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The four position battles to watch at Ravens training camp

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The Four Position Battles To Watch At Ravens Training Camp

When the Ravens open training camp Wednesday in Owings Mills, quarterback Lamar Jackson will be the center of attention once more, the intrigue over his contract negotiations obscuring the unusual state of the team’s roster: There aren’t a lot of starting jobs to be won. At least not yet.

Sure, ongoing rehabilitations will force some backups into first-string roles in practice. And, yes, injuries will inevitably shake up the Ravens’ depth chart somewhere. But for the most part, the most intriguing roster battles for general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh are closer to the bottom of the Ravens’ projected depth chart than the top.

Here’s a look at how four camp competitions are shaping up ahead of the Ravens’ first week of practice.

Starting left guard

What the Ravens need here is another Bradley Bozeman: a young, capable lineman who can make it through a full season. Bozeman, before he moved back to center last season, didn’t miss a start at left guard in 2019 or 2020. His immediate successor in 2021, Tyre Phillips, lasted less than a half in the season opener before he was injured. Ben Powers started the next 12 games, often splitting repetitions with the sometimes-injured Ben Cleveland. Then Powers got hurt, and Cleveland started the Ravens’ final four games.

Powers, who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, was maybe the steadiest of the Ravens’ left guards last season, finishing with the lowest overall blown-block rate of the trio (1.6%), according to Sports Info Solutions. But if Phillips and Cleveland enter camp with lower floors, their ceilings are also higher. Phillips, who struggled when pressed into tackle duty last season, was solid in his 40 snaps at left guard, with no blown blocks, according to SIS. Cleveland, meanwhile, impressed in pass protection as a rookie but lacked the knock-back power he showed in Georgia’s running game.

No. 3 running back

Depending on the availability of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, both still recovering from season-ending knee injuries suffered last preseason, this fight for a reserve job could turn into a fight for a starting job. That was the case last season, when Ty’Son Williams emerged from the wreckage of the Ravens’ running back room with a tenuous spot atop the depth chart.

This year, the challengers are fourth-year veteran Justice Hill, newcomer Mike Davis and sixth-round pick Tyler Badie. After losing his 2021 season to a torn Achilles tendon, Hill participated in mandatory minicamp and should be in even better shape for training camp. He was a special teams standout in 2020, an asset now even more valuable with the offseason losses of defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (retirement) and inside linebacker Chris Board (free agency). But his fit in the offense is still to be determined.

Davis, 29, seemed to find his footing in the Ravens’ offense quickly after signing in May. But he’ll need to show more than he did with the Atlanta Falcons last season, when he finished last among qualifying running backs in average rushing yards over expectation, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Then there’s Badie, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing last year and impressed as a receiver in offseason workouts. His greatest obstacle might be his inexperience; neither Dobbins nor Edwards broke out until November of their rookie year.

No. 3 wide receiver

Devin Duvernay’s production as a receiver over his two years in Baltimore has been inconsistent, but he enters camp with decent job security as the Ravens’ No. 2 wide receiver. Less certain, and perhaps less important, is the Ravens’ No. 3 option: James Proche II or Tylan Wallace?

Proche easily cleared Wallace last season in both total yardage (202 receiving yards to 23) and relative efficiency (1.2 yards per route run to 0.5 yards). But Wallace, much like Proche in his rookie year, didn’t have much of a sample size to pull from. He played just nine offensive snaps through Week 10, and three games with double-digit snaps in all.

Regardless of how they stack up — Proche has better hands and is the more advanced route runner, while Wallace projects as a more dangerous downfield threat with more inside-outside flexibility — both should play regularly this season. The rotation’s biggest hurdles could be “heavy” personnel groupings. If the Ravens rely more on two- or three-tight-end looks, there’ll be fewer snaps available for their wide receivers.

Reserve safety

There might not be a tougher competition to handicap. Considering the uncertainty over a possible trade market for Chuck Clark, first-round pick Kyle Hamilton’s versatility and the Ravens’ willingness to play three or more safeties — not to mention the overall depth at the position — it’s hard to know how many spots DeCosta will reserve for safeties.

Marcus Williams, Hamilton and Clark, if he stays, are sure things. But how many others will make the 53-man roster, and who? Geno Stone took a step forward in his second season in Baltimore and has the third-most 2021 special teams snaps among returning Ravens. Tony Jefferson impressed as a late-season addition and was a nuisance in coverage for quarterback Lamar Jackson in minicamp. And Ar’Darius Washington, who missed minicamp with an injury, was promising enough as a rookie to make last year’s initial roster.

If a final spot comes down to special teams ability, Stone would likely be the favorite. If veteran leadership is the deciding factor, Jefferson would have the upper hand. And if the Ravens can’t afford to part with either, they’ll keep both.

Preseason, Week 1

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DL Hall up and down in debut as Orioles fall to Rays, 8-2, lose ground in wildcard race – The Denver Post

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Dl Hall Up And Down In Debut As Orioles Fall To Rays, 8-2, Lose Ground In Wildcard Race - The Denver Post

As far back as DL Hall can remember, he took the mound with a jump and a jump over the foul line. It’s so second nature now that the left-hander doesn’t think about it anymore. Plus, he had a lot on his mind when he came out of the dugout at Tropicana Field on Saturday to make his major league debut.

There he was, jumping over that white line. This routine will not change, even if Hall’s environment changes drastically. When he warmed up in the bullpen near left field, Orioles pitching staff gathered to watch, then punched the 23-year-old on the way to dugout . When he entered the field and quickly threw five consecutive balls, there was nowhere else to look. When he came back in the second set and retired the side, it was just as thrilling.

The attention was not for the success he found – Hall left after 3 2/3 innings, having allowed five runs in the 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead, it was for all he stood for, another piece of that rebuild to finally hit the majors.

However, this transition will be short-lived. Manager Brandon Hyde announced after the match that Hall would be returned as an option to Triple-A Norfolk to develop as a reliever before potentially returning to the club in September.

Long before the first pitch, Hall stood in the dugout next to rookie catcher Adley Rutschman, one of his closest friends in the organization, and dunked himself into the empty stadium. Rutschman was looking forward to this moment, seeing the look on Hall’s face when the No. 4 pipeline prospect from Baltimore looked over a large league park before his debut.

These two – receiver and starting pitcher – should play a key role in the turnaround envisioned by the Orioles (59-54). Rutschman already does, proving himself as the American League’s Rookie of the Year candidate. Others will follow, including shortstop Gunnar Henderson, the sport’s top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

Perhaps others will arrive to help the Orioles before the end of the season, as Baltimore finds itself half a game away from third-place wildcard for the Rays (59-53) with the Minnesota Twins (58 -53) yet to play. They’re within reach, and while Saturday didn’t show it, we think having Hall in the mix will serve as a boost.

Hall could have arrived sooner had he not suffered a season-ending stress reaction in his elbow last year, stopping him after 31 2/3 innings at Double-A Bowie. Hall’s progress was slow, as he stayed in Florida for extended spring training before appearing with High-A Aberdeen, Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

Hall came on as a backup for Baltimore’s playoff hunt, a hard-throwing southpaw who posted showy numbers at bat in the minor leagues. In 70 innings for Norfolk, he struck out 114. But he also averaged 5.7 walks per nine innings, with command issues being the biggest problem.

He appeared early Saturday. Hall walked the first batter he faced and allowed a run in the first inning before returning for the second showing off the elite tricks he possesses. For his first strikeout, first baseman Christian Bethancourt threw a 95.9 mph fastball. Then outfielder Jose Siri was caught watching a change before Hall backed up for a 97.2mph quad that escaped outfielder Roman Quinn’s bat.

At this point, Hall had a lead to work with. The Orioles scored two runs on singles by Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos. But that lead evaporated in the third inning, when Hall allowed three runs after walking the point guard and allowed two doubles and a single.

Hall did not finish fourth, with a sacrificial fly scoring the fifth and final run against him. Hall hit the ball in his plain brown glove – opting not to use the bright teal glove he had with the Tides – before handing the ball to manager Brandon Hyde.

As Hall left the field, he did not jump the foul line. He stepped over it instead, barely breaking stride, as he adjusted his cap at the end of his first major league appearance. There were ups. There were downs. But it still happened.

Tempers ignite

After plate umpire Andy Fletcher granted a late timeout call to Chirinos in the eighth inning, Rays right-hander Pete Fairbanks was the exception. He hit Chirinos with the next pitch, then aimed the words at home plate — whether it was Chirinos or Fletcher was unclear.

Chirinos heard, however, and turned back to Fairbanks. When he took several steps to the reliever, the benches cleared and Chirinos, outfielders Brett Phillips and Anthony Santander and shortstop Jorge Mateo all had to be held.

However, the feud died down fairly quickly and there were no ejections.

In the midst of a playoff race, tempers can flare. And with Tampa Bay and Baltimore battling for a wildcard spot, it’s no surprise.

around the horn

>> Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez was at Tropicana Field to support Hall, his longtime minor league teammate. Rodriguez, baseball’s top pitching prospect, will come off the mound on Monday as he continues his recovery from a Grade 2 pulled rectus muscle. It will be the third time in the past week that he’s been thrown off the mound.

>> Right-hander Spenser Watkins, who was in line to start Saturday for Baltimore, moved to the bullpen instead and pitched three innings. Watkins, who Hyde says should be back in the rotation by the middle of next week, allowed three runs on six hits.

>> Right-hander Tyler Wells threw a long pitch downfield before the game. It was another positive step for the starting pitcher after suffering an oblique injury late last month.

This story will be updated.

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Heat regular-season schedule to include game in Mexico City, team’s second visit there in five years

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Heat Regular-Season Schedule To Include Game In Mexico City, Team’s Second Visit There In Five Years

There will be a south-of-the-border element for the Miami Heat when the NBA schedule is released in coming days.

The Heat, under current NBA plans, are scheduled for a Dec. 17 game in Mexico City, one that will count against the San Antonio Spurs’ home schedule.

It will be the Heat’s first regular-season game outside of the United States or Canada since defeating the Brooklyn Nets 101-89 on Dec. 9, 2017 in front of a listed 19,777 in Mexico City.

The game at Mexico City Arena is part of the Spurs’ expansion beyond their AT&T Center home.

For the Heat, the game will come in place of their annually scheduled regular-season trip to San Antonio. Last season’s Heat visit to San Antonio had to be rescheduled due to the pandemic, when the Heat could not field the required eight players in uniform. The Heat swept last season’s two-game series from the Spurs.

During the Heat’s 2017 trip to Mexico City, then Heat-guard Dion Waiters said, “I just found out it was actually bigger than New York. That’s crazy.

“I’ll tell you one thing, the cars don’t stop. It’s worse than New York. It’s crazy.”

Of that 2017 game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at the time, “I was pleasantly surprised walking around and seeing NBA games on the TV everywhere we went, and the fans recognized us. It felt like we were in Miami.”

That 2017 game in Mexico City came three months after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the city, requiring an NBA site inspection ahead of the meetings with the Nets.

It again will put the Heat at extreme elevation, Mexico City is 7,350 feet above sea level. The NBA’s highest elevation is Denver, at 5,280.

“It feels like we played two games,” then-Heat guard Goran Dragic said after that 2017 exhibition.

In 2013, a game between the Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves in Mexico City had to be postponed due to smoke filling the arena from a generator malfunction.

Last month, in the Arboledas Park area of Mexico City, NBA Mexico designed local courts with a mural that included a section with a painting of Heat mascot Burnie.

The NBA is returning to international games this season and this preseason after a break due to the pandemic. The last regular-season NBA game in Mexico came in 2019, between the Spurs and Phoenix Suns.

The NBA already has announced preseason games on Oct. 6 and Oct. 8 between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The league also will stage a regular-season game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons in Paris on Jan. 19.

The NBA’s first game outside of the United States or Canada was a 1984 exhibition between the Suns and New Jersey Nets. The first international regular-season game was in Tokyo in 1990, between the Suns and Utah Jazz.

Among other international venues for Heat games (all exhibitions) have been Nassau, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tel Aviv; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Paris, London; Beijing; Shanghai and Rio De Janeiro. The Heat do not have an international exhibition this year.

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Beth El Congregation of the South Hills Hosts Shoe Drive

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Beth El Congregation Of The South Hills Hosts Shoe Drive

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Starting today, you can help someone in need literally put a better foot forward.

The Beth El Congregation of the South Hills is holding an area-wide shoe drive.

They accept new and lightly worn shoes to be sent to developing countries.

You can drop off the shoes until 5 p.m. tonight.

This fundraising will continue until October.

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Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney. Why one ‘routine’ big play from the preseason win gives the Chicago Bears offense confidence.

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Justin Fields To Darnell Mooney. Why One ‘Routine’ Big Play From The Preseason Win Gives The Chicago Bears Offense Confidence.

On the Chicago Bears’ second offensive series of the preseason, on a third-down play from their 38-yard line, quarterback Justin Fields broke the huddle and set himself in the shotgun with positive vibes.

Fields scanned the Kansas City Chiefs defense, recognized the man coverage he would be facing and identified a matchup he loved with his favorite receiver Darnell Mooney in the slot to the left against cornerback L’Jarius Sneed.

“I pretty much knew what was going to happen,” Fields said.

Roll the tape.

With a look he loved and enough protection in front of him, Fields hit the top of his five-step drop and launched — on time and in rhythm. Mooney, with a crisp outside release on a fade route, got a bit of a pick from fellow receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and created separation. Fields’ ball was on Mooney’s back shoulder, requiring a slight adjustment but keeping safety Juan Thornhill at bay.

Mooney twisted, jumped and hauled in the football for a gain of 26 yards.

“I think Darnell knew where I was going to put that ball,” Fields said.

Added Mooney: “I just went and grabbed it. We had an opportunity to make ourselves a play. And it was nice to get that in game-like conditions going against some other guys.”

In terms of yardage gained, that was the Bears’ biggest play from scrimmage in their 19-14 victory at Soldier Field, a 26-yard chunk play that brought the crowd to life — at least for a few moments. An argument could be made that that deep shot was also the team’s biggest play as far as future potential is concerned.

Look, August in the NFL is always a search for promising signs. And that Fields-to-Mooney connection Saturday qualified as one bright spot during an afternoon in which the rebuilding Bears looked very much like a team with a long, long way to go to compete at the highest level.

Still, when the chemistry between the quarterback and the top receiver is evident, it’s at least a little something to feel good about, right?

“I think that was a routine play for us,” Fields said. “It was, of course, a great catch by (Mooney). But we’ve seen that many times. So it was no surprise.”

That’s a significant big-picture goal for Fields and the offense, to more consistently feel like their big plays are routine. And with four weeks left until the regular season begins, the established and still-growing connection between Fields and Mooney remains noteworthy.

“It feels great,” Fields said. “It’s just knowing how he’s going to run the route, how he’s going to work the defender, where he’s going to end up. Just the chemistry between us two and the work put in in the offseason, that shows right there.”

To be clear, the production of the Bears’ first-unit offense Saturday was far from spectacular and barely satisfactory. Fields took 18 snaps over three possessions with the Bears managing all of 78 yards and four first downs.

The drive chart — punt, punt, punt — felt all-too familiar and registers as at least moderately concerning.

From the start of training camp through Saturday’s victory, there has been little evidence to believe that a significant offensive breakthrough is coming anytime soon. But internally, the baby-stepping Bears are eagerly identifying things they can build on.

Coach Matt Eberflus, for one, applauded the way Fields operated, handling the huddle and showing a feel for the game.

Mooney recognized the offense was playing behind a work-in-progress line without the services of receivers Byron Pringle, Velus Jones and N’Keal Harry, who are out with injuries. In addition, starting running back David Montgomery and tight end Cole Kmet sat out.

“Definitely a lot of guys missing right now,” Mooney said. “But with the guys who are here, I feel like we executed well. I’m interested to see (on video) how smooth it was.”

If the Bears wanted a glimpse of what they’re one day striving to become, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes happily obliged. Overseeing just one drive Saturday — and really just looking to break a sweat and relax — Mahomes took the Chiefs on an 11-play, 72-yard march into Soldier Field’s north end zone.

Bing, bang, boom.

The 2018 league MVP and Super Bowl LIV champion spread his six completions around to six receivers and finished the series with a 5-yard screen pass to tight end Blake Bell for a touchdown.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” Mahomes said.

Perhaps one day, Fields and the Bears will be able to expect similar efficiency and ease in how they carve up opposing defenses. But for now, they’re in a different stage of the grind with a less experienced quarterback learning a new system with so many new faces all around.

To Fields’ credit, his first-blush review of the early offensive output was appropriately subdued.

“I think it went all right,” he said. “There’s always room to improve.”

Fields was asked what he was most looking forward to dialing in on when he had his first chance to review the 18 plays.

“I’ve got to dissect every play,” he said. “Go back to my rules. What am I supposed to do on this play? (Look at) protection and stuff like that. It’s just being process-driven and making sure I did my job.”

For an NFL starting quarterback with the grandest of ambitions, the celebration of 26-yard completions can go only so far when points aren’t added to the scoreboard.

So Fields would be the first to acknowledge that the Bears’ climb barely has gotten started.

He did add another crowd-pleasing completion late in the first quarter, recognizing extra Chiefs pressure coming before the snap, adjusting the protection, then hitting Tajae Sharpe on the right sideline to convert third-and-9.

“Justin did a great job of putting it in a spot where only I could get to it,” Sharpe said.

Much of the Bears fan base reacted similarly.

Hurray! Now … more of that. Much more.

For the record, the Bears scored all 19 of their points after halftime with backup quarterback Trevor Siemian leading two touchdown drives and a short-field field-goal series. Siemian hit rookie Trestan Ebner with a 12-yard touchdown pass over the middle and later connected with Dazz Newsome for a 13-yard score.

Cairo Santos added field goals of 20 and 47 yards to punctuate the victory.

Now the Bears will flip the page with training camp practices Monday and Tuesday followed by a second preseason game Thursday night in Seattle against the Seahawks. At this stage in the growing process, Fields and the offense must take all their victories, however small they might be, and pocket them without apology. But they also must demand more of themselves, striving to produce big plays and bright moments far more frequently.

Said Fields: “We’re just going to keep working, keep stacking days and continue to get better with the small details.”

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IRS free file system expanded one step closer to Dems’ bill

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Irs Free File System Expanded One Step Closer To Dems' Bill

WASHINGTON– The landmark climate change and health care bill passed by Democrats and soon to be signed by President Joe Biden will bring U.S. taxpayers one step closer to a government-run, free-file electronic tax filing system.

It’s something lawmakers and advocates have been looking for for years. For many Americans, it is frustrating that in addition to having to pay sometimes hefty tax bills, they also have to shell out extra money for tax preparation programs or preparers due to an increasingly heavy US tax system. more complex.

“It’s definitely something we should be doing, and when the IRS has adequate resources, it’s something that will happen,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a finance committee hearing. of the Senate in June.

And now that the IRS is on the verge of receiving nearly $80 billion from the so-called ‘Cutting Inflation Act’, the agency has the wherewithal to develop new systems to help Americans to pay their taxes. The legislation was passed by Congress on Friday.

Several obstacles stand in the way. Even in the best-case scenario, it will probably take years for a new free system to be up and running. There is also backlash from commercial tax preparation companies, questioning whether Americans want the IRS to prepare their taxes.

Perhaps that biggest hurdle is an agreement between the IRS and some commercial tax preparation companies, known as the Free File Alliance, that prevents the federal agency from creating its own free tax filing system. . In short, the IRS agreed not to create its own filing system if companies instead offered free services to taxpayers earning $73,000 or less.

This program, however, has been marred by controversy, with commercial companies misrepresenting their services and low rates of taxpayer participation.

In April, the Government Accountability Office reported that while 70% of taxpayers were eligible for services through the Free File Alliance, only 3% of taxpayers actually use the service. The watchdog recommended that the IRS find new free filing options before the Alliance expires in October 2023.

With the funding provided in the bill, the IRS has the opportunity to create a new system.

Included is a provision that allocates $15 million to the IRS to make plans for a free direct electronic tax filing system. These plans should be developed within nine months and would include cost estimates for the creation and administration of a system. They would also require public participation.

There are also legislative attempts to advance this effort.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in July resubmitted a bill called the Tax Filing Simplification Act that would require the IRS to create its own free online tax filing service and move away from its partnership with private online tax preparation companies.

“I’ve been pushing for a free tax filing system for years, and now the IRS is about to have major funding to modernize its IT systems, which means it’s time to develop tax tools. tax filing simplifications defined in my Tax Filing Simplification Act,” Warren told The Associated Press.

“Americans are spending too much time and money filing their taxes, and the IRS should adopt these proposals to help millions of Americans file their taxes and claim refunds.”

During his Finance Committee appearance, Yellen called for a new system.

“There’s no reason in the world that a modern economy doesn’t have a system that makes it easy for such a large group of taxpayers to file their returns,” she said.

Vanessa Williamson, senior researcher at the Urban-Brookings Center for Tax Policy, said: “If the IRS goes ahead with a free product, it could save low-income families the money they had. used to give H&R Block or TurboTax. »

“Tax preparation companies are notorious for tricking filers into paying for services they should be getting for free,” Williamson said, “so a free IRS filing service would be a very welcome step that would help Americans to save money”.

In 2019, ProPublica wrote about TurboTax and Intuit’s H&R Block Inc.’s efforts to divert taxpayers from free federally supported services for which they were qualified. And in May, New York Attorney General Letitia James secured a $141 million settlement with Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit Inc., which had to compensate some taxpayers.

Intuit withdrew from the Alliance in July 2021, stating in a blog post that the company could provide its benefits without the limitations of the Free File Alliance. H&R Block pulled out of the partnership in 2020.

“Most Americans don’t want the tax collector to double as a tax preparer,” said Derrick L. Plummer, spokesman for Intuit.

“The IRS already has a core mission it needs to focus on, and creating a new system would cost taxpayers billions of dollars and jeopardize the financial freedom of millions more,” he said. declared. A spokesperson for H&R Block did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Ideas for what a government-run free files program might look like are already being explored.

Bruce Sacerdote, a Dartmouth economist, has looked at systems in other countries where taxpayers don’t have to enter a lot of data on their electronic forms because the government has already done so.

“The IRS has huge amounts of information on wages and dividends,” he said, adding that a government-backed tax filing system “could be a wonderful thing.”

Such systems are used in Germany, Japan and other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries that work together to develop policies that promote economic growth.

“As a taxpayer, pre-settlement could be very beneficial,” he said. “Declaring taxes takes a lot of time. Given all the information the IRS has on taxpayers, they could just send you a completed return.”

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Michael Jordan? Puh-leeze! Bill Russell is the NBA’s G.O.A.T. | Commentary

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Michael Jordan? Puh-Leeze! Bill Russell Is The Nba’s G.o.a.t. | Commentary

Shame on us.

All of us.

Or, at least, most of us.

Shame on us for always declaring Michael Jordan to be the NBA’s G.O.A.T. — Greatest Of All Time.

Shame on us for also including LeBron James in the G.O.A.T. conversation or Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Kobe Bryant.

But never Bill Russell.

The only time, it seems, Bill Russell has ever been mentioned as the G.O.A.T. is when our fathers or grandfathers joined the conversation and we just rolled our eyes and thought to ourselves, “Shut up, old man!”

“There are a lot of people, particularly young people, who have no idea of Bill Russell’s impact on and off the court,” says UCF professor and lifelong civil rights activist Dr. Richard Lapchick. “The contributions Bill Russell made in sport, and even more so in American society, are immense.”

So immense that after Russell’s death on July 31 at the age of 88, the NBA made the unprecedented move on Thursday of retiring his No. 6 jersey leaguewide — the first time in history that has ever happened.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

How in the world could we be such prisoners of the moment as to overlook Russell — inarguably the greatest champion in the history of American team sports and arguably the greatest social justice warrior in American sports history — as the undisputed G.O.A.T.?

Is it because he didn’t score a bunch of points like M.J. and LeBron or didn’t have the captivating smile like Magic? We’re talking about the greatest player of all time; not the greatest scorer of all time; not the most exciting player of all time; not the most charismatic player of all time. We’re talking about the greatest. And greatness should encapsulate everything, not just how many points you scored or championships you won, but the impact you had.

On the court, Russell won 11 of a possible 13 championships with the Boston Celtics, including eight in a row. He appeared in 10 Game 7s during his career and his Celtics won all 10 of them. He also won back-to-back NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco and an Olympic gold medal. He is the greatest defensive player in the history of the NBA and showed that a player could dominate the game by rebounding and playing defense.

He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game, and there’s no telling how many blocks Russell would have had in his career if the NBA had tracked shot rejections during his career. How many superstars of today would be willing to sacrifice getting shots and scoring points to concentrate on blocking shots and getting rebounds?

“Practically everything we did was predicated on Bill rebounding the ball or blocking a shot and starting our fastbreak,” Celtics Hall-of-Fame point guard Bob Cousy once said.

Said Don Nelson, another former Celtics teammate and ex-NBA head coach: “There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there’s another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that’s the type Russell was.”

Even more than the championships he won, Russell is the G.O.A.T. because of the trails he blazed and the stances he took. He became the NBA’s first Black head coach and the first Black coach in the four major professional sports leagues to win a championship.

And while he wasn’t the first Black player in the NBA, he is the player most responsible for league’s massive integration during the 1960s. He was the league’s first Black superstar and spoke out against racial quotas on NBA rosters. During his rookie season, Russell was the only Black player on the Celtics roster, but by 1964 the Celtics had the first all-Black starting lineup in NBA history.

When a hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, refused to serve food to two of his Black teammates — Sam Jones and Satch Sanders — in 1961, Russell organized a boycott and forced the cancellation of the NBA exhibition game the world-champion Celtics were in town to play.

At a volatile time when most Black athletes didn’t want to make waves, Russell created tsunamis. He was a staunch civil rights leader who marched on the nation’s capital with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was front and center for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

He put his life in jeopardy and incurred the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan by visiting the state of Mississippi just days after civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated there in 1963.

Russell, along with Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown, angered white America when they sat beside Muhammad Ali in Cleveland in 1967 when Ali announced he was refusing induction into the U.S. military to fight in the Vietnam War. “No Viet Cong ever called me a [n-word],” Ali reportedly said at the time.

Russell being at the forefront of the civil rights movement rattled racist cages throughout the country, including many of those in Boston. One summer when he was on vacation, burglars broke into Russell’s Boston-area home, destroyed his trophies, vandalized his walls by scrawling the n-word on them and even disgustingly defecated on his bed. That incident drove a lifelong wedge between Russell and the city where he won so many championships.

Russell refused to sugarcoat any of the racism he experienced when his searing, groundbreaking autobiography Go Up For Glory was first published in 1966. Unlike the feel-good sports books of the day, Russell’s story was an unfiltered look at the racist incidents he endured throughout his life and playing career in Boston.

That book inspired Joe Lapchick, the former New York Knicks coach, to also start speaking out against the racism he faced when he integrated the Knicks by signing the team’s first Black player — Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton. It also helped inspire Joe Lapchick’s son, Richard, to dedicate his career to making sports more inclusive and diverse.

“If any other member of the Celtics like Sam Jones or K.C. Jones had written that book, they would have been cut from the league,” Richard Lapchick says, “but Bill Russell was simply too great a player for that to happen to. Bill Russell showed everyone that you could be an unbelievably talented player and champion but still speak out on social justice issues that are important to the country.”

This is why Bill Russell isn’t just the NBA’S G.O.A.T.; he is the NBA’s lion.

While there are certainly other great players such as Michael Jordan who belong on the league’s Mount Rushmore, there’s only one player — William Felton Russell — who stands alone on the league’s Mount Everest.

Email me at [email protected]. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

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