A Completely Serious Letter From Kawhi Leonard
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the world is waiting on this enigmatic baller.
This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.
After a flurry of NBA free agency moves, we are still waiting on Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. This is what we reckon he might have to say.
Kawhi, did you kill the Superteam Era?
Oh, that’s how we gon’ start — blame the fun guy? I get this one everywhere. That’s why Uncle Dennis says real Gs move in silence. You can have the All-NBA roster. I’ll take a balanced group of big-game shooters who are low on personality, like me. I don’t worry about egos. My brand is win. My braids are tight.
Kawhi, please don’t go to the Lakers.
What it do, baby? Is that really a question? It would be hard not to win with LeBron and AD. But I need to know what the fun guy is getting into. That’s why I talked to Magic. I can tell from his Twitter that he’s a straight shooter. Then again, there’s nothing like beating a superteam, and the Clippers kind of remind me of the Raptors …
But Board Man, the East is wide open. Why not stay in Toronto?
Who asked that question — I don’t even know where you sittin’ at. Brooklyn, good luck with Kyrie on matcha. You’re a 6-seed until Durant is healthy. No doubt we could run this thing back in the North. But that winter is colder than my jumper. Plus, another title could be dangerous. Someone tell Masai to remember his credential. Aheh-HUH-ha-huh-huh.
But let me run. Catch me on my Snap. I’m ’bout to bring that back.
What to Watch & Pick ’Em
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (Thursday at 10:30am ET on ESPN)
An Independence Day tradition unlike any other: watching contestants from all across the globe stuff cased sausages down their throats in Coney Island. But forget the eaters; the real question is will PETA interrupt the contest?
- Yes (+700)
- No (-1,600)
USA vs. Netherlands (Sunday at 11am ET on Fox)
With a huge PK save, the U.S. women’s national team survived England on Tuesday. Now, USA faces the Netherlands, who prevailed in extra time Wednesday to make their first ever World Cup final. Who’s taking home gold?
- USA (-600)
- Netherlands (+425)
Ones to Watch
Brendan McKay. The 23-year-old made a historic MLB debut with the Tampa Bay Rays last week as the fourth player since 1913 to begin his career as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within his first two games. (The other three trivia answers: Shohei Ohtani, Syd Cohen and Carl East.) Hitless so far at the plate, he got the win in his first outing on the mound — taking a perfect game into the sixth inning against Texas. The former first-round pick out of Louisville had a combined 1.85 ERA and a .216 batting average across three minor league seasons before being called up. He doesn’t possess the superhuman skills of Angels star Ohtani, but front offices view McKay as a blueprint for how two-way players might function in the Big Leagues. McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the AL East-leading Yankees.
Jonquel Jones. A native of Freeport, Bahamas, who discovered basketball as a teenager playing alongside her classmate Buddy Hield (now of the Sacramento Kings), Jones, 25, is enjoying a breakout season while leading the Connecticut Sun toward the top of the WNBA standings. A Sun rising would have been hard to believe two months ago, after Connecticut traded star forward Chiney Ogwumike to the Los Angeles Sparks — but Jones has shown flashes before. Two years ago, she led the league in rebounding while Ogwumike rehabbed a torn Achilles. Now, with her former teammate out of town, the 6-foot-6 forward’s game has been unleashed. Jones ranks seventh in the WNBA in scoring (16.3) and first in rebounds per game (10.7), making her a clear MVP candidate. Undefeated at home, the Sun host the Minnesota Lynx on Saturday.
Old-Man Strength. The world’s best men’s tennis players are refusing to fade into the sunset … as young stars appear hesitant to make a run at the crown. In 2009, only one male player in the top 25 was older than 30. Entering Wimbledon this year, there are 12, including the top three players in the world — Novak Djokovic (32), Rafael Nadal (33) and Roger Federer (37). Both No. 5 Alexander Zverev (22) and No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas (20) were upset in the first round on Monday, and No. 4 Dominic Thiem (25) lost to 31-year-old Sam Querrey on Tuesday. Meanwhile, 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic, the oldest man to ever start in a Wimbledon main draw, at least made the second round — where he fell in five sets. While early-20s WTA stars like Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty are breaking through, heavily hyped young men keep flopping. Their next test comes on Thursday, when No. 2 Nadal faces dynamic but inconsistent 24-year-old talent Nick Kyrgios.
Cash Vegas. It’s official: New Jersey is the new sports betting capital of America. Well, sort of. While it’s only one month, the fact that the Garden State topped Nevada in total wagers in May is music to the ears of states like Illinois, Tennessee and Iowa, where legal sports betting will soon be a reality. New Jersey’s rise is a direct result of the state embracing mobile betting — now responsible for about 80 percent of bets. Nevada already has this infrastructure in place, but much of Las Vegas’ sports betting action comes by way of in-person foot traffic on the Strip. In the end, Vegas will be fine. Sportsbooks typically make up just 2 to 5 percent of total casino revenue in Nevada. And at moments like March Madness, it’s still the place to be: Vegas sportsbooks took an all-time high of $599 million in bets this March. Still, New Jersey has drafted a blueprint for other states to capture the average sports bettor’s business, independent of tourism and marquee events.
The Making of the Mighty Megan Rapinoe, by Eugene S. Robinson in OZY
U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe’s early obsession with soccer started when she was 3 years old, inspired by an older brother who subsequently battled drug addiction and incarceration. Now a goal machine and cultural force, will her injured hamstring heal in time for Sunday’s World Cup final?
One Big Dream: Yao Ming Wants to Make Chinese Basketball Global, by Alex Prewitt in Sports Illustrated
As his nation’s first (and still only) NBA star, Yao Ming made basketball relevant in China. Now, as chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), he wants to make Chinese basketball relevant across the world and ensure that he’s not the country’s last export.
Before Nate Lashley’s Caddie Was Scrambling to Get to Detroit, He Predicted a Victory. Seriously, by Tony Paul in The Detroit News.
It was early Saturday evening that it became crystal clear that Nate Lashley was going to be the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic champion, even though there were 18 holes remaining. Less clear: Who the heck is Nate Lashley? Just ask his caddie.
His Mom Has Never Seen Him Play: This Is Football and Life on the Border, by Tonya Malinowski in ESPN
Sams Memorial Stadium in Brownsville, Texas, sits 2 miles from the Mexican border and a world away from the home of Leo Ramos’ mother on the other side. It’s senior night for the Lopez High School football team, and Leo, a 17-year-old running back/defensive back for the Lobos, stands on the field waiting to be announced, looking up at the crowd.
Tennis prodigy Cori “Coco” Gauff, 15, announced herself on the world stage Monday, beating her hero, Venus Williams, in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) at Wimbledon. The youngest player to qualify for the Wimbledon singles main draw since 1968 — she had to take a science test the night before one of her qualifiers — Gauff has used the Williams sisters as a blueprint for success.
15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff defeats 39-year-old Venus Williams in the 1st round at #Wimbledon.
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) July 1, 2019