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Sports Strength

18 Sweet Gifts For Wrestling Fans

Season’s beatings are upon us, and wrestling fans are clamoring for hot merchandise! In the age of on-demand content and ultra-niche hobbies, a preponderance of exciting items are available to cater to every specific need, and pro wrestling is no exception. 

The tricky part about gift-giving, especially for wrestling fans, is parsing out what’s actually cool versus what’s tragically nerdy. With that in mind, we’ve put together a quick shopping list for your holiday needs, ranging from custom items to outrageous fashions.

1. WWE Championship Commemorative Belt
WWE

As a child who had the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship, I can confirm that there were few things more fun than pretending I was in a title fight, hitting moves and taking bumps with an imaginary opponent on my grandparents’ bed and raising the belt at the end. You can give someone that experience this Christmas with the WWE Championship Commemorative Belt. It’s moulded from an actual handmade belt with the only difference being that it’s made of high quality acrylic plastic as opposed to metal.

Buy now, $190
https://shop.wwe.com/wwe-championship-commemorative-title-belt-%282014%29/W07718.html?dwvar_W07718_color=No%20Color#start=2
2. Roman Reigns ‘Head Of The Table’ T-Shirt
WWE

The Big Dog has had a story with a bunch of peaks and valleys in his time with the WWE. For a while, many found it hard to cheer for him, seeing him as a representation of a larger problem with WWE’s creative team, but that’s in the past now. He’s arguably the face of the company and to celebrate that, you can get the Head Of The Table shirt for a Roman Reigns fan this Christmas.

Buy now, $28
https://shop.wwe.com/roman-reigns-head-of-the-table-authentic-t-shirt/1567324644.html?dwvar_1567324644_color=black#curr=GBP&start=1
3. Sasha Banks ‘Boss Time’ Studded Ring Set
WWE

Sasha Banks is red hot right now and is well on her way to becoming a Hall of Famer. The current SmackDown Women’s Champion, a Women’s Grand Slam champion and a Triple Crown Champion, any kind of Sasha Banks merchandise right now is a lock to put a smile on the face of a wrestling fan this Christmas. We picked out the Boss Time studded ring set but there are also slippers, water bottles, dog leashes and more for sale.

Buy now, $15
https://shop.wwe.com/sasha-banks-boss-time-studded-ring-set/230FD05AEC.html?dwvar_230FD05AEC_color=No%20Color#curr=GBP&start=16
4. The Undertaker ’30 Years’ Poster
WWE

November 19th of this year marked 30 years since The Undertaker debuted in the WWE at Survivor Series. He’s had a long, illustrious career among many eras and has remained relevant in each one, a household name and one of the greatest to ever do it. To celebrate the 30 years and mark Taker’s retirement, WWE released a big line of merchandise that would be perfect for any pro wrestling fan. The Snoop Dogg collaboration t-shirts got some stick on social media, but they might be your thing if you’re into vintage tees. Along with those and the poster we like the most, there’s a pillow, a mug, a commemorative urn, a pin, a keychain, a belt, a costume and much, much more.

Buy now, $16
https://shop.wwe.com/undertaker-30-years-18×24-poster/198414096.html?dwvar_198414096_color=No%20Color#pagesize=126&start=27\
5. NITRO: The Incredible Rise & Inevitable Collapse Of Ted Turner’s WCW
Good Reads

The WCW era in pro wrestling was a short but sweet one and telling its story here is Guy Evans. Whether you were a fan through the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was functioning or not, his account will make you feel like you were right there in the heat of it. Eric Bischoff, former President of WCW, calls it “the most definitive, well written and thoroughly researched book on the rise and fall off WCW” and going further, Conrad Thompson, host of Something To Wrestle and 83 Weeks, says it’s “without question the very best book ever written on professional wrestling.” If that’s not enough to convince you, nothing will be. It’s available as an audiobook too.

Buy now, $20
https://www.amazon.co.uk/NITRO-Incredible-Inevitable-Collapse-Turners/dp/0692139176
6. AEW DVD
Shop AEW

Considering how new AEW is, there’s a good chance that a hardcore pro-wrestling fan has either seen every show that they’ve put on, or hasn’t quite been convinced yet. Very few people will fall down the middle. Regardless of what side they stand on, an AEW DVD could be the right thing to put in their stocking this Christmas. They might want to relive some of their favourite shows, have some of the early shows documented with a physical copy forever, or maybe they want to give it a start in their own time.

Buy now, $25
https://www.shopaew.com/
7. AEW Action Figures
Shop AEW

In just under two years, All Elite Wrestling has made a huge impact on the pro-wrestling world, as many expected them to. When I was a kid, playing with WWE action figures like Edge, Randy Orton and John Cena gave me hours of fun and had me running wild with my imagination. Now, AEW have released their own set of action figures. Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes are all on offer and sure to satisfy both kids who want to play with them and adults who see them as collectible pieces to display, either still in the box or out of it.

Buy now, $35
https://www.ringsidecollectibles.com/toys-figures-wrestling-all-elite-wrestling-aew.html
8. Bray Wyatt ‘The Fiend’ Replica Mask
WWE

I don’t know about you, but I’ll never forget the first time I saw The Fiend on my screen. It was eery and reminded me of when The Undertaker debuted 30 long years ago. It felt like he was about to make an impact and a large part of the reason was the mask. I’m not afraid to admit it made me feel more uneasy than it should have as someone in my early twenties. If you’re looking to give someone the same feeling, then you can get them The Fiend’s mask this Christmas. You can either buy a standard replica for about $40 or buy the deluxe replica, with more details, for $200.

Buy now, $40
https://shop.wwe.com/bray-wyatt-the-fiend-replica-mask/16046752AE.html?dwvar_16046752AE_color=No%20Color
9. WWE Network Gift Card
WWE

The WWE Network is a forward-thinking system that it’s safe to say we’ll see other huge names in sports adopt sooner or later. For just $9.99 a month, fans can watch thousands and thousands of hours of WWE programming on demand, including the month’s PPV with no additional costs. Whether you want to keep up with the weekly shows or reminisce and watch episodes of RAW or SmackDown from when you were a child, the Network is the place to be, which is actually why paying for someone’s subscription with a gift card is a perfect gift this Christmas.

Buy now, $30
https://shop.wwe.com/wwe-network-3-month-subscription-prepaid-card/W10358.html?dwvar_W10358_color=No%20Color
10. WWE 2K Battlegrounds
via 2K

The 2K website describes this new game as having “all-new, over the top, in your face action” and that’s really better than I could ever describe it. This is a left turn from the usual annual releases from 2K after the developers saw the series start to dwindle slightly in recent years. The pandemic didn’t help either. Instead of pressing on with the same game, they bring us this bundle of fun with plans to return to the standard simulator next year. This is to the WWE 2K series what NBA Playgrounds is to the NBA 2K series. A game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and benefits from it.

Buy now, $20
https://wwe.2k.com/battlegrounds/buy/
11. Green Ant Lucha Masks
Via Eric Shorey

CHIKARA’s resilient rookie is known for high-flying antics and acts of selfless bravery, but did you know he’s also a budding designer? This diligent bug sells replica masks and custom designs at fair prices, and you get the bonus satisfaction of knowing each one was 100 percent handmade. 

BUY NOW, $30-$80
https://greenant.bigcartel.com/category/masks
12. Rainmaker Money Launcher
Via Eric Shorey

Recreate Kazuchika Okada’s opulent entrance with this absurd purchase that includes 100 Rainmaker dollars that can’t be spent literally anywhere. It’s not exactly useful, but as far as novelty gags go, it doesn’t get much better.

BUY NOW, $44
https://shop.njpw.co.jp/iwgp/g/g2576061298/?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_medium=&utm_term=&utm_content=&utm_campaign=
13. WWE Masters of the WWE Universe Grayskull Mania Bundle
via Eric Shorey

It’s always been easy to imagine pro wrestlers as superheroes—and now Mattel has made this relationship quite literal. The rocky toy ring even has an absurd backstory to go with the redesigned high-fantasy grapplers: Can denim-clad John Cena save WWEternia (no, really, that’s what it’s called) from Terror Claws Triple H?! Only you can decide!

BUY NOW, $30
https://shop.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ms/masters-of-the-universe/wwe-masters-of-the-wwe-universe-grayskull-mania-bundle-gmn96
14. Brody King Balaclava
via Eric Shorey

Protect your face from frostbite with this on-trend ski mask from Villain Enterprise’s resident enforcer. We named Brody one of the most stylish goths of 2019, and his exclusive merch with Lapel Yeah is helping you bring him his unique brand of dark style with this winter-appropriate accessory.

BUY NOW, $20
https://lapelyeah.com/password
15. Sami vs Generico Dream Match Tee
via Eric Shorey

Around the time El Generico retired from wrestling to run an orphanage in Tijuana, a lovable red-bearded fighter began appearing on NXT. Fans noting similarities between the two have dreamed of the day these legendary grapplers would one day fight, but no one seems to be able to track down the heroic luchador. Now, Sami’s raising money for victims of the current war in Syria with this collectible tee.

BUY NOW, $29.99
https://unicornshirts.net/product/the-dream-match-generico-vs-sami-shirt/
16. Stone Cold IPA
via Eric Shorey

WWE has distanced itself from the boozy Attitude Era but Stone Cold’s still going strong with his own brand of IPA, featuring “Citra, Cascade, and Chinook hops.” Give Santa a “Hell Yeah” and throw that ol’ boy a brew from America’s favorite badass. 

BUY NOW, $5.99
https://craftshack.com/products/el-segundo-steve-austins-broken-skull-ipa
17. An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling
Via Eric Shorey

LaToya Ferguson’s excellent and detailed profiles of the biggest names in women’s wrestling is a perfect gift for the brainy fan. The book is perfect for display on a coffee table, but also functions as an informative primer for the stories of trailblazing athletes who don’t get nearly enough recognition for shaping the sport we know and love.

BUY NOW, $14.69
https://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Womens-Wrestling-Profiles-Strongest/dp/1454931205/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=womens+wrestling+guide&qid=1574782318&sr=8-4
18. Ric Flair Chalk Line Jacket
via Eric Shorey

You may never possess the unique and cocaine-riddled charisma of Ric Flair, but you can at least cop his signature look with Chalk Line’s eccentric interpretations of classic pro-wrestling gear. If the Ric Flair jacket’s too flashy, we recommend the old school NWO variation as a more understated backup. 

BUY NOW, $89.99
https://shop.wwe.com/ric-flair-blue-chalk-line-track-jacket/021-202-005-4.html
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Sports Strength

A Salute to WWE’s ‘Hidden Gems’

As a visual medium, professional wrestling is effectively infinite. There are constantly high-quality performances going on across the globe, many of which are being recorded, and it’s been that way for a long time. The availability has gotten significantly better, thanks to streaming the expense and difficulty of video production nosediving, but in a sense, it’s kind of always been that way. Even when pro wrestling was a regional television production, most of the regional promotions all had their own TV shows. The cost of videotape and ease of reusing it meant that a lot wasn’t saved—by the promotions or fans—and that there’s far from a complete accounting of what’s out there, though. Throw in X-factors like fan-shot bootlegs—especially in Japan, where it was implicitly approved—among many other things, and you get the idea: There’s a lot of pro wrestling that’s known to exist on videotape, and so much more could exist that collecting it can often be a mystery.

In September 2016, WWE leaned into this by launching the Hidden Gems feature on its WWE Network streaming service, releasing newly discovered (and sometimes rediscovered) footage, which became a weekly series in May 2018. It was an uncharacteristic love letter to long-term, die-hard fans, one that constantly checked off boxes of holy grails, previously unseen matches and cards, wowing fans at every turn. Unfortunately, though, it appears to have come to an end. Reportedly, with zero announcement from WWE, the ongoing Hidden Gems updates have been dropped. As of this writing, WWE has not responded to an email requesting comment on the report’s accuracy.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Hidden Gems releases were basically everything that the hardcore, old-school videotape trading fans could have possibly dreamed of. The first batch that introduced the concept in 2016 included one item that made it the best possible mission statement: Tommy Rich vs. Buzz Sawyer in “The Last Battle of Atlanta” from Oct. 23, 1983. The feud-ender to a long, drawn-out, and bloody feud that aired nationally on Superstation WTBS, the match was heavily hyped in the newsstand wrestling magazines, influential as the steel cage match with a roof on the cage… and it was seemingly not taped.

Well, at least as far as anyone knew. Not a frame of the match, even in edited form, so it felt like a normal casualty of numerous cards not being filmed, just an egregious example because the match was so heavily hyped. As it turned out, WWE had the tape with the match—actually the entire card from the Omni Arena—since it bought the assets of World Championship Wrestling in 2001. It was just one of the thousands of tapes in WWE’s massive library that had yet to be aired. This was somewhat understandable, as the tape of the card in question was one of several in a group labeled “Omni Live Events” with no other identifying information.

Over the next three-plus years, especially during the last 18 months, when new Gems were released weekly, long-desired wrestling footage kept pouring out with shocking consistency. A previously unavailable world title match from the weekly matches in Fort Worth, Texas, which were long thought to be lost? Check. “The God of Pro Wrestling” Karl Gotch from his time as a tag team champion in WWE in the early 1970s? Check. Full episodes of television shows from Shreveport, Louisiana, and Dallas not seen since they first aired about four decades ago? Check. Lex Luger being introduced as WWE champion at a TV taping to trick the media? Check. A bevy of non-televised matches from WWE TV tapings featuring tryout matches for Konnan, Sabu, A.J. Styles, War Raider Ivar, and others, as well as a tryout interview for Jimmy Garvin?  Check, check, check, check, check, and check. All this barely scratches the surface; there were numerous non-televised shows from the ‘80s, from the card where the opening scene of Highlander was filmed to the long-desired 1986 Crockett Cup tournament, unaired pilots, and more, including numerous strange odds and ends.

As much as the uber-classic footage was the most desirable of the lot, the Hidden Gems producers’ unbridled enthusiasm for stuff that was just plain weird may have been the heart and soul. There were the legitimate press conferences for some of the early WrestleManias, one replete with numerous satellite transmission errors, another that featured a local youth pastor who somehow got credentialed so he could scold “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase for tricking a small child. Those might have some wider appeal, though: After all, they were part of freaking WrestleMania. The same can’t be said for releases like three hours of unedited raw footage documenting Lex Luger slamming Yokozuna and going on a promotional bus tour, wrestlers visiting Napoleon’s tomb, a wrestling show held with special breakfast cereal-centric characters as part of a corporate cereal convention.

In a way, that cereal convention show sums up the unique appeal in play. There were plenty of times that a fairly obscure piece of footage or potential footage would be named in a far-flung corner of the internet populated entirely by the biggest of hardcore fans, only to show up a few weeks later in a Hidden Gems release, and that was one of them. It happened just enough to feel like it couldn’t be a coincidence, especially with something like the cereal show, which would only get mentioned every few years by a friend of mine. It’s rare for any company to be so on the pulse of its fans, especially geeky completist hardcores, but WWE Network’s Hidden Gems did just that. Here’s to hoping that they live on as a periodic feature again if they can’t be weekly anymore.

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Sports Strength

How Panthers QB Kyle Allen Went “All In” On His NFL Career

Although Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Kyle Allen never thought it would take an unplanned, 31-hour drive to get his mind right, a few things clicked into place on the road between Charlotte, North Carolina, and his parents’ house Scottsdale, Arizona, in the fall of 2018.

As an undrafted free agent, Allen had signed with the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad, hoping that would eventually lead to something more. After being officially added to the team during Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season, Allen leased an apartment in Charlotte on Thursday and bought a used Ford Escape the next day, hoping he’d be working in Charlotte for a little while. 

“I got fired the next Monday,” Allen said a few weeks ago from the Carolina Panthers’ facility in Charlotte. “I like to say ‘fired’ because it’s true.” 

Allen gave up the apartment and loaded all of his belongings into the Escape. He was discouraged, but he also surprised himself with how he felt about the situation. He felt hopeful and confident that the work would pay off. But also, he felt self-aware, and believed himself capable of finding a solution.

“I was super patient and chill with it at that time,” Allen said. “The same day that I got cut, I flew to D.C. and I had a workout. I flew back the next day—that was Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, we just packed up all our stuff and started driving home.”

“I didn’t have enough money to ship my car,” Allen said.” I didn’t want to waste money on buying a flight or anything, so just said, ‘Screw it, let’s drive.’ So we drove as far as we could that day.” They got as far as Dallas, where they rented a hotel room that cost $60 a night.

Throughout the drive, Kyle and his girlfriend, Summer, reflected on his NFL situation, listening to podcasts and music to kill time. Allen had performed well in a preseason game for the Panthers, so a recent example of success was fresh in NFL evaluators’ minds.

“I knew I had some good tape out there and I didn’t have tape out there for a long time,” Allen said. “So it was just a time where I needed to be patient and just let some things fall into place.”

At home, Allen worked out and watched football, or as much football as he could stand before feeling frustrated by his own competitiveness. He flew around the country most Mondays for workouts. One week, he found himself in Buffalo, when the Panthers rang his agent, Brian McLaughlin.

“The Panthers called him and were like, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about bringing Kyle back.’ And he was like, ‘Well, he’s in Buffalo for a workout, so you’d better sign him now.’ So they ended up signing me that day.” 

Allen wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. He flew directly to Charlotte with only a day-bag and no plans on signing a lease.

“That was the only trip that I didn’t bring a lot of clothes on, because it was my fifth workout and no one had signed me,” he said. “And so I was like, ‘Screw it. I’m not going to get signed, I’m not going to bring a bunch of clothes.’” 

“So I ended up going to Carolina with like, two pairs of underwear.”

Weeks later, Allen was the starter. 

To say that Kyle Allen took the road less traveled would be the understatement of the century. But that path has also provided Allen with the motivation and confidence of the underdog, and the willingness to bet on himself time and time again.

“My situation is super unique,” Allen said. “I don’t really know anyone who’s been benched and then decided to go to the NFL.”

Going into college, the naturally gifted Allen was the number one quarterback prospect in the Class of 2014, a pedigree he had earned after a huge high school career in Scottsdale. He committed to Texas A&M, where Kevin Sumlin’s pass-happy pro-style offense had lifted Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy in 2012. He started the season strong, but ended up splitting the position with Kyler Murray, the eventual first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Allen, confident he could succeed in a new setting, transferred to Houston.

After sitting out a year in Houston to comply with NCAA transfer rules, injuries marred a promising early season campaign, and eventually Allen found himself on the bench again. At this point, Allen could either wait it out and hope that the unstable ecosystem of college football would somehow bend his way. While the NCAA’s transfer portal has led to increased player freedom in college football, it’s a toss-up—players like Allen, who might seek out a second transfer during their college eligibility, can easily be lost in the shuffle.

So Allen declared for the draft, knowing that if the right people could see him throw, he’d have a chance at the sport’s highest level. Going against advice from NFL scouts and pundits, Allen decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

“I didn’t play for nine weeks and then I’m deciding to go to the NFL and everyone’s calling me crazy,” Allen said. “I really did believe in myself the whole way through. But it’s tough when no one else believes in you and you feel like you’re insane. You’re like, ‘I know I can do it. Why doesn’t anyone else think I can do it?’”

Allen had a mentor, former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer, who believed in him and spoke to that effect to anyone who inquired about Allen. Also, Allen had a reputation. After all, he’d been a national star and participant at Elite 11, a well-regarded finishing school for high school quarterbacks. (Allen’s class also included Houston Texans QB and MVP candidate Deshaun Watson). If he could get some tape down, he knew he’d get a crack.

“I was the number one guy coming out for high school. I knew when I played at A&M, I played well in a lot of games. I didn’t play well in some,” Allen said. “For me, it was all just about trying to find some consistency in my play and in the chances I was going to get in an offense. I just felt like there was no real consistency in my college career.”

“And when I went to Houston, I had one bad game and I never saw the field again. I just felt like there was not a lot of people who really wanted to ride with me in college and see it through. So for me it was all about, I know I can play, now how can I do it on a consistent basis?”

During Week 3 of the 2019 NFL season, Allen stepped into the Panthers’ starting job after longtime starter Cam Newton was ruled out, indefinitely, with a foot injury. Allen, who approaches things practically, knew what had to happen.

“The only thing I could think about was just, take advantage of this opportunity.” With Newton now on injured reserve, the starting job is essentially Allen’s for the rest of the season.

In a Week 12 shootout in New Orleans, Allen went toe-to-toe with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, throwing three touchdowns and earning a 112 passer rating. It’s a steep learning curve, and Allen has shown he’s capable of keeping up with some of the game’s best players at its most important position.

“There’s probably a million different things I’ve learned this year that I’ve tried to incorporate in a game,” Allen said. “But I think the biggest thing for me has been just trying not to make the same mistake twice and just really learning from that.”

“The guys that really become great, become really consistent, are the guys that just don’t make the same mistake twice.”

While a player like Aaron Rodgers was a first-round selection, he weaponized the sleight, believed in his ability and became one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Russell Wilson, a third-rounder, shaped himself into a perennial MVP frontrunner. Even in the Panthers’ recent history, Jake Delhomme worked his way into a Pro Bowler despite not being drafted and bouncing around practice squads. Allen is cut from a similar cloth, and he’s not taking the task in front of him lightly. 

“It’s different now that I know that I’m playing the rest of the season and there’s a responsibility,” Allen said. “There’s a weight to it, and you understand that the quarterback is the most important position in all of sports—you have the ball in your hands every play and you can decide whether your team will have a chance to win or not at the end of the game.”

Kyle Allen is a client of VaynerSports. 

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Sports Strength

Your Favorite Rapper’s NBA Predictions

As the last year of the decade comes to an end, the 2019-2020 NBA season is just starting, and just like the size of your phone and your idea of what sharing a car means, this NBA is leaving the decade virtually different than how it entered the decade. James Harden is now a perennial MVP candidate who can drop 60 in half the time of a Watchmen episode, Kawhi Leonard has ended two dynasties and is in the process of starting his own and Anthony Davis is wreaking havoc on the entire league with LeBron James.

Before we enter a new decade of basketball, ONE37pm spent the last few months speaking to hip-hop artists, producers and DJs about their predictions for the 2019-2020 NBA season. We spoke with the Wu-Tang Clan and Dave East at the Rolling Loud Festival NYC; Sleepy Rose, Worl, Skooly and Hott LockedN of 2 Chainz’s T.R.U. label; Jadakiss; Grammy-nominated producers Pyrex and Ayo; Cousin Stizz; and more. 

Some were so confident in their predictions that they were willing to put up a few wagers. “If the Golden State Warriors go back to the NBA Finals, I will personally put up a YouTube video teaching niggas how to make beats just like me,” Grammy-nominated Revenge of the Dreamers III producer Pyrex told ONE37pm. 

Other predictions were based solely on hometown love, like Oakland native Guapdad 4000’s choice for MVP. “I know Damian Lillard from Oakland. I don’t know if he’s doing good or bad, but I’m fucking with him.”

The Clippers vs. Bucks was the most popular matchup prediction for the NBA Finals. Here are hip-hop’s picks for this season’s most valuable player, biggest surprise, best duo and NBA champion.

Most Valuable Player: James Harden

When you’re called the greatest offensive player in NBA history by players who have played against Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Larry Bird, like Charles Barkley, only you can decide when you’re no longer in the MVP race. The 2017-2018 NBA MVP is averaging 39.5 points per game for the Houston Rockets and would give him the highest PPG since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 44.83 per game in the 1962-1963 season. Of all the hip-hop artists, producers and DJs we interviewed, the bearded assassin overwhelmingly was the top choice.

“He’s like the next A.I. in terms of how unguardable he is.”—Pyrex, producer of Dreamville’s ‘Costa Rica’

“I’m feeling Harden’s energy, right now. That’s my boy. He’s on some bullshit right now.”—Dave East

Runner-Up: LeBron James. “This is his revenge season. They tried to write him off as washed up last year. He’s coming back strong this year.”—Jadakiss

Best Duo: Anthony Davis and LeBron James

For the first time since before the Boston Celtics formed a big three with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen during the 2007-2008 season, the NBA is a land run by duos of giants. Every team with the best chances to win an NBA title is pillared by two dominant forces. But none have been as devastating as the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the only pair that has one player in the top two of assists per game (James) and one player in the top two of blocks per game (Davis). Hip-hop knows what happens when you give LeBron James a player close to his skill level, and that’s all they need to be convinced.

“Them niggas got a combination on the low. They’re both aggressive and they’re big niggas. You have to look at how Kobe was with Shaq. He needed that stronger but effective player on defense. I think ‘Bron found his guy.’”—Raekwon

“Him and A.D. going off and they’re taking over the whole NBA.”—Q Da Fool

“I thought it was going to take them a while to find their chemistry. But, A.D’s the best player Bron’s ever had on his team and Bron gets the most out of his teammates. They have the pick-and-roll, the pick and pop and defensively they’re just a great duo. The chemistry isn’t an issue.”—Bas

Runner-Up:Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. “I’m lowkey jealous like, ‘Damn, how are y’all that good?’ So, I try to ignore them when in all reality, that duo might be a problem for the whole league.”—Dyme-A-Duzin

Biggest Surprise: Carmelo Anthony

Few phone notifications this NBA season has momentarily paralyzed people in joy and confusion like the one that read “Portland Trail Blazers Sign Carmelo Anthony.” After laughing off a bench role on the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017, being traded to the Houston Rockets after one season, then being traded and waived after only playing 10 games, the three-time Olympic gold medalist languished in the free agency while pleading his case for being back in the league. In only his second week back as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers this season, the man whom no team would sign for a year, became the western conference player of the week after averaging 22.3 points per game in that week. No genre of music has embraced the embattled hoop legend like hip-hop and they won’t stop now. 

“I don’t like the way they slept on him. In every business there’s always these ill type of politics and underhanded disrespect towards players that have been doing shit for years, killing it. I feel for him to prove himself would be surprising to all of his doubters.”—Dyme-A-Duzin

“Melo is a player that’s going to surprise you the most because he’s going to show you what he can do and that he should’ve been on that court.”—Jadakiss

Runner-Up: Luka Doncic. “I don’t know how anyone is going to surpass what he’s doing. He’s damn near averaging a triple-double, dropping 40 and hitting step-back threes on LeBron James. He might’ve ran away with that already.”—Bas

NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers

The NBA title is such an illustrious honor a few hip-hop artists surveyed didn’t want the pressure of choosing the one team that will hoist the trophy under a wave of confetti at the end of the season. The difference between the Lakers being hip-hop’s choice as the champs and the Clippers was one vote. The Lakers already got a head start over their LA rivals by having the best start to a season in the franchise’s history. The last time they started this good was in the 2008-2009 NBA season when Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol led the squad to the title. Hip-hop sees history repeating itself a decade later.

“LeBron and them up to something over there. Trust!”—Raekwon

“Lakers will win because LeBron is on a mission after last season and the Lakers play defense.”—Big Pooh from Little Brother

“You have to remember how LeBron does. Don’t take anything from him. I don’t give a fuck who anyone else got, he knows when to turn that shit on.”—Dave East

Runner-Up: Los Angeles Clippers. “They got a point to prove, and the Lakers may go in too comfortable. Plus, Lou Will is the fam.”—Ayo, Grammy-nominated producer

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Sports Strength

Christian Pulisic Is Even Better Than You Think

In the months before the 2019-2020 season began, if you had asked anyone associated with Chelsea Football Club what their expectations of American winger Christian Pulisic were, they might have given a tempered response. It’s best to be patient, he’s still young, we can’t expect him to replace Eden Hazard and so forth. And, while they were right, what he’s accomplished in the first half of this season has been nothing short of stellar.

It’s no secret that fans in his home country see him as the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and his performances for them only reinforce the hype surrounding his meteoric rise. He holds several “youngest player” records, but the one that stands out the most is his American-record transfer fee of $73 million to English powerhouse Chelsea FC. His performances of late only justify the amount that the west London club paid Borussia Dortmund for his services and why they were willing to wait almost eight months to see him actually don the royal blue jersey that has been worn by club legends like Didier Drogba, John Terry and manager Frank Lampard.

While Frank Lampard wasn’t the one who signed him, Lampard has quickly become enamored with what the young American offers to a side that has put its faith in youth. Chelsea were hit with a transfer ban ahead of this season that prevents them from signing any players until the 2020 summer transfer window, but that has only inspired them to tap into the recently unrivaled talent available in their youth ranks. Players like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Reece James, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham have proven that you don’t need to spend heavily on the biggest names when you can promote from within. And while Pulisic’s signing flies in the face of this reasoning, his addition to the team represents an investment in youth the likes of which hasn’t been seen at Chelsea since the arrival of owner Roman Abramovich.

After a slow start to the season that saw him often feature as an impact sub, Pulisic made his first start since August and announced himself to the Premier League with a “perfect” hat trick against Burnley at Turf Moor. Since then, he has started the last eight matches, scoring six goals. Add to that an equal number of assists, and one can see why Lampard has made him one of the most consistent members of his starting XI. Among those who play regularly, the American ranks in the top six of Premier League players in expected goals per 90 minutes, according to analytics experts Statsbomb. The only winger who boasts more impressive numbers is Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. That puts him ahead of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Jamie Vardy, Son Heung-Min and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Esteemed company, indeed.

But this really isn’t a departure from the stats he was showing at Borussia Dortmund, where he improved year over year in all departments. If anything, it’s simply proof that he’s capable of producing the kind of numbers he was signed for. Those who doubted that he could succeed in the Premier League have had to eat their words, but the native of Hershey, Pennsylvania, remains humble and determined to continue improving.

While plying his trade in Germany, Pulisic had a quote from NBA star LeBron James on the door of his apartment that read, “Outwork your teammates every day.” He has applied this mantra to his short time in west London and his manager has recognized the hard work he puts in in training, rewarding him with the starting place he deserves. After his hat trick against Burnley, Lampard was full of praise for the young American in his post-match press conference.

“The way he’s trained in the last few weeks, and the impact he’s had when he’s been playing, he’s said to everyone, ‘Here I am,’ and [shown] what talent he does have,” Lampard said. “That’s what we need from all our attacking players: to be a threat, to play like that, to have a ruthless edge about how they finish.”

For Pulisic, who only recently turned 21, consistency for the remainder of the season will be key as he looks to cement his place as a starter while continuing to offer the kind of quality he was signed to produce. But what he’s shown to be capable of in just a few short months at Chelsea is most definitely not an anomaly. The kid can play.

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Sports Strength

The Best Pro Wrestling Matches of 2019

There’s likely more wrestling being produced now than there has been in the history of the sport. It’s impossible to watch it all. 2019 was a year marked by upheavals, betrayals and paradigm shifts in the culture of pro-wrestling, but it’s a challenge not to feel exhausted by the 30+ hours of content being produced each week.

Luckily, we’ve narrowed down some of the highlights from the past 365 days of sports entertainment into an easily-digestible list: From emotional interfamilial struggles to exciting explosions of aggression and bravery from new talents.

Here are the 10 best matches from this year.


A quick note: despite Dave Meltzer’s on the record contradictions about quality vs. personal taste in evaluations of pro-wrestling, it’s important to remember this is all subjective and that there’s no real way to objectively evaluate quality. That being said, “best” here refers to exceptional in the areas of cultural and historical impact, emotional impact, and technical proficiency.

1. Jake Atlas vs Jamie Senegal vs Priscilla Kelly vs Devon Monroe vs Big Mama vs Elayna Black 6-Way Door Match, RISE Pride and Joy

In June of 2019, RISE reinvented itself as a gender-inclusive federation hoping to feature the best of pro-wrestling’s most under-appreciated talents. They solidified their new ethos with a six-way match featuring local stars, up-and-coming talents like Devon Monroe, and more established yet often disrespected icons like Jamie Senegal, Priscilla Kelly, and Jake Atlas.

What at first starts as comedic winds up getting deadly serious as each competitor is eliminated until Kelly and Atlas remain, starting a longer feud between the final two which has brought out the best in each of them. Revolutionary not only for political reasons, this match was a career-maker for new athletes but also solidified the esteem of several rising stars.

2. Becky Lynch vs Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte Flair Winner Take All, WWE Wrestlemania 35

The long and uncomfortable history of the WWE’s misogyny was temporarily tabled at Wrestlemania this year, when Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey battled for both women’s titles in a historic match and groundbreaking main event match. Rousey displayed her prodigious talent, Charlotte brought legacy, and Becky came with both populist and gender-bending energies—and although the finishing segment was somewhat botched, audiences were thoroughly rapt by the trio.

It’s possible WWE will never give this honor to women again, especially now that Rousey’s sort of out of the picture, so we’ll have to savor this triumph for a while.

3. Nyla Rose vs Riho, AEW: Dynamite

How could the 98-pound Riho possibly defeat the hulking and powerful Nyla Rose? What seemed like a bizarre mismatch of talents resulted in one of the most exciting matches in AEW’s short history, showing the United States skills each talent had carefully crafted in Japan. Although it would have been more historic had Nyla taken the belt and became the brand’s inaugural champion, Riho’s shocking and well-earned victory was all the more stunning.

4. Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae, NXT: Takeover Toronto

In most mainstream settings, women’s wrestling still isn’t nearly as respected as fights between men. Io Shirai and Candice LeRae are easily two of the best brawlers in the world, and although the feud leading up to this match had been long and somewhat incoherent, the duo stole the show in a non-title match that technically had no real stakes.

More than a narrative progression, this bout was about skill and in-ring psychology, which both combatants proved they had in spades—proving that women’s wrestling could easily be the main event of more cards if bookers were less stubborn.

5. Dasher Hatfield vs Boomer Hatfield, CHIKARA Anneriversario Scotch Mist

The Freudian psychodrama of the Hatfield clan reached its climax in Chicago when Dasher took on his son Boomer, with each fighter’s mask on the line. Although it’s a cliche to say this fight brought tears to the audience’s eyes, in this case, it was quite literal: Fans have a lot of protective transferences towards Boomer and seeing the Hatfield patriarch’s ruthlessness isn’t exactly easy to watch.

Dasher got increasingly desperate as his progeny kept coming up with new counterattacks, prompting the senior fighter to resort to illegal tactics in an attempt to snatch a victory. But Dasher was ultimately defeated, although it might have been a pyrrhic victory for Boomer, leaving the smaller fighter at odds with his entire family.

6. Cody vs Dustin, AEW ‘Double or Nothing’

The culmination of decades of family strife, Dustin and Cody Rhodes’ Shakespearean fight forced the entire industry to take AEW seriously. Although too vicious for many casual fans, the bizarrely feel-good finish provided a happy ending to this violent family feud.

7. Bate vs Walter, NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff

Another classic big vs little dynamic is at play in Tyler Bate vs Walter at Cardiff, Wales this Summer. It’s impossible to not immediately feel affection for the diminutive Bate, whose wiley antics are complimented perfectly by his unbelievable physical strength. Bate does manage to essentially deadlift Walter more than once in this bout, which is no small feat considering the latter is probably twice the size of the former. Tyler’s pluck couldn’t save him from Walter’s mass—meaning that a second title run for Bate is out of the question, at least for a little while.

8. Jon Moxley Vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW G1 Climax

Because of the sheer amount of matches in the G1, it’s almost impossible for anyone fight to stand out as particularly striking or magical. But Moxley (FKA Dean Ambrose)’s most savage bout of the tournament with the Stone Pitbull Tomohiro Ishii remains emblazoned in the minds of fans because of its sheer savagery. At one point, the two fighters were both on all fours, hoping to knock the other out with repeated headbutts. Sacrificing his brain cells for victory, Moxley got the pin, but even this win didn’t land him in the finals, somehow.

9. David Starr vs Mercedes Martinez, Uncharted Territory

David Starr’s mouthy personality—and outspoken leftist politics—have earned him scores of enemies on social media and in the ring, but the honorable Mercedes Martinez isn’t one of them. Starr offers an ultra-rare show of respect to open the match, but doesn’t hold back even slightly once the bell rings. The two battle for approximately 30 minutes before Starr delivers a flurry of genuinely frightening closed-fist punches to Martinez’s throat, but she just keeps kicking out, a testament to her inimitable resilience. Starr ultimately gets the pin here, but he’s probably never fought harder in his life.

10. Kofi Kingston vs Daniel Bryan, WWE Wrestlemania 35

WWE isn’t exactly known for being good at handling racial politics, and not-so-subtle hints that this story went far beyond the apolitical tone the company tends to maintain were repeatedly dropped into the buildup for this match. The universally beloved Kofi Kingston took on Daniel Bryan after battling with McMahon over the potential opportunity for months, but it was hard for even the most optimistic fans to believe that the sports entertainment company would get over their prejudices and allow a black heavyweight champion. Kofi nonetheless achieved victory, in a moment as breathtaking as it was groundbreaking.

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Sports Strength

How Do I Get Euro 2020 Tickets?

The biggest global football competition not named the World Cup happens next summer, and based on the teams that have already qualified, it’s going to be a doozie. While the Euro tournament doesn’t quite have the luster of Cup, which pulls from a global pool, the level of soccer is just as high: The worst-ranking Euro team in 2016, Iceland, made a deep run and knocked off the much-higher-ranked England. Iceland, before Euro 2016, was ranked number 35 in FIFA; the worst participant in the 2018 World Cup, Russia, ranked 70.

The first ticket window for Euro 2020 happened earlier this year, and even if you had entered, the odds were not in your favor—19.3 million applied for tickets, according to UEFA. But the next window arrives in December, and there will be opportunities in March/April 2020. So how do you attack? 

Registering

Right now, your best bet is registering with a team federation, groups that will make tickets available to its verified members in December. (Applications for most teams that have qualified, like England’s fan group and Wales’ Red Wall, are still open). England’s process is less intense, and Wales’ appears to be a one-time cost of 15 pounds. 

These are but a few of the many options, especially as more teams will be qualifying through a playoff. Once you’ve got an ID number for a federation, you’ll be able to apply via UEFA’s official ticket portal

General fans can still register. It seems like that’s the least successful route, though. 

Play-In Playoff

This year involves a playoff, where 16 countries compete for the final four spots in Euro 2020. This is the full schedule—these games will be hosted by the higher-ranked home countries, so if you’re looking for those tickets, consult the federations involved.

The four qualifiers’ fan bases will be able to purchase tickets through the UEFA in April.

Resale Options

Getting tickets to Euro 2020 isn’t impossible. But getting tickets for a decent price will be difficult. This year, in order to combat the resale market, the UEFA is setting up a resale site in March, where tickets will go for face value. If you’re willing to take finding tickets down to the wire, this is probably your best bet.

Obviously, StubHub and other resellers will have loads of tickets at inflated prices. However, these prices will fluctuate a lot before next summer—set up some alerts if you’re trying to hit some of the matches, no matter what. 

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Sports Strength

The NXT Women’s Division Is the Best Thing in Wrestling Right Now

After Survivor Series weekend, there is now one clear and objective truth in professional wrestling: The NXT women’s division is on top of the world. That’s the main conclusion to take away after WWE finished off its yearly “brand vs. brand” showcase extravaganza. From Rhea Ripley to Io Shirai, through a handful of others and ending with the NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, the brightest stars of the weekend were all from the black-and-gold brand’s best division. 

First, in the opening match of TakeOver: War Games on Saturday night, Team Ripley—the namesake, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai, stepping in for the attacked and injured Mia Yim; more on this in a second—took on Team Baszler—the champion, Bianca Belair, Shirai and NXT U.K. women’s champion Kay Lee Ray—in the first-ever women’s War Games match. To say it ruled is to undersell it; it definitely shone brighter than the men’s version in the main event, both as a match and as a coherent storyline. Kai turning on her supposed best friend Nox halfway through the match, leaving Ripley and LeRae in a 2v4, was genius, as was Ripley (who should be the next big women’s star; she’s that good) picking up the win clean over Baszler:

Ripley starred again on Sunday in the show-opening five-on-five-on-five brand match against Team Raw and Team SmackDown. There was too much action to recap blow by blow, but in a match designed to eliminate everyone, NXT not only won, but also had three survivors: Ripley, LeRae and Shirai. Those three wrestlers are the reason that the NXT women’s division is so on fire right now. You’ve got the future star in Ripley, the lovable babyface (built up in the way that only NXT can; think Sami Zayn in 2014) in LeRae and the work-rate genius who is also a wonderful heel character in Shirai. NXT winning was the right choice, but the way they did it was even better.

And then there was Shayna Baszler. The long-reigning NXT women’s champion has gone from a violent curiosity in her debut to the best champion in a division that has only ever had great champions. Not only does she play the bully heel better than anyone, but she’s also got the catch wrestling skills to back that up. In the main event of Survivor Series, Baszler went up against two of the best female wrestlers in the company (Becky Lynch and Bayley) and outshone them, not just by winning but by being the one who gave the match the edgy realism it needed to shine. And while Lynch got the last word by attacking Baszler after the match, the fact that the final image even involves Baszler, in her main roster PPV debut, is all you need to know. She and the NXT women are for real, and now everyone can see it for themselves.

Is there any set of talent anywhere in the world that can come close to this batch of women? You could look at All Elite Wrestling’s tag team division, which has stars and depth but no cohesive storylines that link everyone together. It often feels like the Young Bucks are off doing their own thing while everyone else is supposed to be chasing SCU. And while New Japan’s heavyweight scene is obviously filled with some of the best wrestlers in history, the departure of Kenny Omega and the failure of Jay White to become a true star heel has stunted a bit of that potential for the division as a whole. Kazuchika Okada can only carry you so far.

And so, the crowns rest on the heads of the NXT women. Not only do we have the long chase for Baszler’s title to look forward to—a chase that now has some main roster credibility following her choking out Bayley on Sunday—but we also have Kai’s heel turn, Mia Yim’s injury storyline, and Shirai’s … everything. (She really might be the best wrestler in the world.

After the so-called NXT Horsewomen—Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte and Becky Lynch—left, it took NXT a bit to get its women’s division back on track, at least underneath the title picture while Asuka was there. For the first time, though, it sure feels like the entire division is not just talented but involved in storylines, and the combination of depth and talent should only continue to flourish, particularly if Ripley (or someone else, but it really should be Ripley) takes the belt off Baszler in order to open up some new plot potentialities. Regardless of where we go from here, TakeOver: War Games and Survivor Series proved that the work NXT has put into developing its women’s division has been worth it, and now fans can reap the rewards every Wednesday night.

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Sports Strength

These are the 5 Biggest Sneaker Free Agents

Sneaker free agency is one of the best moments during the NBA season. Though it’s an awkward period where a player is looking to find the right fit with a shoe brand, it inspires creativity. Players opt for rare shoes, eschewing the same current models that everyone else is wearing. Sneaker free agency has led to Gilbert Arenas wearing Dolce & Gabbana shoes. Kobe Bryant spent the 2002-2003 season as a sneaker free agent in various Jordans.

Soon, there will be other players added to the list. Draymond Green and Karl-Anthony Towns have shoe deals expiring soon. John Wall might be joining this list next year when he returns from injury. Here’s a look at what the top sneaker free agents are wearing.

Luka Doncic

Notable Shoes Worn: Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro “Fade to Black,” Under Armour Curry 7 “Sour Patch Kids,” Nike Kyrie 6 Preheat Collection “Miami,” Nike PG3 “Lure”

Before the start of this season, Luka Doncic’s two-year deal with Nike expired, making the bonafide superstar a sneaker free agent. Doncic still has spent much of his time in the checkmark, wearing the Nike Kyrie, Kobe and PG models. He did pull a major surprise this week, wearing the Under Armour Curry 7 “Sour Patch Kids” colorway against the San Antonio Spurs. It was Doncic’s first time in a non-Nike shoe.

Averaging 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists, Doncic is likely headed to his first All-Star appearance. After Zion Williamson signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Jordan Brand, Doncic will surely command a hefty sum for his services.

Prediction: Though he donned Under Armour recently, Doncic is a Nike guy all the way. The only hold up will be if Doncic is looking for a deal that includes an eventual signature shoe. Nike already has five active players as signature athletes. Would they welcome a sixth? Doncic’s meteoric rise to superstar status and the MVP race will lead to a massive shoe deal coming soon. 

PJ Tucker

Notable Shoes Worn: Nike LeBron 3 “Fairfax,” Travis Scott x Air Jordan 6 “Cactus Jack,” Air Jordan CP3.XII PE “Cracker Barrel,” OFF-WHITE x Nike Air Max 90

The NBA’s resident sneaker god is up for sneaker free agency and is expected to garner massive interest from shoe brands. Though he is a role player, Tucker has built his profile as the top shoe collector in the association. The rarer the grail, the more likely you will see Tucker rocking it on the court. In 15 games this season, Tucker has already brought out exclusives, including two different Travis Scott collabs with Jordan, a couple of early year LeBrons and a pair of Jordan CP3s designed for Tucker by Chris Paul himself.


Prediction: It seems as if Tucker is on the path to sign a six-figure deal with Nike. Expect him to re-up with the brand. Since he already sticks to Jordan and Nike on the court, don’t expect much to change.

Lonzo Ball

Notable Shoes Worn: Undefeated x Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro, Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro “Fade To Black”

Lonzo Ball is looking to reinvigorate his career with a new team. Entering his third season, Ball is trying to establish himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA. Ball is coming off of the shocking dissolution of his partnership with Big Baller Brand cofounder Alan Foster earlier this year. With BBB a thing of the past, Ball is in an intriguing spot with potential shoe deals looming. Let’s just hope he can have a shoe that doesn’t explode after a quarter. 

Prediction: Though his dad Lavar Ball protests that his sons will never sign with Nike, the tale of the tape is in the swoosh’s favor. Lonzo Ball has worn Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protros in every game he’s played this season and it doesn’t look like he will be changing anytime soon. 

D’Angelo Russell

Notable Shoes Worn: Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 8 PE

After his contract with Nike expired, Russell had the profile to sign with any shoe brand he wanted to. An All-Star appearance and a brief playoff run with the Brooklyn Nets last season aided Russell in building his brand.


Now a Golden State Warrior, Russell has been decked out in Chinese brand Li-Ning exclusively during this season. Wearing multiple colorways of the Way of Wade All City 8 PE, Russell could become the athlete to take the Dwyane Wade shoe line into the future of basketball with Wade recently retired from the NBA.

Prediction: It’s nearing 100 percent that Russell is signing with Li-Ning and the Way of Wade brand. The tea leaves are there. Russell has worn Li-Ning exclusively this season amid the recent reports that Russell and Li-Ning are closing in on a deal. (Note: After this was written, Russell signed a deal with Way of Wade). 

Montrezl Harrell

Notable Shoes Worn: Air Jordan 1 Gatorade “Orange Peel,” Jordan 10 Custom “Proud Family,” BBC ICECREAM x Reebok Answer V, adidas Crazylight Boost 2.5 “James Harden All-Star PE”

If any player comes close to P.J. Tucker in the NBA sneaker game, it’s Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers center has developed a unique flair on the court. Known for his custom shoe designs and variety of kicks, Harrell originally signed a deal with AND1 this summer, but quietly revealed that the partnership mysteriously ended. Back to his previous sneaker showcases, Harrell has already rocked adidas, Reebok, Nike, Jordan, AND1 and Li-Ning 15 games into the season.

Prediction: Sneaker free agency is the path that Harrell sticks with. He’s one of the few players who embraces the custom shoe design on a regular basis. Also, no other player switches shoe brands more in-game. Freedom and style might cause Harrell to ditch a shoe deal until the right offer arrives.

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Sports Strength

NFL Week 12 Gambling Picks

We’re back. You want some easy money? Let me show you the light. 

Here are my gambling picks for NFL week 12, betting against the spread.

Cleveland -10.5 (-110, 38 percent of bets)

This is a big line for a team that’s been the definition of inconsistency this year, but that’s okay. 

Miami is still getting WAY too much love after beating the Jets & banged up Colts, and so I’m backing Baker & Co. at home. 

Why? A few things.

  • Cleveland is due for a regression here. At 3-6-1 ATS, they should trend north to close out the season. 
  • Miami is 5-5 ATS (where they should be), but 3-1 as away underdogs. I’m looking for that to regress.
  • Sharps seem to agree that opening line of -9 was too little; with three percent of bets, the line has moved 1.5 points in favor of Cleveland. 
  • That line movement is more impactful especially considering the Browns are without one of their best defensive players. 
Courtesy of Football Outsiders

Miami is quite literally that bad, even if Cleveland hasn’t been that good.

Only concern: motivation has seemed to play a part in the Browns games outcomes. They’re 2-0 ATS in conference with an average cover delta of 16.8 points. All games, that delta is at -3.3. 

Nonetheless, the Dolphins need to lose, so why not get blown out?

Let the Browns eat, -10.5.

49ers -3 (45 percent of bets)

This should be a fantastic game. I’ve wrestled with how legit the 49ers really are, as they have had one of the easiest schedules to date. Meanwhile, the Packers are top 10 in schedule strength, and have battled some great teams (Chiefs, Vikings, Cowboys lead the pack, but could argue that wins over the Lions, Broncos & Bears are also above average) and won thus far. 

The 49ers, on the other hand, have at least handled most of their opponents as they should, blowing out the mediocre teams and battling the good ones. An OT loss to the Seahawks isn’t too concerning. 

In this game, I’m looking for a few regressions from ATS trends:

  • Green Bay is 7-3 ATS on the season, which should regress.
  • SF is 5-4-1 ATS, right where they should be; but 1-3-1 in their last 5. They’re ‘due’ for a cover.
  • Green Bay is 3-1 ATS on the road, due for a slight regression.

I also lean towards the 49ers from team efficiency standpoints, even when factoring in the 49ers weaker SOS. The Niners lead the Packers in points per play offensively, as well as limiting points per play defensively. 

This should be a close one, but -3 or better, I’ll be on the 49ers.

Autobet of the week: Patriots -6.5 (63 percent of bets)

I will not not bet the Patriots at this point—this should be something I’ve deployed for years—but here we are.


In a league where parity is the norm, the Patriots are consistently great. You know this. I know this. Your mother and your father know this. Hell, even your grandparents at this point and their second cousins are probably aware of this, watching from the sky above. The Patriots have had 19 straight winning seasons, counting this one. That’s insane.


Anyway, back to betting. Brady is his career covers at a 59 percent clip. That’s outrageous. 

The Patriots are regression proof. They are the closest thing to a “lock” or a “sure thing” the league has ever seen. Why stop now?

7-3 this season ATS. 4-1 last 5 ATS. 3-1 ATS at home. Back at home, under a touchdown favorite?


I’ll take it. Patriots -6.5, and then whatever the spread is next week, Patriots then too. And probably the next.