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ESPN The Magazine 02.16.15

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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insider spotlight

Ron “Crackman” Crachiola has spent all of his 63 years in Detroit. But oh, the places he’s gone. In 2008, in the throes of the Lions’ 0–16 campaign (0–16!), Crachiola embarked on seven road trips (seven!). Last October he crossed the Atlantic to see Detroit claw back from a three-TD crater, toppling Atlanta in London. But his most cherished pilgrimage? December 2000. Days before a Week 15 trip to Green Bay, his 98-year-old grandfather died. Unable to make his friends’ ride to Wisconsin (they left Friday; the funeral was Saturday), Crachiola called—wait for it—the Lions. When he asked if he could hitch a flight with the team, then-COO Chuck Schmidt told the decades-long season-ticket holder, “Crack, no problem.” HOW TO BECOME AN ESPN INSIDER! 1 Turn back to the cover and find…

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the ticket

[M]arshawn Lynch has a unique talent for making certain people very angry. They don’t like the way he dresses, in cleats that gleam like rare coins. They hate the way he celebrates, his hands habitually reaching for his family jewels. Worst of all, though, is his refusal to engage with the media, an act that spurred one journalist to call him a “disrespectful, unprofessional dick.” At this year’s Super Bowl media day, Lynch answered every question with variations of “I’m here so I don’t get fined.” He already had been charged $100,000 over two seasons for failing to speak to reporters. Beast Mode’s silence has come at a great cost. It’s also made him the most popular running back in the NFL. At a moment when the league is enmeshed in a…

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the numbers

[T]he Knicks are an unwatchable mess, with just eight wins through their first 45 games. But most fans and analysts expect the team’s downward spiral to end with a happy rebound because Phil Jackson is in charge. Sure, he severely overestimated the level of talent he had in his first year as club president, but with time and cap space, eventually he’ll call the next edition of his book Twelve Rings, right? Not so fast. The Knicks’ strategic choices show Jackson to be stuck in a pre-analytics mindset that will hobble his attempt to rebuild the team. The Knicks have found few easy baskets this season, ranking at or near the bottom in percentage of points on fast breaks, in the paint and from free throws. But that’s not just because…

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THE GAMBLING ISSUE WHO Sports gamblers, from Vegas wiseguys to visiting low rollers WHAT Betting and watching the NFL divisional playoffs WHEN Jan. 10, 5:02 p.m. PT WHERE Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook Wise men say, only fools rush in. So with a Patriots win over the Ravens all but secure and 19 minutes before the Panthers-Seahawks divisional-round battle, bettors are 10 deep at the $1,000 minimum window (this page). Westgate’s SuperBook, the world’s largest at 30,000 square feet, is the hotel’s biggest hit since Elvis played the big room to 837 straight sellouts back when the joint was called The International. After the final tally, Jay Kornegay, vice president of sportsbook ops, will say the SuperBook came out ahead on all four NFL divisional games—“a moderate win.” In other words: Thank you, thank you very much. Four NFL playoff games…

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catch them if you can

Perhaps it’s their silky jumpers, those stellar scoring averages or just that sexy moniker: Splash Brothers. Whatever the reason, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have garnered much credit for the Warriors’ season. But there’s far more to what’s going down in Oakland than just a deadeye backcourt. Through Jan. 26, the Dubs not only had the NBA’s top record at 36–6, they were outscoring opponents by an astonishing 11.9 ppg—which would be the second-biggest margin since the NBA/ABA merger. So to fully grasp all the ways the Warriors are crushing their foes, let’s visit our favorite state: the metric state. IT STARTS WITH STOPS When trying to define the Warriors of the past three decades, terms that come to mind are run-and-gun, or defense optional. Amazing, then, that this year’s team boasts…

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shooting for greatness

With rival Virginia Tech leading by 10 points midway through the second half on Jan. 25, the Cavaliers’ undefeated record was in jeopardy. Virginia had scored just two baskets since the break and was desperate for an offensive boost. Then, right on cue, junior Justin Anderson stepped up. In the game’s final seven minutes, the 6-foot-6 guard scored 10 of his team’s 14 points—his 15th double-digit performance through 19 games this season—reviving the Cavaliers and helping secure a three-point victory. It’s just one of Anderson’s many clutch performances this season—and a big part of what’s propelled the Cavs to their best start since 1980-81. But it’s not the kind of blistering offense you would have seen from Anderson last season. What changed? The Virginia native spent the offseason in Chicago with…