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ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine 05.29.17

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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3 min.
big baller backyard

Photographer Marcus Smith on witnessing the Ball family’s dream: I realize that to the public, LaVar comes off as loud and outlandish, but to his sons, he’s fighting ultimately to make their lives better by creating a space for them to cultivate their passion for basketball. And for the Ball family, this space started with their personal backyard basketball court in Chino Hills, California, that LaVar built with his three sons. From laying the concrete for the court to installing their own pullup and pushup bars, the Balls have created the ultimate basketball oasis right outside their back door. And this doesn’t go unnoticed in the neighborhood. It’s the house everyone craves to be at, and for the Ball boys this is their reality. When it comes to building hype, Lonzo Ball…

4 min.
the numbers

The Spurs have snuffed out Houston’s season, but at least we can say this about the Rockets: They were true to themselves until the bitter end. Houston rode out one of the most thoroughgoing analytics experiments in the history of sports, in which the Rockets took 46.2 percent of their shots from 3-point territory this season, the highest proportion in NBA history. Daryl Morey crafted that strategy with a deeper playoff run in mind; too bad his mad bombers won’t get another chance to face Golden State. “We want to win the title, and obviously that’s probably going through the Warriors at some point,” the Rockets’ GM told SiriusXM NBA Radio in February. “We absolutely figure the only way we’re going to beat them is with a barrage of 3-pointers.” Morey…

7 min.
the audacity of hoops

The rain comes down in buckets on a January night in 2014, a true Seattle driving rain, but she braves it. She doesn’t have a choice. Her Washington Huskies just beat Utah in overtime, but she doesn’t revel in the win, or in her assist that put them up by four near the end, or in the layup she banked to seal it. Two months into her freshman year, her team can’t stand her—or at least it feels that way. Her coach named her captain just before the season started because she checked off 24 of the 27 traits he wanted in a leader, but the older players resent her for it. So Kelsey Plum leaves the arena alone—she can’t find a teammate to give her a ride—and walks 2.5…

3 min.
top of their game

THE MOST VALUABLE CANDIDATES NNEKA OGWUMIKE F, SPARKS Expect Ogwumike to pick up where she left off after a breakout 2016. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds while leading the league in win shares (9.5), player efficiency rating (31.5), offensive rating (135.0) and true shooting percentage (.737). The Sparks relied on her leadership—she starred in tandem with two-time MVP Candace Parker—and that sharp shot: Her putback with three seconds left gave LA its first WNBA title since 2002. MAYA MOORE F, LYNX Moore was MVP in 2014, but you could have made a solid case for her to win in each of the past five seasons. She averaged 4.2 assists and a 24.5 assist percentage last year, reflecting the 6-0 forward’s strength as a playmaker, while she remains an elite scorer…

2 min.
power rankings

1 MINNESOTA LYNX With their offensive (107.2) and defensive (96.4) ratings, the Lynx—led by Moore, G Lindsay Whalen and G/F Seimone Augustus—had 2016’s top net rating (10.9). 2 LOS ANGELES SPARKS Ogwumike (19.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and Candace Parker (15.3, 7.4)—a dream post duo last year—will now look to Riquna Williams and Odyssey Sims on the perimeter. 3 NEW YORK LIBERTY G Sugar Rodgers (14.5 ppg) was the only Liberty player besides Charles to average double-figure scoring in 2016. They’ll need more to avoid another early playoff exit. 4 WASHINGTON MYSTICS The biggest offseason movers got Delle Donne from Chicago and G Kristi Toliver from LA. Still, it might take a while for everything—including the defense—to jell. 5 SEATTLE STORM G Sue Bird (12.8 ppg, 5.8 assists) is a beacon for young stars Stewart and G Jewell Loyd, but…

5 min.
the real rossi

On May 29, 2016, with a gigantic wreath collared around his neck and a bottle of milk poured down his throat, Alexander Rossi didn’t really understand what was happening. He had just won the 100th edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but throughout the postrace ceremonies, the rookie driver seemed disoriented, like he had just taken a wrong turn. More than a few Indy loyalists mistook his dazed expression for apathy. “People then, and people now, they see the photos of me looking kind of spaced-out and they say, ‘Why don’t you look more excited? You just won the Indianapolis 500!’” the 25-year-old says today. “You have to understand that when I woke up that morning, that’s not exactly where I expected to end the day. At no point during…