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ESPN The Magazine 05.12.14

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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access_time1 min.
spotlight gino lucero

Sure, the 103 hats and 1,000-plus souvenirs that fill Lucero’s Raiders Room speak to his fandom, but to truly grasp his devotion, you have to hear the Salt Lake City native (“I just fell in love with the silver and black as a kid,” he says) talk about driving to see his first game in Oakland, in 1996. “It was me, my wife, my friend and his pregnant wife,” Lucero says. “Instead of crossing the Sierras like I wanted, we had to stay in Reno Saturday night. Then my friend’s car broke down Sunday. We lost five hours. They were like, ‘Let’s turn back.’ I said, ‘We’re going, even if it’s for two minutes.’ We ran to our seats for the last five. But I got to see a win…

access_time3 min.

It was just last year that Rafael Nadal was tearing through the competition, winning 10 titles (including the French Open and U.S. Open) and regaining the No. 1 ranking. Any talk of slippage was aimed at Roger Federer, he of the 30-plus years and the bad back, and Novak Djokovic, who hasn’t won two majors in a year since 2011. But as his favorite slam nears, suddenly Nadal is looking vulnerable again. Nadal, 27, has won the past four French Open trophies and eight of the past nine. But a series of shaky performances, lingering injuries to his knee and back, and a self-described “lack of confidence and competitiveness” in key moments have renewed the slippage conversation that began in 2012, when he dropped to No. 4 in the world. Of course,…

access_time3 min.
in defense of the combine

NFL combine stats can be fascinating. I remember reading last year that Eric Fisher had a 28½-inch vertical, and I sat and stared at my laptop, trying to visualize how an offensive lineman who’s 6-foot-7 and more than 300 pounds could jump that high. (Then I stood and tried to test my own vertical, and you don’t want to know the rest of that story.) But I have always been skeptical that combine stats are all that meaningful in predicting the future of a potential draft pick. How do you weigh a week of drills against three or four years of a player’s work? Now we are starting to get answers to that question thanks to research conducted for The Mag by Jeff Phillips, MIT grad and principal of the Parthenon…

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WHO Raptors forward Amir Johnson WHAT The latest “I Roll With Amir” event, in which Johnson treats 65 of his fans to a night out WHEN April 10, 7:01 p.m. ET WHERE Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Toronto “I got the idea for ‘I Roll With Amir’ from Chad Johnson. He did fun things with his Twitter followers. Now I host different contests on Twitter where fans win golden tickets to come to my events. This year I decided to treat fans to a game and then an outing at Medieval Times. I used to go to Medieval Times as a little kid, and I thought it was the best thing in the world. This is a token of my appreciation for my fans. I spent time taking selfies, meeting with fans and enjoying the evening. I had…

access_time4 min.
the need for speed

Aroldis Chapman, he of the 105 mph heater, might reign as baseball’s velocity king, but several other young guns, including Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals, are aiming to at least share the crown. Simply put, the 100 mph club isn’t nearly as exclusive as it once was because pitchers are now larger, their arms are stronger and their fastballs are faster. “Guys are just throwing the dog crap out of the ball,” says Cubs special assistant Tim Wilken. Bruce Rondon had a chance to top them all. In 2013, the Tigers reliever threw half as many pitches as Chapman did, but he fired an MLB-leading 33 percent of them above 100 mph, topping out at 102.8. Then he blew out his elbow this spring,…

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jon hamm

Hollywood is littered with baseball scripts. So why was Million Dollar Arm the one? It’s not really a baseball movie. It’s not Major League or The Natural. There’s no big game. It’s a story about a guy who takes steps to change his life for the better and two boys who worked their asses off and changed their lives for the better as well. It’s just set against the backdrop of baseball. So even if—spoiler alert!—Rinku and Dinesh never make it to the bigs, it’s about the journey? Well, Rinku is still in the Pirates organization. He still has a shot. Dinesh still works for the Million Dollar Arm [TV program] in India. In the next couple of years, you’re going to see an Indian kid in the majors. There are about half…