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By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court of the United States has voted to overturn a ban on sports gambling that had existed since 1992, declaring it unconstitutional.

According to CNN, “The court said the federal law violated constitutional principles limiting the federal government from controlling state policy, unconstitutionally forcing states to prohibit sports betting under their own laws.”

The move paves the way for each individual state to decide for themselves if they want to legalize sports betting with it being believed that about thirty two of them will within the next five years.  In fact, New Jersey is raring to go, and could be up and running by the NBA Finals in June, in a move that could save decrepit Atlantic City.  Other states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut are also said to have legislation already in the works in anticipation of this announcement which mirrors a previous ruling in relation to state lotteries.

The ruling is seen as a boon for professional sport leagues as it is widely believed that allowing sports betting will generate significantly more interest from casual fans who will now have a vested interest in the outcome of otherwise meaningless contests.  For proof, look no further than the explosion in popularity of the NFL in recent years, despite numerous off-field incidents, all thanks to fantasy football going mainstream.  Now the NBA and MLB can similarly hope to capitalize on artificial interest to boost ticket sales and TV ratings.  In fact, some team owners are already jumping for joy as there is some speculation that this move has effectively doubled the value of their franchises.

Others are more skeptical of the move.  Especially league officials who will now have to put their own regulations in place to ensure that there is no corruption in their games as the last thing that anybody wants is a situation where an official, umpire, referee, player or coach is on the take to fix the outcome of a game ala Pete Rose and Tim Donaghy.  On the other hand, those same officials might reason that if billions of dollars are already being spent every year illegally in off the book gambling why not legalize the action to profit off of something that’s going to be happening anyway.  The same logic used by proponents of legalizing marijuana.

Considering that I live in Arizona, a state with a Native American casino monopoly that banned DraftKings and FanDuel and which is in close proximity to Las Vegas, it’s likely that sports betting will never be legalized for me.  At least not anytime soon.  But for everyone else?  This decision could have a major impact on their daily lives going forward.  And their bank accounts.  For better or for worse.

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A look at the current state of sports betting in all of the states.

 

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Several new events have been added for the 2018 Winter Olympic games such as mixed doubles curling and mass speed skating.  Meanwhile, the 2020 Summer Olympics will see the return of softball and the addition of karate, wrestling, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing.  Those are all great additions but some people are still clamoring for even more events.  People like me.  E-sports! Drone racing! Hiking!?  A guy can dream right?

When it comes to adding hiking to the pantheon on Olympic games you could argue that I’m already getting my wish with sport climbing but that’s not enough to satisfy my hunger.  For I won’t be happy until hiking in of itself gets its just due.  Just think about the possibilities.  Forget about marathon running.  Get some backpackers to hike 15 miles through the Grand Canyon while carrying 35 pound packs.  That’s the ultimate test of endurance and mental toughness and surely an endeavor worthy of commemorating with a gold medal.

Or take it a step further and get rid of Track and Field events like sprinting and hurdling.  More impressive would be 200 meter sprints vertically up a mountain! You could also have team relay events or trail running events and to top it all off a summit challenge, where the best hikers in the world try to hike seven peaks in the same day to see who can do it in the shortest amount of time.

Not only would these events add intrigue and suspense to the Olympic games but they would also open up the games to a whole new demographic, the weekend warriors who are our real everyday champions.

Underrepresented in the Olympiads those athletes have taken refuge in other events.  Appearing in local Spartan Races and Tough Mudders but also in larger scale events like the Iron Man, the Iditarod, and the Nathan’s 4th of July hot dog eating competition.

But it’s time to forget all that.  The Olympics should incorporate all of those competitions and then some.  It should be the end all, be all of human competition.  The one time where the entire world stops, puts aside their petty differences, and unites in the name of sportsmanship to find out once and for all who is the very best in the world at everything.  Literally everything.  Hiking included.

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Is making hiking an Olympic sport the Greatest Idea Ever?

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As fans of the Golden State Warriors continue to celebrate their second championship in the last three years and the start of a dynasty, fans of competitive balance continue to decry the current state of the NBA.  Unfortunately, in a sport so easily dominated by transcended talent (the game’s best player, LeBron James, has gone to the finals seven straights seasons) there’s not much that can be done to prevent dynasties.  Or is there?

I have a radical proposal that could fix the NBA, making it harder for teams lead by star players to dominate.  A proposal that takes me back to my youth basketball days and the Police Athletic League.  Because kids paid to play in this league there were certain playing time restrictions in place.  Coaches couldn’t just play the best players all the time.  All the kids had to play.  At least some of the time.  The best players would still play more but the playing time was at least some what balanced.

The way that it would work was that kids were assigned entire quarters to play.  Let’s say that you had 8 kids on your roster. You’d play five in the first quarter.  The three who sat in the first quarter had to play in the second quarter along with two holdovers.  The kids who played the entire first half would then have to sit out the third quarter.  In theory, no kid could play three quarters before everyone else had played two.  No one could play all four before everyone else had played three.

Teams with the best players might still win but they wouldn’t be able to do so easily.  They’d have to go long stretches (entire quarters) with their best player on the bench allowing the other team a chance to get back into the game.  And they’d have to rely on their entire roster, even their worst player to help them win.  If you had a weak spot you couldn’t hide it on the bench or in limited minutes.  You had to find a way to win in spite of your weak spot or ideally you had to develop your talent to the point where you had no weak spots.

Applying these playing time rules to the NBA might go a long way towards establishing competitive balance.  The Eastern Conference’s most dominant team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, might not even make the finals if LeBron James or Kyrie Irving had to sit out entire quarters.  Perhaps a more well-balanced, star-less team such as the Boston Celtics would have moved on instead.  As for the Warriors just think about the level of intrigue that would swirl around their lineup decisions.  Do they play Kevin Durant and Steph Curry together?  Or do they split them up and built two separate units around them?  In this format the best teams or the teams with the best players wouldn’t necessarily win.  Instead the deepest teams or the teams that are the best strategizers might.

An added benefit of this format is that it would give star players built in rest throughout the season.  You wouldn’t have star players sitting out entire games during back-to-backs, which is currently one of the NBA’s other big issues as marquee prime-time televised matchups can often lack star power.

Obviously this is something that would never happen.  Players and teams are going to want to dictate who plays when.  At the highest level of competition there’s no such thing as fair play.  But that’s okay.  I’m a Warriors fan anyway.  Bring on the dynasty!

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Would playing time limits fix the NBA?

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The NBA Finals aren’t even over yet and already people are talking about where LeBron James will play in two years.  Will he join his banana boat friends (Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade) and form a super team with the Los Angeles Clippers.  Or will he join forces with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Paul George, and others on the Los Angeles Lakers?

To some the idea of LeBron James leaving Cleveland for a second time is unfathomable.  To others, it’s inevitable.  Having already brought a title to his hometown team the prevailing thought is that James will be free to chase down championships later in his career without having to deal with the same kind of scrutiny he faced the first time he left when he took his talents to South Beach and formed a super team with Wade and Chris Bosh.

Of course the reason why there’s all this speculation now is because of the presence of another super team, the Golden State Warriors, who are so far superior to every other team, that there is literally zero intrigue in watching this year’s finals play out.  The question now isn’t whether or not Golden State will win.  It’s whether or not they’ll be able to do so in four games on their way to becoming the first team in league history to go 16-0 in a single playoffs.  And since the prevailing thought is that they’ll be unstoppable for years to come there’s little intrigue in the league at all for the foreseeable future.

Luckily for basketball fans who have grown weary of watching the same two teams compete for the championship every year there’s soon going to be another competition capable of tickling their fancy and sparking their creative juices.  That’s because the International Olympic Committee has just announced that 3 on 3 basketball is now an official Olympic sport starting with the 2020 Summer Olympics in China!!!

I’ve always wondered why 3 on 3 basketball wasn’t a part of the Olympic schedule.  Other sports such as tennis, volleyball, and swimming allow for individual and team competitions of various configurations.  So why not basketball?  Especially when you consider the disparity in team talent for a country like the United States and a smaller European country like France.  The French can’t beat the U.S. for the gold in traditional five on five basketball.  But who knows.  Maybe a 3 on 3 team lead by Tony Parker and the Stiffle Tower Rudy Gorbet could beat a team of Americans.

As of now a few things aren’t entirely clear.  Will each country only get one team to represent them?  Or could multiple teams from the same country compete for medals?  Either way, whether in the qualifying rounds or the actual Olympics, we could be treated to some tremendous 3 on 3 games featuring current NBA stars.  Or will we?  Would those players be ineligible to compete if they’re already representing their country on the 5 on 5 team?  Regardless of how it’ll play out it’ll be a lot of fun before then to try and imagine what some of these 3 on 3 teams might look like.  (Technically each team will be comprised of four players.)

Will we see James, Paul, Anthony, and Wade form a team?  Would the unthinkable happen with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant reuniting?  Or how about a Warriors group of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant, and Draymond Green giving it a go to add another piece of hardware to their collection?  Better yet, maybe the entire Ball family could suit up.

Either way, the addition of this 3 on 3 tournament is a great boost to basketball fans who may have grown weary of watching the same teams and countries win year after year.  Unless of course those same players just wind up winning this tournament too.  Only time will tell.  Until then, let’s go Warriors!!!

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Could a team of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade win gold in a 3 on 3 tournament?

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On Tuesday night the NBA held its annual lottery to determine the order for the upcoming draft in June.  Prior to the festivities kicking off I asked my cousin, a huge Phoenix Suns fan, for his prediction as to where the Suns would pick.  With the second worst record in the league they were guaranteed to pick somewhere in the top four.  My cousin’s prediction was second.  Mine was fourth.  After all the ping pong balls had fallen and all the dust had settled the Suns had the fourth pick.  Draft orders are easy to predict if you assume that the fix is in.

Of course when it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery lots of people assume that the fix is in.  A few weeks ago Lakes coach Luke Walton let slip that he had been assured by team President Magic Johnson that the Lakes were going to have a top three pick.  Last year a tweet was sent out by the legendary Dikembe Mutombo congratulating the Philadelphia 76ers on getting the first pick in the draft, hours before the results were announced.  This from a league that has been dealing with allegations of a rigged system, pretty much every year, for the entire history of the lottery, from the New York Knicks landing Patrick Ewing to the Cleveland Cavaliers getting hometown hero LeBron James.  At this point the intrigue isn’t around whether or not the lottery is fixed.  We all know it is.  But, rather, in what ways is it fixed.  Who has the most to gain or lose by the way the order plays out?  Which historic franchise is in need of the biggest boost?

The question now becomes: if the lottery is fixed, what can we do about it?  There have been a lot of proposals that aim to address this issue from doing away with the weighted system to instituting the Wheel, which would evenly distribute every spot in the order to every team every thirty years so that teams can plan ahead of time as to when it’ll be their turn to land the top pick.  Most of these plans are nonsensical while a few have some potential.  But now we have a proposal that I can actually get behind and it comes to us from an unlikely source.

During my lunch break the other day I was listening to a local Phoenix sports talk show as they were discussing a proposal to fix the NBA Draft Lottery.  The proposal oddly enough was put forth by a hockey player, the Phoenix Coyotes’ star player in fact, veteran Shane Doan.  It’s a proposal that I’ve heard mentioned before but it’s so good that I think it warrants mentioning again and in greater detail.

Here’s how it would work.  Just like in the NHL teams would accrue points for winning games.  But this would only occur after a team has already been eliminated from the playoffs.  Those points would then determine the draft order with the team having the most points getting to pick first.  The worse you are, the sooner you’ll be eliminated from the playoffs, so the longer you’ll have to accumulate points.  The better teams on the cusp of making the playoffs will have less opportunity to earn points but since they’re better teams they still might win some games down the stretch enabling them to move up a few spots in the draft order.

This system, as crazy as it is, would effectively eliminate tanking and incentivize every non-playoff team to play hard until the end of the regular season.  You wouldn’t have a scenario where teams shut down perfectly healthy players for a quarter of the season as the Phoenix Suns did to star point guard Eric Bledsoe this past year.  And you wouldn’t have a doomsday scenario where two lottery bound teams are playing each other, each trying their hardest to avoid winning the game.  Instead every regular season game would matter as teams jostle for lottery positioning.  Considering how meaningless the regular season is for determining playoff seeding (it doesn’t matter if LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers finish with the #1 seed as long as they just make the playoffs) we could get to a point where the battles down the stretch for lottery positioning are better games than playoff previews between contending teams.

Of course this system wouldn’t necessarily eliminate tanking all together.  In a weird twist of fate it could actually encourage teams to tank the first half of the season just to get eliminated from playoff contention as quickly as possible so that they can start to accrue points as quickly as possible.

But at the same time you’d have to think that the end result would be an improvement over the current state of the game.  With so few teams having a legitimate chance at winning the title thanks to the ability of transcendent stars like LeBron James to influence so much of the game play, a twenty team race to the top of the draft could generate real intrigue in every city from coast to coast.

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Is a points based system for determining the NBA draft order the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,019 – Big3 Basketball League

Once professional golfers reach a certain age and can no longer compete at a high level on the PGA tour they have another league that they can still play in, the senior PGA tour.  Professional basketball players, however, have no other domestic league to play in once their careers are over.  Sure they could head overseas and play in China like Stephon Marbury did, but that’s not a realistic or appealing option for most players.

Fortunately, there is now another alternative, a newly formed 3 on 3 league known as Big3 put together by Ice Cube, Allen Iverson, and a host of other recently retired players including the likes of Gary Payton, Jermaine O’Neal, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Chauncey Billups, Mike Bibby, and George Gervin.

Clearly some of those guys are still in great shape and can still play at a relatively high level.  Not high enough to withstand the grind of a NBA season with its grueling travel schedule and sets of back to back games.  But high enough to play 3 on 3 once a week.  Or so they hope.

So, how will this new league of legends work?!?

According to ESPN:

“Games will be played in half-court settings and will feature 4-point shots, designated by three large circles several feet beyond the traditional 3-point line. Games will be played to 60 points and there will be a seven-minute halftime once a team reaches 30 points.

Ex-professional players over the age of 30 will be eligible to play. Teams will consist of a player/captain and four teammates and there will be a draft in March.

League play will start on June 24 and conclude on Aug. 12 with games being played every Saturday in different cities. All teams will play games on each Saturday.”

While the format does sound like it would be more suited for a celebrity Rock N’ Jock game on MTV than a serious league for former NBA stars, it does also carry a certain amount of appeal and intrigue.  Does Iverson still have his patented killer crossover?  Can the Glove still play D, if he even plays at all?  Will anyone even recognize Bonzie Wells?

Although it’s likely that back door cuts and jump shots will be more prevalent than alley-oops and slam dunks the league should still be plenty entertaining.  At the very least it’s probably going to be a better alternative for hardcore basketball fans over the summer than watching the WNBA.

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Is the Big3 basketball league the Greatest Idea Ever?

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