The 5 worst games on the 2022-23 NBA schedule

San Antonio Spurs v Atlanta Hawks
Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images

These are the games on the new NBA schedule you can skip.

The 2022-2023 NBA schedule is finally out now. With training camps set to open at the end of Sept., teams around the league announced their full 82-game slates on Wednesday. We already knew opening night would feature the Celtics hosting the 76ers, and the Warriors hosting the Lakers. We knew the Christmas day slate, which for some reason includes the Knicks, and has the best game of the day as the earliest. No one knows where Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell will be playing this season, but that didn’t stop the schedule-makers from deciding what teams should and shouldn’t be playing on national TV.

You can find the full 2022-2023 NBA schedule here. The SB Nation NBA team sites will have you covered on the schedule analysis for your favorite team. There will be plenty of websites that will direct you to the best games to watch this season. We thought we’d go the other way: what are going to be the most dreadful/annoying/irrelevant games this year that even the most devoted League Pass head won’t want to watch?

These are the worst games on the 2022-2023 NBA schedule.

Magic @ Hawks, Oct. 21

The stupidest controversy of the offseason takes centerstage on opening week!

Pick-up run beef is the nadir of the NBA August news cycle. Hyping it up like this is some anticipated regular season matchup between the Eastern Conference’s No. 15 and No. 8 seeds from last year is even worse. I can’t wait to see the Magic’s collection of young talent, and how Dejounte Murray and Trae Young mesh in the Atlanta backcourt, but there’s no reason for this game to get real press.

Thunder @ Jazz, April 6

Utah and Oklahoma City have the same big goal this season: be bad enough to increase the odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick and French super prospect Victor Wembanyama. That should make this late regular season meeting absolutely dreadful. The Thunder have been shamelessly tanking at the end of the regular season by resting healthy players for multiple years now. The Jazz chose their direction when they traded Rudy Gobert for picks. Looking for teams trying to win? You have come to the wrong place.

Pacers @ Wizards, Feb. 11

The Wizards and Pacers both feel like they’re going nowhere fast in the short-term. The Wizards gave Bradley Beal a massive extension and for some reason included a rare no-trade clause just to make the whole thing more confusing. The Pacers are quickly assembling a decent collection of young talent — Tyrese Haliburton, Benn Mathurin, Chris Duarte, and Isaiah Jackson is the start of something — but it was a bummer they couldn’t pry Deandre Ayton away from the Suns with an offer sheet. These are two teams not bad enough to be in the race for the No. 1 overall draft pick, but likely not good enough to make play-in tournament.

Rockets @ Spurs, March 5

You only need to go back to 2017 for when the Spurs and Rockets were two of the best teams in the Western Conference. A lot has happened since then, mostly that each of their superstars (Kawhi Leonard and James Harden) forced a trade elsewhere. The Rockets’ rebuild is already off to a promising start with Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, and more in tow, while the Spurs are just beginning their own rebuild after the Dejounte Murray trade. This late season contest is probably going to be another tank fest, and that’s a no from us.

Lakers vs. Clippers, every game

The Lakers haven’t beat the Clippers since July 30, 2020 inside the bubble. If you are keeping score at home, the Clippers have a seven-game winning streak against the Lakers, and a lot of those wins have been blowouts when the Clips have any semblance of a healthy roster. What’s worse than a one-sided rivalry? A one-sided rivalry that’s always on national TV. At least the halftime shows should be interesting.

The NFL can’t keep getting away with Christmas games

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

This is a war on Christmas.

The entire concept of the NFL playing games on Christmas Day didn’t really sink in for me last year. Sure, the Colts played the Cardinals, and the Packers took on the Browns, but these inter-conference affairs were easy to ignore. For 2022 the league is bringing a three game salvo, and I’m convinced we need to do everything in our power to ensure this experiment never rears its head again.

For 2022 we have the Packers vs. Dolphins at 1 p.m., Broncos vs. Rams at 4:30 p.m. and Buccaneers vs. Cardinals at 8:20 p.m. It’s a 10 hour onslaught of football being launched right at the NBA for essentially no reason, and it’s horrible because the NFL slate this year all hold to be really, really good games.

We must put a stop to this, and I’m prepared to show my work.

No. 1: Let the NBA have its own damn day

The NBA and Christmas Day have been synonymous since 1947 when the association first started playing games on December 25th. What began as a way to simply fill in games on the schedule has evolved into basketball’s biggest holiday.

The modern five game schedule flowing from East to West is absolutely perfection. Some of my fondest memories as a young adult didn’t come from meals or presents, but us all gathering around in a food coma, kids playing with their toys, while everyone dozed or watched the NBA. It let people who aren’t normal sports fans see how far basketball had come, learn about the stars of the modern game. I remember my stepmother’s father, a die-hard UNC fan, being absolutely blown away watching the Mavericks in 2003 — equally spellbound by watching Dirk Nowitzki, and telling stories of watching Antawn Jamison play at the Dean Dome.

If the NFL was on, the TV probably would have been tuned to football instead, because more people in the family were invested in football. That’s just a damn shame.

No. 2: Christmas football takes away from Thanksgiving

We already have a perfectly good NFL holiday already. Football was made for Thanksgiving, and just as the Christmas is woven into the fabric of the NBA, Thanksgiving is with the NFL. Just as New Year’s Day is made for college football.

If we take every fall/winter national holiday and make it NFL time, it stops being special. Hell, my 5-year-old understood this concept when I explained to her why it can’t be her birthday every day — so why can’t the NFL?

With another NFL holiday just a month after the first it loses that magic of all gathering around and watching Thanksgiving football. Sure, the games will still be on — but it absolutely loses some of that magic.

No. 3: Nobody should be mad on Christmas

It truly does not matter whether you recognize Christmas, celebrate it, or have your own traditions. It’s generally accepted that the entire holiday season is a time of peace and goodwill. There’s just something magic in the air around the season that doesn’t have anything to do with religious beliefs, people just seem… happier.

Late December in the NBA is relatively low stakes. Yes, it sucks if your team loses — but it’s one of 82 games not even halfway through the season. Any team can recover from one loss, so the sting of defeat really isn’t that bad if it does happen on Christmas Day.

The NFL, on the other hand, is a late-December disaster. This is Week 16, with the playoffs right around the corner, in a league where everything can hinge on a single game. We’re not talking about some throwaway contests here either, with five of the six teams in 2022 being accepted locks to contend in their respective conferences, and the Dolphins who have shown a knack for swinging above their weight class.

There is a very real chance the holiday tranquility of your home could be ruined by your mom or uncle screaming swear words when Mason Crosby misses a 37-yard field goal in the dying moments of a game with home field advantage on the line. Even worse, everyone heading to the game and just derailing the holiday as a whole.

I propose we keep our traditions intact

Nobody asked for this. Nobody wanted the NFL on Christmas. The league decided to force it down our throats in an effort to squeeze more juice out of the cash orange. Can anyone honestly say that either Christmas or the NFL will be better for having football on December 25th? You can’t.

None of us have any power in this scenario — at least not individually. However, if we agree not to watch, to refuse to tune in, then maybe it can have an impact. I’m not expecting everyone to get on board, but any significant hit to the ratings will pressure the NFL to get rid of these stupid Christmas games, let the NBA have its holiday back, and ensure Thanksgiving remains special.

Decoldest Crawford’s air conditioning commercial is the best use of the NIL yet

Decoldest Crawford’s air conditioning commercial shows that the NIL is good, actually.

The first year of the NIL in college sports has produced an endless amount of headlines about how players getting paid is ruining the purity of collegiate athletics. NCAA leaders love to talk about how they are “extremely concerned” about the direction of college sports, while football coaches are taking shots at each other in press conferences over alleged dirty recruiting tactics.

Meanwhile, there have been a ton of positives for players who are finally able to be properly compensated for their talents (and all the money they bring their schools). The NIL has particularly been a boon for female college athletes, and has also kept some great talents at the college level who would have otherwise bounced to chase professional dollars.

It’s easy for those in power to be skeptical when the money changing hands isn’t going directly into their own pockets, but even the biggest NIL critics have to admit there have been some charming agreements between players and businesses. The greatest example of this happened earlier this week when Nebraska wide receiver Decoldest Crawford starred in a commercial for an air conditioning company.

This isn’t just business, it’s art. A round of applause for whoever wrote these lines.

“When your AC isn’t the coldest, you call SOS Heating and Cooling.”

“Take it from Decoldest. We will keep you cool this summer.”

Crawford is a freshman who generated buzz for his unique name as much as his talent when he was on a recruit out of Louisiana. He initially committed to LSU before flipped to Nebraska. Unfortunately, Crawford suffered a knee injury in practice recently and is expected to be sidelined for an extended period.

Crawford may be stuck rehabbing for the next few months, but at least he has a little money in his pocket now after this NIL contract. College football fans have had so much fun following his recruiting that it’s only right he was able to profit off his unique name.

Crawford was considered a top-70 wide receiver recruit in his class, and should still have an extremely bright future. Hopefully this is just the start of a long and profitable relationship between him and local air conditioning companies. Regardless of how some feel about the NIL, everyone must agree this partnership is a beautiful thing.

Josh Johnson is the greatest journeyman in NFL history

Dallas Cowboys v Denver Broncos
Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

14 teams, four different leagues, and he just keeps throwing.

Quarterback Josh Johnson is one of those guys who just keeps popping up. He’s always buried on the depth chart, mentioned only when a starting QB goes down and there’s a chance he’ll see playing time — but to his credit, the dude just keeps ticking.

So, when Johnson went off for the Broncos in preseason, going 16-for-23, 172 yards and two touchdowns it was a nice opportunity to remember that Josh Johnson is still in the league. Then the NFL posted this and it took my breath away.

Yes, if you’re counting that all up Johnson has played for 14 — FOURTEEN! — NFL teams! That’s the current record for most teams played for by a single player. Somehow even wilder is how he’s played for four different football leagues. During Johnson’s 15 year football career he’s taken snaps in the NFL, UFL, AAF and XFL — always proving useful, always getting his job done.

This isn’t some wild career that’s resulted in huge contracts, but rather collecting paydays from basically everyone. According to Spotrac Johnson will have made $9.1M by the end of this season, which is more than most of us hope to make in a lifetime. He’s lived across the country, only appeared in 37 regular season games, and is more there for safety and moral support than anything else. Granted, he’s no Chase Daniel who has made $41M over his career doing more or less the same thing, but Daniel had to take snaps in 70 games.

Josh Johnson has decoded the art of football. His body has never broken down, at age 36 he can theoretically keep going for another 5-6 years at least, if he wants to — and he’s still playing at a high level. I’m simply in awe of everything Johnson has done in his football career, as we should all be.

Every team needs a Josh Johnson. Only 18 teams haven’t had Josh Johnson. At this point it should be written into his contracts that a team can only keep him for a season, at which team he can sign somewhere else — just so he can extend the record.

‘BagGate’ is the professional cornhole drama taking over the sport

8th Annual Craig Campbell Celebrity Cornhole Challenge
Photo by Mindy Small/Getty Images

A world of fabric softeners, bag boiling and big money.

The world of cornhole is being torn apart by bag-related drama — and the bag-throwing world is dealing with the fallout. Now there are questions about potential impropriety, doctored bags, loose stitches, replaced fillings, and the entire competitive cornhole process. Let’s rewind and explained what went down, and how this might be a symptom of a sport growing faster than it’s willing to handle.

Fans tuned in to watch a high stakes match in the Doubles B Bracket at the 2022 American Cornhole League (ACL) World Championships. It was a big deal, with two of the highest ranked teams in the world featured prominently on the ACL livestream. Then, before the first bag was thrown, the drama began. Devon Harbaugh, part of the No. 6 ranked team, called for a bag check on his opponents, No. 1 ranked Mark Richards and Philip Lopez Jr. He wanted to ensure their bags were legal before the critical match began. A measuring tool was brought out, bags were checked, and they failed inspection.

Then, in the ultimate case of “turnabout is fair play,” Richards and Lopez Jr. asked for a bag check on Harbaugh and his partner Derrick King in return. Their bags failed inspection too. It didn’t derail the event, as both teams decided to play on despite their bags failing inspection — so it wasn’t as if one team had an advantage over the other, but it was enough to spark huge debates on the “Addicted to Cornhole” Facebook group, one of the largest communities for players.

“Simply put ALL bags should be inspected during registration for all Major ACL events, period,” a commenter said. “Most of the bags these players throw are not going to pass inspection probably if they checked every bag!” added another, and inside of the rule discussion and proposed solutions there was another undercurrent: Claims that bag manufacturing had become a cash grab at the expense of the sport.

What has cornhole evolved into?

If you’ve only played in casual tailgate games or at your local bar you’d be astonished to find out how exact specifications are for competitive bags. In addition to very specific size and weight requirements, the ACL and American Cornhole Organization (ACO), who are the two premier competitive bodies, have one major difference outside of the weight and size tolerances, and this comes from what fills the bags.

  • ACL bag filling: Inside Material may be anything that does not damage or create residue on the board. A bag that damages a board in any way as caused by the material of the bag will automatically forfeit the player throwing that particular bag. If a bag is found to gradually leave a residue or marks on the board during gameplay, that player or team will forfeit the match. .
  • ACO bag filling: Each bag is filled with plastic resin/beads which will not breakdown

Originally bags would be filled with corn, hence the name of the sport — but we’re past that now. Resin has become the favored filling, as the pellets inside the bag, along with the fabric, have a tendency to “break in,” making them less stiff with each use, allowing high-level players to better tailor their feel of the bag to their style — specifically its ability to slide on the board, feel looser, block better, or have “hole friendliness,” which is the movement of material inside the bag to allow it to transfer weight and fall through more easily.

A bag maker explains …

So, what is an illegal cornhole bag? What is a legal one? And what advantages could a person gain from trying to bend the rules? I talked to Tom, bag manufacturer and owner of “So ILL Cornhole,” about “BagGate,” and how the sport needs to adjust moving forward.

A big question surrounding bag manipulation stems from how bags are broken in. The easiest, and most obvious way is to have a player simply play the game more — but Tom has heard stories of some truly remarkable ways people have tried to manipulate their cornhole bags. “Players also have been known to put the bags in the washer and dryer and even boil their bags to break them in,” Tom says. “But please, anyone reading this, do not boil your bags. You will likely ruin them in ways you cannot see.”

He adds that technology has led to bag manufacturers coming up with legal ways to offer players different speed, and slide characteristics without forcing them to manipulate bags themselves — including fabric treatments. There are rules in the sport against foreign substances and doctoring bags, but so long as they meet the measurement and weight requirements, nothing is being done.

Beyond break in is a far more nefarious process of chemically adjusting the outside of the bag itself. It’s not uncommon to hear of players using fabric softeners on their bags, or even other chemical treatments. Tom explains this is to reduce the stiffness and or change the coefficient of friction in the bags to make them faster or slower, all of which can offer a competitive edge, but that nobody is really checking for these modifications. “If we hold true to the regulations, these are likely not allowed,” he says, “but how would anyone ever know without witnessing the process happen?”

It’s Tom’s belief that neither of the teams involved in “BagGate” at the ACL World Championships manipulated the bags themselves, but were rather a product of manufacturing issues — which he believes presents a far greater problem. With money flooding in, and dozens or bagmakers paying leagues to get coveted “approved by” stamps on their bags, it’s opened up room for shoddy compliance issues, and there’s no much motivation from leagues to demand more out of the companies paying them.

“The money coming in from manufacturers for licensing the stamp is substantial, so why rock the boat by implementing additional compliance measures which make manufacturing bags under your stamp a more rigorous endeavor?”

This is great if you’re a sports league looking to make money, but terrible for players wanting to ensure there’s an even playing field — even if players are unaware they’re using illegal bags in an event. This is a process that ACL got rolling when they began the stamp process, which was implemented under the guise of conveying player confidence in bag manufacturing, but hasn’t really held to that ideal. Companies could seek either basic ACL stamps, ACL “comp” stamps, or the highest level ACL “pro.”

“Higher tiers required a larger license fee, but only Pro tier bags are allowed to be utilized in televised matches. Thus, there was a massive marketing incentive for manufacturers to get their bags stamped due to the collective community associating a stamped bag with higher quality.”

Incidents like “BagGate” prove that these stamps often don’t mean the exacting standards they’re marketed with.

“It’s an easy fix,” Tom quips, “At the beginning of a tournament each player/team can check in a certain number of sets for inspection.” He thinks players should be able to keep their freedom to pick whichever manufacturer or bag set feels right to them, but confirming legality shouldn’t wait until midway through a tournament. “Such a check could be conducted either during registration or prior to a player’s first match without adding much time to the process.”

As it stands: Nothing is being done. In the 10 days since “BagGate” there’s been no official change to the rules, or streamlining of the process — even in the case of a prestigious, televised event like the World Championships. To most sports fans cornhole is a funny thing to watch as part of ESPN 8: The Ocho, but to those who follow and love the sport, doing their best to get more people to buy into competitive play, it’s a major issue without a current solution — and one that no governing body seems to care enough about to fix.

Bronny James recruiting: Breaking down college options with 5 new favorites

Syndication: The Augusta Chronicle

Bronny James’ recruitment is starting to come into focus.

There’s been immense interest around Bronny James since he first entered the public eye as a potential future NBA prospect. James’ game has grown over the last three years while playing for Los Angeles prep powerhouse Sierra Canyon during the high school season and on the Nike EYBL circuit in the summer. As he enters his senior year, James is currently rated as the No. 43 overall prospect in the class of 2023, according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.

James is at a fascinating inflection point in his young career for multiple reasons. After mostly being a role player on Sierra Canyon teams loaded with current and future NBA talent — Ziaire Williams, Brandon Boston Jr., and Amari Bailey, to name a few — James is set to be the leading man for his school as a senior. He also needs to figure out his plan after graduation. With his famous father repeatedly stating he wants to play with his oldest son before he retires, Bronny’s next step is going to be critical to help him get to the NBA.

On Friday, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi gave the first informed update in months on James’ next step. According to ESPN, “there is a strong feeling he will take the college route,” with UCLA, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, and Oregon mentioned as the leaders. Biancardi notes that other schools could still get into the mix. College of course won’t be James’ only potential route to the 2024 NBA Draft: he could go to the G League Ignite, turn pro in Australia like LaMelo Ball, or pick an alternate option like Overtime Elite.

What should Bronny do after high school? Here’s a look at his reported leaders.

The local options: UCLA and USC

LeBron James can become a free agent in the summer of 2023, but most believe his preferred scenario to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers as long as they can reassert themselves as a legitimate contender. With the entire James family in LA, it means sense that Bronny would have an eye on both local schools, UCLA and USC.

The Bruins are coming off a Final Four and Sweet 16 appearance in Mick Cronin’s first two seasons as head coach. They’re considered a top-10 team coming into this season, but it’s possible they could lose four starters once the year is over if incoming freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona live up to the hype. Add in that UCLA doesn’t have any commits for the 2023 class yet, and it’s really hard to project what their roster could look like a year from now. How Bailey’s freshman year goes could be a big influence on Bronny as his former high school teammate. It’s worth noting that last season’s stud recruit, Peyton Watson, couldn’t crack the rotation on a veteran team in 2021-22 (and was still a first round draft pick anyway). If Bronny signs on, Cronin has to be willing to give him a real role.

USC is also a decent option. The Trojans have made consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, and could make it again this year as a fringe top-25 team to start the season. There’s another Sierra Canyon connection here with Bronny’s former teammate Kijani Wright set to debut for the Trojans this season as a former top-50 recruit. USC has a really good incoming class, but also doesn’t have any commits for 2023 yet. It’s easy to see Bronny starting on either of these teams if he commits.

The Big Ten powerhouses with family connections: Ohio State and Michigan

LeBron once said he would have gone to Ohio State had he not entered the NBA Draft out of high school. He’s still a big Buckeyes fan, and would likely endorse his son moving back to Ohio to star for Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes helped turn Malaki Branham into a surprise one-and-done last season after entering the program with a similar recruiting ranking to the one Bronny currently owns (four-star, top-50 overall recruit). Ohio State has four top-100 recruits coming in this season, and four more top-100 recruits committed for the following season. The Buckeyes’ 2023 class is only missing a point guard, and that’s a role Bronny could potentially fill.

Michigan would also make sense because of LeBron’s connection to head coach Juwan Howard. Howard and LeBron were teammates on the Miami Heat at the end of Howard’s career and won two rings together (Howard barely played on those teams). There were even some rumors about Howard potentially getting the Lakers job in the offseason. Instead, Howard will coach his own sons Jett and Jace with the Wolverines next season. LeBron and Bronny will certainly notice if it goes well. Michigan also feels like a good on-court fit for Bronny: the Wolverines can potentially put a lot of shooting on the floor, and Bronny could have a role as a defense-first glue guy in the backcourt.

The ultimate Nike school: Oregon

Nike founder Phil Knight went to Oregon, and has pumped money into the athletic department to the point that the Ducks have become synonymous with the brand. Oregon is used to landing big-time recruits: incoming freshman center Kel’el Ware is already getting top-10 NBA Draft hype, and they have Kwame Evans, the No. 2 overall prospect in 2023, committed for the following year. The Ducks have consistently made the NCAA tournament before last season, and would be another place that could possibly offer Bronny a headline role as a freshman.

Bronny James recruiting: Could anyone else get involved?

I’d be surprised if Bronny commits early given the pace of his recruitment so far. There seems to be plenty of time for other options outside of the five schools mentioned above to emerge. Duke watched Bronny at Peach Jam, and already has four five-star recruits committed for 2023. Two of those players are guards from LA in Jared McCain and Caleb Foster, but it would be foolish to completely rule out the Blue Devils at this point. Memphis has also reportedly been checking in on James, and a fit could make sense there with head coach Penny Hardaway leading the program.

The G League Ignite could also be an fun option. The Ignite have proven they can produce NBA talent with three top-10 picks in the last two drafts (Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Dyson Daniels), and Bronny would add an incredible jolt of excitement to the G League. I’m not buying the Australian NBL or Overtime Elite as serious options at this point.

The college route feels like the safest bet for Bronny at this point. The California schools should have an edge as long as his dad stays with the Lakers. Wherever Bronny goes, he’s going to be a huge star from the moment he steps on campus.

Picking the 2022 WNBA MVP between Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson

Who should be the 2022 WNBA MVP? Here’s our breakdown and pick.

Basketball fans are used to heated MVP debates by now. The last two seasons in the NBA have produced an overwhelming amount of discourse about a two-headed MVP race between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, with Jokic winning the award both times. This season in the WNBA is following the same trend. While there are lots of great players around the W, there are only two serious candidates for MVP. The vote couldn’t be closer.

Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson are widely considered the two best players in the world. While long-time superstars Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker, and Sylvia Fowles enter the final stages of their careers, Stewart and Wilson are each firmly in their primes. Both already have one MVP award on their resumes, with Stewart’s coming in 2018, and Wilson winning during the bubble season of 2020. There’s a case to be made that each of playing the best ball of their lives this season.

With apologies to Kelsey Plum, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Courtney Vandersloot, and Alyssa Thomas, this year’s MVP award is going to either Stewart or Wilson. Who should get it?

The case for A’ja Wilson as 2022 WNBA MVP

The Aces are in pole position to enter the WNBA playoffs as the No. 1 seed in their first season under head coach Becky Hammon. While Hammon has pushed all the right buttons in the wake of Liz Cambage’s departure from the team (and then the league), the biggest reason for Las Vegas’ success remains Wilson.

Wilson’s case starts with her being the best player on the league’s best team, but it’s also much deeper than that. Wilson has been serious strides on both ends of the floor this year, which is kind of amazing when you consider that she was already a consensus top-three player in the league.

Offensively, Wilson’s big improvement has come as an outside shooter. Former coach Bill Laimbeer wouldn’t let her take threes: she attempted only two shots behind the arc in her first four WNBA seasons. This year, Wilson is 30-of-81 from deep, good for an extremely respectable 37 percent. The extra space she’s brought to the Aces’ offense has allowed Vegas guards Plum and Jackie Young to each enjoy the best seasons of their careers. Wilson already could handle the ball like a guard. Now that she can shoot like one, her offense is almost unstoppable. She is second in the league by averaging 32.4 points per 100 possessions, and she’s making a career-best 52.1 percent of her two-pointers. Basically, Wilson has learned to stretch out the opposing defense while also getting more efficient all over the floor. Her 58.1 percent true shooting is also a career high.

Wilson has also taken a big step up defensively as she’s slid from the four to the five after Cambage’s departure. She’s posted career-bests in defensive rebound rate (27.7 percent, a four-point jump from her previous high), steal rate (2.4 percent, up from 1.4 percent), and block rate (5.9 percent, up from 5.4 percent). Wilson is so big and fast that she has a knack for breaking into the passing lanes, pushing the ball downcourt, and finishing with a layup at other end. Having a center with her ranginess is a major advantage for Vegas.

Wilson is so big, so strong, and so skilled. Now that she’s shooting threes and making strides defensively, there’s basically nothing anyone can do to stop the 6’4 big. There’s only one other player in the world with a chance to measure up.

The case for Breanna Stewart as 2022 WNBA MVP

Breanna Stewart’s historic career could have changed forever when she collided with Brittney Griner in a Euroleague game and tore her Achilles in April of 2019. Stewart missed all of the 2019 WNBA season rehabbing, but returned in the 2020 bubble to lead her Seattle Storm to a championship by sweeping Wilson and the Aces.

Stewart missed last year’s playoffs with a left foot injury, but she’s been back and better than ever this season. On the brink of her 28th birthday, Stewart has fully returned to form from her injuries and has reasserted herself as one of the most dominant individual players in the history of the sport.

Stewart is unstoppable as a scorer. She is an elite high-volume three-point shooter, making 39.3 percent of her triples on 8.7 attempts per 100 possessions (Wilson attempts about four threes per 100). She’s deadly in isolations, and can get buckets playing either end of the pick-and-roll as the ball handler and screener. The numbers speak for themselves: Stewie leads the league by averaging 36.5 points per 100 on astounding 60.1 percent true shooting. She’s a tremendous playmaker for her teammates, as well, leveraging the threat of her own scoring to set up easy buckets for others. Her 18.3 percent assist rate is the second best mark of her career. Perhaps most impressive of all, Stewart hardly ever turns the ball over. She has a microscopic 6.1 percent turnover rate, especially considering her sky-high 29 percent usage rate.

Stewart is also one of the league’s smartest defensive players. She’s great at getting into the passing lanes for steals, can provide supplemental rim protection as a shot-blocker, and has always hit the defensive glass harder than the offensive block. While her shot blocking and rebounding numbers are at career-lows this year, she is posting a career-best 2.8 percent steal rate.

Stewie also has an edge in the advanced stats. She leads Wilson (and the league) in PER, 29.4 to 28.3. She leads the league in win shares, topping the second-place Wilson 7.3 to 6.3. She’s the most efficient offensive player in the world given her immense workload. Stewart has always been on an all-time path with four NCAA championships in four years at UConn, two WNBA championships, and a WNBA MVP. Her resume is only growing after this year.

Our WNBA MVP pick: Breanna Stewart

I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson wins it. She’s certainly a deserving candidate, and the Aces having a better record than Seattle could play into it. Her improved three-point shooting is the sort of thing that tends to sway voters.

I’m still going with Stewie though because of her astounding offensive efficiency. She’s the league’s best scorer, she rarely turns the ball over, she’s a better passer and a better shooter than Wilson, and she simply leaves the biggest impact on winning of any player in the sport.

The Aces are the championship favorites, but Stewie is the best player in the world. There’s no wrong answer between Wilson and Stewart, but we’re going with the legend-in-the-making for the Storm.

What would a Bill Russell challenge mode in NBA 2K look like?

Celtics’ Russell Hooking Shot

This would be so much fun, and also nearly impossible.

We’re all thinking a lot about Bill Russell this week as basketball lost one of its greatest, most influential, and successful players of all time. The NBA rolled out its plans to honor Russell this week with the No. 6 being retired league wide, players wearing patches, and courts being adorned with clovers for the upcoming season.

This all got me thinking: What if NBA 2K followed suit? Easily one of the most memorable additions in franchise history are the “Jordan Challenges,” which first appeared in NBA 2K11 are being rebooted in 2K23. From winning the National Championship at North Carolina, to the flu game, and hitting “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo, the Jordan Challenges perfectly hit the right chord of nostalgia and difficulty.

When it comes to Russell, however, it’s a whole new ball game. We’re talking about taking players back to the 1960s and asking them to absolutely break the game using one player. Even against sub-par competition and old-school basketball sensibilities, could we really expect someone to achieve any of these Bill Russell challenges?

The Entire Show: March 11, 1965 vs. Pistons

Challenge: Score 27 points on 40 percent shooting or better, record 49 total rebounds, while committing only one foul

Honestly, you would have to drop someone into the fourth quarter with this one already recording 40 rebounds to make it work. Getting reliable rebounds in 2K isn’t exactly easy, ask asking for 49 is ridiculous.

This was an incredible game that highlights Russell’s overall dominance. He led both teams in points, assist, and rebounds (obviously) with nobody coming remotely close to him on boards. After Russell the second highest rebounder was Detroit’s Jackie Moreland, who brought down 10 — again, RUSSELL HAD 49!

While this mid-season game wasn’t exactly a high stakes affair, it was an incredible example of how so few were close to him on the court.

The Triple Double: Game 6 of the 1962 NBA Finals vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Challenge: Record a minimum of 10 points, 20+ rebounds and 10 assists

Here’s a challenge we have to tone way back. The 1962 NBA Finals featuring Russell and Sam Jones dueling Jerry West and Elgin Baylor is one of the legendary NBA Finals’ series in history. While the Celtics prevailed in seven, it was Game 6 where Boston leaned on No. 6 to be the entire damn show, opening up the court for Jones to score 35 points as the volume shooter.

Russell finished the night with 19 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists. It would have been one of the first triple-doubles in NBA history if that was a recorded stat back in 1962. The added level of challenge playing against a team the caliber of the early-60s Lakers makes this one to put in the game.

Changing history: January 30, 1968 vs. 76ers

Challenge: Beat Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers

This is one of those legendary games that often gets overlooked because of the box score. In late January of 1968, Russell and the Celtics were absolutely swallowed alive by Wilt Chamberlain in a 125-118 loss.

The final score doesn’t do justice to just how utterly demolished Russell was in this game. In an era before statistics were fully tracked we don’t have a great grasp on the matchup in the paint outside of knowing that Russell went 3-of-10 from the field, while Chamberlain went off for 23 points, 29 boards, and 13 assists.

It’s a great opportunity to put the Russell vs. Chamberlain in a match where No. 6 was the underdog in one of the rare cases in his career.

Block Party: February 7, 1966 vs. Warriors

Challenge: Record 20+ blocks in a win over San Francisco

Part of the fun of a challenge mode like this is going back and applying modern concepts to old games. In this case it’s blocks. Russell is unequivocally regarded as one of the greatest shot blockers of all time, but at a time before blocks were a recorded statistic.

There have been huge fan projects to track down every game report possibly to try and estimate blocks from this era, with it being generally accepted that Russell blocked approximately 8.1 shots per game during his career. Inside of this ridiculous number one Russell game stands head and shoulders above the rest — against the poor Warriors, who were obliterated in 1966.

Local write ups of the game attributed 25 blocks to Russell against San Francisco. This seems to mesh with the official box score, which shows the Warriors shooting 37-for-88 from the field (below their average) and Russell recording an uncharacteristically low 11 rebounds — potentially because he was blocking so many shots instead.

Even if there’s a little fiction to this it would be an extremely fun addition to the mode.

The last hurrah: Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Challenge: Hold Wilt Chamberlain to 18 points

The final game of Bill Russell’s NBA career was also one of his most important. Once again facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, it was Russell’s first time staring down a team containing Jerry West, Elgin Baylor AND Wilt Chamberlain with everything on the line.

A back-and-forth series pushed both teams to the limit, and it was clear that an aging Russell no longer could be a difference maker offensively against Chamberlain, a player to whom he’s so often compared, and had his number in the past.

West, playing like a man possessed, was desperate to win a ring that went off for 42 points in the game and overcame an early Celtics lead and out-scored Boston 30-17 in the fourth quarter. Elgin Baylor added another 20, and with Wilt averaging 30.1 during the season, all the Lakers needed was a typical game from their big man in the middle.

Chamberlain ended up scoring 18, stuffed at the rim by Russell’s defensive prowess. The Lakers would go on to lose 108-106 — allowing Russell to retire from the NBA with yet another championship to his name.

Wyoming’s Little League slugger wears work gloves to hit dingers

The ultimate blue collar player.

The next time someone whines about their equipment as an excuse for sporting failure: Show them this.

Wyoming’s Aidan Jeffress went yard at the Little League World Series on Thursday while wearing simply leather work gloves. They weren’t designed by sports scientists in a lab, or tested by a major leaguer for ultimate comfort and shock absorption — they were made to stop rope burns, or cut hands while removing the oil pan from a ‘57 Chevy pickup.

If we want to talk about natural ability, this kid’s got it. We want to discuss grit, he’s got it. If we want to earmark a kid who is destined to get a sponsorship from Carhartt and Skoal — this kid’s got it too.

We can goof about this a whole bunch but it hits kinda hard for me in a weird way. Growing up we couldn’t afford top-line sporting equipment. I never had the flashiest shoes, or the best pads. My rugby cleats game used from a consignment store and I had to file the studs back into place so they were legal. I am 100 percent on Team Jeffress, his work gloves, and this whole swagger.

We don’t need more throwback jerseys, we need THROWBACK LOOKS

Ford NBA Rookie Shoot

Giant shorts, tiny shorts, and everything in between.

Everyone in the NBA is all in a tizzy about throwback jerseys, and it makes absolute sense. Why wouldn’t a capitalist entity dust off some old designs, re-market them and have legions of fans re-buy apparel? There’s a delightful Scrooge McDuck quality to it all.

The Pistons are bringing back their mid-90s teal, Golden State is paying homage to the “Run TMC” era Warriors, and on Thursday the Bucks unveiled their “classic” look from … 2006. Okay, it doesn’t matter if a throwback isn’t that old as long as people enjoy it.

The problem is that the colorways and logos really only one small piece of the puzzle. It’s not just what a uniform looked like, but how it was worn — and that’s what gets lost when we do these kind of things. It just wouldn’t hit the same to see Utah’s classic Malone-era Jazz jerseys without at least one player wearing shorts so tiny you’d half expect to see one a testicle fall out of a pant leg without warning.

So, we need these teams to not just commit to their old looks, but convince their players to rock it how they used to. That’s where this concept becomes really magic. I’m not a sadist, I’m not expecting players to wear Reebok Pumps from 1989 when there’s been advancement in shoe technology, but at least something like these.

T.J. Ford’s comically large shorts

Ford NBA Rookie Shoot

This was the closest we’ll get to capris in the NBA. I need shorts that say hello to the socks like “hi neighbor, we just moves into the shins and wanted to introduce ourselves.” Hell, I bet T.J. Ford was rocking 5 XLs to make this work and he was 6’0. If Giannis tried to pull this off I need to see the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXLs needed to make this work, and then have them donated to be turned into blankets for the needy.

The tight Pistons

Detroit Pistons v Milwaukee Bucks
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The thing that always amazed me about the mid-80s Pistons is how they chose the absolute tightest uniforms possible for a sport that inherently needed so much freedom of movement. Hell, look at Dennis Rodman here, one flex and he’s busting out of this thing like The Incredible Hulk. I know some might say this is a competitive imbalance, but fashion waits for no one.

Tiny shorts, long socks and kneepads on huge people

Washington Bullets vs Denver Nuggets
Photo by Damian Strohmeyer/Allsport/Getty Images

I know this isn’t photoshopped, but man does it feel photoshopped. What we have here is the complete inverse of the T.J. Ford giant shorts situation. Manute Bol slayed in his absolutely tiny shorts while playing for the Bullets, and I know these were absolutely normal sized human shorts because look at Muggsy Bogues in the same ones.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Bullets
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Either way, I want more extremely tall people in shorts that look miniscule.

Magic Johnson’s pants

NBA Hoop It Up Celebrity Tournament
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

I know this was from a 2002 celebrity game, but the Lakers should wear pants, dammit.

Kobe’s glove

I know this is a little against the rules because Kobe wore a glove after breaking a bone in his hand, but still — it’s a basketball glove. I’m not going to ask everyone to wear a Rip Hamilton see through mask, or LeBron’s blacked out one — but I will ask all the Lakers to wear a single glove for one game.

Who knows, maybe they’ll like the single glove life? You never know if you don’t try.