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Ja Morant had an illustrious career at Murray State and his play on and off the court says it all

Ja Morant had an illustrious career at Murray State and his play on and off the court says it all

Ja Morant is a lock to become a top-3 draft selection this June after a breakout sophomore campaign at Murray State, becoming one of the household names in college basketball and becoming the preeminent favorite to be the first point guard selected in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Of all of the highlights that Morant made during his time with the Racers, these are the moments that really define what the 2019 Bob Cousy Award Winner is going to bring to the game's highest stage.

1/17/19 vs. Eastern Illinois

2/8/19 vs. Eastern Illinois

3/9/19 vs. Jacksonville State

3/23/19 vs. Marquette


Between high-flying jams to game-clinching shots, to surprising young fans in the audience with game-worn clothing, Ja Morant already has the key qualities than any team would look for in a floor general.

Where he ends up will be determined during June's draft, and his transcendence at the next level will be must-see action that you do not want to miss.


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The Vault: Looking back at the last time Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan faced off in 2003

The Vault: Looking back at the last time Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan faced off in 2003

Back in 2003, during Michael Jordan's final NBA season, his Wizards went into Staples Center to face Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and the three-time defending champion L.A. Lakers. It was the last time Jordan faced off with Bryant, whom he has long been compared to, and also O'Neal. All three are widely considered to be among the 10 best players in NBA history.

It was also the final time Jordan played in a game featuring Phil Jackson. The game actually pitted Jackson against Doug Collins, another one of Jordan's coaches in Chicago.

That night all sorts of storylines. Here is a look back through a modern day lens using GIFs and screenshots to illustrate the best moments...

Kobe vs. Jordan

Bryant and Jordan's final meeting was clearly a major event at the time. Everyone knew Jordan was riding off into the sunset and everyone knew Bryant was well on his way to becoming a legend, already with three championships on his resume.

And early on, both players delivered to make for a really fun first quarter. Jordan had 13 and Bryant had 19 as they traded off buckets back-and-forth and back-and-forth. It seemed like everyone on the court knew the deal; just get out of the way and let two legends go at it.

Jordan hit his first four shots and Bryant wasn't far behind.

Jordan was too far past his prime to keep up with Bryant, but he was still very good. He poured in 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting and he still made a surprisingly big impact on defense. He didn't have the quickness of his youth, but he was a constant disruptor.

The current Wizards could use some of that. 

Kobe was on one, Shaq took a backseat

There was a backstory to this game that led to Bryant going off, where Jordan reportedly told him during their last meeting "you can put the shoes on, but you ain't never gonna fill them." That set Bryant off, really in Jordan-like fashion, and inspired him to dominate the Wizards.

And dominate, he did. Bryant had a ridiculous 42 points by halftime. That included 8-for-11 from three. He made nine threes in the game, which at the time set a record for most against a Wizards/Bullets team.

Bryant was the best player on the floor that night and O'Neal sort of took a backseat. He had five points in the first half before adding 17 in the second to get to 26. 

The second half was mostly O'Neal collecting points with the game out of hand. And it was a reminder how joyless it could be to watch him play in the early 2000s. He was such a physical mismatch for every defender that it almost wasn't fair. In this game, it was a ton of hack-a-Shaq trips to the free throw line. And, if you remember O'Neal at the free throw line, it wasn't exactly poetry in motion.

The fact Bryant was so assertive in taking over early made it so he sort of left O'Neal with seconds. And given this was the year the Lakers dynasty started to unravel due to their egos clashing makes this game all sorts of interesting in retrospect.

So many 🐐's

There are usually many stars in attendance at Lakers games, given it is the sports hub for Hollywood types. And often there have been great players both on the Lakers and playing for their opponents.

But this game seemed to feature more greatness in the building than usual. You had three all-time great players in Jordan, Bryant and O'Neal. You also had Jackson, arguably the best NBA coach of all-time, on the bench. And because it was Jordan's last game at the Staples Center, the crowd was loaded with famous people.

The actors there included Jack Nicholson (of course), Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, Ben Stiller and John Cusack. Steven Spielberg was there. So was Lil Bow Wow.

And sitting courtside was Larry David. He's a GOAT in his own right as a comedy writer. And him sitting in the front row may remind 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' fans of a great episode where he tripped Shaq.

Bandwagon Wiz fans

One of the most interesting parts of Jordan's tenure in Washington is how popular the Wizards became. It was arguably their peak in that regard, at least since the 1970s, and possibly in franchise history.

That dynamic was on display in this game to an ironic extreme. Nowadays, Lakers-Wizards games in D.C. are often overrun with L.A. fans. But in this game, the Staples Center was packed with bandwagon fans of the Wizards.

Imagine that. Not only did the Wizards have new and casual fans all over the country, but they made their presence known on the road at a Lakers game. 

Now, a lot of it in this game dealt with Jordan saying farwell, of course. He received a standing ovation when he checked out for the last time in the fourth quarter. But still, what a wild departure from the norm.

The future was bleak for the Wizards

Jordan as a player in Washington was fun and that time gave the fanbase a nice respite from an otherwise decades-long malaise of loserdom. And if you look at their franchise history, they were actually much better with him than there were both before and after he played. But as an executive, he was objectively bad and watching this game recalled all sorts of unfulfilled promise for the franchise.

There were a lot of guys that just didn't pan out or ended up plateauing as mediocre players. But no one exemplified that more than Kwame Brown, who was in just his second season after being the No. 1 overall pick.

Brown had just turned 21 years old at the time of this game and, sure, there were flashes of potential. But there were also some plays where in hindsight you can see he just didn't have it.

There was just zero confidence in his shot, even on makes:

And this play where he and his teammates missed four straight layups was an eyesore:

In his defense, Brown carved out a long NBA career of 12 seasons, and he made nearly $64 million in contracts. But, man, was that a bad draft pick that set the franchise back.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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The Basketball Tournament to host 24-team, fully quarantined event this summer

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The Basketball Tournament to host 24-team, fully quarantined event this summer

The Basketball Tournament has announced a plan to host their 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual summer competition featuring several prominent alumni teams of many colleges and universities will hold a condensed version this year. At a single location, 24 teams will be quarantined for a series of games spread across 10 days. 

“After reviewing all available science and data, working with experts, and receiving support from our partners, we’ve devised a plan we are confident protects the health and safety of our participants and staff to the greatest extent possible,” TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar said. “At the forefront is our single-elimination format, ability to test and quarantine the field and keep teams separate at all times. We look forward to hosting an incredible group of teams and crowning a champion this summer.”

TBT has not announced a date on when the event will be held. It is subject to when it is safe for them to hold the event at whichever location is selected.

To ensure the safety of the participants, TBT has outlined several medical precautions that will be in place. 

-All participants will be tested once they arrive at the location for quarantine. A positive test removes the participant and their team.
-Teams will be kept separate at all times while quarantined and screened regularly
-All participants will be tested a second time after the quarantine period. Individuals will be screened for symptoms daily.
-Players will undergo an exit screening by local health officials. 

Over 114 teams have applied to enter the 2020 TBT, many before the coronavirus outbreak began. While none are guaranteed to be in the field, popular teams include last year's champion Carmen's Crew (Ohio State Alumni), the AfterShocks (Wichita State Alumni), Best Virginia (West Virginia Alumni), Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse Alumni) and Red Scare (Dayton Alumni).

The official 24-team field will be announced in June.