We know we are only a month into the new year, but 2019 is already delivering some exciting sports stories. From an athlete with too many talents to an NFL referee stealing the spotlight during the playoffs, here are five headlines worth knowing now.
The first viral moment of 2019 was the courtesy of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi. The 21-year-old won over the hearts of judges and over 31 million viewers on YouTube with her energetic and captivating floor routine at the NCAA Collegiate Challenge match on January 4th. Before Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ could even get rolling, Ohasi was leaping and tumbling across the arena, immediately getting the crowd on their feet. But the fun never stopped. For nearly two minutes, and with the help of Earth Wind and Fire, The Jackson 5, and Michael Jackson, she had audiences captivated with her perfect technique and infectious smile. In a post-match interview with the New York Times, Ohasi admits “Performing is my favorite thing. What you see is how I feel.” And perform she did. Ohasi was rewarded with a perfect 10, and UCLA took home the gold, beating out Michigan State and UC Davis.
If you missed it, do yourself a favor and watch the brilliant performance here
With spring training a month away, Kyler Murray’s time is limited to pick a professional pursuit: baseball or football. In case you have not been tracking this two-sport story, Murray committed to the Oakland Athletics in the amateur draft last June, with one stipulation in his contract. Murray negotiated to play a final season of football at the University of Oklahoma. The following winter months ended up being something out of a fairytale. Murray surpassed 4300 yards through the air and 1000 on the ground, accounted for 54 touchdowns, and guided Oklahoma to a 12-2 record. Oh, and he took home the most coveted honor in in college sports, the Heisman Trophy. Last week, the 21-year-old put himself into an official pickle when he declared himself for the NFL draft. While A’s manager Bob Melvin remains confident Murray will be in Mesa in a few weeks, the rest of the sporting world has started placing bets on mitts or shoulder pads. Where are you putting your money?
And if you are one of those ever-optimistic readers wondering if he could play both simultaneously, the answer is no.
Tom Brady was not the only person who deserved recognition at the AFC Divisional playoff game. Dressed in black and white, shielded by a baseball hat, and standing at the line of scrimmage was Sarah Thomas, the first woman to officiate an NFL playoff game. Thomas served as the down judge on Rob Torbet’s crew of on-field officials for the showdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots. The game was the latest achievement in Thomas’ extensive resume of firsts: In 2011, she became the first female to officiate in a Big Ten stadium; in 2009, she was the first woman to officiate a college bowl game; and before that she earned the title of the first woman to officiate a major college football game. While heralded by celebrities like Alyssa Milano, athletes like Billie Jean King, and the press as a trailblazer, Thomas sees herself as pursuing her passion, telling CNN “I’ve just been doing this truly because I love it. The guys don’t think of me as female; they see me as just another official.”
While headlines like ‘The Golden Age of Men’s Tennis May Well Be Over” have run through the media since 2015, recent events suggest speculation may be turning into reality. It began in early January when British tennis pro Andy Murray revealed he was suffering from constant pain associated with a hip injury, which may force him to retire from tennis after Wimbledon. The Big Four took another hit a few days later during the Australian Open when Roger Federer fell to 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, keeping the vet from another Grand Slam quarterfinal. The last two members, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, appeared strong as they met in the championship match on Sunday, but both have been hit with health issues of late. The question now becomes can they bounce back or is it time to pass the baton on to a new crop of rising stars?
The harsh reality is beginning to set in for NBA teams: The Warriors power foursome has grown by one, presenting a significant challenge for the rest of the League. Ten-year NBA veteran Demarcus Cousins signed a free agent contract with Golden State last summer but has remained on the sidelines all season recovering from a torn Achilles. In mid-January he was freed from his injury shackles and within moments of stepping on the court proved he’s back with vengeance. For his Warriors debut, the 6-foot-11 star scored the first basket of the game with a vicious dunk, a move described by teammate Stephen Curry as “poetry in motion.” He went on to secure six rebounds, three assists, and 14 points, 9 of which came from beyond the three-point line. Cousins has continued to show he is more than a one-night-wonder, earning an average of 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and only 1.3 turnovers in his three games with the Warriors. So, what now? Coach Steve Kerr is focused on getting Cousins comfortable with the team’s offense before gearing up to secure another championship title.
This week, Anthony Davis asked the New Orleans Pelicans for a trade, giving them just over a week to explore options prior to the impending trade deadline. While potential suitors are lining up to offer whatever they can to attain one of the best players in the league, rumors abound that there are at most three teams to which he would re-sign. However, due to the Rose Rule, the Celtics are unable to trade their many accumulated assets while Kyrie Irving is still on the roster, at least until July 1st. Are the Pelicans better off trading Davis before the deadline? Or, would his value diminish with half a season less guaranteed to the acquiring team? How valuable is the Knicks pick under the new lottery odds, and is that uncertainty one more argument for New Orleans to wait until the summer? Finally, if New Orleans does decide to wait, do they even play Anthony Davis the rest of this season, or do they risk alienating fans even further by sending him home and bottoming out to improve their own pick this year? One player’s request has rapidly generated many important questions for the teams involved, and also for the league as it attempts to understand the unforeseen implications of super-max contracts, the degree to which teams should be able to retain their star players, and the impact all of this has on less-attractive markets.