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Kobe Bryant: Tragic End to a Legendary Life

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Kobe Bryant
PHOTO | Noah Graham
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Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, along with seven other people, were killed Sunday in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. He was only 41 years old.

The group of nine people boarded the helicopter at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, departing at 9:06 a.m. PST headed towards a practice session at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California when visibility became an issue due to heavy fog. The helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain, killing all on board instantly and starting a small bush fire. 

Along with Bryant and his daughter, other casualties of the crash included Christina Mauser, Bryant’s girl’s team basketball coach, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton and Ara Zobayan, the helicopter’s pilot.   

First reported by TMZ, with the details later confirmed by other news outlets, the horrific accident takes a global basketball icon, renowned brand builder, successful venture capitalist and investor, philanthropist, filmmaker and media personality away from his wife Vanessa, his three surviving daughters and millions of NBA fans all over the world.

The news of Bryant’s tragic passing immediately sent shock waves around the sporting world, with athletes from all over the planet taking time out to honor Bryant and his legacy. 

NBA superstar LeBron James, a current LA Laker and admirer of Bryant, exited the team airplane visibly shaken after hearing the news, later giving a touching statement to the media. 

“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,” said James. “Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling, and it’s dope.

“Kobe’s a legend. That’s for damn sure.”

James had just passed Bryant for third on the all-time NBA top scorers list the night before in Philadelphia, the city Bryant played in high school before entering the league. Bryant sat in the front row with his daughter Gianna, a talented basketball player in her own right, and his last tweet was a congratulation to King James for his accomplishment. 

Soccer superstars like Leonel Messi, David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo all posted tributes to Bryant to their hundreds of millions of Instagram followers, fans flooded the outside of the Staples Center with Lakers merchandise and flowers to pay tribute and teams around the league took 8 and 24-second violations to start the game in honor of Bryant’s two numbers, 8 and 24.

Perhaps the most tragic part of Bryant’s passing is the clear plan he had for the second chapter of his career after basketball. In the short three and a half years since his retirement from the NBA, Bryant became an advocate for women’s basketball, won an Academy Award for his short film “Dear Basketball,” the best-selling author of “The Mamba Mentality” and a dedicated father and family man all at the same time. 

Rest in peace, Kobe. Gone but never forgotten.   

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NFL Players Will No Longer Be Suspended for Cannabis Use

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Suspended for Cannabis
PHOTO | bondarchik

In the midst of a global pandemic, canceled seasons for the NBA, NHL, international soccer leagues, the PGA and a handful of other sporting events, races and leagues, the NFL Player’s Association and the owners were hard at work negotiating a brand new collective bargaining agreement.

After weeks of negotiations, a deal was struck, the votes were cast and the final details of the deal were set in stone. The owners got one more regular-season game and the players got something arguable even more important; reduced penalties for failed cannabis tests.

That’s right, the famously stuffy and conservative National Football League has loosened their stringent rules when it comes to players enjoying cannabis. Following in the footsteps of Major League Baseball, NFL players can no longer be suspended for cannabis in positive tests. Gone are the days when a player testing positive could mean lost game checks, multi-game suspensions and even season-long bans for multiple-time offenders.

On top of that, the threshold for failing a test has now been bumped up to 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, way up from the previous standard of 35 nanograms.

If a player still manages to fail a test despite the newly heightened standards, their test will be reviewed by a board of medical professionals who will then determine if a player needs further treatment for potential drug abuse.

The testing window for players is also set to be shortened from four months to two weeks, meaning fewer players than before will get tested than in previous years.

On top of the new testing standards and smaller window, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement also states that “a neutral decision-maker” will be the one to officially make the disciplinary decisions that decreases commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power.

Working this perk into the new CBA, along with a slightly larger portion of overall revenue for a league worth nearly $3 billion, is a huge deal for pro athletes in a sport whose careers average only about three years.

NFL Players and Cannabis: A Long Forbidden Love Story

While this new CBA certainly opens the door for a new age of cannabis-loving NFL athletes, the love affair between the NFL’s players and cannabis is a long, storied and sensible one.

Former NFL running back Ricky Williams has long been a supporter and proponent of cannabis, even going as far as starting his own cannabis business in 2018. Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett went on record in 2018 to say he thinks “about 89 percent” of the league’s players use cannabis. And, of course, who can forget Laremy Tunsil and his astounding draft day slide due to being hacked and tweeting a video of him hitting a gas-mask style bong?

Simply put, the new reduced risks around being suspended for cannabis use is a long-time coming for one of the most violent and physically taxing pro sports leagues in the world. We’ve already seen high-profile early retirements over the last few years like Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski, the latter of the two immediately signing on to advocate for CBD use for pain and recovery.

This new CBA is a massive step in the right direction for the future of players, allowing some of the richest athletes in the country access to a substance that nine of the 32 teams can legally use recreationally.

Keeping NFL players on the field AND removing their risk of being suspended for cannabis? Now that’s a brand new type of Super Bowl.

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Everything You Need To Know Ahead of Wilder vs Fury 2

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Wilder vs Fury 2
PHOTO | Victor Decolongon

It’s a clash of the giants, both literal and figurative, tonight in the fight capital of the world. In what’s poised to be one of the most anticipated heavyweight prizefights since Mike Tyson’s prime in the early nineties, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder is set to square off with linear champion Tyson Fury for the second time.

In a rematch from their instant classic first fight in December 2018, Wilder will look to nail Fury to the canvas with his unmatched KO power, something he failed to do in their first meeting, while Fury will look to use his superior size and boxing skills to hand the champion his first career loss.

Wilder’s power and Fury’s technical dominance are the keys to this PPV match-up in Las Vegas tonight, the same as their first meeting. Despite Fury outboxing Wilder for long stretches of the first bout, Wilder did what he’s done in every other fight of his career to every other opponent, seemingly landing a massive one-two shot to KO Fury in the 12th round. Fury refused to stay down, however, rising from the canvas like The Undertaker and surviving to take the fight to the judge’s scorecards.

Both thought they had done enough to win on the night and, if the press conferences and weigh-ins leading up to their rematch are to judge, there’s clearly bad blood between the two.

Wilder took numerous shots at Fury about his struggles with addiction and mental health, two key reasons why Fury didn’t fight for three years after beating former champion Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and linear titles, while Fury assured fans all over the world he’d beat Wilder with a second-round KO.

On top of the personal score that needs to be settled between the two and their clear distaste for one another, the fight is hugely consequential for the heavyweight division as a whole.

Both fighters are highly ranked, Wilder as number one and Fury as number three, with current IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO champ Anthony Joshua sitting between the two. The winner of tonight’s bout most likely will fight Joshua next to look to unify all the titles, despite a contractual rematch clause the loser can trigger to make the trilogy.

To put it simply for the casual fight fan, there’s a WHOLE lot of money, pride and future big money fights on the line in Las Vegas tonight.

Wilder vs Fury 2: Who’s going to win?

That’s the hundred million dollar question, isn’t it? At the time of writing, only hours before the fight itself, the odds are about even.

Wilder has a clear KO and power advantage on his side but that wasn’t enough to keep Fury down in the first fight. Fury has a clear advantage in boxing skill and technique but hasn’t showcased the raw punching power to put down an opponent as dangerous as Wilder.

No matter who wins, I can assure everyone tuning in of one thing for sure. When it comes to heavyweight boxing, there’s no shortage of excitement.

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Everything You Need to Know About the XFL 2020 Season

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XFL 2020 Season Preview
PHOTO | XFL

Just when you thought professional football was wrapped up for the season, here comes the revived XFL 2020 season. This time around WWE head honcho Vince McMahon brought in prestigious names like Oliver Luck, father of recently retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, as commissioner, ex-Bills general manager Doug Whaley as vice president and former NFL officiating head Dean Blandino to add an air of legitimacy to the 2020 version. With eight brand new team stacked with many new — and some more familiar — faces, this weekend as the new upstart league kicks for the first time since 2001.

With eight brand new teams stacked with many new — and some more familiar — faces, this weekend as the new upstart league kicks for the first time since 2001. Let’s take a quick look at each team and their key players ahead of this weekend’s XFL 2020 opening kickoff.

DC Defenders

On paper, the DC Defenders have the potential to be one of the most explosive offenses in the entire league.

With Cardale Jones, a National Championship winner in 2015 with Ohio State, under center, Donnell Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage, in the backfield and pass-catcher Rashad Ross, a standout now-defunct AFF, it’s entirely possible that the Defenders have some of the league’s best offensive weapons.

With former Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as head coach, the Defenders might be primed to be one of the most fun to watch XFL 2020 offenses.

Seattle Dragons

If you were a big fan of the AAF, then the Seattle Dragons will likely be the team for you. They’re perhaps the most AAF-heavy team in the XFL at current, stocked with standouts from the league like quarterback Brandon Silvers, along with running backs Kenneth Farrow, Ja’Quan Gardner and Trey Williams.

With former NFL coordinator and Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor member Jim Zorn at the helm as head coach and a pair of NFL-experienced receiver in Keenan Reynolds and Kasen Williams to catch passes from Silvers, we expect the Dragons to be able to keep their heads above water this season and build for the future.

Los Angeles Wildcats

Just like the two other pro football teams based in the City of Angels, the Wildcats appear to have the offensive potential to make some noise in the Western Conference this year.

Rolling with well-seasoned journeyman Josh Johnson at quarterback, last seen starting a few games for the Washington Redskins this past NFL season, the Wildcats are the 15th professional franchise Johnson has gotten into uniform for. When it comes to years of playing experience, no other XFL team has that much experience leading their offense on the field.

Johnson will have weapons like Pac-12 receptions record holder Nelson Spruce and ex-North Carolina running back Elijah Hood to throw too, while head coach Winston Moss, a longtime linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints and current Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy’s assistant head coach for over a decade, will look to lead the Los Angeles Wildcats to the same heights the Ram’s reached two years ago.

Houston Roughnecks

There are few more fitting cities in the country that fit the Roughnecks‘ run ‘n’ shoot offensive philosophy than the city of Houston.

Led by quarterback by Phillip Walker, Temple’s all-time passing leader in nearly every counting stat you can think of, and stacked with big skills position names like former Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates, Houston has the potential to be explosive.

In fact, if potential bears out, Coates and Phillips could be the XFL’s first dynamic QB-WR combo, something that could win them the favor of fans in the Space City and blast the team into the stratosphere.

Tampa Bay Vipers

When it comes to a premium on coaching, Tampa Bay Vipers are in the argument for the biggest advantage in the league.

The team is led by Marc Trestman, a two-time CFL Coach of the Year, former head coach of the Bears and former offensive coordinator for the Ravens. Trestman looks to utilize offensive talent like starting quarterback Aaron Murray, the current SEC leader in touchdowns and QB/RB Quinton Flowers, a supreme athlete set to be used in a Taysom Hill-like role for the Vipers.

Both passers will have former Seattle Seahawks receiver Tanner McEvoy to throw too, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Trestman can cook up to optimize his offensive talent. At the very least we’re going to see some cool trick players and schemes from the Vipers offense.

New York Guardians

Another team projected to be a championship contender in the Eastern Conference, the New York Guardians look set to take the Big Apple and the XLF by storm.

Featuring both one of the most experienced head coaches and quarterback combos in the league in former Penn State Nittany Lion, Oakland Raider and Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Matt McGloin and former Chargers head coach Kevin Gilbride, it’s no wonder they’re one of the betting favorites to make a splash.

Along with McGloin and Gilbride is a stout defensive unit filled with veteran players like the AAF’s Jamar Summers and former NFL linebacker Ben Heeney, making the Guardians one of the most complete teams in the XLF.

We’ll have to see if they can capture the attention of the typically cynical NYC sports fan and make a splash in one of the league’s largest markets.

St. Louis Battlehawks

The city of St. Louis will finally have a football team to call their own again! The fresh-faced new franchise Battlehawks will try to be a shot in the arm for football fans with other newcomers like first-time head coach Jonathan Hayes, a former tight ends coach for the Bengals, and exciting young quarterback Jordan Ta’amu out of Ole Miss.

Both quarterback and head coach are set to make their pro debuts as figureheads for the Battlehawks franchise, backed by a supporting cast of seasoned NFL and AAF pros like running backs Christine Michael and Matt Jones, veteran tackle Matt McCants and AAF standout De’Mornay Pierson-El.

We’ll have to see if pro football’s return to St. Louis sparks the same passion from the fans as when the now-LA Rams did when they left.

Dallas Renegades

Last but certainly not least, we have the Dallas Renegades, one of the outright favorites to win the XFL’s inaugural championship game.

Longtime college head coach Bob Stoops has assembled a team featuring many of his former players and multiple former NFL talents, forming what many are calling one of the most complete overall rosters in the league.

With Landry Jones, a four-year starter for Stoops at Oklahoma, at quarterback, a pair od NFL-caliber running backs in Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar and a little receiving dynamo in Jeff Badet, the Renegades offense has no shortage of speed. They have a stacked defense to go with the speedy offense, however, with former AAF stand-out safety Derron Smith as their leader.

If Jones can return quickly from a nagging knee injury, Dallas might be one of the favorites to win the whole thing this year.

With XFL 2020 set to kick off this weekend and all four games on network television, why not tune in and check it out. After all, something needs to pass the time until the NFL kicks off later this year.

Peep the full XFL 2020 opening week schedule here.

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