The Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension on Wednesday.
What We Know:
- Betts had a one year worth $27 million left on his current deal. This extension keeps Betts a Dodger and prevents him from hitting free agency this winter. “I just love being here. I love everything about here. I’m here to win some rings and bring championships back to LA. That’s all I’m focused on,” Betts said about the extension. The Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988.
- The Dodgers acquired Betts from the Boston Red Sox in a trade in February. The blockbuster trade landed LA only one guaranteed year of Betts, unclear if he would sign with the team in free agency. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was obvious that Betts could sign a lucrative deal with any team he wanted, but the pandemic left the league’s financial future unclear.
- Dodgers President Andrew Friedman said re-signing Betts was the team’s top priority. “It was something we really wanted to do . . . We were hopeful that he’d get here, fall in love with it, go out there and win a bunch of games,” Friedman said. Friedman and Betts’ representation began discussing potential deals back in March. Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy commented on the extension saying it was unfortunate a deal wasn’t completed while Betts was in Boston. Boston fans were furious with the team for trading away one of the best players in baseball instead of paying him.
Sam Kennedy said Red Sox had "mixed emotions" about Mookie Betts' deal. "I'd be less than honest if I didn't say there was a sense of disappointment, closure and finality to it."
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 23, 2020
- Before acquiring Betts, the Dodgers were a National League powerhouse. They made the World Series in 2017 and 2018, losing both times. They again looked like contenders in 2019, breaking the National League record for most home runs and breaking their own franchise record for most wins. However, the Dodgers faltered in the postseason and lost in the Division Series to the eventual World Series Champion Washington Nationals. With Betts on the team long term, the Dodgers are poised for a successful future and are in a better position to win a World Series.
- Betts is one of the brightest stars in baseball. He’s won four Golden Gloves, an American League MVP, and a World Series Championship with the Red Sox in 2018. According to ESPN, Betts has four straight seasons with at least 100 runs, 40 doubles, and 20 home runs, which ties him for the longest such streak with Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols.
The extension brings his total contract value to $392 million over 13 years, the second most expensive contract in MLB history behind Mike Trout’s $360 million.
LiAngelo Ball Signs With Pistons, All 3 Ball Brothers in NBA
LaVar Ball once vowed that all three of his sons would play in the NBA. It’s finally happening.
What We Know:
- LiAngelo Ball has signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The deal is non-guaranteed, so LiAngelo will have to earn his roster spot and could be cut from the team at any time, but the famous Ball family has finally gotten all three brothers into the league.
- The Ball brothers gained notoriety on Instagram when they were in high school. They also gained fame because of their father LaVar, who became a media sensation for his boisterous and overconfident personality.
- LaVar has attracted attention for his sons by making media appearances, starting the Big Baller Brand for apparel and merchandise, having them play overseas and in his own Junior Basketball Association, and producing a reality TV series about his family called Ball in the Family. He has loudly sung the praises of his kids’ basketball skills and, in his own words, spoken this into existence.
- Lonzo, the oldest brother, was a top high school and college prospect. He was selected 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He was sent to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade. He hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of a top draft pick, but he has carved out a solid role for himself as a player with great court vision and perimeter defense.
- LaMelo, the youngest brother, was recently selected 3rd overall in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Similar to Lonzo, he is seen as a high-level playmaker. His selection marked the first time that two brothers were both selected in the top 5 of their respective draft classes.
- LiAngelo’s path to the NBA was the most farfetched of the trio. LiAngelo was never a highly-touted prospect like his brothers and to make things worse, he was arrested in college for shoplifting in China. After that scandal, LaVar pulled both LiAngelo and LaMelo out of school and took them overseas, vowing to have them join Lonzo in the NBA while circumventing the NCAA system.
- LaMelo’s draft stock continued to rise through overseas play as he impressed scouts in Lithuania and Australia, but LiAngelo continued to struggle to find his way to the NBA. He went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft and was not signed by any teams. He eventually signed with the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA G League in 2019. Unfortunately, he did not play a single game as the G League season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
- With LiAngelo joining the Pistons and LaMelo joining the Hornets this season, the Ball brothers join the short list of three or more brothers to play in the NBA at the same time. In just the 2019-2020 season, Jrue, Justin, and Aaron Holiday became the first trio of brothers to play in an NBA game at the same time.
Because he made good on his word and got all three of his sons into the NBA, many took to Twitter to praise LaVar Ball for speaking it into existence. LaVar also tweeted how proud he is of his boys.
PROUD‼️ We’re just getting started. pic.twitter.com/WmcCOAsUot
— Lavar Ball (@Lavarbigballer) December 3, 2020
I think it’s time for EVERYBODY including myself to give Lavar Ball is Damn Flowers right now. A lot people doubted him and talked down on how he did things with his children and my God did he prove the doubters wrong!!! #Respect
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) December 2, 2020
How Lavar Ball looking at the haters pic.twitter.com/n9nSMKZbmt
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) December 2, 2020
Rockets, Wizards Agree to Russell Westbrook-John Wall Trade
The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have agreed to a blockbuster deal centered around Russell Westbrook and John Wall.
What We Know:
- The Wizards are sending Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round draft pick to the Rockets for Westbrook. Both stars have expressed a desire to move on from their teams and rumors of this trade surfaced weeks ago.
- The draft pick involved in the trade is lottery-protected for the Wizards, meaning that the Wizards keep the pick in 2023 if it lands in the top 14. If the pick does not convey in 2023, it will move on to 2024, 2025, and 2026 with different protections. If the pick hasn’t conveyed for Houston by 2026, it will become two second-round picks for 2026 and 2027.
- Discussions of this specific Westbrook-Wall trade emerged in mid-November, but they stalled pretty quickly. That was until Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard and Rockets general manager Rafael Stone connected on Tuesday afternoon. After hopping on a phone call, they had a deal worked out within hours, per sources.
- Many basketball fans and pundits view this as a lateral move for both teams because of the similarities between Wall and Westbrook. Both are point guards whose best days are behind them. Both have relied on athleticism for their success and are now over 30. Finally, both are making over $40 million per year for the next three seasons. Their undesirable contracts made both of them virtually untradeable, unless of course, it was for each other.
- For Westbrook, Washington might actually be a good fit for him. The Wizards have missed the playoffs for the last two seasons and his addition should catapult them back into contention for those middle playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference. He is also reuniting with his former coach Scott Brooks, who coached him in Oklahoma City for seven seasons. Westbrook also has a rising superstar of a teammate in Bradley Beal who averaged over 30 points per game last season and looks like he’s only getting better.
- For Wall, Houston will offer a change of scenery and an opportunity to prove that he’s still an elite point guard. Wall has spent his entire career in DC and is beloved by the community and fan base, but the last few years have been soured by injury. Wall’s last fully healthy season was 2016-2017 when he made the All-NBA Third Team and led the Wizards to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals, including an epic Game 6 game-winner to avoid elimination.
- Since the 2017-2018 season, Wall has dealt with a knee injury, heel injury, an infection from surgery, and a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has suffered some of the worst injuries that a professional athlete can experience and he hasn’t played an NBA game since December 26, 2018. He’s missed two full years of basketball, so it’s reasonable to question how good he’s going to look coming off of several catastrophic injuries. With that being said, he won’t be expected to be the number one option while playing next to James Harden.
- This trade does have serious implications for the futures of James Harden and Bradley Beal, two of the most sought after trade pieces heading into this season. Beal can become a free agent after this season and leave the Wizards and James Harden has formally requested a trade to leave Houston.
For Houston and Washington, the hope is that exchanging Westbrook and Wall will improve their situations with Harden and Beal and convince both to stay long term. Both teams are also hoping that Wall and Westbrook can still be top-tier point guards in this league.
Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic Decathlon Champion, Dies at 86
Rafer Lewis Johnson was an American decathlete and film actor who also won the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics and helped subdue Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin in 1968. At 86-years-old, the champion passed away in his home in Los Angeles, discovered by a family friend Michael Roth. No cause of death has been announced.
What We Know:
- Rafer Lewis Johnson was born on Aug. 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas. There are sources that say he was born in 1935, but his family says they are wrong. He moved to California in 1945 with his family, including his brother Jim, a future NFL Hall of Fame inductee. He played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track and field at Kingsburg Joint Union High. According to CBS News, as a freshman at UCLA, where he received academic and athletic scholarships, Johnson won gold at the 1955 Pan Am Games and set a world record of 7,985 points.
- In years past, Johnson won multiple Olympic medals nationally and internationally. From 1955-1960, he received national decathlon medals and won the silver in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He did this all while carrying a rivalry with his UCLA teammate C.K. Yang and others from the Soviet Union. He has also carried the US flag at the 1960 games and lit the torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to open the 1984 Games.
- In June of 1968, Johnson was working on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign when Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Johnson, retired NFL athlete Rosey Grier, and journalist George Plimpton were able to subdue the shooter, Sirhan Sirhan. Johnson referred to the assassination as “one of the most devastating moments in my life”.
- Rafer Johnson held many titles in his lifetime. He worked for the Peace Corps, March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and American Red Cross. He remained active for many years at UCLA, serving on various committees and boards. In 2016, he received the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest award for extraordinary accomplishments. The school’s track is even named for Johnson and his wife Betsy.
Johnson is survived by this wife of 49 years Elizabeth “Betsy” Thorsen, his two children Jenny and Josh, and four grandchildren.
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