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The Five Best Teams Who Can Trade For Kevin Durant

Nearly 24 hours later, the NBA world is still in shock over Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is likely to generate the kind of interest rarely seen by any player that’s suddenly available, but the questions are who will be pursuing him and at what price?

And while there’s no doubt about Durant’s ability to play at a high level— he was placed on the All-NBA second team after averaging 29/7/6 this season– it does exist regarding his soon-to-be former team. Even during this era of player empowerment and movement, the Brooklyn Nets can’t get forced to trade Durant to his chosen place.

With four years remaining on his contract and a desire to either compete for a title or land a massive haul for him, the Nets and Durant could stay together beyond this summer. But what are those odds?

Below are the five best teams who can trade for the accomplished superstar.

Phoenix Suns

After the initial shock of Durant’s trade request, another one came in the form of his most- preferred trade destination: the 64-win and No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns.

Upon looking at their roster and assets, there’s an immediate offer that makes sense– Mikal Bridge, Cam Johnson, Deandre Ayton, and an assortment of first-round picks. The only thing to be discussed is if the Nets trade Ben Simmons elsewhere. Under the Designated Rookie rule, a team can’t have more than two players who signed four or five-year extensions after their rookie deals, and only one can be acquired through a trade.

This rule is huge because Simmons signed a massive five-year extension in Philadelphia before being traded, and Ayton is in line for a massive contract this summer.

Miami Heat

Like Phoenix, Miami is another title contender that ranks high on Durant’s list of trade destinations, yet; they have a critical asset that can’t get traded to Brooklyn because of the Designated Rookie rule (Bam Adebayo). But is that enough to stop a deal?

If anything, the Heat could offer a package of Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and a third player attached with first-round picks unless the Nets decide to trade Simmons elsewhere, as mentioned in our Suns discussion.

Memphis Grizzlies

Could you imagine if KD returned to the Western Conference as a Grizzlie? It’s certainly possible given the team’s salary cap situation, their immensely talented, young superstar in Ja Morant, and a trade package headlined by dynamic-two-way big man, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Golden State Warriors

Talk about what would be a full-circle moment? But when looking beyond the jokes and chaos Durant’s return would create, the Warriors could offer a fair exchange for their former superstar— the newly-motivated Andrew Wiggins, a certified bucket in Jordan Poole, and 2020 No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman.

Toronto Raptors

Hey, you better not sleep on the Raptors in these trade discussions. Besides the brotherhood Durant has with superstar musician and Raptors ambassador Drake and Masai Ujiri being an incredible dealer, the Eastern Conference competitor has several attractive trade assets.

Anyone between All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam, reigning Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby could start a return for the Nets– especially with various picks involved.

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ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical Previews The 2022 NBA Free Agency

*This article was written prior to the news of Kevin Durant requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets early Wednesday afternoon.

As much action is filled on the court every NBA season, the same is said for off of it. Through the growing nature of free agency and trade talks, it’s become common for NBA fans and media to speculate about the future of players and teams. And that development will play out again as the 2022 NBA Free Agency begins at 6 PM EST tonight.

While this year’s free agency isn’t defined by its star power, it includes impactful contributors (Jalen Brunson, Zach LaVine, and Deandre Ayton) who have enticed teams that are determined to improve. Before the start of free agency, ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical came together and shared their expectations for this time of year.

Will there be any surprises? Is there a certain signing each team should make? Continue reading to find out more!

What is your biggest expectation for free agency this summer?

Justin Cohen: I think there will be a lot of player movement. I don’t expect a lot of blockbuster trades, but I expect teams to buff out their rosters and add depth with impactful role players. The CBA is set to expire at the end of this season, so I’m intrigued about how that may affect teams signing players to longer-term contracts. 

Martino Puccio: My biggest expectation is a team like the Lakers to make some sort of move that doesn’t waste time on the partnership of LeBron and AD. Whether it’s getting rid of Westbrook or adding great role players. They have the most pressure to figure it out

Which teams do you expect to be the most and least active?

Jack Tien-Dana: Considering the Knicks have already made three trades and loosened up $30 million in cap room, it’s hard to imagine a team being more active than them. To a degree, this activity is necessary—the Knicks have 22 draft picks over the next seven years and can’t possibly add that many guys to a roster that already has a critical mass of developing young players.

Continuing their decades-long trend, the Knicks will be confusing at best and smooth-brained at worst. Whereas the Knicks chronically do too much, Oklahoma City is devoted to never doing anything. With mega-prospect Victory Wembanyama looming as the prize of next year’s lottery, the Thunder are in no rush to try to be an actual team for the foreseeable future.

Justin Cohen: A team like the Miami Heat will be extremely active this free agency. Miami Heat president Pat Riley is never satisfied, and a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals surely left a fire burning in his seat.

I expect them to try and target another superstar to pair with Butler and Adebayo. I don’t think the Warriors will be active in acquiring new players but instead will focus on resigning players. 

Jael Rucker: I expect Brooklyn to be very active {laughs}.

If there’s a signing that makes TOO much sense, what would it be?

Bo Templin: You know what signing makes a lot of sense? The MASSIVE 5-year deal for the St. Louis product, Bradley Beal. Go get that bag.

The other fit that seems nice is PJ Tucker going to the Sixers. He’s played with Harden and would be an outstanding voice for that team.

Jack Tien-Dana: Mo Bamba to the Lakers. Despite having two of the very best players alive, the Lakers are a sclerotic team without many avenues to improve. Accordingly, Mo Bamba (of “Mo Bamba”  fame) is the sole realistic option who could make a meaningful difference.

An expert shot-blocker and budding marksman, Bamba was one of only four players to average more than 1.5 threes and 1.5 blocks per game. And he’s somehow rumored to be available for just the $6.5 million mid-level exception. Still only 23, Bamba offers an enticing package of immediate production and future promise.

Justin Cohen: Blake Griffin to the Clippers. Yes, this wouldn’t be the most impactful or even the best fit, but to see Blake Griffin in a Clippers jersey one more time would be beautiful.

It would also be quite poetic to see Griffin win a championship with the franchise he brought back from the dead. 

Martino Puccio: A signing that would make too much sense to me is Brunson to NYK. For the Knicks to move all these mountains and for him to get insane money for just four years is something that should be a no-brainer, IMO.

Speaking of Jalen Brunson, do you believe he’s worth a max contract?

Bo Templin: While I think Jalen Brunson is a very solid player, I’m not sold on him being a max contract player on a championship-contending team. He would help the Knicks, sure. But what would really change? A first-round exit maybe?

Jael Rucker: Yes! Give Jalen Brunson what he deserves!

Justin Cohen: When dissecting who ‘deserves’ a max contract, the context of player availability is crucial. I don’t think there are many great point guards slated to be free agents this summer and Brunson has proved he can put up wins in the postseason.

I’ve personally gotten the opportunity to watch Jalen grow since his freshman year of high school and the progression he continues to show is worth a max in my mind. 

Given the likelihood of James Harden and Bradley Beal resigning with their teams, do player options carry as much weight as they use to?

Bo Templin: This is a really interesting question. I think the player options only hold weight if the dominoes fall in your favor. Every off-season, it feels like there is a 1-2 domino falling process that really kickstarts everything else.

People with options have the luxury of waiting. So I think they still hold weight with the timing of the offseason.

Jack Tien-Dana: Player options are the most basic, effective way that players can control when and what they’re paid. Since Bradley Beal is opting out of his deal, the Wizards have no choice but to lavish him with a quarter-billion dollars to stick around—by turning down his $36.4 million option for next year, he’s now positioned to make $50 million for the next five.

Conversely, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving all exercised their options because it guarantees them a payday they wouldn’t receive otherwise. What teams are lining up to throw a max deal at two guys who are probably bad now and another guy who’s a terminally flighty weirdo? More than Brechtian trade demands or sub-tweet melodrama or podcasting, player options are how players are empowered.

Jael Rucker: Yes and no. I think it depends on the player, the team, and the situation. I will say that I think owners are kind of starting to take control back of situations.

Justin Cohen: They do because it’s just another way to give the players more freedom. I really like James Harden taking a page out of Tom Brady’s book and taking a pay cut to allow the 76ers flexibility with their cap space.

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of next season, we could see a change in how player and team options work. 

Martino Puccio: I think these player options don’t hold as much weight depending on the situation, but the money for these superstars after the tv deals are so great that they have so much flexibility.

Seeing what an Evan Fournier can grab via FA these guys know the leverage they have so they probably don’t stress the options.

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Rashod Bateman Reflects On Rookie Season And Explains What’s Next For The Ravens

For any former rookie in the NFL, their second offseason is night and day from their first one. In exchange for times when they were unsettled and readjusting to the evolving speed of the pro level, they’ve gained a calmer sense of who they are, what to expect, and why it’s happening. It’s a reality most commonly seen by wide receivers, and Rashod Bateman is a prime example.

The 2021 first-round pick out of the University of Minnesota joined the Baltimore Ravens with clear expectations— to become a very reliable target for former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Standing at 6-foot-1 with sure hands and capable of running a 4.43 40-yard dash, Bateman immediately boosted the AFC North competitor’s offense. But it was towards the end of last season that the NFL understood why.

Despite missing his first five games, the Tifton, GA native finished with 46 catches, 515 receiving yards, and his first NFL touchdown— scored in Week 16 against the eventual AFC Champion, Cincinnati Bengals. “Throughout everything I experienced last year, I learned what it meant to be patient,” Bateman told me. “Letting everything play out was the best thing.”

Coming off of a rookie campaign where both his catches and receiving yards were top-ten across a stellar wide receiver draft class, Bateman’s expectations have only increased again. After wide receiver Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on draft night, all eyes are on the Minnesota product to step up and show out. But don’t expect Bateman to take that for granted.

“If it’s God’s will and we’re healthy, we can do some special things,” Bateman told me. “Our entire organization is good from top to bottom; we’ve been through a lot, and most importantly, we’re hungry.” As the NFL off-season continues, Bateman and the Ravens will continue to build towards what could be another competitive season in the DMV.

To follow Rashod, click here!

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Nike’s NYvsNY Tournament Has A Fun Night At Dyckman

Since its launch five summers ago, Nike’s “NYvsNY” summer tournament has provided great energy in New York City’s reemerging basketball scene. With five of the best city parks (reigning champion Dyckman Park, Lincoln Park from Queens, West 4th, Tri-State, and Watson Basketball Classic) competing in a nearly-two month-long tournament each week is guaranteed to have great action.

On Tuesday night (June 28th), the second week of the 2022 NYvsNY tournament took place at Dyckman Park. As always suggested by Dyckman’s team, early arrival was encouraged as the park was already halfway packed an hour before game time. But soon, in front of a packed house, with barely any room to move, the first of two games got underway between Lincoln Park and West 4th.

While NYC’s summer hoops can consist of all three levels (youth, college, and pro), NYvsNY serves as a big stage for the former. With each park consisting of their area’s brightest high-school talents, you’re often staring at the game’s future. Guards come in all shapes and sizes but possess the same skillset. The big-men jump so high you think they were playing on a trampoline. And it becomes more surreal once you remember they’re in high school, where their age ranges from 14-18.

But we did witness a bit of everything on Tuesday. After having a memorable 17-point comeback win last week, Lincoln Park followed up with another one and pushed their record to 2-0. The reigning NYvsNY champion, Dyckman Park, cruised to an 18-point victory and entertained their home crowd. With the first two weeks of action concluded, three weeks of regular season play are remaining before the playoffs begin on August 2nd.

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Nike NYvsNY tournament!

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 Way Too Early 2023 NBA Title Odds

The path to an NBA championship is not easy. Teams have to endure the six month marathon that is the regular season and then battle through three months of post-season play. What happens after that championship is won? Well, you go out and do it again. Former Chicago Bulls offensive coordinator Tex Winter, who invented the ‘Triangle’ offense and won nine championships as a coach, famously said: “You’re only a success for the moment that you complete a successful act.” Simply put, you have to do it again. That’s exactly what the Warriors will attempt to do this season after winning the 2022 NBA Championship. So who stands in their way of repeating? Here are the five teams with the best 2023 NBA title odds as of June 2022. 
(All odds are taken from DraftKings Sportsbook)

5.) Brooklyn Nets: +800
2021-22 Record: 44-38
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

It should be no surprise that a team with two 27+ per game scorers is heavily favored to win the title next year. Despite a turbulent 2022 campaign, odds makers still like the Nets. I would be weary to sprinkle some units on this because of the uncertain future with the Nets roster. Kyrie Irving and the organization have come to a standstill. Irving has a player-option left in his contract but has demanded a long-term deal. It’s increasingly looking like he may force a sign-and-trade to get out of Brooklyn. If the domino of Kyrie leaving falls, Kevin Durant will most likely be next. Without the one-two punch of Irving and KD the Net’s have a better chance of winning the draft lottery than an NBA championship.

4.) Milwaukee Bucks: +650
2021-22 Record: 51-31
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Bucks won their second NBA championship ever last season and subsequently entered this year as the second best odds to repeat. A slew of injuries hit the Bucks locker room over the course of the season. Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo dealt with a nagging knee injury and a number of role players would be sidelined. Just as it looked the Bucks were hitting a stride entering the playoffs, Khris Middleton sprained his left MCL. The Bucks would lose in seven to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics. Now with extended rest and looking to comeback fully healthy, the Bucks are primed for another title run.

3.) Los Angeles Clippers: +600
2021-22 Record: 42-40
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Since former Microsoft CEO and eccentric billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers in 2014, he has spent every waking moment and dollar to manufacture them into a competent franchise. The Clippers have been a franchise in the NBA since 1970 and are one of only six teams to never reach an NBA Finals. This season they are hoping to get back a healthy Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has played just 52 games in the last two seasons. It’s easy to forget what Leonard is capable of doing on a basketball court with him sidelined so frequently but, when healthy, he turns the Clippers into legitimate contenders.

2.) Boston Celtics: +600
2021-22 Record: 51-31
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics were without a doubt the best team in 2022. From January to the end of the season the Celtics were a league best 34-12. The Celtics powered their way through the East and made it to their first finals since 2010. They would lose to the Warriors in six games though. The Celtics have no real free agent losses this offseason however and are looking to run-it-back with the same squad. With the added knowledge and fire of a NBA Finals loss, the Celtics are in excellent shape to make another run. They sit with the best odds currently to win the eastern conference at +265.

1.) Golden State Warriors: +550
2021-22 Record: 53-29
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA’s greatest modern dynasty solidified that designation this past season winning their fourth title in eight years. Stephen Curry finally claimed his coveted Finals MVP trophy after defeating the Celtics in six. The Warriors know more than anyone on this list what it’s like to enter a season coming off a championship, and they will surely use that experience to try and claim championship number five. The Warriors will have to fill in some free agent holes this offseason. They will have to resign or replace Looney, Payton II, Porter Jr, Bjelica, and Iguodala. The Warriors did have the highest payroll in all of basketball last season, so don’t be surprised if they run it back with the same squad.

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The 25 Most Memorable Work/Shoot Wrestling Promos

Hey Yo! It’s The Wrestling Classic here with another list for ONE37pm and it’s all about the best wrestling shoot promos.

This article will cover the most memorable and shocking work/shoot promos in wrestling history. There has always been an unspoken rule in the wrestling industry to protect the business at all costs. The often-heard word “kayfabe” is a phrase relied upon to make everything in the business seem authentic and genuine. The promos cut by the stars would be about upcoming matches, current storylines, and self-promotion. By no means were you supposed to discuss the backstage politics, the way the creative was booked, or make the business come off as a scripted pre-determined form of entertainment. When people would cut promos discussing these things, it would be considered a “shoot.” This is easily explained as something real in a space where everything else was scripted or produced.

There are some times in wrestling where these “shoot” promos are done intentionally to gauge a reaction from the hardcore fans who are curious about the backstage politics and love the feeling of being an insider. It also makes it hard for fans to initially realize if what is being said is scripted or real. It evokes a feeling of chaos and uncertainty but has everyone talking. They also make you feel something as if you’re watching the script fall apart as true emotions and feelings come to the forefront.

As of a few weeks ago on AEW Dynamite, MJF cut a scathing promo on the fans, All Elite Wrestling as a company, and its owner Tony Khan on their first episode on Dynamite from Los Angeles. It managed to get everyone excited and it all felt real. It was blurring the lines between reality and fiction. That promo alone led me to want to go down memory lane discussing many other unforgettable shoot promos in the history of professional wrestling.

Be sure to share this article on the 25 best wrestling shoot promos and debate it with your friends. Also, be sure to let me know how you feel about this list on Instagram or Twitter.

Best Wrestling Shoot Promos
WWE

25. “The Real Jeff Jarrett” – Jeff Jarrett (WWF Raw – 11/20/97)

Jeff Jarrett returned to the WWF in late ’97 after spending over a year in WCW. 30 minutes into an episode of Raw, he came to the ring talking about how he was misused in both the WWF previously and most recently WCW. He took shots at Eric Bischoff, Mongo, Doink, Ahmed Johnson, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels. Although he was told to go out there and shoot, the biggest mistake for him, in the long run, was to shoot on rising star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The promo ended with Jarrett telling Vince that he hoped his investments were worth the headaches although they were not. Jarrett would reclaim some success in the WWE for a bit, Austin refused to work with him, and he would be back in WCW by the end of ’99.

24. “WCW Sucks!” – Scott Steiner (WCW Nitro – 02/07/00)

Scott Steiner didn’t always talk a ton during his time as one-half of the Steiner Brothers. However, when he split from his brother to join the NWO and fully took on his “Big Poppa Pump” persona, it became exciting to hear what Steiner would say due to his impulsive promo style. Although promos in WCW weren’t necessarily scripted, not many people took advantage of this more than Steiner. He legitimately had heat with Ric Flair so he called him out for his teeth, stealing Buddy Rogers’ “Nature Boy” gimmick, and even referenced changing the channel to watch the WWF when Ric Flair was on TV because WCW sucks. There is no way he was told to say all of that! This is one of the best wrestling shoot promos and certainly one of the most unintentionally funny picks on this list.

23. “I’m Tired of Making Stars!” (Eddie Kingston – Progress Wrestling)

I’m sure there are a plethora of great shoot or worked shoot promos from the independent scene. I mean, a lot of our favorite wrestlers and promos in wrestling were guys who cut their teeth on the independent scene. One person who has always been able to talk has been the “Mad King” Eddie Kingston. Giving Kingston a microphone is always entertaining and he is a master at trash talking. Prior to finally being signed to AEW in 2020, Eddie cut a promo in Progress Wrestling where he shared his fatigue on building all the stars on the independent scene that eventually got signed to bigger companies while he was still firmly on the independent circuit for over 10 years. He would trash the “acting” part of wrestling claiming he was not an actor and it never does feel like Kingston is acting.

22. “The Birth of Extreme” – Shane Douglas (ECW – 08/27/94)

It was the night they said out with tradition and in with a new era of wrestling. Shane Douglas had won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In a moment where he could have basked in the happiness of winning such a prestigious championship, he instead cut a promo that nobody saw coming. Douglas would list the names of former great champions before throwing the championship on the ground proclaiming he was the new ECW Heavyweight Champion. It was the dawning of a new era and an unexpected farewell to the tradition that came before it. It might not seem like a big deal now but back then everyone lost their minds. Extreme Championship Wrestling was soon born and it started with the Franchise’s defiance. This one earns its placement here as one of the best wrestling shoot promos thanks to it kickstarting a wrestling revolution.

21. “Who is TNA?” – Samoa Joe (TNA Turning Point – 12/02/07)

When TNA was formed in 2002, it was meant to be a good mix of well-known talent as well as homegrown talent that would get the opportunity to work with a company on a larger scale since WCW and ECW were both now out of business. This left WWE as the only major game in town. Samoa Joe was one of those talents plucked from a thriving independent scene in the early ’00s to be a part of TNA.

Although established names such as Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Sean Waltman, Raven, Kevin Nash, Dusty Rhodes, and Scott Hall made appearances in the company, it was the young stars who felt like they were the backbone of the company. Therefore when Scott Hall did not show up to the Turning Point 2007 event where he was in the main event, Joe decided to take matters into his own hands and address the situation. Even if that meant disrespecting the legends who paved the way for him.

20. “Sick of Waiting” – The Miz (WWE Raw – 08/21/17)

In the summer of 2017, the WWE finally began working towards A dream match between John Cena and Roman Reigns. Both men were presented as two of WWE’s chosen superstars to run as the face of the company. In many ways, it was Cena’s time to pass the torch to Roman to see if he could run with it. However, The Miz took offense to this and the crowd in Barclay Center in Brooklyn actually agreed with him when he interrupted their moment to talk about the amount of undeserving opportunities Reigns and Cena would receive because the machine was behind them. He was tired of working hard and waiting for his moment while things were just handed to the other two. He insulted both by pointing out their flaws while boasting about his work ethic. It was hard to disagree with The Miz, even though we’re not supposed to. This one’s pretty underrated when it comes to remembering the best wrestling shoot promos.

19. “Speaking the Truth” – Kevin Owens (WWE SmackDown – 07/09/19)

From the first-ever interaction between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon in 2016, I just knew the two of them would one day have a fun feud based on their instant on-screen chemistry. They began feuding in late 2017 going into 2018 but initially, Owens was the bad guy and Shane was the good guy. By 2019, the roles had changed and everything Owens was saying about McMahon since 2016 now seemed to ring true. That being said, while feuding with an authority figure or person of power, it might be hard to air your grievances. Therefore, when Owens had to come through the crowd to hijack a microphone to rant about Shane McMahon, it felt unscripted and came off like a total shoot. It’s always a nice touch when someone’s mic gets cut, which is exactly what happened to Owens here.

18. “Not a Corporate Puppet” – Diesel (WWF Raw – 11/20/95)

Promos such as this one were rare at the time. Just one night after losing the WWF Championship on WWF Raw, Diesel walked out to ringside during a match between Savio Vega and Skip to make it feel more unscripted or planned. There was no entrance music playing and Diesel shockingly came out in his street clothes. He talked about not having to be a corporate puppet anymore after being the champion for an entire year. He even addressed Vince McMahon as if he was letting us know McMahon had more stroke in the company than most casual fans knew. This might not be as “insider” as future shoot promos, but it was for the time.

17. “Total Divas Promo” – AJ Lee (WWE Raw – 06/26/13)

2013 was definitely a transitional period for WWE’s women’s division. AJ Lee had gained popularity over the years by being featured in many male storylines and even played the role of Raw GM for a brief period of time. The show “Total Divas” began airing on the E! Network, which brought in a new fanbase that took a liking to the women who were cast on the show. Those women were the Bella Twins, Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie, and JoJo at the time.

AJ Lee came out blasting the entire cast of Total Divas with insults like calling the women cheap interchangeable useless women and dissing their decision to join a reality television show. The promo was loaded with insults like those while AJ Lee also talked about how hard she worked to be the face of the division while all these other women sucked up to management and got by on their looks. It felt real and out of nowhere. It was practically AJ Lee’s own “pipe bomb.”

16. “Farewell Promo” – Cody Rhodes (AEW Dynamite – 01/19/22)

When this promo first aired, we had no idea what we were witnessing. It just felt like another Cody Rhodes promo to promote his upcoming ladder match with Sammy Guevara. Little did we know it would be Cody’s last in-ring promo in All Elite Wrestling before returning to the WWE at WrestleMania 38 a few months later. Looking back at this promo now, Cody really had a lot to get off his chest before he even brought up his match with Sammy and it was basically a farewell to the six years of his career that he spent outside of WWE.

This was the period where AEW fans started turning on Cody and booing him no matter what he did to earn their cheers. He told a story about going back to when CM Punk dropped his pipe bomb and how he went to go do all the things CM Punk talked about in that promo. He wrestled in New Japan, faced the best of the indies, and helped create an alternative to WWE. If CM Punk sparked the Revolution, Cody Rhodes lived and participated in it. All of this was extra special now looking back at it.

15. “What Makes Jim Cranky?” – Jim Cornette (11/06/97- 12/29/97)

Jim Cornette has always been known to be quick-witted and clever with his rants and roasts. Therefore in late 1997 during the midst of the Monday Night Wars, WWE decided to start airing shoot promos by Cornette on Raw where he shared how he really felt about the current state of the wrestling business. He really would shoot on just about everything he disliked, which included the NWO, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart being screwed, Shawn Michaels being a jerk, Phil Mushnick, and much much more. If you haven’t seen them and you’re a big wrestling historian, be sure to watch them all. Cornette has been on record saying he didn’t enjoy them looking back because he feels like shoot promos exposed the business too much. But boy was he spitting fire from an educated perspective of someone who loved the tradition of the business.

14. “Sports Entertainment” – Joey Styles (WWE Raw – 05/01/06)

Joey Styles was a one-man commentary team in Extreme Championship Wrestling and is fondly remembered for his exaggerated “Oh My God!” call when things got wild in the company. He would call PPV events solo and somehow remained entertaining the entire time. Years after ECW went out of business, Joey Styles was brought into the WWE to replace Jim Ross.

It was a life-long dream for Styles to work a WrestleMania. So when he was almost fully kept off of Wrestlemania 22 (he was able to commentate for Foley vs Edge, though) with Ross returning and McMahon not being a huge fan of his play-by-play style, it really rubbed him the wrong way. They wanted a storyteller who knew the WWE style. This led to an angle where Styles would use this real-life disappointment in a worked shoot promo bashing WWE. Vince McMahon, sports entertainment, and the fans who buy into all of it. It all felt super legit.

13. “Out of Character” – The Undertaker (WWF Raw – 06/01/98)

One of the most respected and honored characters in the WWE is The Undertaker. Although he had an over-the-top character that worked in the early 90s, the Phenom took his character work so seriously that people would suspend their disbelief for all the years he acted like a dead zombie cowboy wizard. it was rare to ever see him out of character, even for interviews or other television appearances.

Therefore when he came out for a promo with no extravagant entrance and in street clothes in ’98, fans already felt like this was off the script. He talked about his relationship with Vince McMahon as an employee and his loyalty to him while not feeling like he was getting the respect he deserved. It felt like the first time we were hearing Mark Calaway talk with all the gimmicks and deadman characteristics absent. It was a preview of who we would see during his run as the “American Badass,” but it really caught fans off guard in the summer of ’98.

12. “Shooting on TNN” – Paul Heyman (ECW – 06/02/00)

The relationship with Paul Heyman and TNN was a rocky one, to say the least. When Heyman introduced ECW to the wrestling scene, it changed the landscape of professional wrestling. Although ECW featured great technical wrestling, it also introduced a more hardcore style of wrestling. It was a lawless organization and began gaining a lot of popularity for standing out from the competition.

WWE and WCW were leading the professional wrestling industry and there was a ton of interest for networks to get on this wrestling boom, so TNN took a bet on ECW. ECW began airing on TNN, but Heyman was disappointed in the lack of promotion and support from the network. When TNN bought the rights to WWF Raw to begin airing on the network, Heyman saw the writing on the wall and verbally attacked TNN on their own channel. He certainly didn’t hold anything back.

11. “Good Ol’ JR” – Jim Ross (WWF Raw – 09/27/96)

Jim Ross was hired by the WWE in 1993 with his first appearance being at WrestleMania IX. This was around the time when Razor Ramon and Diesel had jumped ship to WCW. The WWE was so petty over them jumping ship that they wanted to prove that it was the characters they created that got those guys over rather than the guys themselves. Therefore, they were going to introduce a new Razor Ramon and Diesel, which we would later on all refer to as the infamous Fake Razor and Fake Diesel.

Before Jim Ross could introduce us to these new “returning” characters, he cut a promo about his lack of loyalty to the WWE and even called out the egotistical owner of the WWE, Vince McMahon. He discussed his issues with Bell’s Palsy and how he was fired two weeks after his first attack. They used Ross’s anger towards the company as the explanation for why talent was leaving because JR was seeking revenge. Ross did a great job delivering the worked shoot promo and they had something here, but the pay-off was unfortunately pretty bad.

10. “You Want an Apology?” – Eddie Kingston (AEW Rampage – 11/05/21)

When CM Punk made his return to wrestling after a seven-year absence, I was ecstatic. Especially since he made his return to AEW, where there were a ton of old and new foes he could cross paths with. For some reason though, the idea of him feuding with Eddie Kingston never really crossed my mind. Therefore, when they crossed paths on an episode of AEW Dynamite igniting their feud, I was intrigued knowing they had crossed paths before on the independent scene in the early ’00s.

Kingston was starting out on the big stage, whereas CM Punk had some years under his belt. Following their brief interaction on AEW Dynamite, CM Punk wanted an apology on AEW Rampage. The last thing Kingston was going to do was apologize. It led to this tremendous promo where you couldn’t tell if Kingston meant what he was saying or if it was a worked shoot. It was the first Punk program since his return one with Darby Allin that I could sink my teeth into. I still want more!

9. “Heyman Let’s Loose” – Paul Heyman (ECW One Night Stand – 06/12/05)

In the summer of 2005, Vince McMahon was convinced to bring back ECW for a one-night-only event. The response and success in sales for the “Rise and Fall of ECW” played a huge role in this decision. It ended up taking place in front of a rowdy Hammerstein Ballroom crowd, which was occupied by hardcore ECW fans filled with so much passion that traveled from all around the world for this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime event.

There was an angle where Raw and Smackdown crusaders also had seats for the show as they felt ECW was below them and wanted to be there to mock the event. Paul Heyman would come out to feel the love from all his ECW loyalists in the crowd, but also tore the WWE crusaders up with insults before heading to the back. The insults to Edge and JBL were top-notch burns! This is undoubtedly one of the best wrestling shoot promos I’ve ever laid witness to.

8. “Paving Potholes” – Kevin Nash & Syxx (WCW Nitro – 04/21/97)

In early 1997 the Wolfpac boys of the New World Order began feuding with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Looking back now, it’s easy to think that Flair, Piper, Nash, Hall, and Waltman all came from the same era. However, by the time Nash or Waltman got into wrestling, Flair and Piper had already had at least ten years of experience on them. Which means they hailed from an era way before their younger rivals.

During their feud, there was a lot of talk about respect and the new generation of guys having no respect whatsoever. In this promo specifically, Syxx and Nash decided to fire back. Syxx would call out Flair for ripping off Buddy Rogers, but it was Nash who really got passionate about the veterans leaving nothing but potholes behind them in the wrestling industry. It felt like things really got personal with the jabs delivered during this rivalry. As far as the best wrestling shoot promos go, this one certainly had an air of truth to what the younger guys were saying.

7. “Becoming MJF” – MJF (AEW Dynamite – 02/23/22)

MJF is a student of the game and committed to his character. He’s always on, even when it comes to meet and greets, interviews, or being seen in the public eye.  Therefore, anytime we see a different side of MJF, it feels like something is off. Although in the most recent promo we saw a fired-up MJF talking about stuff that was breaking down the fourth wall, this promo from earlier this year was one of the first times we got to see MJF with his guard down.

He told a story about his childhood, getting bullied, his love for wrestling, being able to meet CM Punk, and how CM Punk let him down by leaving wrestling when he needed him the most. It was the most genuine we have ever heard MJF be. He even broke into tears. It was a plus that he mentioned how a picture of CM Punk and Bryan Danielson posted on my @thewrestlingclassic page encouraged him to pursue his dream to become a wrestler and prove that he could be better than CM Punk. Nobody knew how to feel after this promo because it was too real for MJF.

6. “You Made Wrestling a Dirty Word!” – Paul Heyman (WWF SmackDown – 11/15/01)

By the Spring of 2001, the WWE had successfully gained ownership over both WCW and ECW. By the summer, they started an Invasion storyline where the WWE was at war against an Alliance between WCW and ECW. This would all lead to a “Winner Takes All” match at Survivor Series in a traditional Survivor Series match. Vince McMahon was the figurehead for the WWE, whereas his children were the figureheads of WCW and ECW respectively. Paul Heyman was on commentary during this period and he aligned himself with the Alliance for obvious reasons as ECW was his creation.

On the go-home Smackdown before Survivor Series, they let Heyman cut a shoot promo on Vince McMahon. Heyman would dig in deep on Vince about the promoters he ran out of business, the way he disrespected his father’s wishes by expanding globally, the ideas he stole from ECW, and the way he made wrestling seem like a dirty word compared to the term “Sports Entertainment.” It all felt real and Heyman was able to make the fans feel conflicted for a good while. It definitely deserves its placing here as one of the best wrestling shoot promos.

5. “Bret Snaps!” – Bret “The Hitman” Hart (WWF Raw – 03/17/97)

Bret “The Hitman” Hart had been a superhero to wrestling fans around the world for most of the decade. He was cool, calm, and always kept his composure. The Hitman would back up all of his verbal accolades in the wrestling ring as one of the best wrestlers in the world. He even got through feuding with his own brother with a respectable approach.

When he lost the championship at WrestleMania 12, he took some time off. When he returned later in the year, the environment was changing. A disrespectful Steve Austin was on the rise, Shawn Michaels was acting more like a degenerate, and Bret Hart just couldn’t catch a break with his enemies all on his back. Austin had screwed Bret Hart in the Royal Rumble and out of the championship the night after winning it a month after.

It wasn’t until after a cage match that would determine whose match would be for the WWE Championship with Sid on the go-home show to WrestleMania that we actually saw Bret Hart fully unravel. He was tired of being disrespected and screwed. He shoved Vince McMahon to the mat and pointed out that he’s been part of screwing him over just as much as everyone else. The Hitman was so frustrated that he even cursed on television, which was really rare at the time. This would lead to a brawl and it all felt very real.

It’s one of those segments I’ll never forget and will forever be known as one of the best wrestling shoot promos. It really planted the seeds for the Attitude Era as we saw the WWE moving towards a more reality-based direction.

4. “Russo Fires Hogan” – Vince Russo (WCW Bash at the Beach – 07/09/00)
WWE

By the year 2000, World Championship Wrestling wasn’t what it once was. The Turner executives decided to bring in Vince Russo in October of 1999 with the perception that he was the mastermind behind WWF’s rise during the Monday Night Wars. Russo, along with Ed Ferrera, were the head writers for WWF’s programming during the peak of the Attitude Era when WWF started overtaking WCW in the ratings with edgier and raunchier content. However, WCW started becoming more like WWE-lite than its own show. Russo really wanted to focus on the younger talent too rather than the older guys like Hulk Hogan. I won’t go into all the details of what exactly happened backstage at Bash at the Beach 2000, but I promise you there are a plethora of articles and videos on it.

Long story short, there was a plan where the night would end with Booker T winning the World Championship while Hogan would have walked out with his own World Championship. Thus leading to an Undisputed Championship match. However, once Jeff Jarrett just laid in the ring for Hogan to pin him, you could already tell there were some shenanigans at hand. Russo would come out a little after the Hogan/Jarrett match and cut a shoot promo on Hulk Hogan and the political power plays he makes backstage with his creative control. He even mentioned how he wished he never saw him again in WCW..and we didn’t. Check this one out if you haven’t already.

3. “Not a Coward!” – The Miz (WWE Talking Smack – 08/23/16)

Talking Smack was this brand new show that aired right after SmackDown every week. Renee Paquette and SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan hosted the show and there were special guests appearing on it every week. The beauty of the show was that it was unscripted, meaning the talent that came on had to cut promos and answer questions on the fly. Whereas everything they said on the main shows was scripted or had some sort of direction. The Miz has always been one of those guys that when he talks, you listen because he’s one of the best talkers in the business today. When Miz gets fired up, he reaches a whole different level. 

The rivalry between Miz and Bryan goes back to when Bryan first showed up for the NXT competition game. Bryan is a wrestler’s wrestler, whereas Miz is more of a talker and personality. When Bryan said Miz wrestled like a coward while he was the reigning Intercontinental Champion looking for some respect, it struck a nerve with Miz. He even took jabs at Bryan for being forced into retirement due to his wrestling style and independent background. It got to the point where Bryan walked off the set. I think on this day we all learned not to call Mike Mizanan a coward. Hands down, this will always be regarded as one of the best wrestling shoot promos of all time.

2. “Superstar Steve Austin” – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (ECW – 10/10/95)

Some of the best promos come from the heart and are fired up by true frustrations. I feel like MJF’s most recent promo was rooted in real frustrations he held deep down inside. I think CM Punk’s pipebomb was rooted through true underlying frustrations that were weighing on him as well. The first promo I remember seeing that seemingly broke down that fourth wall and came off as a wrestler expressing their real frustrations with the business rather than their rivalry was the infamous Steve Austin promo in ECW.

Austin had recently been fired by World Championship Wrestling by Eric Bischoff. Not only was he fired, but he was fired by Fed-Ex while recovering from an injury at home. Paul Heyman, who had worked with “Stunning” Steve Austin in WCW during their time in the Dangerous Alliance stable, always saw great potential in Austin. When Heyman found out Austin was fired from WCW, he called him up and offered him a role in ECW. Austin entered ECW full of anger and frustration. Heyman gave him the platform to express those feelings and he did just that by taking jabs at Bischoff, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and many others for being underestimating, misusing, and under-appreciating him. It was authentic and passionate.

Every time he looked at you in the camera, you knew he was saying every word with pure conviction. Austin wanted to prove he was the superstar he always thought he was – ECW and Paul Heyman allowed him to do just that. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite and best wrestling shoot promos of all time.

1. “The Pipebomb” – CM Punk (WWE Raw – 06/27/11)

There wouldn’t be a “The Wrestling Classic” without the infamous CM Punk pipe bomb from Las Vegas. As cliche as it sounds, this moment got me back into WWE programming on a full-time basis. As someone who wasn’t and still isn’t a big John Cena fan, it finally felt like things were going to change. I had friends who stopped watching wrestling messaging me asking me if that was real or not. It even ended up on WorldStar!

I have been a fan of CM Punk since I first discovered him in Ring of Honor. The run he had in the WWE was very much a story of highs and lows. I popped when he won championship titles for the first time. I enjoyed what I saw during his feud with Jeff Hardy and loved the Straight Edge Society era of his career. Although he had been given plenty of opportunities, been a multiple-time World Champion, and had high-profile matches, it didn’t really feel like the CM Punk we knew before the WWE until this promo where he sat on the stage and aired out all his grievances.

John Cena had just defeated R-Truth in a match that ended their feud where a water bottle was the weapon of choice at one point. I remember that detail because it’s a reminder of how meh I was about the product at the time. CM Punk, who had won the opportunity to face the WWE Champion at Money in the Bank, came out wearing a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin t-shirt. Once he grabbed the microphone and sat crossed-legged on the stage, the rest was history. The line about not hating John Cena but hating the idea that John Cena was the best was already relatable to how I felt. His going in on the fans, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, and the entire McMahon family was wild for the time. He brought up Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, John Laurinaitis, NJPW, ROH, and even waved at Colt Cobana who didn’t work there anymore. He even stated that WWE would maybe be better after Vince was dead, which just seemed insane at the time.

After years of feeling like every promo in the company was scripted word for word, this felt like it wasn’t. It felt rebellious and radical. They got me back on the hook and it was even more satisfying when Punk actually beat Cena at Money in the Bank. He would continue to cut work-shoot-like promos for the rest of his tenure in the WWE. A lot of those promos could have also made this list, but this was the best one. People still talk about it today, whether it’s positive or negative. I still strongly believe CM Punk getting over opened the door for smaller guys who were considered indie darlings actually having legitimate opportunities in the federation. It was guys such as Daniel Bryan and himself that broke the glass ceiling for guys like them to reach the top spot. I’ll always have a soft spot for this promo and basically know it word for word.

Whether you love or hate CM Punk, you know at the time that this promo shook things up and easily earns the top spot on this list of the best wrestling shoot promos.

I hope you all enjoyed this list of memorable worked shoot promos. Tell me if you disagree and let me know what you think over social media. Ya dig? Oooh Yeah!

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Terance Mann Explains His Interest In NFTs And Why The NBA Will Embrace It

Even in an environment where nearly everybody was a celebrity, those in attendance at the Krause House 3V3 basketball tournament couldn’t help but be excited when Terance Mann arrived. Not only is the fourth-year player/critical contributor of the Los Angeles Clippers talented on the court, but he’s exhibiting the same dedication to the NFT space— a slowly but surely trend amongst his NBA peers.

“It’s been a great week seeing everyone with their NFTs, networking, and learning more about the space,” Mann told me. Throughout this week, the Brooklyn, NY native was busy— ranging between speaking about sports leagues and their intellectual property on a panel during Tuesday’s session at NFT.NYC and further building with Chibi Dinos, the very popular basketball NFT project he joined in April.

And while other NBA players and athletes are getting into NFTs (Spencer Dinwiddle is a co-founder of Calaxy, and Ben Simmons is a Perion ambassador), it’s still uncharted territory for those who are either novices or don’t understand it. But upon speaking with Mann and others this week, I learned that one of the following steps with NFTs is making it more accessible and easier to understand– a sentiment the LA Clippers guard believes too.

“For so long, not many people understood how accessible it is,” Mann said. “But when you’re in a setting like this [NFT.NYC], especially for a week, it helps out a lot.” As sports fans learn more about NFTs and their impact on the games they love– between how tickets get bought and the rewards they’ll earn– Mann lastly expressed how it won’t be a surprise when it significantly changes leagues of the NBA’s caliber.

“When you look at the trends of what’s happening digitally, it’s only going up. So you shouldn’t be surprised when the NBA, MLB, and others will further embrace it.”

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Steph Curry Premieres New Show “Level Up” on Snapchat

Steph Curry may still be celebrating his fourth championship and Finals MVP honors, but he certainly hasn’t wasted any time getting started on his next project. Steph’s media company Unanimous Media has a new show with snapchat called Level Up. Premiering tomorrow, Level Up With Stephen Curry follows Steph as he mentors the next generation of stars, empowering them to raise their game – both on and off the court – in ways they never thought possible. Produced by Unanimous Media and Portal A, new episodes of this 6-part series will air weekly (through 7/30), once again only on Snapchat.

Meet the incredible athletes featured in the show.

Maria Gorbushin (16)

Maria is a standout high school basketball player from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, CA. In addition to leading her high school and club teams, Maria is a participant in the Underrated Tour, Stephen Curry’s organization that shines a spotlight on high school athletes who may be overlooked by the traditional recruiting process.

Gregory Odom (21)

Gregory is a senior at Howard University. And the leader of Howard’s golf program, which Stephen Curry helped bring back through his donation in 2021. Born and raised in Memphis, Odom has emerged as one of the most promising young golfers in the country. In May, he made his PGA Tour debut at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Josh Jones (18)
Hudl

Josh is a college football athlete who will be attending Contra Costa College in the fall. Born and raised in Oakland, CA, Jones was a standout at Castlemont High School and was promised a D1 offer at the University of Michigan before it was pulled at the last minute. 

Michael Francisco (21)
East Bay Athletics

Michael is a student-athlete at Cal State East Bay. Born and raised in Hayward, Francisco and has lived part of his life in Mexico. He is the captain of the soccer team and has professional aspirations. 

Kate Wang (16)

Kate is a figure skater from San Francisco, CA. After taking up skating at the age of 4, Wang has emerged as one of the most promising figure skaters in the country, competing in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games and at many national events. 

Noah One Bamola (17)
Unanimous Media

Noah (pictured far left), attends Redwood High School in Tiburon, CA. Noah has dual passions – tennis and theater – and is struggling with how to balance both. 

Here’s what Erick Peyton, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Unanimous Media had to say about the project:

“We’re grateful to Portal A and Snapchat for partnering with us to spotlight these talented young athletes through Level Up. Stephen and I hope that viewers feel the same sense of inspiration to empower and support our next generation that we did while creating this show.”

You can subscribe to watch here.

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Sports

Why Paolo Banchero is the Best Player in the 2022 NBA Draft

In the world of NBA Draft sickos, Paolo Banchero has been famous for too long—he’s been a stalwart on recruiting rankings since he was eligible to be included in recruiting rankings, never falling below sixth in his high school class since his freshman year of high school in 2018. But now, after years of hype as the prospective number one pick in the draft, he has seemingly lost ground to Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren, who present a novel, alien goodness rather than Banchero’s quotidien greatness. Familiarity has bred contempt—the nits are being picked. Still, Paolo Banchero is the best player in this year’s NBA Draft, no matter what the Orlando Magic think.

The most basic explanation for Banchero’s appeal is that he’s more skilled than just about anybody who’s bigger than him and bigger than just about anybody who’s more skilled than him. Even as the NBA charges into its age of monsters, he’s built different; 6’10, 250-pound teenagers shouldn’t be able to pass, dribble, and shoot with his level of fluency. During his one season at Duke, Paolo Banchero was the unquestioned best player on a Final Four team—his 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game over the course of the full season were very good; his NCAA Tournament run, punctuated by 20+ point outbursts against Texas Tech and UNC, was even better. 

Although Banchero isn’t an overly elastic ball-handler or bursty speed merchant, the basic fact that he’s a 6’10, 250-pound person who can score off the dribble offers a basic physics problem for opposing defenses. Smaller, faster defenders will be battered by his 6’10, 250 pound frame; bigger, slower defenders will be dusted. It hardly takes the scientific method to deduce that that boy nice; his 17.2 points per game were the most of any power conference freshman. Even within Duke’s recent lineage of  highly-drafted wing scorers, he stands alone—his 131 unassisted two-point field goals represent a level of self-sufficiency that fellow Dookies Brandon Ingram (111 unassisted twos), Jayson Tatum (98) and Jabari Parker (97) couldn’t reach. 

For Duke, Banchero was the nominal power forward who served as the de facto point guard by virtue of being the team’s most capable ball-handler. While he initially processed the game with the torpor and uncertainty of a guy who hadn’t played high-stakes basketball since the start of the pandemic, he regained his sharpness as the season progressed. In the Sweet 16, he hung 22 points and 4 assists (and just a single turnover) on Texas Tech’s top-ranked defense, the sole Duke player who didn’t seem dragooned by the Red Raiders’ suffocating no-middle defense. 

If Tech throttled offenses by turning their opponents into quivering worrywarts, Banchero calmly exploited their aggression. Since no-middle defense is a fairly dogmatic scheme built upon pre-programmed rotations, he forced Tech to tip their hand, provoking help defense before firing the ball to the open space where the help came from. Aware of his own gravity as a scorer, he punished overzealous rim protectors by feathering lobs and drop-offs to Mark Williams and caught perimeter players in traction by finding AJ Griffin for open threes. To paraphrase the honorary poet laureates of Daytona Beach, Banchero is scary and he knows it. 

Certainly, Banchero isn’t a perfect prospect. There’s a nagging feeling that he’s distracted by the vastness and variegation of his own talents—at times, it looks like he’s preoccupied with side-missions, hunting down perfect pelts rather than advancing the plot of the possession. Accordingly, he sometimes showed a frustrating tendency to settle for pull-up jumpers rather than dunk through the cranium of some terrified Clemson galoot; there’s no reason that somebody as physically dominant as Banchero should take more mid-range jumpers than shots at the rim. As a result, Banchero’s 55% True Shooting at Duke was probably lower than it should’ve been.

Ultimately, Banchero is at once the safest and riskiest player in the Draft. Regardless of where he’s drafted, he’ll be the runaway favorite to win Rookie of the Year; he’s clearly better-equipped for immediate success than Holmgren or Smith or Jaden Ivey. Nobody doubts that Banchero is an exceptional scorer and rebounder; the question is whether he can be exceptional enough

Whereas Holmgren’s defense and Smith’s shooting provide both of them with a high floor, Banchero doesn’t have those same auxiliary skills to be a role-player if he can’t reach his ceiling. As a spot-up shooter, he’s fine; his defense is whatever. Instead, his appeal lies in his potential to be the guy for his team, which is a tremendously high bar to clear. Every player in the NBA is so good that true eliteness is exists within tiny, fungible margins. The difference between Julius Randle making 2nd team All-NBA as the leader of a playoff team and Julius Randle getting booed as the scapegoat for a bad one is about three extra missed three-pointers every two weeks. If Banchero can maintain the efficiency to command primary initiator status, he’ll be the kind of omnipotent jumbo creator that racks up fistfuls of All-NBA berths. If he can’t, his value becomes considerably murkier.

But this is a risk worth taking. More than shooting, more than defense, more than having that dawg in you, advantage creation—the ability to force defenses to react to what you do— is what greases NBA offenses. This is why the Luka Doncic-led Mavs proved to have a more resilient offense in the playoffs than Chris Paul’s Suns or why the Warriors offense remains so deadly even with Steph Curry as the only functional dribbler in their starting lineup. Before you create an open corner three, you need to force a rotation; to force a rotation, you need to make defenses afraid of you; to spook defenses, you need to be very good in very specific ways. In this sense, Paolo Banchero looks like a future star because he’s good at the primary, star-making skill.

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Joe Johnson and Michael Beasley Shine In BIG3 Season Opener

Since launching five years ago, the BIG3 has provided fans with a fun and reliable source of professional basketball during summertime. Between being a platform spotlighting many familiar names who played in the NBA to reigniting a few of their returns to the league, the anticipation of the 2022 BIG3 season was high before its opening weekend, June 18th and 19th, in Chicago, IL.

Headlined by the defending champion Trilogy going toe to toe with reigning two-time BIG3 MVP Joe Johnson and former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley making his debut, the action was jam-packed at Credit Union One Arena. And as someone attending their first-ever BIG3 event, I was certainly intrigued by what it entailed.

Even in a three-on-three, half-court setting, the NBA-caliber skillsets from BIG3 players were still evident, as well as their energy. But when aided by a unique twist to that classic half-court staple (The first team to 50 points wins, four-point shots and specific calls are handled by players playing one-on-one), it’s not a surprise the Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz-founded league is a success.

Here are my three takeaways from the BIG3’s opening weekend.

Joe Johnson is still Iso Joe

Another day, another reminder of how much a bucket Joe Johnson is. Even at 40 years old, the 17-year NBA vet still possesses an incredible knack at scoring from all three levels on the floor, and that was evident on Saturday– 30 points in the Triplets’ 51-45 victory over the reigning champion, Trilogy.

Michael Beasley is still one of the most talented players, we’ve seen

While his NBA playing career didn’t turn out as planned, there’s no doubt Beasley is one of the most talented players we’ve seen over the past decade and a half. Still at 6-foot-8 and in peak shape, the former No. 2 overall pick had a great showing in his BIG3 debut. Playing for 3’s Company, Beasley effectively and efficiently scored 26 points in the team’s 50-47 victory over Bivouc.

Rick Mahorn’s Aliens have a lot to be happy about

While they didn’t make the playoffs last season, the Aliens have the potential to do so this year. Led by BIG3 championship-winning coach Rick Mahorn, the Aliens had a strong showing on Sunday.

In their 52-44 victory over the Enemies, the Aliens’ dynamic duo of Dusan Bulut and Karlis Lasmanis scored a combined 40 points and displayed a clear sense of comfort in playing three on three– given their experience of playing in FIBA’s three-on-three tournaments.