tie-breakers and ignoring the crowd noise cement’s Djokovic’s name in tennis history.
Record Against Nadal and Federer
Through 48 matches played, Novak Djokovic leads 26-22 against Roger Federer. In Grand Slams, like this 2019 Wimbledon Match), Djokovic leads 10-6. Even more impressive, in his five Grand Slam finals against Federer, Djokovic won four of them.
Additionally, Djokovic leads his rivalry against Rafael Nadal 28-26. Though Nadal edges Djokovic in their Grand Slam matches 9-6, they are 4-4 in Grand Slam finals.
Grand Slam Titles
Moreover, Djokovic is moving towards both Nadal’s and Federer’s Grand Slam totals. Nadal, in second, has 18 and Federer leads all men with 20. After Djokovic won Wimbledon yesterday, he moved his total up to 16. Since 2015, Djokovic has 9 Grand Slam championships.
He continues to display unbeatable stamina, beats the legends of the court, and shows that he can become the greatest tennis player of all time.
The NBA Superteam Era is dead. Kawhi Leonard made sure of this when he dismantled the Golden State Warriors and rejected Lebron James’ attempts to lure him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The landscape has shifted to “Super Duos,” with players now desiring to team up with friends or individuals who complement their skills and can share superstar duties. Here’s a look at the NBA’s best “Superstar Duos” heading into the 2019-20 NBA Season:
Tier 3 – The “Up and Comers” NBA Player Duos
12. Devin Booker / Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)
Deandre Ayton / Phoenix Suns Pre Draft Work Out / I am the best competitor / KOBE and SHAQ 2.0 - YouTube
In their first season together, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton led the Phoenix Suns to 19 wins. The Los Angeles Lakers went 31-19 when Kobe joined Shaq in the starting lineup during the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. Though Booker and Ayton aren’t quite “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” status, both are extremely talented individuals who should create a formidable inside-outside combination for years to come. With a full year under their belt and improvement at the head coaching position, the 2019-20 NBA Season should bring improved chemistry and many more wins.
11. Luka Doncic / Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks)
Credit: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis haven’t played a single game together but are already expected to form the best pick and pop tandem in the league. Porzingis has spent the entirety of his Dallas Mavericks’ career admiring the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, but the “Unicorn” will need to make an immediate impression if the Mavericks hope to make an impact in the Western Conference. This duo’s success depends on how well Porzingis recovers from a torn ACL that will have sidelined him for close to 20 months once the 2019 NBA Season begins. Charles Barkley expects this pair to turn into the greatest “one-two punch… for the next 10 years.”
Tier 2 – The “Star” NBA Duos
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo / Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Despite being selected to the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Star team, many still aren’t sold on Khris Middleton as a max player. This pair’s position is propped by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s supernova athletic ability. But Middleton’s capability as a three-point shooter (career 39%) carries great value when paired with Antetokounmpo’s slashing playmaking. Middleton contributes in a number of ways and is the perfect teammate for Antetokounmpo’s needs.
9. Donovan Mitchell / Mike Conley Jr. (Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are already building that teammate chemistry 🏀
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are no “Stockton and Malone,” but the two have the opportunity to create their own legacy as the next great Utah Jazz duo. Conley’s experience with the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies will be vital in helping Donovan Mitchell take the next leap in a competitive Western Conference.
8. Damian Lillard / CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
The 2019-20 NBA Season may be the last time we see this version of the Portland Trail Blazers. Though they reached the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors made quick work of the Blazers in 4 games. Damian Lillard recently signed a 4 year / $191 Million supermax extension and CJ McCollum is entering the penultimate season of his rookie extension. If this duo is unable to take another step in a much more open NBA landscape, 2019-20 may be the last season they share duties in the Blazers backcourt.
7. Nikola Jokic / Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Nikola Jokic is a perennial MVP candidate and Jamal Murray has shown consistent improvement throughout his first three years in the league. Denver Nuggets’ Coach Mike Malone has described this twosome’s chemistry as “almost romantic” in describing the ways this pairing plays off each other in their uniquely styled offense. The top pairing under-25, this dynamic duo has the potential to keep the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference for years to come.
6. Joel Embiid / Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
This is the rare combination in which the big man has the better outside game that his perimeter counterpart. In order for this duo to take the next step into the tier below, Ben Simmons will need to make a significant improvement to (or at least develop) his jump shot to help create spacing for Joel Embiid down low. The 76ers are primed to be the best team in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but such success hinges on how Embiid and Simmons are able to harmonize on the hardwood.
Tier 1 – The “Elite” NBA Superstar Duos
5. James Harden / Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)
The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, league sources tell ESPN.
News of this trade sent social media in a whirlwind, with many asking the same question: is one ball enough? A lot has changed since James Harden and Russell Westbrook played together in Oklahoma City; Harden has blossomed from a mini-bearded Sixth Man of The Year, while Westbrook has grown accustomed to leading-man duties. But you don’t pass up on pairing two MVPs in their prime. While this fit may be questionable, the sheer talent of this NBA superstar duo alone is worth the gamble.
4. Kevin Durant / Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had been plotting to team up since 2018. Unfortunately, they may have to wait to see their dream come to fruition while Kevin Durant rehabs from a torn Achilles suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant and Irving have reached the pinnacle of success while playing roles in other legendary duos. With the Brooklyn Nets now the forefront of New York basketball, this duo will have the chance to cement their place in basketball lore by bringing an NBA Championship to the Big Apple.
3. Steph Curry / Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
The 2019-20 NBA Season will be a gap year for the “Splash Brothers.” With Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL that should sideline him for the majority of the season, Steph Curry will be left to man the ship with his temporary replacement, D’Angelo Russell. Despite Thompson’s injury, this duo’s success should place them above every other combination on this list; however, the moves that took place this offseason have this Warriors’ combo embracing their newfound underdog role.
2. Lebron James / Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
1. Kawhi Leonard / Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
Credit: Clutchpoints Podcast
The Los Angeles “Superstar Duos” is the result of blockbuster moves each team made this offseason. The Lakers paired two top-five players by acquiring Anthony Davis to team up with Lebron James. But the Clippers’ one-upped their in-town rival by signing two-time NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has staked his claim as the best player in the league. And with his recruitment of Paul George, Leonard paired himself with an elite superstar who has no problem taking control of both ends of the floor. All roads now run through the Staples Center and the battle for Los Angeles is to sure to result in many “epic” matchups between these two for years to come.
In Jim Hopper’s letter to Eleven in the Season 3 finale of Netflix’s Stranger Things, Hopper wrote, “I know you’re getting older, growing, changing.” Just like Eleven, all of the kids are all getting older and growing (most noticeably, Mike). Just like the kids, Stranger Things is changing.
*Warning: This article will include major spoilers. You’ve been warned.*
Hopper's Letter to Eleven - Ending Scene | Stranger Things 3 Finale - YouTube
As I’ve said in previous reviews, Stranger Things is an extremely fun and enjoyable show that successfully balancers nostalgia with science-fiction and horror. The Season 3 finale was a great ending to a delightful third season. The final scene depicts the Byers’ family packing up and moving out of Hawkins (FINALLY!) to start a new life. Joining them is Eleven, who lost her father, Hopper, when Joyce shut down the gate room, which disintegrated everyone in the room including Hopper.
Let’s just skip to the elephant in the room for Season 4. (Season 4 has not been officially confirmed, but it’s a stone-cold lock to happen.)
Is Hopper alive?
That’s the million-dollar question. There are a few ways to tackle this. You either believe a) Hopper is alive, b) He’s is dead, but will be brought back to life or c) Hopper is dead.
How is Hopper still alive? There are a few clues that support the idea that our beloved Police Chief of Hawkins is still breathing. Look at his adopted daughter, Eleven, as someone who we thought was dead by was instead trapped in the Upside Down. When Dr. Owens enters the gate room, the gate to the Upside Down is still open. Just like Eleven, there’s a chance Hopper made his way into the Upside Down and is trapped there, which is the most likely option of the “Hopper is alive” theories.
Stranger Things / Netflix
Then, there’s Hopper’s letter. The letter was beautifully written and so heartfelt that it brought a tear to my eye. I urge you to reread it again and when you do, you’ll see that a few sentences are clues to his whereabouts.
“I’ve been stuck in one place. In a cave, you might say.” – The Upside Down?
“But, please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches.” – See the photo above.
Does this mean Eleven has to rescue Hopper in the Upside Down? Maybe. Plus, we never see Hopper’s body when he “dies.” He doesn’t vaporize onscreen. It goes back to the old saying, “Never found the body” TV trope. If the viewer doesn’t see the death, it tends to mean that the person might still be alive.
Then, there’s the post-credits scene in Russia. Two soldiers are walking through cells when they come across a first door. One says, “No, not the American.” And they go to a second door and take a Russian prisoner down to feed to the Demogorgon. Is this American, Hopper? It might be, but I believe it’s Dr. Brenner, who we learned is still alive in Season 2.
Now, there’s Option B. Hopper is dead, but he’s going to be brought back to life. Huh? Does Eleven now have the ability to raise the dead? Last time I checked, she doesn’t have that power. However, there’s an ’80s pop culture reference that was seen in the third season of Stranger Things that could be the key to Hopper’s resurrection. That reference is Back to the Future.
Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future / Universal Studios
Great Scott! We can go back in time to save Hopper! I don’t believe the kids of Hawkins have a DeLorean, but that doesn’t mean time travel can’t play a part in the show. Notice how the final two scenes are edited. When Eleven reads the letter during the montage, the kids are seen saying goodbye to each other and drive out of Hawkins. However, when she finishes the letter, Eleven brings out her stuff to the truck and the kids say goodbye to each other. Perhaps this editing is a clue about time travel and Season 4 will explain that time travel is possible and necessary in order to save Hopper.
Stranger Things | S3E8 | Final scene of Season 3 - YouTube
Finally, the last possibility is that Hopper is dead and not returning. Fans would most certainly be upset if Hopper was dead, but his death would be of the utmost significance and shape the remaining 1-2 seasons of the show. Once again, look at Hopper’s letter to Eleven when he says, “I don’t want things to change. So I think maybe that’s why I came in here, to try and make stop that change. To turn back the clock. To make things go back to how they were. But I know that’s naive. It’s just not how life works.” The themes of change and growing up were hammered down in Season 3. Things changes whether we like it or not. Hopper could be dead and whether we like it or not, there may be nothing we can do about it. That’s life.
Even if Hopper is dead, I don’t see David Harbour leaving the show entirely. Harbour is too important and valuable to remove from the show completely. Maybe Hopper will be used in flashbacks all next season or perhaps he’s some ghost dad from heaven. Dead or alive, Hopper’s future remains unknown but his impact on the show will never be forgotten.
Fans love the NFL Scouting Combine even more than the coaches, general managers, and scouts since it has been televised. It gives every fan access to the exact same measurable stats for each player as NFL franchises. Thus, fans begin to get a glimpse into how difficult it is to pick great players in the NFL Draft. The combine is a prime example of how having too much information and too many choices distorts good decision making. It would make sense for teams to use film study and position specific workouts as the basis for drafting players. Instead, players are often harshly criticized and overly scrutinized by bench press, broad jump, 40-time, 3-cone drill, verticle jump, and Wonderlic test scores. None of those measurables can calculate a man’s heart, work ethic, or will to win.
Here is a list of guys who have had underwhelming NFL combine performances to go on and become amongst the NFL elite.
Antonio Brown – 2010
No one would dare questions Antonio Brown’s athleticism now. However, no one was sold on his athleticism until the 6th round. At the combine, he ran a 4.56-second 40, with a 33.5-inch vertical and a 6.98-second 3-cone. His 8-foot, 9-inch broad jump was worst among wide receivers who tested that year. Since then, Brown has proven his name should be mentioned with the greatest wide receivers of this decade.
Calais Campbell – 2008
Campbell looked the part coming out of the University of Miami. He was 6-8, 290lbs of top-10 pick. However, he only managed 16 reps on the bench press (22+ expected for a defensive lineman), ran a 5.04 in the 40, and 7.45 in the 3-cone drill. Ultimately, Campbell was picked 50th by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. He has gone on to be a 3x All-Pro and PFWA Defensive MVP.
Marcus Peters – 2015
Marcus Peters wanted to put up a good NFL combine performance after being dismissed from the team at the University of Washington. Some of his combine numbers were solid, but his 4.53 time in the 40 stood out as a “red flag” for a cornerback. Peters has gone on to be a 2x All-Pro and amass 22 interceptions in his first four seasons.
Jim Kelly – 1986 Terry Bradshaw – 1970
When quarterbacks score poorly on the test, teams generally question their intelligence and ability to grasp NFL concepts. Jim Kelly and Terry Bradshaw both scored an underwhelming 15 on the Wonderlic Test. Yet, both went on to either have Hall of Fame careers and are amongst the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Anquan Boldin – 2003
Boldin put up big numbers and impressive plays at Florida State. Most experts expected him to be a lock first-round NFL Draft pick. However, he posted a 4.71 40-yard dash time and fell to the #54 pick in the 2003 draft. He ONLY went on to become the fastest player in NFL history to 600 catches (until Antonio Brown). Boldin also made huge plays to help the Ravens win the 2013 Super Bowl. And he finished his career with over 1,000 catches and 13, 000 receiving yards despite not have great NFL scouting combine measurables.
Tom Brady – 2000
Tom Brady failed miserably at two parts of the NFL Combine. Firstly, he had a “dad bod”, and looked more suited to be an accountant than an NFL player. Secondly, Brady ran 5.28 in the 40-yard dash. That time is more suited for a 315 offensive lineman than a skill position player. We all know that Brady has gone on to become arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. But, teams didn’t see the vision as Tom Brady was ultimately selected in the 6th round of the NFL Draft.
Who will the 2019 player who underwhelms at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, but turns into an All-Pro?
Most of the attention in the western conference during this absolutely insane NBA offseason has gone to the California teams – the Lakers adding Anthony Davis and striking out elsewhere, the Warriors losing Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins and of course the Clippers forming a superteam of their own with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. However, rather quietly, the Portland Trail Blazers – who I remind you are fresh off an appearance in the Western Conference Finals – have retooled their team and are ready to make another deep run in the playoffs.
Last year’s run was aided by two extremely beneficial mid-season acquisitions, center Enes Kanter and wing Rodney Hood. Both were role players who ended up playing significant minutes during the playoffs; Kanter thanks to a late-season injury to starter Jusuf Nurkic and Hood simply because he showed up and filled the role of athletic scorer off the bench – something Portland was desperately missing for most of the season.
However, Portland didn’t want to wait until midseason to re-shape their roster again. After proclaiming that there would not be any fireworks at the start of free agency, Blazers general manager Neil Olshey oversaw seven players depart via free agency or trade, and brought in five new players. So much for no fireworks.
Analyzing Portland’s Moves
Portland’s biggest acquisition, in importance and size, is former Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Acquired in a trade that sent Meyers Leonard to Miami and Moe Harkless to the Clippers, Whiteside will be a one-year stopgap while Nurkic recovers. Sure, Whiteside has had his issues with attitude and effort, but in a contract year and with Damian Lillard’s no-nonsense approach to leadership, Whiteside has the opportunity to really thrive in this environment.
The trade clears out two expiring contracts in Leonard and Harkless, and frees up third-year Zach Collins to start at the power forward spot now that both Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, who signed with the Magic, are gone.
The team also dealt backup guard Evan Turner to Atlanta for wing Kent Bazemore, a move that saw two massive contracts exchange hands. Bazemore gives Portland an experienced outside shooter and defensive player, effectively replacing Aminu and Seth Curry, who signed with Dallas, in one player.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Blazers also brought in backup power forward Anthony Tolliver and wing Mario Hezonja, two veteran bench players who are capable of scoring in droves.
Projecting The Portland Trail Blazers’ Lineup
A projected starting five of Whiteside, Collins, Hood, McCollum and Lillard doesn’t look much better than last year’s squad – if at all – but a backup unit that includes Tolliver, Hezonja, Bazemore, Anfernee Simons and rookie Nassir Little – who many believe will be the steal of the draft – should do a lot of damage in a suddenly wide-open Western Conference.
That’s not even included Nurkic, who gives this team a huge boost with his projected return in February.
California’s three teams may be getting all of the attention, but it could be the other west coast team that finds itself in the NBA Finals next season.