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Nike's 14 billion dollar mistake

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry walks to the bench during warm-ups before an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 87-79. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)Since the days of Michael Jordan, Nike has dominated the sports apparel market, with its shoe brands serving as the company's backbone in this multi-billion dollar industry. In 2014 they accounted for 95.5 percent of the basketball sneaker market on the force of stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving (to go along with Michael Jordan, whose shoes still outsell them all). However, as Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes in a fascinating piece for ESPN, after a failed 2013 meeting with the now reigning MVP Stephen Curry led the NBA's best shooter to sign with Under Armor, Nike's future doesn't look quite as bright anymore.

It didn't have to be this way for the shoe magnate. When Curry was first drafted in 2009, he signed with Nike before any other brand really had a chance. After all, that's apparently just what you do when you enter the league, considering Nike has more than seventy-four percent of NBA players under contract. But the love didn't last as Curry increasingly felt like an afterthought even after breaking the league record for three-pointers made in a season in 2012–13 and becoming the poster boy for the NBA's new style of play.

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Bryce Harper’s problem with baseball

20 September 2015: Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) walks back to the dugout after scoring against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. where the Washington Nationals defeated the Miami Marlins, 13-3.Bryce Harper is featured in the most recent edition of ESPN the Magazine. While the far-ranging article covers multiple aspects of the young Washington Nationals phenom, his comments on baseball being "tired" have received the most attention. "It's a tired sport, because you can't express yourself. You can't do what people in other sports do." Harper clarifies what he means by lack of self-expression as he compares baseball to other sports: "Endorsements, fashion—it's something baseball doesn't see . . . . In soccer, it's Beckham or Ronaldo. In basketball, it's Curry and LeBron. In football, it's Cam. Football and basketball have such good fashion."

Harper represents the youth movement in Major League Baseball. Beyond that, he, along with LeBron, Cam, Ronaldo and a host of other one-named athletes, represent how athletes increasingly see themselves as brands. Rather than being confined to their skill and ability at a given sport, they want people to see and buy into their lifestyles.

This desire for self-expression is one of the central features of postmodernism. Kevin Vanhoozer, in the Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, states, "Society reaches a postmodern condition when "work" turns into art, that is, when more and more areas of life are assimilated into the logic of the marketplace, when the economy is increasingly geared to providing entertainment, and when the business of America is leisure."

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The hidden value of the NFL Combine

Defensive backs listen to instructions before they run a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)The 2016 NFL Draft Combine wrapped up on Monday, meaning it's now time for teams to attempt to discern the useful from the irrelevant after a week of drills, interviews, and medical exams. But while the prospective draft picks garner most of the week's attention, often times the information of most immediate value comes from conversations with other coaches, GMs, and agents. As ESPN's Matthew Berry describes, "It's the only time in the year that every person in the NFL is in the same place. General managers, coaches, front-office personnel, other team members . . . no fans, no pressures of the season, just a week in the middle of America."

As a result, coaches and management will often talk candidly about their players in a way that doesn't happen anywhere else. General managers can talk with other GMs to lay the groundwork for trades that cannot officially happen until March 9th. And, perhaps most importantly, they can do the same with any agents that they may bump into while walking around Indianapolis.

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NFL Players respond to flint water crisis

NFL players Justin Forsett, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, and Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, listen to Flint Southwestern students as they understand their perspective on the city's water crisis on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, at Flint Southwestern Classical Academy in Flint, Mich.(Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)As the NFL's offseason begins and the combine and draft are the only major events on the horizon, most players are relaxing and taking vacations. It's generally not good for an NFL player's name to surface during the offseason, as seems to happen so frequently with Johnny Manziel and others who can't seem to stay out of trouble. But several players have made headlines for a completely different reason: helping others in need.

The Flint water crisis remains an ongoing nightmare for citizens in the Michigan city. Since it is such a systemic problem that takes so much time to fully understand and address, Flint has drifted in and out of the nation's attention. Just before the Super Bowl, when media attention was peaking again, numerous athletes from the NBA and NFL sent trucks full of bottled water and other supplies in an effort to help.

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An Ordinary Man with Extraordinary Faith

Los Angeles, California, Head coach Monty Williams of the New Orleans Hornets during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers during a NBA Western Conference First Round playoff basketball game in Los Angeles, on Sunday, April 17, 2011."An ordinary man with extraordinary faith." That's how TNT's Ernie Johnson described Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams after showing Williams' moving eulogy at his wife's funeral. Williams, whose wife died in a tragic car accident earlier in February, spoke for only about 7 minutes, but within those 7 minutes he conveyed a heart of strength and compassion.

Usually the NBA is a place where faith is relegated to platitudes. It's rare to have the opportunity to hear a player or coach discuss their personal lives, let alone what they believe. As an entertainment business, NBA officials naturally want to appeal to the highest number of people, so most of our attention gets diverted to on-court exploits rather than behind-the-scenes glimpses into the lives of the men and women who make up the sport.

Which is why it is incredible that Williams' eulogy is featured prominently on NBA.com, and being shared by official NBA social media outlets. Even TNT, one of the NBA's official television partners, showed an extended clip of the eulogy during its popular "Inside the NBA" show.

Here's the link to watch the video if you haven't had the chance to yet.

Williams began by thanking those who had offered support and condolences, but moved quickly to remind everyone that even though this situation is extremely difficult, God's love is still real: "He loved me so much he sent his son to die for my sins…He loved me so much that he gave me a wife that loved every part of me."

Quoting from Romans 8, he talked about the faith he had that because God is in control of all things, even this terrible tragedy will work out by God's grace and redemption. His faith stems from a long trust in God, born out through other trials and difficulties that have come his way. "As hard as this is for me and my family and for you, this will work out. I know this because I have seen this in my life."

In the last part of his message, Williams moved to encourage the congregation. "This will work out. That doesn't mean it's not hard. Doesn't mean it's not painful. Doesn't mean we don't have tough times, or that we won't have tough times. But what we need is the Lord, and that's what my wife tried to exhibit every single day." Perhaps the most remarkable part came next, as he started to conclude.

"Let us not forget that there were two people in this situation, and that family needs prayer as well.  And we have no ill will toward that family. In my house we have a sign that says "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We cannot serve the Lord unless we have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn't wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard -- it is very hard -- and that was tough. But we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family."

Strength. Courage. Compassion. Forgiveness. Love. In one of the most difficult moments of Williams' life, he used his pain to be a witness to the love and faithfulness he had experienced in Jesus. Out of his own sorrow he sought to encourage others with his words.

Gathered amongst the congregation were numerous NBA players and coaches. Who knows how that message of Jesus' love and faithfulness will impact their lives? Several players, including Clippers star Chris Paul, said it was the most powerful speech they'd ever heard.

God often speaks to others most clearly through how we respond to times of great personal difficulty and tragedy. In our brokenness, God works in powerful ways that we cannot always see. The way Coach Williams has responded to this tragedy has already touched countless lives, and will continue to do so. Ernie Johnson was right. Coach Williams is an ordinary man, facing unspeakable tragedy, but he's doing so with extraordinary faith.

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