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Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie tests positive for COVID-19, may sit out restart

Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie announced Monday he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is uncertain to join the team in Florida for next month’s restart of the NBA season.

Dinwiddie disclosed his diagnosis in an interview with The Athletic and added that he has experienced symptoms related to COVID-19. Per NBA medical protocols that have been established during the restart run-up, he will be put into quarantine for at least 10 days and must pass at least two retests before being permitted to rejoin his club.

“Originally, (the Nets) were supposed to be one of the teams to enter the Orlando bubble early, but training camp got switched back to New York and unfortunately I am now positive,” he said. “Given that I have experienced symptoms, including fever and chest tightness, it is unclear on whether or not I’ll be able to participate in Orlando.”

Dinwiddie had planned on playing when the Nets resume their season July 31 at the Walt Disney World Complex. He said he initially tested negative for the virus after returning to New York to take part in workouts.

“I was ready and prepared to rejoin my teammates as we were to be an early entry team in the resumed season,” Dinwiddie said. “I flew private to return to New York, passed multiple COVID-19 tests over my first several days in New York and was able to participate in a couple of practices within the first week.”

Prior to the season’s stoppage on March 11, Dinwiddie was averaging career highs of 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game to help the Nets maintain a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Brooklyn enters the restart seventh in the East and six games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards.

Neither Durant nor Irving are expected to return this season, and center DeAndre Jordan announced Monday on Twitter that he will sit out the restart after testing positive. ESPN reported Sunday that forward Wilson Chandler informed the Nets he will not take part in the restart because of health and family reasons.

It is unclear whether Dinwiddie is among the 16 unidentified players the NBA announced last week were positive for COVID-19 during preliminary testing for the season’s resumption. Other players who have either revealed they tested positive or reportedly done so include Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. and three Kings – Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker and Alex Len.

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High school vs. now: see Steph Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns and others

Everyone likely has that awkward photo from high school, even top athletes.

“High school vs. now” was trending on Twitter on Monday, and some teams dusted off the digital scrapbooks to show old photos of their stars.

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LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ was actually a fan suggestion submitted to Bill Simmons

One of LeBron James’ most controversial moments of his career came in 2010 when he made “The Decision” on live TV.

If you don’t remember, James was arguably the greatest free agent in NBA history. After playing seven seasons in Cleveland, he became an unrestricted free agent and was weighing his options on where he’d play next. But instead of a simple announcement, he hosted a 75-minute show that aired on ESPN, where he announced his NBA future and answered questions about his move.

But it turns out the idea wasn’t entirely his.

An ESPN documentary series titled “Backstory” focused on “The Decision” revealed the idea actually came from a fan who thought of it and sent the idea to ESPN’s Bill Simmons. The idea was posted in a mailbag column on Thanksgiving day in 2009. At the time, the fan was simply known as Drew from Columbus, Ohio. But ESPN’s documentary identified him as Drew Wagner.

Here’s Wagner’s full pitch to Simmons:

You know how when top recruits in basketball or football make their college decision, they often call a press conference and put the three hats of the schools that made the final three in front of them … then pick up the hat of the school of choice and put it on? What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called “LeBron’s Choice?” What type of crazy ratings would that get?

Simmons’ response showed he clearly loved the idea as he responded, “Regardless, you’re right — this should be a televised event. If LeBron were smart, he would market the event through his company, sell the rights to a network and reveal his choice on that show. … If people were willing to pay $44.99 for a UFC 106 card headlined by Jenna Jameson’s washed-up husband fighting a guy who hadn’t won in two years, I’m pretty sure they’ll pony up $44.99 for ‘Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict.'”

According to Don Van Natta Jr., who worked on “Backstory,” Simmons pitched the mailbag column idea to James’ inner circle and ESPN executives in February 2010. 

From Van Natta Jr.:

At the All-Star Game weekend in Dallas in February 2010, Simmons pitched the “LeBron’s Decision” idea to James’ business partner, Maverick Carter; James’ agent at the time, Leon Rose; and James’ advisor, William “World Wide Wes” Wesley. Simmons met with Rose and Wesley. “They both loved it,” Simmons later wrote in an email. “I mean, LOVED IT.” He also had a separate meeting with Carter. That weekend, Simmons enthusiastically pitched the idea to several senior ESPN executives.

Natta has more details on the how the event eventually came together.

As for Wagner, he didn’t know for sure if his letter to Simmons made an impact or not. Simmons did all of his work behind the scenes, so there was really no way of knowing for sure. But he told ESPN he had an idea all along.

“I always had in the back of mind that maybe I did kick this into some kind of gear,” Wagner said. “I don’t think I deserve anything from it or any credit. I’m sure plenty of people could have come up with that kind of idea and got the ball rolling. I’m also pretty sure some people would want to shoot the guy who came up with the idea.”

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Brooklyn Nets’ Wilson Chandler opts out of NBA restart

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been among the group of NBA players skeptical of the league's planned restart in Orlando next month. While he won't be participating due to a shoulder injury, one of his teammates won't be making the trip, either. 

Wilson Chandler told ESPN on Sunday that he is opting out of the restart. 

“As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” he told ESPN. “Thank you to the Nets organization for understanding and supporting me in this decision, and I will be watching and rooting for our team in Orlando.”

Chandler, 33, was suspended for the first 25 games of the season for violating the terms of the NBA's Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for Ipamorelin.

“As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” Wilson said. “Thank you to the Nets organization for understanding and supporting me in this decision, and I will be watching and rooting for our team in Orlando.” https://t.co/bN37YdF9zX

A handful of NBA players across the league have announced they are opting out for various reasons, including the Wizards' Davis Bertans, the Los Angeles Lakers' Avery Bradley and the Portland Trail Blazer's Trevor Ariza. Dwight Howard of the Lakers and the Clippers' Lou Williams have publicly indicated they may sit out as well. 

At 30-34, the Nets are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They will battle the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic for the bottom two playoff spots over the final eight games. 

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Jazz’s Gobert says sense of smell ‘still not 100%’

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert still has trouble smelling after testing positive for the coronavirus in March, he told French newspaper L’Equipe.

“The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%,” Gobert said in quotes published Wednesday. “I can smell smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year [to return to normal].”

Gobert was the first reported NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, prompting the league to suspend its season in March.

Asked if he was “100%” to play, the Frenchman said he wouldn’t know until he was back in regular competition. He said he still feels “strange things” but wasn’t sure if that was because of the virus or simply from the long layoff from basketball, which he called the longest in his life.

Overall, he said, “I feel like I’m in good shape,” and doesn’t feel more tired than usual.

Describing his symptoms a month and a half ago, Gobert said he had some “little things” that scared him, such as feeling as if he had “ants in my toes.” He said he only had “very slight” inflammation in his lungs when he went running in the mountains two weeks after his diagnosis.

Worse than the physical symptoms, he said, were the stress and fear that came with the virus.

In an interview with Le Parisien, another French newspaper, published last Monday, Gobert said the criticism he received following his positive tests had an effect on him. Gobert has previously apologized for his careless behavior before he was aware that he was infected.

Gobert said that “of course” he regretted mockingly touching the microphones in an interview room before his diagnosis, but also noted that he believes it was “less risky” to touch the equipment than it was to speak over them, as the virus is commonly transmitted through respiratory droplets.

Gobert also told Le Parisien that he thought the Black Lives Matter movement was “justified,” and said the money that the players and NBA make by resuming their season can be put to good causes such as education.

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Bryant: What ‘The Last Dance’ reveals about Michael Jordan’s legacy

  • Senior Writer, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine
  • Author of “The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron”
  • Author of “Juicing the Game”

LEG· A· CY

Noun

Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. — Merriam-Webster

Professional athletes in the television age have absconded with the word legacy and returned it mangled beyond recognition. Seemingly every basket, home run or touchdown is accompanied by a player absorbed by his own moment, breathlessly declaring, I’m just trying to cement my legacy, when he’s actually just adding to his accomplishments. There’s … a difference.

Legacy is what is left after there are no more clutch jumpers to make and no more opponents to stare down. It isn’t what you’ve done but what it will mean. Legacies cannot be immediately assessed, for they have nothing to do with the present. They’re not about you. At the end of 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa thought their legacies were secure, and they were — but not nearly in the way each envisioned. You must wait and see what time does to your time. Legacy is not yours. It’s how the rest of us navigate what you’ve left in your wake.

Few boats have left a larger wake than Michael Jordan. At a remove, weeks after the ESPN premiere, following the ABC encore and now about to head to Netflix (July 19), his documentary, “The Last Dance,” still reverberates. Twenty-two years removed from when he took his last shot in a Chicago Bulls uniform in 1998, the reappearance of Jordan in “The Last Dance” reminds me of an old joke from my Irish friends growing up in Boston, when they would ask if I knew what “Irish Alzheimer’s” was. When I said no, they would respond, “It’s when you forget everything — but the grudge.” They would laugh because it was funny and they would laugh that intra-clannish laugh reserved for people in the tribe because it reminded them of some fond relative for whom they knew it was fearsomely true. Jordan is of a different tribe, but the grudges still hold, alive, fierce. He has forgotten none, forgiven even fewer.

The film affirmed that his dominance was as we remember, while also confirming darker suspicions. To teammates, Jordan resembled Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back,” killing anyone who disappointed him. To adversaries, he was Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” unsatisfied in defeating all rivals, unsatisfied in his net worth exceeding that of Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf — the same Reinsdorf who once, in a streak of envy toward Jordan, attempted to reduce him to a mere laborer, saying, “Unlike him, nobody signs my checks.” Unsatisfied even in total victory. Michael Jordan has more bloodlust in him, but his moment has passed, there’s no one left to kill, and time — the rival that motivated him to do the film in the first place — can never be defeated.

Jordan lived for the kill, but for all the gossipy sensation of Jordan and Horace Grant calling each other “snitches,” for all the cringing as we watched him humiliate role players on his own team, I thought about Jordan through the true meaning of legacy, about what this ancestor left behind.

WE ALL (THINK WE) ARE JORDAN

About 15 years ago, I argued about universal health insurance with someone stupid, which makes me stupid, and I lost count of the number of times he used the term “socialized medicine,” even though life, auto, house, renters and all other types of common forms of insurance in the United States operate along the same socialized premise: The community pays into the whole for a service you generally do not need — until you do. Your contribution helps take care of other people until the time comes for it to help take care of you. He was unmoved, even when I told him America already practices various forms of universal health.

“If you don’t have insurance, broke your arm and went to the ER, they would still treat you,” I said. “They wouldn’t leave you in the street untreated. Who pays for that? We do. The rest of us.”

“Well, you shouldn’t,” he said. “Leave me on the sidewalk. Why should I be forced to pay for something everyone else uses when I’m perfectly healthy?”

He might have been stupid, and in that moment might have left no doubt, but he also represented a common strain of American individualism, of doing it yourself. No help. No handout. No teamwork. No one to pass the ball to, and no one getting the assist. Americans often believe the person next door is receiving something unearned, something free off of their backs. I work harder than you. Right now someone is complaining about work, about how they are the only ones doing their part, surrounded by the weak links who don’t measure up but want the same reward. They watch the Jordan work ethic, see the results, and see themselves. They relate to Jordan’s single-mindedness when he says early in the documentary that he never asked his teammates to do anything he wasn’t willing to do, and they identify with him justifying his abuse of teammates because his exacting professionalism matches their idealized view of their own — without considering they might instead be Scott Burrell.

Validated by championship results, Jordan sanctified the template of the leader-as-monster, out of necessity. It has been mythologized in sports, by abusive coaches everywhere and recently by the late Kobe Bryant, that punching down on those who are less talented is the champion’s way and those who disagree are losers who simply lack what it takes, who, in Jordan’s words in the documentary, “haven’t won anything.”

“People wanted to get some insight into Michael Jordan: the über-competitiveness, the drive, and we brought the mask down,” the film’s executive producer, Mike Tollin, told me. “Nick Saban is clipping Michael’s lines at the end of Episode 7 to show his football team about what greatness means and what it takes. Business leaders are doing the same thing. Captains and kings of industry are now referring to it.”

Yet all the fantasy glamorization of Jordan’s single-mindedness lands differently in 2020, when universal health care — the concept of a nation using taxes to take care of one another — is now widely accepted. The obsessives like Jordan are now more isolated and even, at times, discredited. The culture still loves the result but is less tolerant of the genius-tyrant. Work-life balance is a thing. Even ballplayers now take time off during the season for the birth of their babies — and the world doesn’t collapse. Caring about one’s family doesn’t make you an unserious professional.

Yet Jordan satisfies two concurrent fantasies. The first is that the tyrant who abuses subordinates does so not because he is a tyrant who cannot control his emotions but because he is correct; he is being dragged down by the lesser around him, and that justifies his rages. The second is that we are all Jordan, undermined by people who don’t put in the work we do. His disdain for his teammates reflects our own. Few people ever toss one back after work and tell people they’re the Bill Cartwright of the office. There was a time when Bobby Knight was glamorized for the same ruthless qualities people glamorize in Jordan. Maybe there’s another way.

YOU PROTECT YOUR OWN TIME

I’m a child of the late 1970s and 1980s, of Bruins vs. Canadiens, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Evert vs. Navratilova, Cowboys vs. Steelers, and, of course, Bird vs. Magic. The release of the 1996 movie “Space Jam” was not a momentous occasion. It was just a kids movie. “The Last Dance” was a reminder that I feel no proprietorship for Michael Jordan. His era was not mine, and therefore for me it’s not protected behind bulletproof glass. He is the younger generation’s Bill Russell, their Jim Brown, their Sandy Koufax. He is the guy who made the old-timers watch like the brothers in the barbershop who used to say if you didn’t see Jim Brown play, you never really saw football, or all the New Yorkers who swore if you missed Joe DiMaggio, you missed perfection and would never see it again.

Jordan doesn’t reflect only himself, but rather the sanctity of a generation for whom the perception of things like the Knicks vs. Bulls mattered most because the grown-up stuff hadn’t yet arrived. He is the mirror of their most beautiful selves. At one point I texted former pitcher CC Sabathia:

ME: You watching Jordan?

CC: Man, I already seen it. Best doc of all time but I’m biased. Hahaha.

ME: Why biased? Jordan brand?

CC: ‘Cause I’m a Jordan fanatic.

Throughout the month the film aired, when even the slightest comment about Jordan was received as vicious criticism, the question reverberated: Why is it so important that Michael Jordan remain unimpeachable?

I don’t have 10, but the eight best basketball teams I’ve personally witnessed were the 1980s Lakers and Celtics, the 1980-83 76ers, the Curry Warriors, the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, Duncan’s Spurs, the Bad Boy Pistons and the Jordan Bulls. I cannot say one is better than the other seven, and need not, for it is generally unimportant. Each dominated its time and each has been eroded a bit over time because that’s what time does — all except for Jordan. Jordan’s is the monument most fiercely guarded, that brooks no debate, the one we are told could time-travel into any era and emerge victoriously, that, like Jordan himself, demands complete submission. Perhaps the reason is that Jordan went 6-0 in NBA Finals and won the Finals MVP in each. Perhaps it is because Jordan’s teams never trailed after three games of any Finals series. Perhaps, but I do not think so.

The Showtime Lakers’ legacy carries the burden of Magic’s air ball against the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1981 playoffs, letting the Celtics off the hook in the 1984 NBA Finals and Ralph Sampson two years later in the Western Conference finals. Larry Bird went 1-2 against Magic in the Finals. Detroit had a short championship run. Bill Russell’s untouchable eight straight titles, 11 in 13 years, occurred when the league was a third of its current size. LeBron is 3-6 in NBA Finals. The 2015-16 Warriors won 73 games but not the title. Given all of that, surely the legacy of Michael and his Bulls must carry a burden. They dominated a soft patch in the NBA when Showtime and the Celtics faded and San Antonio and Shaq-Kobe hadn’t yet arrived. The Bulls never faced an all-time great Finals opponent, and no player Jordan faced in the Finals, other than an aging Magic on a hodgepodge ’91 team, was a top-10 all-time great. (Sorry, Mailman.) Surely, Jordan’s legacy must carry a 2-5 postseason record against Bird, Magic and Isiah Thomas, having never won even a single playoff game against Larry Bird the player, yes?

No.

Like Jordan himself, Jordan protectors remain undeterred, unwilling to concede even a point. The real reason, I suspect, is that Michael Jordan stands as the godfather of the modern, global game, when all of the things came together at once. He was the most exciting aerial player with enormous style influences beyond basketball — from head (the Jordan shaved head was cool, the Slick Watts clean head an oddity) to waist to, most defining, the shoes. Jordan connected to his generation’s sense of identity far beyond the game. And while winning so much, people forgot he ever lost. He is the only A-list, Hall of Fame superstar in NBA history who was never dethroned on the court as defending champion. When the Bulls failed to defend their 1993 title, Jordan was lunging at curveballs in the minor leagues. When he was knocked out of the 1995 playoffs after his return, the Houston Rockets were defending champions. When the 1999 Bulls didn’t even make the playoffs, Jerrys Krause and Reinsdorf had blown up the dynasty. Jordan was retired. Whenever Jordan returned to the court after winning a championship, he won another one.

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Within this framework, “The Last Dance” risked offering only hagiography, an entertaining reminder of who was in charge, a reinforcement of the unimpeachable man. Jordan is not reflective on camera. He does not offer the panoramic insights time is supposed to afford. He is singular, as he was during his time, the undisputed point of the pyramid. If “The Last Dance” is an accurate lens of how Michael Jordan wanted to be seen, it was a world without women in the foreground. The only spouse/girlfriend in the entire documentary is, yes, Carmen Electra, who was dating Dennis Rodman at the time. Michael Jordan travels from the locker room to the cigar bar. He is the alpha male.

His first wife, Juanita, is never directly mentioned. His current wife, Yvette Prieto, is not mentioned at all. At no point over 10 episodes does Michael Jordan refer to his family, wife and kids as a refuge from the pressures of the world, an anchor, a source of joy where he refuels what has been expended from the fight. Outside of his mother and father, and growing up, he doesn’t refer to family. He is now as he was then: the athlete incarnate, showing no weakness, even equating regret or compassion to weakness. Scott Burrell, Jordan reminds us, is “just a nice guy.” By this stage in the journey, we are expected to age and reflect and reconsider. Michael Jordan appears only to be aging.

CONTROL

In 2018, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michiko Kakutani eviscerated the Trump administration’s habitual lying to the public in her book “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump.” Twenty-three years earlier, in 1995, just as Jordan was returning to basketball, Major League Baseball attempted to circumvent the free press by starting its own news website, MLB.com. So began an era of sports leagues competing with traditional media — NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network and MLB Network. In 2014, Derek Jeter founded The Players’ Tribune, a website designed to allow players to tell their stories without a media filter — and communicate directly to the public without having to answer questions.

Governments, musicians and film celebrities have long blocked access from the public, but the nuisance of the open locker room left professional athletes late to the control party. LeBron James now has SpringHill Entertainment, his powerful production company. Kevin Durant has Thirty Five Ventures. Steph Curry has Unanimous Media. Carmelo Anthony has Krossover Entertainment. Malcolm Jenkins has one, Listen Up Media. A co-executive producer of “Blackballed,” the recently released documentary on the Donald Sterling-Los Angeles Clippers scandal, is — Chris Paul. The strategy is clear: Whether individual players or entire leagues, the powerful want to control the answers and the questions.

“The Last Dance” has been criticized for being an inside job, a Jordan-brand vehicle instead of independent documentary journalism, and it is true that heavy-hitting insiders combined to make the film possible. Along with Mike Tollin at Mandalay Sports Media, Jordan business partners Estee Portnoy and Curtis Polk served as executive producers. Polk is Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets co-owner. Portnoy is Jordan’s business and brand manager. Tollin and NBA commissioner Adam Silver have been close for decades. Mandalay chairman and CEO Peter Guber is a longtime powerhouse in the sports field and executive chairman of the Golden State Warriors, and he serves on the NBA board of governors. Jordan’s brand Jumpman paid prominent journalists to take over its live Twitter feed for the documentary with one stipulation: They were prohibited from criticizing Jordan, his teammates or anyone he played against.

Jordan and the NBA jointly own the footage of “The Last Dance” — footage the public likes to believe belongs to them, memories of what they witnessed on TV, or if they were lucky enough, saw in person. Whether it be from the White House, the basketball court or the commissioner’s offices, billionaires aim to control the media. Information is the target of privatization as surely as the post office, Social Security or your local trash pickup. The goal is to curb public accountability, what the public knows, to smother the constitutional, traditional expectation of a free press. All presidents have learned well the lessons of Watergate and Vietnam, and in the half-century since have manipulated media so completely they have virtually guaranteed the press never takes down an administration again.

The same is true of the NFL, NHL and MLB. All footage occurring within an arena of a professional sports team belongs to the league. If a fan who pays for a ticket at Staples Center shoots a 10-second cellphone video of Kawhi Leonard during warm-ups, the NBA owns that footage, even though those stadiums are funded by the public. Your tax dollars fund private property. They control what you see.

Tollin is insulted by the criticism that “The Last Dance” is propaganda. Jordan, he said, made no requests or demands of the filmmakers, had minimal questions and did not interfere with the editorial process. Jordan was interviewed three times at various properties in Florida for a total of eight hours, and altogether, Tollin said, they interviewed 105 other people — with a list three times as long. Tollin said the omissions — the lack of Jordan’s family, the dearth of dissenting voices, especially that of blackballed former teammate Craig Hodges — were not driven by Jordan. Tollin said Hodges was on their list, but the interview simply never materialized.

“We had a checklist: gambling, conspiracy theory about retirement, his father’s death, his lack of activism and his teammates,” Tollin told me. “I think we touched on all categories. From the start, we asked ourselves, ‘Is this a workplace drama or is it a domestic one?’ We both believed it was a workplace story, and [director] Jason [Hehir] and I shared a general disinterest of the wives and children of the lead characters. Michael is one of the most private people of our lifetimes. He’s glad this is over. He wants to get on with his regularly scheduled life. Michael never said you can’t talk to either of his wives. We didn’t feel doing so advanced the story.”

How to Watch

  • ‘The Last Dance’: How to replay and stream ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary

Every person should be entitled to their story, especially for a person as forensically dissected as Michael Jordan. I asked Joe Dumars, the Hall of Fame Pistons guard, why he wasn’t in the film. He told me the filmmakers reached out to him, but while he had enormous respect for Jordan and found it entertaining, the film was Michael’s show. His story, as he saw it.

In a sense, Tollin and the director, Jason Hehir, got lucky that Jordan was willing to be seen as openly as he was. “I think the film did much to demystify him,” Tollin said. “There were many times when it took a hard, unflattering look at him.” Watching Jordan was the singular power of the five weeks, fascinating but not always a compliment. He is not a gracious warrior. It also must be said that omitting Jordan’s family is a glaring hole, for home is an essential component to understanding a person in full dimension. Home should be the place where we are at our most human. Did he not talk to his wife at the time? How did she feel about Bill Laimbeer cheap-shotting her husband? Did she soothe him, give him life? Did he bring the game home, as Henry Aaron once told me no athlete should ever do? Or does Michael Jordan always stand alone?

“The Last Dance” is not propaganda, but it is a product of public space controlled by private interest. Privatization — the leagues as sole proprietors of the images we all witness, the players executively producing themselves — is not only the chilling future of filmmaking but its present. It is also America. Since 1970, public wealth in the United States has plummeted to almost nothing. Public lands are being privatized; try sitting in New York City’s Bryant Park — designated a public park in 1686 but privately managed since the 1980s — after midnight. Public journalism, uncontrolled by its subjects and its corporate partners, is on a ventilator. Like presidents, entertainers and sports leagues, athletes have decided that the best way to control their message is to control the medium. He does not aspire to be a filmmaker, but Michael Jordan spawned a new generation of athlete-as-mogul, branding their sneakers, now privatizing their voices. Off the court, LeBron James rarely appears on programming he doesn’t own. This generation has entered into the media space not to preserve public journalism but to destroy it, to not be questioned. Under such controls, that an often unflattering but authentically human picture of Jordan emerges is a victory — and a reminder of how government has failed to protect its citizens from private takeover of publicly financed facilities. Control is an essential component of empire.

REPUBLICANS, SHOES AND SO ON …

GE·O·POL·I·TICS

Noun

Politics, especially international relations, as influenced by geographical factors. — Merriam-Webster

In the 1990 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, Jordan did not publicly endorse Harvey Gantt, a Black Democrat attempting to unseat Jesse Helms, a white Republican incumbent. It is, and forever will be, incorrect to view Jordan’s decision as a refusal to engage in politics. Jordan’s off-the-court legacy is very political: He is the non-military extension of the post-Cold War American Empire. Jordan spread American consumerism and cultural influence of underwear and soft drink, sneaker and hamburger sellers to the world without providing a voice at home for the Black people, his people, who largely and painfully comprise the empire’s underclass. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. In 1990, McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Russia. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Jordan’s presence at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as a McDonald’s pitchman did nearly as much for Big Macs globally as it did for basketball. Adidas and Puma owned the European sneaker markets before Barcelona. After, on the feet of Jordan, Nike was the choice of the coolest athlete in the globally growing, cool sport.

The influence of American capitalism and cultural dominance saturated the fledgling post-Soviet republics and the suddenly deregulated Russian economy. It is impossible to address the geopolitical impact of American culture in the final decade of the 20th century without seriously discussing the power of Michael Jordan. And far from omitting Jordan’s contribution to American cultural geopolitics, it is routinely celebrated, for empire is generally seen as his greatest accomplishment. According to Forbes, his net worth was $2.1 billion as of May, and he ranks No. 1,001 on Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world. He is America’s richest former athlete.

Jordan sold America, and America reveled in the great Black man as leading cultural export — softening the reality of what the nation was doing to its Black citizens. This selling of America is driven by politics, but the word political exists as a pejorative only when used as a stand-in for “Black people.” When discussing the popularity of basketball around the globe, the revenue it has generated, the countries that now enjoy robust basketball leagues and international programs, people readily and heartily credit Michael Jordan, basking in the afterglow of what he did for America’s standing in the world.

“In ’92, the NBA was in 80 countries, and now the NBA is in 215 countries,” the late commissioner David Stern said in Episode 10. “Anyone who understands the phenomenon of that historical arc will understand that Michael Jordan and his era played a tremendous part. He advanced us tremendously.”

Former President Barack Obama echoed Stern moments later. “He became an extraordinary ambassador, not just for basketball but for the United States overseas and part of American culture sweeping the globe. Michael Jordan and the Bulls changed the culture.”

While selling that America, however, Jordan also sent the message through his silence during the Helms-Gantt race: The millions of white people who did not care to hear his political advocacy were far more important to him than the millions of Black people who did. This was not a money choice, for Michael Jordan has never been in danger of losing any, but of choosing more money. Of choosing empire. Of choosing not to risk a single, ruthless cent — and of not choosing Black people. Michael Jordan could have sold American opportunity while making very clear the difficulties endured by Black people whose foothold in this country had always been tenuous — a fact he knows personally as well as anyone. Paul Robeson did it. Jackie Robinson did it. Rose Robinson did it. John Carlos did it. Bill Russell did it. Muhammad Ali did it. Michael Jordan chose not to.

It was Jordan’s choice to make, but do not tell me that a choice then was not being made — just as a choice now was made for Jordan to donate $100 million to fight racial inequality as America fractured and burned following George Floyd’s death, as unidentified secret soldiers occupied city streets. Fascinatingly, because he must always remain unimpeachable, always victorious, the empire still sells Jordan’s silence and his billions as an asset to the Black people living with nothing — this one-in-a-million talent as aspirational to them. He represents the payoff, the idea that you can survive the maze of dead ends and false promises that comprise the dead-or-in-jail narrative America loves so much when one of its favorite Black athletes survives and emerges a billionaire. This is usually done through lionizing the legendary Jordan work ethic, as if all that Black people needed — the ones who grew up as he did, where he did, and wound up carrion in America’s deadly wake — was not his genius or a system unbent on killing them, but his drive. This is the American fantasy and its favorite use for Michael Jordan: for his presence to remind Black people that they are solely responsible for their woeful place in this land. He made it. So could they, if only they worked as hard. It is the greatest insult of all.

FIN

Twenty-two years after the Bulls dynasty, Michael Jordan left a legacy of the athlete incarnate, the exemplar for those who worship obsession, dominance, empire and ruthlessness — not just for his sport but for all sports. He is the standard not of disposition but of results, for there have been many Jordan-like obsessives who scorched the earth, alienated contemporaries but did not win. He is at once an untouchable standard and cautionary symbol of the journey.

“The Last Dance” was not a celebration. It was not an invitation to share and reminisce, but a reiteration of domination — not over the Lakers, the Suns, Jazz, Sonics or Blazers, but over everyone, teammate or opponent, fan or writer, the unborn rivals to the throne, over anyone who’s ever thought about dribbling a basketball. Jordan is no different from the artists and generals, the Wall Streeters and scientists, and all of the other obsessives who push themselves to the point of insanity, and often beyond it, to complete the quest. He has captivated the world because of it. The film will stand for its moments of humanity and truth: Michael Jordan was willing to die to win, but he was also willing to destroy to win, and when seen through the lens of his isolation, loneliness, physical and mental exhaustion, the price of total victory has already killed off very important parts of himself, because even in total victory, this biggest man often looks so terribly small. Compassion, collaboration, friendship, the instinct to celebrate over dominate, these qualities were absent from “The Last Dance” because they were missing from him. They may be unimportant qualities worth ridicule in the theater of Game 7 competition, but Game 7 is long over, and they are now essential for Jordan’s second act, after the dance. As an owner, executive, colleague and mortal, he has appeared adrift, uncertain how to exist without empire — without the need to remind you of Michael Jordan’s place, without someone to beat. Without these qualities, looking backward at his conquered foes appears to be the only satisfying place for Michael Jordan to be.

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Hinson: Mississippi flag played role in transfer

Former Ole Miss guard Blake Hinson said the Confederate symbol on the state flag of Mississippi played a role in his decision to transfer to Iowa State.

“It was time to go and leave Ole Miss,” Hinson told the Daytona Beach (Florida) News-Journal. “I’m proud not to represent that flag anymore and to not be associated with anything representing the Confederacy.”

Mississippi is on the verge of changing its state flag to erase the Confederate battle emblem following nationwide protests against racial injustice.

Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis was among a contingent of 46 coaches and administrators from eight public universities who went to the state legislature Thursday to lobby for the emblem’s removal.

Legislators are expected to start voting Sunday to remove the current flag from state law. A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.”

The SEC and NCAA both announced last week that NCAA postseason events would not be played in Mississippi until the state flag is changed. Conference USA, of which Southern Miss is a member, made a similar announcement Monday.

Hinson, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season, will join a Cyclones team that is also bringing in former DePaul guard Jalen Coleman-Lands as a graduate transfer but lost potential lottery pick Tyrese Haliburton to the NBA draft.

“I felt like it was the best option for me,” Hinson told the newspaper of his decision to join the Cyclones. “There wasn’t a real science that went into it. I looked into the schools and the play style, and I thought I fit best in Iowa State’s system.”

ESPN’s Chris Low and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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NBA schedule 2020: Dates, times, TV channels for season restart in Orlando

More than three months after the NBA suspended play following Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test, the league is finally on track to return. After the NBA and National Basketball Players Association officially finalized a plan for a restart, the full finish of the regular-season schedule was revealed Friday night. 

Play is set to resume July 30 with a doubleheader featuring the Jazz vs. Pelicans and Clippers vs. Lakers. “Seeding games” will continue each day through Aug. 14 to determine playoff positioning. The postseason will follow the typical format with full best-of-seven series all the way through the NBA Finals.

A total of 22 teams will travel to Orlando, Fla.: the 16 teams currently in playoff position and six teams within six games of the No. 8 seed in either conference (Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, Wizards).

Outside of the game schedule, there are additional unprecedented challenges. Players will be dealing with the threat of the novel coronavirus and injury following such a long layoff, plus the mental challenge of remaining focused on basketball while being largely isolated from the outside world.

The full 2020 NBA regular-season schedule is listed below by date along with the current standings. (Times and TV channels for the final two days of seeding games have not yet been revealed.)

NBA schedule 2020

(All times Eastern)

July 30

July 31

Aug. 1 

Aug. 2

Aug. 3

Aug. 4

Aug. 5

Aug. 6

Aug. 7

Aug. 8

Aug. 9

Aug. 10

Aug. 11

Aug. 12

Aug. 13

Aug. 14

NBA standings 2020

Here are the current NBA standings as of March 11, the last day official games were played. Teams in bold have been invited to Orlando to finish the regular season.

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

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Chris Paul on NBA addressing racial issues: ‘It’s never a shut up and dribble situation’

In just over a month, 22 of the NBA's 30 teams will step onto a court and do something they have not done since mid-March. They will play in a basketball game.

With the NBA resuming the season in the middle of a novel coronavirus pandemic and protests on racial inequality, the league plans to do much more than determine its champion.

"It's never a shut up and dribble situation," Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and NBA players union president, said Friday in a conference call. "You're going to continue to hear us."

How will the NBA and its players ensure that their voices are heard? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, Paul and NBPA first vice president Andre Iguodala did not share definitive plans. Yet, they offered a few clues.

MOVING FORWARD: Silver, Paul call on NBA to improve diversity in hiring

SCHEDULE: NBA releases slate of seeding games to finish regular season

Silver said the NBA has created a foundation "to expand educational and economic opportunities across the Black community." Silver and Paul vowed that the league will improve its hiring practice for Black people, women and other minorities for front-office and coaching positions. The NBA and the NBPA announced this week that they are "both committed to fostering an environment that encourages candid conversations between players and league and team leadership and finding tangible and sustainable ways to address racial inequality across the country."

It is not immediately clear if the NBA will allow players, coaches and staff members to protest during the national anthem. Or if NBA teams will wear Black Lives Matters slogans on their jersey as the English Premier League. Or which guest speakers the NBA will invite to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex.

"I won’t tell you much specifically, but there is such an opportunity for our players both to learn and to teach and to promote and advance," Roberts said. "This is truly once in a lifetime opportunity."

USA TODAY Sports' Mark Medina breaks down the details of the NBA bubble in Orlando.

USA TODAY

Nearly two weeks ago, some NBA players expressed concern if this was the right opportunity to pursue.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who is also on the NBPA’s executive committee, led a conference call expressing concern on whether a resumed NBA season would distract from efforts to address racial inequality and police brutality. Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Clippers guard Lou Williams expressed similar sentiments.

This week, a handful of players opted not to participate in the resumed season, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza and Bradley. Bertans opted out for injury prevention entering his free agency. Ariza wants to take advantage of his month-long custody with his 12-year-old son. And Bradley expressed concern about his six-year-old son’s respiratory issues.

"You show me a league where everybody has the same views," Paul said. "We have 450 players. It’s always hard to be on the same page. But one thing about it is we learned to communicate better. None of us are perfect. But what we’re learning is when we communicate with each other. The guys that choose to go play, we support those. And we support those that don’t go play."

Either way, the majority of NBA players have opted to participate in the resumed season. During the league’s hiatus, players have taken varying efforts to address racial injustice.

They have posted various social media messages decrying law enforcement for killing unarmed Black people, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain. Plenty of NBA players have participated in peaceful protests, including Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Josh Okogie, the Lakers’ Danny Green, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris. LeBron James formed a group to address voter suppression and increase voter turnout in the Black community. The Timberwolves and the Lakers have added various programs to address racial justice programs among their players and staff.

"I can’t imagine anything healthier than that," Roberts said. "I would’ve been ashamed had there been a conversation that the players have said about getting back to play and nothing else. Frankly as an African American woman, I would’ve been disappointed. I know these men. There was a great conversation and we are continuing the conversation."

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Coach K: Black Lives Matter not a political issue

  • Covers college basketball
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2011
  • Graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato

In a passionate message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said “it’s time” for America to address and solve systemic racism.

Through a message released via Twitter on Friday afternoon, Krzyzewski said America had chosen the “easier wrong” for 400 years and denied the impact of racism.

“We see that,” Krzyzewski said in the video. “And what do we do when we see it? We turn the other way. We don’t solve the problem. The problem will not be solved and no problem is solved unless you acknowledge the problem. Acknowledge it. If you acknowledge it, you have the duty to solve it. We as a country have the duty to solve this problem.”

Krzyzewski had previously released a statement after George Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, which said, “I am angry!”

On Friday, the five-time national champion coach said the support of African-Americans in this moment is a matter of humanity.

“Black Lives Matter. Say it. Can you say it? Black Lives Matter,” Krzyzewski said at the start of the video. “We should be saying it every day. It’s not political. This is not a political statement. It’s a human rights statement. It’s a fairness statement.”

While Floyd’s death sparked protests around the country, there had been multiple incidents that had fueled the emotions of those affected and concerned about the climate in the country around race. Three white men were recently indicted on murder charges for the February killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot while jogging in Georgia. Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, was killed in Louisville, Kentucky, in March after police executed a “no-knock” warrant and shot the 26-year-old at least eight times, per reports. An officer has been charged with felony murder after shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta earlier this month. A second officer has been charged with aggravated assault. Both were dismissed following the incident, which was captured on video.

“Do we not see the problem?” Krzyzewski asked. “The disease, the plague that has been with our country for four centuries. Do we not see systemic racism and social injustice. C’mon. We all see it. It’s manifested in so many ways: criminal justice, the killings that we have seen and that we haven’t seen, the denial of economic opportunities for our Black community, educational opportunities, health care. it’s manifested in so many ways and has been for four centuries.”

Krzyzewski’s messages follows a string of actions by a variety of college basketball coaches who’ve vowed to create change. South Carolina’s Frank Martin, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, North Carolina Central’s LeVelle Moton and other minority coaches have called for high schools and colleges to require courses in Black history for students before their graduation.

John Calipari has promised to start a minority internship program in the Kentucky athletic department. A group of Big East assistant coaches have formed a coalition to address injustice.

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development, a group anchored by some of the top black coaches in the country, has called out the lack of diversity among coaches, athletic directors and school presidents in collegiate athletics.

“For a long time now, black, brown and economically oppressed Americans have been whispering ‘We can’t breathe,’ but America has not been listening,” the group’s statement said. “This has never been more prevalent than it is today in the hiring practices of professional and collegiate sports organizations in leadership positions. Head coaches, athletics directors, general managers and owners still remain predominantly white, while players are predominantly black.”

Krzyzewski has led one of college basketball’s elite programs since 1980. His statement punctuates a collective energy, which has grown in recent weeks, within the college basketball community.

“We, as a country, have chosen the easier wrong for four centuries,” Krzyzewski said, referencing a prayer from his days as an Army cadet. “It is time to choose the harder right. It is time to end systemic racism and social injustice. It’s time. Black Lives Matter.”

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