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Yahoo Sports AM: NBA MVP race

In Sports
February 14, 2024

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🚨 Headlines

🏈 Chiefs parade: Over 500,000 people are expected to attend today’s Super Bowl parade in downtown Kansas City. The city and the team have each chipped in around $1 million for what should be a raucous celebration.

🏀 ‘Cuse stuns UNC: Judah Mintz (25 points) and Syracuse upset No. 7 UNC, 86-79, on Tuesday night, the Orange’s first win over an AP Top 10 team in their last 17 tries.

⚾️ Historic hire: Jenny Cavnar is NBC Sports California’s new primary play-by-play announcer for the Athletics, making her the first female primary play-by-play voice in MLB history.

⚽️ Man United sale: The Premier League has approved British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s deal to buy a 25% stake in Manchester United, which is worth about $1.3 billion. The deal is still subject to Football Association approval.

🏒 Six in a row: Alex Ovechkin scored for a sixth consecutive game on Tuesday, shaking off his first-half slump for his longest streak in five years — and one shy of his career best.


🏀 Resetting the NBA MVP race

(Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

(Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

Joel Embiid‘s recent knee surgery will cost the NBA’s reigning MVP the 65 games necessary to be eligible for this year’s award, leaving open a race that once felt headed for another repeat.

Resetting the race: The top four candidates with roughly 30 games to go in the season, according to Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach…

1. Nikola Jokić, Nuggets

  • BetMGM odds: -155

  • Stats per 36 minutes: 28.1 points (58/37/82), 13.0 rebounds, 9.6 assists (3.2 turnovers), 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks

  • Personal record: 35-17 (55-win pace); +21.3 on/off differential* (100th percentile)

More from Ben: We left the 2023 NBA Finals under the impression Jokić is the greatest player alive … And we have seen nothing this season to convince us otherwise.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder

  • BetMGM odds: +260

  • Stats per 36 minutes: 32.4 points (55/37/88), 6.8 assists (2.3 turnovers), 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 0.9 blocks

  • Personal record: 36-16 (57-win pace); +10.5 on/off differential (93rd percentile)

More from Ben: In a season full of great guard performances, Gilgeous-Alexander is unquestionably the best. He knives through defenses like a Michelin-starred chef, leading the league in both field goals and free throws made.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

  • BetMGM odds: +650

  • Stats per 36 minutes: 31.8 points (61/25/66), 11.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists (3.6 turnovers), 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks

  • Personal record: 34-18 (54-win pace); +17.9 on/off differential (99th percentile)

More from Ben: The Bucks perform like the best offense in the league (120.9 points per 100 possessions) when Antetokounmpo is on the floor and a bottom-five unit when he’s not (109.9 points per 100 possessions).

4. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

  • BetMGM odds: +8000

  • Stats per 36 minutes: 27.1 points (47/36/82), 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists (2.5 turnovers), 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks

  • Personal record: 39-11 (64-win pace); +1.4 on/off differential (62nd percentile)

More from Ben: Whatever happened to the “best player on the best team” argument for MVP? … Tatum can do anything and everything on the court. He is an elite scorer, creator, defender and rebounder from every level, from every position. No one else at the top can make that claim.

The next four contenders… Luka Dončić, Mavericks (+1200); Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (+3000); Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers (+10000); Jalen Brunson, Knicks (+5000)

*On/off differential: Team points scored per 100 possessions with this player on the court vs. when he’s off the court.


🏈 My new favorite Mahomes stat

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

There are lots of great Patrick Mahomes stats that help contextualize his greatness. This is my new favorite.

Since 2001, 56 QBs have led 125 drives in the NFL playoffs where it was the fourth quarter or overtime, there was under a minute to play, and the offensive team was either tied or trailed by 7 points or fewer at the start.

Of those 125 drives, only 40% saw the offensive team either tie the game or take the lead. Great QBs tend to have better success rates than average; Tom Brady, for instance, went 5-for-11 (46%), while Drew Brees went 3-for-6 (50%) and Aaron Rodgers was 3-for-4 (75%).

Then there’s Patrick Mahomes, who is 7-for-7 (100%) in those situations — including both the game-tying drive at the end of regulation and the game-winning drive in overtime on Sunday night.

Source: Neil Paine’s Substack


⚽️ Leverkusen’s season for the ages

Leverkusen celebrates during Saturday's win over Bayern. (Stefan Matzke/Corbis via Getty Images)

Leverkusen celebrates during Saturday’s win over Bayern. (Stefan Matzke/Corbis via Getty Images)

Bayer Leverkusen shut out Bayern Munich on Saturday, solidifying their spot atop the Bundesliga and continuing a stellar season that could end in their first league title, Jeff writes.

Where it stands: Leverkusen are unbeaten in 31 matches across all competitions, with 27 wins and four draws, and their win over Bayern pushed them five points clear of the German giant with 13 matches left.

  • This could mean the end of Bayern’s unprecedented streak of 11 consecutive league titles. And it’s not as if they’re having a down year: Their 85-point pace would be their fourth-best tally ever.

  • Leverkusen’s first league title would help the club shed the ignominious nickname of “Neverkusen” or “Vizekusen” — German for runner-up. Perhaps “Never-losin'” instead?

What to watch: Leverkusen’s success has fueled rumors that their manager, Xabi Alonso, could replace the departing Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, where he played from 2004-09.


🇺🇸 Photos across America

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Pacific Palisades, California — Decked out in his new Sun Day Red apparel, Tiger Woods played a quick 9 at Riviera Country Club on Tuesday ahead of this week’s Genesis Invitational.

(Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

(Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Orlando The Magic raised Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey to the rafters on Tuesday, making him the first player to have his number retired by the franchise and the fourth player* to have his number retired by at least three different teams (Lakers, Heat).

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Merrick, New York — Snow day! A large winter storm hit the Northeast on Tuesday, closing many businesses and schools, and turning neighborhood slopes into sledding hills.

*The other three: Bill Russell (his No. 6 jersey is retired league-wide), Wilt Chamberlain (76ers, Lakers, Warriors) and Pete Maravich (Hawks, Jazz, Pelicans).


🌎 Photos around the world

Denmark's Annika Bornebusch competes in the Women's 20m High Dive at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Denmark’s Annika Bornebusch competes in the Women’s 20m High Dive at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Doha, Qatar — Are you kidding me with this photo? Incredible.

(Paul Swanson/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Paul Swanson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Edmonton, Alberta — Fans packed into Rogers Place on Tuesday and they were treated to a show, as Connor McDavid (career-high six assists) and the Oilers beat the Red Wings, 8-4, to extend their home-winning streak to eight games.

(Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)

(Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Copenhagen, Denmark — Manchester City beat Copenhagen, 3-1, on Tuesday in the first leg of their Round of 16 tilt as the English juggernaut moved one step closer to defending its Champions League title.


📆 Feb. 14, 1990: The night MJ wore No. 12

(Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

34 years ago today, Michael Jordan wore a nameless No. 12 jersey after his No. 23 uniform was stolen* before a game in Orlando. It was his only game as a Bull wearing a number other than 23 or 45, Jeff writes.

New number, same MJ: Jordan scored 49 points that night, but the Bulls came up short in a 135-129 (OT) loss to the Magic. A few days later, his stolen jersey was found in the ceiling of the visitors’ locker room, stashed away by an arena security guard with sticky fingers.

More on this day:

  • 🏒 1934: The Maple Leafs beat a team of All-Stars from the NHL’s other seven teams in the first (unofficial) NHL All-Star Game, held as a benefit for injured Toronto winger Ace Bailey.

  • 🏀 1953: William & Mary center Bill Chambers grabbed an NCAA-record 51 rebounds in a win over Virginia. No one else has ever grabbed more than 43.

*Why No. 12? Teams didn’t travel with duplicate jerseys back then, so MJ was forced to wear the only extra uniform the equipment manager had on hand. The Bulls scoured the stands before the game hoping to find a fan in a No. 23 Jordan jersey that would fit His Airness, but none did.


📺 Watchlist: Surging squads

The Clippers beat the Warriors in their last meeting back in December. (Ringo Chiu/Xinhua via Getty Images)
The Clippers beat the Warriors in their last meeting back in December. (Ringo Chiu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Tonight’s NBA doubleheader on ESPN features three of the league’s hottest teams, Jeff writes.

  • Bulls at Cavaliers (7:30pm ET, ESPN): Cleveland (35-17) has won 17 of its last 19 games, climbing to No. 2 in the East.

  • Clippers at Warriors (10pm, ESPN): L.A. (35-17) has won 27 of its last 34 games, while Golden State (26-25) has won five straight to join the playoff picture.

More to watch:

  • ⚽️ Champions League: PSG vs. Real Sociedad (3pm, CBS); Lazio vs. Bayern Munich (3pm, Paramount+)

  • 🏀 NCAAM: No. 11 South Carolina at No. 13 Auburn (8:30pm, SEC); No. 8 Tennessee at Arkansas (9pm, ESPN2)

  • 🏀 NCAAW: Nebraska at No. 2 Ohio State (7pm, Peacock); No. 21 Baylor at No. 23 Oklahoma (7pm, ESPN+)

  • 🏒 NHL: Panthers at Penguins (7:30pm, TNT/Max)

  • 🏒 PWHL*: Toronto at Boston (7pm, YouTube); Ottawa at Minnesota (7pm, YouTube)

  • 🥍 PLL: Redwoods vs. Cannons (5:30pm, ESPN2); Waterdogs vs. Archers (7:30pm, ESPN+) … The opening games of the PLL Championship Series (6-on-6 lacrosse).

*Where it stands: Six weeks into the PWHL’s inaugural season, Montreal leads the way with 17 points. They’re followed by Minnesota (15), Boston (11), Toronto (11), New York (11) and Ottawa (10).


🏆 Geography quiz

Barricades block off the route for today's parade in downtown Kansas City. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Barricades block off the route for today’s parade in downtown Kansas City. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chiefs will hold their Super Bowl parade today in Kansas City, which is Missouri’s largest city but not its capital.

Answer at the bottom.


🏀 Still winless

It's been a tough, well, decade for Mississippi Valley State, but this season is rock bottom. (Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s been a tough, well, decade for Mississippi Valley State, but this season is rock bottom. (Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There are 362 Division I men’s basketball teams. Only two of them are still winless, Jeff writes.

  • Detroit Mercy (0-26): The Titans finished over .500 as recently as 2021 and won 14 games last year behind fifth-year senior Antoine Davis, who finished his career three points shy of tying Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record. They host IUPUI (6-20) tonight.

  • Mississippi Valley State (0-24): The Delta Devils were elite in 2011-12, when they won the SWAC to earn their fifth tournament berth. Since then, they’ve gone 12 straight seasons without winning 10 games and are a putrid 9-99 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, in women’s hoops: All 360 Division I teams have at least one win.


Trivia answer: Jefferson City

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