The Sports Report: NBA stars should do the right thing regarding vaccinations

The Sports Report: NBA stars should do the right thing regarding vaccinations

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Dan Woike on the NBA: David Letterman, the legendary former late-night talk-show host, pretended to be a reporter from a made-up publication and asked Kevin Durant why people called him “KD”?

Durant, without cracking much of a smile, explained the concept of initials in what turned out to be the second-easiest question NBA stars were asked in the first round of media days Monday.

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The easiest, of course, was “are you vaccinated?” — one that more than 90% of players in the NBA has answered privately by receiving either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shot or one dose of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

It should be an easy “Yes” — the vaccines are safe, effective and provided NBA players with a pathway to as much normalcy as possible since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the first day of the preseason made it clear — things won’t be as easy as they could, and should, be.

The vaccine is mandated for coaches and team employees. It’s mandated for NBA officials and for the journalists who want to cover players face to face. It is, however, still a matter of personal choice for players — some of whom vocalized their stances Monday.

Kyrie Irving, the subject of an article of this past weekend that reported he would consider sitting out Nets games in Brooklyn to protest a New York City rule demanding athletes in indoor sports, such as those in the NBA, be vaccinated, couldn’t physically attend his media day.

Speaking with reporters from a darkly lit room in between sips from a mug, Irving said he wouldn’t answer questions about his vaccination status because, after all, he’s a human being first and his privacy must be respected.

“Obviously living in this public sphere, there’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie,” Irving said. “And I think I would just love to keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan. Obviously, I’m not able to be present there today. But that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits on the future on my being able to join the team. And I just want to keep it that way.”

Yet this is a very public issue in a very public league that has allowed players like Irving to become very publicly lauded and compensated. And vaccine refusal, at least from a basketball sense, is relevant because of the potential effects it could have on a team.

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DODGERS

Bill Shaikin on the Dodgers: As this final week of the regular season dawns, with the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants fighting one another for first place, you will hear a lot about 1951 and 1962. You will not hear as much about 1996, but you should.

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It is the season that could come back to haunt the Dodgers, 25 years later.

If the Dodgers can win two more games than the Giants this week, the two teams would play a tiebreaker for the National League West championship. If San Francisco wins the division, the Dodgers’ postseason could be limited to one game, in part because of the indifference they showed to one particular game in 1996.

The Dodgers and Giants played tiebreakers in 1951 and 1962, but both times for the league championship. The term “postseason” had not been invented. There were two leagues, and the winner of each league advanced to the World Series.

In 1969, leagues split into two divisions, and the league championship series was born. In 1994, leagues split into three divisions, and the wild card was born — one in each league, so as to complete an eight-team postseason field.

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In 1996, the Dodgers and San Diego Padres entered the final day of the regular season tied atop the NL West. The teams would play one another at Dodger Stadium, but there would be no great meaning in the result. The winner would be NL West champion and the loser would be the wild card, but both teams would advance to a five-game division series.

It should have been a day of drama, a fantastic finale to the regular season. It felt more like the finale of the Cactus League.

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ANGELS

Bill Shaikin on the Angels: The city of Anaheim was ordered Monday to perform a new and more thorough search of public records requested by the citizens’ group seeking to invalidate the Angel Stadium land sale.

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“The evidence does not show that the search was calculated to find all relevant documents,” Orange County Superior Court Judge David Hoffer wrote in his ruling.

The People’s Homeless Task Force sued the city last year, alleging that the sale of Angel Stadium and the surrounding parking lots to a company controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno should be voided because the city failed to comply with state public transparency laws. The city says it made all decisions about the sale legally and publicly.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams came out of their victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers buoyed by the emergence of receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Tyler Higbee as weapons in an ever-expanding offense.

But the Rams lost a starter on defense going into their NFC West opener against the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.

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Coach Sean McVay said Monday that outside linebacker Justin Hollins, who has two sacks, will have surgery Tuesday to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

Terrell Lewis, a third-round draft pick last season, is expected to step into a larger role after playing a career-high 34 snaps against the Buccaneers. Obo Okoronkwo also is eligible to be activated from injured reserve.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: Chargers safety Derwin James missed part of the second quarter Sunday in Kansas City because of a shoulder injury.

He returned to the locker room, where, he said, X-rays were taken before he was cleared to come back just before halftime.

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On Monday, Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa said James separated his shoulder.

“Derwin is like, ‘Yeah, my shoulder just dislocated,’ acting like it wasn’t anything,” Bosa said. “But his shoulder actually came out of the socket and he just popped it back in and came running right back out on the field.”

James ended up playing 72 of 79 defensive snaps. Bosa played 55 snaps as he dealt with a sprained foot that had him in a walking boot a few days earlier.

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USC

A former assistant women’s soccer coach at USC testified Monday during the first trial in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal that she regularly created fake athletic profiles with exaggerated accomplishments coupled with images she found on Google to help get unqualified students admitted.

Laura Janke, 39, of North Hollywood, took the stand in U.S. District Court in Boston in the trial of former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and former Staples and Gap Inc. executive John Wilson, The Boston Globe reported.

They are among dozens of rich and famous parents charged in the Operation Varsity Blues case, which involved large payments to get undeserving children into elite U.S. universities with rigged test scores or phony athletic accomplishments.

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When it came time to put together an applicant’s profile, Janke said she generally didn’t even know whether the student played a sport.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1920 — A Chicago grand jury indicts eight members of the Chicago White Sox on charges of fixing the 1919 World Series, known as the “Black Sox Scandal.” White Sox owner Charles Comiskey immediately suspends the eight players.

1940 — Bud Brennan, a spectator at Memorial Stadium, races out of the stands and attempts to tackle Michigan’s Tom Harmon at the 3-yard line. Harmon easily evades Brennan and completes an 86-yard touchdown run, his third return for a touchdown, in a 41-0 rout of California.

1951 — Norm Van Brocklin of Los Angeles throws for an NFL-record 554 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 54-14 rout of the New York Yankees. Elroy Hirsch catches four of the touchdown passes and finishes with 173 yards receiving and teammate Tom Fears has 162 yards receiving.

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1964 — Australia beats the Unites States 3-2 to win the Davis Cup, the first time it’s played on clay courts.

1968 — The Atlanta Chiefs beat the San Diego Toros 3-0 to win the first NASL championship.

1969 — Minnesota’s Joe Kapp throws for 449 yards and ties an NFL record with seven touchdown passes to give the Vikings a 52-14 victory over the Baltimore Colts.

1976 — Muhammad Ali wins a unanimous 15-round decision over Ken Norton at Yankee Stadium in New York to retain his world heavyweight title.

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1979 — Larry Holmes knocks out Earnie Shavers in the 11th round at Las Vegas to retain his WBC heavyweight title.

1985 — Tight end Brian Foster of Rhode Island catches 18 passes for 327 yards to set an NCAA record in a 32-27 loss Brown.

1996 — Troy Davis of Iowa State rushes for 378 yards, the third highest total in major-college history, to lead the Cyclones past Missouri 45-31.

1997 — Wendy Ward records the lowest total in relation to par in the 47-year history of the LPGA tour for her first victory. Ward’s 23-under 265 gives her a two-shot victory in the Fieldcrest Cannon Classic. Ward, who made just one bogey all week, closes with 13 consecutive pars to match Kelly Robbins’ LPGA record for the lowest 72-hole total.

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2000 — Tampa Bay forward Gordie Dwyer is suspended for 23 games by the NHL for manhandling two officials in attempts to fight opponents during an exhibition game on Sept. 19 against Washington.

2008 — Brett Favre throws a career-high and Jets-record six touchdown passes, three to Laveranues Coles, and New York takes advantage of mistakes by Arizona in a big second quarter of a 56-35 victory. Kurt Warner completes 40 of 57 passes for 472 yards and two TDs for Arizona.

2012 — Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds throws the season’s seventh no-hitter, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0. The seven no-hitters match the modern record (since 1900) for one season, tying 1990 and 1991.

2017 — Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, shoots a 12-under 59 in the first round of the Web.com Tour Championship. Saunders closes with six straight birdies at Atlantic Beach Country Club for the seventh sub-60 round in Web.com Tour history. Stephan Jaeger set the tour record of 58 last year in the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, California. Saunders has 13 birdies and a bogey.

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Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton in Yankee Stadium. Watch and listen here.

Until next time…

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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