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ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine 10.30.17

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.
we have liftoff ...

During my reporting on the new-look Rockets, the word people used to describe Harden, aka the Beard, was “stubborn.” I had seen no evidence of this during my visit, so I asked the development coach, Irving Roland, to enlighten me. He harked back to an August workout in Miami when he wanted Harden to concentrate on taking floaters off two feet. “Waste of time,” Harden groused. “I take most of my floaters exploding off one foot.” The next morning, Roland reconvened with Harden armed with video clips of every one of Harden’s floaters from last season. There were 132 of them, and 77 were off two feet. “All right,” Harden said, grinning. “Let’s get to work.” MORE ON PAGE 52 NHL writer Emily Kaplan on the transcendence of Auston Matthews In July,…

4 min.
the numbers

Root for the Nashville Predators and you get the feeling of trashing your archrival’s car. That’s no metaphor. Before every home playoff game in Nashville, a local artist named Audie Adams paints a vehicle in the colors and logo of the Preds’ opponent, and for a small donation to the club’s charitable foundation, fans can step up with a sledgehammer and bash the thing to pieces. This goofy ritual is a timely reminder that sports at their best let us hate without being hateful. And it’s a small but fun example of why the Predators deliver more value to their fans than any other team in North America. If we were still running ESPN’s Ultimate Standings—which compiled fan surveys and financial analysis to determine which franchises give back the most to fans—there’s no…

10 min.
almost famous

When Auston Matthews made his debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs last fall, perched in the 300-level nosebleeds of Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre was Samuel Siboko, a 20-year-old rapper and quasi-hockey fan. Siboko barely knew anything about Matthews; he was there with a friend because they scored cheap tickets. Four hours later, Siboko walked into the crisp autumn night entranced. He didn’t know what he had seen, just that it was special. The 19-year-old Matthews scored a whopping four goals, and Siboko couldn’t stop thinking about it. Weeks later, Siboko was in the recording studio that doubles as his living room, listening to a new beat from a friend. He loved it but couldn’t match lyrics to its low, lurching chorus. He let his mind drift, but it kept returning…

3 min.
comeback route

Letting go wasn’t easy. He’d been a quarterback so talented at 13 that Lane Kiffin offered him a scholarship to USC and the ensuing publicity made him a national name. At 15, his dad even founded an online school to build a team around him. David Sills V never made it to USC, or as a QB. But he has re-emerged at West Virginia as one of college football’s top receivers and its most surprising breakout star, leading the FBS with nine TD catches through his first five games. “My story is nothing I would’ve pictured,” he says. “But I’m having so much fun now, the most fun I’ve ever had playing football.” His story first came to light when Kiffin offered him in 2010 after watching a single YouTube clip. “He seemed…

2 min.
a recruit for the ages

Los Angeles trainer Mike Evans talks about college football recruit Maxwell “Bunchie” Young in familiar sound bites. He praises his speed, his personality and his work ethic. “Bunchie is a kid who comes around once every 10 years,” Evans says. In this case, the cliché holds true. Bunchie, all of 10 years old, holds a scholarship offer from Illinois. Evans’ business, LacedFacts Training, works out more than 150 kids. Soon, he says, recruiters everywhere will know Young and more of his clients. “We have one of the top 6-year-olds in the country,” Evans says. “But he looks 9!” It’s all too much too soon for some. “He might decide he likes baseball, or playing piano,” says one Power 5 school’s player personnel director. “You don’t know.” Hype and highlights aside,…

9 min.
waiting to inhale

One whiff and Ezekiel Elliott’s eyelids begin to flutter, his mouth falls oddly agape and his pupils roll back in his head. It’s Week 4 of the NFL season, and kickoff is just moments away inside AT&T Stadium, where Elliott and a handful of his Cowboys teammates are breathlessly engaged in the latest, strangest sports ritual: huffing the stomach-turning noxious fumes found in smelling salts. The ammonia-based inhalant is manufactured for the express purpose of treating or preventing fainting, but at some point, NFL players and other athletes discovered they could repurpose the decongestant properties and adrenaline-pumping side effects into a perfectly legal, low-tech pick-me-up ... even though there’s zero proof of any performance benefit. In fact, this will be the first of at least eight capsules for Elliott today. Using…