Who Else Should (and Shouldn’t) Pull a Russell Wilson
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback has created a template for stars to get paid.
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Russell Wilson’s got the juice. In meeting the demands for an early contract extension dictated by their franchise quarterback, Seahawks management confirmed as much this week. Wilson calls the shots. Now he’s paid like it.
Wilson earned the four-year, $140 million contract extension, making him the NFL’s best-compensated player. Beyond his play, it’s these alpha negotiation tactics that should inspire underpaid athletes everywhere. Wilson set a deadline (April 15) for Seattle to offer him a record-setting extension. It was a bold move for the understated superstar, but like many, he’s realizing his worth in this era of player empowerment. Yes, Wilson’s cringeworthy announcement video, sent from bed with his wife, Ciara, was perfectly on brand. It’s also one hell of a flex.
Which got us thinking: Who else should issue their team an ultimatum?
The easy answer is Milwaukee Bucks MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. At 24, the underpaid generational talent is a top-three player, and he still hasn’t reached his prime. Elsewhere, New York Yankees long-ball machine Aaron Judge deserves far more than his current salary of less than $700,000. But candidate No. 1 is Antetokounmpo’s neighbor, Brewers center fielder Christian Yelich. In the fifth year of a laughably cheap seven-year, $49 million contract, the reigning National League MVP could command baseball’s next $300 million deal.
Not every player would be smart to pull a Wilson. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, with his agent, Scott Boras, will be playing hardball soon. If general manager Theo Epstein is presented with an ultimatum, don’t be surprised to see him put Bryant on the trading block. Likewise, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is due for a monster deal after a Super Bowl run, but the Rams might rather let coach Sean McVay work his magic with a new man under center.
What to Watch & Pick ’Em
Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 3 (Friday at 9:30 pm ET on ESPN)
Down 2-0 after a thorough Game 2 whooping in Portland, the Thunder wants to revive their playoff chances, but can they? All eyes turn to Russell Westbrook.
- No. 3 Portland (+7.5)
- No. 6 Oklahoma City (-7.5)
Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, Game 5 (Friday at 7 pm ET on NBC Sports)
Boston evened the series with a 6-4 win in Toronto on Wednesday. Can the Bruins keep the momentum going at home?
- No. 3 Toronto (+1.5)
- No. 2 Boston (-1.5)
Ones to Watch
Mike Ford, Yankees 1B. It’s not every day that an undrafted former Ivy Leaguer makes it to the MLB, but Ford, 26, was promoted from AAA Scranton this week after Yankees starting first baseman Greg Bird hit the injury list yet again. A two-way pitching-hitting star at Princeton, Ford is a New Jersey native who grew up rooting for the Yanks. Now, he hopes to supply some much-needed support for the injury-riddled roster in the Bronx. A powerful slugger, Ford has twice hit four home runs in a game (once in high school and once with the minor league Charleston RiverDogs). He followed seasons of 20 and 16 home runs by batting .410 with five dingers and 14 runs batted in through 10 games at Scranton this season.
Sky Brown, skateboarding. Women’s skateboarding is more popular in the U.K. than ever before, and the results are beginning to show. Nowhere was that clearer than in Salford, Greater Manchester, on Sunday, when 10-year-old Brown won the senior women’s park title gold medal at the U.K. Skateboard Championships. The title gives Brown important qualification points toward her goal of becoming Great Britain’s youngest-ever summer Olympian at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Skateboarding will make its debut in Tokyo alongside surfing, climbing and karate as the International Olympic Committee looks to attract a younger audience. Enter Brown, who also plans to compete at the U.K. National Surfing Championships this May.
Champions drama. An upset, a controversial finish and a matchup between two world powers have soccer fans ready for the Champions League semifinals. Liverpool and Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona cruised in their two-game quarterfinals. In the biggest shocker of the tournament, AFC Ajax tallied an away win (2-1) to advance on a 3-2 aggregate score over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus. The Dutch side, making its first semifinals appearance since 1997, will face English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. Against Manchester City in the quarters, Tottenham survived by the skin of its teeth. After an overturned fifth goal for City, Spurs lost 4-3 on Wednesday. But the aggregate was tied at 4-4, and Tottenham advanced to its first-ever Champions League semifinals thanks to the “away goal” tiebreaker — rewarding the team with the most goals away from home. Barca remains the odds-on favorite to take home the crown in June, but the underdogs are an exciting bunch.
A heavyweight global takeover. British heavyweight boxing phenom Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) was supposed to win the hearts of the American sporting public during his June 1 debut on American soil at Madison Square Garden by tactfully clobbering Brooklyn-born Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) to become the next Mike Tyson–level star. Boxing’s decline in popularity has largely been attributed to this absence of a beloved heavyweight, and Joshua was supposed to change all that. He still may, but now he must wait. After Miller failed a voluntary test for performance-enhancing drugs, his New York boxing license was revoked, and Joshua is scrambling for a new opponent. Instead of clobbering an overmatched late replacement, the London slugger should make this a fight that everyone wants to see: American heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) is a phone call away.
Welcome to the Golden Age for Efficient Hoops, by Matt Foley in OZY
NBA scoring is at its highest since 1986. Turnovers, as it happens, are lower than ever before. So what does that mean for the playoffs?
Is $1.7 Million in Missed Bonuses Worth It for the USWNT? To Win the World Cup, It Might Be, by Caitlin Murray in Yahoo Sports
Searching for answers after her team was eliminated in the 2016 Summer Olympics quarterfinals, U.S. women’s national soccer team coach Jill Ellis has spent the past three years experimenting with her roster — costing many of Ellis’ already underpaid players performance bonuses.
The Moment That Everything Changed for the Blue Jackets, by Michael Arace in The Columbus Dispatch
Some called it “Festivus.” A series of team meetings held at the end of a March road trip planted the seed for Columbus’ franchise-defining upset of the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jerrod Mustaf Is a Community Hero. Has Anyone Ever Googled Him? by Jon Wertheim in Sports Illustrated
This tale of a former NBA player who might have killed his girlfriend features cameos from Michael Jordan, Coach K, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, O.J. Simpson and Rae Carruth.
Just 48 hours removed from playing in the NCAA National Championship for UMass, and a day after signing his contract, 20-year-old defenseman Cale Makar made his NHL debut with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2017. Of course he scored to help the Colorado Avalanche beat Calgary, 6-2. Shockingly, Makar is the seventh player to score a goal in his NHL debut during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 16, 2019