Rank #1: When Michael Jordan Mania Hit Birmingham
Last night on The Last Dance, we got the chance to re-live Michael Jordan’s time as a minor league baseball player, for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, in 1994. Today, we’re joined by James Fegan — who covers the White Sox for The Athletic — to hear some behind the scenes stories from Jordan’s time in Birmingham, including a wave of celebrity appearances, and a local pickup basketball game featuring MJ himself.
Read James Fegan’s stories about Michael Jordan playing for the Barons: https://theathletic.com/1803492/2020/05/10/thanks-to-1994-michael-jordan-will-always-be-the-most-famous-birmingham-baron/?source=theleadpodcast
May 11 2020
Rank #2: UFC 249: Ultimate Fighting in the Time of Corona
UFC 249 is going down on Saturday in Florida, a state where stay-at-home restrictions have been eased and sports like professional wrestling and MMA have been deemed essential. The Athletic’s Shaheen Al-Shatti joins us to discuss how this fight came to be, the extreme measures being taken to ensure that the fighters do not contract coronavirus, and what to expect from up-and-comer Justin Gaethje and the always entertaining Tony Ferguson.
Follow Shaheen Al-Shaati's MMA coverage:
May 08 2020
Rank #3: Undercover Maverick
A reporter goes undercover to try out for a G League Basketball team, and let’s just say it does not go well. The Athletic’s Saad Yousuf recounts his hilarious experience trying out for the Texas Legends, a developmental affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.
And The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson reflects on the remarkable career of Shaun Livingston, who overcame a catastrophic knee injury and won three NBA championships. Livingston retired last week.
What’s an NBA G League tryout like? I tried out (undercover) for the Texas Legends to find out
Robbed of stardom, Shaun Livingston created something more profound
Sep 20 2019
Rank #4: Clemson Football’s “Safe Seat”
Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney wants his players to talk about themselves and their backgrounds, so he created something called "the safe seat." It's part of a broader effort to address mental health issues among his players. It can be especially hard for college athletes to talk about mental health. And even though colleges are increasingly aware of the challenges, not every player gets the help they need. The Athletic’s Armen Keteyian joins us to talk about his video series on mental health in college athletics and the stories of two high-profile college football players, one who got the help he needed and one who didn't.
You can watch Armen’s video series on college athletes and mental health here:
To hear about some of the greatest rivalries in sports, including college football, check out "Sports Wars": https://wondery.com/shows/sports-wars/
If you need to talk to someone, you can call the The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Sep 19 2019
Rank #5: Ice Ice Bucket
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It turns out a women’s college basketball team planted the seeds for the viral internet trend that took over the Internet in 2014. The Athletic’s Steve Buckley joins us to talk about how it all happened and how three men with Lou Gehrig’s Disease inspired millions of people to transform a silly internet trend into millions of dollars for ALS research and awareness.
You can find Steve Buckley’s oral history of the Ice Bucket Challenge on the Athletic here: https://theathletic.com/1050538/2019/07/10/tell-every-person-you-know-five-years-later-the-oral-history-of-how-the-ice-bucket-challenge-spread/?source=theleadpodcast
Sep 18 2019
Rank #6: Yes, The Astros Cheated
A new investigation by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich has revealed that the Houston Astros used a high-powered camera to steal other teams' pitching signs during the 2017 season, the year they won the World Series. Major League Baseball is now investigating the matter to determine who within the organization knew about the scheme. Rosenthal joins us to talk about their report, exactly how the Astros were cheating, and what all of this could mean for the team and the league.
Read Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich’s story on how the Astros sought a competitive edge:
Nov 13 2019
Rank #7: Dynasty Done? An Exclusive Interview with Steph Curry
Steph Curry knows that everything has changed for the Warriors. The team lost three big players from their championship run and superstar Klay Thompson could miss the entire season due to a torn ACL. In an exclusive interview with Curry, The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami speaks with the three-time NBA Champion about the new-look Warriors, what went through his head when Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn, and his potential plan for retirement.
You can go here for Tim Kawakami’s complete interview with Steph Curry on his podcast The TK Show: https://theathletic.com/podcast/13-the-tk-show/?source=theleadpodcast
Oct 25 2019
Rank #8: A Shadow Over The World Series
The Houston Astros are under intense pressure to make things right after their assistant General Manager reportedly taunted a group of female reporters in the locker room. Brandon Taubman screamed "Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so "effing" glad we got Osuna!" He was referencing Roberto Osuna, a star pitcher who was suspended for 75 games for violating MLB's domestic abuse policy. The team then tried to discredit the reporter who broke the news. MLB is investigating the incident. The Athletic’s Emma Span joins us to explain what the exchange was all about and what might be done about it.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says it’s time for MLB to impose harsh discipline on Brandon Taubman and the Astros:
Oct 24 2019
Rank #9: Why Kevin De Bruyne Is The Premier League's Best Player
The Athletic has named Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne as its Premier League player of the year. Before the season was suspended, the Belgian star was closing in on Thierry Henry's record for assists in a season and had been directly involved in more goals than any other player. The Athletic’s Sam Lee joins us to talk about what makes De Bruyne so special as a player, his future with Manchester City given their Champions League ban, and what drives the fiery Belgian star.
Follow Sam Lee's coverage of Man City:
May 07 2020
Rank #10: Everybody Hates Houston
Things are bad for the Houston Astros. Players from around the league have been going on camera over the past few days to criticize Astros players and owner Jim Crane for not fully owning up to their role in the sign stealing controversy. Commissioner Rob Manfred has also come under fire for his botched handling of the case. The Athletic’s Marc Carig joins us from spring training in Arizona to talk about why player rage has reached a boiling point and what comes next for the troubled team.
Follow Marc Carig's MLB coverage:
Feb 19 2020
Rank #11: The Clippers Have Chemistry Issues
New reporting from The Athletic has revealed problems inside the Clippers locker room. Kawhi Leonard has been red hot on the court, but his aloofness and unusual leadership style has created some friction within the team. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha joins us to talk about how the Clippers have been struggling to adapt to life with the reticent star, and what it could mean for the team's championship hopes.
Read Jovan Buha and Sam Amick's story about the culture of the Clippers:
Jan 24 2020
Rank #12: How the NFL Combine Became Reality TV
The NFL combine has gotten a little out of control lately, with people obsessing over the size of Joe Burrow’s hands, broadcasters raving about how fast 300-pound linemen can run the 40-yard dash, and a punter bench pressing 225 pounds more than two dozen times before a raucous crowd. The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones joins us from Indianapolis to talk about how the combine became such a bizarre spectacle and what events there actually matter (hint: it's not what happens at the smoothie station).
Follow Lindsay Jones's coverage of combine, the draft, and the NFL:
Mar 02 2020
Rank #13: The NBA Suspends Play
The NBA has suspended all games until further notice after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. We recap how one of the most historic days in sports history unfolded at breakneck speed, and are joined by The Athletic's Joe Vardon to discuss how the NBA abruptly changed its position after Gobert tested positive and what comes next for the league and its players.
(Note: Gobert's teammate Donovan Mitchell has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus as well. It's unclear at this time who the NBA's "patient zero" actually is.)
Follow Joe Vardon's NBA coverage:
Mar 12 2020
Rank #14: Tom Brady is Heading to Tampa
One of the NFL’s biggest offseason questions was finally answered on Tuesday: Tom Brady is leaving New England and heading to Tampa Bay. The Athletic’s Steve Buckley joins us to talk about Brady’s unprecedented run of success with the Pats, his relationship with head coach Bill Belichick, and how New England fans should be dealing with the news of Brady's departure.
Read Steve Buckley's ode to Tom Brady:
Mar 18 2020
Rank #15: Should the Astros' World Series Title Be Rescinded?
On Friday, there was yet another development in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. The Wall Street Journal reports that the team used a powerful algorithm called "Codebreaker" to figure out their opponent's signs. How much did the sign-stealing scheme help the Astros on the field? The Athletic's Jayson Stark and Eno Sarris recently ran the numbers to answer that question. Stark joins us to explain their findings, and to argue that despite their elaborate cheating scheme, the Astros should not have their 2017 World Series title vacated.
Feb 10 2020
Rank #16: Cam Newton’s Messy Breakup With The Panthers
After months of speculation, the Carolina Panthers released longtime quarterback Cam Newton on March 24. While the move was expected by some, it still came as a shock to fans and the football world. And the whole separation itself was rather messy. After the Panthers announced they would allow Newton to seek a trade, Cam took to the comments on the team's Instagram page to give his side of the story. It was a far from elegant way to let go of a quarterback who is also a former MVP and considered by many to be an all-time great. Today, The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue joins us to discuss why the Carolina Panthers franchise QB was released so unceremoniously, what could be next for Superman, and why he has meant so much to the Carolina community.
Apr 01 2020
Rank #17: Is The Patriots' Brady-Belichick Era Over?
The New England Patriots are out of the playoffs after a 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans. As they enter the post-season, there are a number of questions facing the organization -- the biggest being the future of #12. The Athletic’s Steve Buckley joins us to discuss this new era for Pats fans and whether or not after two decades the New England Patriots dynasty has finally reached its end.
Read Steve Buckley's article about the wild-card game:
Jan 06 2020
Rank #18: The Phone Call That Changed a GM's Life
Nine years ago, Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard and his wife Kristen Ballard received an unexpected phone call. It challenged them in a way they never could have imagined, and caused their family to grow in size. Warning: This is a heartwarming tale of humanity, just in time for the holidays.
Read Zak Keefer's story about the Ballard family:
Dec 20 2019
Rank #19: The Patriots’ Breaking Point
Antonio Brown spent just 11 days with the New England Patriots before they released him amid accusations of rape and sexual assault. With so much controversy swirling around the All-Pro receiver, what was the final straw? We look at the history of the Patriots taking on risky players and analyze the famous “Patriot Way.”
In her column, Lindsay Jones says if Antonio Brown never plays in the NFL again, it’s entirely his fault:
To learn more about "The Patriot Way," listen to the award-winning 6-part investigative podcast "Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc.": https://wondery.com/shows/gladiator/
Go here to listen to Lindsay Jones and Amy Parlapiano’s NFL Power Rankings podcast:
Sep 23 2019
Rank #20: The Ravens' Bet on Lamar Jackson Is Paying Off
The Ravens rattled off their ninth straight win on Sunday, defeating the Bills 24-17 and moving to first overall in the AFC. In the process, Lamar Jackson became just the second quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and the 22-year-old is seen by many as the leading candidate for league MVP. The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia joins us to talk about how the Ravens gambled on Jackson in the off-season by rearranging their offense to suit his incredible rushing skills, and to discuss whether the Ravens’ success with a dual-threat QB will become a blueprint for other teams in the future.
Read Sheil Kapadia's story about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' new-look offense:
Dec 09 2019