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Jul
17
2017

The American is the only person to have won an individual swimming gold past the age of 31. Perseverance, fund and freakish talent have helped

Age 31 isnt over the hill in most endeavors. Baseball players routinely play into their 40 s, Phillip Dutton just won an equestrian medal at age 52, and writers often peak in their 50 s or 60 s( we hope ).

But what Michael Phelps has done in the pond is unusual. The list of individual medalists( excluding relays) in swimming whove passed their 30 th birthday is a short one SportsReference.com counts 15( add relays, and the list expands to 23 ). Of that group, only Dara Torres was older than Phelps today when shewon multiple individual medals in one Olympics, taking three bronzes in 2000.

Individual gold medalists age 31 and up? None. Not until Phelps did it Tuesday night in the 200 m butterfly. That was his 12 th gold medal in an individual event, sending historians back to Greek antique for a comparable antecedent.

How is Phelps able to do what swimmers of the past have not?

Sheer persistence helps. Mark Spitz won two medals as a teen phenom in 1968 and seven golds in his standard-setting streak in 1972. Then he retired, apart from a short-lived comeback endeavor years later.

One reason Phelps has chosen a different career path is simple: the life of an Olympic star is no longer one of monastic poverty, thanks to a series of changes internationally and domestically through the 1970 s. Were no longer talking about Jim Thorpe being stripped of his 1912 medals because he accepted a pittance for playing a totally different sport. Today, Thorpe would win cash only qualifying for the US team.

And swimmers such as Phelps get paid, with prize money at the World Aquatic Championships now up over$ 5m and a steady creek of sponsorship money available. Even swimmers who arent anywhere close to Phelps level can earn a healthy $3,000 monthly stipend.

Financial comfort is important because swimming is such a demanding sport. Not that most Olympic events are for weekend warriors, but swimming including with regard to requires a lot of pool period and the occasional dry workout. At 35 hours a week, its not the kind of thing you can do with a full-time task. And the money helps swimmers take in staggering amounts of food to refuel. No wonder the U.S. Olympic swim squad is skewing older these days. Male swimmers average in 1988 was 20.9. In 2012, 25.8.

Yet those changes have also revved up the level of competition in the Games. The Olympics are no longer just for college student, the independently wealthy and state-funded machines. Phelps has stuck around, but so have Ryan Lochte, Laszlo Cseh and many other legitimate challengers.

And Phelps is still outdistancing not just the previous generations of Olympic athletes but his peers as well. This summer, 2012 Olympic champion and multiple world medalist Tyler Clary retired after failing to stimulate the US team in multiple events. Hes merely 27.

The ageless Dara Torres notwithstanding, females have had a more difficult time sticking around in the athletic. Natalie Coughlin has 12 medals from the last three Olympics, but at age 33, she was unable to attain the US team for Rio. Kate Ziegler was the Katie Ledecky of the mid-2 000 s, winning world titles and setting records in distance races in her teens, but she didnt make an Olympic final in 2012 and didnt make the team at age 28 this time around. Katie Hoff swept the individual medley world titles in 2005 and 2007, took a couple of individual medals in 2008 while still in her teens, then faded and eventually retired due to persisting issues such as blood clots.

Other swimmers eventually break down. Lochte has dealt with traumata, including a freak run-in with a fan that wrecked his knee. Most of those injuries took place outside the pool, but even in calm, cool water, overuse injuries can pile up over time.

Phelps has likely performed over 10 m arm strokes and 7m dolphin kicks in his career, wrote swimming expert Gary Mullen. This volume increases his danger of shoulder impingement and low back disc degeneration, two of the more common traumata in the sport.

Phelps has been able to stay healthy, and his physique surely doesnt hurt. Even in a pond full of perfectly tapered torsos, Phelps has always stood out with his long limbs and big feet.

The last part of the perfect blizzard that built Phelps the perfect swimmer is coaching. Phelps satisfied Bob Bowman at age 11, and the coach has stuck with him through a successful yet often tempestuous relationship.

Phelps has slackened a little. He scratched from the 100 m and 200 m freestyle at the Olympic trials this summer , no longer willing or able to attempt the daunting eight-event program he swept in Beijing eight years ago. But his times in individual events are comparable to his times in the past 12 years, excluding the two-year techsuit era that led to faster days for everyone in 2008 and 2009. Compare the 200 m butterfly, Phelps first individual gold medal of these Games. He won the 2011 world championship in that event in 1:53.34. His time in Rio? 1:53.36.

Phelps, Bowman and his entourage have a few other tactics that may also have come into play. Maybe the cupping therapy that leaves big hickeys all over his torso is improving his endurance in ways yet to be explained. Perhaps Phelpss retirement after the 2012 Games stimulated him come back rejuvenated and hungry.

But much of Phelps success is readily apparent. Hes a physically gifted swimmer who learned picture-perfect strokes, his body has not failed him in any major route, and his support system has helped him preserve those gifts longer than most.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Jul
13
2017

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has earned close to $100 m for being OK at his undertaking. He should be smiling his route back to training camp

The luckiest man in the world was angry.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford reportedly had not returned phone calls from his team in weeks, ever since it became clear the Eagles planned to draft a quarterback with the No2 overall pick in last months draft. Its odd, as surely Bradford can afford a phone. In fact, he can no doubt afford to pay a full staff of switchboard operators to man his phone line and provide them with a generous benefits package. Bradford has constructed $78 m in his six-year NFL career in exchange for achieving almost nothing, with at the least another $22 m ensure on the way with the same zero strings attached. The Eagles will likely be on the hook for another $14 m if he simply shows up for work through next season. Yet somehow the most fortunate human in football was very upset. And despite indicating up to the teams facility on Monday for a workout, undoubtedly still is.

Im excited to be back on the field today with my team-mates and coaches, Bradford said in a statement. The business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and endeavours are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season. The statement continued on, but at this point its likely best to hold for laugh.

Tom Brady is the quarterback many say lives the most charmed life in football thanks to his four Super Bowl rings and supermodel spouse. Russell Wilson might get some voting in favour of similar reasons. But both Brady and Wilson have to take the field week after week, get hit, vie, face criticism and in the case of the newly-suspended Patriot regularly fight cheating accusations. Meanwhile, Bradford has attained more money than Brady did through his first 10 NFL seasons( and three rings ), all while never winning more than seven games in a season and playing the bulk of his career in the pressure-free football oblivion of St Louis, a city that now doesnt even have a squad.

When Wilson plays through his huge four-year, $87.5 m contract extension after the 2019 season, hell still be nowhere near Bradfords career earnings. So much for the idea that God is on Wilsons side. Brady and Wilson are expected to put their squads in position to win a Super Bowl ever year. The only expectations Bradford faces is that hell miss hour due to injury and throw interceptions in the end zone.

Even Justin Verlander, baseballs most fortunate player thanks to a contract that will pay him $28 m a year through 2019 despite his long-depleted abilities, still remains to toe the rubber every five days and get humbled in public. The Eagles arent even expecting Bradford to play, save for maybe a few games at the start of the 2016 season while Carson Wentz learns the NFL game and overcomes the inevitable North Dakota-to-Philly culture shock. Then the expectation for Bradford is that he merely stay where you are and hold a clipboard, free from any possible injury or criticism, stress or expectation, while his bank account fills with regular six-figure deposits. How can he be upset by such good fortune? How could he refuse contact with the organization that is continuing to provide him with the American Dreaming: getting paid a ton of fund to do absolutely nothing?

You can tag him as a competitor who merely wants to play, money be damned, but the Eagles insist they were clear with Bradford all along about their plans to draft a quarterback and that his new job responsibilities included mentoring his replacing. Maybe Bradford needs a refresher as to why he may be the most fortunate player in NFL history. A reminder about why his tantrum was an illogical response to the ultimate first-world( yet second-string) problem.

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement set a cap on rookie wages. This cap is often referred to as the Sam Bradford Rule, as Bradford was the last No1 overall selection before the rules changed and he benefited with an absurd six-year, $78 m initial deal with $50 m assure. A year later, under the new system, No1 pick Cam Newton was inked to a four-year, $22 m deal, including $ 0 in bonuses for dancing.

Bradford was fortunate to even go No1 overall and get that big pre-CBA money. He missed all but one game of his 2009 season at Oklahoma to injury, merely to be lucky enough to declare for the draft in a woefully weak class at QB. After Bradford went No1, the next quarterbacks to come off the board were Tim Tebow at No25, Jimmy Clausen at No48 and Colt McCoy at No85. Mike Kafka, John Skelton and Tony Pike went subsequently. With these sorts of competition, Bradford became the clear choice for the quarterback-desperate Rams.

The financial good fortune then continued once he stepped on the field in NFL( and hobbled off ). Bradford was mediocre at best in St Louis, posting a 79.3 quarterback rating and winning just 36% of his starts. The Rams had every reason to cut him, move on and be on the hook for only the $50 m guaranteed. Merely Bradford got hurt so often missing 25 games in five seasons that St Louis repeatedly persuaded themselves they needed to wait it out and see if he could turn things around when healthy. By 2015, after Bradford missed the entire 2014 season due to a second torn ACL, his time being paid big-time fund was surely over … only football genius/ madman Chip Kelly agreed to bring Bradford to Philadelphia in a trade and happily paid the final year of Bradfords rookie deal.

In Kellys quarterback-friendly offense, Bradford had a career-year in 2015. Or at least the Eagles apparently think he did, extending him for two years and $36 m on 1 March. Yet while Bradford managed to stay healthy for 14 games, match his career-high win total with seven and hurl for a career-best 3,725 yards, he was 26 th in the NFL in passer rating and 31 st in Total QBR. And for that hes getting at least $22 m more in his new deal, which will push his career earnings over $100 m. Bradford has induced so much undeserved fund that he should be named an honorary Kardashian.

Although he was right when he said on Monday that the business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. Perhaps he finally considered that the business of Sam Bradford is quite good. Perhaps he realized that to be paid like a star QB despite not playing like one since beating up Big 12 foes as a college sophomore in 2008 is a pretty solid gig. Maybe he figured out that having to take some snaps for a team with zero expectations of winning in exchange for tens of millions of dollars is not worth a tantrum. If anything, its worth a heartfelt thank you. He was an injury-prone quarterback in a bad draft class that fell in the last year of rookie funny money. Everything has gone right for him to the tune of $100 m. How is he pouting? Why is he not saying blessed more than Tebow and Wilson combined?

Bradford is ultimately back at the Eagles facility. When he returns tomorrow and the next day and every day left on his absurd contract, he should do so with a huge smile on his face. A smile befitting the luckiest human in NFL history.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

May
24
2017

If not for a bench coach who assured perfection where no one else did, Ichiro Suzuki might never have become the most prolific hitter in baseball history

On a chilly October night in 2003, Kenichiro Kawamura sat in the sofa of a hotel in Kobe, talking about the time he saved Ichiro Suzukis swaying. It was tale he rarely recurred, even though he was a known reaching coach in Japan and Ichiro an American sensation as the right fielder for the Seattle Mariners. Few, if any, in Major League Baseball had heard the tale , not even Ichiros US agent. But that was Ichiro in those days: private, guarded and resentful of inquiries about his past. In many styles, he still is, even after recording his 3,000 th major league reached against the Rockies on Sunday.

In the early 1990 s, Kawamura was the batting coach for the minor league squad of the Orix Blue Wave in Japans top-flight Nippon Baseball League. Ichiro was a decent high school pitcher in Japan, producing surprising velocity from his lithe 5ft 9in, 170 lb body. The Blue Wave used a middle-round draft pick on the 19 -year-old Ichiro in 1992 because of his pitching. But Ichiros father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, had drilled his son for years on the art of reaching baseballs, constructing his child a painfully awkward-looking swaying that nonetheless produced effective results. When Ichiro reported to the Blue Wave, based in Kobe, he told squad officials he didnt want to be a pitcher, he was going to be an outfielder.

Their manager, Shozo Doi, did not insure Ichiro as an outfielder. Doi had been a second baseman for the Yomiuri Giant back when thet were the Yankees of Japanese baseball and was not impressed with Ichiros spinning, almost lunging swaying. Ichiro was a pitcher, he told. Ichiro told no. He wished to play outfield. Ultimately, Doi relented sending Ichiro to Kawamura.

Years afterward, in the hotel sofa, Kawamura could still remember the terse order Doi devoted him.

He told: Fix his swing, Kawamura told me through an interpreter who sat with us at the table.

They were an odd match, Kawamura and Ichiro. The reaching coach was big and robust, a gregarious baseball human, while Ichiro was tiny and limber. But the first time Kawamura watched Ichiro reached he was amazed. The lunge, reaching, left-handed swing that almost spun Ichiro in a half-circle was not ugly. It was one of the most beautiful swings he had ever seen.

I observed his center of gravity was very strong, Kawamura said for a tale I wrote in the Seattle Times . He makes a perfect triangle with his body, which makes a perfect center of gravity. His head always sits on the top of the triangle. He looks like he goes forward, but he doesnt. It appeared awkward, but when he makes the ball it becomes the perfect form.

Kawamura defied Dois demand. He knew he was watching magnificence when he saw Ichiro swing. And because Ichiro was very fast, he would get hits even when he didnt hit the ball well. Dedicated the route Ichiro also threw from the outfield, his heaves low and hard and straight, Kawamura was sure Ichiro was right. The player was an outfielder , not a pitcher.

He devoted Ichiro a workout program to strengthen his legs and said he would induce him a top hitter in Japans major league within two seasons. Ichiro stormed through the workout program and when the season started he was the minor league team best hitter. Even Doi took notice, calling Ichiro up to the major league squad in June. The promotion was too early. Against the major league pitchers, the still-teenage Ichiro appeared ordinary, reaching merely. 253 in 40 games. Doi sent Ichiro back to Kawamura again demanding that Kawamura change his swing. Once more, Kawamura refused.

I was so confident he would be a good batter if he gained his strength, Kawamura told. He hadnt observed his potential yet. I protected Ichiro. Going to the majors was too quick for him.

Still, Doi insisted that Kawamura remake Ichiros swaying. The more Kawamura told no the angrier Doi grew. They argued regularly about Ichiro with Kawamura telling Doi that destroying Ichiros swaying would ruin a player destined to be one of Japans greats. All Ichiro required, Kawamura kept telling, was time to let his body matured. Doi was unmoved. His order remained the same.

Change the swing.

In the hotel sofa Kawamuras face reddened as he recalled those arguments. He jabbed his stubby fingers into the table before him. I would quit! I would quit! I would quit! he told, rather than alter what he considered to be the best swaying he had ever seen. Eventually, he won. After the 1993 season Doi was fired and replaced by Akira Ohgi, who accepted the swing of Ichiro, who was then 21 and stronger. In 1994, his first full season with Orix, Ichiro reached. 385 and became one of Japans biggest stars. Seven years later, he joined the Mariners where again another league of baseball people questioned his swing and wondered if a player so small could be successful.

That was 3,000 makes ago.

None of which would have come without the persistence of a minor league reaching coach who assured perfection when no one else did.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Apr
30
2017

The brilliance of Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald ensured people will talk about Saturdays showdown between Green Bay and Arizona for years to come

What is it that induces the biggest players shine in the most important point moments?

How is it that Aaron Rodgers can scramble with the season about to end, turn to the most awkward hurling position he could and heave a touchdown pass half the length of a football field? What lets Larry Fitzgerald catch a pass in overtime then run through what seems like the entire Packers defense to set up a winning rating?

The best thing about playoff football in the modern epoch is the greatness that comes from desperation. By now we know what Rodgers can do with a football as period is running out. His game-winning heave in Detroit a few weeks ago already stood as perhaps his finest play. But Saturday, with the season succumbing and the clock running out, he was even better. After the game he talked about the finality that comes with the end of a season, the reality of sitting one day with cherished team-mates on a road journey and then suddenly going home eternally. The move to keep the team together a few days more was intense. He had to find a way to get the game to overtime.

NFL (@ NFL) January 17, 2016

Aaron Rodgers: 2 Hail mary. 1 season. Here’s both of them, side by side. #GBvsAZ #GBvsDET https :// t.co/ 4292 H7uHYd

Fitzgerald knows he is the energy that drives the Cardinals. He talked about it late Saturday after his touchdown on a shovel pass in overtime gave Arizona a 26 -2 0 victory over Green Bay in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Somehow, after Rodgers had just tied the game on the Hail mary, he had to get the ball, he had to do something.

What is it about the biggest moments that brings out the biggest plays? Fitzgerald could sense his quarterback Carson Palmer was in trouble on that first possession of overtime. He did the only thing he knew: twisting, contorting himself, trying to get open. Then when Palmer hurled his style he got the ball and began to run. As he sprinted, trying to avoid lunging Packers defenders, he couldnt have imagined how magnificent this must have looked on television the darting and dodging all he could think of was the end zone. How rapidly could he aim the game?

Then, with the Cardinals merely short of the goal line, they called for the shovel pass, the quick toss to Fitzgerald who was to run through the middle of the Packers defense and into the end zone.

NFL (@ NFL) January 17, 2016

This is the play before The Play after The Other Play: Larry Fitzgerald starts OT with a 75 -yard catch #BeRedSeeRed https :// t.co/ PQIxOy1FMX

When you get your number called, the shovel, my eyes lit up in the huddle, he afterwards said.

What is it that brings these biggest plays in the most dire of moments? Fitzgerald contemplated everything that had happened before overtime, the style Rodgers had snatched away the Cardinals victory with one last enormous heave to the end zone and shake his head.

Hes the reigning MVP of the league for a reason, Fitzgerald said. The guy can flat out play his butt off.

A moment afterwards Fitzgerald added: We just wanted to respond.

Years from now, when people talk about the greatest playoff games, they will remember the Saturday night in the far west suburbs of Phoenix when two of the best players of their period attained the biggest plays at the most desperate moments. They will remember Rodgers scramble from his own aim zone and the pass that set up the Hail mary and then, of course, the final heave itself that seemed practiced so perfectly the style the ball flew and Jeff Janis was in perfect position to grab it. And they will remember, too, Fitzgeralds catch and mad race to the goal line the one that set up the last shovel pass.

After the game, Rodgers said he didnt genuinely know exactly who was in the end zone or where the ball would land where reference is threw it. This is probably an exaggeration. Even as he was lunging to his left, stumbling toward the ground he seemed to have a sense of exactly how much pressure to put on the pass and where Janis was likely to be. The throw was too precise; Janis was in too ideal a place.

Sure they have worked on this. Anyone who has been to an NFL practice has assured the last moments after the workout when the quarterbacks throw exactly these passes to their receivers. But the beauty of the Rodgers throw was the pacify with which he made it. The Cardinals were blitzing, many quarterbacks would have panicked. He attained it look like he and Janis were playing catch in the yard.

Fitzgerald seemed just as at ease where reference is caught the ball from Carson Palmer in overtime and then took off. It was almost as if he was faster in overtime than he had been for the entire 60 minutes before. Desperation does this. It induces the blur of rushing bodies look clearer. The best players always talk about inducing the game slow down.

As everything turned into a jumble on Saturday, Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald attained the game slow down. And for several minutes, two of the best players in the game attained the biggest plays no one will ever forget.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Apr
16
2017

Dwyane Wade is a Chicago Bull, leaving the Miami Heat after 13 -years. But like LeBron James decision to head home in 2014, it did not have to end this way

Successful eras come and go in sports, and with the promise of free bureau riches, soaring salary caps and the conflict of egos when it comes to contracts, dynasties are harder than ever to preserve.

With the shock departure of franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade, who has agreed a two-year is being dealt with his hometown Chicago Bulls, Miamis fabled Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has been reduced to one, with serious doubts over whether the latter will ever play professionally again.

Four consecutive finals journeys and two titles were not enough to keep LeBron James, but they perhaps should have been. The chance to see out his glorious career and secure a legacy as a one-club human wasnt enough for Dwyane Wade either, but theres without doubt it should have been.

So what went wrong?

Unfortunately, Miami will find it hard to blame anyone but itself for the dismantling of this championship empire well before its time.

Wades decision to turn his back on the team that drafted him after a glittering 13 year career yielding all three of the Heats titles is no snap decision; it is the culmination of multiple years of free bureau friction and unrequited sacrifice.

It was Wade, who agreed to lighten his billfold to bring LeBron James to Miami in the first place, who did more than anyone to broker the is being dealt with his friend. He was the lowest paid member of that Big Three.

When James high-tailed back to Cleveland, Wade again gave ground to accommodate the retention of Chris Bosh and the recruitment necessary to keep Miami competitive.

This summer, as tempestuous, immature and still largely unproven centre Hassan Whiteside walked away with a four-year, $98 m max contract, Wade was asked to do it again, all while Miami fixed to cast him aside in its damaging, Hail Mary pursuit of Kevin Durant.

However, in a free bureau period gratuitously inflated following a salary cap rise, “the mens” whod never topped the Heats salary chart wanted his market value. He wanted Miami to eventually make good on the years assurances hed be seemed after.

What he got was an insulting offer of $10 m for the 2016 -1 7 season( via the Vertical ), a 50% pay cut, during a week when players in his position scored unfathomably huge bargains. Portland paid Evan Turner $ 70 m over four years and Evan Fournier received $85 m over five years from Orlando. Meanwhile, rival Dirk Nowitzki, three years older than Wade, nabbed two years and $40 m to finish out his career where he belonged, in Dallas.

After it was dismissed by Durant, Miami upped its offer leaving little discrepancies between it and the $48 m, two-year wage hell receive in Chicago( when Florida tax benefits are factored) but by this phase it was too late. The injury had been done. Wade, seemingly grossly offended, was going back to his home state just like LeBron.

A 13 -year relationship, which find Wade become the teams record holder for games played, phases, field goals, free-throws, assistances and steals, was over in unnecessarily acrimonious fashion.

Speaking to the Miami Heralds Dan LeBatard, all Pat Riley could muster was a text message reading: SADDDDDDD !!!! SO saddddddd !

Wade himself, admitted on Thursday he was still numb at leaving a franchise and city where hes bona fide royalty.

Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do.

DWade (@ DwyaneWade) July 7, 2016

I wanna say THANK YOU to #HeatNation … I’ve read and felt you guys love from afar. thank you for appreciating my 13 years. #FamilyAlways

Riley, the Heats so-called Godfather, of course, is more obsessed with snaring whales than Captain Ahab. However, for the second time in three years, Riley has overcast his line. As such, the two best players in franchise history have swum away to much cooler water.

It was Riley who practically dared LeBron to leave in the aftermath of the 2014 finals dismantling at the hands of San Antonio.

This stuff is hard. And you got to stay together, if youve got the guts, he said in a memorable press conference that June. And you dont find the first doorway and run out of it.

Although there were other factors in play, this is known to have irked James, who is now a championship richer, his achievements in Miami now over shadowed by ultimately snapping the Cleveland hoodoo, while coming from 3-1 down against that Warriors team in arguably the greatest finals performance in NBA history.

Back than Riley was blindsided by LeBrons decision, just as he is reportedly surprised by Wades.

However, according to the Miami Herald, 13 years of service did not merit a call during the recruitment process. Instead, Riley left it to owned Mickey Arison, who was on one of his cruise ships shortly after the meeting with Wade.

Ethan J. Skolnick (@ EthanJSkolnick) July 7, 2016

While you’re watching Kelly Ripa, one more nugget: Pat Riley never called Dwyane Wade during the entire process.

Ethan J. Skolnick (@ EthanJSkolnick) July 7, 2016

The meeting between Dwyane Wade and Micky Arison was an attempted relationship patch. This was too far gone this time.

Many Heat fans have argued Wade should have received the Kobe deal; the last big pay-out, partially as a reward for what is unquestionably the finest career in south Florida sports history, partially to make good on his years of sacrifice and also because he was just, you know, worth it.

While Kobe picked up $48 m in two years of hobbling around in a legacy lessening farewell tour, Wade still had the advantage of being Miamis best player, performing at a genuine All-Star level.

Seemingly beyond the injury concerns of recent years after revamping his diet and workout regimen, he missed only eight games of the 2015 -1 6 season, averaging 19 phases while carrying an injury-hit Heat to within one game of the Eastern Conference finals and a mouth-watering shot at LeBron a nation was hoping for.

Wades move may end up benefitting Miami on the court as it gears up for another run at a stacked free agent class in 2017 containing Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Durant and perhaps Blake Griffin. Riley gets another shot at those whales he covets so dearly.

However, like Kobe Bryant, Wade was worth far more to the Miami Heat franchise than wins and loss on the basketball tribunal. For an entire generation of fans, who grew up watching him and that fabled Euro-step and step-back angled jump shot, Wade was the Miami Heat.

Without# 3 in Miami-Wade County, the Heat and a crestfallen fanbase has lost its identity, leaving a void genuinely impossible to fill.

As a team that has often labelled itself as a family, that placed Wade front and centre of a defiant #HeatLifer marketing campaign after LeBron left, its a jolt to the teams reputation and its chances of recruiting future big name free agent.

But what of Chris Bosh, the last surviving member of the Big Three era? Well that doesnt appear good either. Issues related to blood clots have ended the forwards last two seasons at the All Star Break.

His relationship with his team is also strained, to set it kindly. Bosh and the Heat clashed last season over his desire to return for the play-offs. Miami stood firm in denying it.

Amid suspicions he may be forced into retirement, Bosh will be paid $23.5 m by Miami next season. Medical retirement is a scenario the Heat front office may not be adverse to, given the three years remaining on his bargain and the requisite salary cap hits moving forward.

The Heats looming demise in the aftermath of the Big Three era is perhaps a cautionary narrative for the prospective dynasty that threatens to attain Miamis four-year finals streak look like a mere blip.

For the Golden State Warriors, freshly acquired mega-star Kevin Durant will be a free agent again next summertime, alongside two-time league MVP Steph Curry and franchise mainstay Andre Iguodala. Can both be retained with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also on big money?

Perhaps the Warriors softer approach will be successful where Pat Rileys challenges and bravado failed? Or maybe todays sacrifices will once again manifest themselves as tomorrows brooding bitternes? The rest of the NBA will likely be hoping for the latter. In fact, it looks like their only hope.

For the Miami Heat, an uncertain future awaits without not one , not two

Well, you know the rest.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Apr
03
2017

Boxings heavyweight division is a mess with Tyson Furys problems and Wladimir Klitschkos reluctance increasing the problems caused by a multitude of titles

On the verge of the pantomime season boxing is again a laughing stock, like a totter, rougecheeked dame with a glass of sherry in one hand and a string of broken promises in the other.

Disillusion drowns out the laugh. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the fact the division that in not-so-distant memory gave us Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes now cannot settle on anyone more convincing than the young Anthony Joshua, the injured Deontay Wilder, the old Wladimir Klitschko or the absent Tyson Fury.

Boxrec.com, the go-to digital bible, tells us that among 77 world champs recognised across all the weights by the suits who pretend they are in charge of the most frustrating athletic outside following West Ham, the number claiming to rule the heavyweights is well, indeterminate.

So deep breath – while Sleeping Beauty get ready to charm the Sunderland Empire this December, Bernd Bntes team are counting the seats in some venue in Germany where Wlad the Inveigler might entertain the ever-smiling Aussie Lucas Browne on behalf of the members of the WBA which, ho hum, would cost the Ukrainian his WBO ranking; Joseph Parker prepares for Andy Ruiz( the very same) to fulfils the WBO which will cost the New Zealander his mandatory shot at the IBF champ Joshua, who is in the gym getting ready for well, anyone; and David Haye tunes up to challenge the winner of Parker-Ruiz with a workout against a selected chump. Wilder, who rarely oppose beyond a bus ride from his home township in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? The WBC isnt telling yet.

Then there is Luis Ortiz, the dangerous Cuban veteran who builds his debut for Matchroom in Monte Carlo on 12 November against the Philadelphian trial pony Malik Scott. providing he wins( he will ), a month afterwards in Manchester, the unbeaten Ortiz will have his fourth fight for the WBAs interim title. Ruiz had his first interim bout in September, 2014. He surely is a patient man.

As well as the main bangles there are the InterContinental Car Park title, the My Noisy Neighbours Down The Road Emeritus belt or the Super-Stupid All-Comers Interim Silver Spoon. The thing is, you can make it up; nobody would notice certain differences. Its a mess from top to bottom and there will be no resolution until Monday afternoon at a very early, according to Matchroom.

In what was once the athletics unchallenged powerhouse, even super-enthusiast Dan Rafael has lost patience. I love boxing as much as anyone and devoted the majority of members of my professional career to it, the big man from ESPN wrote the other day, but it is hard to be a boxing fan right now.

Try paying at the gate, Dan. It only takes a short break away from the fight game as a paid commentator to understand the fans fury. Stay too close and you get sucked in to taking the business seriously.

On any given day last week the WBA could have sanctioned a fight between Joshua, who is not on its rankings list but is the legitimate and unbeaten IBF champion, and Klitschko, whom it guards like a pet poodle wearing a diamond neck bracelet even though he has not fought since he lost to Fury nearly a year ago, and turns 41 in March.

It did manage one minor miracle: uniting Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn in abhorrence. Warren friends himself mainly to WBO titles but he was on the money where reference is told Klitschko is taking everyone for a ride, and the WBA is happy to let him do it. Hearn, Joshuas promoter, says he is nonplussed by the WBAs dithering and on Monday announced a fight between Joshua and Klitschko will not go ahead on 10 December as schemed because the Ukrainian has suffered a minor injury, and that it is instead more likely to take place next spring. Hearn had been sure he had a deal for this year and Sky, who offer the platform and much of the money, are growing as impatient as the fans.

Klitschko clearly does not want got anything to do with Joshua, who would knock him out, likely within six rounds, whatever the sales talk that this is an even-money contest. Klitschko, the best heavyweight in the world for nearly a decade, wants to go out with a soft touch, preferably the deathly slow if powerful Browne, who was put through boxings grinder after beating Ruslan Chagaev in Chechnya last year to win the WBAs title.

A Sydney newspaper afterwards put a clock on the fight and received the time-keeper added 15 seconds to the sixth round( in which Browne was decked) and took 44 seconds off the end of the seventh, as the challenger stormed back. That was barely the end of it. Browne, a genial man, swears blind the clenbuterol they found in his system afterwards got there without his knowledge, and the minor dosage suggests he could be right. Besides, why would a heavyweight take a weight-reducing narcotic? His brief in an unresolved legal challenge says it has cost the fighter millions.

None of this is going to change unless the WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF and( heaven help us) IBO vote themselves out of existence and surrender their authority to a universally accepted authority under the auspices of, tell, the IOC.

And guess what? Lurking in the shadows with merely such a plan is the Aiba boss, Dr Wu Ching-kuo. He was the remote, amateur kingmaker who presided over the rolling comedy sketch otherwise known as the Rio Olympics boxing tournament.

There were not as many outright dodgy decisions as were being represented at the time, but there was a lot of incompetence , not to mention shameless reluctance by Wu and his association to acknowledge it until the weight of international opprobrium overwhelmed them.

Wus blueprint is to turn Aiba into that all-powerful world body. He has already had an encouraging replies from the WBA. So, good luck with that one, doc.

Taking boxing seriously is harder than it has been since the heyday of the mob. Once there was blatant corruption. Now there is full-blown, Donald Trump-level, laughing-in-your-face cheek.

It is enough to make one yearn for the anarchy generated by Don King( born 20 August 1931) and his octogenarian chum Bob Arum( born 8 December 1931 ). Uncle Bob is enjoying his late-career surge ahead of The Donald, who still has his badged-up denim coat, George Bush Srs cell phone number and competitor Bermane Stiverne, but the thrill is run. Now, it is just dull and dumb.

Maybe Fury quit boxing at the right time. The WBA has just announced he will be first in line to fight for his old title as soon as he is well enough, but likely thinking more about the significant sanction fee awaiting it for his comeback than the more profound challenge facing the semi-retired fighter: beating a drugs habit and depression.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Mar
26
2017

Simone Biles posted the highest rating for the floor exercise, the vault and the beam and she is the red hot favourite to clinch the all-around Olympic title

Simone Biles rose to her feet after “re going through” her stretchings on the green carpet, took one last pulling from a bottle of water and dedicated her long-time coach Aimee Boorman a high five before stepping on to the competitor podium on Sunday afternoon for the maiden performance of her Olympic career.

What happened over the next 88 minutes was simultaneously expected and extraordinary as Biles, who for months has borne the weight of impossible expectations on her spritely 4ft 8in, 105 lb frame, depicted the impeccable kind that could send her home from Rio with as many as five gold medals.

The 19 -year-old posted the highest rating on the floor exercise( 15.733) and vault( 16.050) and was also the top qualifier on the beam routine, performing with brio and sticking her dismount perfectly to close the teams final rotation. She even posted a 15.000 on the uneven bars, the lone apparatus where she has shown flickers of mortality.

Her all-around rating of 62.366 was more than three points better than any non-American gymnast who had vied. Aly Raisman finished second( 60.607) and will join Biles in the individual all-around final while Gabby Douglas despite a third-place finish( 60.131) was denied a chance to defend the all-around gold she won in London due to a rule restriction the event finals to two challengers per country.

The 1-2-3 finish lifted the United States to the highest qualifying rating( 185.238) by virtually 10 phases. China, Russia, Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands also qualified to round out the field of eight for Tuesday afternoons team final.

I wanted to qualify into the event finals if I did my very best and today I did that. Im a little less nervous because its done and I qualified, Biles said afterwards to the small army of reporters that mobbed her in the mixed zone. Now its just about consistency.

From a squad standpoint Sundays qualifying at Rio Olympic Arena was largely a formality for the United States, who following the fall of the Iron Curtain have emerged at the head of gymnastics new world order.

Yet it was a chance for the crowd to have a first look at the prodigy from suburban Houston who has been widely hailed as the greatest the sport has ever seen despite having never vied in an Olympics until now.

Born three months short of the age cut-off for London 2012, Biles has come to overshadow the sport itself in winning the all-around at 12 consecutive international competitions dating back to her rookie senior season in 2013. She has captured 14 medals at world championships, including 10 golds, and last year became the first woman to earn a third straight world all-around title. Raisman will join Biles in the floor final. Laurie Hernandez qualified for the beam final with a rating of 15. 366 after a flawless defined, while Douglas and Madison Kocian will attempt to win medals in the bars.

I am pleased because they depicted the consistency that I was expecting, said Martha Karolyi, the legendary national squad coordinator who is retiring after Rio. For the last three weeks being in a training camp in Houston and then after that here, we did modeling. Which means in a educate conference you try to come as close as possible to competitor situations.

I has pointed out that if you hit every routine in a workout gym, why would you be nervous when you come out in the arena? You simply have to think: I simply have to do one more of those routines that I already did. I think its proven that this is the right technique to have the girls to be confident and consistent.

After dismounting from the beam routine Biles excitedly hastened off the podium and wrap Hernandez in a bear hug before greeting her other team-mates, having completed the teams 16 th routine of the afternoon without a mistake. They will return on Tuesday to finish what they started in the team competition.

I dont think you feel pressure whenever your team-mates go up and hit, Biles said. You nearly feel confident that youre the next one that you can do it because once the first person runs, they kind of define a rhythm.

Boorman added: The daughters were so prepared , not only physically prepared but mentally prepared. Its a nice place to be because do you dont have to snap anybody out of a bad place.

When you come out you have such a great day like today it simply constructs your confidence that you can do it again and again and again. I dont think theres any doubt in their minds that they can continue on this path.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Mar
10
2017

If not for a bench coach-and-four who assured perfection where no one else did, Ichiro Suzuki might never have become the most prolific hitter in baseball history

On a chilly October night in 2003, Kenichiro Kawamura sat in the lounge of a hotel in Kobe, talking about the time he saved Ichiro Suzukis swing. It was tale he rarely repeated, even though he was a known hitting coach-and-four in Japan and Ichiro an American sensation as the right fielder for the Seattle Mariners. Few, if any, in Major League Baseball had heard the tale , not even Ichiros US agent. But that was Ichiro in those days: private, guarded and resentful of investigations about his past. In many styles, he still is, even after recording his 3,000 th major league hit against the Rockies on Sunday.

In the early 1990 s, Kawamura was the batting coach-and-four for the minor league squad of the Orix Blue Wave in Japans top-flight Nippon Baseball League. Ichiro was a decent high school pitcher in Japan, making surprising velocity from his lithe 5ft 9in, 170 lb body. The Blue Wave utilized a middle-round draft pick on the 19 -year-old Ichiro in 1992 because of his pitching. But Ichiros father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, had drilled his son for years on the art of hitting baseballs, building his child a painfully awkward-looking swing that nonetheless produced effective results. When Ichiro reported to the Blue Wave, are stationed in Kobe, he told squad officials he didnt want to be a pitcher, he was going to be an outfielder.

Their manager, Shozo Doi, did not insure Ichiro as an outfielder. Doi had been a second baseman for the Yomiuri Giant back when thet were the Yankees of Japanese baseball and was not impressed with Ichiros spinning, almost lunging swing. Ichiro was a pitcher, he said. Ichiro said no. He wished to play outfield. Eventually, Doi relented sending Ichiro to Kawamura.

Years subsequently, in the hotel lounge, Kawamura could still remember the terse order Doi devoted him.

He said: Fix his swing, Kawamura told me through an interpreter who sat with us at the table.

They were an odd match, Kawamura and Ichiro. The hitting coach-and-four was big and robust, a gregarious baseball human, while Ichiro was tiny and limber. But the first time Kawamura watched Ichiro hit he was amazed. The hurl, reaching, left-handed swing that almost spun Ichiro in a half-circle was not ugly. It was one of the most beautiful sways he had ever seen.

I saw his center of gravity was very strong, Kawamura said for a tale I wrote in the Seattle Times . He makes a perfect triangle with his body, which makes a perfect center of gravity. His head always sits on the top of the triangle. He looks like he goes forward, but he doesnt. It seemed awkward, but when he hits the ball it becomes the perfect form.

Kawamura defied Dois demand. He knew he was watching grandeur when he saw Ichiro swing. And because Ichiro was very fast, he would get hits even when he didnt hit the ball well. Given the style Ichiro also threw from the outfield, his heaves low and hard and straight, Kawamura was sure Ichiro was right. The player was an outfielder , not a pitcher.

He devoted Ichiro a workout program to strengthen his leg and said he would construct him a top hitter in Japans major leagues within two seasons. Ichiro stormed through the workout program and when the season started he was the minor league teams best hitter. Even Doi took notice, calling Ichiro up to the major league squad in June. The promotion was still too early. Against the major league pitchers, the still-teenage Ichiro seemed ordinary, hitting merely. 253 in 40 games. Doi sent Ichiro back to Kawamura again demanding that Kawamura change his swing. Once more, Kawamura refused.

I was so confident he would be a good batter if he gained his strength, Kawamura said. He hadnt observed his potential yet. I protected Ichiro. Running to the majors was too quick for him.

Still, Doi was of the view that Kawamura remake Ichiros swing. The more Kawamura said no the angrier Doi grew. They argued regularly about Ichiro with Kawamura telling Doi that destroying Ichiros swing would ruin a player destined to be one of Japans greats. All Ichiro required, Kawamura kept saying, was time to let his body mature. Doi was unmoved. His order remained the same.

Change the swing.

In the hotel lounge Kawamuras face reddened as he recalled those arguments. He jabbed his stubby thumbs into the table before him. I would discontinue! I would discontinue! I would discontinue! he said, rather than alter what he considered to be the best swing he had ever seen. Eventually, he won. After the 1993 season Doi was fired and replaced by Akira Ohgi, who accepted the swing of Ichiro, who was then 21 and stronger. In 1994, his first full season with Orix, Ichiro hit. 385 and became one of Japans biggest superstars. Seven years later, he joined the Mariners where again another league of baseball people questioned his swing and wondered if a player so small could be successful.

That was 3,000 reaches ago.

None of which would have come without the perseverance of a minor league hitting coach-and-four who assured perfection when no one else did.

Read more: www.theguardian.com