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Soccer star Brandi Chastain was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night, a great honor she more than deserves. One might say she even deserves a plaque that resembles her instead of an abominable Rex Ryan-lookin’ effort. Or Peter King. Or Gary Busey, Babe Ruth, Mickey Rooney or whomever your mind’s eye sees.

Brandi Chastain is one of the most beautiful athletes I’ve ever covered. How this became her plaque is a freaking embarrassment for BASHOF. Makes Cristiano’s look perfect. — Ann Killion (@annkillion) May 22, 2018

Chastain was amazingly chill about the whole debacle. The two-time World Cup champion managed to maintain her composure when laying eyes on the monstrosity.

Look, we can laugh at this as we did the Ronaldo plaque, but maybe it’s not funny after all. Is it possible that the craft of plaque-making is dying off and the younger generation just isn’t interested in the discipline? Someone get me a thinkpiece on this, STAT.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs desperately need to figure out their relationship. After one of the most bizarre seasons in recent memory, the franchise has to decide whether or not to keep its best player around. For that to happen, there’s going to have to be a lot of issues hashed out over the next few months.

Reports surfaced on Monday that suggest the Spurs want to meet with Leonard’s representatives to begin mending fences, so they can offer him a five-year, $219 million supermax contract extension. The money the Spurs can offer will obviously be tempting for Leonard, but it will take more than that for the two sides to patch up this marriage.

The 26-year-old forward played in just nine games this season as he attempted to work his way back from a quad injury that has bothered him for years. Some believed Leonard wasn’t fully invested in returning to the team and that he could have played. In fact, Spurs doctors actually cleared him for a full return in December. For some reason, that wasn’t good enough. He was shut down for good after playing 28 minutes on January 13.

Since that time, Gregg Popovich took not-so-subtle shots at him in press conferences, he sat through a heated team meeting where he was called out by

Nicole Scherzinger, a singer … Jake Gyllenhaal to play ‘Mysterio‘ in the next Spider-Man movie … the NY Times must have realized that writing about Jordan Peterson brings them traffic … “Father arrested after crashing into restaurant, killing deputy daughter” … mountain lion in Washington kills one biker, injuries another … it’s been 25 years since Yanni became a cultural phenomenon … really cool photos: “Mongolia’s reindeer herders fear lost identity” … driver going the wrong way on the highway in Oregon kills three high school seniors before graduation … “Trump goes rogue on phone security” … 

De’Anthony Melton is a really good basketball player from USC who had to miss last season due to the dumb NCAA, and is going into the NBA draft. He could sneak into the end of the 1st round. [LA Times]

Five-star high school prospect Hunter Johnson is transferring from Clemson, and it looks like Purdue and Northwestern are the leaders for him. [247 Sports]

College football lines are already being moved in Vegas. [Review Journal]

After 22 years, the top columnist in Memphis, Geoff Calkins, is leaving the paper. [Commercial Appeal]

A’ja Wilson, the #1 pick in the WNBA draft, is headed to the Las Vegas Aces. [CY Interview]

Podcast: A letter to...

Joel Embiid may not be involved in the Eastern Conference Finals, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun with it. On Monday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers evened up their series with the Boston Celtics, Embiid lobbed a bomb at one of the Celtics’ players.

Man bun is in NBA just to get dunked on — Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 22, 2018

The “man bun” in question is Celtics center Aron Baynes, who had one of the goofiest plays in NBA playoff history during Game 4. Watch this:

DYING at Al Horford pointing Aron Baynes to the hoop — Born Salty (@cjzero) May 22, 2018

Horford had to tell Baynes to go to the basket. I mean, he’s a center, standing in the paint with the basketball. How did he not just turn around and score instinctively?

The following comparison is perfect:

Aron Baynes and the Celtics just re-created that scene from Forrest Gump where the entire sideline points him the other direction — Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) May 22, 2018

With the NBA Draft Combine over, let’s take a look at some of the key rumblings from the weekend to key an eye on:

The Phoenix Suns “certainly open” to trading the No. 1 overall pick: From our interview with Suns GM Ryan McDonough at the Draft Combine: Phoenix “certainly open” to trading the No. 1 overall pick. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 19, 2018

In an interview on ESPN2’s combine special on Friday, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough said:

We’re certainly open to that (trading the first pick). We’ll consider it. Obviously, we’ll have more information closer to the draft than we do today, after we go through the workout process and the interview process and we get the medical physicals. So we’re open to that.

Big man DeAndre Ayton is expected to be one of the first players selected, but it looks like the Suns are keeping their options open. As we saw last year with the Boston Celtics, there could be value in trading down.  It worked out perfectly for Danny Ainge, getting both the guy he wanted in Jayson Tatum and acquiring future assets.

We also heard an interesting rumor via Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst on The Lowe Post podcast. It sounds like Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves might have a strained relationship.  What if the Suns get a godfather offer from the Timberwolves involving KAT?  Or what if Luka Doncic...

A potentially explosive video showing Milwaukee police officers arresting Bucks rookie Sterling Brown in January will soon be released, WISN 12 reports. The city’s top officials have been preparing the landing area in recent days.

Without going into detail, Asst. Chief Michael Brunson on Sunday warned parishioners at Abundant Faith Church of Integrity on North Good Hope Road that video would soon be released that would be damaging to the department and asked the churchgoers for their ongoing support.

“Chief Morales is committed to changing the culture of our department, and we’re going to need your assistance in helping us do that,” he said. “When we make mistakes as an agency, we’re going to own it. We’re going to be honest about it.”

Brown does not face any criminal charges stemming from the incident, which occurred in a Walgreen’s parking lot. An independent investigation has been launched into the actions of the officer who used a stun gun on Brown.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett echoed Brunson’s sentiment.

“I’m going to let the release of that speak for itself, but yes, I definitely have concerns after watching that video,” he said.

Police officials have been preparing community leaders for the release of the body-camera footage by showing it to selected local officials, including a closed session of a Common Council committee. Bucks officials have reportedly watched the video as well.

“This could be bad,” said one source who watched the video. “The player doesn’t appear to be provocative at...

The Big Lead’s PM Sports Roundup, which turned down the Arsenal job for “personal reasons.”

Alison at the Billboards: Alison Brie was at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night. As usual, she looked lovely.

PFT Commenter is an unknown star: Barstool’s PFT Commenter has become a star in the sports world. The crazy thing? No one knows who he is.

Emery in: Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery is set to be appointed the new manager at Arsenal. Emery will replace Arsene Wenger, who was with the club for 22 years.

Game 4 is the key to Celtics, Cavs series: The winner of Monday night’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers could wind up winning the series. It’s a vitally important contest.

Three inmates on the loose: Three inmates from a South Carolina prison have escaped and are on the loose. Two of the prisoners face murder charges, while the third is facing carjacking an a grand larceny charge.

Tweet of the Day:

.@Ibra_official asked about his driving test: "How many did you miss?" "Zlatan never miss." — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 21, 2018

In Case You Missed It on The Big Lead:

Luka Doncic Is The Best Player In The 2018 NBA Draft

The Tampa Bay Rays went unconventional this weekend, starting Sergio Romo on Saturday. He pitched one inning where he struck out the side before exiting, and then he returned as the starter again on Sunday, facing the first 6 batters and recorded two more strikeouts. He faced the top of the Angels’ lineup twice to start games, and struck Mike Trout out both times.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and we’ll see if the Rays’ needs open up thought when it comes to approaching these situations around the league. My guess is that it will have an impact, even if it is realized slowly.

Nathan Eovaldi has yet to pitch this year, and Yonny Chirinos went on the DL in early May, so the Rays really only have two established starters who have started more than 20 games in a MLB season: Chris Archer and Blake Snell. Jake Faria and Ryan Yarbrough are starters, and then after that, the team is really trying to piece it together. It was Yarbrough who delayed his start on Saturday before coming on and pitching 6.1 innings to get the win.

After the success of Saturday, Romo came back on Sunday, leading off a committee effort. Matt Andriese was the next in, and had started two other games but not gone deeper than 3.1 innings in either.

Here’s how manager Kevin Cash explained it to the Tampa Bay Times:

“The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at...

On the morning of Monday, May 21, 2018, ESPN’s flagship morning program Get Up aired a nearly six-minute segment diving into a hypothetical one-on-one basketball game pitting Michael Jordan against LeBron James. Former NBA players Jay Williams and Jalen Rose presented their cases to the jurors at home. As with most matters of life-and-death consequence, things became heated.

Williams was adamant that James, with superior size, would prevail. Rose wouldn’t hear of it. It is unclear why they spent so much time on this when common knowledge tells us LaVar Ball would wreck either of the all-time greats.

The segment included eye-test arguments as was as empirical data. Plus, some head-shrinking. In short, it was everything you’d expect from a sports-argument show in these times. And to be honest, I was entertained.

At the same time, I’d like to offer a free idea to any show out there that wants it. A blackboard counting the days since the last Jordan vs. James topic aired. Would love to see everyone out there hold themselves accountable.

Ok, so, look: I can give you a billion pieces of evidence to demonstrate how bad the Kansas football program has gotten since it fired Mark Mangino almost a decade ago. It hasn’t won a road game since September of 2008. It hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009. The current coach, David Beaty, is 3-33 overall and 1-26 in Big 12 play.

We’ll stop there.

Monday, KU announced it had fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, a Kansas native and KU grad, who had been on the job since 2011. In that time, Zenger fired Turner Gill (5-19), hired Charlie Weis (6-22), fired Weis, and hired Beaty, who was until then the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M.

This spring, Kansas didn’t have enough linemen to hold a spring game.

Zenger was working on a project to improve KU’s football stadium, an idea that’s been going in fits and starts since Zenger’s predecessor, Lew Perkins, tried to get some luxury suites built before a losing season killed the momentum and scandal forced Perkins into retirement. Zenger’s stadium project looked like an attempt to kick the can down the road by an AD who knew he wasn’t going to be allowed to hire a third football coach, and therefore couldn’t fire Beaty without effectively firing himself. A facilities project was the only card he had left to play, and obviously the people who needed to be impressed, weren’t.

Firing Turner Gill and hiring David Beaty were both defensible decisions....

Here’s a look at the winners and losers from the 2018 NBA Combine.


Mo Bamba, C, Texas: Bamba’s combine started with a record breaking measurement: a 7-foot-10 wingspan. That’s 94 inches of shot-blocking insanity. Bamba may be aggressive on the court, but he’s perfectly agreeable off it. The prospect proved to be the most polished youngster to appear during ESPN’s series of interviews with some of the draft’s top prospects.

.@NBADraft prospect Mo Bamba details his draft process thus far.#NBACombine: ESPN 2 — NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2018

Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova: If DiVincenzo wants to stick in this year’s draft, he’s set himself up to be a first-rounder. His measurements exceeded the highest expectations with the best standing leap (34.5 inches) and max vertical leap (tied at 42 inches). He was also fifth in the lane agility drill (10.72 seconds). He’s an outstanding athlete, and showed that his 31-point game in the national championship was a tease of what he’s capable.

Grayson Allen, F, Duke: Allen’s measurables were impressive. Allen posted a lane agility time of 10.31 seconds, which is the fifth-best mark in NBA combine database history. He also had the second-best shuttle run time (3.4 seconds). He tied for the fourth-highest in max vertical leap (40.5 inches) and standing vertical (32.5 inches). With Allen, there’s still the question as to whether that athleticism can translate on the court.

WWE and Fox have agreed in principle to move Smackdown from USA to the Fox broadcast network in October 2019, Darren Rovell reports for ESPN. The Wrap adds that Smackdown will move from Tuesday to Friday. It sounds like it could be going from two to three hours long.

This is an absolute gamechanger for everybody involved. Smackdown’s viewership presumably will go up immensely as it moves from cable to broadcast, WWE is getting an astronomical amount of more money in this new TV deal — in addition to Smackdown rights going way up on Fox, USA is paying a mint more to keep Raw, according to THR — and Fox adds a premium live event that airs 52 weeks a year and in 2018 has averaged about 2.6 million viewers per episode. (Disclosure: I own a little bit of WWE stock.)

One thing that could be interesting down the road is if Fox were able to add rights to NXT, WWE’s developmental promotion that currently airs exclusively on the WWE Network. This is just spitballing, but it averaged 841,000 viewers on a night on USA in December that seemed from the outside like an experiment to see if people would watch. Hypothetically, NXT could be a solid lead-in for The Ultimate Fighter on FS1.

Regardless, this is a big coup for both WWE and Fox, and the possibilities for where this partnership will go are very exciting.

The NBA is a feel-good place where the public focuses on the positives instead of wading into the muck and mire to bring everyone down. And, hey, that’s a good thing because sports are supposed to be fun. But what might it look like if we applied the same “is this bad for the sport” trigger mechanism to what’s going on in both conference finals?

It has been 12 days since there was a playoff game decided by fewer than 10 points. The average margin of victory in six conference contests has been 24 points. The tightest one, the Boston Celtics’ Game 2 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, checked in at 13 points. Last night, the Golden State Warriors decimated the Houston Rockets by 41.

Look, let’s take this opportunity to deliver all the necessary caveats. Viewers are being treated to some of the world’s best athletes playing at a high level. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are doing spectacular things. The Celtics’ underdog run has been compelling.

But is it too much to ask for one competitive game among the lot, one nail-biter where the result is in question for more than a half? You know, something with meaningful possessions after 11 p.m. EST?

As an a la carte NBA consumer who checks in for the playoffs, this is a terrible development, exacerbated by the way the regular season serves as little more than an appetizer for the postseason. Just wait for it,...

The highest heights in sports media are often a function of performance artistry as much as anything else, and Shannon Sharpe has that in spades. Today for Undisputed, he arrived in a GOAT LeBron get-up, with his guns out and a black and mild hanging out of the mouth:

GOAT JAMES!!! via @ShannonSharpe — UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 21, 2018

It’s safe to say Shannon Sharpe has not stopped working out in his post-playing career.

Disclosure: The Big Lead’s editor-in-chief Jason McIntyre is an on-air personality at FS1.

We’re six games into the 2018 NBA Conference Finals, and not one game has yet to be decided by 12 points or less. At no point in the final eight minutes of any game between either the Celtics and Cavs or Warriors and Rockets has it been a one-possession affair.

Yes, it’s exciting to watch the best players on the planet, but it’s no fun watching utter domination.

Fans, and “NBA Twitter” (and even a writer on this website!) have been hyping up the Rockets all year, and they were a very good regular season team. The Warriors fought off boredom during the marathon that is the regular season, and have defeated Houston by 13 points on the road and 41 points at home.

We know the 3-pointer has changed basketball, and made rapid comebacks much more likely … but the problem is everyone shoots 3-pointers so well, there isn’t a massive advantage there for anyone except the team with three of the best 10 shooters in the NBA.

Golden State is 22-4 in the playoffs with Kevin Durant. One loss to the Spurs came without Stephen Curry. The other losses … there’s a pattern:

Game 2 in Houston
PJ Tucker 5-of-6 three-pointers
Eric Gordon 6-of-9 three-pointers
These two made more three-pointers than the Warriors (9) in Game 2

Game 3 in New Orleans
Ian Clark 3-of-5 three-pointers
Solomon Hill 3-of-6 three-pointers
Nikola Mirotic 3-of-5 three-pointers
That trio went 9-of-16 from deep; the entire Warriors team made nine three-pointers in...

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks threw the fastest five pitches of the 2018 baseball season to Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera during Sunday’s game. Two reached 105 mph, the others clocked in at 104.3, 104.2, and 103.7. He joins Aroldis Chapman as the only pitcher to reach 105 since the current tracking system began in 2008.

The 21-year-old rookie has a 2-1 record and a 2.05 ERA. Oddly enough, his unmatched velocity hasn’t yielded a ton of strikeouts (9 in 22 innings). That’s bound to change because, you know, 105 mph! Shiny things!

If he chooses to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, Slovenian guard Luka Doncic will be the best player available. While this is a loaded draft class, Doncic is head and shoulders above his competition.

On Sunday news broke that the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks would pass on Doncic if he was available when they were on the clock at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. That is absolutely insane. No one in this draft possesses the versatility, basketball IQ or scoring ability Doncic does. Oh, and he’s got a longer resume of success than anyone else as well.

Doncic led Real Madrid to a Euroleague title on Sunday and was fantastic on the way to the championship. This season he earned Euroleague MVP honors and was the Euroleague Final Four MVP. Last year, he also led Slovenia to its first ever European Championship. He’s stacking up the accomplishments of a seasoned veteran and just turned 19 in February. He’s been playing regularly at the highest levels of European basketball since he was 16. The kid is a prodigy who is already showing next-level ability on the court.

For those opposed to selecting European players because of the massive disappointments that have popped up in the past, I get it. But European basketball isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Not only have the Europeans gotten better at the game, but so many Americans who can’t...

Madison Grace Reed, an actress … “Dildos, testicles in food and 23 other insane claims from Mountainside police lawsuit” … the new cool swimming pools have a dry, “living room” in the middle” … “Long Beach Chef creates Wu Tang Clan Inspired Dinner” … Texas wants in on sports gambling … 10-year old in waist-high water on Hilton Head Island bitten by a shark … 38 years ago last week, Mount St. Helens erupted, and 57 people died … guy complains about his haircut, and gets tossed through a window at the barbershop … school resource officer in Illinois prevents mass shooting … sad story of a former Playboy Playmate embroiled in a custody battle who jumped off a building with her young son …

Podcast: A letter to college graduates on how to crack into sports media … with lessons from the NBA playoffs; the 10 best players in the NBA right now; why the Celtics shouldn’t trade Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. [Itunes; Spreaker]

Great story on Patriots running back Sony Michel, who as an 8th grader, rushed for 1,800 yards against top tier high school talent in Florida. [Mass Live]

Lengthy look at how an actress from...

This recap of “Akane No Mai” from season two, episode five of Westworld contains spoilers.

It’s not easy to care about these hosts. Why should we?

When they’re dead, they’re not really dead. Their freedom — and higher intelligence — seems like it could get wiped from their code at any moment. And as we discovered in “‘Akane No Mai” (translated to Akane’s dance), they’re not even unique snowflakes. Maybe I’m heartless, but I’m not feeling the love for the hosts, nor do I find their love for one another particularly intriguing. (And perhaps I’ll come to the end of this season feeling guilty for this declaration.)

Sure, they’re not technically robots — they’re flesh-ish and bone-ish. They’re free thinkers-ish. This episode seemed to drive home the idea that host can and do have profound relationships. Ironically, in the plot line where a host loses her daughter (and we’re directed to sympathize), the show-runners also show that Maeve’s gang has a mirrored version of themselves in Shogun World. So if we’re not supposed to feel like these hosts are factory line products, then why emphasize that they were produced in factory line fashion? If we’re supposed to see the hosts as humans, why let Dolores sleep with Teddy — probably for the first time — and then give his personality some sort of superficial boost? Why create faceless hosts?

Well, the hosts (with faces) are complicated.

Armistice and Hector may have likenesses across the park, but perhaps they are still their own unique snowflake. Just...

Charles Barkley is not a big fan of Draymond Green’s on-court antics, he’s made that clear over the years. On Sunday night after the Golden State Warriors blew out the Houston Rockets, he asked one of Green’s teammates about it. And the exchange was hilarious.

Barkley asked Kevin Durant if Green was as annoying all day as he was on the court and Durant replied, “You should go talk to him downstairs … I mean, he’s downstairs you can go ask him.”

It was absolutely priceless. Check it out:

Charles Barkley: “is Draymond as annoying all day long as he is on TV?”Kevin Durant “He's just downstairs you can go ask him…”Barkley…… — gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 21, 2018

Something tells me Barkley won’t be confronting Draymond in person.